Speaking too fast? Tips for presentation nerves

This blog outlines the simple solutions discussed during training last week for people who need to slow down their speech a little when presenting. Fast speaking is mostly due to stress and as such it often naturally slows down a few minutes into the presentation. If that’s not the case, try some of these solutions:


Build some gaps into your speaking

The easiest way to slow down during your presentation is to stop talking! To create intonation in your presentation structure and to give you a chance to be quiet and calm down, try building in some speech-gaps. Examples of how to do this include:

Create interactivity

Ask the audience some questions and use this time to breathe, drink water and generally relax. They will be happy to get involved, and the interactivity will increase learning and recall.

Add in new media

Your presentation doesn’t have to be all you. Show a film, hand out a reference, have a flip-chart moment… Just be sure to be quiet for a while.

Use strong transitions

A transition is the moment between one part of your presentation and another. To do a good job of these transitions you need to show the audience that one part is over and another will begin. In principle, this can be done with verbal or visual signals and pace-changing activities. If you go for the verbal transtion, try the “mirror, signal, manoeuvre” technique – it will help you to focus on your structure (which may calm your mind) and give you a moment to drink some water:

  • “So, we’ve seen how proactivity can have a positive impact on the organisation” (Mirror)
  • “Now we are going to see what you can do to build proactivity in your organisation” (Signal)
  • …walk to other side of room, drink water, change PPT slide (Manoeuvre)
  • “In this part of my presentation, we will see 3 best-practices for building proacti…..” (Continue presentation)


Get a helper

Some people just don’t realise that they are talking too fast (until someone tells them afterwards). To remedy this, find someone friendly that you know will be in the audience and ask them to give you a discrete sign when you start speeding too much… (The same approach can be used for time-management in presentations)


Present in a pair

You have been asked to present, but you are nervous. Why have you been asked to present? Probably not because everyone wants to see YOU present, or because they like to put YOU under pressure. The most likely reason is that someone wants to know something, get some input for a decision, hear your arguments for XYZ…. Whatever. So why do it alone? If you know you are stressed, you can always get someone to present with you. Create a strong structure and rehearse well and you will give yourself a good chance to sit back and relax during part of the presentation… …you’ll also get a good opportunity to gauge the audience’s reaction whilst your co-presenter is doing his stuff.


Chill out and believe in yourself!

The nerves are due to stress. Maybe you didn’t prepare well, maybe you don’t like to stand in front of the public, you are not convinced of your message or you had bad experiences before… The stress is due to something in you that is afraid of doing the presentation. That fear can manifest itself in many ways. In presentation skills training, we focus on building strong behaviour that will lead to a strong performance. But this doesn’t mean you need to ignore the nerves. Try one of these solutions:

  • Meditate for a few minutes prior to the presentation – try hiding in the toilets!
  • Use visualisation techniques to convince yourself you will do well (sit down, close your eyes and imagine your successful presentation in all its glory)
  • Scream (this is what my wife and I did in the car on the way to our civil wedding – it works a treat to get out the general stress and trembling voice
  • Do some decent physical exercise prior to the presentation – this can be as simple as systematically tightening and releasing different muscles in your body 1-by-1 (in the toilet again, if necessary) or maybe some real exercise (e.g. running).
  • Try hypnosis – by chance 🙂 my father @andy_steer is a hypnotist and has created a downloadable track to help with confident speaking. His site is here and the free downloadable track about confident presentations is here.


Looking for more ideas? Try this site: http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/PresentationNerves.htm.


And if that wasn’t enough, then come to one of my training sessions. Let me know if you are interested….

…and that, as they say in show-business, is all folks!


Hope you found something interesting here – feel free to comment.

Check out www.twitter.com/dan_steer or http://www.infinitelearning.be for more learning and development resources

How I introduce myself in Presentation Skills, Commercial Communication and Consultancy training

How should a trainer introduce herself at the beginning of a course? Should she just give her name and company, or detail her experience? Do certain people and cultures expect to know what school she came from, her family name or her special interests?

For the training noted above, I prefer not to worry about those things and just let the participants decide. This reinforces key learning on how to adapt to your interlocutor whilst achieving your own objectives, the importance of asking the right questions and how to deal with questions. Read on to understand..


