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Speed matters

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Speaking speed matters. The brains of your audience members only work so fast. You need to give them time to take in what you’re saying.

What’s the speed to shoot for? You can use the Speed of Speech calculator to calculate the ideal words per minute. The author of the calculator, Jim Peterson, brings up some interesting points on speech speed.

If you’re addressing people who already agree with what you’re saying, speak more slowly so the audience can absorb your message and feel good about it. If you’re talking to a hostile audience, speak more quickly (around 160 wpm) to make it more difficult for the audience to form arguments against your message. So get a sense beforehand (if possible) if you’re speaking to a welcoming audience. You can then tailor your speed accordingly.

If you’re delivering technical information, opt for a slower speed (between 110 and 140 wpm) so people can fully take in your speech. Technical presentations typically have a lot of jargon and data. It’s essential to give the audience enough time to process it all.

To recap:

  • Speaking speed for welcoming audience: 140 wpm
  • Speed for hostile audience: 160 wpm
  • Speed for technical presentations: 110-140 wpm

No notes no more!

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Have you ever sat through a presentation where the presenter read the PowerPoint slides word for word? I mean…they read EVERYTHING and added NOTHING else. If so, do you remember thinking, “if I’d gotten the slides beforehand, I wouldn’t even have to be sitting here”? I can’t possibly be alone on this one!

Never read your presentation word for word. Perhaps you’re tempted to do it because you think that’ll ensure that you don’t miss any important points. What really happens, however, is that the audience stops listening. A voice that reads is almost always less interesting to listen to than a voice that doesn’t. When you read to yourself, do you do so in an animated and engaging voice? Didn’t think so.

What to do if you have a lot to say and want to make sure that you say it all?

While practicing your speech, make a list of topics and beneath each topic, a list of bullet points. Then practice your speech until you have all the topics and bullet points down cold. For instance, if I had to give a speech on a project’s progress, my topics might be:

  1. Tasks already done
  2. Tasks to be done
  3. Issues & proposed solutions
  4. Costs
  5. Time

The bullet points might be:

  1. Tasks already done – marketing assessment, R&D assessment, quality assessment, etc.
  2. Tasks to be done – product requirements specifications, risk analysis, design & development plan, etc.
  3. Issues – lack of operations representative for project (solution: request an ops rep from the appropriate department), unanticipated cost for legal assessment (solution: present options to do the assessment in house or outsource it), etc.
  4. Costs – cost performance index, earned value, present value, actual costs
  5. Time – schedule performance index, lack of operations rep has delayed operations assessment, no operation assessment has delayed timeline by X days, etc.

I’d practice my presentation until I had covered all the bullet points in the topics without missing any. I wouldn’t rely on reading PowerPoint slides or note cards to get me through the presentation. I’d even make sure that I didn’t have enough text on my slides so I wouldn’t be enticed into reading them verbatim.

So give this method a try. And say goodbye to note cards forever!

I’m nervous about giving a speech. What should I do?

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You have a speech to give, and you’re nervous. So nervous that you’re thinking of every excuse in the book to get out of it. What can you do to make sure your speech is a success? Here are 3 tips:

1. Tell stories

Remember when you were a kid and your mom or dad would read you a bedtime story before you went to bed? Remember how happy that made you feel? Well, adults like stories, too! Telling stories makes it much more likely that your audience will listen. Just make sure that your stories are easy to follow, are personal, and are pertinent to your speech. No tangents allowed!

2. Practice beforehand

Especially if public speaking isn’t your thing, DON’T WING IT. Knowing your material well will help put you at ease. While practicing your speech, write down all the topics you will cover and bullet points beneath each topic. Practice your speech until you hit all the topics and bullets points without even thinking about them.

3. Believe in what you’re saying

It’s VERY difficult to deliver a convincing speech if you don’t believe in the message. So…make sure that you believe in the message. If you believe in what you’re saying, confidence tends to shine through.

Above all else, realize that everyone gets nervous when public speaking, even those who do it for a living. So go easy on yourself. You’ll get better every time you give it a go!

Why entrepreneurs should embrace public speaking + FREE Course

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If you’re an entrepreneur, I’m sure you value the ability to speak well in front of people.  If you’re an entrepreneur who is seeking investor funding, effective public speaking becomes even more important. Why?

