How to build power, clarity & authority in your webinar

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Close your eyes and imagine you are about to do a webinar, livestream or presentation - 

Are you: 

  • Suddenly sweating profusely and feeling a bit like you might see your lunch again? 
  • Totally dreading it and wishing that you could stay invisible and maybe hire someone to pretend to be you (no, seriously, though…could I?)
  • Remembering how much you hate speaking in front of groups and wondering why the hell you thought this was a good idea in the first place?
  • Dreading having to listen back to your own voice, certain that everyone will notice it wobbling and croaking all over the place with nerves?
  • Feeling super self-conscious of your regional or international accent and like maybe this business-malarkey will have to wait until you’ve done a lifetime worth of English classes or elocution lessons? 
  • Completely overwhelmed with feeling awkward, waffley and basically like a total imposter? 

 

Don’t worry! Help is at hand! I’m Lizz Summers, a Voice Coach and Accent Tutor. I love supporting coaches, teachers and public speakers who feel held back by their voice, speech or accent to  develop a voice that is 100% clear, understandable, awesomely powerful and super reliable, so that they can focus on delivering their amazing content and magnetising their ideal clients! 

I’m going to share with you today my five high-impact tips for going from Webinar Novice to Webinar Badass. (And…. in the interests of being honest with you… there are actually waaaaaay more than five tips - I’ve squirrelled a load more inside - it’s like the Piñata of blog posts!)

Before we begin, this is NOT a post about how to plan, structure and prepare your webinar, and I won’t be going into anything to do with tech set up, content preparation or sales. 

Instead, I’ll be giving you a crystal-clear action plan for how to overcome the barriers which prevent you from being the face of your business and keep you stuck where you are, instead of moving forward full-force with confidence, passion and clarity to ace your career dreams! And it’s not just webinars… I promise that most of these will also be life-savers in any public speaking or presentation situation! 

So without further ado… 

 

WEBINAR PRO TIP 1:

YOU ARE NOT AS BAD
AS YOU THINK YOU ARE! 

Seriously. I mean it. I’m not just being kind! 

We all know that there are people in this world who think they are the absolute b*llocks. The best. The bees knees. They could deliver a presentation or pitch which was a total unmitigated disaster, and still go “Yeeeeeah! Smashed it!”. For examples see Channel 4’s The Apprentice - that show is the ultimate example of misplaced confidence! 

However, for the rest of us, that confidence doesn’t come so easily. Usually, we are all too aware of what we perceive to be our own limitations - whether it’s a tendency to waffle, a regional accent that we feel self-conscious about (I feel you on this one… I’m a born-and-bred Essex girl!), the knowledge that English isn’t our first language with fear about whether others will be able to understand or connect, fear over whether we will come across as credible… the list goes on. 

And it’s not just self-consciousness about our verbal presentation skills. It’s all too easy to agonise over our tendency to fidget, that funny mannerism we have, the way we move our face, how hard we find it to make eye contact with the camera, how our hair looks, that spot which helpfully arrived the morning of the webinar, how wonky that tooth is… (not that these are personal examples… I just mean….uhhhh…hypothetically… honest)

But seriously, I promise, IT’S MORE VISIBLE TO YOU THAN IT IS TO OTHERS! No one else really cares about your spot, because they are too busy thinking about how gorgeously smiley and warm you are; or they find your constant hair-tucking-behing-ear-that-you-hate really likeable, because it’s real and authentic and means that you are just NORMAL (which is so much more easily relatable and trustable than a robot-woman!), or they are totally captivated by your accent because it shows that you have different experiences and influences to bring to the table (plus, if you can deliver a webinar in anything that isn’t your mother tongue, most people will find that HUGELY credible and impressive!) 

So JUST STOP AGONISING OVER IT. Seriously. Agonising. Causing yourself unnecessary pain and anguish over something that’s JUST NOT THAT BIG A DEAL. 

Is it really worth NOT achieving what you want to achieve because of a spot? 

In 30 years, if someone said “Why didn’t you leverage the power of webinars, livestreaming and public speaking to transform your business and help thousands of people?”, is “I have a bit of an accent” enough of a reason to have stayed stuck and NOT reached your potential??

