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Communication – the future of business

Archive for March, 2008

Breathe Easy to Stop Nervousness

Posted by Presentation Skills on March 29, 2008

Have you ever experienced any of these symptoms before you have to speak?

  • Dry mouth
  • Sweaty palms
  • Shaky hands
  • Knocking knees
  • Accelerated speech
  • Thinking at a million miles an hour, and
  • A desire for a nervous wee!

Well you are not alone! These are some of the many common symptoms of nervousness. Some of the more severe symptoms can include extreme reactions such as sleepless nights, hyperventilating before and during your speech, as well as being physically ill.

If you suffer some of the more mild symptoms, there is good news available. You can control these with breathing. If you suffer them more serious symptoms, these breathing skills will form part of an overall approach to controlling your nervousness.

To help control your nervousness, it is important to understand that what our body does is controlled by our brain. Even the involuntary responses that we have are controlled by our brain. Therefore if we can control our brain, we can control our body.

One of the best ways to slow the brain down (and therefore the rest of the body) is to focus on your breathing. When we are nervous we tend to breathe in short sharp breaths. This gets the oxygen in quickly, and this helps us become more agile (this is a throw back to the old flight or fight reflex).

To reduce your nervousness, breathe in 5 long, slow deeps breaths. Take about 5 seconds to breath in, and then just let the air run out of your lungs. Feel your shoulders drop down as the air leaves your lungs. Make sure that you fill your lungs as much as possible. Breathe right down from the diaphragm, and make sure you fill you shoulders as well. It is amazing how much air you can fit in when you straighten your back and fill the top of your lungs.

By following this simple technique, you will find your nervousness subsiding. Just remember to not breathe too quickly as you may hyperventilate! Also, if you breathe in too quickly you will not get the relaxing and calming affects of the breathing.

‘Til next time,


Darren Fleming

Australia’s Public Speaking Coach


Posted in nervousness, presentation skills, public speaking, public speaking tips | 1 Comment »

Perfect PowerPoint

Posted by Presentation Skills on March 26, 2008

PowerPoint has become the modern tool of today’s corporate trainer. PowerPoint can be a great tool when used properly and the following tips will help you with it!

  1. Before you start presenting, ask if you really need PowerPoint. Did you know that before PowerPoint (and Freelance etc) came along, trainers and speakers spoke without it! If they needed a visual aid they used Over-head projectors or white boards. Sometimes they used nothing. There is no rule saying that you have to use PowerPoint! At your next conference, shock you audience by speaking without PowerPoint! That will certainly get their attention.
  2. What are you putting on your slides? PowerPoint works best with pictures, diagrams and data intensive information that cannot be easily explained with words alone. By keeping the text to a minimum you will be able to keep the focus on you and your message.
  3. Follow the 10/20/30 rule. No more than 10 slides for a 20 minute presentation (that’s 2 minutes per slide) and no smaller than 30 font for the text. Yes, that is big text! This forces you to simplify your slides!
  4. Handouts – Ideally your handouts SHOULD NOT BE your presentation slides. Consider having three sets of notes/slides:
    1. Audience slides – these are the slides that the audience sees. Keep them simple and relevant. Also avoid over doing the text. 
    2. Your notes – these are the notes that you have to look at. They should have enough detail for you to remember what to say.
    3. Audience handouts – If you choose to have audience handouts, there is nothing to say that they have to look like the slides on the screen. In fact, there is a great argument that says that your notes should be much more detailed than the notes on the screen. After all, the notes are to re-enforce and also EXPAND on what you spoke about.
  5. Another way to interact with your audience is to give them electronic notes. Send them a link to your website/database/data warehouse where they can get notes. This will save a heap of printing, time wasting and save your notes going into the bin by those that only took the notes because they were there. If you are an external speaker/trainer, you can direct people to your website or blog to show your other products/services!
  6. Remember that your goal as a speaker at a conference or a training session or a team meeting is to engage and connect with your audience. If you can achieve this without PowerPoint then FANTASTIC!

Til next time


Darren Fleming

Australia’s Public Speaking Coach


Posted in nervousness, PowerPoint, presentation skills, public speaking, Understanding your audience | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

Persuading Tough Audience – Use One of Them!

Posted by Presentation Skills on March 24, 2008

We all have to communicate with tough audiences, and recently I had to persuade the toughest: my 2 year old daughter Alice.

