Getting Over Yourself

January 23, 2017

Don’t try to be a perfect speaker

Filed under: Observations — Barbara Rocha @ 1:07 pm
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We tend to focus on getting everything right when we speak because we don’t want to look stupid. So we focus on trying not to make any mistakes rather than focusing on helping the audience get the message.

It’s the wrong focus. You’ll end up being stiff and mechanical making it almost impossible to connect with your audience.

Speaking is about connecting, not about perfection.

Rather than be perfect, be human.

You get more trust and credibility by being genuine than you do by being perfect. Better to make a mistake and be real, than to be perfect and unreachable.

So, comb your hair, organize a great message, and then get the heck out of the way and let ‘‘er rip.

Fie on perfection! It’s highly overrated.

October 16, 2015

3 ways to get yourself out of the way when you’re speaking

As far as I can tell, whenever you’re nervous you’re thinking about yourself. It stands to reason, then, that if you can stop thinking about yourself–get out of your own way–that you and the audience are going to be happier. So, here are some tips on how to do that.

1. Don’t wait until you’re in front of an audience to practice noticing where other people are focused. It’s not on you, because they’re way too busy thinking about themselves. Where they’re going; what they need to know; how far behind they are in their schedules. When you’re not in front of a group it’s easier to observe that they’re not focusing on you. And you’ll find it fairly easy to begin putting it into practice when you’re up in front.

2. When you organize your talk, build everything around outcomes and information that is relevant to those specific people you’re talking to. Why they would care, how they can incorporate it into their work or lives. It’s much easier to get out of the way when you realize everything you’re saying matters to them. So, take the time to be sure it does.

3. When you’re delivering your message, look at individuals–one by one–as you have a conversation with them. Stay focused on how this is helping them and watch their faces to see that they’re tracking with you. Most people like helping others. That’s what you’re doing. Keep that uppermost in your mind and there won’t be room for you to fuss about yourself.

Happy you. Happy audience.

September 2, 2015

Is it okay to look at foreheads when you speak?

If you look at their foreheads, you will look like you’re looking them in the eye. However, you won’t be able to read what their faces are telling you, and you won’t experience the energy you can get from the conversation you might otherwise be having with them.

Every talk you give should feel like a conversation. And for that, you need to be engaging with the audience. Plus, looking at them (and seeing them) will make you more comfortable. You can see that they’re not nearly as scary as you imagined they might be.

Move your eyes around the room so you’re having conversations with various people and everyone feels included. And stay with each person long enough that you and they both know the connection has taken place. Then you can move on.

You’ll get much better results.

For more info:

June 12, 2015

3 things to do for better gestures

Filed under: Tips — Barbara Rocha @ 8:53 am
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Gestures are often more helpful to your audience than PowerPoint slides because they are visual and help the audience see your point. Slides should do that, but usually aren’t designed for that purpose–more’s the pity.

You’re missing the boat when you don’t use any, or when they’re self-conscious, or when they don’t match what you’re saying. Sometimes what feels odd to you, or overdone, is the very thing that keeps the audience focused and helps them get your point.

So here are 3 things you can do to help make your gestures relevant and to make them happen more naturally:

1. Become more aware of what your hands are doing when you’re involved in a conversation. Some people who tell me they never use their hands are surprised to find that when engrossed in a conversation, they do tend to illustrate points with gestures. So, what you’re doing unconsciously you need to become conscious of. Not all of them may be useful, but you can be aware of that, too.

2. Actively include stories, examples, and analogies that resonate with you, as you put together your talk. Those things will automatically bring focused, appropriate expressions to your face, and make it more likely that you’ll use your hands to describe them.
3. Practice your speech silently at least one time. Usually, the ideas run pretty smoothly in our heads. It’s when we try to say them aloud that we may get tangled up. So, practice silently while focusing on how you might use your hands to illustrate the points in a conversational way. It’s okay to exaggerate them for the purpose of helping your body remember. So, that when you’re actually in front of the audience, you won’t try to copy them, they’ll just happen naturally. You’re kind of giving your body permission, plus a little support.

April 27, 2015

How to make speaking part of your DNA

It’s a waste of time to wish you’d just shown up in the world ready to speak to anyone any time. It’s much easier to learn how to get yourself out of the way so you can be the speaker you want to be than it is fret over what you weren’t born with.

Rather than needing a different persona or worrying about lacking a particular skill, what you really need is just a difference in perspective. As humans, we naturally tend to think the audience is judging us. So you’re not alone. But it’s not only not true, it’s counterproductive. (And for those of you who aren’t convinced, even if you’re judging the speaker you don’t care about the speaker–you’re more concerned about yourself.)

The audience doesn’t’ want to think about the speaker, they want to be informed, entertained, enlightened, but not uncomfortable. And when you worry about what the audience is thinking about you, you make them uncomfortable. They’re far less uncomfortable when you make a mistake and it doesn’t worry you, than they are when you stay focused on not making a mistake.

There’s a logic to this. Accept it and you can make great strides in your life as a successful speaker. You’re in charge of your speaking DNA.

