3 Rules of Public Speaking That You Should Ignore (and 1 to Live By)

I recently found myself in sitting in the back row of seats in a packed ballroom at a marketing conference. 400 people were crammed into a space that was likely only supposed to hold 250. The reason it was standing room only? Everyone was there to see the legendary keynote speaker take the stage.

As someone who sees a lot of speakers, I have to be honest, he isn't the best. He speaks quietly and quickly. He jams too much information on too many slides. He rarely looks at the audience and, if you didn't know any better, you might wonder if this was the very first time he'd ever been on a stage before.

However, despite all of these "faults," this speaker draws the biggest crowds of any event where he presents. People come from all over the country to hear what he has to say. Which begs the question, if he's so bad, why is he so popular?

There are many rules, official and unwritten, when it comes to public speaking. However, as is the case with the speaker at that conference, sometimes these rules are best broken.

1. You don't have to be a flawless communicator.

Many presenters think they have to speak perfectly and their speech should be flawless from start to finish. They work hard to avoid any ums, ahs, or uhs in their speech and never stumble over their words. But "ums" are a natural part of our speech pattern. Cutting them out can make you come across as inauthentic, a bit too polished and leave the audience wondering if you can be trusted.

Instead of focusing on perfection, simply be authentic. It's okay to smooth out your speech, but it's also okay to speak comfortably and naturally.

2. Stay cool, calm, and collected.

I once watched a speaker who paced constantly and sweated entirely through his clothing. He was the opposite of what a great speaker should look like. But he was still awesome. The content of his speech and the stories he shared were impactful and valuable to the audience.

Presenting is a lot of work. It's work to create the concept, it's work to work it into a logical presentation and then work to finally deliver it. A few days ago, at the end of a particularly grueling keynote, I sighed to the crowd, wiped the sweat from my brow and said, "Whew! That was a workout!" The crowd chuckled because they could tell I was totally into it and they appreciated.

Additionally, if you're passionate about what you're presenting, don't try to play it cool. The speaker I saw was pacing because he was excited. You might pace or sweat or use too many hand gestures, but if you're passionate about the content you're sharing, it's okay to let that show.

2. There's nothing to see here.

Sometimes things go wrong. The tech fails. A phone goes off in the middle of what you're saying. You lose your train of thought. We're not perfect and it's okay to acknowledge that.

If things don't go as planned and it's obvious to everyone in the room, pretending nothing is wrong only makes it more awkward. Suck it up, address the issue, perhaps make a joke and take it in stride. Your audience will be more at ease if you acknowledge the issue.

Most importantly, be yourself.

Above all else, if you follow no other rules heed this one: Be yourself.

If you have a dry sense of humor, tell your dry jokes. If you're geeky, be geeky. If you're a woman...be a woman. A woman once approached me after a presentation and commented that I turn my ankle in a bit when I speak. "It's a very feminine pose," she said. She was simultaneously taken aback and inspired, because all of her speaking mentors had told her not to be too feminine on stage. No matter who you are, always be yourself. Audiences respond to authenticity.

Authenticity is actually the super power for that marketing conference speaker I mentioned -- it's become an irresistible magnetism. People are drawn to his sessions for the content and the quality of his character. Myself included.

Try This Exercise to Be Better Speaker, and Have More Fun in a Room Full of People

Public Speaking makes people very nervous. Jerry Seinfeld famously joked that most people would rather be in the casket than speaking at their own funeral. And, it makes sense. Public speaking is dangerous! Look at what happens to people who get noticed by the group! Jesus, Joan of Arc, Martin Luther King, John F Kennedy, the list goes on. So, if you're afraid of public speaking that's understandable. But, at some point, if you want to succeed, you will probably have to speak up.

So, here's an exercise I've given to a lot of my top C-Level executive coaching clients, and to rooms full of people, in countries all over the world. It makes a huge difference for them and their public speaking, and it will make a huge difference for you, if you take it on. 

