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Facial Expressions

To Practise Or Not To Practise…

July 18, 2014 | By | No Comments

Ever woken up and for a few dizzying seconds, tried to place the day? Thought, oh no, is it Monday? Then, gratifyingly realised with immense joy it’s actually a Saturday? That’s one of the better ‘coming-to’ realisations. One of the worst is ‘Oh, its speech day, I forgot to practice it.’  Although, why worry? Some people clearly don’t need to, Midas being one. Why not start just unshackle oneself from the notion that practice makes perfect, that doing something ten thousand times over makes you an expert, that honing your craft, makes you a craftsman?

http://www.jiveturkeyjives.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/beer-tv-game.jpgHow about this instead and it is just an idea but if you have a speech coming up, think about it for a bit, crack open a beer or pour a long cool drink and then just put your feet up. If something interesting on the telly or a good book comes along to distract you then don’t bat it away, after all, it is only a speech. Let’s face it, you have a lifetime of words, wit and experience within you, surely when the time comes and you’re standing in front of an eager (or bored witless) audience, your charisma will ignite a trail of neon bulbs around you and the magic will simply HAPPEN.

That’s right. An amazing, intelligent, well formed, string of engaging, informative sentences will samba from your lips, captivating and enchanting your audience. You’ll hear gasps of rapture and delight, little titters of mirth and deep hooting belly laughter. You’ll cast your eyes across of sea of people transfixed by the power of your presence. You’ll move easily and confidently within your space and your breathing will be calm and strong. Your voice will be clear and melodic and despite your well-rehearsed script you will feel comfortable ad-libbing.

Unless you are in fact Midas, you may find in order to achieve the above you may need to put the beer down and practice. However, it is all more or less within reach. And it really is true that the more you do it, the better you get AT it. (David Beckham didn’t spend his junior school years practicing his corners for nothing.) In fact everyone who is brilliant at someone generally spent years learning how to be brilliant at it. So the more you DO practice ‘speaking’ the better you will become at it, the more natural it will be, the smoother the flow.

Supposing though you are asked to stand up and speak with almost no notice at all. What can you do when you are completely ill-prepared?

  1. Smile. As terrified as you might feel on the inside, if you can try and fake it and look relaxed it’s a better experience for your audience and it will soon help you feel better too.
  2. If you are speaking formally, then have some notes to refer to. It’s fine to refer to them.  Remember to look at the people you are speaking to and engage with them. People are more important than notes.
  3. Breathe!! –  In through your nose and out through your mouth, and speak slowly. If you’ve been put on the spot, you’ll feel tense you don’t want that to come across. You’re only human, just like your listeners, so act/be as cool as a cucumber and chill.

When you really do have to wing it, the above can tide you over but why be a ‘last-minute Larry/Linda’ when you can get prepare and deliver a performance to be proud of?

 

 

Communication at Christmas

January 1, 2014 | By | No Comments

We can learn so much about communication from almost any scenario. Take Christmas.

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Nan sits there near the tree, staring at the television, hands in her lap, nursing a plate of half eaten mince pie. She doesn’t say a great deal. She suffers from selective deafness. Her aural function however is incredible if the phrase ‘cup of tea anyone?’ is uttered within a ten metre radius. ‘Yes please dear!’ she’ll shout to whomever made the offer.

Uncle Dave has been on the Stella since lunchtime. He doesn’t stop talking or cracking jokes. He doesn’t bother making eye contact with anyone because deep down he knows that no-one really wants to lock irises with him. He knows that he’s doing everyone a favour by forcing this one less intrusion upon them. He knows he’s loud, a bit crude and not all that funny but he does know that when there IS a lull, it’s Uncle Dave they’ll all be grateful for. Isn’t it?

Dave’s long suffering girlfriend Sue flaps her hands a lot. She doesn’t drink, she’s the designated driver, however she loves to be the conveyer of drama and intrigue and her primary mission is to engage eye-contact and ‘lock-on’ like a limpet. She loves to talk, to impart, to divulge and to express as if her regurgitated gossip is a gift wrapped basket of wisdom rather than a second hand sack of hearsay.

Mum Pam rules the kitchen, and the house. She barks orders at Dad who chops, peels and slices. Mum wants Dad Stan to be Jamie Oliver. Dad is more Oliver Hardy. However he wants a peaceful life and that means a happy wife so he does as he is ordered without argument.

Son Jason wants to be at the pub. He thinks there is still a way. He has purchased generous and well thought out gifts for his family. He will charm them into a two hour reprieve this afternoon and slink away for three pints of Guinness. He can and he will.

Spoilt daughter Amber is preparing her ‘tears of devastation’ if her top three desired presents fail to materialise. There is, after all, the Boxing Day sales and Dad Stan cannot bear the sound of female sobbing.

Sound familiar? How could this possibly not translate to the workplace?

  • Nan, the colleague who refuses to be a team player.
  • Uncle Dave, the class clown, who really ought to spend more time being productive than being entertaining?
  • Sue, the gossiper who needs to concentrate less on what others are doing and more time on her work
  • Pam, the hard-edged office manager
  • Stan, who needs some assertiveness training
  • Jason, the charmer
  • Amber, the manipulator

There can be positive aspects to almost all of the above personality traits if used in a positive context. Recognising them and harnessing them is the skill. Learning about yourself, how you come across is the next step.

For example, if you want to get someone to do something and be happy about doing it for you then learning how to be assertive, convincing and charming is key. If you appear to be a pompous, manipulative bully I suspect success will be elusive. Obvious but true.

