Just 20 minutes into my Speak For Yourself® Workshop in New Jersey…
… an attendee shuffles into the room. It’s not a big room. Everyone stops, as do I, to let him walk in front of me, and the group, to find a seat.
You know the beginning of your presentation is crucial. That’s when you build credibility with your audience, gain their attention, set out your goals, get their buy-in.
This guy misses that train. I stop him – right in the middle of the room – and say, “Hey – I’m going to sit down and let you teach this class!” And I find a seat, leaving this guy center stage.
Note: This maneuver can get you into trouble. It’s edgy. But I was NOT going to leave him up there for more than a few seconds. Reasons FOR doing this: everyone is distracted and you, the speaker, need to address the distraction. At this moment, no one is listening to you anyway.
From my seated position I ask, “What’s your name?” He replies, standing in the middle of the room, “Bill Cutler.”
I pause and respond, “Bill, thank you for founding this company in 1977. You are the reason we are here today. It’s your genius and your tenacity that got your business to its international status during this past 40 years!”
How do you really screw up as a communicator?
Not doing your pre-intel on your audience.
If the ship misses the harbor, it’s rarely the harbor’s fault. Whether you are speaking to your investors, your team, chatting at a cocktail reception, or sending an email – do your homework. Find out who they are, what they do, what matters to them. You won’t hit any icebergs and you will reduce your speaker anxiety.
Speaking of ships, when this tardy attendee says his name my credibility and trust in that room could have hit an iceberg. By doing some homework ahead of time I avoid a Titanic Moment. He looked different than his website photo, but (thank you Lord) I did know his story.
Not to sound too dramatic – without a planned way to introduce yourself, you leave yourself open to the whim of the meeting organizer.
Maybe there are things you DON’T want the audience to know.
Maybe you want the audience to laugh even before you’ve opened your mouth.
Maybe you want to add some speaker credibility from another source.
Maybe you want to lower your speaker anxiety index!
Your template for a clever, fun and engaging introduction
Open with WHY the audience wants to hear about your subject. That’s right… your subject. NOT YOU! How is your info relevant to them? What will they gain from listening to you?
Next – Share some credibility facts about you – why you are the perfect person to discuss the subject matter. Keep this to four sentences max.
Following short paragraph: Share some personal stuff (if that works for you). Audiences like to know about you, the person, as well as you, the expert.
Last paragraph: Share your name and title of your speech – “Let’s welcome from Dallas, Texas – Karen Cortell Reisman, who will tell us how to Speak For Yourself!”
Rules for a great introduction
Fits on one page at 18-font type (sometimes your introducer needs reading glasses but isn’t wearing them…)
Print out your intro and bring to the event, even though you emailed it in advance.
Provide a phonetic spelling of your name: “Karen Core-tell Rice-men”
Keep the whole thing short. We stop listening after your third accolade.
Include something funny – here’s what I use: “Our speaker has one masters degree, one bachelors degree, one cow named Bliss, one daughter, one son and one husband, not exactly in that order. When our speaker is not working with decision makers on how to communicate, she can be found on that farm with her cow trying to find cell phone reception to talk to her city slicker friends.”
Don’t miss this opportunity to begin your presentation with pizzaz and predictability.
Source: thanks to Christine Cashen, CSP, Speaker Hall of Fame, for many of the ideas used in this blog. She is the pro on creating fantastic introductions.
You have practiced your delivery and you know what your audience wants/needs to hear.
All critical for your success on the platform.
BUT – What haven’t you done? What often goes missing?
Your introduction. What the meeting organizer says about YOU just before you jump on stage.
Recently I visited the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santé Fe, NM. One entire wall exhibited picture frames that she liked to use for her art.
This wall, in a small museum, was devoted to frames? Not her art?
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Sante Fe, NM
Of course. O’Keeffe understood that the picture frame mattered. It could enhance or detract from the art itself.
The same principle applies to your presentations. The way you get introduced frames the way you are perceived. Why leave this to chance?
🎤 Your homework
Write your own introduction and email it to the meeting planner. Bring an extra copy as well, in case the emcee loses it (happens a lot).
🎤 Your payoff
Less speaker anxiety.
One client who speaks across the country told me, “Karen, having a great introduction sets the stage in such a better way for me. It calms my nerves, and I start off with more power. It’s one of the best takeaways from working with you.”
Stay tuned for tips on how to write clever and fun introductions.
Karen emcees a National Speakers Association – North TX Chapter event
You are asked to emcee your corporate annual event. OR – you’re tapped to “run” the business holiday dinner. OR – you are chairing a Board of Directors retreat.
Here are 7 tips to emcee, “run”, or chair an event/retreat/holiday dinner/meeting/convention.
1. START STRONG & ON TIME
Begin by having someone introduce you. Not a long intro. It could even be the “Voice of God” – an omniscient voice that booms, “Here’s Karen Cortell Reisman, your emcee for our ‘Annual Grow Your Business Expo’!”. You should NOT have to get up on stage and say, “Shush….” or “Can I have your attention now?”
Begin when you say you will begin.
