Public speaking is something anyone can learn to do, but how do you overcome public speaking nerves?
Joshua D. Smith is a public speaking trainer, podcast host and two-time Distinguished Toastmaster.
He explains some key public speaking techniques, how to overcome the fear associated with public speaking, and ways to construct your presentation and keep your audience engaged.
Joshua D. Smith of Your Speaking Voice
Website: Your Speaking Voice
Facebook: Your Speaking Voice
LinkedIn: Your Speaking Voice
Joshua D. Smith is a two-time Distinguished Toastmaster residing in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Joshua has worked for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for over 13 years, with his most recent assignment as an IT Procurement Specialist with the Department of General Services. He also serves as a Board Member for the Shalom House, an organisation located in the Alison Hill section of Harrisburg, PA that provides emergency shelter services to women and children.
Joshua opened up a coaching and consulting business in January 2023 called Your Speaking Voice LLC, with the mission to transform our “voice” in this ever-changing world through an extensive listing of services for individuals and businesses to engage in, which include public speaking training, interview preparation and resume writing/review services. He is also the host of the podcast extending from his work in the business, Speaking From The Heart, which is advancing the mission of engaging in conversation that allows us to become the best version of ourselves.
Joshua has been an active Toastmaster since April 2012, holding all club officer roles and all District-level positions (except for the role of District Director). Joshua belongs to the HYP Toastmasters club, a young professionals club in which he started his Toastmasters’ journey.
Joshua currently serves as the Assistant Division Director for Program Quality in Division A in District 38, helping to facilitate education and training opportunities in clubs. He is also working on his journey to become an Accredited Speaker, a designation in Toastmasters that fewer than 100 have been able to achieve since the program’s inception.
What you’ll learn in this episode
- [1:52] Organisations that can help improve your public speaking.
- [4:30] How Joshua got started with Toastmasters.
- [6:05] The ways Joshua helps people find their voice with his business.
- [7:07] The three core values of Joshua’s business.
- [8:25] What ”glossophobia” is and how to overcome it.
- [10:35] The difference between nervousness and a fear of public speaking.
- [13:25] Why authenticity is so key in public speaking.
- [14:52] Practical steps to reduce nerves before giving a presentation.
- [19:34] How to put content together for a specific audience.
- [22:50] The difference between having a general purpose and a specific purpose.
- [24:09] What you can do to keep your audience focused.
- [25:08] What materials to give your audience and when to hand them out.
- [30:20] How much content to include in a PowerPoint presentation.
- [32:04] How to position your body when giving a presentation.
- [32:40] The benefits of using notes instead of a script when giving a presentation.
- [35:20] How to write notes for a presentation.
- [38:11] The preparation time that goes into a presentation.
- [42:06] Effective ways of practicing a presentation.
- [47:00] How to get comfortable with your voice.
- [48:30] A checklist of what you need in order to avoid presentation mistakes.
- [52:35] How to recover when a presentation goes wrong.
Resources mentioned in this episode
Please note that some of these are affiliate links and we may get a commission in the event that you make a purchase. This helps us to cover our expenses and is at no additional cost to you.
Episode 169: How to give engaging presentations at work and beat your fear of public speaking - with Joshua D. Smith of Your Speaking Voice
Jeremy Cline 0:00
Your boss comes over to your desk and says to you, 'I'd like you to give a presentation.' And you start to feel nervous. In fact, you start to feel terrified. How are you going to put it together? What are you going to talk about? How are you going to keep your audience interested? What happens if things go wrong? What slides or handouts should you prepare? If ever you've asked yourself any of these questions before giving a presentation, then this episode is for you. I'm Jeremy Cline, and this is Change Work Life.
Jeremy Cline 0:44
Hello, and welcome to Change Work Life, the show that's all about beating the Sunday evening blues and enjoying Mondays again. If you want to know how you can enjoy a more satisfying and fulfilling working life, you're in the right place. And don't forget to subscribe to the podcast. We've got some amazing interviews lined up, so make sure you subscribe so you get them as soon as they come out. It's no secret that public speaking can be intimidating. But in many careers, the ability to give a presentation can be essential, whether it is a pitch to a new client, training colleagues, or speaking at a conference. So, how can you overcome your fears? And what are some of the ways you can prepare for an upcoming presentation? I'm delighted to be joined this week by Joshua Smith to help answer these questions. Josh is a Toastmaster and founder of Your Speaking Voice, a coaching and consulting business with the mission of transforming our voice through, among other things, public speaking training. Josh, welcome to the podcast.
Joshua Smith 1:42
Thanks a lot, Jeremy. Pleasure to be here.
Jeremy Cline 1:45
Can you start by telling us a bit about Toastmasters? It's something that I've heard of, but what is it, and who is it for?
Joshua Smith 1:52
Toastmasters is an amazing organisation for anybody, whether it is personal, but mostly professional nowadays, especially as we have a lot of different presentation types that we give, and I think even since COVID, it has become even more important because of video communication, which is just one method of delivery that we use. But Toastmasters is an international organisation. It was founded 99 years ago. So, we're on the eve of its century birthday coming up next year. But the organisation is founded by Dr Ralph Smedley, he's no longer with us, but he founded it at some local YMCAs here in the United States where I reside. And the main method was actually to teach men how to publicly speak. So, he had classes at the local YMCA in which he conducted these. Well, times have changed, and he had evolved the organisation into a curriculum that included communication leadership, allowed women in in the 1970s, thank goodness, because that was a great opportunity to see their contributions to the organisation itself, which had its first woman president shortly thereafter by the name of Helen Blanchard. But the organisation is really geared towards anybody that wants to learn how to publicly speak. Now, I don't know how it is where you live, Jeremy, or even where your audience might live, your listeners, but there are two types of organisations here in the United States. I try to distinguish why Toastmasters is different. Toastmasters, if you want to join an organisation like that, will work on how you speak and how to effectively deliver a speech. So, really the mechanics. I think of it as learning your trade. As opposed to the National Speakers Association, which has a variety of different names around the world in terms of their variation, but the National Speakers Association will teach you how to market yourself as a speaker. So, the two organisations some people might have heard, but they're completely different. But Toastmasters is really where I started my journey over 12 years ago. It has helped me so much with not just my confidence, but also, giving me some of my basic public speaking skills that I still use, even through my business to this day. So, I think it's really important, no matter what kind of skill set you have, you could be a novice, or you could be a complete expert in your trade, Toastmasters is welcoming of everybody of all backgrounds.
