Peter Khoury, a keynote presenter at PNSQC 2016, remembers (sort of) his first stand-up comedy performance.
It was a night a decade ago at the Rooster T Feathers Comedy Club in Sunnyvale, CA. Khoury was still in the very first phases of his transformation from biotech software engineer to leadership and public speaking consultant. As part of his commitment to become comfortable in front of audiences, he’d signed on to do a sketch at the local comedy club.
“There was this red light in the back of the stage that went on when I was to start my act,” he recalls. “I saw that light go on, and then I don’t remember a thing until it flashed again, signaling the end of my performance. It was all a blur!”
Fortunately, he taped his act, and found to his amazement the audience laughed! His metamorphosis was launched.
Khoury has spent the last 10 years honing his public speaking skills and teaching others how to present effectively in public. He’s come far since the Rooster T Feathers show, addressing audiences around the globe on leadership, communications and the crucial intersection of the two. His quest to master communications skills began out of self-interest – he knew his poor public speaking was holding his career back. But as he encountered more engineers whose career aspirations were defeated by poor communications skills, he shifted gears and became a coach.
“My mission is to help professionals get what they deserve in their careers by communicating better,” he says. “It saddens me to see people who are talented professionally held back by a lack in the communications area.”
He offered to share his three most powerful public speaking tips with PNSQC.
1. One-on-one speaking: Untrained speakers tend to try to speak to everyone in the audience, he says. “Instead, speak one on one. You look at one person in the audience at a time; you share your thought with them, and then pick another for the next thought. It reduces anxiety by 60% to 70%.”
2. Diaphragm breathing–Many speakers, due to anxiety, breathe from their chest instead of their diaphragm. “It’s called emergency breathing,” Khoury says. “And it’s a presentation killer. Tell yourself to move your breathing to your diaphragm. That’s as close to a public speaking silver bullet as you can get.”
3. Stage anchoring g – You’ve seen the two principle types of stage movements by speakers: either planted like a tree or doing what Khoury calls “the wild monkey dance.” Both fail to focus attention on the material being presented. Instead, Khoury says, make the shift to “stage anchoring.” “You move to demonstrate specific points. Movement is linked to thoughts. You go to one side of the stage for Point A, the other side for Point B. Or you move from the front of the stage to the back,” he says. For real impact, when referring to past events, go to the back. Move closer to front for present information, and when speaking of the future, move right to the edge of stage.
“There’s much more to becoming a compelling public speaker,” he says, “but if you start with these three, you’ll be amazed at the results.”