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Combine creativity and the visual to reinforce your speaker memory

creativity_visualNobody likes a mental blank; not the speaker, not the audience.

As a speaker you really would like to remember all of the points that you so carefully researched and constructed and that you designed to work together to get your message across.

We all have our own ways of remembering our presentations and speeches. Some are based on our preferences for sound or images or body language. Some are simply based on what works for us.

I am working, at the moment, with a client who is moving away from a script to presenting in natural, unscripted language. She is a very creative person, especially in visual media – creates amazing paintings, patterns, and rejuvenates a flagging spirit with what she calls “creative time’ which might involve painting, or doodling or setting significant messages in a beautiful surrounding. I made several suggestions based on using visuals so that she could remember her speech and create useful, unobtrusive notes, and it was like watching a light bulb glowing. She is now in her element.

So for those of you looking for ways to remember your speech or presentation and to create prompts for yourself, here are 5 ways that visuals could work for you.

1. I will call the first one “mind mapping”. This involves “mapping” the ideas for your speech. Usually people put the central message in the centre, perhaps surrounded by a circle or border. Then they connect the points of the speech to the main message as one would spokes to a wheel. From those points, then, further connections reach out to the supports for the points. You can use decorations, colours, pictures, whatever most represents the content of each part, and the connections between them and the order in which you will present them. This is a standard mind map.

You might, on the other hand prefer to draw waves that represent the more emotional flow of the speech, somewhat similar to Nancy Duarte’s spark lines, or curves that represent a new point, or a change in direction of the speech. So each wave or curve represents the points to be made, the climax of the point that will really hook audience response, or the points of the presentation that represent, say, problems and solutions. Write the main message beneath the waves, perhaps, and transition techniques between the waves.

I simply use the sort of note-taking skills I learned in uni – main message at the top, then bullet point system for points to be made and further indented bullet points . I don’t use this system to creating slides, incidentally – yuk, how boring that would be, but it’s the way I learned to organise content and it works for me, in conjunction with other memory techniques.

So however you visually represent the flow of your speech or presentation, you can memorise that image, and the connections between its parts and that will be with you when you need to remember what to say next when you actually present. It will also be there with you, should you need to change the flow of the speech in response to the audience or the environment, and the logic will allow you to make the changes in a way that works for you and for the audience.

2. Visualisation. This is a technique used in many areas where performance is focused and adrenalin-driven, particularly in sports. And while it certainly involves the visual and imagery there are so many other aspects involved – training your subconscious to store what I call “muscle memory”, injecting positive emotion to reinforce the memories. For the purposes of this article, though, the visualisation involves using the mind’s eye or imagination to “watch” yourself as you present, your body language, how you appear on the “stage”, how you are interacting with the audience, and what you are saying. It also involves “seeing” how the audience is reacting to what you are saying, how the equipment is functioning, how you are using the particular setup in the room. I used it from the beginning, I think, of my speaking, long before the word became such a large part of our language, “visualising” successful presentation, and visualising overcoming the possible hurdles to successful presentation. It’s a way of committing the presentation to memory, and ensures that much of the presentation can be put into a state similar to auto-pilot while the front of your brain deals with interacting with, and customizing for, this particular audience.

3. For many people the simple act of writing something is a memory aid, but it can be combined with the visual memory. You can commit the look of the writing to memory, having simply written on a normal blank page. Or you can use the ubiquitous, totally indispensable sticky notes. Use colours, create patterns of shapes and colours, use diagrams on the notes, make diagrams with the notes, write a word or words for each point with points in one colour, supports in another, transitions in another. Lay out the whole speech, in point form, and that process alone may just be enough if you have a photographic memory. Or you can then transfer the whole thing onto a sheet or folder or series of cards to use as a prompt. Take a photograph of it, and use that. Your creativity comes into play, here, to learn, by trial and error, just what works best for you.

4. Maybe it is images that work for you. After all, ‘a picture paints a thousand words’, and our minds remember information better if that information is combined with an image. So you could use an image as a prompt. The storyboarding process that can be so useful for creating a PowerPoint presentation would work well here. One idea – one image, with maybe a word or two to reinforce the memory. Again – perhaps the creation of the storyboard will be enough, if the photographic system works for you, or you can use the board as a prompt. Or you can rehearse the presentation and when you know the points that will cause you grief, just use images for those. It’s all a matter of finding, through practice, what works for you.