Honestly, I totally get that that’s easier said than done. I’ve been there! 

So here is the strategy that I used to go from ‘Oh God, I’m such a dork’ to lecturing in front of 120 students at a University that I didn’t even get in to!  

 

WEBINAR PRO TIP 2

DON’T TRY AND GO FROM 0-60
THE MOMENT YOU PRESS RECORD! 

Say you’ve been working from home and you want to start your webinar. Or you’re doing some public speaking and you’ve just spent the last two hours on a packed train and are feeling totally frazzled. Think you’re going to be able to just press record or enter the room and start presenting with tons of sparkle and pizzaz? Not likely! If you make a video of yourself doing this and watch it back, chances are you’ll come across as flat as a pancake! It can be SO helpful to do a quick warm-up video before you begin, then watch it back and crank everything up by at least 30-50% - your energy, your facial expression, your smiley-ness - amplify everything so that it can make it’s way through the camera, and then hit record for the ‘real’ version!

The same is true for your voice. Without giving you a biology lesson, your voice is produced by two small muscles (your vocal cords) vibrating against one another. Smooth vibration = gorgeous smooth voice. Interrupted, stiff or inadequate vibration = dodgy, croaky, unreliable voice. Simple. 

And like any other muscle in your body, you can’t just expect it to work perfectly with no warm up. You wouldn’t go from sitting stationary on the sofa to trying to sprint 100 meters; you’d do some form of warm up to get the muscles moving! The same is true of your voice - it needs some time to warm up and get going, especially if you’re going to be talking for a long time (who ever sticks to the planned time limits for their webinar?), getting passionate about a topic (which causes you to unwittingly do some vocal gymnastics as you get more excited) and projecting your voice (which requires bigger, more exaggerated vibrations of the vocal cords, so needs even more flexibility!). Add to this the fact that nerves play ABSOLUTE HAVOC with your voice - the muscles surrounding your vocal cords tense and strain, pulling your vocal cords around unpredictably, like trying to walk on a tight rope! All the more need to set yourself up for voice success before you start!

The good news is that just a couple of minutes can make all the difference, taking you from dull and croaky to bright and clear. 

Here’s the three minute warm-up system that I teach ALL of my professional clients!

WEBINAR PRO TIP 3

SLOOOOOOOW DOOOOOOWWN

Okay, so I’m a bit of a student of my own teaching here, because I naturally speak at about 100 miles an hour. If you’ve seen a video of me, that was the slow version of me talking! I like to think that it’s because I have a tonne of ideas and information to get out, but it’s probably more to do with having grown up as the youngest of four girls and being desperate to get a word in edgeways! 

Speed is super important in content delivery, clarity and also in authority. Have you ever noticed those speakers that talk really slowly and leave big pauses? They have people hanging on their every word. It also gives your audience a chance to process and actually understand what you are saying, which tends to be fairly useful when you’re trying to teach them something! 

Often, rapid speech arises from a lack of confidence. We find it hard to be visible and hold the floor, feeling like what we have to say isn’t important or is stupid, so we gloss over things, mutter and don’t give what we have to say the time and authority that it deserves.

This is one of the quickest ways to keep playing small. 

Thinking that what you have to say isn’t important will only make others think that it isn’t important either. Forget about patronising people, because chances are your audience knows WAY less about the topic than you do, so what you think of as obvious won’t be obvious to them. Give them some time to absorb what you are saying.

Don’t try and rush through your content because you are desperate to get the webinar over and done with. Recognise that being a bit uncomfortable is okay, take your time (since you’ve done the hardest bit by pressing record anyway!) and slow it right down. I don’t mean elooooongaaaating eeeeaaaach wooooooooord (because you’ll sound like you’re doing an impression of a ghost), but pause between words, don’t let your words all run into each other (it’s a bit like putting a finger space in when you’re learning handwriting!), and take a decent pause at the end of a sentence or the start of a new idea, where there would naturally be commas and full stops. This will also stop you from tripping over and muddling up your words, because your mouth will have a chance to articulate each word properly before moving on. 

