Tag Archives: character

Preparing Presentations: 5 Ways to Practice ’til Perfect

20 Jul

“Practice makes perfect.”

We’ve all heard it.  Many, many times, in fact.

Although it has been repeated many times over your lifetime, it still rings truth.  In any skill that you choose to pursue, if you practice it enough, you will be nearly perfect at it.  There’s no way to get around it.  Unless you are naturally talented at something or get extremely lucky, odds are the only way to “sharpen your sword,” so to speak , is through repetition.  Now, we’re not going to lie to you.  It takes a lot time and dedication to be a disciplined practitioner of anything.  However, if you can sit down, focus and try your best, you will see clear results.

This mindset also applies to presentations.  For most people, presentations make them nervous, which is natural.  However, you can significantly decrease your nervousness by taking certain steps, carefully preparing yourself for the event to come.  At Big Fish Presentations, we encourage our clients to practice a variety of methods that ease nerves, which makes them more successful and confident in their presentations.  So, we’ve gathered five of these tactics to share with you today.

Here are five ways in which you can practice your presentation skills.

1. Rehearse in front of a crowd

Standing in front of a group of people, giving your speech and seeing their reactions is a great way to boost your confidence in your material and delivery.  Whether it’s a small group of your friends, co-workers, family or even a random group of strangers, the action of giving your presentation allows you to see reactions and get natural human feedback.  This will calm your nerves and make you more comfortable with the entire experience.  Many times, you’ll find that your worst mistakes will surface on this first go-around, leaving you with plenty of time and feedback to correct mistakes and re-organize your thoughts.

2. Take notes

As you practice, it’s very useful to stop immediately whenever you notice a mistake or an uncomfortable moment and jot down a few notes.  In any practicing situation, don’t hesitate to analyze and re-analyze your presentation as you go.  After all, this is why you’re practicing in the first place.  You can write down things like cutting down on time on certain parts, making sure you enunciate tricky words or refining the structure of your talk.  You’d be surprised by how many issues you can find when you take the time to look at yourself closely.

3. Experiment

Don’t keep repeating the same lines over and over again if you think it sounds boring or awkward.  Let loose and find ways to make your presentation exciting for your audience.  Experiment with variations of words, include a funny story, make a joke or two.  Relax!  Remember, the two most important things in your presentation are being clear and being relevant.  Use the stage or props to your advantage.  Ask a particular audience member a question.  Keep your audience guessing.  You can have a lot of fun if you free yourself from the boring presentation structure and have a little fun out there.

4. Time yourself

Timing is crucial in presentations.  It takes practice to nail down a solid time, but the general rule of thumb is to keep it short, simple and to the point.  Since your goal is to decrease time while maintaining quality, practice trimming your message to include the most important and relevant information without the fluff.  Set up a goal of the amount of time that you think is appropriate for your audience, then refine or beef up your talk accordingly.  The more comfortable you are with your time, the more flexible you can be as you give your presentation.

5. Record yourself

By hearing and seeing yourself, you can judge the inflection, speed and enunciation of your voice.  You always want to put yourself in your audience’s position, seeing and hearing yourself as they would see you.  It’s not so much about perfecting your orating skills, although that is important, as it is about showing your personality through your words.  In order to come across original and confident, you want to show your true character and that you’re comfortable in your speech.

All in all, it comes down to carefully observing yourself and constructively criticizing the elements of your speech.  You’ve got to take the time to truly grade yourself before you can expect to deliver a solid presentation.  The true masters of presentations, such as TED speakers, train themselves and prepare extensively in advance for their talks.  If you want to truly engage your audience, be yourself, but most importantly be comfortable with yourself. It’s all about blending your personality with your message and finding the happy medium between your goals and the outcome.

What do you think?  Was this helpful?  Do you have any additional tips or guidelines about preparing for a presentation? Let us know what you think in the comments below, on our Facebook page or tweet us!  Also, subscribe to our YouTube channel for more awesome content from the Big Fish team!

Introduction to Characters [An excerpt from “The Art of Storytelling”]

19 Mar

We’d like to share with you an excerpt from our up-and-coming e-book, “The Art of Storytelling.”  This is a section from a chapter about Character.  

Check it out, and let us know what you think!

Continue reading

A Very Brief History of Storytelling

28 Feb

Stories have existed long before recorded history, and the telling of stories has changed forms drastically throughout the ages.  From cave painting to novels to movies, stories have always fascinated mankind.  Although the methods have changed, the desire to tell and hear stories has remained unchanged, and still greatly impacts the way we look at life.

The earliest form of storytelling that has been discovered is from the Lascaux Caves in the Pyrenees Mountains in southern France.  Discovered in 1940 by a group of French children, a series of cave paintings that date back to sometime between 15000 and 13,000 B.C. depicted a variety of animals and one image of a human being.  When closely examined, this mural of sorts actually follows a very simplistic series of events.  It tells of rituals performed and hunting practices.  It tells a story.

Flash forward to 700 B.C.  The first printed story, the epic of Gilgamesh, was created and began to spread from Mesopotamia to other parts of Europe and Asia.  The story was carved on stone pillars for all to see, which spread the story around very quickly.

In the 200s B.C., Aesop’s fables were written down, and continue to teach lessons today in many areas of life.  Aesop lived in the 500s B.C., but his stories were remembered for hundreds of years without a single shred of paper or other printed material.  Isn’t that amazing?  Oral storytelling was so powerful and people remembered Aesop’s tales so well that even 300 years later the stories were revered enough for mass production.

Storytellers began to arise as very important figures in a community.  The ability to tell stories effectively and memorably was a very valuable skill.   Why?  As wars were fought and valiant deeds were done, the people needed some way to remember them.  Instead of simply stating what happened, stories began to emerge as a way to preserve the raw emotions and sequence of events of the actual event.

The Bible’s Old Testament spoke of men and women, of tales and lessons learned that occurred many, many years before they were written.  A majority of the books relied on solid resources for their writings.  What were these resources?  Stories.  People witnessed events, heard the stories and kept them alive through word of mouth.  They told their friends, families and communities about the events, and a chain was formed, one link, one storyteller, at a time.

Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets weren’t meant to be published, but his status became legendary once they were.  He was known as a great storyteller to many of his close friends, but soon became immortalized in the pieces that he produced.  From a young street rat in London to being taught in every school hundreds of years later, he made his mark on literature forever.  How did he do it?

Storytelling.

Steve Jobs was famous for his keynotes.   Whether launching new products or making an announcement, he agonized for hours over the details of his presentations.  People were amazed at his ability to craft a narrative, to create and maintain suspense and to deliver a solid message.  It wasn’t dazzling special effects or crazy props.

It was storytelling.

History is nothing but a series of stories that, when told correctly, can teach us lessons, give us insights into a variety of concepts, or entertain us.  Every story serves a purpose, even if to simply relay a message.  Without history, without chronicled stories, mankind would never learn from his mistakes, would never dream to emulate past heroes, would never see anything but the now.  We would be clueless to the past, and therefore helpless for the future.

We all crave stories because they allow us to sympathize with characters.  Tell your audience a story, and you will gain their support.  You will create a following for your cause and inspire your audience to act and believe.

In your next presentation, remember the power of storytelling.  Remember that even in a straightforward business presentation, a story helps to illustrate a point better than a set of facts.  A story gives people a reason to care about what you’re saying.  They relate to the characters, the plot and the lessons learned.  They relate to your story, and therefore your message.

So, what’s your story?