5. And, of course, the logical extension of this thought is to use the PowerPoint slides themselves as a memory aid. I know people do this and can make it work for them. It takes practice. I watched a speaker use this system recently. She was a dynamic presenter, with a fluent presentation and had the audience captivated. She had no remote for the slides, so had to ask or signal to the computer operator to advance the slides. When that operator made an error, then the whole speech ground down as the speaker had to wait to find out what was supposed to happen next. Her dynamism saved the day, but it was a glitch that could have been avoided.

Each of these 5 is a way of using images to remember your presentation. Each allows you to be creative in producing a visual to memorise and guide your presentation. Each will need your constant creative attention in honing its success, and maybe you will go even further and combine them.

Perhaps you are already using one or more of these or have your own way of using the sense of sight in memorizing your speech, ensuring there are no blank moments and that it progresses as you dreamed it would. I would love you to share them in the comments below.

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[Public speaking quote] … “thinking on your feet” … or not!

“The human brain starts working the moment you are born and never stops until you stand up to speak in public.”

– George Jessel

… so I say TG for rehearsal. It has saved me more times than I care to count!!

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One rehearsal technique that will build your confidence

This is a guest post from Jonathan Li.

He shares a simple technique to make ourselves more confident and natural.

Jonathan’s main target audience is youth, so this technique is especially useful and pertinent. I like his humour and enthusiasm for sharing his ideas. You are very welcome to put your comments on his video at the bottom of this post if you want to.

Jonathan Li is a School Presentation Coach who helps college and university students overcome fear, transform presentation skills and create their dream career. For more information, go now to speechxpress

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Preparation – your key to confident public speaking

One of the most powerful sources of confidence in public speaking is knowing that you are prepared. During the nervous stages, you can continually reassure yourself that you are prepared and can visualise all the aspects of the successful presentation that you have prepared. As far as I am concerned, this will provide the major part of your confidence.

Probably one of the greatest sources of nerves is the fear of having a mental blank. Sometimes they happen but being prepared will prevent most of them.

Each person has their own way of keeping track of what they have to say – of remembering it. Some people memorise the whole presentation. Some people read the whole speech. Both of these have their advantages and disadvantages. But most people create a compromise and, if possible, use notes.

Two very important parts of your speech are the opening and the closing. If you memorise those you can be sure you will use the words you chose for the greatest impact, and you can concentrate on delivery and especially on eye contact. You can choose to read them, but you will need to find other ways of giving them power. You probably should also memorise the punch lines of your jokes, and any words you are quoting verbatim.

If you use notes, make them large enough to read at a glance. Find a way to keep them in order and number the pages in case they do get mixed up. Make symbols or punctuation marks for ways you want to present e.g. pauses, facial expressions. And before you present, choose the sections you can comfortably cull if you find you have less time than expected.

Rehearsal is vitally important. You will develop your own system, but here is an example of a schedule.

Despite what you may have written, say the speech in a style that is as close to conversation as your event or function will allow. Written and spoken language are entirely different.

Say the speech straight through, full of mistakes and corrections. This allows you to find the areas that need work.

Record the speech, or say it to a mirror or use a substitute audience (the family pet will do if there’s no one else suitable!) This gives you a feel for creating communication and impact.
Have a dress rehearsal. Wear the clothes you will wear so you know what works best and how to cope with the outfit. Practice with any visuals you intend to use.

Make very sure you can keep your speech or presentation to an acceptable time.

Final preparation countdown for the event itself:
– Confirm the time and date
– Create and check any handouts
– Make a packing list and check it at the last minute. e.g. handouts, — white board markers, handkerchief (yes, Mum!)
– Arrive early so that you can make sure you are prepared and can then go through your Preparation Routine
– Contact the liaison person to confirm details
– Unpack. Make sure you have water handy and that any equipment is set up and that it works as you expect it to, or become familiar with the equipment provided.

I can only reiterate that one of the best antidotes to the fear of public speaking is the reassurance that you are prepared.

© Bronwyn Ritchie If you want to include this article in your publication, please do, but please include the following information with it:
Bronwyn Ritchie is a professional librarian, writer, award-winning speaker and trainer. She is a certified corporate trainer and speech contest judge with POWERtalk, a certified World Class Speaking coach, and has had 30 years’ experience speaking to audiences and training in public speaking. In just 6 months time, you could be well on the way to being admired, rehired as a speaker, confident and sucessful, with the 30 speaking tips. Click here for 30 speaking tips for FREE. Join now or go to http://www.30speakingtips.com

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Prepare for public speaking success

Preparation is one of the most powerful drivers of success in public speaking.

