Speaking Skills: Presenting Yourself With Polish


Welcome to today’s webinar, “Speaking Skills: Presenting Yourself With Polish.” First, let me tell you a bit about Albers Communications Group. We’re a full service PR and digital marketing agency headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska, and we strongly believe that PR and digital marketing go hand in hand and work best when used as part of an integrated communications strategy. We represent clients in all fifty states and Canada, where our PR and social media specialists help our clients achieve positive exposure both nationally and locally in their operating markets. And, we have specialized expertise helping companies become leaders in their markets and their industries.

As I mentioned, my name is Gina Pappas and I’m the Director of Digital Marketing at Albers. In addition to my role managing the digital strategies of our clients, I also serve as the lead on several of our agency’s accounts. Ann and I have worked together extensively to execute special speaking strategies on behalf of the clients we work with.

And I’m Ann Hadfield, Account Manager at Albers. Hello, everyone. As Gina mentioned, we work with our clients on a variety of integrated strategies, and have successfully placed our clients as speakers for a number of relevant local organizations.

Feel free to follow us on Twitter or connect with us on LinkedIn.

Here’s a look at the topics we’ll cover today. First, we’ll help you identify why a speaking strategy could be the right choice to help you reach your target audiences. Second, we’ll share objectives for the speaker and the audience that you should be mindful of as you move forward with your speaking strategy. Next, we’ll go over the basic rules of speaking and share six elements of a good presentation, plus a few elements of presentations that aren’t so good. Then, we’ll discuss how to convey your messages in a speaking presentation. We’ll spend time going over how to overcome jitters, which is a common concern for people who are doing public speaking. We’ll share with you an example of a successful speaking strategy. And, at the end we’ll take time to answer questions that have been chatted in. Again, throughout the presentation, please feel free to use that chat function on the lower left side of your screen, and we’ll address those questions at the end.

Now, I’m going to turn it over to Ann to discuss why a speaking strategy might be relevant for your company.

Thanks, Gina. So now that you’re considering a speaking strategy, let’s look at the reasons why it may be important to incorporate it into your communications plan. One possible reason could be to educate your audience. If you have a service, product, or viewpoint that you feel is misunderstood, for example, having the opportunity that a public speaking forum provides is a valuable way to inform your audience about what you do. Another reason to consider a speaking strategy is that it gives you the platform to share your expertise. This helps establish you as someone who is a leader among the competition, and who is the right choice for your target audience to engage. Speaking strategies are also a valuable way to promote awareness of your brand. If you’re rolling out a new service, or just need to put some momentum behind who you are and what you do, sharing information through a speaking strategy can help build overall brand awareness. And lastly, you might consider a speaking strategy as a springboard for inspiring action. That’s not to say that speaking strategies should be confused for sales presentations, but educating your audience, showing your expertise, and building brand awareness will hopefully inspire members of these highly targeted groups to take action with your company.

Once you decide to move forward with your speaking strategy, it’s important to determine exactly what you want your audience to walk away with following your presentation. First, you want to deliver a presentation that builds good will towards your brand. These types of presentations are your stage to share what makes your brand the best among its competition, so you want your audience to feel positively about it at the conclusion. Next, you want to control the message. Using a platform, such as a speakers bureau strategy, allows you to have some control over the message being conveyed about your brand. Third, you want to earn your audience’s respect. They say that you never get a second chance to make a first impression, and for many people in the audience the time they spend listening to your presentation could be their first experience with a representative of your brand. Let them walk away from the presentation feeling positively about you and your company. And finally, you may want to use your platform as a speaker to shape attitudes and change opinions about your brand. This can be especially important if your company has been in the spotlight in a manner that isn’t consistent with what you would like to portray, being politely persuasive is a method we encourage as part of an effective speaking strategy.

Now, although the presenter controls much of the content shared as part of a speakers bureau strategy, it’s important to keep in mind that your audience may walk into your presentation with their own set of objectives. Those objectives may include gaining a better understanding of who you are. The majority of audiences have motives that are pure, and so they want to know more about you and that’s why they showed up to hear you speak. You want to give them what they want by spending an appropriate amount of time explaining who you are, what you do, and what your position is on the subject matter. Another objective may be learning something new about the discussion topic. As an expert in your industry, you have the opportunity during your speaking engagement to share information that the general public may not be aware of, or may not realize about your brand or industry. Giving your audience the feeling that they’ve been educated on a relevant subject is a great takeaway, both for them and for you. They also may come to find an opportunity to catch you off guard. Now as I said before, most audiences have pure motives, however it is possible that someone who is listening to your presentation may have an opposing viewpoint, be in a competitive field, or simply want to make you squirm. Be aware of this, and later in the presentation we’ll discuss how to control the message if someone tries to catch you off guard. They also may be coming to get answers to their questions. Most groups know in advance who will be speaking at their meeting, which gives them the opportunity to do their research on you and your company, and consider questions they want answered. You want to be sure to be prepared for the types of questions that you want to answer, as well as those questions that you don’t want to answer as part of your message development. Next, Gina is going to share with you some of the basic rules of speaking.