Jeremy Cline 4:23
What was your introduction into Toastmasters? How did you find out about it and decided it was for you?
Joshua Smith 4:29
I love my story because it was a friend, ironically enough, I'm no longer friends with, but I do feel that her connection at that time was really important. She saw me struggling quite a lot with starting out in a career, which I started out with Commonwealth Pennsylvania as a state worker, which I still do to this day full time, but hope to transition my business more into doing more coaching and consulting. But she introduced me to it when she was attending her own set of Toastmaster meetings at a different location. So, since Toastmasters has a variety of different in-person and video conferencing types of modes of delivery, at that time which I joined, the person that recommended it to me really said, 'Look, I don't know where you're at in your journey, I don't know if you really need this, but I found this to be really helpful, and I think that you should check this out.' So, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, state capital of the state of Pennsylvania, where I live, I walked into a Toastmasters club at a local university and met a whole bunch of people. And when I met those people, that changed my life forever, because I didn't realise how much I lacked confidence. I didn't realise how tough it was to articulate a thought. And it was because of my friend, essentially, seeing that potential and seeing where I was leading myself to, that really helped me to get started.
Jeremy Cline 6:00
And you briefly touched on your business, do you want to tell us a little bit more about what that is?
Joshua Smith 6:05
Yeah. And my business, Your Speaking Voice LLC is based in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, but I meet with clients all over the world. That's my goal. I have a few people that I meet around the United States right now, but I'm looking to continuously expand. But my goal with the business is to find our 'voice', and I use 'voice' in quotation marks, in this ever-changing world. And I use the word voice because it isn't just about the words that we say, but it's also about how we present ourselves, how we articulate ourselves, how we present our thoughts and aspirations and our opportunities to become the best versions of ourselves, which doesn't just happen with words, but by action, as well, so the nonverbal. So, I really started it to not only get people equipped, whether they are going through my life coaching programme, professional development, or you might even be a business for that matter, I work with all kinds of different types of individuals, because I see the potential in every single person, which just really quick, the values that I provide are really surrounded by three aspects of the business: building relationships, which I think it's really important to have people surrounding us to become better versions of ourselves, having confidence, which, as I even just mentioned earlier, I learned that in Toastmasters, but it allows us to create that opportunity inside of ourselves of that fire to be capable of doing something that we never thought possible, but really being determined. So, the determination factor is not just having the ability to have friends and people that influence you, it's not just about having that goal to keep moving forward, but the determination factor is that fire that you have inside of you, the willingness to change or to help others. Given my large story of where I've been, I think that it's really important to just continuously remember that you always have that opportunity. And Jeremy, I even believe in that in you. So, I think it's really important to think that we all on the same playing field called Earth, and I think that it's important that we continuously grow with those facets. So, that's why I started the business.
Jeremy Cline 8:21
Now, you introduced me to a word I'd never heard before, glossophobia.
Joshua Smith 8:27
Jeremy Cline 8:28
What is it and what causes it?
Joshua Smith 8:30
Yeah, glossophobia is the fear of public speaking. And glossophobia is actually still, if you check even some surveys over the past several years, the number one fear that people have of dying from, the fear of actually getting in front of people and speaking. It's even worse than arachnophobia, the fear of spiders, or even the fear of just death itself. So, people are fearful of speaking in front of audiences, which is why you hear so much in articles, magazines, newspapers, about the importance of being able to articulately speak and be able to convey points. I think the biggest thing that I've seen with working with people, especially even in Toastmasters the last decade, is that a lot of people are self-conscious about what other people think of them when they're on the stage. And it doesn't matter if it's from a personal or for your audience, Jeremy, the professional aspect of it, because I feel that people judge others because of what they see on the outside. But what they don't realise is that, what we have in the inside is what we're really afraid of, being able to share that message that we might have hidden within ourselves that we need to take a key and unlock what's inside that treasure chest of ours. So, if we're able to pull that out and be able to articulate it in such a conveying manner, I think it makes a big difference. And I think that's why a lot of people still think glossophobia is the biggest challenge, even beyond death itself, which I still find fascinating to this day, but it's true.
Jeremy Cline 10:14
And what's the difference between glossophobia, so the phobia or fear of public speaking, and just good old-fashioned nervousness? I mean, I've done loads of podcast interviews, a reasonable amount of presenting and that kind of stuff, and I still get nervous before them, but I wouldn't describe that as a phobia. So, I'm interested to know where, if anywhere, there is the dividing line.
Joshua Smith 10:38
Oh, I'm nervous right now, Jeremy, as it is, just doing this podcast too.
Jeremy Cline 10:42
I would never have guessed.
