Master the art of public speaking

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“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking.  Number two is death. Death is number two.  Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy”.

(Jerry Seinfeld)

Public speaking is difficult, public speaking is scary, public speaking is not my strong skill.

I hear these and similar things daily when talking with people about public speaking. I’m sure I had similar thoughts when I started my journey standing in front of people to speak.  The good thing about the fear of public speaking is all your fears can be overcome.  Trust me, if I can get over the fear of standing in front of people and talking, everyone can.

My first exposure to public speaking came as part of my instructor role when I was in the Air Force.  My actual job knowledge (data analyst) was needed to train the next generation of Air Force data analyst.  I was forced to come out of my natural introvert shell and learn how to engage a room full of students who depended on me to help them grow professionally.  No pressure, huh?

“Best way to conquer stage fright is to know what you’re talking about”.

(Michael H. Mescon)

I learned the more I practice the less nervous I am when I stand in front of groups.  Decided to always err on the side of overpreparation as oppose to being underprepared for speaking engagements.  I constantly review notes, transitions and potential questions I may receive during every speaking engagement.

I view anticipating questions, lulls and technical difficulties as war games.  I find it easier to overcome these things by acknowledging they can pop up at any point.  This additional groundwork helps me get comfortable before and during my speaking engagement.  I still get nervous but know I can handle the task because of my preparation.

Researching the organization and people you’re speaking to helps you learn more about the audience so a tailored approach can be taken.  This helps when incorporating examples and stories into a speech.  Knowledge of the organization and audience helps generate talking points that fit so you can connect with them.  I also target specific audience members based on my research.  A quick LinkedIn search can provide an inside nugget I can use to connect with an audience member and seems to put others at ease because I took the time to learn more about them.  This simple rapport building technique can be leveraged to help alleviate anxiety as well.

The ability to read the room is another critical component for public speakers.  There will be times when you will need to adjust to match the emotions, reactions and body language of your audience.  I go into every speaking engagement with a plan of action but because of practice, anticipation and knowledge of the group, I’m able to adjust on the fly (if needed).

I don’t put a lot of written content on slides to avoid limiting myself without a way to pivot if needed.  I started incorporating key words and pictures into my presentations to focus attention back to me—the presenter.  This always provides me with a pivot channel since I’m not tied to slide verbiage.  The key words and/or pictures are used to guide me through the presentation.  Practice provides the foundation to make this process work when standing in front of an audience.

Nonverbal communication can make or break your presentation.  I make a point not to carry anything in my hands (pen/paper/etc.) except the audiovisual clicker.  I try to put the clicker down until I need it to transition to the next slide.  Carrying objects can distract your audience and I’ve seen these things distract the presenter as well.

Eye contact with audience members helps convey confidence and credibility as a subject matter expert.  Speaking rate, pitch and effective use of pauses can help keep the audience members engaged and wanting to hear more from the speaker.  I learned the benefits of audience engagement during my speaking roles in the Air Force and continue to add more tools to my speaking toolkit daily.  Don’t be afraid to move around when speaking—this really conveys confidence but should be done with purpose.  Too much moving looks like you’re trying to get away from them. 😊

These are a few things I’ve used to help eliminate speaking anxiety.  Please note, I still get nervous, but I use my nerves to help fuel my public speaking.  The one thing I ensure happens when speaking is to have fun.  Might as well enjoy myself while I’m standing in front of a group—having fun seems to counteract anxiety and I’m able to press forward.  Try it the next time you must speak in public!

    • FYI: Don’t forget the impact Walk up Music can have on public speaking:

https://walkintothefuture.blog/2018/11/22/walk-up-music

What techniques do you use to overcome speaking anxiety?  How do you prepare for big speaking roles in your work environment?

Thanks for walking with me!

“Speech is power:  speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel”.

(Ralph Waldo Emerson)

TCC presentation

Walk into the Future deep dive

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“I blog because I’m not a good rapper”.

(Anonymous)

Why I blog

Being a lifelong learner is a badge of honor I wear proudly!

I’m always looking for ways to improve myself (mentally and physically) and have a passion for reading.  I realize podcasts present a popular medium for people to receive information and learn.  I listen to a few, mostly sports related but still gravitate to blogs to expand my world view and learn from others.

I started the Walk into the Future blog on May 21, 2018 as a creative outlet for myself and to share my views, adventures and expertise with anyone willing to read my words.

The Walk into the Future title is my way to embrace the future and showcase the courage to move forward in life.  Didn’t know who or how many people would be interested in me chronicling my adventures or sharing my views but I’m pleasantly surprised to keep growing a small following via the Word Press platform.  I smile every time I receive a comment or like on my posts—lets me know people are reading my work and I’m connecting with them.

I focus blog posts on things I see, do, have interest/knowledge and topics from tree branches.

Started requesting input from tree branches because I’m walking with them daily and want to capture topics of interests to help them as well.  This process keeps me energized as I research topics and learn in order to write a blog article.  Please keep sending me ideas and I will work to incorporate your inputs into the blog rotation—thanks!

Note:  if you haven’t seen your topic published it’s because I’m still working/researching for content—it’s coming!

When I blog

My research on blogs identified the most successful bloggers maintain a consistent posting schedule.  Some bloggers post multiple times a day, once a day, once or twice a week, monthly, etc.  Everyone agrees the key is consistency so readers know when articles will be posted.  Adjustments can be made (holidays, vacation, etc.) but it helps to set a schedule and stick to it.

