I strongly disagree. One of the things that you learn in Toastmasters is to control your tics (whether they be verbal - umms, ahhs, you knows, yeahs, huhs, uhhs or non-verbal - swinging arms, hands clenched in pockets, crossed arms, crossed legs, hands behind back, rocking back and forth, pacing without purpose). Each Toastmasters meeting actually has an 'Ah counter' that will tally your respective tics. After a few speeches, you learn to replace your ahhs/umms/you knows with simple pauses. Pauses are so much more effective than ahhing/umming. Silence is powerful. Umms/ahhs detract from your presentation because they cause people to focus more on your umms/ahhs than your message. PG and other important speakers can get away with them because people respect what they have to say, very highly. Toastmasters teaches you to move with purpose - which means standing fairly still - moving to emphasize a point. And to speak with purpose - not too rapid, not too slow - but with conviction and passion.
I highly recommend Toastmasters for learning public speaking. Clubs vary in variety, though - try before you join - by going as a guest several times. However, if you decide to do Toastmasters, do not join your corporate club - join a club where you have no co-workers present (having co-workers present will limit you because you will be in the standard work context - afraid to fail, afraid to mess up - and yes, afraid to umm and ahh your way through the first critical speeches you deliver)
Every year, Toastmasters has a speech competition. It starts from your local club to district to regional to national to the highest level, International. If you have a few minutes, take a look at some of the competing entries - they are, without exception, polished and powerful.
Just recognize the reason why you are saying "Um" all the time, since there is properly a good reason for it. "Um"s are awkward, replacing them with a few seconds of silence isn't - oftentimes, it actually helps keep the audience focused.
This article is the minimum strategy, the 80% of a good presentation. Ums are a detractor but not as much a one as poor product knowledge or mechanical storytelling.
Advice like his has drastically reduced 'umms' as a by-product, as it is a byproduct of my nervousness. If one is giving enough talks that the umms are not a tick but a habit/crutch, then it is definitely something to be targeted.
I think his advice on umms is due to the 'normal people' aspect vs. public speaker.
When they're utterly distracting ... no.
I've heard professional speakers utterly hampered by "ums", nonsensical random streams of thought, etc., to the point I've had to leave, switch stations/channels, or stop listening. Rare, but memorable.
The exception might be made for someone whose material or story is so utterly compelling that you're willing to overlook such idiosyncrasies. However, most of us are not such special snowflakes.
Especially if you're nervous, a short time on stage can feel like an eternity so your immediate impulse is to talk quickly and fill every pause with speech. That's what's wrong with "uhhs," you tend to say "uhh" more than you normally would in conversation.
I had a professor who was a fantastic presenter and would pause frequently and for about 5-10 seconds to allow what he just said to "sink in." Then he'd smile and continue. Don't be afraid to do that. It's natural to pause and think about what you are going to say, even if you are giving a prepared speech.
It was amazing how everyone's eyes would go straight to him when that slide came up - they had nothing else to look at, and he could make a strong point, knowing everyone was paying attention for the next 15-30 seconds.
It's surprising just how difficult it is to force yourself to pause for even a few seconds, but the payoff in terms of your audience having an opportunity to understand what you've said is completely worth it.
For me, slowing down not only makes the speech or presentation better, but also calms me down. When I concentrate on speaking slowly and clearly, I have less time to worry about other things.
As for the rest of the advice, it's probably good advice on how not to royally suck, but not on how to actually be great. That said, your competition will probably not be that good. (The fact that Steve Jobs's keynotes are/were held in such high regard is due in some part to how lousy the competition is).
What works for me (and I have no idea if it will work for you) is to write out the entire speech, practice it a couple of times (making corrections as required), then reduce it to points, and speak from the points. That way you are, in a sense, winging it, but you aren't tempted to read the entire thing and you have -- somewhere in the back of your brain -- a strong articulation of the points you want to make.