Joshua Smith 10:43
Yeah. And it's surprising to some people when they hear that from me, because they say to me, 'Josh, you sound so articulate, or you sound like you know what you're talking about.' But that's because of the training that I've been undergoing for so many years and continuously refining it. So, that's the key to your question, being able to continuously work on it, so that you feel a lot better. Because there's the fear aspect, as you pointed out, and then also the nervousness aspect. So, fear is essentially self-generated. Fear is because of all the natural tendencies that millions of years ago human beings had, because that really put our check and balance into making sure that we didn't get ourselves into dangerous situations, which for some people, public speaking can be a very dangerous situation, because they feel that that is a concern not only for their own well-being, but as I said earlier, the challenge that people often think is, what are people going to think of me after I present this presentation. But nervousness is a component that you can harness. What I mean by that is, I'm nervous right now, I can sit here and fidget and squirm, and people could notice if there were a lot more individuals surrounding us. But the biggest key about nervousness is that I contain that. And it's just a matter of what's the level of excitement that's happening. Because when people get excited, there's a chemical reaction in our bodies that creates that excitement factor of, oh, I'm going to be doing something different, it's something unusual from what I normally have done in the past, or maybe haven't done in a while for that matter. But if I know that that nervousness level is going up, I can control that by using it for other means. So, what I mean by that is, when I get really excited or have energy that I want to share, instead of being nervous about it, I'm going to project that to not only my audience, but also, to the content that I'm sharing, because I know that my message is really good, and I know that I've worked on that message so hard, so I can present that to others. So, the key is not just having the nervousness control, which you can use and channel that into other things, but once you start to get over that fear, which does take a lot of work, because it does take practice to also do the same, we get over that fear of just saying to yourself, 'I don't know what these people are going to say to me or make me feel.' Whether that's in a personal professional context, it changes everything that you feel about yourself and makes you more authentic. Authentic is my key phrase so many times, because being your authentic self means sharing a piece of yourself through that process. That means you're overcoming fear and your nervousness by being able to share the message that's inside that treasure box that we were talking about. So, if you're able to unlock that, people are going to judge you in a way that isn't negative. And you might be surprised that, even if you just gave it a shot, even if you have never done it before, and I've seen this happen, people might think that you actually are quite eloquent, and you know how to present yourself.
Jeremy Cline 14:09
So, in terms of practicality, so you've got a presentation coming up, and you are feeling something, we could debate whether it's fear, we could debate whether it's nervousness, we could debate whether it's a combination of the two, what practical things can people do maybe in the hour before the presentation, in the five minutes before the presentation to, well, I suppose first of all, what would someone be seeking to do in terms of getting over this fear or getting over the nerves? So, what would be the result that people would be looking for, and what are some techniques that you can suggest for people to do that?
Joshua Smith 14:50
Yeah, great questions overall, and I have to caveat this too. Each presentation is unique by design and nature. So, my advice that I will give might be more generalised than more conceptualised in the sense that it might be for certain situations you can apply this to. There might be other situations where it might not work. So, if you are writing this down as you go along, I think it's really important to note that these items I'm about to say can be used in a variety of different ways, and they can be tailored in a lot of different ways. But I also want to say this, just as a caveat too, is that our brains are quite different. I don't know if you know this about me, Jeremy, but I found out earlier this year that I'm autistic at an adult stage. So, the way that my autism works, in which I usually take in a lot more information, and I'd like to know a lot of detail, like maybe where I'm going, what's the setup, what are the people I'm talking to, what's the material I'm covering, I need to have all that in line, in order for my autistic brain to be able to process it. But I think of autism, and I've said this to other people, as being a superpower. It's allowed me to help so many different other individuals to kind of cope with it. So, with all that said, here's a couple of things that I've seen work over the years that have been really impactful even for me. And I'll give you a perfect example. This happened to me just a few months ago when I was presenting at a conference. Again, have everything ready to go, and I have a PowerPoint presentation, something visual to show to the audience. It was an in-person format. It was a quick one-hour workshop in which I engaged women that were in the room about how they can make more confident presentations at their business. Well, I got there, got everything set up, and what do you know, what's the one thing that you need to connect to your computer to a projector, Jeremy, what do you think?
Jeremy Cline 16:54
I would guess some kind of cable.
Joshua Smith 16:56
Correct! I forgot the cable that I needed to be able to plug in. So, all that hard work of the PowerPoint that I had, my visual was now out the window, because no one's going to see a small 15-inch screen to be able to see what I'm presenting. One of the biggest things that anybody can do in situations like that is just be ready and be flexible for things like that to happen. So, my presentation didn't really need to rely on a visual component. If you make it so that your presentations are flexible in nature, to what you think is your speaking style, which you can develop over time, you can anticipate situations like this from happening, and you can even work with those deficiencies that come up because you forgot your cable that you need to plug in. So, I think it's really important to be able to be flexible. That's number one. Number two is, when you are going through the preparing stage of your speaking, and you are trying to figure out, well, what do I need to talk about, what are some of the details that I need, I say this so many different times, and I think it's so important, is that you need to know your audience. And your audience is the key in which how you present that information. So, for example, if you're a business professional, and you know that you got to go in in the next five minutes to present to a bunch of senior level executives, are you going to take two hours with them to go through detail by detail of what is needed? Absolutely not! Because their time is valuable. That meeting might have been only scheduled for 15 minutes or less, because they have to do other things that are already on their calendar to begin with. So, I think it's really important to know that, if you're going to talk to an audience like that, you make it short, succinct, and you hit the high-level bullets. For a more technical audience, maybe the ones that actually are the doers of the organisation, maybe those are the engineers, maybe those are the people that are architects, maybe those are the people that help with the training, you are going to provide a lot more detail for them because they need those details, those are critical components, in which your presentation will rely on for them to do some of their work. So, you might have a little bit more longer time. That means that you can go into more specific ideas or concerns that you provide to that audience. So, it's about knowing your audience. That's number two. Really quickly. Oh, go ahead.
Jeremy Cline 19:32
Yeah, once you've identified your audience, where do you start in terms of piecing together the message and the content that you want to get across?