I decided to post once per week on Thursdays.  Believe I’ve only missed two Thursdays since I started—was having fun in Jamaica and Christmas week 2019! 😊  Thursdays give me additional editing time during the week so I can fine tune articles prior to publishing.  I’ve contemplated posting multiple times per week but decided against it—hope my followers look forward to a weekly article without bombarding their inbox multiple times each week.  Also, this gives me more time to research and write content without feeling pressure from a self-imposed deadline.

“Don’t let the fear of striking out hold you back”.

(Babe Ruth)

How I blog

My goal is to always have two months’ worth of articles in my Walk into the Future vault.  Most of these articles are not fully developed but provide a shell I can go back to and edit over time.

I normally post the articles in the order of creation but allow myself flexibility to move things around especially after I travel—I don’t like posting about an actual event (vacation, half marathon, etc.) months later so I move those articles up in the rotation.  Soapbox moments or topics can get moved up in the rotation depending on how hot it is to me.

I write about things that pique my interest, travel locations, leadership topics and ask tree branches for things they would like to read about.  I maintain a growing list of potential topics alongside the two months’ worth of written articles in my vault.  I currently have 37 potential topics I still must research, vet and then develop into a published Walk into the Future article.

Thanks to everyone that provided me with topics you’re interested in.

Blog articles start with a potential topic.  I then look for quotes and images to help generate inspiration for what I want to write about.  The next step is to research the topic to make sure I can bring a personal approach to the article.  The last step is for me to sit down and write the article.  When inspired I normally write an article (draft) in one sitting and then go back to check content and edit.  (FYI, this article was started on 11/5/19.) I adjust the title and make final edits the week the article gets published.  Don’t know how others produce and publish content but this process works for me. 😊

Updated blog stats:

Here’s a snapshot of what has been happening behind the scene for the Walk into the Future blog:

Walk into the future blog stats

Excited to enter my second full year as a blogger!  Look forward to continuing to develop content others want to read and engage with me.  This platform helps me on my journey to Walk into the Future.

Thanks for walking with me!

What is your favorite Walk into the Future blog topic so far?  How has the Walk into the Future blog impacted your daily interactions?  Curious!

Looking to incorporate guest bloggers in 2020!  More information to follow—thinking about Guest Blogger Fridays.

“The currency of blogging is authenticity and trust”.

(Jason Calacanis)

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We all win with diverse work environments!

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“Diversity may be the hardest thing for a society to live with, and perhaps the most dangerous thing for a society to be without”.

(William Sloan Coffee, Jr.)

Merriam-Webster defines diversity as the condition of having or being composed of differing elements.  Clear as mud, right?

Organizations with diversity initiatives need to ensure they fully understand what diversity means.  Simply making a statement does not ensure diversity in the work environment will happen.  Diversity must be examined in order to identify how it can be fully implemented and embraced in the work environment.

Some organizations define diversity on very short-sighted components i.e., men, women, race.  These components are all intertwined when discussing diversity but there should be more components included in a truly diverse work environment.

Leveraging background dynamics, educational and life experiences as well as demographic components will help generate a new level of diversity for organizations who truly seek this in the work environment.  There are some organizations who say they want diversity but continue to hire clones of the staff currently working there.  This is the opposite of the Merriam-Webster’s diversity definition.

“We need diversity of thought in the world to face the new challenges”.

(Tim Berners-Lee)

Diverse work environments value different perspectives. This includes skills, experiences, backgrounds and education.  This concept brings a variety of ways to get things done.  Bringing diversity into the work environment allows the organization to grow and avoid the groupthink mentally that stifles new thoughts.

New thoughts in the work environment leads to increased creativity when facing a problem, change or new procedure.  True diversity brings together people who will see the same problem from different perspectives and sharpens everyone because of this exposure.  The creative impact on the organization increases because staff hear, see, feel, think differently and exposes others to different ways to get things done.  This creativity process may also impact innovation within the organization.

Decision making and problem solving are other areas a diverse work environment can enhance.  Again, a diverse work force brings new thoughts, ideas and ways to get things done to the workplace.  Leadership receives diverse solutions to organizational problems and has multiple options to select from.  This leads to faster problem solving and allows the organization to tackle new challenges.

A caution, leadership must be willing to accept the diverse solutions and not revert to business as usual.  The worse thing that can happen is for leadership to say “we always do it this way OR that will not change as long as I’m here”—the quickest way to deflate staff and eliminate their voice in the work environment.

A diverse work environment can also help retain staff members.  A diverse and empowered work environment helps staff members feel accepted and valued.  This creates a happier work force and may lead to staff staying with the organization longer.

So, let’s examine the Merriam-Webster diversity definition again:

  • The condition of having or being composed of differing elements.

A few elements to consider for workplace diversity:

  • Race
  • Gender / Identity
  • Education / Educational Institutions
  • Geographic region
  • Age
  • Experience

A final thought on diversity is it impacts your clients as well.  A more diverse work force can enhance an organization’s ability to attract diverse clients.  Example:  an office with diverse staff will be able to attract diverse clients because they see someone similar.  Don’t overlook the importance of how diversity impacts your clients.

What does your organization do to ensure a diverse work environment?  How can diversity be improved?

“Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance”.

(Verna Myers)

Thanks for walking with me!

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