Swat Those Mosquitoes in Your Business Presentations (Part II: Tips J-Z)


By: Mandi Stanley

“In this jungle we call public speaking, in the end, it’s not the lion or the tiger that eats you alive—it’s the mosquito!”

In Part I, we considered tips A – I to keep insects from creeping into your business presentations and undermining your credibility with your audiences. Now, please consider these remaining J – Z tips to be the ideal fly swatters to rid your next presentation of any pesky problems.

Journal Your Ideas
I keep an “Idea Journal” for each of my main topics. That way I am never at a loss for fresh material. These journals have saved me on a number of occasions. Here are some samples of what I will add to my “Idea Journal” or files.

  • Related articles

  • Quotations

  • Real-world examples from coworkers

  • Funny stories I hear

  • Brainstorms!

  • Illustrations

  • Ideas for exercises

  • Sample visual aids

Know Your Subject, Your Audience, and Yourself
Let’s focus on the “Know Yourself” part. Prepare yourself physically, mentally and emotionally before you speak.

  • Loosen up by stretching

  • Just say “no” to alcohol and caffeine before your presentation

  • Do drink plenty of water

  • Avoid consuming dairy products beforehand—they can contribute to throat congestion

  • Eat a light breakfast or lunch, but do not overdo it

  • Wear comfortable clothing and shoes - It’s not the time to break in new ones

  • Oh, and don’t forget to breathe!

Lose the Lectern
Easy Idea: You do not want a barrier standing between you and your audience. Participants will not feel as close a connection with you. Instead of blocking your body by standing behind the lectern, turn it at a slight angle (45 degrees) and stand to the side of it. That way, you are in full view of your audience, and you can still peek nonchalantly at your notes if you need to.

The beginning of your speech is no time for weak small talk and gibberish or “Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.” Nor is it the time to tell people the joke you just heard out in the hallway two minutes ago. If you have not prepared to say it, resist the temptation to do so. Instead, when you have a strong opening sentence that you have practiced and prepared and can speak with confidence no matter what your circumstances, you will immediately tame the butterflies in your stomach and win your audience’s attention.

  • Start strong

  • End stronger

  • Memorize your first and last sentences

  • Nix Your Nervousness

Nervous symptoms include the following:
These can sabotage any presentation. Turn that nervous energy into good adrenaline by identifying those symptoms, taking control of your surroundings, focusing on your audience rather than yourself, knowing your first and last sentences, and using these ideas to set the stage for success. 

  • Quivering voice

  • Shaky hands

  • Trembling knees and legs

  • Sweaty palms

  • Dry mouth

  • Rapid breathing

  • Knots in your stomach

  • Lack of focus

  • Blotchy skin

  • Rapid heartbeat

Open with Oomph
Which of these approaches can you use to get more creative with the opening of your next presentation? Decide now, and use it tomorrow!

Hook your audience with these attention-grabbing openers:  

    • Tell a story with which the audience can relate.

    • Ask a provocative question.

    • Share some startling statistics.

    • Use humor, though not necessarily a joke.

    • Quote someone.

    • Tie in a newsworthy current event.

    • Involve them in a discussion or activity.

Pack Your Bags
Have you remembered all the props and equipment necessary to make your presentation a smashing success? Do not forget anything! Here is a sample checklist. Use it to create your own, and check it each and every time.

  • Overhead transparencies

  • Overhead markers

  • Flipchart pads

  • Flipchart markers

  • Transparent tape

  • Masking tape

  • Portable microphone and equipment

  • Extra copies of workbooks and other learning guides

  • CD player

  • CDs

  • Slide projector

  • Slides

  • Remote control

  • Laptop

  • Presentation software

  • Writing utensils

  • Props and visual aids

  • Door prizes

  • Candy

  • Emergency clothing

  • Other

Quicken Your Wit
Have an arsenal of prepared one-liners that you have rehearsed but that appear spontaneous. The perception is that you are able to think—and speak—on your feet. 

  • What do you do if your overhead projector blows a bulb?

  • How do you respond when an audience member’s cell phone rings?

  • What if your opening story “lays an egg”?