Thanks, Ann. We’ll move on to the basic rules of giving a good speaking presentation. First of all, know the space. Can it accommodate your audio/visual needs? Will you need to bring in any of your own equipment? All of this should be predetermined when the speaking arrangements are made. Also, arrive at least ten minutes early to look at the room and get comfortable in the space. This can also be a valuable time to network with members of your audience. You should also take time prior to the start of this speaking engagement to test your equipment, especially video and sound equipment. Make sure you know how to advance the slides if you’re using PowerPoint, find out if you need a microphone, and determine how to use it properly. Or, distribute information to attendees if you’re utilizing leave-behinds as part of your presentation. Lastly, stick with the time frame you’ve been given. If you’re using a podium, place a stopwatch or clock on it so you can be mindful of the time, or have a colleague attend with you and appoint them as timekeeper. They can give you a five-minute warning if time is drawing to a close from their place in the audience, and they can also provide invaluable critiques following your presentation.

Moving on to the verbal and non-verbal rules of speaking, we’ll start with the verbal. Now, most of these rules can be accomplished with a thorough amount of practice. They include using appropriate words and incorporating vocal variety. Nothing will bore the audience faster than a monotone speaker. Maintaining vocal clarity. It is essential that you do not mumble your way through your presentation and that you enunciate and project so that every person in the audience can hear and understand you. And avoid audible pauses and throwaway words. Silence can be uncomfortable, especially when you’re front and center during a speaking engagement, but what’s even more uncomfortable for you and your audience is overuse of fillers, such as “umm,” or meaningless phrases such as “basically” or “kind of.” You also have to consider your non-verbal communication when you’re speaking in front of a group. Make eye contact, but avoid focusing on one person or else you may make them uncomfortable. Instead, scan the room and make eye contact appropriately, you will also be able to gauge the audience’s engagement with your presentation content. Gestures, posture and body language are also important considerations when speaking. Talking with your hands is good, it looks natural but it should be practiced when rehearsing the presentation. Also when rehearsing the presentation, think about natural places to incorporate gestures or other appropriate body language. Lastly, watch your movement. If you’re presenting behind a podium or in a stationary spot, you’ll want to make sure you aren’t making any distracting movements, such as rocking back and forth or fidgeting with your buttons or pockets.

Now, let’s look at six elements of a good presentation. First, tailor the presentation for your audience. Find out what the group’s expectations are for your presentation by asking appropriate questions when you’re contacted to speak. This step is something that many presenters fail to do because it takes time, but it’s the best and only way to connect with the audience and make sure you’re delivering a presentation that’s appropriate for them. Second, grab the audience’s attention at the beginning of the presentation through effective storytelling. You can do this by opening your talk with a personal anecdote or sharing a video about your topic. These storytelling strategies set the tone for the presentation and shape the audience’s frame of mind. Third, be thoroughly prepared. This requires practice in front of an objective group of coworkers or peers who will give you the constructive criticism you need in order to deliver the best presentation possible. The more comfortable you are with the material, the more conversational your presentation will be, and the more your audience will enjoy it because they will sense your confidence with the subject matter. Fourth, provide supporting evidence for your main points. If you have data or research, use the numbers to your advantage. Or, if an outside expert shares a similar opinion or stance on your subject matter, be sure to mention it during your presentation. Fifth, maintain appropriate energy throughout your presentation. As time passes, it may be easy to lose your energy level. It will be apparent to your audience if your enthusiasm or volume changes. Repeated practice can help prevent this from happening. And the final element of a good presentation is appropriate use of visual aids. Even if you use a visual element to open your presentation, utilizing images, charts or other relevant visuals that correspond with your content throughout the rest of the presentation will keep your audience engaged.

