Cut Out the Non-Essential Details

When executives listen to a presentation, they tend to get frustrated when presenters dive too deep into the details. To help you stay on the message — ask yourself these 3 questions before including a piece of information.

  1. What does my audience need to know about this topic?
  2. What would I like to tell them (but should cut out)?
  3. What pieces of information will reinforce my key messages?

Unfortunately we have to keep most of our expertise and knowledge to ourselves and only spend time on the information the audience needs to know. However, when we do this, we’re sure to engage them!

Stop Scuba Diving into Unnecessary Details

Your audience is smiling at you. You relax. You realize they are delighted you are not going to overwhelm them with details like the last speaker! You finally have figured out just the right amount of details to share.

If you are still concerned about the amount of details you present, start thinking about your content this way.

High-Level: You will give a high level overview of some of the information.

Skim Surface: You will skim the surface on some details you audience needs to know. For example, you will share certain key numbers.

Details: You will share the details (which I call scuba diving) only when they are essential to elaborate on your key messages.

Most people “scuba dive” into details without even thinking about their audience’s need to know.

The next time you are talking in a meeting or giving a formal presentation, keep asking yourself,

“Do I really need to tell them this?”

“Will this information help them make a decision or just confuse them?”

Be the person who shares the right level of details so you audience stays engaged and wants to hear more!

Visualize Your Success

You need to practice visualization before a presentation.

First a quote from the author Olivia Fox Cabane of The Charisma Myth.

“I find that doing even thirty seconds of visualization makes a substantial difference to my performance. It greatly affects how charismatic I am on stage.”

I do use her visualization technique when speaking. Beyond my work presentations, it was especially useful when I was the MC for a wedding and when I had to give a eulogy. In both situations I felt in charge of my body and emotions and was able to connect to the audience.

Better yet I’m now using it when I go out Argentine Tango Dancing. For the last three times I have gone out dancing I have done a two minute visualization of the evening. My experiences these three times have surpassed any other dance experiences. I have danced with dancers who have never asked me. I have had amazing dances…been kissed on the check–been told I was fantastic etc. etc.

I invite you to have your own experience of using visualization. Buy her book and try it out. Your successes will amaze you and your audiences!!!

Where is Your Concentration?

From self-conscious to audience-conscious

Thomas Hayes, a visionary, author, and motivational speaker, shares how he manages his nerves. With an iron will forged out of the tragic experience of losing a leg to cancer in childhood, Hayes has a compelling history to share with his audiences. Here are his secrets to being present in the moment with his audience.

What is the best way you have learned to channel your nervousness?

When I am waiting I focus myself in the moment. I watch what is happening. I look at the lighting. I sense how the sound system is working. I watch where the audience’s attention is: on themselves, on the food? Are they preoccupied? I take all of my attention away from myself.

What is your secret for calming down and being with your audience?

Intention is my secret. When I make it my intention to give something to the audience, then I have all the power. If your intention as a speaker is to receive, then you are trying to get something. You have given the audience all the power. When I watch an open-mike night, I see young comedians who are always thinking about themselves. They are focused on receiving laughs and applause. They have to shift from receiving to giving.

What is your one sentence about being with your audience?

Change your attention and shift from self-conscious to audience-conscious.

Talk to Yourself to Calm Your Nerves

“How You Self-Talk to Yourself Matters!!!”

People who referred to themselves as “you” or by their own names while silently talking to themselves in preparation for a five-minute speech were subsequently calmer and more confident and performed better on the talk than people who had referred to themselves as “I” or “me” (3.6 versus 3.2 on a combined five-point scale, in the view of judges), says a team led by Ethan Kross of the University of Michigan. The research participants who talked to themselves in the second or third person also felt less shame afterward. By distancing us from ourselves, the use of the second and third person in internal monologues enables us to better regulate our emotions, the researchers say.