I recommend buying—and reading—What to Say When You’re Dying on the Platform: A Complete Resource for Speakers, Trainers, and Executives, by Lilly Walters. Published by McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1995.  Think about it:  What will you say the next time your microphone shorts out on you during your talk? I have my one-liner ready. Do you have yours?

Before an important presentation (and they are all important)

  • Practice in front of a mirror.

  • Rehearse in front of your spouse.

  • Invite some friends over, pop some popcorn, and let them be your audience.

  • Videotape yourself.

  • Audiotape yourself, and then listen to it in your car.

  • Repeat selected sections of your speech three or four times.

Support Yourself with Speaker’s Stance

  1. Step One –  Stand with your feet slightly under shoulders’ width apart.

  2. Step Two –  Elongate your spine and assume good posture.

  3. Step Three – Stand with your weight slightly forward in your stance, concentrated on the balls of your feet.

  4. Step Four –  Let your arms rest naturally at your sides.

Speaker’s stance keeps you from the lazy habits of crossing your ankles, locking your knees, or resting all of your weight on one leg. It looks natural and comfortable to your audience. Practice speaker’s stance. Get comfortable with it.

Tell them.  Remember the Madison Avenue Approach.

  • Tell them what you are going to tell them.

  • Tell them.

  • Tell them what you told them.

Unclutter Your Transparencies and Slides
Consider the following design guidelines for preparing crisp, clean, and consistent visual aids:

  • Use the 6 X 6 Rule: No more than six lines of text with no more than six words per line.

  • Leave plenty of white space. Resist the temptation to cram too much information onto one slide.

  • Use sans serif type for transparencies and slides. Examples are arial and univers.

  • Use yellow text on a black background or white text on a green background for maximum readability.

Voice Your Vocal Concerns
Tape yourself to monitor verbal crutches you may not be aware of. These are fillers such as:

  • “Uh”

  • “Ummmm”

  • “And, uh”

  • Continual throat-clearing

  • Continual lip-smacking

They also include “favorite words.” A participant in one of my seminars in Portland, Maine, approached me at the first break to ask me, “Did you know you said the word ‘particular’ six times during your presentation?” I have always remembered that. Other examples could be “and,” “the point is,” “y’ know,” “like,” “well,” “basically,” and “okay.”

Can you identify your favorite fillers? Better yet, can someone else tell you?

WII FM Your Audience
Remember: Before you hit the stage, your audience is tuning into WIIFM radio. The format of that station is “What’s In It For Me?” It is the station in life through which we filter everything. Our audience members are listening while wondering “What’s in it for me?”

  •  Simply ask yourself: Am I giving them a reason to listen? Have I clearly stated the benefit to them?

  •  What’s in it for my audience?

Express Sincerity
Internationally recognized speaker and seminar leader Larry Winget of Win Seminars! in Tulsa, Oklahoma, has this to say about sincerity and the speaking industry:

“Very few people will pay any attention to what you have to say. Most people won’t even believe what you have to say. But they will pay attention to see if you believe what you have to say.” - Larry Winget

You:  Remember You Are The Presentation

Dr. Albert Mehrabian reminds us

  • 7 percent of our message is communicated through our words

  • 38 percent is communicated through our tone of voice

  • 55 percent is communicated through our body language and other cues

  • Use this No-Panic Checklist every time to make sure your voice, posture, gestures, and dress are sending the message you desire

  • Heed Zig Ziglar’s advice

Okay, I’ll admit: Z was a tough one.  But I had the pleasure of sharing the stage with best-selling author and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar back in 1997 in Overland Park, Kansas. I will never forget his positive energy and words of advice to other presenters.  “Everyone has butterflies in their stomach. The only difference between a pro and an amateur is:  the pro has them flying in formation.” Use this No-Panic Checklist to get over the sweaty palms, shaky hands, quivering voice, and nervous energy you may encounter before an important presentation. Take control of these A-Z elements, stop focusing so much on yourself, and you will get your “butterflies flying in formation.

”After all, as Mr. Ziglar reminds us:  “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.”

By: Mandi Stanley

© 2015 Alliance Training and Consulting, Inc.



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