How to look your best on the small screen

Remember these five video tips to always look your best.

  • Say yes to crow's feet. Smile with your eyes with a genuine (not forced) smile.
  • Pretend you're talking to Fido (or your favorite pet). You'll avoid the deer-in-headlights look.
  • Sit up. Poor posture makes your audience think you're checked out.
  • Keep your eyes on the camera. Looking elsewhere makes you look shifty.
  • Breathe. Take deep breaths before the cameras roll & continue to breathe calmly.

3 Simple Ways to Eliminate Filler Words

Filler words such as "like," "um," "so," and "you know" are part of our everyday conversation. I’m not of the school that you can’t ever use filler words when you’re speaking, but if you’re using them every other word, it can be a big distraction for your audience. It’s harder for themto understand your message andfiller words can undermine your credibility in no time. So what can you do?

First, record yourself to see if you’re using filler works and how bad it is. A lot of people have no idea they’re using them until they hear themselves recorded.

If you find that you use a lot of fillers, insert a breath or a pause in place of the filler word. Start to practice this technique in low-stakes meetings. Write down your particular filler word on a post-it note as a reminder.

Another way to combat filler words is to slow down your delivery, extending your vowel sounds. So instead of, “we’re uh, facing, uh new challenges, uh, as we look, uh, at next year’s, uh, product line.” It’d be, “we’re facing new challenges as we look at next year’s product line."

So, to eliminate filler words:

-record yourself

-replace the filler word with a breath or pause

-extend your vowel sound

Mastering the Toast: The Wedding Speech

Asked to speak at a wedding? Here’s a short sample of just about everything you should avoid:

Seriously, here are three tips to follow for a successful toast:

1. Speak up.

The big mistake most people make when speaking at weddings is not being loud enough. Everyone there really wants to hear what you have to say-don't make them struggle to hear you. You'll probably have a handheld mic-pretend it's an ice cream cone and hold it very close to your chin. If you hear your voice on the speakers, that's a good thing-don't let it freak you out.

2. Tell Stories and avoid reading.

You can certainly have some notes to jog your memory, but try to keep it conversational, not word-perfect formal. When you're reading, it can come across like a book report. When you're crafting your speech, speak out loud what you want to say instead of sitting down to write it out. It will be more conversational as a result. Tell stories and shine a light on the member of the celebrated couple you share a history with. Focus on specific events and re-play them remembering to use sensory details (as if you're a movie camera revealing the scene). Some places to start are:

-How has their life changed since meeting the bride/groom?

-What are the qualities they share?

-When did they first tell you about meeting their future better half, and what did they say?

3. Practice, practice, practice.

This is a once in a lifetime event (usually), so take time to prepare. Go through your speech out loud, while standing, multiple times. Record the audio on your phone, or better yet, video it. When you listen back, does it sound like you're telling a great story to a good friend? Practice holding something similar to a mic when you're going through your run-throughs (a stapler, flashlight, etc.) so you get used to holding something in your hand. The more you practice, the better it'll get.        


Yoda's Keynote, "Size Matters Not"

Throughout the “Size Matters Not,” keynote Yoda delivers to Mr. Skywalker, Yoda expertly calibrates, his tone, cadence, and volume to deliver a moving speech on the power of perseverance.  In general conversation, Yoda sounds like his favorite snack is gravel by the handful.  With this in mind, he knows when to dip into other registers to highlight some of his key talking points.  Let’s take a closer look and see what Jedi techniques Yoda has up his sleeve.

 “Size matters not…” Roughly speaking, this is Yoda’s natural speaking voice.  Great for gravitas but not so great for clarity, and could use a little more enunciation and less frog phlegm.

“…look at me…” Here Yoda pumps the breaks, slows down and lowers his volume.  Great to add emphasis and allow his audience a relax.

 “…judge me by my SIZE? Do you?” Here, Yoda increases volume and goes into his upper range to add a judicious counterpoint, that cuts to the core question on Mr. Skywalker’s mind.

Notice how much drama Yoda is able to wring out of a single line by adding modulation, inflection and volume.

While Yoda isn’t afraid to pepper his conversation with grunts and farts, he does mercilessly prunes filler words, the 'um's, 'like's and 'uh's, that destroy authority, from his sage insight.

After each sentence, Yoda wields the powerful pause like a lightsaber, cutting his thoughts into neat digestible parcels of information.

To wrap up his rousing talk, he does a brief Q&A, that sums up his thesis brilliantly.

Luke, “I don’t believe it.”

Yoda, “That is why you fail.”

Stop Picturing Your Audience in Their Underwear!

One piece of advice that seems to have made its way into the canon of public speaking tips is “just picture the audience in their underwear.” From the Brady Bunch to the reality show The Pitch, this is terrible advice that just won’t die.

I would like to kill this advice once and for all.

In his excellent radio interview on NPR with Regina Brett, Scott Berkun traces the origins of the underwear advice possibly to Winston Churchill, who while being an excellent speaker, “was also an alcoholic, so a lot of his advice about what he did probably doesn’t apply to most people.”

There are a lot of things you can do about nerves, but adding the visual of your audience in their underwear most likely will short circuit and distract you from why you’re speaking in the first place. 

OK, so what CAN you do about nerves?

  • Nervousness is normal. Just acknowledging this will take some of the pressure off.
  • Watch a funny video, or find something to laugh about beforehand. Nerves hate laughter.
  • Practice out loud until you’ve got it down cold. Knowing your content will alleviate a lot of your anxiety
  • Get some physical exercise to help expel some of your nervous energy. Even a brisk walk will help.
  • If possible, chat with attendees beforehand so that you have some friendly faces to connect with.

When the Actor's Nightmare Becomes a Reality

As a former actor, I often had what is commonly known as ‘the actor’s nightmare.’ It’s a dream where you’re on stage, and you have no idea why you are there, or what you are supposed to say. You’re suspended in this long, awkward, uncomfortable terror. The other actors are looking at you, waiting for you to speak. The audience is staring at your with crossed arms and bored faces. Absolute silence. Eventually one actor says a line that makes no sense at all. You try to speak, but you can’t make a sound. Nothing comes out. Finally, you wake up, in a cold sweat, with your heart pounding, giving thanks that it was just a terrible dream.

And then, there’s when it happens in real life. And it’s terrible. You feel humiliated. You feel like a complete failure. This happened to me after getting accepted into a highly competitive MFA Graduate program for acting at the University of Washington. We were presenting our first performance with an adaptation of Kafka’s “The Trial.” My turn came to speak and I simply couldn’t remember what to say. The actors nightmare came true. I muttered a thing or two, made something up and the show went on, but I was completely horrified. In the moment, you have to let it go and move on because you’ve still got the rest of the show to do. Save beating yourself up for later. And boy did I make good on the promise to beat myself up. That night, I thought to myself, “Did I make a terrible mistake by enrolling in a graduate acting program? Did THEY make a terrible mistake by accepting me to this program?” I was devastated. I felt like a complete zero. The only consolation I could come up with the next day was “well, I didn’t actually die.”

 But my confidence did die. And were I not signed up for a three year program, I might have just hit the road and called it quits right then. But the next day, the sun rose, I got up, and went back to school, and with the support and encouragement of my classmates and teachers, re-gained my confidence. But had I not gotten back up on that horse, I would forever have branded myself as a failure, and not found my way to the work I so passionately love — presenting, teaching and coaching others to move beyond their fears and limitations to find their voice and speak with confidence.

Public Speaking from the Nuclear Core of Your Being

I was coaching women CEOs seeking capital as part of the Million Dollar Women Workshop, led by Julia Pimsleur, a veteran fundraiser, author and CEO who’s been through the trenches and has a wealth of knowledge to share.

When seeking funding, there are many things to prepare. You need to understand your market and be clear about how you’re going to make money—but at the core is your story.

Think about what problem are you solving, and why are you passionate enough to start a business. Get to the root of what is driving you to act. Go deep and get personal.

When I was coaching Julia’s group, a CEO working on closing a round of funding stated that she wasn’t comfortable talking about her personal life. But, once she DID open up and talk about the deeply-felt, highly-personal reasons she started her company—the entire room was completely captivated.  You could've heard a pin drop.  And in the middle of midtown Manhattan, that's really saying something.  The passion was palpable.  This my friends, is storyteller Yellowcake Uranium.

But this was a volatile, emotional place, and she expressed understandable concern about “going there.”  I advised that she practice telling the story repeatedly, as one must do when pitching. She would then be able to talk about her core beliefs without letting her emotions take over.  This is the same advice given to stage actors when they are reaching an emotional place in a scene. It’s great that you’re feeling emotional, but if the audience can’t hear your words, you’re not getting your message across. When telling your story, touch however gently on the personal, nuclear core of your being, but keep it within your control by practicing your delivery out loud.  This will escalate your standard, run-of-the-mill story to a powerful DEFCON 1-status, in femtoseconds flat. You’ll touch the core of your audience’s hearts, while also appealing to the logic in their brains.