Supercompetent Speaking: Before and After Tips by @laurastack

Posted June 15, 2012 by spiritofnsa
Categories: Uncategorized

Connect with your audience members in advance and increase the expectation quotient.

As professional speakers, it’s our goal to implant our messages firmly in our listeners’ minds. But some research indicates that 90 percent of audience members forget every brilliant thing you uttered within 30 days. To use a computing analogy, if the speech’s underlying message doesn’t get written into long-term storage, then new experiences eventually crowd it out of the listener’s short-term memory buffer.

How do you keep your message from becoming part of this depressing statistic? Not just by providing a thought-provoking, enthusiastic speech, but also by interacting with the audience both before and after your talk—in ways that help them affix your message in their permanent memories. Let’s take a look at a few tips for the “bookends” of your presentation.

Before

If someoneexpects something to be wonderful and valuable, then they’re more likely to experience it as wonderful and valuable. So try these things to connect with your audience members in advance and increase the expectation quotient:

  1. In your handout, provide a bio that provides plenty of information about you, including the problems you solve, your specialties, your results with your clients, and all the great things you plan to talk about. Include a recent picture of yourself, smartly dressed, so attendees know what you look like.
  2. If presenting at a conference, attend as much of it as possible, so you can mingle and network with the crowd—at least the session right before yours. Tell the people you meet a little about yourself and the subject you’re going to speak on, and invite them to attend your talk. Make references as appropriate in your talk to other speakers and comments.
  3. Arrive early to your talk, so you can greet people as they enter the venue. Introduce yourself warmly, with a smile and handshake, to as many of them as possible. Listen closely to the people you meet and look for common areas of interest. Don’t just talk about the subject of your speech. This can help you establish rapport and acquire last-minute anecdotes to further fine-tune your speech.
  4. Use quiet, instrumental music to set the mood as people enter. If the room lacks a built-in sound system, a small stereo or even an unobtrusive iPod with speakers may work just fine. Make sure the hotel or the client has the proper license to broadcast music.

After

When you’re finished speaking, don’t just leave the room. Now is the time to solidify your efforts, so your audience members will remember what you’ve taught them and carry it forward into their daily lives. Here are some ways to encourage this:

  1. Cheerfully ask for questions if the timetable and lecture structure permit it. Prime the pump as necessary, and graciously accept and answer any question you receive. Your answers can help you reinforce your message and continue selling your ideas.
  2. In your handouts, provide more information about your message and your general services, including your contact information. Point them toward your newsletter, blog, and social media coordinates. That way, you can continue to serve them with new knowledge, and they’ll remember you and your message long after lesser messages have faded.
  3. Maintain professional behavior even after you’ve left the stage. People are always watching you.
  4. Follow up with the people who have left you a business card or to whom you’ve made promises.

Unforgettable

Ultimately, consider yourself a teacher—whether you provide advice on honing time management skills, inspire people to greater heights, or sell a product or service. As a teacher, you aim to present your audience with new information that can improve their lives. The difficult part is making them pay attention and remember it. Anything you can do to encourage this will pay profitable dividends in the long run, so don’t neglect the time before and after your presentations. They’ll give you an edge over all those other presenters, whose messages the audience most likely will forget before the end of the month.

Laura Stack has consulted with Fortune 500 corporations for nearly 20 years in the field of personal productivity and is the best-selling author of several books, including “Supercompetent.” She is a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) and the 2011-2012 president of the National Speakers Association (NSA). Stack’s productivity-improvement programs have been used worldwide at companies such as Starbucks, Wal-Mart, Cisco Systems, and Bank of America. She is the creator of The Productivity Pro planner by Day-Timer. For more information, visit www.TheProductivityPro.comor www.NSAspeaker.org.

 

Note: This article originally appeared on Training magazine’s website. You can read the original version at http://www.trainingmag.com/content/supercompetent-speaking-and-after-tips.

