You’ve only got 30 seconds to grab the attention of your audience. That’s a very short time. It means you have to do it right!
In the first 30 seconds, the audience is going to decide whether or not they will trust you. They will make up their minds in regards of like-ability, trustworthiness and whether or not you are worth their time.
This means you have to pay attention to the first 30 seconds!
The World Champion Public Speaking 2015, Mohammed Qathani, uses some smart techniques that help him capture the attention of the audience early.
In this video, we break down three steps Qathani used in his winning talk. You can use these steps to right away capture the attention of your audience.
I recently sat in a presentation with a friend of mine next to me. After the talk, I asked my friend what he thought of the presentation.
“To be honest,” he said, “I got distracted halfway through and couldn’t get back on track after. So I missed most.”
It happens to all of us. We get distracted easy. For a speaker, that means it is crucial to put elements into their presentations that will prevent that from happening.
How do you make your speech unpredictable and your audience engaged?
You want to keep your audience attention. But how? By adding in unpredictable elements to your speech. Elements that will keep your audience on their toes.
Which elements are that? Here are five.
“You all think smoking kills? Let me tell you something. Do you know that the amount of people dying from diabetes are three times as many people as dying from smoking?”
It’s how Mohammed Qahtani, 2015 World Champion Public Speaking, starts his talk ‘The Power of Words’. The statement wasn’t correct, but that wasn’t what mattered. He got what he wanted: the attention of the audience. And a chance to explain his point.
Statements and especially bold statements are a great attention grabber. You trigger people to listen to you. They want to hear how you are going to prove your statement.
Qahtani was quite extreme in his statement. You don’t have to go that far. But you can still trigger. When pitching you could, for example, say something like “We are better than Apple”.
The important part: you’ll have to prove your statement after!
A second way to get and keep the attention of your audience is to be funny. Make your audience smile and they will love you for it. Being funny is a great way to do that.
At the same time, being funny is tricky. Be careful here. Not everybody has the same humour. And you have to know the difference between being funny and telling a joke.
When it comes to being funny, timing is everything. And not too much. A funny story can help, but it has to be relatable to the topic of your talk! A good idea is to keep it personal and not insult your audience.
It is a great way to keep the attention. But as said, be careful, not everything is considered funny.
Tell a great story
We know that people are hardwired to listen to stories. When done well, telling stories is one of the most powerful tools in a presentation. A story keeps attention because people want to hear what comes next.
Telling a short story in your presentation can do wonders for the attention. What you want to do is connect the stories to the content of your talk. In other words: make it relevant.
I often use stories in my presentations. The stories can be about my kids, about anything. But I always make sure they connect to the topic of the talk.
Give them bold or surprising statistics
“According to Comscore, 25% of internet users have an ad blocker installed.”
It’s a sentence from one of my presentations. These statistics are staggering. It will make people think. “That’s a lot!” (or in some cases “that’s not much!”. Whenever I use statistics like these, I can see people look up, take pictures or write them down.
I have their attention at that point. Statistics do that. But like with the stories and fun stuff, it has to be relevant and at least a little bit bold. Telling your audience 100% of people drink water won’t help much.
Your slide design
The last way to get and keep attention is your slide design. We all know ‘death by PowerPoint’. Too many bullets will kill your presentation.
A great design will keep people focused. This can be the use of the right colours, but also usage of the right images.
Personally, I use a lot of animated gifs. These to me are like the pictures used in Harry Potter movies. They come to life.
It’s all about relevance
With all the things you can do to keep the attention, one thing is important: it has to be relevant. It has to make sense.
To conclude, I’d like to share my favourite gif to use in presentations. Here’s why I use this gif: it’s funny, it’s relevant and it tells a story. I use it to explain how we should always be looking beyond the obvious because that’s where the real gold lies.
Every speaker wants a good ‘connection’ with the audience. In some cases, that can be quite hard. Not all audiences are the same. And some audiences, you have to ‘convince’. Wouldn’t it be great if your audience would listen engaged to every word you had to say? It’s possible.
There are a few ways to connect to your audience. Some are easy. And your audience will feel closer to you, without you being too obvious about it.
1. Respond to what you see
Many speakers are very self-focused when they are on stage. Most of the time, this is not intentional. But speakers want to do a good job. So they focus on the job they feel is most important: the words and the slides.
If you focus only there, you will lose the attention of the audience. Because there is no connection.
A good speaker has to know what happens in the room, at all times. Are people paying attention, are they bored, are they engaged? Who is laughing and who isn’t? And who seems to agree or disagree with you?
