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Why Presentation Skills Win US Election Debates

Whoever you believe is winning in the Presidential Debates, there is no doubt that the outcome of the election will be massively influenced by the candidate’s performance over the three debates, based on their skills to present themselves and their arguments powerfully.
The same goes for most business presentations when we are often judged by our performance on the day and, just like the Presidential Debates, it comes down to having strong Content (that you know really well) the ability to manage your State, and the skills to make your Delivery impactful.
All three factors are equally critical and failure in any area will cost them heavily – from Trump’s losing his composure and frequent sniffling, to Clinton appearing to fudge answers to key questions.
So what can we learn from Trump and Clinton’s performance so far?
Shouting doesn’t win debates and state management is absolute critical to appearing ‘presidential’ – but Clinton has the edge in maintaining an authoritative stance. Trump is too hot-headed (but little surprise there).
Clearly both candidates are incredibly confident, and that comes from knowing their stuff, feeling well prepared and knowing how to manage their adrenaline well. Experience helps, and they are both likely to have pre-debate ‘routines’ to get in the right state.
The ability to express opinions about the key issues is what debating is all about. People sound weak when they lose their flow or their ‘train of thought’ and the key to managing this is to keep things as simple as you can, so you remember the logic of your argument and find it easy to get back on track.
So far, both candidates have had wobbles on some areas of their content – but both are masterful at returning to their central arguments.
You will notice from both Trump and Clinton how varying their delivery gives their performance interest and energy. Their vocal delivery will go from aggressive and loud, to soft and appealing, from fast and passionate to slow and authoritative – with brilliant use of pauses to add impact to their delivery.
Also, because they know their content so well, they are able to speak without reading their notes. Notes are important to have, but they should never break the eye-contact of the speaker with the audience. As both Trump and Clinton have demonstrated, it is critical to look your opponent in the eye (or the audience in the case of business presentations).
Presentation matters. In the case of the American elections, it could be the biggest matter of all.
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Presentation tips for introverts

If you tend to prefer your own company, do not crave attention or seek the airtime in meetings, and find social small talk a challenge, the chances are you are an introvert. While this is not a drawback to success – many of the most successful people on the planet are introverts – Bill Gates, JK Rowling and Steven Spielberg to name a few, it can be a handicap in business situations where the skills you need to succeed don’t come naturally.
As an introvert, you probably prefer listening to talking, especially when it means talking about your ideas or opinions, and this can be a drawback when it comes to giving presentations or speaking in front of groups.
So, here are a few tips that will help next time you are asked to speak to groups:
Challenge your self-doubt and negative self-talk
Introverts often suffer from self-doubt and negative self-talk, which stops you from speaking up. One way to shift your negative self-talk is to write down a list of your negative thoughts beforehand and for each of these, identify a positive thought that is equally true, that would be more useful for you to focus on. Do this as part of your mental preparation.
Be yourself – play to your strengths
Rather than trying to imitate the energy of a natural extrovert, you will have more success by cultivating your own style of speaking. You will be far more compelling if you speak with authenticity and engage people by drawing them in to your message than trying to fake a high energy delivery that feels uncomfortable.
Prepare well – in these key areas
There are 3 areas that will boost your confidence and impact as a presenter, and help you to speak authentically and make things interesting for your audience:
Try to make your content engaging so that you feel confident that you will have something of interest to share. Introverts are often better at writing than speaking, so write down what you want to say and then edit it down until you have a simple structure. A good way to structure your content is to prepare your opening statement, 3 key points and a closing statement. Use stories and rhetorical questions to involve the audience emotionally and intellectually.
Practice beforehand so that you feel more confident that you know what you want to say. The more familiar you are with your content and how you will deliver it, the better it will sound on the day. As the saying goes, the best way to sound like you know your stuff is to know your stuff. Remember you are not aiming for perfection, rather to be warm and authentic.
Try to relax yourself by using this simple I-SPY routine beforehand, to mentally and physically calm your state, which goes:
I = (mental affirmation) “I am excited to be doing this because… (finish off with a good reason)”
S = Shake out your tension by wriggling your toes, circling your angles and shaking out your arms legs, rolling your shoulders and head
P = check your Posture, to feel confident and convey presence
Y = Yawn to release any remaining tension in your face and throat
Be Less Self-Conscious
Most introverted presenters are really focused on themselves and their performance. If you shift your focus to the audience by thinking about how you are serving people in the audience through your presentation – how they can benefit from hearing what you have to say – so that you become more ‘Other’-conscious and less ‘Self’-conscious.
Finally, remember to keep practicing. Take up opportunities to build your skills in small steps so that presentations and speaking in meetings is something you feel confident about. It is a good idea to try ideas in less important situations – and build up to more significant ones. Before long, you will find you are presenting with more confidence and feeling comfortable being yourself: an introvert with something worth sharing.
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How the olympics can help with fear of presenting