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

 

Blushing

November 21, 2013 | By | No Comments

Blushing …

What is it? Well most of us know how it feels and probably first experienced it as small children. It’s that flaming heat that pulses in our cheeks when we have been caught with our hand in the biscuit tin, trying to sneak out that extra Jammy Dodger we were told ‘No!’ to, five minutes earlier.

It’s the burning hot, double cheeked, slap of shame we feel as we get shouted at in the school corridor in front of our peers; a cruel jibe or nasty nickname leaving the rest of the crowd laughing at our expense.

Or It’s the breath-taking, scorching, ember-imitating, moon landing-type lighting effect, facial glow that bestows us when having to open our mouth and ‘speak’ to a room full of silent, expectant people. An audience, all staring and waiting to hear only OUR voice.

If you haven’t experienced ANY of the above, consider yourself lucky. I consider you a little unusual , no disrespect but blushing is perfectly normal. (I defy you to think back to your teenage years, remember catching the eye of your first crush and NOT blushing!)

Anyway lets get the science out of the way. Blushing is simply the body’s response to embarrassment, anxiety or any other over stimulation for that matter. When we have these feelings, the fight or flight response kicks in, the blood vessels in the face widen and blood flows there leaving the cheeks looking much redder.

Some people believe that blushing serves a social purpose in that it displays a sign of contrition over a social faux pas; a way of expressing shame or regret, instantly securing an unspoken understanding of a mistake. Apologising without having to speak.

However in terms of blushing due to the sheer terror of having to speak in front of an audience, the science and psycho-babble does little to help in practical terms.

Here’s what might.

1. Stop worrying. Your face might feel like it resembles the top of a Belisha Beacon but most people won’t even have noticed I promise you. Ignore it and carry on. The more you stop thinking about it, the less blood will rush to your cheeks. If you want to be a worrier, then worry wisely. Worry about devising a cracking speech, work on your pitch, pace, delivery and posture. Worrying about blushing is a waste of resources.

2. After you’ve washed your face in the mornings, run the cold tap. Fill your hands and douse your face in icy water, repeating the phrase ‘icy calm’ in your head as you do so. Each time you feel the freezing cold water on your face, repeat the phrase in your head. When you’re in a situation when you feel a blush coming on, repeat the phrase to yourself. Your brain should soon make the connection between the words and the cold feeling and this should help cool you off when you feel warm of face. Try it.

3. If anxiety is making you blush then look at all aspects of planning, preparation and positive psychology; all the things that underpin your presentation. Take control. Make sure you are well organised, have things properly prepared so nothing is a last minute rush. This doesn’t have to feel like a hideous ordeal. You can make it into an exciting challenge and you know what, if you do get a little bit of a pink tinge to the cheeks, console yourself with a quote from the Greek philosopher Diogenes which puts the whole thing in a very positive light:

‘Blushing is the colour of virtue’.

What are you looking at?

March 7, 2013 | By | No Comments

lookingI’m often on the train. I actually enjoy train journeys simply because I get to indulge in one of my favourite past-times; people watching.

This week for example I have seen so many interesting interactions and exchanges taking place in train carriages and for the most part, I imagine those taking part, don’t even know how much of an audience they had.

Before I share some of my experiences with you, it’s wise to remember that next time you’re on the train, the innocuous looking woman in the corner seat, head buried studiously into a book, is NOT too engrossed in her novel to notice you. She is in fact, looking directly at you and soaking up every snippet of what you say and how you move!

Okay, somewhere near Birmingham I was in a seat with the back of another seat in front of me. Across on the diagonal was a table seat shared by a couple, sitting across from each other. I had my sunglasses on and rested my head against the window. I probably looked asleep; in fact, I might have nodded off if I hadn’t heard with woman hiss ‘I know you’re lying!’ I was drawn to the face of the man, who sat nicely in my eye line. ‘I’m not!’ he protested, panic etched on his forehead. He picked his mobile phone up with his right hand and passed it to his partner. ‘Check it, go on.’ He urged confidently.

looking2‘Well you weren’t with Pete!’ she asked, leaning forwards across the table. I assume she was scanning his face for clues. His eyebrows shot up and his forehead wrinkled. (This can be a sign of a liar caught in the act). He looked up to the right. ‘I was at work, I was going to meet Pete but I had to stay for a meeting, for God’s sake.’ Note this, right handed people usually look to the left to recall memories, and to the right when they are in the act of making something up.

I don’t believe you’, she spat, picked up her handbag and stormed through to another carriage. The man, looking, flustered and red faced, picked up his coat and followed her through seconds later. I want to shout after her ‘Trust your instincts, he IS lying!’ but of course I didn’t.

On another occasion travelling home I shared a carriage with two women, a blonde and a redhead and a lone male in a suit. They were probably all in their early twenties. I was sitting opposite the man, ostensibly gazing out of the window but I could see his face and more importantly I could see the reflection of the redhead in the train window. It was late.

The lone male glanced at the redhead and then the blonde, his eyes returned to the redhead and they stayed there almost as if his gaze would be invisible to them. I saw the redhead smile to the blonde and coyly look at the floor. The lone male averted his gaze, furrowed his brow in a slow, but apparently casual manner, appearing to look lost in intelligent, contemplative thought. He opened his legs wider and sat back in his seat and pushed his bottom forward, clearly attempting to accentuate his masculinity. The redhead crossed her legs and turned a little away from him while leaning back and keeping her arm from blocking her body. To be honest, she looked like she was trying to pose as a mermaid on a rock. No words were spoken in this exchange but without even thinking, these two were both communicating with each other without giving it a second’s conscious thought.

looking3Unfortunately, I reached my destination not long afterwards and I will never know if conservation was made, or numbers were swapped.

What I do know is, if you keep your eyes open you see much more going on around you than you realise.

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