A pitch from a great public speaker elicits confidence in the speaker. Who would you rather give money to: someone who is humming and hawing all throughout the pitch, or someone who delivers the pitch self-assuredly? Door number 2, please! I don’t think I’m alone in that sentiment. Investors by and large are way more likely to invest in people who communicate well. If they communicate well to the investors, chances are they’ll communicate well to employees, vendors, and customers. You know what all that leads to? Money!

If you’re an entrepreneur who doesn’t pitch to investors, you still have to communicate. How do you get your employees to be productive? How about getting vendors to provide you with what you want? And getting customers to buy? Public speaking! If you present clearly to employees what you need them to do, they’ll be more productive and make money for your enterprise. If you tell vendors exactly what you need, they’re more likely to give it to you. If you give customers a clear vision of what your product or service will do for them and how it will transform them, they’re more likely to buy.

You know what else excelling at public speaking can lead to? Opportunities you weren’t even looking for. Public speaking led me to join a speaker’s guild, which led me to get speaking engagements I didn’t even know existed. It also led me to meet people who would later appear as guests on my podcast that focuses on…public speaking!

To recap, for people who pitch, public speaking:

  • elicits confidence, which
  • makes investors more likely to invest, and
  • results in your business flourishing.

Even for non-investor-pitching entrepreneurs, public speaking:

  • Makes employees more productive
  • Improves vendor relations
  • Leads to more customer purchases

There’s really no downside to becoming a better public speaker. It makes sense to work on it. So get on it!

Be done with bank fees!

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This post has nothing to do with anything I’ve written before. A fellow member of the Freelance to Freedom Project Community Facebook group asked a question about monthly expenses. She posted her monthly expenses and one expense jumped out at me – $22 bank account fee. Her bank charges her $22 a month for just having the account. I had to tell her about my way to get around this fee. And since I told her, it’s only right that I tell you.

Most banks will waive the bank account fee if you maintain a minimum daily amount in the account (e.g. $1500) or if you have direct deposit. When you’re an employee, direct deposit is easy to set up. When you’re an entrepreneur, though, you may not have money deposited into your account on a consistent basis.

Who wants to maintain $1500 in a checking account that doesn’t earn any interest? Not me. Why not implement your own direct deposit system?

I have an online savings account with Emigrant Bank. The interest rate is low, but at least it’s better than 0% that a typical checking account offers. Most banks will allow a monthly automatic deposit to the account, as long as the deposited amount meets a minimum. At my bank, the minimum amount is $500. Every month on the 15th, I have $500 automatically transferred from my online savings account to my checking account. Direct deposit system implemented! Bank account fee? Gone! And my money is earning interest in the savings account. I just need to always make sure that there’s at least $500 in my online savings account. And I had to make sure that the transaction was an ACH (American Clearing House) credit transaction. Your bank should be able to tell you whether that is the case.

So if you want to say goodbye to bank account fees forever, follow these steps:

1. Open a savings account.
2. Keep at least the minimum amount your bank requires for direct deposit in the savings account.
3. Set up the savings account to automatically transfer the minimum amount from the savings account to your checking account.

Simple.

3 reasons employees should improve as public speakers

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When I worked as an engineer, I knew that public speaking was an important skill to have. I didn’t work on it, though. I wasn’t at work to be a speaker, I told myself. I really shot myself in the foot with this mentality.

Here are three reasons that employees should strive to become better public speakers. I wish I had taken my own advice!

  1. It conveys intelligence

A few months after starting a job as an engineer, I learned that I’d have to give monthly presentations to upper management. I struggled at first. While presenting, I’d look down at my feet a lot. I knew what my shoes looked like REALLY well. I mumbled a lot, too. Needless to say, I doubt I made a favorable first impression. When I started actually looking at the execs and enunciating my words, I’m sure their thoughts on me changed. I sounded and looked like I knew what I was talking about. Turns out execs appreciate that kind of thing.

  1. It improves productivity

I used to be a project leader. Every week, I’d call a meeting with the project team. At first, I wasn’t good at explaining what needed to be done for the project. Things would fall through the cracks. You’d be surprised at how productivity picks up when people know what to do the first time.

