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Presentation Skills

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 In Teams

March 7, 2014 | By | No Comments

AntsSo let’s start with the basic premise that a team is a group of people working together with a common aim. In some teams, motivation to reach the common aim might be much higher. Team members within Manchester United FC for instance, may, for passion, pay packet, and prestige feel compelled to battle harder to reach manager-led targets than say, team members for Manchester City Centre Morrison’s. Having said that, given the right manager, there’s no limit on the enthusiasm that might be inspired in their staff team.

Communication is key in everything we do. Anything, involving someone other than ourselves necessitates it. Let’s face it, most of us even talk to ourselves at some point and if we’re honest, sometimes we’re not even always that honest with ourselves! 

What happens when we communicate within our work teams?

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Information comes from high above does it not? Well some of it has to. Unless of course you are top dog, the big cheese, from whom the directions are drizzled or dictated. Are you confident your team or your minions understand them, relate to them, take them on board in a way that inspires them and motivates them to carry out your wishes, your expectations properly and sufficiently?

What about if you’re a middle person. Someone who gets armfuls of information dumped on them and is expected to sort through it, to decode it, decipher it, translate it somehow and make it more user-friendly for the next batch of people who have actually got to action it. Is that you?

Or do you consider yourself a mere plankton? Small-fry who gets on with well-oiled day to day instruction with only the odd change to the daily grind. In fact, a change does occur, you welcome it as a ridiculously exciting event because your job is otherwise so samey?

I’m not here to stroke any egos but you’re all significant. You all need each other. Big cogs need little cogs to turn. But could you all turn that big machine a bit more efficiently?

We all know how things have changed over the last twenty five years or so. In the office, the most modern form of communication back then was the fax. People still smoked at their desk, or met by the vending machine to buy a Twix and a scalding cup of coffee that tasted of plastic, in order to swap paper files, which are now electronic. People had meetings in actual rooms, shook hands and locked eyes, smiled and enjoyed conversations. Often these days’ colleagues can work in the same building and not see each other between pay-days, yet exchange thousands of words between emails. That’s just how time has moved on.

When you do spend time with your colleagues, or do send an email, or pass on information, it is worth considering if you are optimising it. Is it always professional yet make you seem friendly and approachable? Is the information well laid out and accessible? Is it relevant? Does anyone else need to see the information? Are you sending the information to anyone who doesn’t actually need to see it?

Why not think about your role within your team and ask yourself if the way you deliver information could be improved. If you make positive changes, they may just impact on a colleague in a way which has a positive effect on the rest of your team.

 

 

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’.

Confidence

October 30, 2013 | By | No Comments

Confidence

The word confidence has always interested me,

“Timothy is a lovely boy – he just needs more confidence”   ok, great – so how does Timothy get this confidence? It is not like maths test, where you just learn the answer and that’s it.

So, where do you get it from and what is it?

One particular dictionary definition is ‘belief is one’s own abilities’

Synonyms: – Trust, belief, faith, dependence, reliance, credence, courage, assurance, self-reliance, aplomb.

Let’s face it if confidence means inspiring all the above in people then who wouldn’t want more of it!?

In the scientific journal Nature, they explain how confidence plays an important role in our evolution.  According to the research, confidence motivates us to take action in the face of uncertainty. The more confident we are, the more likely we are to fight for the resources we need to survive. And yet life is filled with uncertainty isn’t it , we certainly cannot control  it, nor say for certain what our future holds. This realisation itself can add to our fears.

We might be worried about being rejected by at a girl at a bar, so we end up staying with our friends and never approach her. Or maybe we are afraid of starting a new career because we don’t think we will be any good at it. So instead we stick with our old job, even though we hate it.

Confidence can help us to be motivated to change things whilst the lack of it can sabotage us in many ways.

For me, confidence means knowing, trusting and being happy with yourself. Most people would like to be more confidence, especially when it comes to standing up and speaking in front of others.  Many people simply don’t know where to get it.

I do not believe there are magic wands to make someone grow from a timid mouse to a courageous lion. I believe confidence takes time and that upbringing, life experiences, friends, etc, all add to (or take away) confidence. Everyone’s experience is different.

However, here are some useful tools that can help you feel more confident when you are in a challenging, such as an interview, giving a speech or presentation.

Rule 1 * PREPARATION

As mentioned earlier – who would feel confident if they had no idea what they were talking about! So, preparation is vital!! If you don’t know something – research it, If it’s a speech, rehearse it, If it’s an interview – find out about the company.