I don't think any great speech you can think of ("I have a dream", "ask not what you can do for your country", "we shall fight them on the beaches") was "winged" and Steve Jobs famously rehearsed like crazy (as did his hero, Edwin Land).
The fact Jobs's performances came off as pretty natural was no accident. It's one thing to "embrace your ums" if you're a tiny startup, and another if any tiny thing you say will be analyzed by pundits for the next ten years. (Consider how few misstatements Steve Jobs made in all his enormously publicized "keynotes" -- and interviews for that matter.)
My background is singing professionally (in the past) rather than speaking, but it's fairly similar for the sake of this point.
I agree with the adrenaline being your friend, but disagree that not feeling it is a bad sign. I always found that the amount of adrenaline/panic correlated mostly with the importance of the performance, and a little to do with what the performance was. When it came it was a friend to embrace not ignore, when it didn't it just meant (for me) that it was an easier gig, and I could do as good a job without any emotions boiling up.
That said, giving a talk about something you know well to a group of people naturally interested in that subject is probably much easier than giving a speech (as long as you know what you're talking about, of course!).
1. Before the event begins, survey the place where you are going to speak. Stand at the lectern and familiarize yourself.
2. Before the speech when the nerves are rising, remind yourself it is about the message, not about yourself. Whether people will like or not like your speech depends on how relevant your points are.
3. Start talking slowly. If you are nervous, the words will tend to come out far faster anyway. This compensates for it.
4. Start with a question, not a general one, like "is everyone having a good time?" but one that leads into the topic "How many of you experienced a server-crash during the peak season?". It gives the audience some time to think, and for you to calm down. In the meantime, while they think, lick your lips. Yes, lick your lips. Just try it now. It works really well because you trick your brain into thinking that you are in control of the situation.
But yeah, it's a shame PowerPoint has become the descriptor.
"The Art of Public Speaking" by Dale Carnegie is considered the Bible of public speaking.
It's a timeless manual that describes in detail how to humanize both the content and delivery of your speech and how to connect with 1000 people the same we are able to connect with one.
It's applicable to any type of communication, so even if you don't plan on public speaking, I highly recommend reading it.
That's funny, I have this technique that I ALWAYS use before a date, and sometimes before going out when I want to be on fire. But especially before a date, as I'm usually really nervous, it works like crazy!
So basically, I just have to do 5 approaches. Random people, guy or girl, single or group. What do I say? I just ask for the direction, if I have a date in a coffee, well I just ask the person where is the coffee. It's easy, it makes you speak to someone you don't know, it warms you up.
Also as I'm reaching the 5th approach I try to be more and more talkative about my questions. Trying to ask other question, engage in some other discussion...
My 2 cents!
When you are not naturally gregarious, this kind of social warmup is key to getting into the flow and the zone.
I wish your insightful comment was not buried.
The other thing is with the ums. After finishing a sentence, I just pause to gather my thoughts and resume talking. One trick I've read in many places is to have a cup of water with you so you can take a sip if you need a couple of seconds to pause.
- Make sure you know what you're talking about. Perhaps an obvious point but the confidence you have in the subject will carry you through more than anything. If it's your field of expertise, hopefully no problem but if you're in a position of giving a talk about something you're not an expert in, it's worth investing time and researching the topic well beforehand, preparing for questions you might be asked. At the same time, if you don't know the answer to a question, be honest "I don't know but I'll get back to you when I do."
- Talk to yourself beforehand. Run through the talk a couple of times in private, preferably standing not sitting but mumbling is good enough - no need for full volume. Helps to get a clear idea of what you're going to say and what the main points are. It also helps avoid those moments where you suddenly run out of words - your arguments are always on the tip of your tongue.
- Less is more. Few people can concentrate on listening to someone for more than 45 minutes and the more complex the topic, the harder it will be to follow. Boil it down to the main things you're going to say and focus on those. Also time it roughly while you're talking to yourself - this is the best way to identify the places where you're rambling or spending too much time on something that isn't really important to your focus.
