Use Your Visual Aids to Enhance Your Message

Imagine a magician who has various props that he will be performing with on stage. In order to use the props effectively, he would have practiced with them well in advance of his show. The seamless use of props will enable the magician to connect with his audience and deliver an amazing performance. When audience members see the magician use his props effortlessly, they are entertained and believe he is a professional.

If you want to perform or speak successfully in public, think about the ways in which you use your visual aids to enhance your message. When you rehearse in advance with your visual aids, your performance is more polished.

Visual aids can include props you use to tell stories, flip charts for training or other tools such as PowerPoint presentations where you use a laptop, a projector and a screen. The purpose of visual aids is to assist you in getting your message across when you speak before an audience.

Here are five tips to help you use your visual aids effectively. They are:

1.Know your material well. As a speaker, know your material well enough that you are able to present with AND without any visual aids or technology. The reason being that in the event that your visual aids don’t work or go missing you can still deliver your presentation. As we all know, technology is not infallible and you don’t want to be overly reliant on your visual aids. Being a professional means that you are able to present even if your technology fails at any point during your presentation.

2.Practice with your equipment and visual aids. Practice well in advance with your equipment and visual aids before delivering any presentation, especially with PowerPoint. Practicing includes rehearsing and testing your laptop, projector and wireless presentation device i.e. clicker before delivering your speech.

3. Arrive early at the venue. Arriving well in advance before you deliver your presentation ensures that you have adequate leeway to troubleshoot any issues that arise. Arriving early allows you to relax before your presentation, test your equipment, and greet members of your audience.

4.Look at your audience when presenting. When you are using a PowerPoint presentation, ensure that you are not reading directly off your slides with your back to the audience. Angle yourself so that you can read/reference your slides while still looking at your audience to maintain the rapport and connection.

5.Use large letters, print neatly and use dark markers on flip charts. Even though PowerPoint has become the de facto presentation software in use (Mac users use Keynote), there are still speakers / trainers who enjoy using flip charts. Flip charts would typically be used in smaller rooms and can be used for various purposes, mainly for recording the audience’s perspective or for group exercises. When using flips charts, write legibly and neatly in large print. Also use black as the base colour with red or blue markers as accent colours so that people at the back of the room can see the writing on the flip chart.

In the end analysis, visual aids should be used as a way to enhance your message and not detract from it. You don’t want them to act as a barrier between you and your audience. Your visual aids or any technology for that matter should not overshadow you as the speaker. When used effectively in your speeches and presentations, visual aids can help you to deliver a professional and polished performance.

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Tip: Visualize Presenting Your Speech

Before presenting in front of any audience preparing and rehearsing well in advance will help make your speech a success. Part of the preparation is the mental preparation. Visualization can help you to believe that you can deliver an excellent speech.

Visualization is the process where in your mind you see yourself going through the steps of delivering a successful presentation. In order to visualize effectively, make the images or pictures within your mind as vivid as possible. In your visualization, see yourself confident with good posture and smiling. Visualize yourself as poised, your body relaxed with smooth, flowing gestures.

Visualize yourself making effective eye contact with the audience. See yourself mastering the material so well that you don’t need notes. Visualize the success you’ll achieve as the words flow effortlessly from your lips. In your mind, hear the applause as your message resonates with the audience. Envision yourself enjoying every minute of your presentation.

When you feel mentally prepared and have rehearsed several times, you will feel encouraged to share your message with enthusiasm and passion. When you feel prepared, you’ll feel ready to perform and exude confidence. When you’re prepared, your body language will demonstrate confidence that you are a professional in control. To prepare properly, remember to rehearse and obtain as much feedback as you can. Believe that you will deliver a successful presentation and visualize that success. It will make a big difference when you are in front of an audience.

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The Fundamentals of Public Speaking

Learning the fundamentals of public speaking can help you to become a more effective speaker and overall communicator. While the fundamentals can be grouped or categorized in different ways, this is how I describe the fundamentals of public speaking. They are:

1. Know the purpose of your speech. Knowing the purpose of your speech helps you to communicate clearly the message that you want to convey to your audience. Think about whether your purpose is to persuade, inform, inspire, motivate, or entertain.

2. Know your audience. Identify who your audience members are. Develop your presentation to meet their requirements and needs.

3.Develop great content. How do you develop great content? Developing great content means knowing your audience well and using stories and anecdotes to engage them. It also means doing the required research for the main points of your presentation and using supporting material.

