Not one of “those” lists to improve your speaking.

In the past few months, I’ve been seriously underwhelmed by the amount of articles online that claim to be full of “speaking tips.”

Attention to small details make a big difference

Attention to small details make a big difference

Really, how many times can you re-hash the same basic concepts?  Unfortunately, in this glut of “content marketing” I guess we are bound to see a certain amount of recycled, shallow content being published around the “‘nets.”

Lists of speaking tips that focus on the basics; repeating words – fast or slow pacing – speaking too quietly, etc.  These can be found everywhere.  Where are the lists for people that are regularly in front of people?  Either through sales presentations, training sessions or just familiarity?  That’s what I’m looking for.

So, for lack of recent lists, here are 5 ways to improve your speaking (Semi-Pro tips):

1. Remove idioms from your regular speech and especially from your presentations.  Idioms are only effective in your immediate culture.  Step outside of it, or rely on a translator and you’ll find that they fall flat and distract your audience.

2. Quality images to match your quality content. I am amazed at how many professional speakers have out-of-focus or pixelated images in their presentations.  Please, spend the extra few dollars on that stock photo so that it doesn’t rez out on an HD projector. You may be surprised at how a low-quality image in the presentation affects the perception of quality of the content.

3.  Memes are only funny if your audience understands them.  Grumpy Cat may be hilarious in your immediate circle, but is it just as ubiquitous with your audience? Memes are inside jokes for the internet culture. Memes are great for a room full of geeks (where no one will admit they didn’t get it), but not to a group of  Realtors whose ages span 22-202.  Know your audience.  If you have to use a meme, use one that will stand on its own without the inside joke.

4.  Watch Yourself.  Literally.  I find that my best feedback comes from my wife. Since she can’t be at every event to give me feedback on my body language and communication, I rely on video because it’s cheap and easily accessible.  I ask for a copy of the video from every engagement I speak at.  If they are not recording, then I’ll record myself with my camera.  Watching your own presentation provides the best feedback to your toughest critic – yourself.  You’ll get to see all of those “ticks” or hear all of your “crutch phrases” (the ones you lean on when you don’t know what else to say).

5. Notes are a Crutch. Stop using the notes as your anchor, as they will be the focus of your attention, and not your audience.  One of the best items of advice I received was to use the presentation as visual cue for the speaker, rather than to bore the audience. Each slide reminds me of what to say, and when you know your content well enough that a simple image can remind you what to say – you are released from the bondage of note cards.  I’ve seen too many speakers that rely on a “security blanket” of notes; only to look at them too much, lose their place, or break eye contact too many times.  If you need notes, work to reduce the amount of words in them, and increase the use of triggers or cues that will keep you in the right stream of thought.