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Tips from an expert on Public Speaking: And how to master a Zoom presentation

I rate my local council and since lockdown I’ve been even more impressed. Their Enterprise Team have upped their game to create and disseminate local jobs for local people, and have introduced a series of schemes aimed at helping small businesses and start-ups. A fortnight ago I took part in a two-hour presentation and workshop on the subject above, something that terrifies me and I end up shaking like a leaf.

A well-spoken and relaxed Carrie Swift of the firm www.lovepublicspeaking.org was in charge. Her aim that evening was to improve our confidence via managing our thinking habits so that we would disrupt our current thought patterns which often end with beating ourselves up. Not just positive thinking, but keeping a thought diary so we can spot where we go off-piste. She also suggests that we stop avoiding difficult experiences but take small steps towards increasing our comfort zone. Motivational coach Tim Ferries said: ‘’What we fear most is usually what we most need to do.’’

Carrie also has lots of tips on the practicalities of Zoom meetings. Make sure your screen is at eye level; the Duchess of Cambridge, for example, has a sort of mini-hoist so no matter where she sits, the height can be adjusted. Check your background and make the most of the lighting, daylight usually the best. She also suggests standing rather than sitting as this is less constricting – remember at school and in lectures the speaker usually stands at the front – and I would add that one should avoid swivel-chairs as when seated one tends to jiggle. Also consider whether you want an office-style chair with a headrest or a back that extends above your head. If your laptop is on a table, make sure it isn’t a wobbly one – or remember not to touch it as your image will wobble too.

Remember: speaking with confidence involves body language, eye contact and voice, with the subject matter coming second.

She reminds us to be careful with the language we use – which should be the case with all social media – and to use a half smile as the default mode of speech; it gives one’s tone a lightness and warmth that draws the viewer/listener in. Slow down! Your pace should be at least 25 per cent slower than normal to give the audience time to digest the content. Extend your pitch and range to give your delivery some musicality, and don’t end sentences on a higher note as this makes them sound like a question. Needless to say, don’t ‘umm and ah’; just keep silent. I’d also add that when on Zoom if the interjection you want to make is of less than 3 words, don’t bother as it only interrupts proceeding unnecessarily. Finally, round off your talk nicely and thank them for participating.

Below is a link to a short interview she’s done. I believe there are more on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1V4gyGVGDI

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