If you feel the room agrees or doesn’t agree, for example, act on it. Tell them “I see some people disagree, that’s fine, here’s why I feel it is like this…”
The mere fact that you are responding to their movements shows you care. And caring means connecting.
2. Look at people a bit longer
It’s common advice for speakers: “Look to all parts of the room and focus on some people”. Great advice, but you need to be careful with this. If you ‘glance’ over the audience too much, they will feel neglected. They feel you don’t ‘see’ them.
What you want is a real connection. This means looking people in the eye. In fact, look at some people a bit longer. Not too long, that gets creepy, but long enough to get the connection. Get a smile even. It will bring you closer.
3. Smile and have fun
Smiling is one of the most underestimated parts of public speaking. If you want to connect, the audience must feel you like them. And if you are not smiling, how will they ever feel you like them?
Once you show you are enjoying yourself on stage, the audience will become part of that. And they will feel closer to you.
How to make people smile? Sometimes you can do that with jokes. Being funny does help. If you can make the audience smile, they will feel closer to you.
Now there is a danger here. If your joke backfires, you could lose all the connection. So think about jokes. Don’t offend people. Don’t make fun of specific groups. Be lighthearted and funny. The best person to joke about is you.
4. Be personal
Which brings me to a very important part of your presentation. You have to make any presentation you do personal. People bond with you, not with the presentation. So as soon as you can make part of the presentation personal, you will get closer to the audience.
This doesn’t mean you have to keep telling stories about yourself or your kids all the time. It does mean, you want to connect the content of the presentation to your personality. Show the connection between you and what you are trying to get across. People will like you, and your talk, better.
5. Refer to what they already know
If you talk about stuff that people can’t relate to, you make it hard for them. It can be almost like you are talking to them in a foreign language. How do you feel when you are part of a conversation between two people speaking a language you don’t understand? You feel left out.
You want to avoid people feeling left out. Even when you are talking about difficult topics. You want to sometimes bring it back to basics. The best way of doing that is to refer to things people already know. Sometimes that is an analogy, sometimes it’s going back to something everybody knows.
If you refer to what people know, you give them trust and they will get closer to you.
There are speakers who stand behind a desk. And there are those (like myself) who like to walk around. I prefer the walking way, for several reasons. For one, it’s a way of getting closer to your audience.
By physically getting closer to your audience, you will make them feel closer to you as well. So walk towards them. Make them ‘part’ of your presentation. And it will create a bond.
7. Compliment the audience
Finally, compliment the audience. Tell them how great they are.
There are several parts in the presentation where you can do this. At the start, you can make a compliment about the location, the city that you are in or the company that you are presenting at. During the talk, you can tell them you can see they are a smart audience. “I don’t need to tell you this, you know this”, shows you feel they are smart. And at the end of the talk, you can say you enjoyed their presence.
A compliment can do many things!
8. Tell a story
As you can see, there are many ways of getting a connection with your audience. The one important thing you have to keep in mind is that it has to be about them. They need to be able to recognise themselves.
The best way of doing that is by telling a story. People love stories. Not only because they are fun, but because it’s part of our DNA. Stories are part of our everyday life. Each day we tell each other stories. Each day we listen to stories.
When we hear a story, we listen better. We remember more. And we trust the source of a story. This is why storytelling is such a powerful tool. And this is why storytelling needs to be part of any type of talk that you do.
But Storytelling isn’t easy. That’s why we created a class for you that shows you exactly how to create a perfect story, over and over again.
In the past few weeks, I’ve been giving a lot of advice to speakers who were preparing their decks. Some of them were preparing for a conference. Others were preparing for workshops. And there were even those who were preparing for online courses.
It was a lot of fun to do, and there were some great decks sent in. Of course, there were also quite a few things I could suggest for improvement. There is one thing that kept coming back when analysing the different slide decks: the text.
A lot of speakers still put a lot of text on their slides. Because they want to share as much information as possible. This isn’t always the best approach though. Let me explain why. After that, I will explain how you can handle slides that do have text on them.
Why is having too much text on a slide a bad thing?
Before you go and change your behaviour… Of course, you want to know first, why is having too much text on a slide a bad thing? After all, you are trying to give your audience as much information as possible. Aren’t you helping them?
As well as the intent often is, it isn’t helping them. For a lot of reasons.
Have you ever been to a bar where they had TV’s hanging on the wall? You will have. And you will have experienced that it is hard to keep your eyes off the screen. Even though your conversation partner has something interesting to say. You can’t keep your eyes off it.
The same thing happens with the screen(s) that are behind a speaker. People can’t take their eyes off it. At least, not until their brains have digested what is on the slide.