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@laurastack Represents the National Speakers Association Abroad

Posted May 31, 2012 by spiritofnsa
Categories: Uncategorized

I now have photos up from the last few presidential visits to three Global Speakers Federation (GSF) sister association conventions, where I was blessed to be the opening keynote speaker at each!  I was overseas for two weeks at:

Malaysian Association of Professional Speakers (MAPS)

Asia Professional Speakers – Singapore (APSS)

Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa (PSASA)

 

Supercompetent Speaking: Dealing With Interruptions and Questions by @laurastack

Posted May 17, 2012 by spiritofnsa
Categories: Uncategorized

10 tips to smoothly handle presentation questions—and hecklers.

As a professional speaker, you’ll inevitably face interruptions during your presentations. They won’t happen every time, but they will happen.

Occasionally, for example, someone will accidentally leave his or her cell phone on, and it’ll ring in the middle of your talk. Most people will duck, act embarrassed, and hang up on the caller…but a few bizarre people will answer the call on the spot, providing an undesired and distracting intermission. Worse, every once in a while you’ll encounter a heckler—someone who deliberately tries to undermine your argument or divert your message. Most interruptions, however, will come from those who have genuine questions, spurred by nothing more than curiosity.

Whatever the case, you must know how to handle interruptions on the fly when they occur—without letting anything stop you in your tracks. Keep these tips in mind:

  1. Know your vulnerabilities and prepare for them. Anticipate the five or six most difficult questions you may face, and know how to counter them concisely. If you have to, write them down on index cards, and have someone drill you on them.
  2. If possible, meet several audience members before the presentation to establish a human connection. This makes them less likely to interrupt later, especially with hostile questions.
  3. At the beginning of your presentation, ask your host to ask the audience to please turn off their cell phones and explain how questions will be handled (during, periodically, or at the end).
  4. If a phone rings during your talk, pause, smile while looking at the offender, and say something humorous, such as, “Is that for me?” and move on. People will get the hint.
  5. If someone interrupts you with a question, let the person finish the thought before answering. Don’t cut him off, because the audience may interpret that as rudeness.
  6. Maintain eye contact with the questioner, during both the question and your answer, nod slightly, and keep your body language and expression either neutral or as interested as possible. Even if you feel frustrated or annoyed, don’t let it show.
  7. Answer questions as briefly as possible, then continue with your presentation. Avoid the temptation to talk too long, even if the tangent seems like an interesting one. Some participants will be frustrated you’re not following your outline and covering the ground you promised.
  8. If you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t make anything up. It’s perfectly acceptable to reply, “I don’t know,” or tell them you’ll look it up and send an answer later.
  9. If someone repeatedly interrupts with sincere questions, calmly explain you have a lot of ground to cover in a short time, and you’ll happily speak with them at length after your presentation.
  10. If someone keeps whispering or having distracting side conversations, either come off the stage and move toward that person, still talking; or stop speaking, look at the person pointedly, and ask if there’s a question or something they’d like to share.

Hecklers represent a special case. In addition to the above, remember these points when dealing with people deliberately trying to cause trouble:

  • Try to use humor to defuse the situation. A lighthearted, witty retort works better than losing your temper or refusing to answer.
  • If presented with a confrontational question, try to restate it in a neutral fashion before responding. Begin by saying something such as, “What I hear you asking is…”
  • Demonstrate by your measured response that you refuse to let the heckler intimidate you.
  • Stick to your guns. Don’t let anyone divert you, make you look uncertain or clueless, or steal the show.

No matter what happens, maintain your composure; always remain calm, pleasant, and polite. Neither sarcasm nor disdain should ever color your response to any interruption. Don’t let a questioner or interrupter get your goat, and never lose your temper or try to humiliate your opponent; by doing so, you risk alienating the audience and destroying your credibility. Without credibility, you have nothing—and the audience won’t remember your message for long.

On the other hand, try not to seem too detached or lacking in conviction; no one takes a wishy-washy message seriously. Obviously, you must to walk a careful emotional tightrope here, taking everyone’s emotions into account (including your own) while keeping the facts on your side.

All this said, remember: The audience expects you to maintain control of the presentation. So make your best effort to do so—gently and politely, but firmly.

Laura Stack has consulted with Fortune 500 corporations for nearly 20 years in the field of personal productivity and is the best-selling author of several books, including “Supercompetent.” She is a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) and the 2011-2012 president of the National Speakers Association (NSA). Stack’s productivity-improvement programs have been used worldwide at companies such as Starbucks, Wal-Mart, Cisco Systems, and Bank of America. She is the creator of The Productivity Pro planner by Day-Timer. For more information, visit www.TheProductivityPro.comor www.NSAspeaker.org.

