Dealing With Nerves

BEFORE THE PRESENTATION

See the room where you’ll be presenting and test all of the equipment, including the microphone and handheld remote.  A wireless lavaliere or over-the-ear microphone offers the most mobility around the presentation space.  To reduce the chance of feedback, make sure that you don’t walk in front of the speakers.  Ask that an A/V technician is on-site to help you with any problems.  Locate and learn the operations of light switches and the room thermostat.

AS THE AUDIENCE ARRIVES

Meet and greet the audience as they arrive.  Chatting with a few people ahead of time will help to turn the mysterious crowd into friendly faces; your speech will feel more like a conversation than a formal presentation.  Don’t forget to place a glass of water at the lectern and a tissue and cough drop in your pocket.

IMMEDIATELY BEFORE YOU SPEAK

Away from the crowd, practice deep breathing exercises to slow your racing heart.  Try shoulder shrugs, head rolls and leg and arm shakes to relieve body tension.  Warm up your face muscles by chewing in a highly exaggerated way.

While waiting to be introduced, do not sit with your legs crossed.  Sit with both feet on the ground and let your arms dangle at your sides.

To prepare yourself mentally, don’t spend the last moments thinking about your opening lines or knocking knees.  Instead, concentrate on your objectives.  What do you want the audience to think/feel/do differently as a result of your presentation?  This will put the focus where it needs to be at this moment – on your audience.

AT THE LECTERN

Before you begin speaking, establish eye contact with a friendly face in the crowd, smile and take a breath.  Now you are ready.

© 2017 Jill Bremer  All rights reserved.

Developing Vocal Power

The sound of your voice often tells a story different from the one you intended.  You may feel happy, excited, angry, or confident, but your voice may not accurately reflect those emotions.  You may say the right words or ask the right questions, but your voice may detract from the message.  Good communication skills training is important so that you can be effective in your job and achieve your goals.  However, if the voice itself isn’t developed, your verbal message may be misunderstood or lost entirely.  If presentations or speeches are part of your work, the way your voice sounds is especially important.

Try the following exercises to first analyze your voice’s strengths and weaknesses.  Then continue to practice these exercises to develop and expand the voice.  And very soon you’ll have a voice that serves you – and your ideas – well.

RELAXATION

These exercises will help relax the body and relieve tension in the neck, important first steps in the vocal production process.

  • From a standing position, roll down slowly and back up, vertebra by vertebra.
  • Tense head back slightly, feeling the tension in the neck.  Release the tension and feel the difference.
  • Roll the shoulders, forward and backward.
  • Roll the head around in a circle, feeling the stretch in the neck.  Let the mouth drop open when the head rolls to the back.
  • Fill the lungs with air and hiss softly for 60 seconds while revolving the head and shrugging the shoulders.

WARM UPS

Just as an athlete warms up the muscles before a workout or game, you must warm up your vocal muscles so that you don’t injure your throat.

  • Do a full-body yawn – open mouth, open eyes wide, stretch arms over head.
  • Make the face as small and pinched as possible – close the eyes, purse the lips, and frown.  Then, make it as large as you can – open wide the eyes and mouth, lift the forehead.
  • Gently grab the larynx and move it from side to side.  Keep the jaw slack – the larynx should feel quite moveable.
  • Warm up the jaw by saying “mah” or “yah” several times.
  • Warm up the tip of the tongue with “lah” or “tah”, keeping the jaw still as you speak.
  • Warm up the back of the tongue with “ah-ee”.  Keep the jaw still and force the back of the tongue to arch high on “ee”.

BREATH SUPPORT

(excerpt from It’s Your Move: Dealing Yourself the Best Cards in Life and Work, by Cyndi Maxey and Jill Bremer, Financial Times Prentice Hall, 2004)

Abdominal breathing, also called diaphragmatic breathing, promotes relaxation and blood flow, detoxifies the inner organs, and supports the voice.  The diaphragm is shaped like an upside-down bowl and acts as a partition between the heart and lungs above and all of the other internal organs below.  When you inhale and the lungs fill with air, the diaphragm is forced downward by the lungs and the stomach expands.  As you exhale, the lungs empty, the diaphragm relaxes back to its dome-like shape, and the stomach contracts.  The more the diaphragm can move, the more the lungs can expand, bring in more oxygen, and release more carbon dioxide.  You automatically breathe from the abdomen when you lay on your back, and usually when you’re seated, although this is not automatically deep breathing.  Deep breathing takes advantage of the fact that the lungs are larger at the bottom.