So what happens to a person when they see a lot of text on a slide? They start reading what is on it. Because they need to digest it. That means their attention will stay on the slide until they’ve read it all.
When your audience reads, they don’t hear you
Now try this: have someone tell you something, while you are trying to read something for the first time. You will either fail to read or fail to listen. You can’t do both.
The same will happen with your audience, they will focus on one thing. And that one thing is going to be the text. Their eyes will be drawn to the screen and will read, and won’t listen to you.
Your audience starts writing
I’m assuming that what you put on your slide is valuable information. Information that will help your audience. Your audience will feel the same way. It must be important because the speaker has put it on there!
When people come to an event or when they are listening to a speech, they want to remember things. And to remember, they will write things down. This means that when you put text on a slide, chances are your audience will write down what’s on your screen.
And you’ve guessed it. When they are writing, it’s hard to listen to you!
Especially when you have quite a bit of information on your slide, it will be hard for people to keep track of what you are saying. Chances are they will still be writing when you click to the next slide. That will mean they won’t hear the first things you are saying on a new topic.
They are playing catch up
The result is that people are playing catch up all through your presentation. They want to hear everything you say. They want to write down your message and your tips. But let’s put it bluntly: you’re not letting them.
The more text you have on your slides, the more your audience is playing catch up with your words. And that’s not something you want happening!
How much text can I put on a slide?
The question now of course arises, is how to handle the issue of too much text on a slide. And how much text should be on a (Powerpoint) slide anyway? There are a few things that you can do.
Give them short bites
The simplest solution, of course, is not to put too much text on a slide. But the truth is that you sometimes do need text. Also, because you sometimes WANT people to write something down. Or to tweet something.
The best way to do that is to use short bites. Short sentences that don’t take too much time to read or write down.
How much? I use the rule of the ‘old tweet’. Meaning around 140 characters. That is enough to digest. It will also make that it will be easier for people to share your quotes, using your name in it as well.
Don’t use text, use images
I don’t have much text on my slides. I use a lot of images. Using images prevents them from reading. I use images to represent what I am talking about. They support my words. They help my audience visualise my words.
If you do need to share more text, give them time to read. Pause your speech. Tell them they can read the slide if they want. Just don’t talk through it if you don’t have to.
Share the slide!
It’s common use to share slides afterwards with audiences. Even though there is discussion about whether or not this is a smart thing to do. Especially when you are using a lot of images, it won’t make much sense to those who haven’t seen your presentation.
When you have a lot of text on your slides, it might be wise to share your slides. When you get to a slide with more text, tell your audience they will get that slide. Tell them they should write down some important words, but they don’t have to copy the entire slide.
Powerpoint math: the 1-6-6 rule? No.
Finally, there is the 1-6-6 rule. This rule is very simple. You should include no more than six words per line and no more than six bullet points per slide.
They invented this rule to prevent people from using too much text. Unfortunately, it does the exact opposite. It encourages people to add text, a slide with six bullets and six words each, is still a lot of text! So when you think this rule is the way to go. Go up, and read the post again!
The essence: think about their attention
When it comes to text on slides, there is no set number of words or characters you can or cannot use. The essence of it all, is to think about your audience. Understand them. And understand the attention curves. If you understand those, you can help your audience digest what they need to hear.
It’s common advice given to a lot of speakers: practice in front of a mirror. So they can see how they ‘perform’ and improve their body language. It’s a very logical way of thinking. In fact, it’s in the advice of many books and courses. Intended to make you look at yourself in real time and make instant adjustments. But is this the right way of thinking?
I believe it is a completely wrong approach. It can even lead to the exact opposite of what you want to accomplish.
Why do people use a mirror?
“But wait, what are you saying? Are you saying that the advice others are giving is false?” Well, as with many things, my answer will be: that depends. It depends on how you ‘read’ the advice.
Let’s look at some of the reasoning behind the tip that you should practice in front of a mirror.
“It helps you see what you look like”
This is true, of course, you can see yourself. As I point out below though, it’s not your real self. But the essence of the advice here is good: seeing yourself will make that you can improve yourself. The question is if that has to be a mirror… But I’ll get back to that.
“It helps with practicing eye contact”
Some say that a mirror will help you look at your audience instead of at your notes. Where I agree that you shouldn’t look at your notes, I doubt that the mirror will have that effect. Eye contact is important. So you have to train yourself to look at different people.
I think this advice comes from the understanding that you need to practice without notes. But there are many better ways of doing that.
Why is practicing in front of the mirror wrong?
