If anyone knew what he wanted, it was Steve Jobs. A real steady Eddie. But for the rest of us mortals, getting sidetracked — and not even knowing it — comes much easier. That’s when we get stuck acting like a Drifter, allowing someone else’s agenda to become our own. If you think you’ve gotten off track, try these exercises to figure out what you really want.
The prospect of public speaking often hacks away at our confidence. The antidote: Build experience through planning, preparation, and careful attention to details. Keith Yamashita, co-founder of Unstuck, shares 12 of his very thorough tactics for presenting so you, too, can stride confidently onstage.
[See Keith’s presentation prowess in action during his talk at the 99u conference about the habits of great teams.]
1. Write down the logic flow, not the words
I concentrate my preparation time on logic flow (the stories, in what order, the extreme language for each story, the zinger I want to get across and hit hard). Logic flow is far easier to “memorize” than word-for-word speeches. If you have your logic down, you can speak without notes. Without notes, means you can be 100% there for the audience.
2. Belabor the slides: Tighter, tighter, tighter
I try to spend time with my slides — paring them to the tightest form. That doesn’t mean fewer slides, necessarily. Sometimes more slides, each with a phrase or word, does more than having everything packed on one slide. I also make sure that the type is big enough (don’t use serif fonts at small sizes) and I have the right color palette (don’t use yellow, it can’t be seen; don’t use light blue, it fades away). Sweating these details means you never have to say, “I’m sorry that you can’t read this, but…”
3. For every minute on stage, practice ten minutes in the real world
Once your speech is composed and logic defined, it’s time to practice. For every minute you plan on being on stage, practice ten minutes before you dare take that stage. For a 10-minute speech, that’s 100 minutes of preparation time. For a longer speech, you can do the math. Practice is serious business.
4. Practice hitting the “openings” of every section of your speech
The trick to staying on track when you’re in the bright light of the stage is knowing how you want to start. If you hit your openings, almost all the rest of your material will flow effortlessly.
5. Practice by saying it aloud, not just in your head
There really is no substitute for saying it aloud. Practice in front of a mirror. Or in a big room. Or in front of friends. Or get to the venue early, and run through with a microphone.
6. Know everything you can about the arena in which you’ll be speaking
A/V, seating configuration, who is speaking before, who is speaking after, who will introduce you. Control all these variables before you ever step into the room to speak. I make it a habit to request a lavalier microphone (not a handheld one), write verbatim introductions (even if the introducer blows it, the right words will get conveyed), and bring my own clicker (with a fresh set of batteries). I also have a Dopp kit filled with cables, A/V cords, and a sound cord — so that if the venue doesn’t have them, I’m still ready. I regularly save my presentation in PowerPoint as well as PDF and on CD, just in case I have to present from the venue’s computer and not my own. In a few cases, these things have saved my butt. Big time.
7. Befriend the A/V guy
Do everything required to make the A/V guy love you: coffee, cigarettes, gum, candy, a massage. He is the key to your success. Make sure you meet him, thank him in advance, make sure he has everything he needs. And learn his name. If anything goes wrong, you’ll want to use his name in your presentation — nicely — to get help. “Jim, can we have the sound a bit louder? Thanks.”
8. Embrace the importance of the big opening
It’s one thing to plan for a big opening, and it’s a whole other thing to achieve one. You have to come on stage with confidence, and command attention. It’s counter to how we’re raised as people, so it’s actually important to actively work the audience and the stage. Speak twice as loud as seems appropriate. Gesture twice as big. Walk the stage as if you own it (and by the way, you do). In these first critical moments the audience is deciding whether to entrust the next 20…30…or 40 minutes of their time with you. You have to take that time out of their hands and into yours.
9. It’s your show — and people want to see you succeed
The audience is your friend, and the more you treat them like one, the better they’ll respond. So, in your attitude, don’t back-pedal…don’t undercut what you’ve said…don’t apologize…don’t act small. It chips away at your authority as a friend.
