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2013 February

What do I do with my hands???

February 28, 2013 | By | No Comments

Okay, hold them up and take a good look. What have you got? If you’re lucky enough to have a complete pair, what impression do they give? Are they clean, free from the yellow tinge of nicotine on your ‘holding’ fingers or do they look like you have been rummaging through a wheelie bin?

People notice your hands. Of course I am not saying that you all need to rush out and get a pre-interview manicure. But if you’re not a boxer, an equestrian or a clown and are not going to be ‘gloved up’ it’s worth the trouble to ask yourself what your hands say about you.
When speaking in front of others, People often say to me “I don’t know what to do with my hands” Or “I hold onto the plectrum so I don’t talk too much with my hands”. Both of these statements I question.  Do you have trouble with your hands when you not doing public speaking?  Probably not.
The aim is to use your hands in a natural way that helps to get your message across (In the same way we do this in our everyday conversations) The more you concentrate on what to do with your hands the more you will worry and the more unnatural they can begin to feel.
You do need to be self-aware with what your hands are saying to people, (without giving yourself a hard time) because unnatural and wooden hand movements can undermine your entire speech. For example, letting them loll lifelessly by your sides says you’ve no conviction behind your words is not going to help get your message across. It also tells your audience you are uncomfortable in this setting and a novice at speech giving. You want your audience to believe in you, to relax and therefore be able to absorb what you’re saying without distraction.
On the flip side, punching the air like an Evangelist every time you utter a sentence will make you seem fake and cringe-worthy. People will be embarrassed for you and take your well- honed speech with a pinch of salt, however worthy it might be.
Finger pointing is seen as impolite and aggressive. Bill Clinton was told about pointing his finger too much, making everything seem aggressive, it was a habit he found hard to break, so his public speaking consultant told him to put his thumb over his finger, this took the aggressiveness away. He has told that if you want to gesture to your audience then use a sweep of your entire hand. Eventually through small steps Clinton stopped pointing altogether and became an excellent public speaker.
There is a term called Steepling, when a person’s palms face each other, with just the fingertips touching (Tony Blair is a great example of this in his early days). It’s known as a power move which portrays confidence and self-assuredness. Too much of it can be seen as arrogant so if you feel comfortable using it, be aware (Tony Blair is a great example of this in his later days).
If during a speech you put your hands on your heart, what you’re saying is ‘believe me, I mean it sincerely’, whether you do or not! If you put your hands in your pocket or behind your back, don’t be surprised if people wonder what you’re hiding. Having your hands in full view implies a desire to seen as open and honest.
If there are certain elements of your speech which you really want to have emphasis, use a palm-upwards, push-out of the hands, gesture. Open-handed gestures again imply transparency and a wish to be seen as authentic.
I can’t imagine anyone choosing to cross their arms during a speech but if it isn’t obvious, it’s a huge no-no. It spews negatives. ‘I’m bored’ ‘I’m defensive’ ‘I am hiding something’. Your hands can draw people in, they can humanise you. Even if the nature of your speech is very formal, its credibility and believability is quite literally, in your hands.

For more information about public speaking and presentation skills go to www.surespeech.co.uk

What does your ‘at rest’ face say about you?