As anyone who has had children in childcare will know, children seem to pick up every kind of cold and sniffle that is going around, then they bring them home to share with mum and dad! On Monday, Alice had bought home a head cold and by Tuesday night she had developed a nasty cough along with a very sore throat. She had become very worked up and was not wanting to cooperate with anyone. She was just sitting on Mums knee and crying uncontrollably.

To help ease her symptoms, we wanted to give her some medicine. However, in the state that she was in, she wanted nothing to do with it.

After many requests for her to take it (and the occasional attempt to force it down her throat!) we decided to give some medicine to Teddy. Teddy had no problems taking the medicine and felt much better after it. Once Alice saw this, she too wanted to take the medicine. She was asleep with in half an hour!

How does this relate to persuading tough Audience? If you are trying to persuade a hostile audience that distrusts you, use someone like the audience to show that you can help them. These are called ‘Third Party Endorsments’ or testimonials.

Why do they work? Well look at the situation from the audiences point of view. If they distrust you, anything you say will be taken as a way of simply selling your point of view so they buy. However, if you can get someone like them (the audience) to say that they have used you, this will add credibility to your message. This will give you a greater chance of persuading them to your message.

To persuade anyone, whether it is through public speaking, sending e-mails, or convincing your 2 year old daughter to take her medicine, you need to be able to appeal to their interests and needs. In the state that Alice was in, she was not convinced that the medicine would work, and was weary of trusting Mum and Dad. However, she knew that Teddy would not lie to her, and when she saw him take it, she knew it would be OK.

Have you ever been in a situation where you have been trying to persuade someone to adopt your ideas? It could happen when you are giving a speech, addressing a meeting or just wanting the family to do what you want to do on the weekend. Instead of trying to brow-beat them into submission, try appealing to what is important to them and showing them how what you propose fits in with what you are saying.

By appealing to their self interest, you will have a greater chance of them wanting to listen and eventually adopt your ideas.


Darren Fleming

Posted in presentation skills, public speaking, Understanding your audience | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

How to Make Statistics Training Interesting!

Posted by Presentation Skills on March 24, 2008

I recently had the opportunity to offer some presentation coaching with a client – Trina – who spent her day delivering statistical training. Her area of speciality was ‘imputation’, which looks at how you estimate certain numbers. As you could imagine, you could make the topic very dry and boring without even trying!

As I watched Trina deliver her training, I noticed that the people in the room were actually becoming involved and excited (well OK – Just involved) in what was being presented. Granted the participants were interested in the information, but lets face it, this was the fourth day of a full week of advanced statistical training! People were bound to be tired and over it. Why were these people so interested?

At the end of the training, Trina came up to me and apologised for all the things that she did wrong, and wished that she could do better. She said this was why she needed public speaking coaching. She apologised for holding her notes while she spoke, apologised for being nervous and apologised for being genuinely excited about the topic when no-one else was. What she did not realise was that her excitement for the topic was what made her so successful at her job.

Her enthusiasm for her topic was evident from the start. She told the participants that she was genuinely excited about the statistical Normal Curve, and what could be achieved by understanding it. She told stories of how her last employer ignored the normal curve, and how it cost them dearly. She showed the participants how they could follow the rules and avoid the same dire consequences. This is what involve the audience.

It was her enthusiasm for the subject that really entertained the audience. She was excited, and happy to be training and the carried her through and the audience through what was at times very tough and tedious learning

The fact that she held her notes, was no real distraction. The audience knew it was a technical presentation, and knew there was a lot of information to be presented, and understood that it would have been difficult to present off the top of your head. I gave her a few pointers on how to reduce the number of notes. She had several pages of the notes she was using. These were primarily be PowerPoint slides she was talking to. She could have made these notes more useful to her by reducing the amount that she wrote on them. Simple bullet points instead of full sentences would have helped her.

She also would have been better do not read the slides verbatim. Many public speaking articles have been written about how to use PowerPoint properly. They all suggest that you should not read what is on the slides as it simply distracts the audience. In fact, there is some research coming out of the University of New South Wales suggesting that reading the slides at the same time as people listening to you and reading them reduces the amount that they take in. This is due to cognitive overload. Our brain can only do so much at once and if we have to listen and read the same stuff, we will not taken as much information.

So yes it is possible to make statistics interesting! If Trina could make statistics interesting, can’t you make you all topic interesting? How do you do this? Follow Trina’s example: be excited about your topic; have stories relate to your topic; & show how the stories relate to your audience.