So why do I advice against it? There are several reasons you shouldn’t do this.
1. It’s not real!
Even though you see yourself in the mirror, and the reflection is real, this is not reality. Practicing in front of the mirror doesn’t reflect what happens in real life. Because for one, in real life, you don’t see yourself. If you want to practice, you want to get as close as possible to the actual speaking experience. When you see a reflection of yourself, you will act on it right away. Change the way you look. But that is how you look in the mirror, not on stage.
You will not even see how you act on stage because you are focusing on your reflection. What you see is not what you get. This might also mean that you change things that don’t need changing!
2. It’s a habit you need to change, not a moment
When you look in the mirror, and you see something wrong, you will change it. But then the change has happened and you don’t think about it anymore. Where in fact, it’s a habit. So you need to address it over and over. Looking in the mirror fools you into thinking you ‘fixed’ your body language.
3. The mirror will make you focus on gesture, not story
When you practice in front of the mirror, you are focusing on how your movement and gestures. You will see every movement that goes wrong. You will see every little thing. Your focus will be on your smallest facial expressions and gestures. This is distracting. Which then leads to too much emphasis on those little things and you will lose the focus on your story.
Looking at yourself in the mirror when practicing might actually make you nervous. When you look at yourself, you emphasize what goes wrong. You are much more aware of what goes wrong. Therefore increasing the likely hood of it actually going wrong.
If you see things going wrong you will start thinking about these things more and more. And that will make you nervous.
What to do?
Is it always wrong to practice in front of the mirror? I would say yes in most cases. But, like with everything, there are exceptions. If you practice early enough, it will most likely not make you nervous. And you can do that, but only to practice certain gestures. To see if certain gestures work or not. Otherwise, I would advise against it.
But if it’s something that works for you, do it!
There are two other things you can do that will give you a much better insight into how you are presenting yourself:
Practice in front of an audience.
Find colleagues or other people to see you talk. They can give you feedback as well. Remember to ask them for specific feedback on your body language and not on your story.
Grab a video camera (or your phone) and record yourself. Position the camera so that it has a broad view of how you move (which show your full body). Watch the recording, write down the two or three biggest things you want to change, and do another practice run.
Just be careful rehearsing in front of the mirror. It might not have the outcome you were hoping for!
Have you ever watched TV shows like ‘Idols’, ‘The Voice’ or ‘Britain’s Got Talent”? These shows are very popular. And for good reason. We love to see others show their often hidden talents.
But next to those that show their talents, there are also many who fail. There’s something interesting about these people. Something that has nothing to do with their (lack of) talent on stage.
When you watch the interviews before their performances, you might notice something. Most of those who fail have something in common: their moms. Broader: their families and friends.
These families all say similar things. “She has always been singing at home and I always get goosebumps!” or “We love hearing him sing in the shower!”. They are proud. Genuinely proud. They are entitled to be.
But they are not always right.
They say these things because they are family. Even though what they say might not be true. Because they don’t want to hurt their loved ones. But some also because see their relatives in a different way. They believe in them. You could say that they are in a bubble. One that will make the performer sound good. Even if they are bad.
You need feedback
To improve as a speaker, you need feedback. I’ve talked about getting feedback before, like in this video.
It’s crucial to get feedback. But not always fun or easy. You will hear things you don’t like.
But if you want to grow, you will need to treat the criticism as a gift. As something that will make you a better speaker.
That means you need to ask for feedback as much as you can.
But don’t ask your mom.
Like with the contestants of the talent shows, your mom, or your boyfriend or girlfriend, brother or sister, or someone else close to you, won’t be honest. They can’t. Granted, there are parents who are the most critical people you will meet. But most aren’t.
You will need to find feedback from those that have a certain expertise. Get it from someone with expertise of the content (someone from your industry). Or from someone who understands what it takes to be on stage.
Getting the right feedback
When asking for the feedback, you need to be ready. Ready for the answer, but also to help those that give the feedback to give you the best answer.
In his book “Confidence 2.0” the author, Rob Yeung, highlights three things that are important when asking for feedback. I agree very much with them. They are:
1. You need to give those you are asking for feedback ‘permission’.
Permission to be honest and negative. Make sure you tell them you want to improve. That it’s ok, in fact even good, to get negative feedback. Because that will help you improve.
2. Anonymous feedback works.
If possible, get people to give written feedback. When they write things down, they will be more honest. And when they write it down, knowing it can’t be traced to them, they will be more honest. Most people are afraid to give criticism. By making it anonymous, you help them be more honest.