Note: This article originally appeared on Training magazine’s website. You can read the original version at http://trainingmag.com/content/supercompetent-speaking-dealing-interruptions-and-questions

Congratulations VOE and SPEAKER Magazine from @laurastack

Posted April 23, 2012 by spiritofnsa
Categories: Uncategorized

BIG KUDOS to Brian Walter, CSP, our Voices of Experience (VOE) chair! Barbara Parus at NSA entered the October 2011 edition of VOE in the 2012 Association Media & Publishing’s Annual EXCEL Awards competition under the category of “Media Innovations: Podcasts.”  It won a GOLD award! More than 1,000 entries were submitted in an array of categories in this

EXCEL Awards Statues

EXCEL Awards Statues

very competitive and highly anticipated nationwide competition.  My thanks go to Brian, our VOE committee and guests, and our NSA staff for all their hard work…you added a new feather to our NSA cap!

Also Speaker magazine won a SILVER award for 2012 Association Media & Publishing’s Annual EXCEL Awards competition under the category of “Best Single-Topic Issue.” It was for the April 2011 ”Brain” issue during Pamela Jett‘s term. It featured Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor on the cover holding a brain, and all of the feature stories focused on the human brain. (The 2012 awards are for entries in 2011, so I’m sure next year Speaker will see more awards for this year!)  Thanks again to Barbara Parus at NSA, Pamela, and our editorial advisory committee for their great work!

Thank You to Everyone Who Made the ChaCHING Lab a Success from @laurastack

Posted April 20, 2012 by spiritofnsa
Categories: Uncategorized

A BIG thank you to the co-chairs of the NSA CHA-CHING Business Development lab, Mike Staver and Suzanne Bates! Also to our opening keynoter, Alan Weiss, and our presenters Jill Konrath, Kendra Lee, Mark Hunter, Connie Dieken, and Doug Devitre. We also appreciate the support of our awesome NSA staff and NSA President-Elect Ron Culberson. I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews from everyone with whom I spoke.  Another fantastic learning experience!

NSA President @laurastack’s Global Travels

Posted April 18, 2012 by spiritofnsa
Categories: Uncategorized

As NSA president, I’ve been privileged to travel to four international speaking conferences so far, in Germany, Great Britain, Canada, and France. I am still amazed by the potential that exists for an explosion of professional speaking in parts of the globe currently underexposed or completely unexposed to date.

NSA has had, is having, and will continue to have a huge impact in supporting the proliferation of professional speaking around the world. When I was in France I attended a great

Laura Stack at the FPSA Board Dinner

conference orchestrated by French Professional Speakers Association President Pascale Pailhe. I also spent time at the home of Christine Morlet, who will be the first French representative to receive her CSP this summer at the NSA convention. Compared to the U.S., speaking isn’t nearly as mature in the French market, where “keynotes” are largely the domain of professors and politicians. I initiated a dialogue with our French colleagues and helped them discover that professional speakers aren’t just keynoters. They were surprised with the statistic that only 25% of our NSA/US members identify themselves as “keynoters.” We spent time reframing professional speaking as keynoting, training, facilitating, coaching, emceeing, and even consulting – anything that uses the spoken word to present content to an audience for a fee.

In my travels to our sister associations within the Global Speakers Federation, or GSF, I’ve seen first-hand the enthusiasm of our international colleagues. They are excited to grow the profession. Many are hearing for the first time the story of our founder Cavett Robert and his message about creating a bigger pie, instead of fighting over the pieces. It’s this giving, sharing Spirit of NSA that distinguishes it from other professional associations. As a reminder, if you are a member of NSA you are automatically a member of the Global Speakers Federation and are part of this global community of speakers. You have an opportunity to participate in the GSF events and website. Make sure you’re listed at globalspeakers.net. The GSF provides great support for strong ethics around the world.

I’d like to close with an invitation to all our international friends to attend the National Speakers Association convention this summer in Indianapolis. Come and discover everything you need to know to create a bigger global pie and spread the influence of professional speakers around the globe!