There are also six elements that can make even a well developed presentation go bad. They include a flat opening. If you don’t capture the audience’s attention immediately, it will be much harder to gain ground with them as you dive into your content. Also, avoid using jokes as your opening strategy. If the audience doesn’t laugh, they may be turned off by the rest of your content. Also, no interaction can kill a presentation. You can incorporate appropriate interaction as you go along, or you can save your Q&A for the end. The point here is, if it fits the format, give your audience the opportunity to talk at some point. Dull visuals. If you have real photography related to your topic, use it. It will be much more authentic then using stock photography. Lack of focus can also kill a presentation, it’s another reason why practicing repeatedly is essential. If you ramble, you will lose the audience’s attention. Stay sharply focused on your presentation content, and don’t veer off your talking points. Bad storytelling. Your presentation should have a buildup, a flow of good information, and something at the end that ties it all together. And the final element of a bad presentation is no emotional pull. Your presentation will connect in a far more meaningful way with your audience when you give them something they can personally or professionally relate to. Find that connection based on your knowledge of the audience you’re speaking with, and incorporate it into your presentation.

Now that you have the basics of good presenting under your belt, let’s talk about the best ways to convey your presentation’s message. Developing message points before writing your presentation’s content will allow you to incorporate them into your slides and speech. Message points are the takeaway you want to insure your audience understands about your topic. Identify them first, develop them, and then use them, and during the Q&A having message points prepared will help you answer questions in a manner that is on message with the rest of your presentation. Additionally, if you have research or data, incorporate that content into your message points. Also, having a basic knowledge of bridging techniques can help during the question portion of your presentation. In advance of the presentation, and based on your knowledge of the audience, consider questions you might be asked, and write down, incorporating your message points, possible answers. Do the same with potentially controversial questions – the ones you don’t want to be asked. That way, you’ll have a strategy in place if someone tries to back you into a corner.

Jitters, or presentation nerves, are natural, and even the most seasoned public speakers can be hit with nerves before taking the mic. A few strategies you can use to overcome the jitters include basic breathing techniques: in through the nose, and out slowly through the mouth. This will help you slow down your talking speed as well. Thinking of the presentation as a conversation. It can be helpful to think of your presentation as a talk with peers or coworkers. Practicing this technique can help you relax and come across as more natural. Visualizing the desired outcome. You want to close your presentation with a round of applause, smiles from the audience, and a feeling of relief. Visualize these things during your practice session, and watch them become reality when it’s time to give your presentation. And joining a group, such as Toastmasters. Many people seek out organizations like this that are designed to help professionals speak effectively. The practicing techniques you receive in groups like this can help insure your comfort in nearly any speaking situation. Now, Ann is going to share with you an example of how we successfully implemented a speaking strategy for one of our clients.

Thanks, Gina. I’m going to share with you how a speaking strategy we developed for the Omaha Professional Fire Fighters Association helped them share their message with their target audiences. On the next slides, we will look at the objectives, approach, and outcome of their speaking strategy.

It’s important for members of the Omaha Professional Fire Fighters Association to speak with key community groups and members of the general public. They interact with the community on a daily basis, and are frequently in the news, so having the opportunity to share their position through a strategy such as a speakers bureau has proven successful for them. The first objective of the Omaha Professional Fire Fighters Association speakers strategy is to educate the audience. There are so many things that the fire fighters do that the public isn’t aware of. From the types of calls they respond to, to their community involvement, and even to their positions on various issues. It was important to develop a presentation that allowed them to shed a light on little known facts about their organization. The second objective is to address misconceptions about their group. Because they are high profile, their mission can be open to divisive opinions and heated conversations. Using a speaking strategy as a platform to address the misconceptions and clear them up is an important objective. The final objective for the fire fighters is to change opinions. Throughout the year, and during an election cycle or contract negotiations for example, fire fighters are in the news more often. Engaging key groups in their position can help them rally support behind their causes, and contribute to a favorable outcome.

Now, our approach to helping the Omaha Professional Fire Fighters achieve their objectives was to create a presentation that touched on each objective directly. Each presentation opens with an attention-grabbing video that portrays what it means to work as an Omaha fire fighter. Also, we’ve incorporated original research we conducted of the Omaha community directly into the presentation and its message points. Third, the presenters had an active role in shaping the content of the presentation, which insures they’re comfortable with the presentation matter and allows them to talk about it from a place of expertise. Lastly, all presenters have been through formal media and speakers training, which helps insure their comfort level when answering both the questions that they do and don’t want to be asked.

After several months of speaking engagements in front of their target audiences, the Omaha Fire Fighters have achieved their desired outcome. We’ve created a strategy that gives them face time in front of key influencers and community leaders, allowing them to get their message points in front of the right people. We’ve provided them with an opportunity to share their point of view when they may not have otherwise had the chance, and we’ve helped the fire fighters earn the respect of their audience by crafting a presentation that is rich with data, has an emotional appeal, and addresses misinformation that might exist among the public. The feedback from both our clients and the audiences of their presentations has been extremely positive.