3. Thank them for the feedback
Finally, make sure you thank people for their feedback. You will have the urge to reply. You will want to explain or counter. Don’t. It won’t help and people will be less eager to help you out the next time. If you ask for negative feedback, you know you won’t like it.
Accept the feedback, use it and improve.
And I’m sure your mom, dad or loved one is amazing. And loves you very much. But be careful with their feedback!
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2019 is approaching fast. Which means businesses are preparing to be more successful than ever!
For you, that means that in 2019, you will need to show your presenting and persuasive skills to be at a high level.
Whether you are speaking at a conference or pitching for new clients. Whether you are teaching a workshop class or webinar. Or whether you are applying for a new position next year. All these situations ask for speaking and convincing skills.
Are you ready for this? You should be!
To be successful, you will need to be able to persuade. Show those in the room that YOU are the solution to their problems.
This is not easy. It’s a lot of work. And it is stressful.
We say anyone can be a convincing speaker. Because everyone has talents. The key is to highlight these talents!
As Sally Hogshead said:
This means: be the best you that you can be!
Becoming the best you can be will take one step: being ready to make the change.
Our training sessions do exactly what you need: help you become the best you that you can be.
We look at your talents and build your speaking skills from there. Highlight that was is strong and makes you stand out.
Let us help you become that persuasive and confident speaker.
We will make you more confident
We will make you more convincing and persuasive
We will make you the best speaker you can be
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Every event needs a good event moderator. Whether it is someone who assists the speakers and the audience throughout the day, or in a session. There are a few elements that make for a good moderator.
A good moderator will make the event run smooth.
You could get asked to be a moderator yourself. I would suggest any speaker: accept that invitation, at least once. You will learn a lot from it. Not only from what the other speakers are talking about, but from the experience. You will be a better presenter afterward.
In this article, we will dive into what it takes to be a good event moderator. At the end of the article we have a free gift for those that are going to moderate an event soon!
Let’s start with the what and how to recognise a good event moderator.
What is an (event) moderator?
An event moderator is the master of ceremony of the event. He or she is there to make sure the speakers can do the best job and the audience gets the most out of the day or session. A moderator introduces speakers. He or she also makes sure the speakers stick to the time and the moderator asks and moderate questions. He or she is the connection between the different talks.
There are two types of moderators. There are those that are the ‘host’ for an entire day, the event moderator. They are for a large part responsible for the success of a conference. There are also panel- or session moderators. They are ‘only’ responsible for a specific session. Even though it is less work, it doesn’t make them less important. They can still make or break an event.
How to be a good event moderator
Unlike what some speakers think, being a good or even great moderator isn’t easy. If you do it right, it’s a lot of work. If you want to be a good moderator at a conference or to moderate a conference session, you need to do certain things well. You need to work on these moderation skills:
Get in touch with the speakers
Make the speakers the center of attention
Ask the right questions
Be a host
Let’s dive in! What are the most important moderation skills you need?
Remember, at the end of this article, we have a gift for you!
First, you want to be ready. Don’t show up without any preparation. The simplest thing here is to know the agenda. It sounds obvious, but trust me, I’ve seen them. Moderators that didn’t even know what was going to happen.
You want to know who you are dealing with. Know the speakers (by name!) and know their topics.
If you aren’t knowledgeable enough on the topic, research. Do some reading. There is a ton of content available on the web on the web on any topic. It should be easy to at least get a feel for the topic. You might also want to get in touch with others who do know more about the topic. Let them inform you.
If you do know about the topic, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t research. But you want to make sure you don’t fall into the trap of knowing too much. Of taking over the presentations of the speakers.
You should research the topic on potential questions you can ask or the audience will ask. Go to Q&A websites like Quora and look on Social Media to figure out what people want to know about the topic.
Get in touch with the speakers
“Can we jump on a call to discuss your talk this Tuesday?” the moderator had e-mailed. He e-mailed all the speakers in the panel at once. As soon as I saw the e-mail, I knew this wasn’t going to end well. One by one the replies came. “I can’t do Tuesday, how about Wednesday?”, one speaker responded. Another couldn’t make it on Wednesday. The third speaker e-mailed that she wasn’t ready with the preparation of her talk yet.
In total, we ended up with a thread of about 20 e-mails. And no call.
Trying to get a call together with speakers usually won’t work. In a post on Entrepreneur, Rebecca Lieb, who has moderated tons of panels, says not to worry about a pre-call.
“Don’t break your neck getting your panelists on an advance call. It’s like herding cats. Instead, solicit input on the topic from people individually, and then send a bulletin to the entire group on the topics and questions you’ll cover.”
She’s right. It usually doesn’t work.
