template<:>context_key<:>parent<:>published<:>publishedon<:>hidemenu<:>pagetitle<:>content<:>alias<:>isfolder<:>introtext<:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1379345640<:>1<:>Question and Answer Sessions<:><:>
Question and answer sessions are the best way to reinforce your key messages from a presentation. Hearing different voices can be a good way to get the attention of the audience, but the purpose is to allow members of the audience to obtain both clarification and confirmation of your key messages. It, therefore, reduces the chance that any members of the audience will leave your presentation with any misunderstandings about the concepts delivered.
The question and answer sessions can be seen as a series of impromptu speeches by the presenter that will have followed a prepared speech. This, potentially, makes it harder than the actual presentation. The issue, therefore, becomes "how can you ensure that the question and answer session doesn't derail you?"
Let your audience know early in the presentation that you intend to have a question and answer session at the end of your speech. This encourages people to think of questions during the presentation; if you only announce "any questions?" at the end of your speech it is that much harder for the audience to come up with appropriate questions.
To look good it is not a bad idea to have a plant or two that can ask pre-arranged questions where you can deliver prepared responses (be careful not to make this too obvious!). This both enables you to continue to look good as well as to encourage others to ask questions.
Look at the person asking the question, and repeat it, especially if there is a large audience. This not only ensures that you understood the question but also gives you time to consider your answer should you require it.
Once you begin your answer do not continue looking at the questioner as it is the whole audience who should hear your answer - not just the person who asked the question.
As you end your answer, look back at the person and his/her facial expression will tell if you answered the question satisfactorily.
Anticipate likely questions and formulate possible responses before you present, and consider how to refer to your speech as you respond to the question. This reinforces the content of your speech and helps maintain the focus of the question and answer session.
Keep your answer concise and to the point. Don't give another speech, otherwise, you risk boring the audience. It could well be that the only person interested in the answer is the one who asked the question! However, resist answering with simply a "yes" or "no", as it may sound dismissive. If the question is complex, answer as concisely as possible and then offer to meet the questioner later for further discussion.
Beware the loaded question! This is where the questioner wants to shoot your answer down. As an example, suppose someone asks you "How much time is it going to take for us to familiarise ourselves with this new system?" You can anticipate that they want to follow up with "We are already working flat out. There is no way that we can devote any time to learning this new system." Defuse this potentially hostile exchange by saying "We appreciate that in order for you all to be able to become familiar with this new system, time will need to be freed up to enable you to do this task." You would then outline what steps you have already undertaken that will allow this to happen. Your ability to defuse such a question is in reality more of a measure of your Stakeholder/Project Management skills than Q & A skills but considering potentially loaded questions up front may prompt you to think of the required Stakeholder Management steps that you should be thinking about.
Occasionally you will be given a question that is no more than a comment, or worse still, a speech. If this occurs simply say "Thanks for your comment... Next question?" This may require you to interrupt if the questioner's "speech" goes on too long; you can do this by using the above interruption as soon as the person stops to catch a breath and then immediately look to the other side of the room. It is imperative that you politely terminate the "speech" otherwise the rest of your audience will be deprived of the opportunity to ask questions.
If you sense that there is a section of the audience that wants to dominate the Q & A session use a tactic such as "We've heard from this side of the room" and walk over to the side of the room from which you have not had a question. "Let's hear from this side of the room" or you could say "We've heard from people with this point of view. Now let's give a chance for someone who has a different viewpoint and would like to ask me a question."
As always politeness is the order of the day. Simply acknowledge the interest of the question, and say that it isn't strictly appropriate to today's topic but you'll be delighted to meet the questioner after the session to discuss his question on a one-to-one basis.
Many people say "Good question." If the next person who asks a question doesn't get the same response it sounds as though you are passing a judgement that you found that question less than good, so don't praise the question!
This ensures that you can end the session on a high so when you wish to end the Q & A session ask "Before I make some concluding remarks, who has a question to ask?"
While you should have prepared your conclusion you will need to be prepared to have modified it according to how the Q&A session went, so this is undoubtedly more demanding than presenting the conclusion before the Q&A session, but it is well worth it in order to guarantee ending the session on a high note.
The golden rule is always to be polite to the audience and maintain an aura of calm, no matter how hard someone may be in trying to give you a hard time.
As the speaker, you are held to a higher standard than your questioners. A questioner may get away with insulting you, but you will not get away with insulting a questioner.
