Alleviate Anxiety Tip #3: Breathe

Posted By on February 28, 2014

This is the third post in a three-part series focused on helping you alleviate anxiety before giving a presentation.

When clients tell me they feel anxious prior to their remarks, or, as they jump into the opening of remarks, or, the need to rush  “to get all the material” covered, I ask them about their breathing.  The answer almost always is that they are really not aware of their breathing. Once they focus on it, they realize they are breathing fast, a natural reaction to adrenaline released by the body when you are feeling anxious or fearful, or they are holding their breath.

It is interesting that the act of breathing is so taken for granted when you consider it is essential to life. It is so automatic, we forget to pay attention to it!

Before you begin to speak in front of a group, take a moment to notice your breathing. Is it fast? Take three slow breaths. When you consciously slow your breathing, you will become more relaxed and present. You will come across in your presentation and more authentic. It will calm your anxiety and lower your stress.

If, like I tend to do, you are holding your breath or are breathing very shallow breaths, take three slow, deep breaths.

Practicing breath control is good exercise leading up to a speech or presentation. Try this exercise in the days leading up to your big day:

  • Lie on the floor or on your bed at night and place your hand on your abdomen.
  • Feel the natural rise and fall of your belly.
  • Now, allow your belly to fill even further before you release and exhale.
  • Experience the plenty of oxygen that fills your diaphragm.

This fullness is the way I want you to feel when you stand and deliver your presentation.

Repeat this exercise every hour starting several days before your presentation. Yes, every hour, take three of deep breaths! That will really bring it to your consciousness. Do only three to four deep breaths at one setting because doing more than that may make you a bit dizzy.  Set the alarm on your phone to remind you to do the exercise each hour. It will bring oxidation to your brain, allowing you to think more clearly; and it will relax you.

Practice will help you sharpen this tool for so it will be ready when you need it to combat performance anxiety.

So when you feel rushed, pressured or a sense of real stress, notice how you are breathing.

What do you do to control your public speaking anxiety? Share your tips by posting a comment. Speaking for impact is not an accident. It’s a skill.

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Alleviate Anxiety Tip #2: Support your Voice

Posted By on February 22, 2014

This is the second post in a three-part series focused on helping you alleviate anxiety before giving a presentation.

Many people suffer from fear and anxiety about speaking in front of groups. This tip will ensure your voice quality is high on game day.

Our voice specialist, Cynthia Bassham tells us that we do need a certain amount of mucus around our vocal folds because it acts as a lubricant so that friction is eased. Without it, you will “croak”. What can you do to ensure you have enough lubrication for your voice?

Most important: Stay Hydrated. Because this keeps the mucus moving! Avoid soda. Why? Soda can cause you to hiccup. Best alternatives: Drink water or tea.

Second, avoid dairy. Why? Dairy can thicken the mucous fluid and “gum up” the works. Thick mucus can cause irritation and make you feel the need to clear your throat – not a good thing to do in the middle of a presentation! When we speak of dairy, we are talking about products such as milk, cream, cheese, yogurt and butter. Reduce your use of dairy for three days before your presentation (or longer if you are particularly sensitive to dairy) to make sure your vocal cords are good-to-go for your presentation.

Share your tips for reducing public speaking anxiety by posting a comments. Speaking for impact is not an accident. It’s a skill.

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Alleviate Anxiety Tip #1: Energize your brain

Posted By on February 15, 2014

This is the first post in a three-part series focused on helping you alleviate anxiety before giving a presentation.

Many people suffer from fear and anxiety about speaking in front of groups. Did you know that you can reduce anxiety by nourishing your brain? You can. Fueling your brain will also reduce your fatigue and increase your energy and staying power. This first post will address the food of the brain: Glucose.

Glucose is made by your body from the food you eat. It is the only nutrient the brain can use for energy. I like to think of Glucose as gasoline or fuel for the brain.
So, for your brain, Glucose is power. When your brain is well fed, your concentration and stamina increase.

The brain uses at least 50% of the glucose your body produces so it’s a good idea to make sure the brain has enough energy by eating well before your presentation. Now, you can feed your brain glucose by eating a donut or other high sugar food before you take the stage. But that would be a mistake. Simple sugars burn FAST and you will experience an energy crash after a short time. You want a mix of fast, medium and slow burning sources of fuel for your brain. That means a mix of (you guessed it), protein, complex carbohydrates and protein. And yes, this diet is good for your health overall but it’s especially important for prepping for “game day”.

At minimum, eat well the day of the presentation. Ideally, three days beforehand follow these basic guidelines to net you high energy and focused concentration:
Eat a balanced mix of these three nutrients at all three meals (don’t skip breakfast!):  protein, fat and good carbohydrates.

