How to Give the Perfect Holiday Toast

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The holidays are upon us and it’s time for the annual company and family parties. Speaking in public can be anxiety provoking but when you are called on to make holiday toasts at your office or at a friend’s party, the pressure just increases. When giving a holiday toast you want it to be a warm, memorable and entertaining message that sets the tone for the entire gathering. This prospect can be very daunting.  However, with these tips, giving a holiday toast or speech will be simple and easy. Soon you will find yourself giving toasts at family and business events. Everyone will want you to speak!

Toast Checklist: 

1. Rehearse and outline what you want to say

You need to outline what is your focus of your toast and you need to practice it several days in advance. Get a friend or family member to listen while you practice.

2. Watch your pace

The holidays are an exciting time, so speak slowly, clearly and loud enough.

3. Create thoughtful content

Welcome everyone who has gathered and share your thoughts and feelings about the holidays.  Share a personal story or sentiment and include an appropriate holiday-centered quote. Be appropriate with your audience and close with a traditional saying.

4. Give thanks

The holidays are a time for gathering with loved ones, so if you are the host of the dinner toast to those who have come to share your food and home. If you are a guest, be sure to thank the host for opening his home to you all and for the bounty of the feast. Thank individuals for their contribution to the company. If your group is small, mention each person individually. In larger firms, thank teams or departments who succeeded in special initiatives or projects. Thank your partners and alliances, especially if they are sponsoring your company celebration.

5. Stand up

Unless the gathering is very small and informal, you should stand to get attention and deliver the toast. It ensures that everyone can hear you and lends a certain ceremonial splendor.

6. Raise your glass

When you are starting your toast, hold your glass about waist high. At the conclusion of the toast, raise the glass to your eye level to signal you are finished. You can then touch glasses with others around you and take a sip. A holiday toast should be no more than a minute or two, a short focused toast is always better than a lengthy disorganized one.

7. Share successes

Share specific kudos about your team members with their spouses. As you know everyone wants to feel appreciated and recognized. And saying this to the spouse lets the spouse know you appreciate his or her sacrifices and support, as well.

8. Highlight the future

As the year winds down, it is appropriate to turn your attention to the coming year’s main events and the contributions each of your employees need to make. Talk about the goals and make sure you use words and a tone of voice that will help people remember these goals as they enter the New Year. Try placing extra stress on the most meaningful words and be passionate about your excitement for the coming year.

9. Remember special circumstances

Don’t forget to offer a fond memory and kind words for the dear colleagues who have passed on, or are not able to be with you because of illness, injury, military duty, or other reasons.

Try one of these toasts: 

· Here’s to all of us, God bless us everyone! (Tiny Tim’s toast from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol)

· Wishing you more happiness than all my words can tell, not just for the holidays, but for all the year as well.

· May peace and plenty be the first to lift the latch on your door, and happiness be guided to your home by the candle of Christmas.

· To us and our success as a group this past year, and to you and your families for health, peace, and more wonderful times in the coming year.

Above all else, may your celebration and your New Year be filled with laughter, energy, and goodwill for all!

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6 Things To Never Say During Your Speech

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Time and time again we see many of these public speaking sins being repeated.  The key to most of these is to be well prepared and be aware – so be professional and create a credible presence.

Here is a list of 6 things you shouldn’t say during your presentation:

“I have a lot of things to cover, so let’s get started right away…”

Your audience knows immediately they are going to be bored during this speech. If you have too much information to cover consider cutting down on your material to decide what is important.

“Can you hear me?” and/or “Can you read this?”

These two come down to your preparation. You should have already tailored your fonts to be big enough and your microphone or level of speech to be loud enough to reach those comfortably in the back of the room.

“I’ll get back to that later.”

Two reasons this is a bad idea. First, the audience member that asked the question probably asked it because they want it answered right away. It took a lot of courage for you to speak on stage so you know the courage it took for that individual to speak out loud. Answer it promptly to encourage other audience members to not be afraid to ask you questions – you want your audience involved. Second, you will most likely forget! Don’t kid yourself, you will get so wrapped up in your other content you will completely forget. It’s much easier to jump back into your presentation then remember something else.