But you should get in touch with the speakers before the talk. But do it one at a time. First, ask them about their talk. What they want to discuss and what the most important outcomes of their talks are. Then summarise it all in one email to all the speakers. See if there is any overlap and suggest changes if needed.
Make the speakers the center of attention
As a moderator, you are not the center of attention. The speakers are. The best moderators know how to take a step back. To shut up when needed. Always be aware of the fact that you should keep what you say as short as possible. Summarise what the speakers said. Ask short questions and repeat the questions from the audience. That’s it.
It’s like I’ve said many times in my presentations when it comes to marketing: you are not the hero, you are Yoda. As a moderator, you help the speakers become the heroes.
Ask the right questions
As an event moderator that knows the topic, there is the danger of asking questions that are too difficult. That could lead to a great conversation between you and a speaker. But it might also mean the audience doesn’t get it.
Do your research to find out what your audience is like. Test their knowledge level and have your questions be in line with that. Ask questions the audience would want to know, not what you want to know
Being an event moderator is hard work! You are the only one who knows for sure that you need to pay attention. You want to know what happens and you want to make sure you ask the right questions. For that, you need to pay attention. If you have seen the talks before, pay attention to the audience. If not, pay attention to the talk. You have to ask a question after!
Be a host
Finally. As a moderator, you are more than the person watching time. You are the person in charge of the session. That means the people in the room are your guests. And you want to make your guests happy. This is much like hospitality. The customer is king, so you treat him well. In this case, the audience is your customer.
That’s why you want to be the perfect host. Be attentive. Know who’s in front of you. And make sure they have a great time.
Being a good event moderator isn’t easy. Even though many think they can ‘wing’ it, the good ones spend a lot of time preparing. But it’s worth it. In the end, the audience will go away with a lot more than if the moderator doesn’t do a good job.
To answer the question “how to be a good moderator at a conference”: you need to have the right moderation skills. But most important: you need to make it work.
A moderator is the glue that keeps it together. And remember: you are Yoda.
The Moderator Checklist
Because we know moderating is hard work, we’ve created a checklist for you. This checklist will help you to remember everything you need to do at an event. It’s the most complete checklist you will find on the web! And for you, we have a big discount, instead of the regular $20, you now get it for FREE!!!
In the past few weeks, you have seen parts of the interview with Purna Virji being published on our YouTube channel and through our social channels. Today, you can watch the entire interview with Purna!
Learning from Purna
Public speaking for some speakers seems to be easy. They look confident on stage. They have a great story and a lot of knowledge. It seems they have no problem being on stage. Speaking for them seems to come naturally.
Often appearances are deceiving. These speakers work hard to get a presence on stage that feels so natural. And they too get nervous.
As a speaker, it is great to learn from other experienced speakers. To learn how they handle nerves. To learn how they first got on stage. In a series of interviews, we talk to these experienced speakers. To get insights from them that help you, as someone who wants to be a better speaker.
In this series, we spoke to Purna Virji (Bing), Marcus Tandler (Ryte), Cindy Krum (Mobilemoxie) and Melanie Deziel (consultant, former NYT).
In the interview with Purna, we talked about a lot of different things related to public speaking.
Purna has been speaking in public since early 2012. She still loves being on stage. Actually, the more she does it, the more she loves it!
Preparing for a presentation
Purna spends a lot of time preparing for a presentation. Including design and everything around a presentation, she spends about 100 hours preparing for a one-hour presentation!
She will start by thinking about which issues the audience is facing. What can she give them which is of most help? The key thing is, how can she add the most value. She will then go and do research about what is available and what is out there.
Her next step is to create an outline in Word. She will fill that in, almost like she is writing an article. In the end, she will convert it to Powerpoint.
Rehearsing for a talk
Purna rehearses a lot for a presentation. She likes to get in at least three rehearsals for a talk. She finds that helps to get the talk to stick in her head and to know the flow.
Purna finds that if she hasn’t rehearsed enough, she will stumble and she will find herself say “uhm” too much. Rehearsal makes that her talks sound better!
Purna has an interesting approach to rehearsing. She doesn’t rehearse in front of a mirror. She rehearses to the wall. After all, the wall is a captive audience and never has a bad thing to say! She practices on her own, in for example her hotel room or her office.
The first rehearsal she does out loud. She then can adjust content and flow. And she knows how her time is! Purna can than adjust her slides accordingly.
Why Purna wanted to go into public speaking in the first place, is because she found it to be absolutely terrifying! She thought she would ‘die’ when she would get on stage. She hated it more than bugs or spiders. She wanted to conquer that fear.