You can get more information about stories in public speaking by following this link to Executive Speaking.

Till later,



If you liked this, there are more great tips on making any speech interesting at Speak Motivate and Lead.
Australian Public Speaking courses

Posted in humour in presentations, PowerPoint, presentation skills, public speaking, public speaking courses, Understanding your audience | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Making Money With Your Public Speaking Skills

Posted by Presentation Skills on March 24, 2008

This blog was not created to show people how to become wealthy public speakers. There are plenty of public speaking blogs out there that can do that.

However, I recently came across this piece of advice from Patricia Fripp, a San Francisco based public speaking coach. They points are great and should be spread. You can get more of Patricia Fripps insights here.

Everything in life is about marketing. Weather you are trying to sell an idea at work or your services as a speaker you need to understand what you have to offer others. Below are some points that will help.

Successful marketing means that you identify prospective clients and position yourself in the market so they choose you over your competition. When I sit down with clients who want to position their marketing, I seek the answers to four basic questions:


Who wants to buy or could be stimulated to want to buy? Who is in a position to buy what you sell? What geographical and financial factors affect this ability? A good way to identify future clients is to listen
— really listen — to those you have now. Their comments, especially negative ones, will help you tailor both your product and your approach to other prospects.


What emotional and physical factors will influence them? I just worked with an east coast psychiatrist who ran a practice with ten other psychiatrists and wanted to position herself. Our conversations quickly disclosed that her community was predominantly upwardly mobile professionals. Many of the women had delayed having children. Due to fertility drugs, a high percentage of families had twins, triplets, or more. We decided to focus her practice on these families, the first practice in the area to do that. How did we do this? First, we realized her potential audience was geographical, that is, in her community rather than regional, national or international. These prospects had distinctive demographics. By appealing to a unique aspect, we hit on her core group. She’s now hugely successful in her practice.

3. WHAT ANGLE SHOULD YOU TAKE? How is your product or service unique?

Why is it perfect for your target audience? How is it different from everyone else’s? How will it fulfill your core group’s needs in a way that no one else can? This is positioning yourself in the market.
(Remember how Avis advertised, “We try harder.”) As an example, when other advertising consultants do presentations, they talk about budgets, print versus TV, soft versus hard sell. I position myself by emphasizing that you start by targeting your audience, positioning your product, and creating distinctive selling propositions. Lots of mom-and-pop businesses, confronted by super stores, can’t compete or even survive unless they find a unique niche to fill.


We all know people with great ideas, products, and inventions. They spend a fortune developing this product, but it sits there because they have no idea what to do with it. Is there a system in place to put your product in the customers’ hands and return their money to you? Or do you need to create one?


Darren Fleming
Australian Public Speaking courses

Posted in Martketing your speaking skills, presentation skills, public speaking, Public Speaking books, Understanding your audience | 1 Comment »

Arguing with Whiskey

Posted by Presentation Skills on March 17, 2008

Have you ever struggled with how to structure your message so you will get buy-in from your audience? If you are in a management position you will know what I mean. T0 truly get full buy-in from your audience, you need to get inside their heads and understand what they want and what they are thinking.

One of the greatest examples of understanding your audience comes from the 1933 Mississippi Lawmaker Noah ‘Soggy’ Sweat. During the debate about prohibition he was asked for his thougths on Whiskey. This is what he had to say:

If when you say whiskey you mean the devil’s brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster, that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean the evil drink that topples the Christian man and woman from the pinnacle of righteous, gracious living into the bottomless pit of degradation, and despair, and shame and helplessness, and hopelessness, then certainly I am against it.

If when you say whiskey you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and laughter on their lips, and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas cheer; if you mean the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentleman’s step on a frosty, crispy morning; if you mean the drink which enables a man to magnify his joy, and his happiness, and to forget, if only for a little while, life’s great tragedies, and heartaches, and sorrows; if you mean that drink, the sale of which pours into our treasuries untold millions of dollars, which are used to provide tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our dumb, our pitiful aged and infirm; to build highways and hospitals and schools, then certainly I am for it.

This is my position, and as always, I refuse to be compromised on matters of principle.

This is a classic example of how to structure your message to include certian parts of your audience.

The strength of this speech lies in the listeners opinion. For example, if you are against whiskey then you would love the first half of his speech. If you were for whiskey, then you would hold on to the second part of his speech. But the clever part is that the speech shows the strength of the opposing views. This helps to bring the two sides together.