10. Everyone is using your body language as a barometer of how you want them to react to you
You set all the signals and pace. If you’re confident, they’ll be confident with you. If you back off of a joke, they won’t know whether to laugh. How well you do in front of an audience is far more under your control than it may seem. When I was confident — and my body language showed it — the audience easily came along for the ride. This equates to a few simple things: 1) Lots of eye contact, 2) Great posture, 3) Loud, projecting voice, 4) Good (but natural) hand gestures, 5) Confident pauses when you need them, 6) A relaxed flow (not rushing through the material), 7) Staying out of the way of your projector (so people can see your slides), and 8) An ability to be in the moment (see #11).
11. Be ready for anything; startled by none of it
This has happened to me: My mic turned off mid-speech, my notes flew away from the podium (lesson learned: staple the pages together), a fire alarm went off, the A/V team ran someone else’s video during my speech, and once, right before I went on, the host asked me to speak on a totally other topic.
Expecting snags helps you smooth them out in the moment. In the case of the mic blowing out, I got a new one, made a joke about budget cuts, and moved on. During the fire alarm, I directed people to exits — then picked up right where I left off once the scare was over. When the wrong video showed up, I watched about 30 seconds of it — commented in its finer parts, then said, “It’s a superb film. Unfortunately, it’s not the superb film that belongs in my presentation…let’s have another go at it shall we, Jim?” And for the last-minute-topic-change, I chose to ignore the request, and gave the speech I was going to give — topic unaltered. In all cases, the audiences felt I was firmly in control of the content. Presentation is equal parts content and confidence.
12. Be emotive. Be yourself
A passionate speaker who is being himself (or herself) is a pleasure to watch. If you feel sad, show it. If the topic makes you giddy, be giddy. If you have anger about something, show it. Long after people forget what you said, they will still remember how passionate you were about the topic.
About Keith Yamashita
Keith Yamashita is the co-founder and chairman of SYPartners — a consultancy and product-creation engine dedicated to helping individuals, teams, and companies be great.
For the past two decades, Yamashita has collaborated with CEOs and their leadership teams to build great companies. He’s worked with leaders at Apple, eBay, IBM, General Electric, Johnson & Johnson, Facebook, JPMorgan Chase, Nike, and Target Corporation, among others.
The SYPartners product team recently launched Unstuck (www.unstuck.com) — a mentorship network designed to help individuals reach their greatest potential, and will soon launch Teamworks, a set of social business tools that improve your team’s cohesion and work.
Keith is also an author, essayist, and television correspondent on leadership, design, and culture.
Keith and his company have been recognized by The Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, and Fortune for their unique, human-centered approach. He holds a BA in quantitative economics and an MA in organizational behavior, both from Stanford University.
Meg Jay, PhD, is a clinical psychologist who specializes in adult development, and twentysomethings in particular. She is an assistant clinical professor at the University of Virginia, and maintains a private practice in Charlottesville, Virginia. Dr. Jay earned a doctorate in clinical psychology, and in gender studies, from the University of California, Berkeley. The Defining Decade: Why your twenties matter — and how to make the most of them now is her first book. She shared her insights at the 2013 TED conference, and contributed to our post “Confidence crushed? 4 do’s and don’ts to get back in the game.”
Photo by Jen Fariello
It’s your first day as a TV news anchor. The show starts and you’re heard saying the F-word (accidentally). You get fired the same day.
Our work and relationship blunders may not be as publicly humiliating as AJ Clemente’s this past April, but they still have the potential to rock our confidence. Our first instinct is to hide and seek comfort. That’s okay — for a little while. But if we keep retreating, that’s when we get stuck.
Hanging onto feeling hurt or wronged limits our chances of bouncing back. Our emotions focus on the negative, and feed us weak advice like “This sucks! Get out!” Or “Love isn’t worth the pain.” Or “I’ll start my own business. I’ll show them!”
Instead, it helps to step back and see things more rationally. If we look at it from the point of view of others, and from our own long-term goals, it removes some of the sting, so we’re less inclined to bail out. And by sticking with it, we rebuild confidence, which lets us see that we can handle more than we thought.