4.Have great speech organization. Having great content alone in a presentation is not sufficient. Learning how to organize that content effectively is a fundamental. Learning effective speech structure ensures that you have a clear introduction, body, and conclusion for your presentation. The beginning of the presentation should attract the audience’s attention, the body supports your main points and the conclusion summarizes your main points.

5. Be conscious of your language usage. Use powerful words when you write your presentation. Use clear and descriptive words that will communicate your message.

6.Use your voice for maximum impact. Your voice is like an instrument that you use to communicate. When delivering a presentation remember to use vocal variety and be aware of your volume, pitch, and rate of speaking. A key skill is learning how to use pauses for maximum impact.

7. Use your body language and gestures effectively. Your body is the vehicle through which you communicate. Make sure that your nonverbal language accurately matches your message.

8. Use the stage platform to your advantage. Be consciously aware of how you use your speaking area or “stage platform.” The platform could be an actual stage, a podium in front of a meeting room, or a conference table for an interview. Utilize your stage platform to your advantage.

9. Use your facial expressions and eye contact effectively. When delivering a presentation, your face conveys your emotions. Make sure that your facial expressions are in alignment with the message that you are communicating. Remember that smiling and effective eye contact are critical when building rapport with an audience.

10. Know how to use your visual aids. Visual aids such as PowerPoint presentations are tools that help you communicate or emphasize your message. Practice with them ahead of time to ensure that you are using them effectively.

11. Know Your Strengths. Do an assessment of your strengths and use them consistently in your presentations. One of the best ways to determine your strengths is to obtain feedback on your presentation skills from people you know and trust. Another way to determine your strengths (and areas of improvement) is to record yourself on video so that you can see how you present. Be confident in yourself!

12. Authenticity. When delivering a speech or another type of presentation be yourself. Whether it be a personal or professional endeavour, be authentic. Being authentic means doing the required work so that you can use your gifts, talents, skills, and strengths to deliver the best possible speech or presentation that you can deliver.

By knowing the fundamentals of public speaking, you will set yourself up for success in your speeches and presentations. Below are previous posts on related topics. If you received value from this post, please comment and share.

Be Yourself
The Audacity To Be Seen and Heard

Speech Purpose
Know Your Speech Purpose

Speech Organization
Take Your Audience on a Journey

Language Usage
Use Powerful and Affirming Words

Use Nonverbal Communication Effectively
Nonverbal Communication

Commit to Continuous Learning

The life as art metaphor, I believe is a powerful, guiding metaphor because it reveals certain truths or maxims about the human condition that we can apply to our own lives. Some of those maxims are:

1. Artists take responsibility for creating their art.
2. Artists are on a quest to continually perfect their art.
3. Artists know that they are always free to create again in the moment.

In a previous post, I examined the first maxim that says that artists take responsibility for creating their art. You Are The Artist of Your Life

Now let’s look at the second one that says artists are on a quest to continually perfect or improve their art. If you know any artists they always seem to be engaged in some type of learning or continuing education. If they paint, they are trying to figure out how to utilize new colour schemes or brush strokes in their paintings. If they are actors, they are taking classes or workshops to improve their craft.

As the artist of your life, are you open minded and engaged in continuous learning? It is said that the great Italian renaissance artist Michelangelo once wrote in the corner of one of his sketch books the words Ancora Imparo which loosely translated from Italian means I am still learning or still I learn.

When I read this about Michelangelo, it inspired me. I mean this was after all, The Michelangelo, the master artist who chiseled the perfect life-like statute of David and who spent years laying in awkward positions to paint a masterpiece with scenes from Genesis on the roof of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. I was moved because a master artist was willing to adopt the perspective of a student or a novice, even after all his achievements.

By committing to continuous learning, you will be surprised at how rich your life will become. What are you going to learn this year so you can improve the quality of your life. Perhaps you always wanted to learn a new language or play an instrument. Will this be the year that you finally sign up for French classes or learn to play the piano or learn that which your heart truly desires.

This year if you adopt the Doctrine of Ancaro Imparo and commit to learning something new, you’ll be surprised at how much of a difference it will make to your quality of life. After all, you are an artist and learning to perfect your art is a required skill.

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Take Your Audience on a Journey

You may have a great message that you audience needs to hear. If your speech is not organized and you end up meandering all over the place with your words your message may get lost. It is important then to structure your content effectively so that your message does not get lost. When you have too much content that is not organized effectively, it can become confusing for your audience. When you organize your speeches and presentations effectively, you take your audience members on a journey. The elements of basic speech structure are that you have a clear introduction, body and conclusion.