“I apologize for the technical difficulties.”

Try your best to avoid this by checking and double checking all of your equipment. But if something does happen be prepared to go along without your technology to not waste any time or lose your audience.

“Are there any questions?”

This is not necessarily a bad question to ask but most presenters usually ask this at the very end when all points have been addressed and there’s not much more to speak on. Ask this earlier in your speech and more frequently to get those to speak up while they remember their question. Also, if an audience member asks a question be sure to repeat it to the listeners in case others didn’t hear.

“Oh no, I am out of time! Let me skim through my last 20 slides.”

Again, proper preparation will prevent this but just in case a question or conversation with the audience takes up a chunk of your time – make it easy to tailor your slides during your presentation. Decide your important points and make sure those are clearly stated. Some of the fluffy stuff can be skipped.

Don’t waste your opportunities to persuade your audience by committing any of these Public Speaking sins.

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5 Steps to Writing a Memorable Speech

5StepstoWritingaMemorableSpeechSMALLER

First off, to make a memorable speech – you need to decide what is supposed to be memorable. Clarify your intent before you build your presentation.

Secondly, memory retention isn’t easy. While we listen to a speech we’re not able to pause, rewind or slow down any aspect. Even while we are taking notes it’s easy to miss important points while your brain is eagerly repeating itself until you can write it down. Repeat your points until they stick.

Here are five ways to ensuring a memorable presentation:

  1. Prepare Early – the more your speech becomes memorable to you, the easier you’ll be able to create new ideas for writing and organizing to help your audience retain memorable information.
  2. Know Your Audience – center all your efforts to helping the audience understand what you’re speaking about. Crafting interactive techniques can help your audience become actively involved and have different mediums to retain. Think about incorporating questions, quizzes and exercises into your speech.
  3. Key Points – it’s tempting to tell as much as you can about your subject but always keep it simple. Deciding what the minimum your audience needs to know will help them leave with the most important aspects of your presentation.
  4. Create a Call To Action – this is what you want you audience to do after they walk out of those doors. Building up passion and eagerness behind it will encourage your audience to want to take immediate action. This should also incorporate the “what’s in it for me” principle.
  5. Spark the Senses of All Types of Learners – provide all different types of mediums so there is something captivating for each audience member. Consider: video, audio, podcasts, photography, paper handouts, social media, props, stories, analogies or technology.

The greatest aspect to take advantage of is to repeat a theme or word throughout your speech. Effective speeches are ones where you can sum up their main message in only a sentence. If an audience has to think really hard about what the point was, then there was no point in the speech at all.

Extra Tip: A lot of audiences have been sharing sound bites in real time as you speak – this is being done via Twitter. So make it easy and write their tweets for them. A way to get a great following is to create a hashtag so your viewers can tune in later and see the little pieces of info others shared and they possibly missed.

Allow yourself to be motivated by what inspires you – and your audience will follow!

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Using Technology and Visual Aids to Strengthen Your Presentation

ImageTechnology has accelerated and affected the way we present, the key is to use these aids to enhance our performance and avoid getting lost within it.

The use of visual aids is essential to all presentations. Without them, the essence of your presentation may not register. Your message will quickly leave the audience after they leave you. By preparing a presentation with visual aids that can reinforce your main ideas, you’ll reach your audience far more effectively and with more of a memorable impact.

Visual aids engage your audience by playing upon their senses, using their eyes and ears to get your message across. These props act as an extension of your presentation and by appealing to more than one sense at a time, your audience will be more likely to remember what you’re saying.