Introduce yourself. You might be well known in this room. However, you might have guests, significant others, new members of the team who do not have a clue as to why you’re at the lectern. Tell your audience who you are and what your connection is with this event.
2. ACKNOWLEDGE OTHERS
You are one spoke of the wheel. Thank the meeting organizers – the unsung heroes, the production crew (if there is one), and your audience – without them you would not have this great opportunity.
3. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE & EVENT BACKGROUND
Stealth bomb of all types of communication – NOT knowing your audience. It’s no different when emceeing an event. Do your homework and find out the pulse of your event and what the meeting organizers want as an outcome.
4. HAVE A SCRIPT
Scripts make you a bit stilted, but having a script in this role is OK.
Can you skip the script? Yes – IF you have speaking experience, and the group’s culture leans to informal. Otherwise, the script will be your best friend.
Do you read verbatim from this script? NO. Practice and make it conversational. It’s a crutch, not your life jacket. You may also use a teleprompter.
5. SHARE THE AGENDA
No matter how much the group likes you, your audience wants to know how long they have to sit there, when the breaks are, and what the expectations are for all.
5 1/2: CREATE A “RUN OF SHOW”
This is a behind-the-scenes minute by minute layout of the entire event that you create in tandem with your meeting organizers.
6. MAKE YOUR AUDIENCE FEEL SPECIAL
Don’t say, “I’m nervous. But this is just a routine meeting so we’ll just start with our clip from our CEO.”
AAGH! First – don’t share your nervousness status. We don’t care and if we do care, then we are now distracted by your emotional state. Second – “routine meeting” – NO! You want your audience to feel like this is an ecstatic use of their time. Do say, “Today you are in for a treat. We have a cutting edge program starting with a special and customized video from CEO Jordan Brooks.”
7. END ON TIME
While hard to control, your credibility and the event’s credibility are enhanced when the timing flows well. The other evening I was at an awards dinner (yawn, long winded, I’m already tired… you know the drill). The emcee said we’d be done at 8pm. My “shoulder skeptic” inner voice thought, “These events never end that early or on time.” It did! I was impressed.
The last impression becomes the lasting impression.
While not on your Emcee To Do List, you can suggest to the meeting organizer to have a stellar valet service, if attendees are transporting themselves to and from the hotel/convention venue. Once over, it’s over and people want to move on.
Source: Andy Saks, President of Spark Presentations – sparkpresentations.com
You are not alone in dealing with public speaking nervousness. As CEO of Speak For Yourself® I have worked with 100s of clients from a variety of industries on this issue.
Over time I’ve written a couple of books on communication and selling and many articles on speaker anxiety.
Today “13” is your lucky number! My new e-book is a compilation of our top 13 short and strategic articles covering all angles of how to handle the fear of speaking once your name is called out, the crowd is applauding and you’re centerstage.
You’ll enjoy and gain usable strategies to get your nerves to work for you rather than against you.
I laugh with my clients when I tell them I’ll be their “ledge whisperer” on this issue. And I hope to be that same ledge-whisperer for you.
➜ If you’d like your free copy of this e-book send me an email (email@example.com) with “Speaker Anxiety” in the Subject Line.
Breathe, enjoy and read this book.
You’ll get off that ledge and on to your next stage, boardroom or team meeting.
And you don’t even have to do a squat, burpee or a jumping jack.
“A study in Cell Reports Medicine showed that just five minutes of breathwork each day for about a month could improve mood and reduce anxiety,” reports Richard Sima in The Washington Post.
This report further claims that breathwork benefits may be larger than mindfulness meditation using the same amount of time.
A Huge Assist for Speaker Anxiety
One of the most significant issues facing our Speak For Yourself® clients is getting over stage fright. The outcome of this study, helpful in any nerve wracking situation, can apply when you’re giving a speech, on a panel, recording a video …
Participants: 108 adults, randomly controlled. They did this breathwork at home following video directions.
Activity: Researches compared 3 different 5-minute breathwork exercises. Some were deliberate guided breathing in various ways. Some did mindfulness meditation where participants observed their breathing but did not try to control it.
Results: “After 28 days, participants in both the mindfulness meditation and breathwork groups reported having more positive feelings and fewer negative ones compared with before they began their respective practices.” Both groups reported reduced feelings of anxiety. (WAPO)
“That’s not bad for five min/day,” said David Spiegel, an author of the study. “It seems that practicing some control over your respiration is a kind of entry into one way of controlling your autonomic activity.”
The Accumulation Effect: These positive effects did take time to kick in. The more the participants spent doing this breathwork, the better they felt each successive day.
The ROI for you
When you get anxious you breathe faster. By doing this breathwork you can control and relax your physical state and slow down your breathing.
Can you take a few minutes to control your breathing, connect with your body and encourage it to deal with what you want to deal with… like your upcoming presentation?
Inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds. Increase the number of seconds and repeat and repeat.
Are you busy “doing” vs “being”? (OK – rather zen-ish but think about it.)
Photo: by Karen Cortell Reisman @ Barcelona Park Guell