The surprising thing most people never think about.

I'm on my way to a party and I stop to get a cup of coffee and then I spill some coffee on my super nice shirt. And, I don't have time to go home and change, so i show up at the party, make a beeline for the bathroom, try to wash the stain out and now i've got a big water spot on my shirt. So, I walk around the party awkwardly trying to hide the spot on my shirt thinking, "I hope no one notices the big water spot on my shirt. Oh, I should have gone home and changed. Blah, blah blah."

Meanwhile, no one notices the stain on my shirt because they're all walking around thinking, "I'm having a bad hair day... I hope no one notices how silly my hair looks... Blah, blah, blah."

The point is that I'm so worried about what they think of me that I never stop to consider that they're just as worried about what I think of them!

You see, who is nervous about? I get blank looks for a second when I ask this, but think about it... Who is nervous about? It's all about you! You being worried about what they think of you. You being worried about whether or not you'll do a good job. You being worried about you.

Stop being so narcissistic.

Okay, I admit that there is a very good, positive side to being concerned about what others think of you. You're self aware, you care about the impact you have on others. That's all good. But, when it comes to public speaking it gets counterproductive very quickly. So, here's the exercise that has dramatically changed the executive presence of many of the people with whom I work. It's an easy exercise and it might just change your life.

The mental Jiu Jitsu exercise: stop and breathe.

Step one: from now on, whenever you enter a room with one or more people in it we are calling it a party; whether it's work, a meeting, home, or anywhere there are other people, that is now called a party.

Step two: whenever you are about to enter a party I want you to stop, just before you go in, and notice that you're worried about what people will think of you. It's normal, it's human, it's okay. Now, before you enter the party, leave that outside the door. And, here is what you do, instead: Put everyone in the room at ease. Instead of worrying about what they think of you... Let them know you think they're okay.

Of course, people ask me, "who am I to be letting other people know I think they're okay?" Well, who are you not to be? The bottom line is that it is just the better alternative.

Here is a strategy to help you put this into practice.

FORD: Family, Occupation, Recreation, Dreams. Ask people about their family, their occupation, their recreation and their dreams and then listen and actually be interested. That will let them know you think they're OK. It will let them know you're interested in them. And, as they share with you, acknowledge them, ask to hear more about their victories and keep letting go of any worries you have about what anyone else thinks of you.

The most excellent results.

First of all, life gets more interesting, relaxing and fun. Then, after you practice this for a while, getting on stage becomes a lot more interesting, relaxing and fun, too. It's not like your butterflies go away completely, that wouldn't be good, anyway. What does happen, though, is that you get a whole new ability to shift your attention off of yourself and being nervous and over to the audience and being present with them. It takes attention, but it's simple. It will make you a notably better speaker and leader, and it will definitely make being at any party a lot better. 

Every Great TED Speaker Uses These 3 Writing Techniques

Every great TED talk begins with a good outline. If you want your presentation to leave a TED worthy impression, you'll need to start planning long before the day of the speech: how can you make your message memorable? What should be included in the talk? What should be left out? Should there be jokes?

You'll answer all these questions in the process of drafting a killer outline. Here are the three keys to mastering that outlining process.

1. Make your message clear.

Every word of your speech should have to fight for its existence. That's because your time--and your audience's time--isn't unlimited. With only a few minutes on stage, you've got to make sure that each phrase supports your speech's message.

Start with your main claim. Your speech should have one, and only one. It should be so powerful that your audience can't help but remember it.

Got it? Good. Now strike from your outline everything that isn't essential to that point.

Speakers are tempted to take a "kitchen sink" approach to speechwriting, adding everything they can to the talk. But does the audience really need to know about what you had for lunch that day? Is that one attempt at humor really necessary?

Excellent presentations, no less than excellent novels, require their authors to "murder their darlings." That means being so ruthless in editing and honing your message that even some clever bits get saved for another occasion. And trust me, there's always another occasion. Great phrases of genius are never lost, just postponed.