Your introduction sets the stage for an effective presentation by outlining what you will discuss. Since your speech introduction sets the tone for your presentation, it’s important that you introduce your speech topic in a compelling manner that captures the audience’s attention. For example, to engage your audience initially, you could ask a question for the audience to reflect on or start with a personal story. Set the stage for your audience by letting them know what points you will discuss first before you launch into your speech.

The body of your speech is where the main points of your speech would be discussed. You would have introduced these points at the beginning of your speech. To support the main points that you outlined in your speech, use stories, anecdotes, statistics and facts when required. In the majority of cases, for a short speech, having no more than three main points should be sufficient to get your message across.

The conclusion of your speech is where you summarize your content appropriately. Your conclusion should not be a regurgitation of the entire speech. A great conclusion will place a call to action to the audience so that they can reflect on the message that you delivered throughout your speech.

Your message will have a greater impact when you have a clear introduction, body and conclusion in your speech. Take the time to develop your speech’s organizational structure and you will be able to take your audience on a journey that they won’t forget!

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Know Your Speech Purpose

The basis of any great speech or presentation is your content. In order to structure your content effectively for maximum impact, you need to know the main purpose of your speech. Is your purpose to persuade? Is your purpose to inform? Is your purpose to inspire? Is your purpose to motivate? Or is your purpose to entertain? Your purpose will be your guiding principle throughout your speech. Although during your speech you may be doing several things such as persuading and entertaining, your speech will be more effective if you focus in on one main purpose.

In other words, what exactly do you want to communicate to your audience? Making sure that you have a clear purpose ensures that your core message (and call to action) will ultimately resonate with your audience. Again the purpose of a speech broadly speaking can be to: persuade, inform, inspire, motivate or entertain. Let’s look at each of these individually.

If you are being persuasive, you are convincing your audience members to either adopt a position that you hold or change their minds (and hearts) to another point of view. For example, if I am environmentalist, my purpose might be to persuade my audience that global warming is real. I might demonstrate the evidence by presenting research, facts and statistics that show the increase in temperature over the last decade.

If you are informing your audience about a topic, it means that you are relaying pertinent information. For example, if you are a scientist, you may be conveying the results of your research on an experiment that you conducted. You are in a straightforward manner explaining the results of your research. Depending on the type of research that you conducted, you might also be persuading the audience to adopt your research findings. Most likely, your primary purpose would be to inform.

If your purpose is to inspire your audience, you are interested in helping people to see and feel that new opportunities and transformation are possible for their lives. For example, if a speaker in his seventies took up writing and was successful at it, his speech purpose could be to inspire people that you can have writing success at any age.

If your speech purpose is to motivate your audience to action, that would mean that you are encouraging your audience members to have a transformational shift in their mindset. You are motivating them by encouraging them to inspired action for a specific reason. For example, a personal trainer who was once very overweight might deliver a speech with the purpose of motivating the audience members to get fit for health reasons.

If your purpose is to entertain your audience members you want them to be entertained and enjoy themselves when you deliver your speech. For example, if you were to deliver an after dinner talk your purpose would be to entertain and you would include humour because people love to laugh especially after having a good meal.

In order to define what the purpose of your speech is, being able to describe it in one sentence is ideal. Clearly defining your purpose, will help you stay focused when you write and deliver your presentations. If you are unable to clearly define your purpose, take some time and reflect on what you ideally would like to communicate to your audience and the message that you want to convey. Defining your purpose will help you to connect with your audience and ensure that your message is delivered with maximum impact!

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I will be a featured speaker at the Beaches Speeches Toastmasters Club.

Date: September 13, 2015
Time: 12:30 pm - 2:30 pm
Event: Beaches Speeches Toastmasters Club
Venue: Community Centre 55
Location: 97 Main Street
Toronto, Ontario
Public: Private

A Winning Attitude

As a speaker, when you have a winning attitude, it can help you to connect with your audience. Here are four components of a winning attitude that can help you to deliver a great presentation. They are:

A Winning Attitude

1. Be positive. When you’re a designated speaker at a meeting or event, you are sharing your knowledge, skills and expertise with your audience. For some speakers, their thoughts are, sigh “Here we go again, ” they have a negative attitude towards public speaking and then they wonder why the audience doesn’t absorb their message. When you treat speaking before an audience like a chore, it disconnects you from your audience. Being positive is one way that you can truly connect with your audience. Audience members can sense positive energy. Life is such a gift. We have so many things to be grateful for and positive about. Some of them include: our health, family, friends, spirituality and creativity to name a few. If you are having negative feelings before you present, think of the things that you are truly grateful for in life and watch that energy spill over into your public speaking. If you want to connect with your audience, be positive.