However slow you think you need to go… go slower! Your audience will always find it faster than you do, so if you’re a fast-talker then you need to over-correct to get to the right speed for your audience! 

 

WEBINAR PRO TIP 4:

LEARN TO BE OK WITH SILENCE…
GET RID OF UNNECESSARY FILLERS

This is very closely related to tip 3, but really is one of the hardest things to address in presenting! 

By fillers, I’m not talking about cosmetic surgery; I’m talking about “ummm”, “errrrrr”, “eehhhhhhm”, “well”, “like”, “sort of”, “kind of”, “in terms of”, “so….” - the empty words that somehow weasel their way into our speech and destroy our confidence and authority! 

Fillers can be used in a number of ways for a number of purposes - 

The first and most obvious is that they essentially buy you thinking time. The human brain is massively complex, and is capable of generating intricate thoughts and ideas extremely rapidly. However, your language system is sometimes a little slow to catch up! As you’re speaking, your brain is telling you what thoughts and ideas you want to express next (and often planning a few steps ahead too). To express these thoughts, you have to go to a place in your brain that’s a little like a filing cabinet to retrieve the right words, phrases and sentence structures, before those are sent to the mouth to be articulated. Due to the time delay in doing this, often the word that you want won’t quite be ready when you want it - people often say that that their mouth can’t keep up with their brain, though really it’s more like your word-finding brain can’t keep up with your ideas-brain! This is why, especially when you’re trying to explain something complicated, you will be using “ummmmmm’, “it’s sort of errrrrrm… like… if…… uhhhh…” while you’re trying to articulate your thoughts. 

Unfortunately this is mega distracting to your audience and often has the unintended effect of making it sound like you aren’t quite sure what you are talking about, which is probably not true! 

The most straightforward way to manage this is by using Tip 3 - slowing things right down. If you speak more slowly and add more pauses into your speech, your brain has inbuilt time to find the words that it’s going to say next. Trust me, a decent pause (which your audience will barely notice) is WAY better than using a filler!

The second way that fillers are used are as softeners. By this, I mean that we use them when we are trying to make something sound less definite and less cut-and-dry, usually because we are worried about how people will react, or whether we really have the authority to make this statement. You’re trying to get out of what you’re saying before you’ve even said it, in case they don’t like it or disagree. These type of fillers tend to be “errrrs” and “ummms” because you’re putting off saying it to delay their response, and things that make you sound less certain or less permanent in your statement than you actually are, for example “sort of”, “kind of”, “probably”, “maybe”, “perhaps”, “a bit”, “for a while”.

The most obvious example of this happens in relationships or work situations, for example:

You want to say “I don’t think this relationship is working. I think we should break up”

Instead you say “Errrmmm… I don’t think this is kind of.. working that well, really. Uhh I think that maybe it would be good if we uhhhh sort of broke up or something errmmmm for a bit”. 

Can you see how this has gone from a definite and non-negotiable break up to a situation where you’ll get steam rolled into agreeing to ‘have a break’ or try for a bit longer?

So lets apply this to business. 

Say you’re an amazing coach, but you’re fairly new to it. You know you can really help people but you haven’t had loads of clients before and you’re a bit unsure about the way you’ve priced your services, and whether people will actually buy them. You’ve done a webinar (in which you’ve come across as a bit unsure and not totally confident in your field, because of the issues above) and now you come to the end where you want to tell your potential clients about how they can work with you. 

You want to say “I have a great one-to-one coaching package, which will be hugely transformational. The investment is two thousand pounds”. 

Instead you say “Uhhhh so I have a kind of errmmmm sort of one-to-one uhhh coaching-type package, which will probably be uhhh pretty ummmm transformational I think. So uhhh the investment is around uhhh two thousand errrr pounds…”

Not only is your client now unclear about what you are offering (what is a ‘sort of' one-to-one coaching package? Is it one-to-one, or isn’t it?), but they aren’t sure that it will be totally transformational (‘pretty’ transformational doesn't really inspire confidence, especially if that’s just what you think), and you’ve insinuated that there is room for negotiation on the price, since you said ‘around’ two thousand pounds. 