See two links

Short version

Long version

“Effective speaking is more of a subtraction process than an additive process. It’s more about subtracting the things that are getting in our way of connecting with the audience. Things like busy hands, excessive movement, or a monotone voice”

-Bill Gove via Steve Siebold

Know Your Inner Dialogue

You have practiced out loud. You feel confident. You know the subject. You have answered the questions you may be asked. But you are still uneasy. Often you feel good before a presentation but part way through, you lose confidence and just want to get it over with and sit down.

Sometimes I see this phenomenon with the people I coach. I watch them closely and then ask, “Do you have a voice that is critiquing everything you are saying and telling you that what you just said is not exactly correct?” The presenter looks surprised and responds, “Yes.” Then I say, “This is what I like to call the overworked helper.”

I go on to explain that this voice feels it is helping. But, when you are in front of a group of people, it is only making it more difficult for you to relax and connect to your audience. The voice was essential during your practice, but when you are doing the talk for real, it must take a back-row seat and stop talking. You need a different voice that says, “Yes, you are doing wonderful. Yes, that was a good point you made.” Or more ideally, you need to still all inner voices and just have quiet inside.

Voices in your head? What is she talking about? Many of you reading this will know exactly what I mean. In a wonderful book called Introduction to the Internal Family Systems Model, author Robert Swartz explains, “The point is that we have ongoing, complex relationships with many different inner voices, thought patterns, and emotions that are similar to relationships we have with people.” I see these voices in action as I watch people present.

Start to pay attention to your inner voices when you talk in front of a group of people. Are you hearing from the “overworked helper” or the “constant judge”? Neither one is good to have activated when you are speaking. Amazingly enough, when I have suggested to presenters that they simply ask their disruptive inner voice to pipe down, to stop judging and making sarcastic comments, the voice does calm down.

Let me add one caveat. If you have not practiced out loud and if you are unprepared, I doubt this voice will calm down. It knows you have not done the necessary preparation and is actually trying to help you. But during the actual talk is not the time for it to start coaching you with incessant criticism.

So do yourself and your nerves a favor. Check in with this voice several days before a talk and find out what it has to say. Just ask, “Are you satisfied? Have I prepared well enough? What else should I do?” You may be amazed that it will answer you. Do what it suggests and you will discover that you can be calm, energized, and confident when speaking. You owe that to yourself – and to your inner critic.

Change the Pace–Keep Your Audience Awake and Engaged

There is a belief floating around out there about presenting that goes something like this: “We’ve got to be consistent. Act consistent. Look consistent. Talk in the same consistent voice. Show the same slides. This will brand our company.”

Yes, that will certainly brand your company with your audience. They’ll think of you as the company that makes boring presentations. We will talk about the slides another time. Today let’s talk about the presenter.

Misconception 1: I have to keep the same pace during my whole talk. “I should start talking and stop when my presentation is finished.”

Reality: Anything done the same way over a period of time is boring. To talk with the same speed and voice inflection is boring. To not change the speed of your delivery is boring. You must also change the tone of your voice. If you don’t, you will hypnotize your audience into a trance. They’ll just sit there, not really listening nor engaging in what you are saying.

Exercise: When talking, practice slowing down your speed. Say the words and points that are most important to your audience much more slowly.

Misconception 2: I should keep the same voice volume. “I can’t change my voice volume. That’s just me being quiet.”

Reality: Your speaking in a quiet voice all the time will also hypnotize your audience. You must vary the volume. Not everything you say is of the same importance. When you are delivering your key points, make your voice louder at the beginning of each one. This signals to your audience that you are about to make an important point.

Exercise: When talking, practice speaking softer and louder. Listen to how you signal to your audience that you have something very important to tell them.

Use Dialogue to Enhance Your Story

I have been encouraging my clients to use examples or stories. They frequently just describe what happened in a given situation. This does not have the same power as creating a dialogue.