Different Types of Visual Aids:

  • PowerPoint
  • Overhead Projector
  • White Board
  • Paper Handouts
  • Flip Chart
  • Video – Skype and Web Cams
  • Social Media
  • Props

Visual Aid Tips:

  • Each element must be simple and contain only one message. Placing more than one message in a single image/slide confuses the audience. Keep it brief.
  • Decide the difference between what you will say and what the visual aid will show. Your audience should not be reading while you talk but rather be observing your highlighted points as you address them.
  • Paper copies of specific information relating to your presentation gives your audience something for future reference. Don’t let them be distracting during your presentation, they should provide reinforcement.
  • Use templates on a PowerPoint presentation to make them look clean and professional.
  • Use photographs to provide the certain image your would like you audience to imagine. Sharing a personal photograph can be inspiration and impactful.
  • Use charts and graphs to support numerical information, changes over time or comparative data.
  • Create sketches to convey certain designs or plans.
  • Use dark colors to ensure writing can be seen from the back of the room. Test them.
  • Check all slides for typos and numerical errors – you will lose your credibility fast with an audience if they catch just one.
  • Never forget to bring a backup and a backup of your backup.

Visual aids are memorable, they help you communicate your message by providing emphasis on whatever is being said. They create excitement, reinforce points and clarify your message. Some visual aids can be distracting so keep them simple. Ensure you’re comfortable with any physical item you use during your speech and don’t rely on that aid too much. Keep eye contact with the audience and remember to not talk to your visual aid.

Productive and positive communication can only happen when messages are simple, clear and coherent.

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How to Successfully Influence and Persuade through Body Language

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Your body language is constantly speaking for you – even when you are silent, you are communicating. Body language can either help get your message across clearly or send the wrong message entirely. Ensuring your nonverbal communication is congruent is your key to success.

Audiences process information in three ways: body language, tone of voice and words. When these mediums are all working together you are congruent. If your language is congruent with your message, you’re likely to exude confidence and be much more successful.

Stance: assuming a correct posture will enhance your positive body language and support your breathing. This will help you be calmer and more relaxed.

  • Stand with feet side by side, a comfortable shoulder width apart
  • Push your sternum out a little and keep your shoulders soft
  • Slightly tuck in our chin parallel to the floor
  • Make your hips squared and lean forward ever so slightly
  • Keep your gaze steady forward and begin to breath deeply

Facial Expression: the face is the most expressive part of the body so if you are aiming to motivate and inspire your audience, it starts with that engaging facial expression.

  • Enter the stage with a genuine smile
  • Keep your face relaxed with your gaze steady
  • You want to look engaged and energized

Eye Contact: making and maintaining eye contact is imperative to communication.

  • Use the ‘two-second’ rule by making eye contact with each member of your audience
  • For small audiences, look at each member. For large audiences, look at sections of people
  • Analyze your audience and keep their comfort in mind when looking directly at them

Gestures: let your gestures flow from your words. Take time to cultivate awareness of what your hands are doing while you speak.

  • Keep your audience focused on you, the speaker, and your message. So keep moving in support of what you are saying
  • Newscasters place their arms at their sides with their thumb and finger touching
  • Using a fist is a very powerful gesture. It indicates strong power and passion and may also be used as a threat so use sparingly
  • Be careful when pointing with a finger. People don’t respond well to accusation or being singles out

Grooming & Clothing: your personal grooming and clothing are also factors in body language.

  • Poor or distracting hygiene and clothing can easily confuse from your message
  • Wear professional and appropriate attire, something you can comfortably breathe and move in

In this digital world we don’t always see people face-to-face, so when you have the opportunity to have an audience in front of you, recognize its rarity. Because when you see someone in person their true passion and emotion becomes contagious. Presenting in-person and with congruency is how your message will be successful. 

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How to Effectively Open Your Presentation

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In your opening you need to introduce yourself and your topic without losing your audience to daydreaming. People often meander into their speech and start by telling the audience what they are going to talk about in a sloppy manner – it’s too late, you have lost them already! 

Statistics say you have sixty-seconds to capture an audiences attention – making that initial approach the most important. Captivating your viewers instantaneously will maximize the effectiveness of your presentation.