Joshua Smith 19:44
Yeah, there are three things that I think of when it comes to once you know who you're talking to. First off, it's the topic. Now, I know sometimes people think, 'Well, the topic is already given to me. What can I do about that?' I always think of it as an iceberg. Now, many people are familiar with the iceberg concept in which you see most of the iceberg on the top. But most people don't see what's underneath the surface of an iceberg. So, I think of the fact that for many people that are trying to prepare their topic, they're just looking at what's on the surface, what's available. And that's pretty general, maybe everybody knows what we're talking about. But maybe your audience is looking for something a little bit more, maybe something underneath what you see of that iceberg. So, I always challenge people to think of being more specific with the topic. Sure, you have the general topic that you need to talk about. But if you identify specific things that you're going to narrow down on, it makes your speech or your presentation much more effective. The other thing is, once you do that topic, just starting to write a draft outline. That means just having a general purpose, which is really what kind of speech is it, informational, educational nature, it can be persuasive, it could be entertaining, it could be humorous, depends on what your audience is, but for most people it will be informational. So, you have a general purpose. But what's the specific purpose? Most people forget about that. And the specific purpose really details why you're giving that speech, what is it that you're trying to specifically achieve. So, if it's about giving quarterly sales figures to your senior executives, well, that's your specific purpose. Once you have that specific purpose, you're able to start to narrow down on the main points and the specific points within those main points, so that you can write your draft outline. Once you do your topic, once you do your outline, everything else comes along with it. The graphics that you might need to put together, the information that you might need to collect, that might mean talking to other people, having first-hand accounts, it might be looking at secondary resources, such as newspapers, articles, things of that nature, maybe things specific to the trade. But more importantly, it could be even visual graphics, like bar charts, pie graphs, things of that nature. You start to build all those things into what you think is the masterpiece, but it's just your first draft. So, going through the editing process after that will be really important. But to really put this in a nice present box to present to someone, it's really about topic selection, looking what's below, looking at writing an outline, and then being able to build all the information as presented with it. Because that will lead you into feeling a little bit better, because you have a source of information to start from to present.
Jeremy Cline 22:46
And that's a really important point that you made there about the general purpose and the specific purpose and how it ties together. Because in my line of work, I give quite a lot of internal training sessions, which are usually on pretty technical topics, so it's my bread and butter. But I have to remember that I'm not giving this presentation to show off my knowledge. I mean, I am to an extent, because I'm talking to people, I'm hoping they're going to give me some work. So, you know, there is a bit of that. But I'm certainly not giving the training so that people become experts on the subject matter. That's what I'm there for, I'm the resource for that. What I'm looking to do is to raise awareness so that something might come across someone's desk, and they think, 'Oh, no, hang on a minute, there's an issue here, isn't there? Yeah. Okay, I think I better pick up the phone to Jeremy and find out what that's about.' So, it gives people the confidence that they know when they might need some additional advice. Yeah, it's quite important for me that I have that in mind and encapsulate that when I'm delivering a training session, especially if it can be quite a dry, technical subject.
Joshua Smith 24:07
And you can even state that to the audience. This is why you're here today. And it might seem obvious, because they might have received that meeting invitation in their calendar, they might have already known that this is a placeholder, but it helps to focus the audience. And it might actually perk some curiosity of, oh, this is a little bit different. It's not our standard run of the mill, weekly touchpoint meetings or quarterly calls. It actually helps you as a leader of that presentation, whether you're doing it yourself or within teams of different individuals that are helping you to put it together, to really know what your piece is to this bigger puzzle that you're trying to solve, or you're trying to educate on, or whatever that purpose is, so that you feel a little bit better about yourself, going all the way back to addressing your confidence, addressing the fear of public speaking, and even getting over nervousness for that matter.
Jeremy Cline 25:06
I would like to address a few received wisdoms that I've been told about giving presentations and to hear your take on them. So, the first one that I have in mind is, what it is that the audience receives in terms of slides or handouts, that kind of thing, and when. So, one of the things I've been told is, don't give your audience copies of the slides, because it'll just distract them. Don't give them a big handout with lots of text, because that will also distract them, they're looking at that trying to figure out where they are in the presentation. Send all that to them afterwards, or have it at the back of the room for them to pick up. Part of me thinks that an audience does like to have something to scribble on, and so, having slides with lines next to them for notes, that might be something that they like, but yeah, curious to hear what you think of in terms of best practice.
Joshua Smith 26:10
I have to say that there is such a thing as death by PowerPoint, or death by having too many things on a presentation deck, whether you use Prezi, or you use your Canva software subscription to create your slides, it doesn't matter, whatever format or whatever type of presentation software that you use to create it, there are some basic etiquettes in it. Now, I have heard of not giving handouts to your audience. But I like to challenge that belief a bit, because people, as I said earlier, learn in different ways, being what we call here in the United States, probably even in other areas of the world, being neurodivergent means we all have to understand that people learn in various speaking and learning styles in which they process information, and they are able to retain it for future use. So, I think that you need to cater to all audiences. So, yes, I do recommend giving the slides, because even if you give them in advance, people can follow along. But there's a trade-off with that. The trade off is, some people might not ever look at you as a presenter. And I have to really emphasise this as a big important point. You are not the PowerPoint presentation; you are you. Meaning, don't rely on the presentation software to do all the work for you. You are still a confident, eloquent speaker, and I want to hear you, and I want to see your eyes looking at me when I'm in the audience. Because I want to make that connection. We often rely on an artificial technology, and even, this is so appropriate, because we talk about artificial intelligence and how that can create so many different things and save so much time. But the problem is that we're losing the human connection when we do that. And I think it's so important to have that human connectivity, no matter what field you're in, whether you are in a science field, or whether you are in engineering, whether you are in some other type of blue collar, white collar, job environment. The real key about this is using the presentation software as an enhancement. So, my story earlier about, oh, I didn't have a cable, so I couldn't connect my PowerPoint presentation was so appropriate, because I wasn't tied to it. I can't tell you how many times I've seen presentations and even speakers for that matter rely on the software or the artificiallness of their presentation to carry them through. And that's just not how it works. If you're a really good speaker, you will know that deep down inside yourself by practising and not having to rely on things such as a broken projector when you get in the room, or a computer that isn't connected to the Wi-Fi network that requires you to access it somewhere else, which I always recommend, have a backup copy for that matter. But it's always a good thing when I know that when I go and sit down in the audience, and I see the speaker already engaging with other audience members, that is going to be a great presentation. Because he's already confident about it, he's less nervous, because he's getting to know his audience, which is also important because you can adjust your presentation on the fly, knowing that maybe you don't have certain details when you walk into the room. But for people that are giving presentations, to get to your original question, it's really important to respect the different diversity of learning styles, but also, don't rely on text and images all the way through. Those PowerPoint presentations or presentations that are software based in general, that have too many words, have too many pictures, will leave the focus off of you as the main speaker, and the audience will be more absorbed into what you're presenting on the screen. So, don't do it. As a matter of fact, be balanced with it. Leave one or two sentences at most on your PowerPoint, if you're making a point. If you have an important graphic that you need to share, maybe it's some sort of numbers on a bar graph or a pie graph that you're trying to display, make sure it's big enough so that, depending on the size of your room that you're presenting in, everybody can see it. But more importantly, make that the sole focus. Don't put two or three or four. Think of it as something that I want just that focus on, but once you're done with that, blackout the screen. Now, I don't know if you've seen this even on remotes, but there is a button to black out the screen so that the speaker is then the focal point of the conversation again. Don't let software, don't let computers be that focal point. You as a speaker should be the focal point, because you're the authority, and I respect that authority figure in the room presenting that information.
