Speaking and Biking – what do they have in Common?
As a long-distance cyclist, I’ve been preparing for a fall ride along the second half of the Blue Ridge Parkway. During my summer training, my left knee started bothering me. Before I made an appointment with my doctor, I researched “knee pain and cycling”, and realized I had never been properly “fitted” with my bike. I made an appointment with a certified Bike Fitting Specialist” and discovered how a few small tweaks could make a huge difference in my cycling experience.
I was measured at all hinge points on my body (knee-to-ankle, knee-to-hip, etc…), and the components on my bike were measured as well (seat height, seat-to-handlebar, etc…). Lastly, my “fitter” observed my posture when I pedaled on the bike. With all the data he collected, he made two minor adjustments: he lowered my seat about a 1/2 inch and he moved my seat forward approximately 1/4 of an inch. What a difference these adjustments made – no more knee pain!
What does bike fitting have to do with speaking more effectively, you are probably asking? I’ve seen the effects repeatedly with my students and clients. Small tweaks or changes in how you deliver can yield a more impactful and effective presentation.
These are 5 small tweaks that I’ve seen from experience that can transform your delivery:
1. Start Pausing. Your audience is at its peak of attention in those few moments before you utter your first words. I’ve seen too many speakers rush to get those first words out of their mouths, which lessens the impact of a dynamic opening. Savor those first few seconds between your introduction and your first words. You will come across as more confident. Another place to insert pauses within the text of your presentation is right before you say something you want your audience to remember. Your pause will act as a highlighter for your spoken words.
2. Eliminate filler words. There is nothing that will lower your impact more than filling your message with “um”, “like…”, or “you know”. These filler words generally come out in between thoughts or when speakers transition from one point to the next. A pause will signal a transition, and you will sound more confident when delivering your message.
3. Stop pacing. Yes, purposeful movement does add impact to your presentation, however, aimless wandering due to nervous energy does not. It’s distracting for your audience. Most of the time, speakers don’t even realize they are pacing across the stage. Record yourself as you are rehearsing to determine if you have this pacing habit. If so, choose strategic points within your presentation to move. Purposeful movement can be powerful.
4. Rehearse often. In my experience as a speaking coach, this is the least liked part of the speech-crafting process. However, rehearsals are what separate the great speakers from the mediocre ones. Rehearsals enable you to incorporate the small changes that allow you to deliver a great performance. Professional athletes nor actors would ever think about getting on the field or the stage without practice or rehearsals. And neither should you.
5. Avoid procrastinating. It’s easy to delay the start of something big. However, procrastination will guarantee you won’t deliver your best work. Sometimes ideas take time to simmer, and rushing at the last minute to edit and craft so your message is the right one for your audience takes time. Rehearsal of your delivery also takes time. Many resources are available to help eliminate procrastination. If there was any tweak or small change that could make a huge difference in your speaking performance – it’s this one.
I’m curious – what small change will you make, or have you made that positively changed the way you perform when you deliver your message to your audiences? I’d love to know.