Thanks Ann, for sharing that case study with us. Before we get into the questions, I would like to invite you to our next webinar on Wednesday, November 17th at 10 A.M. Central. I’ll be presenting “What’s the Latest Word? Making Sense of Communications Jargon,” and I’ll walk through some of the current communications jargon, such as “content marketing” and “inbound marketing” that is being used in the digital marketing industry, and help identify which terms are most relevant. Again, that’s Wednesday, November 17th and 10 A.M. Central, and you can register at our website, it’s alberscommunications.com/learning-opportunities. One more housekeeping item – I’d like to ask each of you to take a few moments to fill out the questionnaire that will appear on our screen at the end of the presentation. You can provide your comments about today’s webinar, or share topics and suggestions you would like us to address in future webinars. Now, I will take a few moments to answer any questions that have been chatted in. We have a few, and if you haven’t done so already, feel free to chat in your questions through the chat box on the lower left side of your screen.

One question just came through – some suggestions on using visuals properly? We like to, for some of our clients, open with a visual element. It really sets the tone for the presentation, and one of the most effective ways we’ve found to do this is with a brief video. Ann mentioned that we represent the Omaha Professional Fire Fighters, and they’re union, and people have opinions about unions that maybe our client doesn’t necessarily share, or wants to use that positive persuasion tactic to overcome, so we like to use a video to open their presentations because it does serve as a reminder of all that our fire department does for us, and how hard working these men and women are. So we like to set the tone and get the audience in a positive frame of mind. Another client we have, we use a video that really discusses the culture of her company, and it also does a great job to get people in the mindframe we want them in for the next twenty minutes that they’re going to be up there sharing their point of view, or talking about their expertise. So, incorporating a video is a great strategy to start off. Pictures, we’ve sprinkled pictures throughout our presentation, for example, but you can do even more work with what when you’re face to face with an audience. In some of the pictures you saw, an example of the members of the Omaha Professional Fire Fighters Association speaking, you also saw a photo of me and Julie Swartz on our staff, she’s our Director of Account Management, spoke at the PRSA Professional Development Conference back in May. So, we sprinkled some visuals throughout our presentation, and when we didn’t have visuals we put in some other elements – when we didn’t have real photography, I should say – we put in some other elements just to make the slides more interesting, or we hope they were more interesting for you.

“Do you have any tips or advice on how to avoid using filler words” is another question. It’s tough, you have to practice, and I catch myself doing it even though I don’t intend to, but it just takes practice and it really takes relaxing. We find that people use words or “umm’s” or things that fill uncomfortable silence because they’re nervous, so the more you practice and the more you treat your presentation like a conversation with your audience, you’re far less inclined in a conversation with a coworker or friend to use those fillers. If you can relax first, practice heavily before the presentation, and just think of the presentation as a conversation with your audience, those things will start to disappear, but it really does take practice and if it’s something that you really struggle with, a professional organization like Toastmasters can help with that immensely.

I would say too, being able to practice in front of a friend or coworker, because maybe you don’t even realize what your filler word is, and if they can hear you and point that out, as long as you’re aware of it, it’ll help you to not do it or say it.

Yes, that’s a great point, because many of us use them and we aren’t aware of it until someone points it out to us.

Another question we have, “We have many people in our company who are experts on a variety of topics. How do we create an effective strategy with so many different points of view?” This can be accomplished in your communications with the groups that you want to get in front of as part of your speaking strategy. For clients who have multiple speakers who cover a variety of topics, we’ll put together a mailer that we will distribute to groups that are relevant to our clients, and highlight each person who could be speaking, and what topic they cover. That gives your groups, your audience, a little more to choose from. So, if you have that expertise in your company, whether it’s on one topic and you have several people who can speak to that one topic, or you have multiple topics that multiple people can cover, it’s a good idea to give your audience the options when you do have multiple topics, and that way they can choose what they think will be most appropriate. So if you get a lot of speaking requests, it’s helpful to have multiple people who can speak to topics in case the one person you’re relying on for your speaking strategy isn’t available, you have a back-up so that you don’t have to say no to that group. You’ve reached out them because they’re vital to your message, you want to get in front of them, they’re part of your target audience – it would be tough to turn that away. It’s a good idea to have someone who can back up if you, as the speaker, can’t make it.

I believe that’s all we have for questions, and we finished right about the 25 minute mark. Thank you for taking the time to join us today, we will send the recording of this presentation to you within the next 24 hours. If you have further questions, please feel free to contact us. All of our contact information is listed on the website alberscommunications.com, and when I end the meeting that survey will pop up. If you have a minute to fill it out, we would greatly appreciate it. Thank you, and enjoy the rest of your day.

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