Jeremy Cline 31:20
I love that tip. And that's something I don't think I can ever recall having seen it, where someone has blacked out the screen. They will usually put the slide up, and they will talk to it, and maybe they will go on to talk to something else, but the slide is still up there, and so you're still focusing on that. And the other point you're making about talking to the audience, again, I've seen people who were basically talking to their slides, they're side on, and they're looking at the screen that the slides are projected on, rather than looking at their audience. And that's incredibly distracting. So, I think what you're saying there about, you're there to talk to the audience, and the slides are there purely for enhancement, that's really, really valuable.
Joshua Smith 32:03
I have to call out the fact that you've pointed out too, people do turn around, presenters for that matter, and talk to the screen. They forget that the audience is even there in the first place. And that is very dangerous to do, because you always want to have some connection with the audience. If anything, don't ever turn your back on the audience. Because once you turn your back, they are turning their backs on you, and you lost them.
Jeremy Cline 32:28
The next received wisdom I'd like to address is whether it is always wrong to script a presentation, rather than just having bullet points. Because I have always been told, 'No, don't write out a script, use bullet points.' And I find that it does generally tend to work for me, and the only times when it doesn't are when I'm making what I'd call a speech, rather than a presentation. So, for example, I was asked to speak at a memorial service for someone I knew. And I tried doing that just as bullet points, and it didn't work. And when I scripted it, it felt much better, much more comfortable. But in the context of presentations, again, I'm really interested to hear your view on that.
Joshua Smith 33:18
This is the age-old question. And there are many different people that give many different types of responses about this. Essentially, we can use the word script as also being notes for that matter too, just to show that they're synonymous in nature. But I think that it's always important to know what you're talking about. Does that mean that you're going to remember word for word everything that you're supposed to say for your speech? No. And as a matter of fact, I wouldn't recommend reading off a script for that matter word for word, because, again, the same conversation we had about presentation software, you could be talking to the script, looking down, and you might be losing the audience, because you haven't met eye contact with them, they might be working on their cell phones or computers instead, because you already lost that connection. You broke it off when you start to look at the script. I was of the camp at one time, and full transparency, I would have said a number of years ago, 'Don't use notes. Try to keep it up in your head and rehearse it and rehearse it and rehearse it.' But as I've gotten older, I've realised that that's not possible to do. And you do need to have some sort of reference material to go with it, or some sort of prompt to go with it. So, I have always said the clients in the last several years that I've worked with to not only work with notes, but don't write them as a script, so there's a fine balance. So, if you are thinking about the outline that we were talking about earlier, writing down your main points and the specific points, use that to your advantage, especially as you are speaking. Whether it's in an in-person format where you are using a lectern or a podium, for that matter, to talk about those different items that you need to share, write reminders of what those things are that you need to emphasise or need to cover. So, what I do is usually take a main point, and I write two or three sentences, or excuse me, two or three points for each of those items. And I make them as short and succinct as possible. If there's something that I need the quote, maybe I need to make a reference to something, I'll write that verbatim. And that is the one time that I'll read it as a script. Because when you're giving credit to somebody else, you need to be absolutely right about what they said, or what is referenced in this particular newspaper or article, whatever that is that you're trying to reference. So, it's always important to quote directly and have it right. But also, give credit to the person or the location of where you found that, because plagiarism is real, even in public speaking, it isn't just in writing, but also public speaking. So, it's important to give credit where credit is due. But I think it's also a good practice when you are preparing to have those notes by your side, so that if you know that there's always something that you're getting stuck on, you're writing what that part is, because when you get to that presentation time, when you're in front of the audience, and that you forget about it, again, what you're supposed to say, you can go back and reference it. So, I always like it as backing up, checking my notes, and then going back and engaging with the audience. So, don't lean on the notes as if those are your life sources to continuously reference to be able to get through the speech, but use it as a guide. It's almost like a compass, when you're out in the wilderness, it helps you provide direction for where you need to go to find your car, or even get to where you need to go. I think of those notes as your compass. So, there's a balance, but at the same time, gives you direction.
