It is more than a month later, and I am still getting value out of my experience at She’s Geeky in San Francisco. One of the most powerful sessions I attended was one by Lura Dolas, an acting coach, who also specializes in developing women’s public speaking and presentation skills.
The following are my notes from the presentation, which I hope are universally helpful. A lot of these are great reminders as I (and others at CivicActions and beyond) prepare for our presentations at DrupalCon in Chicago and at NTC in Washington, D.C. Enjoy! and Present!
- An effective speaker needs to be confident, clear, knowledgeable, and in control.
- Half of every conversation is listening. Practice getting people asking questions to share more than they thought they would.
- Pratice, practice, practice! Talk to your cat. Ask a friend to sit so you can present to them. Even if it is an hour-long talk, practice it in its entirety at least 3-5 times.
- Do not feel like a victim when you present. Guide the conversation.
- Ask rhetorical questions. If you want people to move through your story with you, you have to stay connected.
- If you talk fast, practice more. Use a timer. Breathe.
- Write notes only on the tops of pages, so that you do not have to look so far down. It takes you away from your audience.
- Do not create a professional/personal disconnect. People want to know who is presenting, but do not overshare.
- Come as the storyteller, not as your Presenter self.
- Find out as much as can in advance about the space in which you will be presenting. Figure out in advance how you will manage the space. Put yourself in the driver’s seat. Ask for a stool if that helps you feel comfortable.
- BREATHE! When you stop breathing, you make yourself physiologically nervous. People do not believe people who are not breathing.
- Keep it OFF the screen! Most women want to be appreciated for what they are saying and bringing to a topic. If you want people to associate you with what you say, keep it off the powerpoint slides and speak it. Why would they associate you with saying smart things if the powerpoint is doing the talking? This tip has the added benefit of having people actually look at you when you are speaking, which makes eye contact easier.
In addition to all of these helpful tips, Lura also described the concept of a triangle for presenting representing Objective – Given Circumstance – Acting Verb. This is a method used by actors, and effective for speaking too.
- Your Objective is what you want when you come into the room. This should be totally clear to you, and you should be able to state it as a completion to the sentence, “I want you to ___________.” Ask for more information, buy this, call me, hire me, invest. Any of these objectives is possible when you speak publicly, but you do need to decide which one(s) you are intending to propogate. The minute you leave your Objective, you cease to be effective in communicating your message.
- Your Given Circumstance pertains to the speaking environment, but also includes Who you are, When of the presentation, and Where. What type of room, audience, noise level, etc.
- Your Acting Verb is a *psychologically* manipulative verb. Lura uses them to
help clients understand the manner in which they are presenting their
material and adjust for maximum effect. For example a speaker may
unknowingly be delivering her material in a “begging” manner or a
“demanding” manner, when a “convincing” manner would be more effective.
With some thought we can learn to identify the verbs we are using and
make informed decisions about the appropriate tone of our presentations. Acting Verbs include humilate, beg, seduce, explain, convince, amuse, ignore, comfort, irritate, demand and threaten.
Lura has such an engaging and simple way to get to the heart of what scares people about presenting publicly, but is especially tuned in to the things that make public presentations challenging for women. Her workshop was one of the most helpful and clear pieces of education I have gotten in some time. Much love and thanks to Lura for attending and presenting at She’s Geeky!