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Voice

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?

 

 

Engaging Conference Calls

April 28, 2014 | By | No Comments

The faceless speaker

How much easier is it to speak without having to see the person you’re having to talk to? It takes the pressure of you having to worry about your appearance as well as having to worry about the content of the information you’re having to deliver. And let’s face it, for all you know, The CEO of So-and-So Management Solutions could be sitting in his home office in a pair of scruffy pyjama’s and slippers covered in dog hair. The Director of Hit-Me-With-It Marketing Miracles could be a dis-organised Ann Widacombe lookalike, could be clad in a faded tracksuit but with the velvety tones of a Charlie’s Angel and the sharp wit of comedy store regular, the imagery for you could be very different.  Without even realising, our brains respond to the every nuance of the voice and it draws (quite literally) its own picture of a person.

When you are only a voice, you are your own set of crayons. In more ways than you realise you have some quite specific powers about how allow yourself to be drawn in someone else’s head. What impression do you want them to conclude?

When you ARE only a voice, it is everything you are offering. So what ARE you offering? Firstly, voice, if you’re late, what does that say? If you can’t arrive to a simple conference call on time, what else can’t you manage to do? It’s a big message.

Relax. It’s important to be professional but it’s more important that people don’t feel tension in your voice. It’s okay to sound friendly and approachable. Don’t try and cover nerves with jokes and ‘banter’.  Just be yourself but be focused. You’re here to do a job.

Be prepared to really listen, actively. It sounds obvious but without seeing nods or smiles, people will only know you’ve heard them if you made sounds of acknowledgement or ask questions or make comments about what they’ve said. This in itself will leave a positive impression. Of course, when it’s your turn to speak, you want to make sure you’re fully prepared.

When it comes to the content of the call, do you know what you should be talking about? Do you have notes to hand or a relevant web-page open? There’s nothing worse than being left open-mouthed with nothing coming out because you didn’t actually bother to gen-up in advance. Make sure you have all the information you need and if someone asks you a surprise question, get ready to deal with it, even if it means using the internet to navigate your way to a quick answer. There are other things to consider too. Have you spoken to everyone on the call before? Does anyone have an unusual name? Are you sure you know how to pronounce it correctly? If you’re the one person who does, you’ll be the one remembered favourably.

If you’re taking a call from home, consider the following:

  • No-one is going to call the police if you take a conference call in your P.J’s but there is something about it that reeks of lack of professionalism. Even if they don’t know. YOU do. If you suffer from nerves, dressing the part will definitely bolster your confidence.
  • Shut off outside distractions. Keep the dog out of the room; an ill-timed canine belch can be most off putting. Make sure you’re not near the washing machine when it’s about to launch into a spin cycle or any other screechy, beeping, high-tech noisy gadgets.
  • If you have information to impart. Have it in front of you, ready to refer to. Have a pen and paper, or your laptop handy in order to make notes.
  • Glass of water at the ready in case dry mouth should occur.
  • If you’re using a mobile phone, ensure it is fully charged or you are using a head-set you have a back-up appliance.
  • Ultimately, it’s like anything. The more you do it, the easier it gets.

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.

 

 

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.

The Grateful Bride

April 9, 2013 | By | No Comments

I would like to say a big thank you to Molly Beaton who has agreed to be a guest blogger.

My name is Molly. I am 29, I am a teacher and I live in London. When I was 25, I met Chris, now 32 at my brother’s birthday BBQ. That was four years ago.

Chris and I have recently come back from our honeymoon in Italy. We had a magical time. We took more photographs than we’ll ever have time to look and ate so much neither of us have dared step on the bathroom scales. More than that, almost every day, we talked about our wedding and how brilliant it was. I am a details girl and had meticulously gone over every inch of planning like a military leader. While excited to be getting hitched, Chris wasn’t quite as concerned with the detail.

It didn’t surprise me when Chris said he wanted Pete as his best man. They were already good friends then over the recent years Chris’s inclusion in all our family events brought them even closer. Having my brother as my husband’s best man was wonderful. My whole family was over the moon.

In the months leading up to the wedding, Pete and Chris would often casually discuss parts of the wedding plans. One night, I overheard a conversation they were having in the kitchen about the Best Man’s Speech. ‘I don’t think I can do it, I am seriously having trouble sleeping. I lay there at night next to Gemma while she’s snoring away and all I can envisage is a room full of people sneering at me. I can hear booing, embarrassed coughs, laughter. You might have to find someone else mate.’

I knew my brother could be a bit socially shy but I had no idea things were this bad! Worse was to come. Chris said, ‘you have no idea how much I hate being looked at. Saying my vows is going to be hard enough but making a speech in front of a hundred odd people in a big marquee makes me feel sick. I am not sure how the hell I am going to do it’

I didn’t say anything there and then but I felt absolutely gutted. If anything, I thought, the Best Man should be helping the Groom with his confidence, not having issues of his own!

The next day I phoned Gemma. Gemma got together with Pete a couple of years ago. She’s a lovely girl and someone who I now consider a good friend. I shared with her what I’d heard. ‘What am I going to do with them?’ I asked. Gemma is confident and gregarious and in fairness to Pete he’s not a complete introvert, in fact in a situation with people he knows well, he can be the life and soul. I wasn’t dreading being the centre of attention on my wedding day, I was dreaming about lustfully. The last thing I wanted though was my fiancée and my brother to be miserable about it.

Gemma works in advertising and seems to know someone in almost every walk of life. ‘You need Rachel’ she said. She explained that Rachel is a Public Speaking Consultant who provides a wide range of services designed to help people communicate effectively and with confidence. She explained that if Chris and Pete had some coaching, not only would they benefit from massively improved confidence but they would learn techniques to make their speeches memorable for all the right reasons.

Rachel spoke to Pete on the phone and discussed various options. Rachel suggested she could work with Pete and Chris together so they could provide on-going encouragement and support to each other. The first session took place over Skype. I was able to see Rachel and chat to her myself. She was very positive, friendly and easy to talk to. She reassured me she could help Chris and Pete and had lots of techniques to teach them to give them the confidence the needed. For some reason I assumed I would be party to this, but no! I was banned from the living room and sent over to Gemma’s instead!

The next two sessions took place at my house and I agreed to not be part of it. (Letting go of that control was a learning curve!)

Ultimately, what I will say is that my brother delivered his speech like a pro. He said that while he had butterflies, it was more a nervous excitement than a feeling of dread. When my husband stood up, he was beaming and I know it was because he was no longer feeling imprisoned by his lack of self-confidence. Just before the wedding Rachel phoned both Pete and Chris to wish them good luck and remind them of key points to focus on. For me, knowing they both felt so much better took a huge weight of my mind and I was so happy for them.

Before my wedding I had no idea this type of service even existed and I am SO pleased we used it. It really was the icing on my wedding cake.

Rachel will be at Cliffs Pavilion Wedding Fair on Sunday 14thApril 2013 if you would like to see how SureSpeech can help you with your weeding speeches.