Nicola Adams said in Rio last week “I am always nervous…you need that to give you the adrenaline”. The same principle applies to giving a presentation – it is the adrenaline or energy you feel before that makes you perform better.
The problem for many people is that as soon as they experience any adrenaline – quickening heartbeat, rush of blood, sweaty palms – they focus on their fear and spend the presentation battling nerves rather than channeling their energy into their talk.
If you have prepared well, created interesting content and know your stuff, you will be in a great position to manage your adrenaline.
As Nicola Adams put it when asked about her imminent fight “Another gold-medal fight – I can’t wait. This is what I’ve been training for for the last four years. I’m excited.”
Fear is emotional, not rational. You need another emotion to replace the fear – like passion, pride or desire to help others – which are also linked to a surge of adrenaline. Like Nicola Adams, you need to get excited, not afraid.
Steve Jobs of Apple always created his ‘passion statement’ before giving a presentation which went “I am excited to be giving this presentation because….” So that he could connect with what engaged his passion as a channel for his adrenaline.
Try it next time you have to stand and speak. Rather than interpreting your adrenaline as fear, think of it as passion. Remind yourself why you are excited to be speaking to these people and how listening to you could benefit them.
Think of Nicola Adams about to go into the boxing ring telling herself all the reasons she “can’t wait” despite her nerves. You’ll be a knockout.
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Any questions? How to manage difficult questions in presentations

For many of my clients, this is one of the things they dread most about giving a presentation: how to handle questions. Here are a few tips to help.

Before your presentation:

Anticipate likely questions

As part of your planning, think about the questions that are likely to come up. If you were in your audience, what questions might you have? In particular, the most important questions to anticipate are the ones that you hope nobody asks you – so that you can think about a good response while you are in a calm state, rather than having to think on the spot about your answer during the presentation.

Prepare your answers

Having anticipated the likely questions (and you can probably predict most of the questions), think about how you will answer them. For certain questions, you might like to use ‘STAR’ answers. STAR is an acronym that will give you the structure to illustrate your answer, as follows:

Situation: the context in which you have experienced this situation
Task: why the question can be a challenge in this context
Action: how you/others have dealt with this challenge
Result: good results as examples to follow, and bad results as examples to avoid

Cluster question types in ‘categories’

If you have anticipated questions and prepared good answers, you can then cluster questions into catetories and allocate an appropriate prepared answer for that type of question.

During the presentation:

Having prepared for questions, you can then manage the Q & A session based on your prepared answers. But, what if you can’t answer a question?

The key thing is not to bluff your way through. Most people know when you are doing this and it comes over really badly. Better to go for the honest option: say you don’t know, offer to find out and get back to them.

Alternatively, if you think you should be expected to know this answer (but don’t!) open the question out to the wider audience by asking if anyone else has experience of this question and what they would suggest as the answer.

Another key point on questions is that you need to decide beforehand if you want to take questions as you go through or receive them at the end of your presentation – and then let the audience know early on what you want them to do. Both can work equally well, depending on your presentation and your personal preference, and you can then manage expectations.

Finally, bear in mind that when you ask for questions, there may be silence. This may be because there are no questions, or people are thinking about what they will ask, or simply don’t want to ask the first question. In this case, you can get the ball rolling while people are thinking by asking the first question yourself. Simply say, “One question I am often asked is…” then give the answer to your first question. You will often find other people follow this first question with other questions.

The important thing is not to put pressure on yourself that you must be able to answer everything. If you have anticipated, prepared your answers and know your subject, you will be able to handle most questions. And if there are some you can’t answer, remember the wise words of Confucius “He who knows all the answers has not been asked all the questions”.
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Why people stop listening to you

Have you ever noticed that people’s attention isn’t always focused on you when you are giving a presentation or speaking in meetings? Even if they are looking at you, it doesn’t mean they are still listening.

Being aware of the main reasons people stop listening can help you to counter them and become a far more engaging and dynamic presenter. The key ones are:

The presentation (or a section of it) is too long

Keep things short and punchy. The neuroscientist, Dr John Medina wrote about the ’10 minute rule’ in his book on ‘Brain Rules’ as the optimum time people can listen passively before their attention moves elsewhere. His advice is therefore to keep things in 10-minute chunks before hooking your audience’s attention back with a story, joke or by somehow interrupting the flow of your presentation.

A lack of audience participation creates ‘sleep’ mode

A bit like computers, we quickly go into sleep mode if we are inactive for too long. As the presenter, you are very engaged and active – but for your audience, things are very passive and inactive. So you need to keep involving people either through questions and rhetorical questions (similar to a one-to-one conversation) or by actually getting them to do something to engage their energy.

Confusion or lack of understanding about what you are saying

If you confuse people and they have no opportunity to clarify what you mean, they will switch off. Therefore, you need to check understanding as you go through – particularly if you are presenting concepts or ideas that are new to people. Do this by checking people understand and encouraging people to ask questions rather than switch off.

The presentation meanders or has no structure

Don’t fall into this trap. Have a good introduction, which identifies a benefit to your audience of listening to your talk AND explains what you will cover. Then keep your structure as simple as you can before summarizing what you have covered with a powerful close.

The speaker’s voice is monotonous

Get feedback from others if you think this could apply to you. Add drama to your delivery by building in variation in your voice when you rehearse. Think contrasts to enhance your impact: louder/quieter, speed up/pause, high pitch/low pitch.

People are not interested in your subject – no clear relevance to the audience

This can be because you have pitched the subject to the wrong audience or you have not made it clear how people will benefit from listening. The first of these can be avoided by doing your research before your presentation to findi out who will be in your audience and what matters to them. The second can be avoided by making clear in your opening remarks and throughout your talk, how your presentation is relevant to their situation.

Using these ideas will help to make your next presentation really engaging – so that everyone is hanging on your words right to the end. Good luck!
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#InARightState what is your biggest nightmare about #presenting? 15th June free webinar RT
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pls RT #InARightState - free 30 min webinar Weds 15th June to end presentation fears
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Interesting post by Abhimanyu Ghoshal “Use virtual reality to overcome your fear of public ...” via The Next Web
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