  • Pant like a dog, keeping your shoulders still.  Notice how your stomach bounces in and out.
  • Lie on your back and place a book on your stomach.  Watch it rise and fall as you breathe.
  • Sitting in a chair, lean all the way over so that the chest is on the lap.  Let your arms hang down to the side.  Breathe in and out several times deeply and slowly, noting where the expansion is.
  • Stand or sit with your hands on your waist and breathe in through the nose.  Sigh out through an open mouth and throat.  Let the stomach cave in as you blow out every ounce of air.  Wait until you feel you must breathe, then inhale slowly feeling the lungs filling deep down.  Do not let the upper chest move.
  • Breathe in, then exhale quickly, as though you were punched in the stomach.  Inhale, taking five, short quick gasps through an open mouth to fill the lungs completely.  Feel the stomach grow bigger and bigger with each inhalation.  Then exhale, blowing out over the course of five short exhalations.  Repeat.
  • Stand facing a partner.  Lean towards him with his fist pushing into your stomach.  Say “ho, ho, ho”.  With each “ho”, your stomach should push you away off and away from the fist.

RESONANCE

A resonant voice has a rich, pleasing sound.  There are three areas where the voice can resonate: nose, mouth, throat.  The goal for most voices is to have little nasality, utilizing primarily the mouth and throat cavities.

  • Say “Mama made Mary come home”.  Repeat holding the nose – feel the resonance in the nose.
  • Say “Alone, alone, all all alone.  Alone on a wide, wide sea”. Repeat, opening the mouth and throat to feel the resonance in the oral cavities.
  • Take a deep breath with the mouth loosely open.  Sigh out on a stream of vibrations – “huh”.
  • Repeat the above exercise, closing the lips around “huh” to a hum.  Try starting from a comfortable high note, moving slowly down the scale.

PITCH

A voice with highs and lows is more pleasant to listen to than one that is monotone.  Try these exercises to expand the range of your voice.

  • Imitate a siren, softly on “oo” or “ah”, moving from low to high and low again.
  • Sing a descending five-note scale, moving from high to low on “huh”.

TONE

These exercises will help to develop your voice’s inflection and communicate the emotion of your message.

  • Say “I’d love to” different ways, suggesting the following emotions: anger, fear, doubt, determination, sarcasm, disgust, joy, pity, curiosity, indifference, regret.
  • Say “oh” suggesting each of these meanings: mild surprise, great surprise, polite interest, indifference, disappointment, pity, disgust, sarcasm.
  • Say “She saw me”, emphasizing alternately “she”, “saw”, and “me.”  Suggest the following emotions: pleased surprise, horrified surprise, sarcasm.

ARTICULATION

When you articulate, your message becomes clear and understandable.  The following exercises will develop the articulation mechanisms: lips, teeth, and tongue.  Exaggerate the lips, teeth, and tongue as you say them.

  • “Bibbity-bobbity, Bibbity-bobbity, Bibbity-bobbity, boo.”  “Tickety-tackety, Tickety-tackety, Tickety-tackety, too.”
  • “Ah-ee, ah-ee, ah-ee.”
  • “Lemon liniment.”
  • “A noisy noise annoys an oyster.”
  • “Round and round the rugged rock, the ragged rascal ran.”
  • “Strange strategic statistics.”
  • “Red leather, yellow leather.”
  • “Jump Charley.”

RATE

The following “I Have a Dream” excerpt is exactly 140 words.  140 words per minute is a good rate when speaking before an audience.  Time yourself as you try this exercise.  Do you finish before one minute is up?  Are you still talking at the minute mark?

“I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment I still have a dream. 

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal…”

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.  I have a dream.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plains, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed.”\

© 2017 Jill Bremer All Rights Reserved

5 Times You Should be Saying “Thank You” (and may not be)

“A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all other virtues.” – Cicero

Are you saying “thank you” enough these days? Expressing appreciation to others can have a wonderful ripple effect. As others feel acknowledged and respected, it’s often paid forward to the next person they encounter, and so on. Saying “thanks” reveals we see ourselves as part of a larger community, where we recognize we’re all interconnected—and strengthening that web can make us all better for it.