2. Be Confident. Many of us struggle with self-confidence issues due to our upbringing. If you haven’t already, start valuing what you bring to the table. When you underestimate, discount or devalue your gifts, talents and abilities you do yourself a disservice. Being confident before an audience means that you believe in what you have to offer and it is of value to your audience. If you don’t believe in what you have to offer, how then can your audience believe in your message, your products and your services?

3. Be Bold. Have the courage to be bold! Speaking in front of an audience is a bold move since you have the courage to “put yourself out there.” When you speak in front of a group, you are in a sense subjecting yourself to other people’s judgments. In an earlier blog post, I wrote about having the audacity to be seen and heard.

People judge us based on our looks, weight, upbringing, education level, profession, and family just to name a few things! Having said that, as a speaker you can’t let people’s judgments stop you. In the majority of instances, your audience will be receptive to your message but sometimes some members of the audience won’t be receptive. Regardless, still have the courage to soldier on and proceed with delivering your message. Your message might touch someone so deeply that it changes their life!

4. Be of Service. While it is great that you are positive, confident, and bold when you present coming from the mindset of being of service to your audience is important. Being of service means that you really want to add value to your audience members’ lives through the information that you present. If you come from this mindset, it will help you to build rapport and connect with your audience. This is the most important aspect of a winning attitude because you care about the topic you are speaking about and you want your audience to benefit from the information.

As a speaker when you practice being positive, confident, bold and most importantly being of service your winning attitude will shine through to your audience.

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Tip: Record Your Speeches on Video

If you want to accelerate your public speaking success recording your speeches on video is one of the best things that you can do. You don’t need to invest in expensive video equipment to record your videos. You can use your iPhone or your android phone. Recording your speeches on video allows you to initially obtain a baseline impression of how you present and then measure your progress as you improve with feedback.

As you record your speeches and review them, you will become aware of certain behaviours and mannerisms that need to be improved. Use video as a powerful tool to help you become the dynamic communicator that you truly are!

Use Powerful and Affirming Words

We all know that words are extremely powerful. Think about how powerful words are in your life. We know that words have the power to heal and wound. Think back to when someone said something that hurt your feelings. Chances are that even though you may have let it go, you probably do remember the words that were spoken and the hurt feelings you felt initially.

On the other hand, think about when you hear the words I love you from a loved one or when they say other empowering words, how do you feel? You feel supported and affirmed. In many cases, words can be life changing and transforming. Words can change the way that you see yourself. Even the way that you use words with your internal dialogue can boost or diminish your self confidence. Since words are so powerful, use empowering words that can uplift people’s spirits. Here are three tips that can help you use words powerfully in your speeches. They are:

1. Use vivid imagery. When writing your speeches, carefully consider the language that you use in order to have maximum impact. Use words that will really paint a picture for your audience. For example, you could say, I went for a walk along the beach. Your readers will obviously get the main point of what you are trying to communicate. Or you could say something that is more descriptive, such as, I sauntered across a white sandy beach as the sun set under a crimson and orange coloured sky. Using vivid imagery and being evocative with your language in your speeches will enable you to connect with your audience more.

2. Eliminate jargon. Research your audience before you speak. Knowing who your audience members are in advance will help you to determine the type of language that you should use. For example, if you were speaking to a group of IT professionals, doctors, lawyers or accountants you might use language or jargon specific to those professions. If you are speaking to a more general audience you might want to eliminate or reduce your use of jargon.

3. Eliminate Filler Words. Filler words are words like um, uh, like, you know etc. that we use in order to take up time or we use when we don’t know what to say. When we are nervous, unprepared or simply unaware the tendency is to overuse filler words. Filler words can make us seem less knowledgeable than we actually are. Recording yourself on video is a great tool in order to assess how often you use filler words. Seeing yourself on video can help you to become aware so that you can eventually eliminate those filler words.

Remember that words are powerful. They have the power to affirm another person in a positive way. On the other hand, if we don’t use our words consciously, they can also be used in a negative manner. As a communicator, take the time to consciously and carefully consider your words especially when you speak in front of an audience. Using positive words can have a major impact on the way that the audience relates to you.

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