In speaking, less is more. Make your message stand out by cutting the fat and bringing everything back to your central idea.

2. Make your structure compelling.

Once you've got your speech's core idea, you'll build the main points of the speech around it. Those points should naturally guide the audience toward agreeing with you.

Every speech demands a few things of a speaker. You'll need to explain your claim and how you discovered it, show why it's important, and then say what the audience should do with it.

You'll find that reflected in the classic "What... So what?... Now what?" format. You can also find it in the age-old "Problem... Cause... Solution" arrangement. Both take your audience from a place of apathy and inattention to being right alongside you in reaching your conclusion.

There are as many speech structures as there are speeches; don't feel bound to any one of them. Whichever you choose, make sure it accomplishes what Nancy Duarte argues is true of all great speeches: it moves people to a better place by contrasting where we are now with where we should be. Contrast is critical for compelling presentations.

Contrast. Narrative cohesiveness. Clear organization. If your speech outline has these, it can't fail.

3. Make your speech concise.

By the end of Bill Clinton's 1988 speech to the Democratic National Convention, the audience was cheering. But not because of any particular point Bill made. It was because the famously long-winded Clinton had utter those words that have uplifted many a weary audience: "In closing..."

The final element of a perfect outline is simple: make it say everything it needs to say in the time you've been given to say it. TED talks go for 18 minutes, but don't feel you need to use all of that time. If you have 10 minutes of material, that's excellent. Your outline should set you up to speak for 10 minutes.

It's a lesson every actor and performer learns early: always leave them wanting more. You've lost your audience once they're checking their watches.

Keep your speech short and sweet, and your listeners will love you for it.

3 Ways To Keep Your Audiences Alert and Engaged During Your Presentations

Businesses spend a small fortune at events to educate and inspire their employees. Whether it be to stay abreast of the latest business trends and industry news in their fields, or sharpen their skills, the results you see may be tied to how you present your ideas.

As a professional speaker, I average more than one event per week ranging from large conferences to corporate events hosted by small to mid-sized companies. Often, I am working with leaders to help drive results for their sales teams.

It's a shame if a business invests time and money in having their team hear a message, only to find out that employees don't remember much of what was said and therefore can't implement or execute what they've learned.

Of course, the irony is that employees do want to learn new tools and techniques that will make them more effective. But often, the way information is organized and presented makes it difficult for attendees to grasp complex concepts, let alone implement new ideas. That's why it's important for speakers to present information in ways that are easy-to-digest and put into action.

If you want your participants to remember what you say long after you're gone -- and be able to execute on their own -- here are 3 things to keep in mind when giving your next presentation.

Get organized

Neen James, author of the new book Attention Pays: How to Drive Profitability, Productivity, and Accountability to Achieve Maximum Results, shares a concept called contextual models. It's her go-to tool when explaining complicated ideas -- and for good reason. As experts, it's easy to overwhelm an audience with facts and figures thinking that if they just give people more information they'll understand better. That's the wrong approach.

All too often, speakers have great insight, but might not know how to package that insight in a way the audience can digest and remember. 

I used to share the idea of how organizations could present their offerings as one of various levels of a solution. They'd use this to stand out from the competition. I'd share, "There are three different levels of service we provide: basic, intermediate, and advanced." I'd then share the attributes of each category. I could tell it didn't resonate. 

Today, with Neen's help, I package the same concept into a contextual model called the Client Vision Pyramid. By using the pyramid as a structure, we name the levels starting at the base of the pyramid:  Effective, Enhanced, and Engaged. Engaged sits at the pinnacle of the pyramid. When presented this way, the information is easier to remember, and easier for audiences to act on. Months later, attendees will recount the levels with great clarity - thanks to the contextual model.