  1. It leads to promotions and pay raises

So many employees avoid public speaking, which makes the ones that do it more noticeable. Have you ever felt that the wrong people at your company were getting promotions and pay raises? Chances are the reason that they got them is because they were more visible. Why were they more visible? They spoke to decision makers more often. I wish I had a personal example for this one. My bank account would definitely be healthier because of it!

3 Tips to Make People Understand

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For several years, I worked in the medical devices industry as a product development engineer. I often had to make presentations to my coworkers about what I was working on. It wouldn’t be uncommon for them to know nothing about my work. I had to find a way to make it understandable to them. Here are 3 tips for speaking to people who are not in your field about your field.

  1. Explain field-specific terms

Especially if your field is chock full of technical terms not commonly known by the general public, it’s important to explain what you’re trying to convey. For instance, I used to work with osteoblasts. I couldn’t just keep repeating osteoblasts over and over again and expect my coworkers to know what they were. I had to explain what they were (osteoblasts are the cells in our body that make bone, by the way). If you’re able to provide a handout with definitions of terms, even better.

  1. Use visuals

Whether you use tables, graphs, or even cartoons, visually being able to represent what you’re talking about is always helpful, specifically to those who don’t know your field well. The following graphic is a great representation of osteoblasts. With time, tiny projections from an osteoblast protrude outwards and connect with other osteoblasts, forming a bone matrix (yeah, I know I’m nerdy). The graphic really helps people visualize what an osteoblast’s function. Visuals also break up all the text, which an audience always appreciates.

  1. Be open to feedback

There may be times when you think that something is clear when it’s not. How do you know when things aren’t clear? When your audience doesn’t understand. If they don’t understand, you could’ve presented better. Be willing to accept constructive criticism. Seek it out even. It’ll only make your presentations more effective.

Low attendance for your speech? No problem!

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I recently gave a presentation at the regional gathering of the Greater Los Angeles Area Mensa (GLAAM). I’ve never attended a “gathering” before.  I guess GLAAM’s too cool to call it a meeting…

The regional gathering was a 3 day event, and I presented on the final day. I didn’t realize that I’d be the second to last presenter of the entire gathering.  Needless to say, attendance was meagre at best – there were perhaps 6 people in the audience. But I didn’t let that get me down. Here are 3 tips to make a lowly attended event soar.

Ask the audience members to sit closer to the front

I get it. Going back to school days, the cool kids sat in the back.  But I insisted that people move to the front. It made the presentation more personal. Not only that, but I had no microphone.  I didn’t have to talk as loudly with people sitting up front. Save my voice? I’m a fan of that!

Address the audience members by name

During my presentation, I have a bit where I rail against sustained eye contact. I was once told that a presenter should look an audience member in the eye for 3 seconds before moving on the next victim…I mean audience member. At the gathering, there was a man in the front row. I asked him his name. He said it was David. I walked up to David and stared at him, right in his face. I was so close I could smell what he had for lunch. I counted off 3 seconds. The other audience members had a good laugh, and agreed with me that perhaps 3 seconds was a bit much! I likely wouldn’t have done this with a larger crowd, since those at the back wouldn’t have been able to see what I was doing. But with a small group? More foolishness!

Have a longer Q&A session after the speech

I cut my presentation off a little early to have a longer Q&A session because, with a smaller group, I could give more in depth answers. The more people there are in the audience, the shorter the answers must be to accommodate as many people as possible. The questions I received from the longer Q&A also helped me to think of new things to add to my presentation.

Even if the number of people in the audience is low, your presentation isn’t a lost cause. You can still get a lot out it. Just look at it as an opportunity to connect even more with your audience. It should be easier to do so – there’s less of them after all!

3 must-do tips to improve your conference presentation

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Do you have to make presentations at conferences? Back when I was an engineer, I’d sometimes have to go to conferences to present my work. After doing several of these presentations, I realized that not every presenter placed much thought into their presentation – myself included. They just put their data on PowerPoint slides and read through the slides. Many in the audience didn’t pay attention, evidenced by audience members playing on their phones, talking to friends seated nearby, and even staring into space (maybe I’m the only culprit of the last one). Can you imagine how more effective conference presentations could be if the presenters kept their audience in mind when presenting?