Jeremy Cline 37:17
And I find two benefits, in particular, of just making notes rather than having a script. One is that, generally, I'll just find myself speaking more naturally. And I can play around with things and maybe introduce something that I've thought of on the fly. And also, if I am giving some kind of a training where I am expecting it to be interactive, and I want it to be interactive, and I want people to interrupt me and ask questions, then it's a heck of a lot easier for me to pick up where I left off when I've got notes, rather than if I've got a long script in front of me.
Joshua Smith 37:52
And that's an excellent point too. It also provides that context, especially if you get lost in what the conversation is with the audience when you're getting asked questions too. And sometimes they're impromptu questions, sometimes it might be a designated time in the presentation, but the notes are there to help you out.
Jeremy Cline 38:11
Preparation time, I've heard spending an hour for every minute of your presentation. Now, if I'm doing like a 30-, 45-minute training internally, there is absolutely no way that I'm going to spend 30 to 45 hours preparing that. So, again, over to you on that received wisdom.
Joshua Smith 38:32
Yeah, I've heard that too. And I'm, again, of various camps when it comes to this. Because it was a lot to do, there was a lot of influence when it comes to what I might think is an interesting topic. And if I find a topic interesting, that hour per minute formula might not easily translate, because I'm already an expert of some sort into what this is all about. So, I don't need to have all that extra time; I can easily cut that down. As a matter of fact, this is where it has saved me, and here's a little tip for your listeners too, that's a little bit of a bonus to that, if you know that you're going to continuously do things like a common presentation, have that format already ready, have it saved on your computer or somewhere accessible, so that you can retool it over and over again. It saves you so much preparation time. And it's just a matter of a concept of organisation for that matter to be able to save that time. But going back to your question, your nugget of wisdom that you shared, I think that for some people, that hour per minute is going to be important, especially when you have that bigger presentation that you need to give, or it has a lot of loaded detail, because you need to cut out things. So, in some respects, it is. But if you are one of those people that are given a 30- to 45-minute presentation, you have less than a week to prepare it, here's a couple of things you could do to help save some time. First off, everything that I just talked about earlier, please rewind this episode and listen to it again, because that will save you a lot of time. Topic, choice, outline, information gathering. If you have all those sources in place, you can easily get those items collected very fast, because you have a routine. The other thing is, when you have that time constraint, this is where it becomes so important to know your audience, going back to that conversation. If you know your audience, and you know that they don't need to have this high-level detail, and maybe there's going to be a lot more time for question and answer, then divide the presentation time into just sharing high-level things for maybe 10, 15 minutes, and allowing that half hour for a conversation to take place. Presentations are very fluid. They have many different things and many different mechanics that are involved. But if you really want to do a very good speech that is impactful and has a lot of good things to share to your audience, the one hour per one minute of each time you present is really important. Matter of fact, it might even be two hours for every minute, depending on that precision that you really need. So, I am in favour of that. But for those that are in a busy world, that don't have that kind of time, it's really about having the structure ready, so that you can cut down on having to spend an hour. It could be 30 minutes for every one hour, it could be 15 minutes, or excuse me 30 minutes for every one minute, or 15 minutes for every one minute. It just depends on how organised you are.
Jeremy Cline 41:54
Let's talk a bit about practice. What suggestions do you have for good ways or effective ways of practising a presentation, and if it's possible, doing it in front of like a dummy audience?
Joshua Smith 42:12
Yeah, I always find that to be the most impactful, to have an audience that you know, of people that are generally not going to completely criticise you and make you feel worthless after doing a mock run, but they're going to help you move along. And this is where, again, I'll preach Toastmasters. This is exactly the sort of format you can do that. I like to call Toastmasters a learning laboratory, meaning that you can experiment with all kinds of different things, such as techniques and speaking formats, and even the way you deliver, and get constructive feedback by your peers. That's really how that organisation works. But if you don't have access to that audience, here's a couple things that I recommend. First off, if you have access to Zoom or some sort of computer software that records you in terms of your voice, but also your video, do that. And use that to your advantage, because what I have found to be the most effective, which I really didn't do early on, so this was one of my faux pas that I should have done earlier, so that I could have achieved more success quickly, is recording myself, and being able to see how my body moves, how I share points, am I keeping contact with the audience, or in this case, the camera. But you really need to make sure that you can point out those items. And if you can't do that yourself, that's why you record yourself, because you can send it to someone to review, which is something I do, even through my business, I do video reviews of my clients to help set the baseline and help them get to where they need to be. But having that outside perspective makes such a big difference. The other thing you could do that is always helpful if you don't have access to that, it's just to practice in a mirror. And when you practice in front of a mirror, you won't have the ability to record it, you might not have a camera on your phone or things of that nature that is working properly, or maybe even the right audio equipment, but you can watch yourself as you speak, and you can start to point out in yourself what are some of the ways that you can do better the next time you give that speech. So, those are some of the most common ways to do it. Whether it's through recording yourself, or looking in front of a mirror, or even having a few people that you know you can trust on giving you some good, constructive feedback to help you out. But, above all else, don't be so hard on yourself when you practice. That's the whole essence of what practice is. It's to feel a little bit more comfortable about what you're going to present, and it helps you to understand maybe some of the ways in which you can make refinements. And it doesn't happen in just one session; it could take two, three, four, it could take a half dozen sessions just to perfect what you're doing. It just depends on the level of material you're covering, amongst other things. But even in the business world, all these things are important. And that's why even businesses, successful businesses for that matter, including McDonald's, even places like Google, places that have really embraced technology and innovation, some of them have even Toastmaster clubs in their own corporations, and they hire thousands of dollars of professional speakers and trainers to help them become better salesmen, or sales women for that matter, or even being better at presenting in front of technical audiences. Communication is so important, which is why practice needs to go hand in hand with that.