What I agree with: Find your power animal (the pose or gesture that feels natural/empowering to you), pick two people in the room to speak to (I prefer to pick four, only two of whom I can usually see due to stage lighting), and practice as much as possible in front of an audience.
What I disagree with: Don't "um" (it's distracting and unless you have the gravitas to pull it off, you sound like a Valley Girl), and memorization may be exactly what you need to be comfortable speaking publicly. Like another commenter, I've memorized my pitch almost verbatim, but use conversational language based on bullet points. The "script" gives me something to fall back on if I get distracted.
For context, I was a competitive CX debater in high school and recently had to relearn public speaking 20+ years later as a startup founder: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ClznRU8-Xfw
A useful and concise book on the topic is Scott Berkun's confessions of a public speaker.
This is why he doesn't need practice. Normal people will.
tl;dr Practice practice practice.
This helps to not let your mind wander to thoughts of worrying how good or how bad you will do (which causes nervousness) because instead of thinking about that your mind is focused on the importance of the message.
if you have more you will rush your speech to much, you will sweat and fill strange because of heart rate
I think back to all the terrible presentations I did when I was in college, or when I presented at several academics conferences. People typically jump in front of PowerPoint/Keynote when it comes time to preparing for the presentation. By now you are already doomed, because you have given absolutely no thought to a theme, a story or a takeaway. After you set up a sequence of slides that's likely to be incoherent on first try, techniques like stopping your 'Ums' or practicing in front of a mirror can only get you so far. These are minituae that may help make you a good speaker, but won't fix the underlying issue that you haven't given enough thought about the content, theme or storyline. You have barely given a thought to your audience and why they care about your talk.
I recently became a Product Manger at a startup (was a developer for 5 years prior to that). Presenting, communicating and convincing is a big part of my job now and I've been iterating every week on getting better. Here is my take and what I've found to work for me. There are two parts to this:
- Content, Theme or Story: Please don't go to slides or bullets when you start preparations. In fact, stay away from slides till you have completely visualized what an ideal version of your talk should sound like. In other words, if you were to explain your startup, a weekend project or a cooking recipe to a handful of people in your living room, how would you go about doing it? What sequence of explanation makes most sense? What do you want the audience to take away. Think about this hard. Replay it over and over in your head. Talk to your peers and A/B test it over lunch/coffee. You'll figure out the basic structure of the talk soon enough. Getting to a slide set becomes a piece of cake after this. And you'll notice that when you go up in front of people that slides truly end up becoming an auxiliary to your presentation, instead of the primary focus point. I've seen a major difference in the quality of my presentation purely by the amount of work I put in refining the theme of the presentation. It gives you focus on what to talk about, and gives clarity to your audience as they listen to you.
- Delivery: This can be solved and made better with practice. This could get involve figuring out a routine, stopping your 'Ums' or practicing 150 times in front of the mirror. I have a much better and effective solution that will get teach you how to control nervousness, stop your 'Ums', and just generally train you into being confident while going up on stage (wow that last sentence sounds like a scam :)). No seriously though, take an Improv Class. They typically cost $200 for 8 sessions and is no where as intimidating as it sounds (take this from someone who used to be a very shy person). I guarantee that a few improv sessions teach you the fundamentals of conveying a non realistic scene to your audience will blow 150 practice sessions in front of the mirror.
Also, I do like to say my speech out loud multiple times, when I'm alone. It engages verbal forms of thinking, and helps me get at the root of an idea. I sometimes have a "breakthrough" moment where I seize upon an idea that wasn't at the center of the subject, and reconceive everything so it is.
But that's not quite "memorizing"; depending on what I sense in the room, I'll reduce the time on some parts, or expand on others.
Also, it's important for me to feel it's my job to present the audience with something interesting to them. To somehow transfer representations in my mind to theirs. I wish to do a good job for them, and that outweighs other considerations.
That said, as an audience member, it's important not to get too impressed by delivery; maybe good hygiene to think more highly of a plain talk, and less of a charismatic one.