Get Visual

In my full day immersion workshops, I used to share key elements professionals should seek in business meetings to qualify if an opportunity was worth pursuing. Attendees would struggle to remember the elements. Today, we shifted that to a visual called the Same-Side Quadrants. I simply have participants draw on a piece of paper a horizontal line across the center and a vertical line down the middle to create four squares, or "quadrants". By seeing the quadrants, the audience is more likely to remember the concepts I am teaching and more likely to use the tool when they go to sales appointments. Similarly, in the pyramid example above, if each of the tiers is color-coded, people will likely remember the names of each tier.

By offering visual representations of your information, you will help your audiences retain the information you want them to learn. There are different ways you can do this, of course, but the idea is to capture and earn your audience's attention by getting them visually engaged.

Let Them Take It With Them

Once you've created a visual model people can understand, you need to explain the specific ways they can apply the information when they get back to the office. So it's important for speakers to provide key takeaways and/or offer tools to reinforce the concepts the audience learned. When you do that, you know people are putting what they've learned into practice -- and that's valuable because we all know that human nature is such that, if you don't practice what you learn, within 90 days you'll revert back to what you used to do. Or, if you're like me, you'll forget everything within the first 90 minutes.

Conclusion

Companies invest a lot of time and money sending their employees each year to conferences. You want to make sure your audience not only retains the information you share with them, but they also put the information into practice. Knowledge is only valuable if it can be shared, consumed, and applied. 

What Happens Behind The Scenes At the Oscars Will Blow Your Mind

In addition to helping entrepreneurs develop charismatic confidence to grow their businesses faster, I also help Hollywood celebrities and other entertainment industry leaders launch their careers, reach Oscar winning performances, and present at all the major award shows.

Most intelligent people assume backstage at the Oscars is rather hectic. Little do they know, behind the scenes of this elegant show feels like a SWAT team has infiltrated the Olympic Games with the cast of Dance Moms wandering around.

This militant chaos creates an even heightened sense of pressure for those presenting to a packed house of 3,400, as the show streams to an audience of around 65 million.

Pressure is a natural component in the lives of highly successful people, but even for my most successful celebrity clients, presenting at the Oscars is a level of pressure that is just unnatural.

With a live show, and only one chance to get their performance right, presenters know that any mistake could mean lasting public humiliation, hotly discussed in the blogosphere and transformed into memes or gifs, all living eternally on the Internet.

There are times when the pressure and stakes are so high; any slip may cause career repercussions for years to come.

Unnatural pressure offers you a rare opportunity to thrive in a way you've never experienced. It's more than just big risk, big reward--this type of tension is like injecting yourself with an intergalactic shot of platinum B-12: your body is either going to absorb it and transform, or you're going to feel sick.

Whether you're meeting with a panel of angel investors, speaking before an angry board or thousands of disappointed investors, here are some guidelines to load the dice in your favor.

Cover Your Basics

Know what you're going to say: be memorized but don't sound memorized. Rigid memorization makes you appear amateur and lacking in confidence. Each sentence should naturally follow the next one as if naturally occurring to you in the moment.

If you need a life-preserver, bring note cards or use the teleprompter (only if you've had teleprompter training and can do it with ease). Some of my clients just write a bullet-point list of words on their hand to remind them of their talking points.

Bring Your Personality to Your Words

The key to not sounding overly-rehearsed is the ability to bring your unique self to your words. It should feel like you.

Pinpoint your hook and let it launch you into the moment, allowing your personality to shine through. A hook is what I help my clients distill to crush any presentation with remarkable ease and fun. It's a feeling, word, or body attitude that is specific to you, and instantly lights you up emotionally --it prevents you from looking over-rehearsed and lets your authentic self shine through.

It's a Privilege to Be This Uncomfortable

The fact that you're under this much pressure means that you've accomplished a lot that many haven't. Sure you've worked hard, but you've also received breaks from lady luck and opportunities others have not.

Resist the urge to show any resentment of the pressure, through eyebrow movements or eye rolls or sarcastic remarks. It can make you look weak, petty or condescending.

