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.

Persuasion
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.

Inform
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.

Inspiration
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.

Motivation
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.

Entertainment
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.

http://deborahangelaustin.com/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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Use Nonverbal Communication Effectively

As a speaker learning how to use your body language effectively will help you to connect with your audience. Body language, gestures, facial expressions and eye contact are commonly referred to as nonverbal language. Even before you open your mouth, your body language conveys how you feel. It is important that before you present, you get into as much as possible a positive frame of mind. Since our bodies are the vehicle through which we communicate and express ourselves, it should come as no surprise that our body will through our nonverbal language ‘’leak” what we feel. As much as possible, you want to convey positive emotions in order to connect with your audience.

Congruency
When it comes to body language, one of the most important aspects to remember is the notion of congruency. Congruency means that your nonverbal language matches your verbal message. If you say that you are happy to be speaking at a function, your nonverbal language should match and express that sentiment. Have a smile on your face and use your eye contact to look at audience members and build rapport with them.

Congruent body language demonstrates that you are confident in delivering your message to an audience. On the other hand, if your body language does not demonstrate congruence, the audience will not believe your message. There will be a major disconnect. One of the tips that will allow you to master confident body language is to ensure that you are prepared. Being prepared and knowing the content of your speech well in advance will help you to project confidence.

How often have you seen a speaker who says that I'm so happy to be here speaking in front of an audience yet the nonverbal language does not convey that message. For example, people who are not confident when they speak, tend to mumble, not project their voice, avoid eye contact with the audience, slouch and are generally nervous and edgy. Confident speakers on the other hand tend to speak in a clear voice, build rapport by looking and smiling at the audience and their carriage (body posture and stance) projects confidence.

Facial Expressions and Eye Contact
As a speaker, your facial expressions and eye contact help get your message across to your audience. Smiling and effective eye contact are critical when you're building rapport with audience members. It's important that you learn to “soften” your facial expressions. When we’re nervous, whether it's related to public speaking or another endeavor, the tendency is to tighten or tense our facial expressions. The facial expressions that are conveyed, therefore are not as welcoming as they could be. Learning to relax can help us with demonstrating positive facial expressions.

When delivering a presentation, focus your eye contact on specific areas of the room rather than all over the room. You don't want your eye contact to be like an oscillating fan. Be laser focused, don't sweep the room back and forth with your eye contact. The strategic way to use eye contact is the following. When you're speaking, make eye contact with a few people on each side of the room. For example, look to the left, the middle and then to the right and back again with a pointed focus. If you have the opportunity to meet some of the attendees before you begin your speech, try and make eye contact with people you know to put yourself at ease.

Open and Closed Gestures
There are many different types of gestures and broadly speaking they can fall into two main categories. They are: open or closed gestures. Make sure that when you use your gestures, they are punctuated with purpose. A certain points in your speech, using simple gestures can really help you to connect with your audience. You need to ensure that your gestures are enhancing your message and not detracting from it. Closed body gestures have the appearance of making you seem less relatable. An example of a closed gesture would be, having your arms crossed for the duration of your speech. This gesture would make you appear closed off, unapproachable and not connected to your audience. Of course this is purely perception. Open gestures on the other hand, are gestures that are more relaxed or expansive. An example, would be having your arms rest at your sides with open palms. If you want to be seen as someone who is warm, open, and relatable aiming for more expansive gestures when you speak will leave the audience with the impression that you are more approachable. In turn, using open gestures will in many instances make your audience more receptive to your message.

Learning to use your body language effectively when you speak will help you build greater rapport with your audience and deliver a successful speech.

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7 Tips to Prepare Before You Deliver Your Speech

Before you present before an audience, there are several things that you can do to ensure that you have a successful speech  or presentation. They are:

1. Be Knowledgeable about Your Subject Matter

When you present at a meeting or before an audience that is not the time to “wing it.” Be sure that you know your content inside and out so that you can appear competent and professional.