Supercompetent Speaking: Tips for Visuals by @LauraStack

Posted March 8, 2012 by spiritofnsa
Categories: Uncategorized

Keep in mind that too much visual information presented too quickly can be confusing.

By Laura Stack, MBA, CSP

While the information we gather with all our senses can be vitally important, we human beings prefer the visual medium over all others. Our brains just work that way: We possess the ability to differentiate and process subtle differences in light intensity, color, and movement almost instantly, even though images tend to contain much more information than other sensory inputs.

As a result, we often can grasp something presented in visual form much more easily than something explained to us verbally. A picture, then, really is worth a thousand words. Therefore, when it comes to professional presentations, good visuals not only help personalize your talk, they save time and more easily transmit your ideas. They also can help the audience remember and integrate your message better.

That said, too much visual information presented too quickly can be confusing. So keep these points in mind as you prepare your presentation visuals:

Keep them simple and uncluttered. Make your visuals easy for anyone to read. Overly complicated visuals may distract or overwhelm the audience, detracting from your message. Concentrate your information in the upper two-thirds of the image, because people look there first, and sometimes people sitting in front of them cut off the bottom of the screen. Limit the number of colors on the screen and the number of images per slide. Use animation and sound effects sparingly.

Streamline charts and tables as much as possible. Never include more than four lines on a line graph, for example, and make the lines and colors easy to distinguish from one another.

Use text sparingly. For textual slides, think 6 x 6: six lines or bullets of about six words each, max. Avoid hyphenation. Use only as much text as you need to explain the point or to label a table or chart, and limit the number of individual labels.

Don’t overdo the bullets. Some information works well as bullets; some does not. Vivid images and compelling, memorable prose may prove more suitable in some instances. When you do use bullets, play close attention to their size and placement.

Spread information over multiple visuals. Aim for one main point per visual. Include only as much information as necessary to get the point across in a single, easily grasped form. This helps maintain audience attention, if only because it allows you to present at a slightly faster rate that keeps people on their toes. Some authorities suggest slimming down to as few as one bullet expressing a single thought per slide.

Separate the slides. In Webinars, to hold your audience’s attention, use more slides. Instead of a slide with six bullets, create six slides with one point each.

Strive for consistency. Use the same types of fonts, colors, terminology, images, and backgrounds throughout the presentation. This way, you don’t throw off your audience with a jumble of styles; they’ll know what to expect and look for as soon as a visual appears. Save unexpected graphic elements for making an impact and don’t overdo their use.

Use the right images. Include only those images appropriate to the topic. Try to make them fresh, too; don’t use boring clip art. If possible, create your own graphics or purchase them from an image service such as iStockPhotos.com.

Make all text easily readable at a distance. Use at least 24-point text throughout, with slightly larger text for labels, and avoid italics or complicated fonts. Use all capital letters only in titles. Sans serif fonts such as Arial are easier to read quickly than serif fonts such as Times New Roman.

Test everything. Once you’ve created a visual, project it on your monitor/screen and step back to a reasonable distance to review it (this works better in a larger venue, such as the one where you’re actually speaking). You may find the font is difficult to read or the colors clash. It’s better to fix this now than to have to apologize to the audience for it later. On a related note, proofread your visuals carefully! Don’t embarrass yourself with misspellings and other typos.

Whatever forms they may take, make your presentation visuals easy to read, simple to understand, and consistent throughout the presentation. If your audience finds your visuals difficult to grasp, you could lose them early on. And remember: Ultimately, your visuals should enhance, rather than replace, your verbal presentation—so don’t fall into the trap of just reading from your slides.

Laura Stack has consulted with Fortune 500 corporations for nearly 20 years in the field of personal productivity and is the best-selling author of several books, including “Supercompetent.” She is a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) and the 2011-2012 president of the National Speakers Association (NSA). Stack’s productivity-improvement programs have been used worldwide at companies such as Starbucks, Wal-Mart, Cisco Systems, and Bank of America. She is the creator of The Productivity Pro planner by Day-Timer. For more information, visit www.TheProductivityPro.comor www.NSAspeaker.org.

Note: This article originally appeared on Training magazine’s website. You can read the original version at http://trainingmag.com/article/supercompetent-speaking-tips-visuals