February 10, 2013 | By | No Comments


It’s interesting how we perceive ourselves. Everyone is different. Do you carry the most recent mirror image of yourself, the one you saw this morning where you stood tall, breathed in and performed a suave nostril flare? Do you see yourself as the younger, slimmer version of yourself, airbrushing out your perceived faults? Maybe you’re less kind about yourself and have a distorted, unflattering self-perception. Does it matter anyway? That’s for you to decide.
Yesterday a close friend rang me in a state of distress. She’s known for dramatic tendencies, something she’ll attest to herself, so I didn’t allow myself to get too alarmed too soon. ‘Oh my GOD!’ she cried. ‘The most horrific thing happened to me this afternoon!’
‘Tell me….’ I said
‘I have just seen my AT REST face. I had no idea! Why didn’t you tell me?’
‘Tell you what?’ I asked, completely bewildered. It turns out my friends husband had taken a photo of her with his phone as she walked back from a shop to their car. ‘I had no idea he was taking my photo and now I know what I look like when I am just being ME!’ Relieved there was no impending tragedy I afforded myself a little giggle. ‘It’s not funny!’ she almost shouted. ‘People have been seeing me like this for years!’
‘Why did he take your picture?’ I asked. 
She snorted. ‘To show me what a miserable cow I look when I’m not pouting apparently!’ 
‘And, do you….?’ I tiptoed into the question.
‘What? Look miserable? Yes!’
‘Well that’s great news then’ I said, thinking on my feet.
‘HOW?’
‘If you’re not happy with your AT REST face, at least you are now aware of it. Imagine if you had spent the rest of your life with an AT REST face you hated and you never got to see it for yourself. This way, you can practise a new AT REST face, one you feel happy with.’
She thought about this for a few seconds. ‘Surely though, an AT REST face is one you have when you are not thinking about it? Why can’t I have a naturally beautiful AT REST face, instead of looking, tired, angry, bored, old , slack-jawed, loose- jowled and hunch-backed?’ 
‘Maybe that’s the trade off?’ I suggested. ‘Never rest and make sure you have a fabulous AT REST face or stay with the AT REST face you have.’
Not long ago I received a text message from my friend. It reads ‘Just seen a magazine pic of Kate Moss with dreadful sulky AT REST face on holiday. Feeling MUCH better now, thank you! x’
So my thought is to BE AWARE. Even if you are not speaking at a meeting your AT REST face can give across a message that you may not like.

For more information about public speaking and presentation skills go to www.surespeech.co.uk

Preparing for a Speech

February 4, 2013 | By | No Comments

Be prepared. 
 
It is common sense that having a good night’s sleep is the basis for feeling fresh and energetic for the day of your speech. Don’t drink the night before (not even a cheeky one to settle the nerves!). At worst you will feel horribly hung-over, at best, sluggish and slow. Make sure your outfit is clean, ironed and hanging up the night before. Rushing around first thing, trying to make snap decisions about what to wear will only make you nervous. I wouldn’t recommend wearing new shoes as they are never that comfy to begin with. You need to be focusing on your speech not on your aching feet!

Have a decent breakfast, preferably something healthy like wholemeal toast and a banana. This fuel will not only keep your blood sugar stable, it will help your mind remain clear and sharp. If your speech is after lunch, make your lunchtime food choices with these thoughts in mind. Drink plenty of water. Being properly hydrated is crucial.

If your speech is during a lunch or dinner, it goes without saying to steer clear of alcohol until after your speech. You don’t need ‘Dutch courage’ you need a clear head!

Decide how many times you want to go over your speech and stick to it. Work should have been done by now so trust yourself. Don’t go over and over your speech, making last minute changes or picking out imperfections. However, go over the beginning part of the speech as this is when you will feel the most nervous. Once your speech gets going it will almost unfold by itself. Trust that.

Arrive in plenty of time. Make sure you have back up if using PowerPoint or other presentation tools which have the potential to fail. If you can see the venue beforehand – great. If you can rehearse in the space beforehand, even better. Take advantage. If you are dealing with microphones, don’t be afraid to ask the sound person for help.

If you have a chance to meet your audience beforehand, do so. Shake hands, introduce yourself and smile. Having made that connection will give you a feeling of rapport with your audience. DON’T tell anyone you are nervous or that you hate giving speeches. Stand tall and believe in yourself. If you do, your audience will believe in you. Remember they are only human beings!

If you are sitting on stage, following another speaker, remember you are on view the entire time. Look interested, sit up straight and smile at times. Also breathe! Deep breaths will help you feel calmer and help you become more grounded. I have heard people advise to take a deep breath in and then begin. Don’t, this actually adds to your anxiety. Try this: Breathe out, then speak.

Don’t aim to be perfect. Simply aim to get your message across to your audience. Remember you need to be heard. Speak slowly, clearly and loudly enough. Smile and look around the room, engage your audience with plenty of eye contact.

There will always be a degree of nerves and adrenalin but don’t fear them, they are your friend. They will keep you aware, alert and determined.  There’s that age old tip to imagine the audience without any clothes on. To be honest I’ve never tried it myself, but you never know!


Remember – be yourself. I know I seem to say this a lot but it is so true. People have come to listen to YOU. You never know you might even enjoy it!

For more information about public speaking go to www.surespeech.co.uk