Be Honest. People are fed up with hearing politicians on the radio and on television who evade the question. Don't be like them unless you want to lose your credibility. If you don't know the answer to a question, say so, but volunteer to get back to that person with an answer. Avoid suggesting where they might get an answer from - people are also fed up with being pushed from one person to another. If you have been asked a question it is your responsibility to deal with it; refer to other sources only when you can guarantee that they will give appropriate responses.
Remember that many speaking situations really involve two presentations: the formal presentation and the question and answer period. Ensure success with both presentations by using the techniques described above for the question and answer period.
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This article was written by Michael Ronayne, director at the College of Public Speaking and four-time UK National Public Speaking Champion.
To discover more of Michael's top training techniques, check out his professionally accredited Train the Trainer course here<:>question-and-answer-sessions<:>0<:>Question and answer sessions are the best way to reinforce your key messages from a presentation. Hearing different voices can be a good way to get the attention of the audience, but the purpose is to allow members of the audience to obtain both clarification and confirmation of your key messages. It, therefore, reduces the chance that any members of the audience will leave your presentation with any misunderstandings about the concepts delivered.<:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1380730560<:>1<:>What's Your Point?<:><:>
You cannot deliver a clear message to your students unless that message is absolutely clear in your own head.
You could say this follows on from the maxim of:
'You cannot teach what you don't know and you cannot lead where you won't go.' It all comes down to the clarity of purpose.
Often training misses the mark because the company or the maybe even the trainers themselves, although they may have a fair idea of what needs to be covered, do not have a crystal clear image of exactly why the training is being scheduled, and precisely what it is aiming to achieve.
So just like a good speaker needs to have a clear grasp of exactly what the key message is, an effective trainer needs a firm grasp of not just what, but exactly 'why' they are training. Is there an actual end goal to the training? What do we hope to see as a result of the training?
It comes back to 'What' and 'why'.
It is not just a matter of knowing 'what' you need to cover in a training programme, it is even more important to understand 'why' it needs to be covered. For instance, if you are running an induction programme for new employees, it is essential in the planning stage to be clear exactly what is the key message you are trying to put across.
It is not simply a matter of going through the motions of teaching orientation, core values and company structure. That may be all part of the 'what' that needs to be covered, but the real thrust of the programme will depend on understanding exactly 'why' you are covering these topics.
If the company aim is to make sure that everyone feels comfortable, happy to be part of a new team and reassured that they have made the right choice in joining that company, then that will have an influence on 'how' the induction material is going to be covered.
There will be an emphasis on 'helping', 'supporting' and 'relaxing', as the new employees make their way into the company.
On the other hand if the real motivation behind the induction is to make sure new employees understand how they are expected to conduct themselves, what the company expects of them and that any abuse of privileges will be frowned upon, then the emphasis and tone delivering pretty much the same type of material will be completely different, with a greater stress on 'expecting', 'striving' and 'control'.
So, for a training programme to be successful, it is not just a matter of covering the right sort of material, it is vital to understand from the trainee's point of view, from the trainer's point of view and from the company's point of view, exactly 'why' the training needs to take place in the first place. It is therefore useful for each training programme to have its own little mission statement, a few words or a line that encapsulates what the programme is aiming to achieve.
This article was written by Michael Ronayne, director at the College of Public Speaking and four-time UK National Public Speaking Champion.
To discover more of Michael's top training techniques, check out his professionally accredited Train the Trainer course here<:>whats-your-point<:>0<:><:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1384708920<:>1<:>Training Credentials<:><:>
Some trainers, young trainers particularly, are a bit uncomfortable giving a glowing account of their CV at the beginning of a training session.
They feel it sounds a bit arrogant ('I have done this and this, and here are my achievements'). But at the beginning of the day it is vital to set a good learning environment, for 2 reasons:
Firstly, it will assert your credentials, thereby showing the students why it would be wise for them to follow to your leadership.
Secondly, from the student's own point of view, they want to feel that the person up in front of them is 'fully qualified' for the job in hand.
(This also helps to answer the third of the 3 unspoken questions that most students have at the beginning of any training session:
i. Why am I here?
ii. What am I going to get out of this?
iii. Why should I listen to you?
If I needed a life-saving operation and my doctor started off by telling me all the people he has successfully saved, I would be greatly reassured. I would not interpret it as his showing off.
In fact, if I am putting my life in his hands, I would want him to be very confident!
Nevertheless, there is a subtle difference between a 'matter of fact' statement about what one has achieved professionally and overblown personal bragging.