Rule 2 * PRESENTATION

How we choose to present ourselves speaks as much as our words do. Dress powerfully. Dress proudly. Don’t allow the way you dress to make you feel intimidated. Use this opportunity to bolster your self-worth and your message. It is amazing how we can feel much more confident simply by what we wear. Be comfortable – don’t go for high heels if you can’t walk in them or a shirt that’s too tight – you will worry more about this than your situation, and could undermine the way you feel.

Rule 3* POSTURE

Stand tall, sit up straight, make eye contact, be expressive and smile. Smiling is infectious and empowering. Try it. Practice the way you move and interact. It can have such a positive impact. More importantly, it will make you feel confident. If you feel confident, you will be confident and your confidence will be received. Your audience/interviewer can bask in the reflected comfort of your confidence. Know that confidence is very appealing and very reassuring to your audience. When you appear confident, your message is much more believable.

Rule 4* PRACTISE and BE BRAVE!

A bit like a child riding a bike. First off, you need stabilisers attached to your bike, then, a kindly parent with a gentle guiding hand on your back. They walk along side you, reassuring you that they won’t let you fall off.  You need encouragement but you also need to feel a bit of fear. Once you realise that fear isn’t a living monster that’s out to bite you, you can keep pedaling. Keep pedaling for long enough and soon you won’t need the guiding hand, in fact you’ll be wriggling from under it, determined to ride your bike like a big boy/girl. Do you remember when you feel brave enough to repeat the process without the stabilizers? You took those baby steps until your self-belief grew into something so reassuring you knew it would be okay.

Rule 5* PRETEND

It’s simple, if you act as though you are confident, you will start to feel more confident.  If you’ve followed rules 1-4 then all the groundwork is in place and for you, the feeling it, is merely a matter of time.  Walk into that conference, interview or crowded hall thinking ‘I personify confidence.’

If you’d followed my rules, then trust me, you will.If you are shaking from the inside, remember the outside does not need to know.  You have a choice whether or not to show people your nerves. Be self-aware and practice the above points and others won’t have a clue.

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
Eleanor Roosevelt,

Energy

October 16, 2013 | By | No Comments

Energy: Synonyms: – Vigor, force, potency, zeal, push.

Other meanings: Life force.  Capacity or tendency for intense activity

Why does it matter? If you are giving a speech, who cares if you can intersperse it with a record breaking amount of star jumps?  You might impress some but mostly you will bewilder your audience.  They will either think you’re an annoying show off or simply really bad at time management, having to pack in a work out at work.

Think of energy in terms of a force within you that is transferable. In the context of interactions, you want to harness it and utilise it in a way that is exciting, contagious and inspiring.

Think of energy in terms of the feelings you create for the people you talk to.

Great. How do you do that then?

Initially you have to inspire a positive vibe within yourself. Difficult if you are a naturally dour individual but here’s the thing. Giving a speech is a job you have committed to. Even if you later regret making such a promise, it’s out there and it needs dealing with. Like any role, preparation can make all the difference.

Feeling comfortable with what you’re wearing is important. If you believe you look good, you are more likely to believe your audience will see that too. That will elevate your confidence and self-belief.   It’s not always about what you wear; you can give a brilliant, thought-provoking speech in a tracksuit. It’s about how you perform. Until you become accomplished, use every prop available to help you feel ‘propped up’.

If you have to talk about something that doesn’t inspire you, find inspiring ways of delivering it. If appropriate, drop in humorous anecdotes, or interesting statistics. Smile and tilt your head at times. Look out at who you are talking to. You can’t transfer energy without looking for a connection. Look like you care about the information you are delivering.

How do you sound when you speak? Does your face match your words? Do you widen your eyes when you express something surprising? In effect you are a story teller. Consider how your tone, pitch, pace and volume contributes to your delivery. Practise and record yourself? Most people have a webcam. Be as bold and over the top as you like. It’s not until you really see your own extremes you can know what you are capable of and what feels right and wrong.

Whilst most people don’t like watching themselves back or listening to their own voice (okay so we all know people who don’t have this problem) it’s really beneficial. You are probably quite familiar with the ‘inside’ you but the ‘outside’ you could be a relative stranger.

Don’t worry; once you get over the initial cringe festival you can learn valuable stuff about yourself. Do you look friendly? Do you sound interested? Do you speak so quickly you sound like you’re late for an appointment?

Before your speech, take slow, deep breaths; hold your head up high. Smile and believe in yourself.  Remember, positive thinking is the right food for a good mood.