Joshua Smith 42:49
And something that I've had to catch myself on is that, even if I am giving a training session or a presentation to a familiar audience that I've presented to lots of times before, and it's on a subject that I feel quite expert about, there's always a temptation that you just kind of think, 'Ah, you know what, I don't need to do practice, I'm busy, I don't need to do it.' I always, always, always will do a run through, even if it's just sitting at my desk, not in front of the mirror or anything like that, just to get used to the sound of my own voice on this topic, and just picking up any areas where I've looked at my notes and thought, 'Hang on, I've no idea what I've written there', or where there's just something which isn't clear, it just helps me, even if it's just one pass, just doing it through that once, I just find it's absolutely invaluable.
Joshua Smith 46:03
It is so helpful when you do that. Even just at your desk. I hated my voice, Jeremy, for the longest time. It sounded so annoying every time I listened to it. But as I have done podcasts, I've been hosting my own podcast, and even as I've grown as a speaker, I've realised that getting comfortable with sharing your story or sharing that material means embracing a little bit of yourself, getting over that awkwardness. Because, really, it's not awkward at all. It's you being unique, and you need to embrace that, even when it comes to speaking.
Jeremy Cline 47:43
And a podcast is a great way for getting used to sounding what you sound like to other people as well. I mean, the first few episodes when I listened to myself, you intimately cringe, but then you kind of realise that it's actually a much truer reflection of how other people hear you, rather than how you hear you when you're speaking. Just to finish up. I'd like to cover preparation and when things go wrong, and when I talk about preparation, I mean like the nuts-and-bolts checklists, like making sure that you've got the cable that attaches the laptop to the projector, that kind of thing. So, yeah, what kind of things can you put onto your checklist to make sure that everything is in place? And following on from that, if and when things do go wrong, no matter how well you've prepared and how well you've gone through your checklist, what sorts of stuff can go wrong, and how do you recover from it?
Joshua Smith 48:42
Yeah, great questions. Because these oftentimes come up even when we are examining or glossophobia. Like, oh, I'm going to forget this, or people are going to think I'm terrible when I spoke, and I don't think they really realise how good I am. And you're kind of giving yourself that self-critique. So, these are really important aspects when you're getting ready to speak. After my cable incident that I had earlier this year, I ran through what I did wrong, and I realised that I had all these things that I needed to bring with me, but being my selfish self, I forgot to write it down, and I had it all in my brain. So, it's important to make yourself a list. And there's no real definitive list of things that you need to make sure you bring, because as I mentioned, presentations come in all shapes and sizes. But the most common things that I can list out include not only making sure you have the right cables and also the right computer equipment, if you need to bring that along, it's actually asking the organisers or even the people if you have to organise it yourself, what's available to you. So, making sure that you understand the room format, how things are set up. Is there going to be a lectern to put your notes? Is there going to be a television or a big projection screen available to present the visuals that you might be bringing? Is there some sort of enhancement? Is there going to be a camera or microphone, a lapel microphone attached to you? These are all questions that, especially as a professional speaker, you're always building into your contracts to make sure that they're being covered, because you might not have that ability to bring that stuff, especially if you're on an aeroplane, or you're travelling a long distance. So, having those things, even as a business professional, is important. But it even goes into the basics. Do you have water? I think it's always important to hydrate yourself when you're speaking. So, if there isn't water provided, did you bring a bottle of water with you, or at least two bottles of water if you're going to be speaking for quite a while and taking questions? Having the hydration factor is so important to keep your palate moist, but also, it really moistens your throat, your ability to speak through your vocal cords. So, making sure you stay hydrated is an important process, and being able to breathe also, which we didn't even talk about, but that could be a whole other episode in itself. But the other thing is, when you're preparing, try to keep in mind the importance of thinking about what is it that my audience needs. Do I have the information that's available? Do I need to bring anything else to enhance the presentation? Do I need to call someone that might need to help me bring some of those items to the room that I'm going to be presenting in? Even if it's on a video conferencing room, do you have somebody helping you out? Is there going to be a moderator or maybe a Zoom master or some other technician, maybe on Microsoft Teams, maybe on WebEx, regardless of the platform, what is it that you're utilising that makes you feel a little bit better, that you don't have to handle all the technical aspects behind it too? These are all critical things that, I would say, start that process. Sorry, Jeremy, remind me what the other question was.
Jeremy Cline 52:15
Yeah, the danger of compound questions. So, you've done all that prep, you've got your written checklist, and you've checked everything off, but something's still goes wrong. So, the screen dies, and you get that Windows chime, and it says 'cannot connect to server' or whatever it is, or the lapel mic suddenly dies on you, how would you recover from that kind of thing?
Joshua Smith 52:39
Yes, you can recover. Here's the thing. People tend to overreact. It's that fear of public speaking that creeps up when something goes wrong. You start to tell yourself subliminal messages of, 'Oh, man, I knew this was going to happen, I knew that something was going to fail. Now, I'm a failure as a speaker, people aren't going to appreciate the message I have to share.' They kind of start going into shutdown mode. That is the time to shine. Because you didn't need to rely on that technology in the first place when you're in the in-person room. Now, if it was a big part of the presentation, because your audience was virtual, you're supposed to be virtual too, things happen. This is where you have backup plans in place. Maybe you have somebody send out an email to all the invitees, saying, 'Hey, this is what's going on, we apologise for the technical difficulties, it's okay.' But don't put that in your platform or in your corner that you have to handle. Have somebody else help you with that. But if it's in-person, and you're on a time crunch, because sometimes with technical failure, you still have to carry on with the presentation, this is where you have your backup plan of maybe referencing the handouts that you gave earlier, maybe using that as your reference tool, which I did in some respect when I was presenting at the same conference that I was at with the women I spoke about earlier, I had at least the handout of my presentation, so I was able to go through that. But the other thing is this, and this is where, I think, the rubber meets the road for what we are. We are all human. We all make mistakes, and things happen outside of our control. We have no control when it comes to what might happen. The room might be uncomfortable because it's too hot, it might be too cold, the lighting might not be perfect, the lighting in which you are on the stage with isn't working, and it's not showing your true colours of that beautiful suit that you put on today. You might be having all kinds of other things happening mentally before you ever got there, and so has your audience with all those things. We all have to understand that things happen. And if we are just willing to be human and just be open about it and actually have humour with it, we could actually turn what could be a disaster into an amazing experience on the stage. So, keeping yourself open to those possibilities is truly the best way to become a more confident speaker. Because anything can happen. And it's okay, if they do. You just be flexible with it. And you can help yourself get to where you need to go with that presentation.