Some people will tell you they don’t prepare. They may be lying. It was Mark Twain who said “It usually takes more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech”. Or they may be like world champion, Craig Valentine, whose mantra is “Don’t get ready to speak, stay ready to speak.” It may also be that they are preparing mostly in their heads, visualising trying out new word combinations and structures for their speeches, rather than a more formal preparation, say, sitting at a desk and writing.

So don’t leave your speeches to chance. Preparation is the key to success. Here are nine ways you can make preparation work for you.

The first step is to define what you want to achieve with the speech. What is its purpose? It is vital to be very clear on this purpose, so spend time preparing a statement of purpose that will drive everything that you do and say when you present.

The second step, then, is to thoroughly prepare your content. Research it, think about it, talk about it, play with the themes that emerge. Confidence will come when you are deeply familiar with your material. Create visuals if you are using them, to enhance your speech and build engagement with the audience.
Once you are familiar with your material and the structure of your speech, you will be far more fluent in your delivery and you will lose the need to rely on notes. Rehearse out loud to reassure yourself you will not forget the main points of your speech.

The third step is to prepare what people will see. Dress professionally and/or in a way that supports your message and image. Prepare how you will move, use the stage and gesture.

The fourth path to success is to plan how you will use this speech, especially if you are marketing yourself, your product or service. Plan the stories you will tell in your speech. Plan how you will look and speak. And plan how you will structure your speech to support your message or promote your product. Plan also the logistics of back-of-room sales, or for getting sign-ups for your emails. Make sure you have all the materials you will need for this aspect of success.

The fifth step is to prepare yourself. If you have a problem with confidence, for whatever reason, use the strategies that work for you, to translate your nerves into passion for what you are about to do. Use mental strategies like compartmentalising the nervousness and accepting it is there, reminding yourself that it is really excitement and passion for your subject and your audience that is making you feel that way. Use physical strategies like being aware of other parts of your body, breathing exercises, and a warm-up routine.

The sixth preparation tool is to practice. Your speech will improve by 80 percent just from one rehearsal – out loud. Use the rehearsal to develop confidence in your memory. Use it also to make sure you are using your voice to its best potential – supporting the meaning of your points, and creating variety in the listening experience. This time can also prepare you for your “conversation” with the audience. You can develop language that works best in spoken rather than written communication. You can visualise your audience and how they will react to what you say and how you say it, and edit your material and your presentation style accordingly.

It will be this rehearsal that allows people to think that speaking comes naturally to you, and that you did not rehearse. But the famous South African golfer Gary Player said, ‘The harder I practice, the luckier I get!’

Try, if possible to have a warm-up before your speech. This seventh activity can include vocal exercise so that your voice is prepared. It can include tongue-twisters to make sure your brain is communicating well with your mouth. And it can include some physical exercise to decrease nerves and to ensure oxygen is flowing to your brain.

And though I mentioned logistics earlier, this deserves its own preparation success category, the eighth. The more you are prepared for every aspect of your presentation the better you will be able to deal with whatever arises. So make yourself familiar with the room and its setup. Adjust it if possible and necessary. Familiarise yourself, too, with the equipment – laptop/projector, microphone, lectern, whiteboard– whatever it is you are using. Be comfortable with using them and how you will use them within the space. Make sure you have handouts ready for when you need them and any other prizes or presents you intend to give out.

And finally, be prepared to be flexible! None of what we just mentioned in the eight strategies is set in stone, particularly if you want to be credible, confident and engaging. So have a Plan B (and C and D) for if the technology fails. Be prepared to change your stage use if the stage is different from what you expected. And be constantly on the alert to changes in the audience so that you can adapt your material to suit their response to you. And in the end, be prepared to admit to a problem. Your authenticity will endear you to your audience.

You really cannot leave any of this to chance (or to luck!) Being prepared to give an excellent speech, being prepared so that it flows smoothly and being prepared for the majority of eventualities will lead you to a successful presentation – achieving the outcomes you intended and getting you repeat bookings. And as for those who say they did not prepare, and are not lying …. It shows!!

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Using PowerPoint to time your presentations?

Zainul at How-to Geek writes …

Delivering a presentation is not just about giving good slides, it is also about making sure that our presentation finishes by the time our audience wants to have their tea break—so practicing how long to speak for each slide is essential for a proper presentation.

and goes on to explain how to rehearse the timing of the presentation, even how to set up the slide show to run by itself.

Useful information for when you have a presentation that needs no flexibility. Thank you How-to Geek!