10 Myths of Presentation and Public Speaking

  1. images[2]I’m better off winging it
    The problem with improvisation is that it’s terribly haphazard!  You’ll need some landmarks to stop you going off track.  A mind map can help to plan points without scripting.
  2. I need to write out my full speech before I speak
    Do you?  What a hassle!  A script can take longer to write than notes and is much more difficult to edit.  Even more importantly, we don’t speak as we write:  the language may be different and sentences are usually shorter
  3. …and then memorise it
    Hence the cause of crippling nerves and blanking out!  Make life easy on yourself: remember where you’re going and where you’ve been and you’ll find it easier to know where you are now without having to memorise anything
  4. Nerves are bad for Presentations and Pitches
    Actually, if you can control your nerves instead of letting them control you, the nerves become adrenalin.  In time, you’ll learn to enjoy the freedom of speaking in public (yes, I did say ‘enjoy’!).   Techniques to do this, include breathing, anchoring and visualisation.  More about this in future blogs.
  5. Make eye contact
    Merely looking up from your cue cards or taking a break from your PowerPoint is not making eye contact.  Getting a response from people by looking at them is.
  6. Begin with a joke
    Unless you are a comedian, try something a bit safer.  There are other, surer ways to make your audience comfortable and get a response, like those on the spice rack in this brochure.  Humour is often in integral part of a familiar situation but shouldn’t be treated as a technique of its own.
  7. You can’t change your voice
    Your voice is as unique as your fingerprint.  But you can change it by enlarging its scope in range, speaking on different pitches, making it resonant and using different rhythms, and clarifying your articulation.  It takes training and practice.
  8. Always introduce yourself at the beginning
    Think of how many times you’ve been out  and got talking to someone.  10 minutes later, you realise you don’t know each others’ names.  A presentation or pitch works the same way:  first grab attention, then say who you are.  It also makes you calmer as it reflects what we naturally do when chatting to people.
  9. ‘He’s a natural.’
    Just because a person has the ability to get up and talk before a group of people does not necessarily make this person an effective speaker.  If a speaker is effective, s/he has most likely prepared over a length of time, gathering creative, pertinent material that have personal importance.  Then s/he puts orders those thoughts clearly, using methods to engage an audience.
  10. Squeeze your buttocks
    OK, maybe this isn’t a common myth but I heard someone suggesting this during a radio interview. How I wish he’d been on television so that we could see him walking around like he had a bad case of haemorrhoids.  The rationale for buttock squeezing is that it stops women getting shaky legs when speaking and men should squeeze their thighs, for the same reason.  The speaker obviously wasn’t a performer otherwise he’d have used some more useful methods.

If you want to know how to stop shaking limbs, you’ll find the answer right here!

Presenting…you? Who WAS that?

‘I can’t remember names’ 


Speech developed long after body language and it is our non-verbal signals that enabled our ancestors to work out whether they could trust their spears to another or whether they might find themselves roasted over a fire.

Reading body language was literally life or death and allowed our forbears to assess mood and intention.

This is why when you meet someone for the first time, your brain is flooded with unconscious business, crushing brain data, received by non-verbal language, often blanking out the words themselves within the first few seconds (although not the intonation).

Scientists have measured the flood of this data at 400 million bits of data per second. Quite how they measured it is beyond me but suffice to say, with all that code coming through, it’s no wonder why we can’t remember names.

‘How rude! You never introduced yourself!’

So what would be the point of saying your name within the first minute of a presentation?As a presenter, the only action you need to take within the first minute, is to catch the attention of the audience, and only then do you need to introduce yourself. That’s exactly what you do in a conversation. Just in case there are any doubts that this would work, think back:Have you ever started talking to someone you’ve never met before and, having realised, you have no means to address them, then you ask their names?

If ‘yes’, think again: did you think, at any point in the conversation, ‘How rude! You never introduced yourself to me!’?  I guess you didn’t. That’s because you caught each others’ attention and had already assessed a mutual liking. By this point, you’d be more likely to remember their names because your brain would have pulled in and interpreted many of the initial non-verbal patterns.This is what you’d do in a presentation: grab someone’s attention, engage, then introduce yourself.This is why forgetting names, doesn’t mean you’re getting old, have a bad memory or some kind of brain block. You’re human and you’re not attuned to automatically remember someone’s name before you’ve worked out whether they’re a friend or foe.

How to ensure that your name is in their heads

1. Environment:

Your audience won’t remember their own names, let alone yours if they’re hungry, hot, need the toilet or feel unsafe or a time restriction. An example of this is when I presented in Turkey, in 40 degrees in an unventilated room in August. Before I started, I had to make sure that water was brought into the room and the windows were open.Sounds simple but many presenters forget that a) you can stage manage your space b) people won’t be listening to your inspiring talk when they’re dehydrating.The key to engagement is having your audiences’ basic needs sorted out beforehand.

2. Spice Rack:

 Start with one of the twelve attention grabbers that I have on my Spice Rack, before you say your name. Examples are* an anecdote – this can last for the entire presentation or just a sentence of it.* show a picture – or use visual language to describe something* use a prop – this can be a product or any other piece of realia.

3. What you do, not what your are:

Talk about What You Do, not just your Job Title

Example 1: My name is Dan and I’m a Senior Manager at 87Steps Software. – This does not tell anyone what you do!

Example 2: My name is Dan and I run the sales analysis team for 87Steps Software – This does tell people what you do!

Simple. See the difference?  Note: when you’re meeting people, pick Example 2.

You’re more likely to find opportunities with this than with the Example 1.

Maybe it is because of this propensity to forget names at the first instant, we invented ‘small talk’.  However, you decide to introduce yourself in a social situation, take the pressure of yourself and comment on the chocolate mousse, or the freezing cold, or the speaker: anything but your name. In a presentation, use the spice or adjust the environment. That way, you’re more likely to remember the names of others and they’ll remember yours.