How can you use this in the workplace?

If you are presenting an argument, consider the opposing sides view. This is often called playing the Devils Advocate. By understanding where you audience is positioned, you will be equipped to present an argument that they will accept and adopt.

‘Til next time.


Darren Fleming – Australia’s public Speaking Coach


Posted in comedy, humour in presentations, Politics and speaking, public speaking, public speaking humour, public speaking tips, Understanding your audience | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Is this the Strongest Toastmasters club ever?

Posted by Presentation Skills on March 13, 2008

ON Saturday 8 March 2008 Adelaide Toastmasters Club won all 4 Division contests in District 73. In addition to that, they also took away the Toastmaster of the Year award too!

The first competition of the day was the Evaluation Contest and was won Darren Fleming ATM–B. Showing keen analytic skills coupled with great structure, Fleming provided expert advice to the target speaker. Speaking first, he was able to choose unique commendations and recommendations that ensured he stood out from teh other 7 contestants. Ron Watts CTM from Adelaide Toastmasters Club placed second.

The second competition of the day – the Humerous speaking contest – was won by Austin Nevis DTM, VPE of Adelaide Toastmasters Club. Speaking about his life long desire to be famous, Nevis displayed the skills that has taken him to 2nd place in the District Competition for the past 2 years. Can he go one better this year? On top of this award, Nevis was awarded the Central Division Toastmaster of the year award.

The afternoon belonged to Ron Watts, VPM of Adelaide Toastmasters Club First was the Table Topics competition. Speaking to the topic, ‘To get what you want you must know what you need’ Watts spoke solidly for 2 minutes without really saying anything. This is a skill that he has mastered over recent years and would make any politician proud.

The final event for the day was the International Speech competition. With both Fleming and Watts competing, this was going to be the event that showed who was the better speaker. Speaking first, Fleming spoke about the need to simplify when working towards goals. Show glimpses of humour and the skills that took him to the District Final in 2006 he set the bar high.

Watts was the 7th of 8 speakers and spoke about the importance of family in our lives. Finishing with a strong message, Watts implored us to think about how we prioritise our family with respect to other areas of our life.

When the results were announced, last years Division winner Gaynor Quinn ATM-B from Prospeak Toastmasters took out the second place. Then, when the top prise for the day was awarded, Watts was acclaimed as a poplar winner.

Speaking after the event, Watts said that he was surprised that eh ahd won as he thought that there were many other speakers. Fleming said that he was, ‘over the moon that Adelaide had taken all four titles.’

All 3 contestants are now off to Lilydale Victoria in may for the District Championships and are looking to see if they can all go one better.

Adelaide Toastmasters Club is in one of 17 clubs in Central Division. In the past twoyears, Adelaide Toastmasters Club has won three of the 4 titles on offer at Division and in 2007 took out the District Table Topics competion.

’til next time,


Darren Fleming

Australia’s Public Speaking Coach and a very proud past President and VPE of Adelaide Toastmasters Club


Posted in presentation skills, public speaking, Toastmasters, Understanding your audience | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Who is Frightened of Obamas Speaking Skills?

Posted by Presentation Skills on March 5, 2008

Election time brings out the most unusual of campaign tactics. If your opposition is not bring skeletons out of the closet, they are trying to plant some in there.

But the current battle between Hillary and Obama seems to have found another angle to attack. Hillary is attacking Obamas strength. She is attacking his ability to stand and deliver a strong message that the people want to hear.

It is clear that Obama has great public speaking skills, and this (in part) has hurt Hillary. But why should this be seen as a target for attack? If he had great economic skills, or great military skills, would they be attacking him for that?

There is a clear reason why they have attacked Obamas great public speaking skills, and it is this: Great speakers are seen as great leaders. If you can stand at the front of the room and speak, you are automatically seen as a leader. Why? It’s because no-one else wants to stand up and speak. If you can confidently stand there, speak with composure and enunciate a clear message, you will automatically be seen as someone to follow. This is why the Hillary camp is so afraid of his speaking skills; they know that he is a better speaker than she is, and therefore more attractive to the swinging voters.

‘Til next time.


Darren Fleming – Australia’s public Speaking Coach


Posted in nervousness, Obama, Politics and speaking, presentation skills, public speaking tips, Understanding your audience | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »