Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Sunday, August 9, 2009
One of the worst mistakes you can make as a public speaker is talking too long. Not only will you send some folks to never, never land, you will make some of them downright mad. It doesn't matter if your entire speech was brilliant and the audience came away with information that will change their lives. If you talk too long, they will leave saying, "That speaker just wouldn't quit." Don't let this happen to you! Say what you have to say and sit down. Before you do, give them a well thought out closing.
The last thing you say may be the most remembered. You must put as much time into selecting and practicing your closing as you put into any other part of your presentation. Just like your opening, your closing does not have to be humorous. It could be motivational, challenging, thoughtful, respectful of the length of the presentation, or it could restate your point in a different way. This ending segment will have a strong influence on what the audience takes home with them when you are done. Please, at sometime during your talk ask the audience to do something. Many a great NO ZZZZZs talk went no further than the walls of the meeting room because the audience wasn't moved to action. If you haven't ask them to do something by now, the closing is your last chance.
If the subject is appropriate, I happen to be fond of humorous closings for several reasons. If you leave them laughing and applauding, you will exit, but an extremely positive impression about you will remain. Another good reason to leave them laughing is that the room will not be deadly silent as you are walking back to your seat. I hate when that happens. I do love laughter and feeling good; finishing a speech humorously gives me and the audience an opportunity to feel great.Speeches that are for entertainment purposes only should generally leave the audience laughing.
Finally, if the subject is not appropriate to end with laughter, you could end with a touching story or quotation that leaves the audience thoughtful and quiet. Even the most serious public speaking subjects can benefit from humor, but the humor should be sprinkled throughout the body of the presentation. Don't put it at the end because closings are powerful and the audience will think your overall attitude toward the subject is flippant.
This same technique can be very effective in ending a mostly humorous speaking engagement. Have them laughing all along while you make your points. Then finish seriously. This contrast will create a great impact. It will convey the fact that you believe in a lighthearted approach to the subject, but the results are very serious to you.
Don't be afraid to use humor when you speak in public. Just make sure you learn to do it right.
taken from: www.public-speaking.org
Presentation Tips for Public Speaking
Know the needs of your audience and match your contents to their needs. Know your material thoroughly. Put what you have to say in a logical sequence. Ensure your speech will be captivating to your audience as well as worth their time and attention. Practice and rehearse your speech at home or where you can be at ease and comfortable, in front of a mirror, your family, friends or colleagues. Use a tape-recorder and listen to yourself. Videotape your presentation and analyze it. Know what your strong and weak points are. Emphasize your strong points during your presentation.
When you are presenting in front of an audience, you are performing as an actor is on stage. How you are being perceived is very important. Dress appropriately for the occasion. Be solemn if your topic is serious. Present the desired image to your audience. Look pleasant, enthusiastic, confident, proud, but not arrogant. Remain calm. Appear relaxed, even if you feel nervous. Speak slowly, enunciate clearly, and show appropriate emotion and feeling relating to your topic. Establish rapport with your audience. Speak to the person farthest away from you to ensure your voice is loud enough to project to the back of the room. Vary the tone of your voice and dramatize if necessary. If a microphone is available, adjust and adapt your voice accordingly.
Body language is important. Standing, walking or moving about with appropriate hand gesture or facial expression is preferred to sitting down or standing still with head down and reading from a prepared speech. Use audio-visual aids or props for enhancement if appropriate and necessary. Master the use of presentation software such as PowerPoint well before your presentation. Do not over-dazzle your audience with excessive use of animation, sound clips, or gaudy colors which are inappropriate for your topic. Do not torture your audience by putting a lengthy document in tiny print on an overhead and reading it out to them.
Speak with conviction as if you really believe in what you are saying. Persuade your audience effectively. The material you present orally should have the same ingredients as that which are required for a written research paper, i.e. a logical progression from INTRODUCTION (Thesis statement) to BODY (strong supporting arguments, accurate and up-to-date information) to CONCLUSION (re-state thesis, summary, and logical conclusion).
Do not read from notes for any extended length of time although it is quite acceptable to glance at your notes infrequently. Speak loudly and clearly. Sound confident. Do not mumble. If you made an error, correct it, and continue. No need to make excuses or apologize profusely.
Maintain sincere eye contact with your audience. Use the 3-second method, e.g. look straight into the eyes of a person in the audience for 3 seconds at a time. Have direct eye contact with a number of people in the audience, and every now and then glance at the whole audience while speaking. Use your eye contact to make everyone in your audience feel involved.
Speak to your audience, listen to their questions, respond to their reactions, adjust and adapt. If what you have prepared is obviously not getting across to your audience, change your strategy mid-stream if you are well prepared to do so. Remember that communication is the key to a successful presentation. If you are short of time, know what can be safely left out. If you have extra time, know what could be effectively added. Always be prepared for the unexpected.
Pause. Allow yourself and your audience a little time to reflect and think. Don't race through your presentation and leave your audience, as well as yourself, feeling out of breath.
Add humor whenever appropriate and possible. Keep audience interested throughout your entire presentation. Remember that an interesting speech makes time fly, but a boring speech is always too long to endure even if the presentation time is the same.
When using audio-visual aids to enhance your presentation, be sure all necessary equipment is set up and in good working order prior to the presentation. If possible, have an emergency backup system readily available. Check out the location ahead of time to ensure seating arrangements for audience, whiteboard, blackboard, lighting, location of projection screen, sound system, etc. are suitable for your presentation.
Have handouts ready and give them out at the appropriate time. Tell audience ahead of time that you will be giving out an outline of your presentation so that they will not waste time taking unnecessary notes during your presentation.
Know when to STOP talking. Use a timer or the microwave oven clock to time your presentation when preparing it at home. Just as you don't use unnecessary words in your written paper, you don't bore your audience with repetitious or unnecessary words in your oral presentation. To end your presentation, summarize your main points in the same way as you normally do in the CONCLUSION of a written paper. Remember, however, that there is a difference between spoken words appropriate for the ear and formally written words intended for reading. Terminate your presentation with an interesting remark or an appropriate punch line. Leave your listeners with a positive impression and a sense of completion. Do not belabor your closing remarks. Thank your audience and sit down.
Have the written portion of your assignment or report ready for your instructor if required.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
You may not want to believe this, but it's true: a good night's sleep and a relaxed mind and body can do as much or more for you as any last-minute cram session. Colleges abound with tales of woe about students who slept through exams because they stayed up all night, wrote an essay on the wrong topic, forgot everything they studied, or freaked out in the exam and hyperventilated. If you are rested, breathing normally, and have brought along some healthy energy-boosting snacks (fruit juice, health bars, but not anything that crunches loudly), you are in a much better position to do a good job on the test. You aren't going to write a good essay on something you figured out at 4 a.m. that morning. If you prepare yourself well throughout the semester, you don't risk your whole grade on an overloaded, undernourished brain.
If for some reason you get yourself into this situation, take a minute every once in a while during the test to breathe deeply, stretch, and clear your brain. You need to be especially aware of the likelihood of errors, so check your essays thoroughly before you hand them in to make sure they answer the right questions and don't have big oversights or mistakes (like saying "Hitler" when you really mean "Churchill").
If you tend to go blank during exams, try studying in the same classroom in which the test will be given. Some research suggests that people attach ideas to their surroundings, so it might jog your memory to see the same things you were looking at while you studied.
Try good luck charms. Bring in something you associate with success or the support of your loved ones, and use it as a psychological boost.
Take all of the time you've been allotted. Reread, rework, and rethink your answers if you have extra time at the end, rather than giving up and handing the exam in the minute you've written your last sentence. Use every advantage you are given.
Remember that instructors do not want to see you trip up—they want to see you do well. With this in mind, try to relax and just do the best you can. The more you panic, the more mistakes you are liable to make. Put the test in perspective: will you die from a poor performance? Will you lose all of your friends? Will your entire future be destroyed? Remember: it's just a test.
Read the exam carefully
* If you are given the entire exam at once and can determine your approach on your own, read the entire exam before you get started.
* Look at how many points each part earns you, and find hints for how long your answers should be.
* Figure out how much time you have and how best to use it. Write down the actual clock time that you expect to take in each section, and stick to it. This will help you avoid spending all your time on only one section. One strategy is to divide the available time according to percentage worth of the question. You don't want to spend half of your time on something that is only worth one tenth of the total points.
* As you read, make tentative choices of the questions you will answer (if you have a choice). Don't just answer the first essay question you encounter. Instead, read through all of the options. Jot down really brief ideas for each question before deciding.
* Remember that the easiest-looking question is not always as easy as it looks. Focus your attention on questions for which you can explain your answer most thoroughly, rather than settle on questions where you know the answer but can't say why.
Analyze the questions
* Decide what you are being asked to do. If you immediately begin to cast about indiscriminately for ideas, you may become flustered, lose concentration, and even go blank. Try looking closely at what the question is directing you to do, and try to understand the sort of writing that will be required.
* Focus on what you do know about the question, not on what you don't.
* Look at the active verbs in the assignment—they tell you what you should be doing. We've included some of these below, with some suggestions on what they might mean. (For help with this sort of detective work, see the Writing Center handout titled Reading Assignments.)
Here are some definitions to help you translate exam terms:
Information words ask you to demonstrate what you know about the subject, such as who, what, when, where, how, and why.
* define —give the subject's meaning (according to someone or something). Sometimes you have to give more than one view on the subject's meaning.
* explain why/how —give reasons why or examples of how something happened.
* illustrate —give descriptive examples of the subject and show how each is connected with the subject.
* summarize —briefly cover the important ideas you learned about the subject.
* trace —outline how something has changed or developed from an earlier time to its current form.
* research —gather material from outside sources about the subject, often with the implication or requirement that you will analyze what you've found.
Relation words ask you to demonstrate how things are connected.
* compare —show how two or more things are similar (and, sometimes, different).
* contrast —show how two or more things are dissimilar.
* apply &mash;use details that you've been given to demonstrate how an idea, theory, or concept works in a particular situation.
* cause —show how one event or series of events made something else happen.
* relate —show or describe the connections between things.
Interpretation words ask you to defend ideas of your own about the subject. Don't see these words as requesting opinion alone (unless the assignment specifically says so), but as requiring opinion that is supported by concrete evidence. Remember examples, principles, definitions, or concepts from class or research and use them in your interpretation.
* prove, justify —give reasons or examples to demonstrate how or why something is the truth.
* evaluate, respond, assess —state your opinion of the subject as good, bad, or some combination of the two, with examples and reasons (you may want to compare your subject to something else).
* support —give reasons or evidence for something you believe (be sure to state clearly what it is that you believe).
* synthesize —put two or more things together that haven't been put together before; don't just summarize one and then the other, and say that they are similar or different—you must provide a reason for putting them together (as opposed to compare and contrast—see above).
* analyze —look closely at the components of something to figure out how it works, what it might mean, or why it is important.
* argue —take a side and defend it (with proof) against the other side.
Plan your answers
* Think about your time again. How much planning time you should take depends on how much time you have for each question and how many points each question is worth.
* For short-answer definitions and identifications, just take a few seconds. Skip over any you don't recognize fairly quickly, and come back to them when another question jogs your memory.
* For answers that require a paragraph or two, jot down several important ideas or specific examples that help to focus your thoughts.
* For longer answers, you will need to develop a much more definite strategy of organization. You only have time for one draft, so allow a reasonable amount of time—as much as a quarter of the time you've allotted for the question—for making notes, determining a thesis, and developing an outline.
* For questions with several parts (different requests or directions, a sequence of questions), make a list of the parts so that you do not miss or minimize one part. One way to be sure you answer them all is to number them in the question and in your outline.
* You may have to try two or three outlines or clusters before you hit on a workable plan. But be realistic—you want a plan you can develop within the limited time allotted for your answer. Your outline will have to be selective—not everything you know, but what you know that you can state clearly and keep to the point in the time available.
* Again, focus on what you do know about the question, not on what you don't.
Writing your answers
As with planning, your strategy for writing depends on the length of your answer:
* For short identifications and definitions, it is usually best to start with a general identifying statement and then move on to describe specific applications or explanations. Two sentences will almost always suffice, but make sure they are complete sentences. Find out whether the instructor wants definition alone, or definition and significance. Why is the identification term or object important?
* For longer answers, begin by stating your forecasting statement or thesis clearly and explicitly. Strive for focus, simplicity, and clarity. In stating your point and developing your answers, you may want to use important course vocabulary words from the question. For example, if the question is, "How does wisteria function as a representation of memory in Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom?" you may want to use the words wisteria, representation, memory, and Faulkner) in your thesis statement and answer. Use these important words or concepts throughout the answer.
* If you have devised a promising outline for your answer, then you will be able to forecast your overall plan and its subpoints in your opening sentence. Forecasting always impresses readers and has the very practical advantage of making your answer easier to read. Also, if you don't finish writing, it tells your reader what you would have said if you had finished (and may get you partial points).
* You might want to use briefer paragraphs than you ordinarily do and signal clear relations between paragraphs with transition phrases or sentences.
* As you move ahead with the writing, you may think of new subpoints or ideas to include in the essay. Stop briefly to make a note of these on your original outline. If they are most appropriately inserted in a section you've already written, write them neatly in the margin, at the top of the page, or on the last page, with arrows or marks to alert the reader to where they fit in your answer. Be as neat and clear as possible.
* Don't pad your answer with irrelevancies and repetitions just to fill up space. Within the time available, write a comprehensive, specific answer.
* Watch the clock carefully to ensure that you do not spend too much time on one answer. You must be realistic about the time constraints of an essay exam. If you write one dazzling answer on an exam with three equally-weighted required questions, you earn only 33 points—not enough to pass at most colleges. This may seem unfair, but keep in mind that instructors plan exams to be reasonably comprehensive. They want you to write about the course materials in two or three or more ways, not just one way. Hint: if you finish a half-hour essay in 10 minutes, you may need to develop some of your ideas more fully.
* If you run out of time when you are writing an answer, jot down the remaining main ideas from your outline, just to show that you know the material and with more time could have continued your exposition.
* Double-space to leave room for additions, and strike through errors or changes with one straight line (avoid erasing or scribbling over). Keep things as clean as possible. You never know what will earn you partial credit.
* Write legibly and proofread. Remember that your instructor will likely be reading a large pile of exams. The more difficult they are to read, the more exasperated the instructor might become. Your instructor also cannot give you credit for what they cannot understand. A few minutes of careful proofreading can improve your grade.
Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind in writing essay exams is that you have a limited amount of time and space in which to get across the knowledge you have acquired and your ability to use it. Essay exams are not the place to be subtle or vague. It's okay to have an obvious structure, even the five-paragraph essay format you may have been taught in high school. Introduce your main idea, have several paragraphs of support—each with a single point defended by specific examples, and conclude with a restatement of your main point and its significance.
Exam questions can reach pretty far into the course materials, so you cannot hope to do well on them if you do not keep up with the readings and assignments from the beginning of the course. The most successful essay exam takers are prepared for anything reasonable, and they probably have some intelligent guesses about the content of the exam before they take it. How can you be a prepared exam taker? Try some of the following suggestions during the semester:
* Do the reading as the syllabus dictates; keeping up with the reading while the related concepts are being discussed in class saves you double the effort later.
* Go to lectures (and put away that crossword puzzle!).
* Take careful notes that you'll understand months later. If this is not your strong suit or the conventions for a particular discipline are different from what you are used to, ask your TA or the Learning Center for advice.
* Participate in your discussion sections; this will help you absorb the material better so you don't have to study as hard.
* Organize small study groups with classmates to explore and review course materials throughout the semester. Others will catch things you might miss even when paying attention. This is not cheating. As long as what you write on the essay is your own work, formulating ideas and sharing notes is okay. In fact, it is a big part of the learning process.
* As an exam approaches, find out what you can about the form it will take. This will help you forecast the questions that will be on the exam, and prepare for them.
These suggestions will save you lots of time and misery later. Remember that you can't cram weeks of information into a single day or night of study. So why put yourself in that position?
Now let's focus on studying for the exam. You'll notice the following suggestions are all based on organizing your study materials into manageable chunks of related material. If you have a plan of attack, you'll feel more confident and your answers will be more clear.
* Don't just memorize aimlessly; clarify the important issues of the course and use these issues to focus your understanding of specific facts and particular readings.
* Try to organize and prioritize the information into a thematic pattern. Look at what you've studied and find a way to put things into related groups. Find the fundamental ideas that have been emphasized throughout the course and organize your notes into broad categories. Think about how different categories relate to each other.
* Find out what you don't know, but need to know, by making up test questions and trying to answer them. Studying in groups helps as well.
What this handout is about
At some time in your undergraduate career, you're going to have to write an essay exam. This thought can inspire a fair amount of fear: we struggle enough with essays when they aren't timed events based on unknown questions. The goal of this handout is to give you some easy and effective strategies that will help you take control of the situation and do your best.
Why do instructors give essay exams?
Essay exams are a useful tool for finding out if you can sort through a large body of information, figure out what is important, and explain why it is important. Essay exams challenge you to come up with key course ideas and put them in your own words and to use the interpretive or analytical skills you've practiced in the course.
Instructors want to see whether:
* You understand concepts that provide the basis for the course
* You can use those concepts to interpret specific materials
* You can make connections, see relationships, draw comparisons and contrasts
* You can synthesize diverse information in support of an original assertion
* You can justify your own evaluations based on appropriate criteria
* You can argue your own opinions with convincing evidence
* You can think critically and analytically about a subject