March 5, 2015

“Thank you” isn’t all that polite when you’re speaking

Filed under: Tips — Barbara Rocha @ 10:56 am
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Skip “thank you” when you close.

Most of the time when people finish their talk by saying “thank you” it’s comes from nervousness. They don’t know how else to get out of there.

Or it might be because they realized the closing was so weak that they want to be sure the audience knows they’re finished. Or maybe they’re trying to distance themselves from the closing.

If you really feel there’s a reason to thank the audience at the end, then it needs to be genuine and not “knee jerk.” And it needs to come after you’ve given the audience enough time to absorb you’re final point. Because if you don’t, they’ll have a hard time remembering what your point was because you’ve siphoned off their focus into the “thank you.”

If you want to focus the audience on your message, postpone “thank you” or skip it all together.


For more tips on speaking visit

January 14, 2015

Your audience isn’t actually staring at you

I hear it from participants all the time: “They’re all staring at me.”

It does seem that way — that they’re all staring at you. After all, their eyes are pointed in your direction and you’re standing up there all by yourself.

The truth is, their eyes are pointed in your direction because they’re facing the stage. But they’re actually focused on themselves. They’ve got way too much on their minds to give you the kind of attention you’re imagining. It’s a great moment for remembering that “it’s not about you.” You’re in their sights only insofar as you connect your material to them. And then they’re really focused on themselves–applying the info to their own situations.

Knowing that their focus is on what you can do for them, rather than how you look and sound, keeps your focus where it belongs — on helping them better understand a problem they may or may not know they have.

December 18, 2014

“Are there any questions?” isn’t a close for your presentation

Filed under: Tips — Barbara Rocha @ 12:38 pm
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Your last words can make or break your presentation. If there’s any hope they’ll remember (and act on) anything you’ve said, those last few words are the key.

So, your last words should wrap up your message by summarizing what you’ve said and pointing them in the direction of the action, or change of thought you’re trying to effect. If you’re taking questions after your talk, you need to do that wrap up, let it sink in to the audience and then ask for questions.

Then after the Q and A session, close again–with the main point you want them to take with them. Some of the questions may have been interesting, but not quite to your point. Keep control of your message by having it be the last thing they hear. A brief bumper sticker message.

November 11, 2014

Should I start my speech with a joke?

Filed under: Myths,Tips — Barbara Rocha @ 10:59 am
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The point of a telling a joke would be to connect with your audience rather than just plunging in to your subject not caring if they’re with you.

Unfortunately, while connecting is a good goal, telling jokes doesn’t do the job all that often.

It fails because the speaker forgets the punchline, or acts like nobody has heard it before (which is often not the case–social media being what it is), or just tells a joke that has nothing to do with the audience, the occasion, or the subject.

Feel free to start with a joke if it passes the following tests: Do you know it so well that you won’t forget the punch line? Will the audience eventually see the relevance to your topic? And will it bother if nobody laughs?

Something else to consider is that the longer the joke the funnier it better be.

Indeed, you must connect with your audience if your presentation can be considered successful. But there are many ways to do that which don’t involve jokes. Be resourceful.

August 6, 2014

3 Things you never want to do in a presentation

Here are 3 things that consistently top the list of things that annoy the audience. (Avoid them if you don’t want to be annoy your audience.)

1. Create bad slides. When you design the slides for your notes, and use them to deliver content, they’ll probably be boring and unreadable. Slides should help the audience get an “aha.”

Make your slides as simple as possible (avoid full sentences); and ask yourself these 3 questions:

·    Would I want to look at this slide? If they don’t want to look at it, you’re swimming upstream.

·    What’s the point of this slide? State the point in 5 or 6 words and you’ll find things you don’t need. Take them out. See how you can visually (without words) make that point. This helps you and the audience.
·    Do I even need this slide? Make every slide justify how using it will help you get the outcome you want. Check out this site for tips from the book Slide:ology.

2. Deliver boring content. Audiences hate to be stuck in a chair listening to things they consider irrelevant.

No subject is boring when the speaker digs into why it’s important. So, be clear on why they need this information and how it relates to them. Structure your talk around this. Let them know throughout the talk why it matters to them, as well as telling them before you get to the meat of your talk. Do it right after you’ve opened with something that gets them to start listening and stop texting.

Use stories, examples, real life applications to help you make your message compelling. People are visual. Visuals on your slides and visual words will help you make your case. For ideas on how to use visual words to create a picture and tell a story, check out the site for Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins by Annette Simmons.

3. Fail to connect. The most important part of any presentation is you connecting with the audience. You connect by talking their language. You connect by sharing information rather than being afraid to be wrong. You connect by paying attention to them and their needs, as well as the next 4 points.

·    Be clear on who they are and what they want and gear you talk to those.

·    Respect them regardless of whether you agree with them or not.

·    Stay conversational and never take anything personally.

·    And don’t make fun of any groups of people.

For more ideas on connecting see my book: Getting Over Yourself: A Guide to Painless Public Speaking and More on my website and on Amazon.
As a general rule, there’s one thing you can do to make a huge change in all three of those: If you care more about helping the audience than you do about impressing them, you’ll automatically be less annoying overall. And you’ll be less nervous.

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