For the first two or three years, she was still terrified. But the more she did it, the fear goes away.
Purna believes the fear isn’t a bad thing. The fear comes from caring how the audience perceives the talk and how they get value. Which is good.
To get rid of the nerves, she does things like deep breathing. She tries to change the nerves into excitement. She feels much more comfortable.
Purna’s advice for speakers who are just starting is to ‘just do it!’ If you give yourself time to think about it, you give yourself time to talk yourself out of it. If you feel there is something you have had a success in. If you have something you are proud of, know that you have value to add! Just go ahead and pitch!
Purna wants you to just go ahead and do it. The more diverse voices there are in this industry, the more the industry as a whole will benefit.
People have a tendency to compare. They compare products. They compare services. They compare people. And yes, they compare speakers. This is why at a conference, you will often hear the question “which speaker did you like most today?”. Heck, I’ve asked it quite a few times myself.
I’m not saying this question is wrong. But there is something about this question that you should know: it is misleading.
Why? Because it indicates that all speakers should be judged equally. Where they don’t.
Each speaker is different.
One speaker could be more of a storyteller, while the other is more about the facts. Or one speaker is doing a trend overview, where the other is trying to teach us specifically about a topic.
Someone in the audience is likely to be there for one or two of these reasons. Not all of them. So if you are hoping to learn details, you will find the storyteller less interesting. Or vice versa.
A lot of speakers compare themselves to others. And here the same problem appears. It is misleading because of the different intents of the speakers.
When you are speaking at a conference, do yourself a favor and don’t compare yourself to others. Compare yourself to… yourself. Do a better job than last time. You’ll be a better speaker for it!
A sentence often heard in presentations is “I will get back to that” or “I will talk about that later”. This can be both good and bad. Good if you make it a ‘cliffhanger’. Bad if you actually never do get back on the topic.
Bas van den Beld explains this sentence.
You have speakers who are talking about a certain topic and who then tend to drift off. And then they will tell the audience: “You know what, I’ll get back to that later on. This is a point, but I’ll get back to it.”
There’s actually a good way and a bad way of handling that. The good way is very interesting. Because it can help you keep the attention of the audience. The bad way is it’s going to make them very, very, very anxious.
The good way is when you’re using the “I’ll get back to you on that” in a way that builds tension. You’re not actually saying: “I’ll get back to you”. But you’re building up, kind of like with the commercials or with a talk show. “Later on I’ll be talking about… but first … “
When you do that you’re building up tension. You’re building up the expectation that you’re building towards something. And that will keep people’s attention because they want to hear what you’re going to be talking about in the end.
The bad way however is that you keep repeating whenever you start talking about something that you’re going to get back to the audience on that topic later on in your talk. But then the audience sees the time passing and sees that you are getting to the end of your presentation. And they might still not have heard anything about what you are going to get back to. And that means that maybe at the end of your talk, you’re actually not going to get back to the topics that you mentioned before. Because you just ran out of time.
In that case, you’re holding the audience ‘hostage’. And they are kind of waiting for it, but you’re not giving it to them. So that’s when it’s bad.
So, there’s a good way and a bad way to work with talking about stuff later on in your presentation.
Use the good way. Build up the tension. But make sure you can keep your promise. And do it well thought out.
How often do you say the word “uhm” or “um” when you talk? Probably a lot. Because many people do. These words are called “filler words”. But how can you fix this?
When you use filler words, you are thinking out loud. And that’s where the solution to stop saying “uhm” lies.
Bas van den Beld explains
Hey how you doing? “Uhhmm”, I want to talk to you about something that “uhhm”. Is something that “uhm” annoys “uh” a lot of people. When “uhh” you are on stage and “uhh” keep saying “uhhh” like I just did.
Now I know I exaggerate a little bit and I know that I even do that sometimes on stage. That I still say “uhm”.
That’s a moment where you’re thinking about “what did I want to say again?” You’re trying to grab your thoughts together. And because you don’t want people to think that you’ve lost whatever you’re talking about, because you’re not (lost).
That’s why you say “Uhhm”. Because you don’t want that awkward silence. To be honest, the awkward silence, isn’t bad at all. Every time you think you want to say “uh”, just pause. Don’t say anything.
It will sound less weird than you actually think. Because in your head it might sound like a long silence, where actually, for the audience, it’s a silence they kind of appreciate. Because if you take a short break, they can understand what you just said. So don’t worry about the “Uhms” too much. Just say nothing.
Some speakers come into the venue they are going to be speaking at last minute. It will make for a bad presentation. Here’s what you should do.