Practice Fielding Your Worst Question

Many of my clients have to give presentations that broadcast globally and then field intensive Q&A sessions where a live audience grills them. Figure out your nightmare question(s) that you pray no one asks and fine-tune a solid answer to it.

Having a plan for a worst-case scenario will give a tremendous amount of confidence.

Be Ready for Anything

When people in the audience see you this vulnerable, someone might try and take a swing at you. Most professionals are content to ignore these interruptions, but that's actually a 50-50 strategy. Sometimes it makes you look professional; sometimes it makes you look like you're just dodging conflict.

Have a few responses ready for these situations and then decide what to do in the moment, by reading the room.

Your preparation has a tremendous impact on how much you will flourish under this unnatural pressure.

The better prepared you are, the more you will be able to confront these high stakes with confidence, hitting even the most curved pitches with an effortless and smooth swing.

What Happens Behind The Scenes At the Oscars Will Blow Your Mind

In addition to helping entrepreneurs develop charismatic confidence to grow their businesses faster, I also help Hollywood celebrities and other entertainment industry leaders launch their careers, reach Oscar winning performances, and present at all the major award shows.

Most intelligent people assume backstage at the Oscars is rather hectic. Little do they know, behind the scenes of this elegant show feels like a SWAT team has infiltrated the Olympic Games with the cast of Dance Moms wandering around.

This militant chaos creates an even heightened sense of pressure for those presenting to a packed house of 3,400, as the show streams to an audience of around 65 million.

Pressure is a natural component in the lives of highly successful people, but even for my most successful celebrity clients, presenting at the Oscars is a level of pressure that is just unnatural.

With a live show, and only one chance to get their performance right, presenters know that any mistake could mean lasting public humiliation, hotly discussed in the blogosphere and transformed into memes or gifs, all living eternally on the Internet.

There are times when the pressure and stakes are so high; any slip may cause career repercussions for years to come.

Unnatural pressure offers you a rare opportunity to thrive in a way you've never experienced. It's more than just big risk, big reward--this type of tension is like injecting yourself with an intergalactic shot of platinum B-12: your body is either going to absorb it and transform, or you're going to feel sick.

Whether you're meeting with a panel of angel investors, speaking before an angry board or thousands of disappointed investors, here are some guidelines to load the dice in your favor.

Cover Your Basics

Know what you're going to say: be memorized but don't sound memorized. Rigid memorization makes you appear amateur and lacking in confidence. Each sentence should naturally follow the next one as if naturally occurring to you in the moment.

If you need a life-preserver, bring note cards or use the teleprompter (only if you've had teleprompter training and can do it with ease). Some of my clients just write a bullet-point list of words on their hand to remind them of their talking points.

Bring Your Personality to Your Words

The key to not sounding overly-rehearsed is the ability to bring your unique self to your words. It should feel like you.

Pinpoint your hook and let it launch you into the moment, allowing your personality to shine through. A hook is what I help my clients distill to crush any presentation with remarkable ease and fun. It's a feeling, word, or body attitude that is specific to you, and instantly lights you up emotionally --it prevents you from looking over-rehearsed and lets your authentic self shine through.

It's a Privilege to Be This Uncomfortable

The fact that you're under this much pressure means that you've accomplished a lot that many haven't. Sure you've worked hard, but you've also received breaks from lady luck and opportunities others have not.

Resist the urge to show any resentment of the pressure, through eyebrow movements or eye rolls or sarcastic remarks. It can make you look weak, petty or condescending.

Practice Fielding Your Worst Question

Many of my clients have to give presentations that broadcast globally and then field intensive Q&A sessions where a live audience grills them. Figure out your nightmare question(s) that you pray no one asks and fine-tune a solid answer to it.

Having a plan for a worst-case scenario will give a tremendous amount of confidence.