This is a HUGE problem for my clients in not getting where they want to go. Whether it’s business, politics, interpersonal relationships, working relationships, financial negotiations… you will never get the results that you want if you are allowing fear and reluctance to be bold to fill your speech with fillers and softeners!

Take charge, be decisive, practice saying things that are hard to say until they feel more comfortable, and get what you actually WANT, not some compromised, watered-down version of it. If YOU aren’t sure, no one else will be either. It’s time to be bold, clear and unapologetic! 

 

WEBINAR PRO TIP 5

CHANGE UP YOUR INTONATION
(WELL… CHANGE IT DOWN, MORE LIKE) 

We’ve talked about power and authority in Tip 3 and 4, but before you put these into practice, you need to know about the subtle thing that your voice might be doing to TOTALLY sabotage your credibility!

Put simply: 

STOP going up at the end of your sentences. 

That’s it. The key to authority, power and credibility. KAPOW. 

Pitch is a complicated phenomenon, but in basic terms, as you talk, you tighten and slacken your vocal cords. Tight vocal cords = higher pitch; slack vocal cords = lower pitch. As you are talking, you’re continually altering the tension of your vocal cords, which is what causes your pitch to move around and create the natural ‘sing-sing’ quality of speech. 

You do this without really thinking about it, depending on the context. Your control of your pitch is mostly held in your subconscious mind. For example, when talking to a child, you will naturally use a greater variation in pitch, with more of that sing-song quality. When you are bored, you naturally put less effort into pitch modulation and end up with something which sounds flat and monotone. When you ask a question, you go up in pitch toward the end of a sentence. When you make a definitive statement or instruction, you go down in pitch at the end. 

(Side note: There are a few cultural variations to this, for example Australians are often stereotyped as going up at the end of their sentences, though there appear to be other characteristics in the way that Australian’s typically speak which counterbalance the effect).  

Others can also interpret your pitch in their subconscious. They can tell whether a comment is a question, statement, tentative statement or joke. 

So if during your webinar you're frequently using rising intonation, you're audience will infer a LACK OF CERTAINTY in what you are saying!

“Today I’m going to be talking about how to set up email automation? We’ll be here for about twenty minutes? Talking about this? And then there’ll be time for some questions at the end?”

This DOES NOT communicate authority. 

I’ve seen this in teaching too, and if there’s one thing that will make a room full of noisy kids NOT do what you say, it’s rising intonation in your instructions! 

“Okay class? I want you to stop what you’re doing? Put down your pens? And come and sit on the carpet?”

Yeah… they are probably NOT going to do that, since they will have inferred that is is optional, due to it sounding like a question. Combine that with some fillers and softeners (“Okay class? Umm.. I want you to please if you can uhh stop what you’re doing in a minute? Ummm put down your pens? And please um come and sit on the errr carpet?”) - Not going to work!

If you have a video of yourself, watch it back. If you don’t, make one now. Just talk to the camera for five minutes or so about yourself and your business or career and watch it back. Once you spot it, you’ll be SO surprised as to how many times you’ve done it! Practice making a conscious effort to use statements, not questions, to deliver your content you’ll see how powerful it is at giving you a sense of certainty, security and authority as you speak.

 

KEY POINTS: 
YOUR 5-STEP SYSTEM 

So you're ready to go! If you want power, authority, credibility and trustworthiness in your webinar or presentation , remember:

  1. You’re not as bad as you think you are! Practice seeing the positives, and forget about or get help for the weaknesses. 
  2. Don’t try and go from 0-60 the moment you press record! Warm up your voice and your energy before you begin. 
  3. Slow down and leave pauses for your brain and your audience to catch up
  4. Get rid of unnecessary fillers and softeners - learn to be ok with silence 
  5. Avoid going up at the end of your sentences. Your content is not a question! 

 

I'd love to hear your comments, thoughts and experiences of using these tips! Please pop them below >>> 

 


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Lizz Summers is an independent voice and presentation skills coach for entrepreneurs who want to be seen and heard in their business to attract their dream clients.

Lizz is now accepting applications for personal voice, speech and accent coaching. For enquiries about working with Lizz one-to-one, please email info@lizzsummers.com  or see www.lizzsummers.com/contact to book a complimentary online introduction call. 

 

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