Instead, come prepared. Be there early. Get to know the room. Get a feel of the audience. And very important: test your technical settings. So you know it will work when you get on stage.
Watch the 2 minute video:
Hey there! I’m going to say: ‘good morning’, even though I have no idea when you’re actually viewing this video. But I’m saying good morning because for me it is morning.
It’s actually just about eight o’clock, and in about an hour’s time, I have a training session that I’m doing, that I’m teaching. On the speaking course.
It’s actually right over here, in a nice castle. Which is great. But it reminded me of something on the way here. I thought: well this is something and I need to share with you guys. Because there’s a reason why I’m here an hour before. I want to get in early, I want to be prepared.
And this is something that I’ve always been amazed about when I attended conferences. I saw other speakers walk in like two minutes before the talk. And kind of rushed. They didn’t know where they were. They hadn’t prepared well enough. Knowing like the setup. So often times, it went wrong.
Because the technical stuff didn’t work. And they would like almost blame the technical guys. While actually, it was the speaker’s fault. I think that one of the most important tips I can give you is:
Be there on time! Get ready. Get acquainted with the room. Get acquainted with the people in the room. With the technicians. Know that your technical stuff is working. Be prepared and then your actual talk will go a lot smoother and a lot better.
Also when you might not have any technical issues. But people’s sense it. People sense that you are not relaxed. That you’re you’re uptight because you just came running in. So my tip for today:
Be there on time and be prepared!
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I spoke to Craig Rayner, event organiser. My question was about picking speakers. Want to know what it takes to speak at an international conference? Searchelite conference organiser Craig Rayner explains how he picks speakers and what you should do.
Have you ever wondered why you are nervous? If you want to handle nerves, you should first understand why you are. After that, you can handle them better! In this week’s tip, Bas van den Beld talks about where nerves come from.
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Speaking at conferences is great for building a personal brand. It’s something that helped Jono Alderson a lot. His speaking at conferences is legendary, because of the way he speaks and the amount of content he is able to get in. That takes a lot of preparation.
I talked to different speakers, asking them about how they prepare and what tips they can give you. Listen to Jono explain why research is important, why you have to be ready and why you need to tell a story.
“You have to connect with your audience”. It’s a sentence you can read in almost any book about public speaking or hear at any training session. You want the audience to get involved.
Why do you want the audience connection?
The books and the trainers are right. It’s good to get a connection with the audience. Once you have the connection, the audience is much more inclined to believe what you are saying. They trust you, so they will be more open to you. If they don’t trust you, your story, no matter how good, will not “do” anything. It won’t “live” and the audience won’t remember your important messages.
I always try to find the connection with the audience. Sometimes that is easier said than done. But I try.
At a conference a few years ago, I tried out something new. I asked my audience for help. Let me explain.
My talk was about Understanding your audience using data-driven marketing. It’s a topic I speak about more often and help businesses with.
As a speaker, it sometimes can be difficult to get a grip on your audience. They always come from different backgrounds. So they will perceive your talk in different ways.
In this case, I wanted to make an effort to understand my audience. That’s why I asked my audience for feedback. Right there and then. Asking for feedback is difficult. When asked, most people won’t tell you the truth. Or they keep it too simple: good, medium or bad. This doesn’t help me much to understand what they are taking away from my talk.
So I asked the audience for their notes.
Every audience is always making notes. On their computer, tablet or on paper. I decided I wanted to see these notes. So I asked the audience to tweet out a picture of their notes after my session.
I knew that this was tricky to do in Sweden. The audience in the Nordics is often a bit more reserved than somewhere else. They are knowledgeable but less interactive.
In this case, the result was great.
I got regular tweets with feedback and feedback in person afterward. And even better: I got pictures of the notes from some nice and helpful people in the audience.
What I learned
Looking at the notes helped me figure out a few things about my speech. Things that can help me improve my talks for next times. Here are a few learnings from the notes:
The audience understood my message. The message was that we need to make a bigger effort to try and understand our audiences.
People understood the different groups you need to split up your audiences in.
People like tricks.
Stories ‘stick’, I have to make sure the message is clear;
The quotes I put on the screen come back in the notes;
People on average will take away 3-5 things. Don’t put more in;
The competitor’s data part in the presentation didn’t show up in the notes;
The audience ignored Social Media platforms like FB-groups, G+ and Linkedin in the notes.
Some nice learnings there for me. I already knew about some of them. But there was some refreshing new information. For me, it was a success.
And somehow (but I haven’t checked that) I think this helped the audience as well. They will hopefully look at their notes in a different way.
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