Archive for October, 2014

Present Like a Pro: Turn Anxiety into Applause

By Ioan Bolohan

Mark Twain said that “there are two types of speakers: those who get nervous and those who are liars.” Public speaking is a large challenge for many and, without a routine to help calm your nerves, it can take a large toll on your confidence level.

power poseWe’ve all been there—tentatively walking up to a presentation and feeling anxiety wash over us. The symptoms are always the same: shallow breathing, trembling voice, and weak knees. Then panic sets in and a feedback loop of worry, mistakes, and nerves control our speech—diminishing the effectiveness of our communication and leaving the audience unsure about our message’s content.

So how do we combat this apprehension? How do we moderate our breathing, steady our voice, and stay on our own two feet? How do we avoid getting nervous?

Mastering presentation skills starts with the way we prepare—both in the weeks leading up to our presentation and the minutes before getting in front of the audience. By following a basic set of strategies for preempting anxiety, you can learn to become a more confident speaker and a better presenter!

Know Your Material

While knowing what you want to present may seem fairly basic, make sure that you have spent time reviewing your material and refining your understanding of the content before your presentation. This preparation doesn’t mean memorizing every line of your speech but does mean knowing what bullet points you want to address and what your key messages will be during the presentation. In most cases, having a very structured beginning helps break the ice and enables you to get comfortable at the start of your speech. From there, having a solid grasp of your content enables your presentation to flow freely from your opening remarks.

Practice, Practice, Practice

When you know your audience and have a firm idea about what you want to say, knowing how to practice becomes critical. Oftentimes, as people prepare for their speeches, they will start from the beginning and stop whenever they make a mistake. This approach leads to a well-practiced beginning section to the speech but little familiarity with the later portions. For this reason, starting the speech at different places and knowing how to pick up from any point in the presentation is a good strategy for developing a familiarity with the content. Additionally, practicing speaking slowly helps presenters create a tempo for themselves to better pace their speech when nerves might otherwise have them rush their words.

Learn the Environment

Before delivering a speech, you should always know what to expect when you enter the room. Check out the venue—look at the podium, the stage, and the space as a whole. Know where your audience members will be located and how to best address them. Determine the space you want to control when you speak and, if possible, what conditions will be in place as you present. Will the listeners be taking notes? Will dinner be served during your speech? Can you anticipate any distractions? In addition, practicing your speech at the actual venue is a great way to familiarize yourself with the layout and reduce anxiety to make you more comfortable during your actual presentation.

Be Proactive

Have a plan for when you are presenting. If you know nerves lead to certain symptoms, be prepared to address these issues as they arise. Knowing how to handle problems builds confidence going into speeches, creating a more relaxed environment. If you anticipate a dry mouth, have a bottle of water on stage; if your hands tremble, have a plan for where to put them on the podium or clasp them behind your back; if your voice shakes, know where you can make a pause in your speech, smile, and take a deep breath. Having a plan for dealing with challenges is just as important as knowing your material.

Exercise and Energize

While you might spend most of your time preparing to speak and reviewing your presentation content and speaking points, you should also get your body ready to present. Before speaking, completing a bit of low-intensity exercise can reduce tension to help you concentrate. Stretching, doing jumping jacks, or going for a quick walk are all effective strategies for letting go of anxiety. This physical activity also helps with breathing which is a critical component of effective speaking. In addition to mild exercise, having a good breakfast and plenty of sleep leading up to a presentation can help you energize yourself.

Build Confidence

Know that your speech doesn’t have to be perfect—everyone makes mistakes and has room for improvement. Visualize success, identify what characteristics a strong presentation would have, and work to emulate those qualities. Also, practice power poses immediately before your speech. Assuming dominant and powerful stances can raise your testosterone level by 20 percent and reduce cortisol levels (stress hormone) by 25 percent in the minutes leading up to your presentation.This added boost can help jump-start your confidence and get your speech started on the right track.

Together, these strategies can help you succeed in delivering a phenomenal speech and improve your presentation skills. Through practice, learn what works best for you and use these techniques to refine your own pre-speech routine. Remember to find ways to take the pressure off of yourself and remain confident!

October 31, 2014 at 10:37 am 3 comments

Shoot for PAR: Engage Recruiters Through Storytelling

By An Li

As college students, one of the most difficult challenges we face is figuring out how to get the perfect job or internship in order to reach our dreams, whether that means chasing down recruiters at networking events or attending so many information sessions that pizza becomes unappealing. According to the National Center for Education statistics, an linearly 3 million college students will graduate in 2015, which means that the competition for these positions is daunting. Fortunately, three simple steps can make your resume or cover letter stick out from other nearly identical candidates to ensure that you become the first choice for any position you apply for.

Problem: Get out of the sand trap

Even in business, any piece of writing should tell a story. You don’t have to have a multitude of characters and made-up fantasy worlds, but you do need to get your reader invested in the writing. The easiest way to create interest is by describing the problem. The main questions to ask yourself when describing the problem are “why was this problem important?” and “who did this problem affect?” These details help to ground your writing and help the reader really understand where you’re coming from and what the problem is.

Action: Better grab your sand wedge

You’ve now set the stage for the real plot of your business story, which is how you resolved the problem. The important questions to answer in the next part are “who worked on the problem?” and “how did you work on the problem?” Showing that you’re able to work well with others is a key, if oft-repeated, skill that employers look for, and the ability to put together and implement a plan of action is a great skill to show off. Quantify as many of your actions as you can because those details provide great insight into your solutions.

Results: Chip it in for PAR

You’ve resolved the problem, so wrap it up with your happy ending. The key question here is “what impact did my solution have?” The easiest way to illustrate the success of your solution is by using numbers where the concrete details will again give readers something to hold on to while letting you show off. And if your ending was less than happy, don’t worry. Turn it into a learning experience and explain how you would have approached the problem with the knowledge you have now. We’re not perfect, but employers prefer applicants who can learn from their mistakes.

Of course, these steps aren’t the end all and be all of writing. The end goal of writing is for you to bring the readers into your viewpoint and to make sure they fully understand what you’re writing about. Writing should pass a basic comprehension test—can the reader understand what you’re saying without needing you to explain it? With that in mind, applying these three steps to your job applications and any business writing you may do in the future will increase the impact of your writing and help readers better understand the story you’re trying to tell.

October 30, 2014 at 1:34 pm 2 comments


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