Nugget No. 10

Do Not Use Buzz Words

Every industry uses buzz words, acronyms and techno-speak. Do not use them in your presentations!

You do not impress people with words and language they don’t understand. Your audience does not want to feel stupid. If they hear too many words that leave them wondering, What is he talking about?, they will tune you out. Observing disengaged audience members can increase your anxiety.

Financial people I work with face this challenge. They might be telling their audiences about mutual funds, derivatives and ETFs. Most cannot define those terms, but don’t ask for an explanation. We see the emperor with no clothes, but no one says anything. If the adviser doesn’t describe them in a simple, easily understood manner, he or she will lose the audience and the chance of doing business with them.

My advice is say something like this in their opening: My industry is ripe with ‘techno-speak’ most people are not familiar with. It is my job to define all terms so you understand them. I want an agreement, before we get started, that you will raise your hand if you hear anything you don’t understand. Shame on me for not making it clear. The presenter should raise their arm high and not start presenting until all hands go up. They have thus given permission—and encouraged—people to ask questions.

Nugget No. 11

Cotton Mouth

Cotton Mouth is a term referring to a very dry mouth. It’s hard to speak well when this malady is present. It’s also tougher for the audience to understand the words being spoken. Dry mouth can be caused by nervousness, dry air, antihistamines and certain prescription drugs.

One preventive measure, is to delay—if possible—scripts and over-the-counter medicines that have that effect. There are mouth washes that claim to help, and breath strips that give short term relief. A lozenge—placed between the cheek and gum—will sometimes work. Experiment with different sizes before speaking. If it’s too large, your speech could be affected. Don’t use cherry-flavored lozenges because it may appear like your tongue and mouth are bleeding!

The best solution for dry mouth is water! Bring your own bottled water to your event and have it at room temperature. Too hot or too cold will have bad effects on your vocal chords. Taking a gulp of water—at a break in the delivery of your presentation—is acceptable. That mini-break also gives your attendees an opportunity to think about and absorb what you just presented.

Nugget No. 12

Join Toastmasters

Toastmasters International is a nonprofit, educational organization that operates clubs worldwide, and helps members improve their communication, public speaking and leadership skills. The group offers a structure and nurturing atmosphere that will help anyone who joins. Practicing your presentation at a club meeting will give constructive feedback and build your confidence for the ‘real presentation’ and lessen your nervousness.

I suggest visiting several clubs to determine which one is the best fit for you. They are all good, but each has its own ‘flavor.’ Check out toastmasters.org or more information and clubs in your area.

Nugget No. 13

Interact with the Audience

Asking rhetorical questions gets the attention of the people you are addressing. This engages them—a good thing! If the audience is paying attention, the odds increase they will get your message.

When you ask a questions like, Does that make sense?, they instinctively think about it and react. You can ‘read’ their responses by observation. If you notice a confused face, consider restating your point in a different manner.

Another technique is to ask for a show of hands about something. Raising your hand, while asking, will get more people to respond, keeping the audience engaged in your talk. Knowing your audience is listening and learning will lessen your anxiety and increase your effectiveness as a speaker.

In the next column, we’ll finish looking at ‘nuggets.’ Till then, make next your presentation…NO SWEAT!

Fred Miller is a speaker, presentation coach and author of NO SWEAT Public Speaking! For more information, email him at Fred@NoSweatPublicSpeaking.com or visit NoSweatPublicSpeaking.com

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