What follows are five instances in our everyday lives we should be saying “thank you” and may not be. Give yourself a point for each one you do.

When you walk through a door being held open for you

Many people fail to even notice that they’re walking through an open door. They’re engaged in a conversation or their own thoughts or I-don’t-know-what. The door-holder, though, is making a real effort to be helpful to others and deserves a “thank you” each and every time.  Keep in mind they may have become trapped by a sudden swarm of people behind the mom with a stroller, but they didn’t let the door slam shut in front of you. They probably deserve an award.

When the car next to you lets you merge in front

We’ve all witnessed one specific gesture being used on the roadways, but there’s a better one we need to employ. It’s the universal handwave in front of the rearview mirror letting the driver behind you know that you appreciate them slowing down and giving you space. Don’t wave too soon, though. Make sure you’re exactly in front of them so your wiggling fingers are seen. I think we’d have less road-rage if we used more of the five-finger wave and less of the single-finger.

When the busboy refills water/clears plates/brings you anything

This holds true for anyone assisting your primary server (who also deserves a periodic “thank you”). These unsung heroes usually make less than the main servers, so saying “thank you” is especially appreciated. No one expects you to interrupt your conversation each and every time they appear. Just an occasional acknowledgement is called for.

When the grocery bagger is finished

The cashier deserves a “thank you”, of course, but the hardworking bagger has earned one, too. Be sure you make eye contact and thank them for taking good care of your eggs/cupcakes/bananas. For some, this is their first foray into the workforce. For others, this will be the only job they ever have. A little encouragement will mean a lot.

When the flight attendant hands you a drink

Here’s another stressful yet often thankless job. Yes, the engines are loud, your ears are plugged, your seatmate is hugging your armrest, and the person in front of you is fully-reclined, but make sure you at least mouth “thank you” to the attendant after they’ve served you. Placing our order for ginger ale comes easily; our thank you afterward doesn’t always.

“Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.” – Voltaire

© Jill Bremer 2019

What’s YOUR first impression?

 

perfect10In her new book, “Presence”, Harvard Business School professor (and creator of “power posing”) Amy Cuddy shares that in first impression situations, people instantly answer two questions about each other:

  1. Can I trust this person?
  2. Can I respect this person?

Cuddy says that trust equates to warmth and respect to competence. Ideally, we want to be perceived as having both, but we can lose out if we think competence is the most important factor on which to be evaluated. The goal-to be seen first as warm and approachable. Others will respond more favorably when they sense first that you’re trustworthy. It’s only when trust has been established that competence will be evaluated.

The takeaway? Trying too hard at the beginning to convey you’re smart, accomplished, and competent can send a vibe that you’re unapproachable and maybe even manipulative. Brush up on your social skills, ask questions, be a little transparent, and show interest in others. Cuddy says, “A warm, trustworthy person who is also strong elicits admiration, but only after you’ve established trust does your strength become a gift rather than a threat.”

© Jill Bremer 2016

“Youth-anize” Your Image – Tip #4

4. STYLISH HAIRSTYLE
An updated hairstyle can be a great way to convey youthfulness. When was the last time you changed your hairdo? If you look the same as you did in your high school yearbook, it’s time for an update!

While it’s important to determine and wear the best style for your face shape, lifestyle, and hairstyling abilities, it’s also important to tweak it occasionally to reflect the current trends. I also believe that job changes, promotions, and life milestones should be accompanied by a new “look”. So at least once per year, have a conversation with your stylist or barber to get their recommendations for changes that could be made – longer or shorter sideburns, bangs/no bangs, straight vs. layered, etc. And then decide what, if anything, you want to do. But at least promise yourself that you’ll have the conversation annually.

Consider coloring your hair, too, especially if you have warm undertones to your skin and eyes. I realize the unfairness of it all – silver can make a man look distinguished, but make a woman look old. To color or not color is a personal decision – and it certainly requires a commitment in both time and money – but if the goal is to look more youthful, covering the grey is definitely something to consider.

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