  • The best sources of protein are high quality, organic beef, fish and chicken.  Eggs are also an excellent source of protein.
  • The best sources of fat are also sources of Omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, flax seeds, walnuts, sardines, soybeans, halibut, scallops, shrimp and tofu. Other healthy oils are: olive oil, avocado, coconut oil.
  • The best sources of carbohydrates are green vegetables, whole grains such as quinoa (also high in protein).

Also consider eliminating gluten (found in wheat flour, oats, and other foods). Many people find they feel more clarity and energy within a few days. You may enjoy a surge of energy and clarity and less weariness. Try eliminating it for a few weeks. Some people do get quick results by eliminating gluten but for others, it takes a few weeks or months.

Ok, so now you know how to energize your brain and improve your concentration with a steady stream of fuel. The next post will cover improving the quality of your voice.

This series of “alleviate anxiety” tips will calm your anxiety and keep you from feeling sluggish or sounding weak. Most important it will empower you to be more in command of your speaking delivery as well as your overall health.

Share your tips for alleviating public speaking anxiety by posting a comment. Speaking for impact is not an accident. It’s a skill. One to hone throughout your career and life.

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Connect with your audience

Posted By on October 8, 2013

As you prepare for your next important meeting, consider how you will connect with your audience. By doing so, you will earn the audience’s attention and be afforded the opportunity to influence them.

 

Consider

  • Who is your audience and what do they care about?
  • Why should this specific audience care what you have to say in this meeting?
  • Does this audience consider you to be credible? Or, do you need to establish your credibility?
  • What action(s) do you want the audience to take after the meeting?

Connections are made when the audience feels valued, understood and respected. A good way to start is with an acknowledgement of who they are and what they care about. For example,

“As customer support professionals, I know you care about our customer’s experience when they call us. Today you will learn about plans for upgrading the phone system and how that upgrade will help you serve our customers better.”

If necessary, establish credibility with your audience. For example,

“You may be wondering why the head of finance is leading a branding session. Good question! Few of you probably know this but before I became a CPA, I worked in my father’s advertising agency. I learned first-hand the value of a strong brand and have had respect for branding ever since. Today, you’ve been asked to participate in this session because you are viewed as someone who embodies our brand.”

Notice how the audience is also acknowledged for their credibility.

The call to act, connects each audience member to you and your message. For example,

“I hope you will join me to support our green initiative by recycling, carpooling and turning off devices when not in use.”

Connecting with your audience is fundamental to effective communication. Speaking for impact is not an accident. It’s a skill. How do you connect with your audiences? Let us know by posting a comment.

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Extra! Extra!

Posted By on September 20, 2013

“A good speech should be like a woman’s skirt: long enough to cover the subject and short enough to create interest”
― Winston Churchill

 

Short and Memorable

Churchill’s quip is as true of presentations and meetings as it is of speeches. Long windedness is, frankly, inconsiderate of the audience. So is using complex sentences, jargon and a litany of unbroken facts. In fact, one of the most valuable Top Ten Speaking Strengths™ today is clarity. People who have this strength make their point simply, instead of expecting the audience to decipher a complex message.

Some people are endowed with this strength. Others have developed it. If you need to develop this speaking strength, here’s some advice to get your started:

Identify your Headline

 

  • What is the key point you want to make?
  • What is the “heart of the matter”?

Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? You may be surprised to learn that this step is often skipped. Especially by those who need to improve their clarity. Why? Because they interpret this advice as “know what you want to say” and they already know, generally, what they want to say. What is needed is to distill the key points down to their very essence. The gap between the general message and the headline is filled, literally, with lots and lots of words. Removing those unnecessary words will bring clarity. So, spend the time to identify your headline.

Less is More

Elaborate on your key point with vivid language. The force of a few words can be enormous and deepen our memory so illustrate, demonstrate, or illuminate.

Recall:

“I have a dream. . .”

“Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country . . .” and

“Tear down this wall.”

You might not be a public persona like Martin Luther King, Jr. or Presidents Kennedy or Reagan, but whenever you communicate, you can be remembered through the words you use. The next time you have a speaking opportunity, prepare to say less and leave your audience with something to remember.

Making a lasting impact in this multi-messaging world requires more discipline than ever before. Practice pays off and this exercise will help you to choose your words carefully. If you would like to do more and learn to deliver your message with passion and conviction, consider working with one of our coaches or attending our breakthrough seminar program Speaking for Impact.

Speaking for impact is not an accident. It’s a skill.  We would love to hear how you have used fewer words to make an impact. Please post a comment.

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Speaking Hiccups

Posted By on June 14, 2013

If you do enough public speaking, whether in front of an audience or a TV camera, you’re bound to run into some unpredictable glitch.