Here are some tips on how to present at a conference:

  1. Add something unexpected to the presentation
  2. Practice beforehand
  3. Anticipate questions

It’s not uncommon for there to be one hour of uninterrupted presentations at conferences. That’s a lot of attention to pay! A way to make presentations more interesting is to include something that people don’t see coming. Perhaps a funny quote or picture as a sojourn from all the graphs and tables. Getting people to laugh will make them more likely to pay attention to the drier stuff. If they find your data laughable, though, that’s an entirely different issue…

Presentations at conferences are often timed. You’d be surprised at how often people go over time, likely because they didn’t practice beforehand. Always time the presentation, aiming for the middle of the time range. For instance, if the range is 8 to 10 minutes, aim for 9 minutes. No one appreciates a speech that runs over time. People stop listening out of annoyance. And people ask questions that were answered during the speech because they stopped listening out of annoyance. Avoid annoyance.

I always squirm when I see presenters get questions they don’t know how to answer. It’s uncomfortable for everyone, I’m sure. Presenters should really take time thinking up questions that they could get. They know the blind spots of their research. They should anticipate that people in the audience will pick at those blind spots. Have answers ready to address them. Do it for my sake. I don’t like to squirm!

Now if there was only a way to get every presenter at every conference I’ve ever attended to read this blog post…

The Top 10 List for Pitching to Investors

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A few months ago, I attended a panel discussion involving pitching to investors. I had the pleasure of hearing from four panelists: Jeff Friedman (Tech Coast Angels), Larry Fromm (Achates Power), Diane West (2Connect Presentation Training), and Grace Chui-Miller (Correlation Ventures). They all dropped some informative nuggets of wisdom when it comes to pitching. If you’re an entrepreneur and are preparing for your first pitch (or millionth), take these 10 tips to heart!

  1. Get the audience’s attention within the first minute (Larry says you have one minute to grab investors’ attention before they tune out. Facebook photos won’t scroll through themselves after all. Larry also says that if you have an hour for the pitch, do it in 20 minutes, leaving the rest of the time for Q&A.)
  2. Tell the audience a story (Diane understands that investors need data to make an informed decision about your company, but she implores people who are pitching to couch that data in stories. Kids like stories. Adults do, too.)
  3. Know your audience (According to Diane, the story that the pitch audience wants to hear will vary. The technology-minded will want to hear a technology story. The business-minded? Surprise – a business story. Find out beforehand who will be in the audience to tailor the story to the audience.)
  4. Be honest about challenges (A pet peeve of Jeff is presenters that say that they have no problems. There are always issues to overcome. Be honest about them. The investors, if they choose to take you on, may be able to help.)
  5. Focus on your strengths, not your competitors’ weaknesses (Larry is immediately turned off by pitch presenters who disparage the competition. Chances are that the pitch audience knows your competitors and all their warts. Focus on the benefits of your product and how it addresses the problem you’re solving.)
  6. Don’t claim that you have no competitors (When she hears a pitch presenter say that there is no competition, Grace thinks either that the pitch presenter didn’t do his homework or is lying to make his product seem more novel. Acknowledge the competition. It makes you seem more knowledgeable of the market.)
  7. Don’t include financial models with dramatic increases (If you’re a pitch presenter, do you have a slide in your deck that resembles a hockey stick, rising uniformly over a 10 year period then leveling off? Ditch that slide. Grace believes that 2-3 year financial projections are the best a pitch presenter can reasonably estimate. 10 years? 15 years? No way.)
  8. Always have backup slides with more detailed information on hand (In Jeff’s group at Tech Coast Angels, the pitch audience is often mixed. If a scientist has a technology-related question, have slides that address his question available. Don’t present those slides unless asked, especially if the majority of the audience is not science or technology savvy.)
  9. Be confident, not arrogant (Diane’s view is that there’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance. The line consists of listening. Confidence is quiet. Arrogance is loud. Listen to learn the audience’s needs. Be receptive to feedback.)
  10. Don’t try to get married on the first date (Larry is adamant that the purpose of a pitch is to start a conversation, not end it. Investors don’t typically write a check at the end of a pitch. The goal of the pitch is to get the pitch presenter to the next phase of the investors’ selection process. Hopefully, closing the deal will come soon enough!)