Jeremy Cline 55:37
I think there's two points which I'd echo from what you said. One goes back to what you were saying, the slides are there to enhance your presentation. So, if the slides don't work, well, that's fine, because it was just an enhancement, and your presentation should still stand on its own two feet even without that. And I love what you said about just calling it out if the technology goes, you don't have to make it your responsibility necessarily, or pretend like nothing's happening, you can just say, 'Oh, okay, well, this kind of thing is weird. Well, this is what we're going to do with it, and I'm going to carry on, and I'm going to raise my voice because the microphone is gone. If you can't hear me at the back, please just let me know.' And just, yeah, call it out, acknowledge it.
Joshua Smith 56:25
That's where you start to be a little bit more adaptable with your speaking style, too, especially if you have to be a little bit louder than you usually are. I tend to be a loud speaker myself, and I have to learn to be soft, soft spoken in order to be more effective sometimes, too. So, being able to adapt to those situations really helps you as a speaker as well.
Jeremy Cline 56:47
Joshua, you've given us an absolute enormous wealth of tips in this conversation. If someone wants to find out more about public speaking, maybe become a better public speaker, are there any resources where you can point them?
Joshua Smith 57:04
Yeah, absolutely. I go back to Toastmasters, as I've referenced earlier. If you go to www.toastmasters.org, that has a wealth of information in understanding not only the educational programme that they have to offer, but also, the opportunities to develop yourself as a leader, which, if you develop yourself as a leader, you actually get more opportunities to communicate. Most people don't make that connection, because they think leaders have a lot more responsibility. But that's not the case. But you get leadership training through that organisation, along with communication skills that we've even talked about here. But on the website, there's a big yellow button that says, 'Find a club'. You click on that button, and you just put in your address, and where are you located at, you could find a club that's close to you, no matter where you are in the world. Or if you don't have the opportunity, and your schedule doesn't really work, you might have kids, you might have other commitments, travel might be a big concern, there are virtual clubs that meet in all kinds of time zones across the world as well. So, you can click on that option, and you can see where the closest virtual club meets your time schedule.
Jeremy Cline 58:16
And if anyone's listening to this and thinks, 'Hey, you know what, I reckon Josh could help me out with some speaking and presentation skills', where should they go to find you?
Joshua Smith 58:25
Yeah, if you want to work with me, I have been open for business for quite a while now, I've been really excited about being able to help others in their journey, whether it's public speaking, life, maybe you have a business organisation, or you're looking for more professional development, maybe review of resumes or interview preparation, you can check me out on my website, www.yourspeakingvoice.biz. I'm also on Facebook and LinkedIn. And you can schedule a free consultation with me. I do a free one-hour consultation. I do that long, because my sessions are that long. So, I simulate that. But I also want to get to know you a little bit and about your journey as well. And if you don't have the kind of money investment to be able to do that, which I feel like I'm pretty affordable when it comes to providing that, you get some really cool tips from my own podcast, it's called Speaking From the Heart, where we cover all kinds of different topics, including even public speaking for that matter. So, if you want to check out the podcast, it's Speaking From the Heart. And if you find Joshua D. Smith as the author, you found the right one, because there are a few out there, but that's the one that's most active. You'll see a purple logo with a microphone in the centre.
Jeremy Cline 59:38
As always, I'll put links to those in the show notes. Josh, what can I say apart from thank you so much for coming on and sharing this vast array of knowledge.
Joshua Smith 59:49
Yes, thank you so much, Jeremy. It was a privilege to share all this great information with your audience.
Jeremy Cline 59:55
Okay, hope you enjoyed that interview with Joshua Smith. Wow, Josh had a lot of tips there. But the one that stands out most for me was thinking about your audience, thinking about who your audience is, and how is it that you're looking to serve them. Because once you figure that out, then I think a lot of what Josh was saying really just falls into place. What is it that you want your audience to take away? How are you going to engage with them? How are you going to make them feel part of this presentation? If you shift your focus away from you, and over to your audience, then I think you'll probably find giving presentations just an awful lot easier. As I said, there were a lot of tips, and I appreciate you might not have picked them all up. But if you go to the show notes page for this episode, then you'll find a summary of everything we talked about, as well as the usual transcript and links to the resources mentioned. And you'll find those this week at changeworklife.com/169, that's changeworklife.com/169. And that's it for 2023. This is the last episode scheduled to come out before the holiday season is upon us. We'll be back again in the New Year. But I would really like to hear from you. What would be most helpful for you for 2024? What topics would you like me to cover or revisit? Would you like more of these sorts of episodes where we focus on a particular skill? If so, what sorts of things would you like me to cover? There's a contact form on my website, which is changewoeklife.com/contact, that's changeworklife.com/contact, and please share your ideas. I'd love to hear from you. Well, I hope 2023 has been a good year for you. It's certainly been quite an interesting year for me, and possibly more on that in 2024. And I really hope you'll take the opportunity to be kind to yourself over the holiday season. So, whatever it is you do, whether you spend time with family, whether you relax, chill out, I feel like it's a time of year where you can put things on hold, take a breath, take a pause, and ready yourself for whatever comes up in 2024. We'll certainly be back with some great interviews, so make sure you're subscribed to the show, if you're not already, and I can't wait to see you in 2024. Cheers, bye, and happy holidays.
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