Let’s take a look at Houston meteorologist David Paul who powered through an unexpected case of the hiccups.  Whether you are a TV personality or an executive, you might face an unanticipated problem during your speaking engagement. Watch how he handles this, ah, hiccup:

David Paul’s case of the hiccups was untimely  – during his three-minute long weather report on a day of severe storms. He was quick to say “excuse me” after many of the hiccup interruptions. He also did three important things:

  • He used the speaking strength of authenticity.
  • About 30 seconds into the weather report, he said, “I have the hiccups. Of course this would happen right when we have heavy weather, but bear with me.” During a speech or performance there may be times when you need to name the challenge that you face. “I am a little nervous in front of large groups.” or “The audio doesn’t seem to be working; I’ll try to speak a little louder.” Declare what is going on in order to keep the connection with your audience.
  • He used the speaking strength of humility. David smiled a few times throughout the on-air hiccuping episode, and said “We’ve all had hiccups before, right?” We are all human and viewers could feel a connection to someone who reminds them of that.

For any of your speaking engagements, if you experience a glitch, in most cases you, too, will want to power through. Connect with your audience – name your challenge and keep it human – and be prepared to keep the stage.

Speaking for impact is not an accident it’s a skill. Share your stories of glitches and hiccups you’ve experienced during a presentation, TV or live video event.

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Managing Interruptions and Managing to Interrupt

Posted By on June 12, 2013

May I interupt?

Like modern life, meetings, conversations, and public speaking often are full of interruptions. How do you keep from being interrupted? How can you politely interrupt when you need to be heard?

The challenge is exacerbated because of the accelerated speed with which meetings and conversations take place in today’s work cultures. Knowing how and when you can get a word in edgewise is important. Those who speak first and often may easily determine the course of the conversation. By the same token, companies lose valuable input when people who need more time to digest and think (aka introvert) are passed over. These lost voices are underestimated in many corporate cultures. Don’t squander the brilliance of those who think before they speak. The idea generation at the company will be less potent because valuable ideas were left unsaid or unheard.

To make the most of your communications and defend against interruptions – and to make your voice heard – here are some tips.

To assert yourself into a conversation, try these Speaking Tips:

  1. Make a bold gesture with your hands to show you have something to say.
  2. Lean forward with a puzzled look. This subtle interruption may work if the speaker is paying close attention to you.
  3. Look directly at the speaker’s eyes until they look back. Once you have their attention, smile or raise your eyebrows to acknowledge their connection and confirm what the speaker has just said and insert your comment. For example, “I agree and I’d like to add” or “That’s an interesting point and I’d like to add”.
  4.  At a pause (however brief – even if it’s only to take a breath), state
  • “I’m sorry, I’m not following you”
  • “I’m sorry, can we pause a moment to give us all a chance to think about what you’ve said?”
  • “I am not following you, would you please repeat that?”
  • “May I stop you for a moment to ask a question?” State what you don’t understand, then ask your question.
  • “Wow! That was a lot of information! Let’s pause a minute to consider what you’ve said.”

When you do get the floor, slow things down. Give yourself the opportunity to make your points clearly so they are understood by your audience and ask for their thoughts. Modeling a slower pace provides the opportunity for others to contribute.

Speaking Tips on how to handle the person who interrupts you:

  1. “Please! Let me finish.” Matching the energy of the interrupter.
  2. Place your hands and arms on the center of your chest while saying “I’m not finished.” This gesture will personalize your request and dissuade further interruptions.
  3. Use verbal tai chi to deflect the interruption. Thank the person for their point or question – and say that you will respond after you finish your point.

Speaking for impact is not an accident, it’s a skill. What specific techniques do you use to get your voice heard. Comment on this post and share your suggestions.

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Virtual Communication

Posted By on February 19, 2013

Webcast

Webcast

A growing challenge in communications today is the demand for executives to communicate virtually via conference call, webcast or by phone. Remote communication tools have replaced many in-person meetings. Virtual meetings save time and money and thus allow us to do more with reduced budgets and staff. That said the speaker must make-due without the visual cues that are so persuasive and influential on an audience. Their voice alone must carry the day.

In our most recent Speaking for Impact seminar, the issue of “bad” conference calls was discussed. Stories of speakers that drone on; who fail to engage the participants; who sound distracted, bored or tired; who fail to have or follow an agenda.

Sound familiar?

So, how does one “do” a good conference call?