For example, Sarah is trying to convince department managers to stop using roaming plans. To give her discussion of cell phone charges more impact, here is what she can say:

You’ve said to me about these roaming charges, “But I’m traveling. It’s just a business cost.”  “Yes,that’s true, but you can change your phone plan so you don’t have to pay a roaming fee.”  Then some of you responded, “Listen, you may be right, but I don’t have time to figure out another plan.”  Here’s my response, “I totally agree with you. You don’t have time. Here’s a small chart. All you have to do is look at the chart and tell me the plan you want. I’ll do the rest. Just think of me as your drive through phone plan.”

Another comment I hear a lot is, “I’m not going to carry two phones when I go overseas. That is ridiculous and too much trouble.”   “You are right, I agree with you. You don’t have to. I have made a deal with our phone company so all you need is one phone for all your business, at home and overseas.”

I will be coming by your office to take five minutes of your time to figure out what works best for you. I guarantee in two months you will be saying to me, “Hey, you were right. This is not a big deal. And I see we are saving money.”

The dialogue makes a boring topic more interesting and fun to give and also hits home with your audience,

Next time you want to convince your audience, use dialogue. You will be happily surprised with the results.

Answer the Question Asked

What happens to presenters who are nervous when it’s time for questions? Often the presenter is simply too nervous to listen to the query, and just starts talking without providing a specific response. Or the presenter may not address the question at all, instead speaking about something else that is a “hot topic” and defending a particular position. Now the presenter is really in trouble: the questioner did not get an answer and a topic has been brought up that many people were hoping would not have to be discussed.

How do you stop this behavior? First, you must learn to ignore the chatter in your head that is saying:

  • What if I don’t know the answer?
  • That’s not a very good question.
  • The person asking me that question is out to put me down.
  • How dare she ask me that? I know what I’m doing!

This self-defeating internal dialogue prevents you from answering a question concisely and to the point. Instead, you should be saying to yourself:

  • Calm down. You know the subject.
  • People are curious and it’s their job to ask questions. Relax.
  • Answer the question and stop talking. Then ask, Do you need more information about this now?

Here are some other techniques that work, depending on the situation:

  • Sometimes you can rephrase the question a bit and inquire, “Is this what you are asking?” You can also say, “I’m not exactly sure what you are asking. Can you rephrase your question?”
  • Use a lead-in phrase to relax yourself. Try: “Yes, I know that has been a concern of yours.” Or “Yes, we are considering how to handle this particular problem if it occurs. Here is one idea.” Or “Your question deserves two different responses. The first response has to do with how we are working given the state of the project now. The second response has to do with how we will work when we get three new people.”

Finally, to be concise, to-the-point, and brief, you need to practice being asked questions and answering them, out loud.

12 Most Focused Ways for Introverts to Make Their Mark

I’m rereading the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. If you’re an introvert, make this the book you read this year! The author spent five years researching this topic, and the stories she tells are fascinating. I want to give you a taste of the book, but you MUST read it. It really will change how you think about yourself and others. I know after you read this book you will be able to choose the directions you go with more clarity and ease, plus you’ll create more consciously the life you desire.
Here are some tips Susan Cain offers that I’ve been sharing in my workshops. My introverted clients report more successes. And extroverts, please read this to understand how one-third to one-half of the world operates.