Consider the following exchange from my training this morning:

  • DAN (after all trainees have introduced themselves): So, what do you want to know about me?
  • Trainee 1: How old are you? Do you have kids?
  • DAN: Just like that? No more detail than age and if I have kids?
  • Trainee 1: Yeh, that’s fine.
  • DAN: I’m 32 and I have 3 daughters. Is that OK?
  • Trainees 1: Yes, thanks.
  • Trainee 2: What is your experience?
  • DAN: You want to know what presentations I’ve given or just my CV?
  • Trainee 2: No, no, your experience as a presenter?
  • DAN: I have given lots of presentations to lots of different public….. (DAN continues with a resume of different conferences he spoke at, 2 previous employee roles where he had to present to different internal audiences… full detail). Does that answer your question?
  • Trainee 2: Yes, thank you!
  • …and so on…


What you will see in the above exchange:


1. I don’t launch directly into a presentation of myself

What I want to achieve is a useful introduction of myself that gives them enough information to trust and believe in me and create rapport. (I “begin with the end in mind” Covey habit n°2)

I ask what they want to know in order to choose what I say. (Covey habit n°5: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood).

Having both of these things in mind, I can decide what to share.

This is the basic approach to creating an effective message (in presentations, commercial communication, consultancy…): Look for the common ground between your objective and the other’s situation, values and needs.


2. I reply to a closed question with a closed answer

Trainee number 1 asked me a question that could only be answered by “yes” or “no” as well as another very restricted question. I answer by “yes” and “no” and just giving my age. Being able to ask questions that will get your interlocutor speaking is key in presentations (to create interactivity), and in commercial communication and consultancy (to assess situation, values and needs). Although I am a little abrupt in my answer, he ought to understand that if he wants more, he should ask for it.


3. I check that I have understood the question well and that the answer if satisfactory

No trainer worth his pay-cheque misses this and since we will deal with that topic in presentation skills training, it’s a good start… if you have joined training today, check p32 of your workbook.


Voila: How I introduce myself in these 3 training modules.


See www.dansteer.com to find out who I train or visit http://flavors.me/dansteer for interactive learning and development content

5 simple tips to help you deliver conf-call trainings

I just spent an hour and a half on conf-call with 3 people, sharing training information from a session they missed last year. This post gives 5 simple tips on how to do this well.

During a 4-day Project Mgt Round-Table initiative, each afternoon was dedicated to learning people and behavioural skills. The afternoon they missed was all about “Understanding other people” and “Commercial Communication”. Since they missed the training, the call today was to get them up-to-speed. In that sense, a knowledge-building session (rather than skill building), but I didn’t want it to be “just me talking”.

As a personal debrief, here are some tips for trainers who train over the phone (or just general conf-call tips) – list is a non-exhaustive and in order of thought, not priority:


Don’t be afraid to “ham-it-up” a little and “act more”

Boring people are boring to listen to. Boring voices are hard to pay attention to. Use your voice intonation and personal style as much as possible to keep people awake. This is true anyway, but on a call go 120% from time-to-time. You need to be the energetic speaker with intonation.


Take time to address individuals

2 elements – first address individuals, then take time.

  1. Addressing individuals is all about asking specific people to speak. Instead of “Who can tell me what the ‘B’ stands for in the FAB acronym?” ask : “Vincent. What do you think the ‘B’ stands for in the FAB acronym?”. The only thing to be careful with is to make sure that you systematically ask questions to all participants and avoid missing anyone out. You can explain up-front that this is what will be doing..
  2. Take time. It is true that people don’t like silence, but its also true that we sometimes badly estimate what people are doing on the phone when we have just asked a question. We might easily mistake 10 seconds silence for “I don’t know” (which is much easier to see, than hear). If you are worried people don’t know an answer, or don’t dare to answer, follow-up with “Would you like to answer, Vincent?” *  ….but give them a little time to think first!

* you don’t have to call everyone Vincent, even on conf-calls 🙂

Make sure you repeat regularly the structure of your call

This is important in any training/meeting, but doubley-so on a conf-call. The vast majority of people respond best to visual stimuli (like your PPT or flip-chart agenda) and often this is missing in a conf-call, so you need to repeat and regular moments the purpose, learning objectives and agenda of your call. If you’ve never seen a “Dora-the-Explorer” cartoon, watch one and see how good she is at reminding you that “first we went over the bridge, then we went through the woods, now its time to…..”


Try to use a visual support for your call

If you can use NETmeeting, send a PPT, or even ask people to visualise something, this is very handy to help create concentration, improve attention and create recall for the vast majority rep systems. Don’t forget the visual element!


Use more “confirmation moments” than you might do in a classroom or face-to-face environment

When you are face-to-face with trainees, it’s quite easy to see if they are following you. * On the phone, don’t be afraid to ask from time-to-time: “Is that OK?”, “Do you have any questions?”, “What do you think about this?” (followed inevitably by “Anyone?”) …or even of course: Ask someone specific!

* although it would be naive to assume that the smiley face in front of you has understand more than the girl in Indiana Jones’ classroom

I hope this was interesting for you. Feel free to add comments with more ideas on how to do well in conf-call training sessions.


Visit http://flavors/me/dansteer of www.dansteer.com or follow me on twitter @dan_steer