You are the entertainer to your audience so don’t be afraid to get visual! Here are five great ways to open your presentation that appeal to a variety of different audiences:

 1. Quotes

  • People love shared wisdom – and if it comes from a valuable source that gives it great credibility.
  • Reference how it relates to your speech. A brief explanation can pull it all together.
  • Keep a log of great quotes as they come along – they could do great use in an upcoming presentation!

 2. Statistics

  • First off, find your information from a trusted source and keep it relevant to your speech.
  • If used correctly it can be a viable piece.
  • A great way to capture Orange personalities (for those who are a fan of the True Colors Personality Assessment).

 3. Questions

  • Sometimes a simple “How is everyone doing today?” can make your speech feel like a conversation between you and your audience.
  • Your viewers will feel connected and important to have become a part of the presentation and gives them a sense of power while you’re doing all the chatting.

 4. Stories

  • We have been taught to love stories since we were children – we crave them because we all have them.
  • Don’t be afraid to make one up –it’s important to keep it relevant.
  • If it is a story dear to your heart it will allow the audience to connect with you on a personal level.
  • Create a friendly stance as if it were a conversation between just you and one other viewer. A great way to make them feel special and as a contributor to the speech.
  • Do your very best to “paint a picture” for your audience.

 5. Humor

  • This can be quite a grey area but can also be very powerful. Remember, no joke is better than an unsuccessful one.
  • A humorous visual can be a great idea – laughter creates positive energy!

In conclusion, your opening line sets the overall performance. Take a light approach and make it drop like a bomb! Also, by starting with a bang, you can release your elevated levels of adrenaline racing through your body, allowing the pace to settle down so that you can relax into your talk. A plus for you and your audience – everyone wins!

Hope you found these tips useful – Release Your Voice wants to know what you think is the best way to open a presentation is! 

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Summer Persuasion – Taking a look at the masterful art of influence and persuasion PART 2

See “Summer Persuasion – Taking a look at the masterful art of influence and persuasion PART 1” to read Sojourner Truth’s speech, “Ain’t I a Woman.”

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This speech is amazing for several reasons:

  • The key message is repeated several times. “Ain’t I a Woman”
  • She had a call to action for the audience
  • The speech was short and concise and she let her audience know she was finished
  • She had examples that appealed to all personality types
  • She began with a style that would fit her audience
  • She is passionate
  • She builds her examples, going from the simple courtesy to work, to the lash, child loss and then moves to the supreme power.  It is an excellent example of building. Shakespeare did it all the time

This speech could have been prepared in the hall where she spoke, or weeks in advance, that is unknown, what we know is that it was not written down. She was illiterate. But she was prepared. She knew that each time you speak you are making a presentation. That is a point I endeavor to make with all my clients in boot camps, workshops and one-on-one.

Part Two –  Persuasion

Make your point. One of the most effective methods of influencing your audience, and this can be one or one hundred. Is to, get to the point. May times we waste the precious minutes in the beginning of you communication and to not make our point. Now it may be necessary, depending on the communication style of our audience to make casual conversation, however this is an important communication. It is not meandering such as, “Uh, I wanted to talk to you about the, uh… situation… uh in my department.”

I am amazed at how many people begin their communications with the word, “Uh” or “And uh”.  This is one of the weakest ways to begin any conversation. It implies three things:

  1. You don’t know your subject.
  2. You don’t think what you are saying is important.
  3. You are weak and unsure.

Instead start with a pause. This gives you control. Begin the conversation as I use in my boot camps or communications training:

Use the PREP Method

Point: Public speaking is an important skill for business of your personal life.

Reason: When you cannot articulate your ideas you get marginalized.

Example: A client I worked with was terrified to speak in public…so she never spoke out at meetings. Consequently she was often passed over for promotion, because she was unable to share her ideas and vision. She began to take public speaking course and practicing and today she is a senior VP at her company.

Point: Take a public speaking course and never turn down

Try to use these techniques every day, and never turn down a speaking opportunity.

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