So how do we regain confidence in a time of hurt? It comes down to the kind of messages we get from others and from ourselves.
#1 DON’T take criticism as a final judgment
Let’s say you sent a work email that, in hindsight, you probably shouldn’t have. When your boss says you’ve permanently damaged her relationship with a difficult colleague, it feels damning, like your job, possibly your career, is in jeopardy. “The hardest part,” says Dr. Meg Jay, author of The Defining Decade (Twelve, 2012) “is people take it as an objective judgment, like an Olympic score. But on the other side, these are just people. They have their own needs and agendas and issues and dysfunctions. It is not a judgment about your worth.”
DO see it as a single moment in time
Remind yourself, again and again, that this is not a statement about your future. It is a statement about the present, and it’s not forever. “You need to work the muscle of rational thinking and talk back to that irrational part of the brain,” says Dr. Jay.
#2 DON’T just rely on others to boost you up
It’s natural for friends and parents to remind us how smart or attractive we are when we get a blow to our confidence. But if we only rely on others to get us through the day, then, says Dr. Jay, we’re borrowing someone else’s ego rather than strengthening our own. “We let someone else’s frontal lobe do the work so we don’t learn how to handle it ourselves,” she says. “We don’t learn how to calm ourselves down, and this in and of itself undermines confidence.”
DO count on yourself
This is a time to get resourceful. How will I get through today? Can I distract myself with a project until this feeling passes? Can I do something, like go to yoga or to a dinner with friends, so I can stop ruminating on this bad thing that happened? Can I remind myself of what went well today? You may feel like you’re faking it, even with yourself, but you’re really exercising coping skills. Because not all bad days can be fixed, and some just have to be tolerated or coped with, you may want to learn more about mindfulness. Dr. Jay recommends the book, Full Catastrophe Living (Bantam, 2013) by Jon Kabat-Zinn.
#3 DON’T revel in others’ shortcomings
We’ve all participated in the group sport of tearing down someone to make ourselves feel better. “I see this a lot,” says Dr. Jay. “You get together with friends and rip up a boyfriend or boss, spending a lot of time seeing the negative and the drama. People underestimate how much that drags them down. It might be funny, but it limits your ability to grow.”
DO focus on what’s next
You can stop the negative swirl by asking yourself What do I want to do next? “It’s a much scarier question,” says Dr. Jay, “and not a conversation you can have with just any friend.” She recommends working through it with a trusted source: a forward-thinking friend, a therapist, a helpful mentor, or on your own perhaps by journaling. You may want to try a couple of Unstuck tools as well, such as “Get Your Game On” to come up with a plan, or “Obstacle Course” to figure out how to overcome barriers.
#4 DON’T see it as black or white
When we feel like we’re failing, it’s easy to tell ourselves that we can’t, or we don’t have what it takes. This kind of fixed mindset, says Dr. Jay, will limit your prospects, because in your mind, you’ve decided that your current status (not succeeding) is your permanent status.
DO believe in the possibility of change
Give yourself a new rule: That you can change. You can work and learn and achieve something you weren’t previously good at. Believe that success is earned, rather than granted. This shift to a growth mind-set will give you the stamina to hang in there, to prove to yourself that you have what it takes.
At the end of every day, confidence is “trust that you can do something,” says Dr. Jay. “And confidence is only going to come from doing it, from getting through the day and then doing it again.”
Learn more about Dr. Meg Jay here.
Photo by Jen Fariello
Knowing what we want, like, need, or aspire to are positive forces that push us to push ourselves. To make our lives better.
But we also can stand in our own way by creating rules of won’t and don’t. “I won’t consider anything that involves doing math. “I don’t like that.” “I won’t ask her for help.” “I don’t think I’ll get a good response.” The more we won’t and don’t, the narrower our world becomes.
When we limit our possibilities like this, we can get stuck acting like a Tunnel Visionary. One of the best antidotes we know is to look at the situation differently. If you’re feeling judged, what does forgiveness look like? If you’re overwhelmed with work, what does success look like? Try these 9 ways to get a fresh perspective.
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