2. Know Your  Audience

Before you present, conduct some research on your audience's demographics and their interests. If you are presenting at work that will be easier as you will know all or the majority of the people. If you are presenting before an unknown audience, attempt to do some research on the people who will be there in terms of  their gender, age, interests, professions etc. This will assist you in crafting your speech to connect with the audience.

3. Have a Good Introduction

Many speakers ignore this important step before they present. It is essential that you have your host introduce you with a proper introduction that states your credentials. It does not have to be long. There should be sufficient information presented about you so that the audience can see why you are the credible authority to speak on that particular topic.

4. Know the Image that you Want to Convey

Before you present before an audience, it's important to know the image that you want to convey. The way that you look, especially in terms of your attire can act as a detraction from your message if it disconnects you from the audience. You want to convey an image that is consistent with your personal brand and in alignment with the core message you want to communicate.

5. Make Contact with Your Host in Advance

If you have been invited to speak to staff at a company or organization, conducting research on the demographics  of your audience is a good idea.  After you receive the invitation to speak at an event, contacting your host well in advance ensures that you know the expectations for the speaking engagement. Contacting the host in advance ensures that you can communicate your needs also such as for example, your audio-visual requirements ahead of time.

6. Know Your Practical Strategies for Success

Before your presentation, know what are some of the practical strategies that you can use to ensure a successful speech. For example, for the event where you will be speaking, will you have the directions printed out in advance so that you are not late? How many days in advance will your handouts be prepared, so you are not left scrambling at the last minute. Before your speech think of and make a list of practical things that you can do to ensure success.

7. Visualize Your Success

Learning to master your content before you present in front of an audience is a major component of being an effective speaker. While knowing your content is important, visualizing your success before you speak is also important. Too many speakers  make themselves nervous by rehearsing scenarios where things don't go according to plan. Before you present, visualize yourself delivering a successful speech.  Rehearse mentally the feeling of being confident and building rapport with the audience. See and hear the audience applauding your wonderful speech. Visualizing success can help you deliver an engaging and effective speech.

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Three Tips To Develop Great Content for Your Speeches

By Deborah Austin

Becoming an effective speaker involves learning how to develop good content.  Before you can even work on the performance aspects of your speech you have to figure out what to say. You want to provide valuable content to your audience so that they can benefit and use the information in their lives. How then do you develop good content? There are many different ways that you can develop content. Here are three effective ways. They are:

1. Keep a story or interesting article file

People love stories. Stories can be very powerful teaching tools. When you use stories in your presentations you connect with both the heart and the intellect. It is good to have facts and figures in your presentation to show evidence of something you're trying to prove. If you really want to connect with your audience using stories will help you build rapport.  Start keeping a story or interesting article file that you reference when you write your speeches. This file can be paper based or be kept electronically on your computer. Find the the best system that works for you. Start collecting interesting stories, articles and websites that you hear about and add them to the file. This file will function as a resource for you  when you develop content for your speeches and presentations. Business leaders often use stories to get their message across. By using stories you can engage your audience more effectively.

2. Do the Required Research

While stories are great to use in your speeches, facts and statistics are important also. If you want to emphasize certain parts of your speech or outline a theory using supporting material, facts and statistics can help you. You can learn to incorporate facts and statistics by acquainting yourself with research procedures. Arrange to visit your local library and ask a librarian to assist you in learning how to research a subject effectively. Of course using credible sources on the internet is another way to find good research material. You may be surprised at how developing good research skills will serve you various areas of your life.

3. Keep a Journal

A journal is wonderful way to chronicle the richness of your life. For many of you reading this blog post, you've been keeping a journal for a long time. I've kept a journal since I was 11 years old! Journalling is a wonderful process that can help you develop great insight into your life by recording you life's events both mundane and significant. Keeping a journal helps you remember events and stories that you might want to share in speech. Even carrying with you a small notebook when you go out in public can help you chronicle interesting things that may occur in the course of a day, week, or month.

Part of becoming a great speaker involves learning how to develop great content.  You can start developing material for your presentations by: keeping a story/interesting article file, learning how to do research and keeping a journal. By being an astute observer and participant of life you will have many fascinating stories to tell in your speeches.

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