  1. Ask for time to consider the options. Often the person who talks the most and is the most enthusiastic, declaring “Let’s make the decision now,” seems to be forcing everyone to go in a certain direction. BUT you can say, “I suggest we take a day [or a week] to think this over, gather some more data, consider the options and then come back and use our critical thinking to objectively see what makes sense.”
    In your own experience, when can you encourage others not to make a decision right then and there?
  2. Set up guidelines for how much, and when, everyone may speak. City Year has a rule in meetings: no one can speak twice until everyone speaks once. This gives each person a real chance to be heard. It sends the message that no one deserves to monopolize the conversation, giving the introverts their opportunity and forcing the extroverts to be quiet and listen.
    What guidelines do you have in your meetings about how much people may speak?
  3. Embrace your “soft power.” Chances are you are quieter, humbler and more sensitive to others than are your extroverted counterparts. You also like to ask questions and sincerely listen to the responses — mulling over how the answer helps you think about a situation. You have a quiet persistence that keeps going when others have given up. Consider how you are applying these talents to your advantage.
  4. What talents do you have that can be used as assets? Find a coach. Professor Preston Ni teaches a seminar called “Communication Success for Foreign-Born Professionals” at Foothill College near Cupertino, CA. Go to his web site to learn more:
    Do you need a coach? How will you find one?
  5. Engage in a certain level of “pretend-extroversion.” I am always surprised how most people label me an extrovert, but in reality I like my time alone. I can’t imagine having a party with 200 people and, when left to my own devices, I might not call anyone ever. I tell others that I have the social skills of an extrovert and I know how to network — BUT not as long and hard as an extrovert can. I can go to a networking event and do well for about an hour; then I run out of energy.
    Where do you practice “pretend-extroversion”? How is that working?
  6. Find other ways to connect with people. You don’t have to attend big networking events. You can volunteer for a non-profit and meet people with the same focus. I have made many wonderful friends and forged new business relationships doing pro-bono work for several non-profits. This is more satisfying for me as I love helping others.
    What are ways you would enjoy connecting with others?
  7. Create “restorative niches” for yourself. A restorative niche is a place to go when you need time to be your true self. I tell my clients to hide in the restroom if they need a break. Some clients tell me they go outside for a walk, book a conference room and stay there all day, work from home, put on their headset in the airplane and listen to music. Sometimes after a workshop I will walk in a park or, if one is not available, walk around a mall where I know no one.
    What are your restorative niches?
  8. Set your expectations for yourself. I’m an Argentine Tango dancer and used to think I should try to meet and talk to many new people at a dance. I was always exhausted from the process. Now I tell myself that if I meet one new person and have one dance with someone I’ve never danced with before, that is enough. And since I can lead a dance, when I feel tired of socializing, I lead someone around the floor. I’m much happier dancing than socializing.
    What are some expectations of yourself you can change?
  9. Mange your time. Some people can go out every night and feel fantastic. They love all the stimulation. Others need time to be alone, read, exercise and think about life. Monitor yourself so you don’t get so drained that you’re no longer excited about going to the company conference or out to dinner with dear friends. You need more down time than the extroverts you know—don’t book something all the time.
    Do you overbook yourself with extroverted events?
  10. Look like an extrovert. You really do have to stand up straight, smile and look at people when speaking. Use expressions like, “I’m excited about this project,” or “This project is a great success, saving the company millions of dollars.” Use such emotional statements in your presentations.
    Look at your presentations – where can you look like an extrovert?
  11. Identify your “core personal projects.” I love to coach in small, intimate, two-day workshops for ten people. I do give speeches to audiences of 100 – 300, but they aren’t my favorite things to do. I also like special presentation projects and am involved in one right now. This type of activity interests me more than preparing a speech and selling it around the country.
    What are your special projects that you love, and how can you do more of them?
  12. Enjoy your quality relationships. Here’s my confession. I’m about to have an important birthday, and my husband offered to throw me a big party. I have tried to imagine having a bash with 100 people and just feel uneasy inside. I can see a party with maybe 30 people. That feels cozy and fun, so I’m opting for the smaller gathering.
    How can you maximize the quality of your relationships over their quantity?

Go buy the book Quiet. Just reading it will give you hundreds of ways to think about your childhood, your present life and your future. I do believe you will never be the same again. If you’re introverted, you will empower yourself in new ways. If you’re an extrovert, you will reconsider how much you speak in meetings, how you listen and most importantly, how to appreciate the introverts who solve complex problems, persevering long after you have quit.
I want to close with a quote from the book: “If there is one insight you take away from this book, though, I hope it’s a newfound sense of entitlement to be yourself. I can vouch personally for the life-transforming effects of this outlook.” Thank you, Susan Cain!