Conference Call

Conference Call

Here are a few conference call tips:

  • Prepare your remarks. While this sounds obvious, many people confessed to “winging it” on conference calls. What will you say? Where will you emphasize your point with vocal variety, varied pacing and pauses?
  • Keep your audience in mind. Who will be on the call? What is it they are expecting from you? How much clarity can you bring to their need? What objections or resistance might they have to your message? What actions will you ask them to take? Where can you build in “interactivity” such as taking one topic and opening to questions and then dividing to the next topic and then offering Q & A on that topic.
  • Prepare an agenda. (Again, an oft overlooked pre-meeting step.) Allow time for interactivity which will keep people engaged and focused and allow for their concerns and obstacles to be revealed. If there will be more than one speaker on the call, coordinate with them in advance. Decide who will cover which points.
  • Before starting the call, pause for 30 seconds to think about each of the people who will be on the call. Picture them in your mind and imagine what they may be thinking about the call – are they excited? Dreading the call? Is their role core to the topic or are they a peripheral player who’s there to “be informed”? Are they at their desk? In a car? At the airport? At a client site? At home?
  • Smile before you dial. Then smile frequently during the call. People can “hear” your smile.
  • At the start of the call, acknowledge they may be still wrapping up what they were doing before the call and ask them to complete their wrap-up and give their undivided attention to the call. State the purpose of the call. Introduce yourself and any other speakers. Review the agenda and state the time the call with end.
  • Before the end of the call, allow time for questions and to review the purpose of the call and summarize the content. With enthusiasm, state any “next steps” and repeat any calls-to-action. Thank everyone for their contributions and time.

Try these tips before you next conference call and share the results by commenting on this post. For tips on video calls, check out “Lookin’ Good on Video Conference Calls“.  Remember, speaking for impact is not an accident. It’s a skill.

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Please share any tips you’ve developed for improving virtual communication effectiveness.

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When Mistakes are Good

Posted By on January 29, 2013

For many executives, the fear of mistakes and the fear of public speaking are a one-two punch to their performance. But, as Daniel Coyle explains in his book, The Talent Code, mistakes help us learn. Learning new speaking skills is no exception. Learning new speaking skills is no exception. For many executives, the fear of mistakes and the fear of public speaking are a one-two punch to their performance.

So let’s deflect that first punch by reconsidering the value of mistakes.

Good Mistakes

What makes a good mistake?  One made in practice.

Like a staggering baby, with each practice step the baby learns to walk. Practice what you plan to say in a safe, comfortable environment. Notice what’s working and what’s not. Rather than feeling bad about each mistake you make in your practice session use it to adapt and modify to improve your skills step by step. This is what Coyle calls “deep practice.”  His research shows this is what true masters did to become excellent in their fields. Our experience coaching professionals proves his point. Practice builds skills – in part because it allows for safe mistakes and safe learning.

Not Just for the Big Speech

Practice should not be reserved for formal speaking events. Practice before meetings, important one-on-one conversations, internal and external presentations to small groups. In fact, anytime you are addressing an audience (including an audience of one) with an important message.

Advice Worth Taking

While I realize just the thought of practicing before your next weekly meeting may make you uncomfortable, I assure you, your communications will be better for it. Now, I realize you’re probably thinking “that’s good advice” and, like most advice, plan to ignore it.

But I implore you not to do that. I want you to actually take the advice. Practice what you plan to say before your first meeting tomorrow. Say out loud what you plan to communicate. Rinse and repeat until you feel your message is delivered comfortably and without mistakes.

Go ahead, indulge me. Then, write me a comment to this post and tell me the results. Speaking for impact is not an accident. It’s a skill.

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Top 5 New Year’s Resolutions for Executives in 2013

Posted By on January 2, 2013

We’ve refreshed our Top 5 New Year’s resolutions for executives and leaders for 2013. This is a pivotal year.  Your communications skills will be vital to thriving in this year where uncertainty is the norm and turmoil is possible. So what’s an executive leader to do?

Download the free 2013 resolutions poster, a gift from all of us here at Grant and Associates.

2013 Resolutions for Executives

This year resolve to:

1.    Get in Shape – Get your messages clear and master your delivery. Clear, confidently delivered messages are reassuring and help people to act.

2.    Lose Weight – Focus on the messages and goals that matter most. Less is more

3.    Stick to a Budget – Keep your communications short and provide ample time for questions. Give your team time to express themselves. Feeling heard matters to everyone.

4.    Get Organized – Prepare. Organize your thoughts in advance. Be ready to handle the tough questions.

5.    Find a Better Job – There’s no better job than one you do well. Communicate what you do well. Develop your personal elevator pitch. Then seek opportunities that align to your strengths.

Use communications to make 2013 a banner year for you and your team! If you’d like to supercharge your communications skills, we can help.  We offer private one-to-one coaching in our Executive Presence program as well as group training  in our popular seminar, Speaking for Impact, available as a private program or in a public seminar offered in cities around the country. We’d be delighted to work with you or your team.

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Speaking for impact is not an  accident. It’s a skill. For more tips to sharpen your communication and public speaking skills, check out other Speaking for Impact blog posts. Stellar communication skills pay off in opportunity, achievement and income.

What are your 2013 resolutions as a business leader? Tell us in a comment to this post.

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