Be Ready for Anything

When people in the audience see you this vulnerable, someone might try and take a swing at you. Most professionals are content to ignore these interruptions, but that's actually a 50-50 strategy. Sometimes it makes you look professional; sometimes it makes you look like you're just dodging conflict.

Have a few responses ready for these situations and then decide what to do in the moment, by reading the room.

Your preparation has a tremendous impact on how much you will flourish under this unnatural pressure.

The better prepared you are, the more you will be able to confront these high stakes with confidence, hitting even the most curved pitches with an effortless and smooth swing.

What Happens Behind The Scenes At the Oscars Will Blow Your Mind

In addition to helping entrepreneurs develop charismatic confidence to grow their businesses faster, I also help Hollywood celebrities and other entertainment industry leaders launch their careers, reach Oscar winning performances, and present at all the major award shows.

Most intelligent people assume backstage at the Oscars is rather hectic. Little do they know, behind the scenes of this elegant show feels like a SWAT team has infiltrated the Olympic Games with the cast of Dance Moms wandering around.

This militant chaos creates an even heightened sense of pressure for those presenting to a packed house of 3,400, as the show streams to an audience of around 65 million.

Pressure is a natural component in the lives of highly successful people, but even for my most successful celebrity clients, presenting at the Oscars is a level of pressure that is just unnatural.

With a live show, and only one chance to get their performance right, presenters know that any mistake could mean lasting public humiliation, hotly discussed in the blogosphere and transformed into memes or gifs, all living eternally on the Internet.

There are times when the pressure and stakes are so high; any slip may cause career repercussions for years to come.

Unnatural pressure offers you a rare opportunity to thrive in a way you've never experienced. It's more than just big risk, big reward--this type of tension is like injecting yourself with an intergalactic shot of platinum B-12: your body is either going to absorb it and transform, or you're going to feel sick.

Whether you're meeting with a panel of angel investors, speaking before an angry board or thousands of disappointed investors, here are some guidelines to load the dice in your favor.

Cover Your Basics

Know what you're going to say: be memorized but don't sound memorized. Rigid memorization makes you appear amateur and lacking in confidence. Each sentence should naturally follow the next one as if naturally occurring to you in the moment.

If you need a life-preserver, bring note cards or use the teleprompter (only if you've had teleprompter training and can do it with ease). Some of my clients just write a bullet-point list of words on their hand to remind them of their talking points.

Bring Your Personality to Your Words

The key to not sounding overly-rehearsed is the ability to bring your unique self to your words. It should feel like you.

Pinpoint your hook and let it launch you into the moment, allowing your personality to shine through. A hook is what I help my clients distill to crush any presentation with remarkable ease and fun. It's a feeling, word, or body attitude that is specific to you, and instantly lights you up emotionally --it prevents you from looking over-rehearsed and lets your authentic self shine through.

It's a Privilege to Be This Uncomfortable

The fact that you're under this much pressure means that you've accomplished a lot that many haven't. Sure you've worked hard, but you've also received breaks from lady luck and opportunities others have not.

Resist the urge to show any resentment of the pressure, through eyebrow movements or eye rolls or sarcastic remarks. It can make you look weak, petty or condescending.

Practice Fielding Your Worst Question

Many of my clients have to give presentations that broadcast globally and then field intensive Q&A sessions where a live audience grills them. Figure out your nightmare question(s) that you pray no one asks and fine-tune a solid answer to it.

Having a plan for a worst-case scenario will give a tremendous amount of confidence.

Be Ready for Anything

When people in the audience see you this vulnerable, someone might try and take a swing at you. Most professionals are content to ignore these interruptions, but that's actually a 50-50 strategy. Sometimes it makes you look professional; sometimes it makes you look like you're just dodging conflict.

Have a few responses ready for these situations and then decide what to do in the moment, by reading the room.

Your preparation has a tremendous impact on how much you will flourish under this unnatural pressure.

The better prepared you are, the more you will be able to confront these high stakes with confidence, hitting even the most curved pitches with an effortless and smooth swing.