Usually, if you can point to over 2 years experience in a certain field, it automatically suggests to the listener that you will probably be more than competent in that area (which is probably why many job adverts specify '2 years' experience').
Over 5 years' experience in the field suggests you are an 'expert'. If you can back that up with phrases like: 'that should suggest that I have the necessary knowledge' or 'which means I am well placed to be able to help you', the training participants will feel reassured and confident.
So what happens if you apparently do not have the relevant experience?
On one level maybe you should ask yourself if you are in the best position to lead the training at all! However, more likely, you will be able to point to parallel experiences that may be relevant:
'I have only been in this job for a few weeks, but I have 12 years' experience doing something very similar'.
'I may not have delivered training in this area before, but I have many years' behind me delivering training in other fields.'
The point is, the trainer's introduction is not there for the greater glory of the trainer, it is there to reassure the participants that they are in safe hands. It is never about you - it is always about them.
And usually, the best way you can reassure your students that you are the best person to help them is simply to tell them so at the outset.
This article was written by Michael Ronayne, director at the College of Public Speaking and four-time UK National Public Speaking Champion.
To discover more of Michael's top training techniques, check out his professionally accredited Train the Trainer course here<:>training-credentials<:>0<:>Some trainers, young trainers particularly, are a bit uncomfortable giving a glowing account of their CV at the beginning of a training session. They feel it sounds a bit arrogant ('I have done this and this, and here are my achievements'). But at the beginning of the day it is vital to set a good learning environment, for 2 reasons:<:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1384874220<:>1<:>The Over-Friendly Trainer<:><:>
It is a question every parent, every teacher and every trainer will ask themselves.
Obviously there are a number of factors that will influence finding the right balance between formality and informality, such as: where the training is taking place; how committed and keen the attendees are to take part in the programme; the nature of the subject matter and of course the age, personality and experience of trainer.
But if we all think back to our school days, the teachers who were the most approachable, friendly and easy going at the beginning of the term, often were not the most popular or respected by the end. In contrast, the stern, severe teacher who then relaxes a bit during the course of the year is usually looked upon with more respect and even eventually, with more affection.
I remember a manager declaring with a bit of self-conscious irony:
'Don't think of me as your boss, think of me as a friend who is always right!'
That is an almost impossible balance to sustain -an apparent best of both worlds. But as his statement implies, a boss sometimes needs to make clear decisions and take control, in a way that would not be appropriate in a friend relationship.
Sometimes when we want an honest candid opinion, we walk past our friends and go to someone who is a bit more detached, because we feel they are not afraid to give a more honest, balanced perspective.
A trainer, if only for a few hours, is also a mentor. And sometimes a mentor has to speak uncomfortable truths. After all, it is a professional relationship. We do not look to our Doctor to be our friend; in fact, we may be slightly uncomfortable if they were too close. We expect them to work in a professional context, to work in our best interests and be able to tell us what we need to know, honestly and sensitively. So how does that help us with the initial question:
Simply put, if you are going to err on any side, it is better to be too strict and detached. You can always recover and come back the other way. However, like a sports team that starts off too slowly, or a tennis player who underestimates his opponent, it can be hard to recover if you start too informally.
From a student's point of view a teacher whose attitude starts off a bit reserved and then warms up - is seen as a pleasant improvement. You can always squeeze a bit more toothpaste out of the tube, putting it back in again, is somewhat harder.
So an ideal posture for a trainer is friendly, professional and if not sure how far to go on the open friendly side - then hold back little. You can always open up later. Before anything else, it is a professional relationship.
Comparisons between music and public speaking usually start and finish with the voice. The voice is a 'musical instrument' and therefore much can be made of comparisons in terms of pace, pitch, power and pause.
However, the comparison can go deeper, as we consider speech structure in relation to musical structure.
If we look back to the simple voice and dance structures in the baroque period, we see 2 basic forms, Binary (2 part) and Ternary (3 part). A binary structure is a piece of music in 2 sections, A and B. It is usually a dance movement and so the mood and feeling of the music remain the same throughout. In relation to speech structure, it can be seen in terms of one theme, introduced, explored and then coming back to the opening theme once more.
For instance, a speech on 'my mother's cooking' may start with memories of the family dinner, then explore all the exotic foods I have eaten from around the world, and then conclude that nothing quite beats mother's cooking.
In musical binary terms, Section A takes the listener from mother's cooking out into the wide world of other food experience; Section B takes us from those experiences back to mother's cooking.
As a speech structure, it is very simple and very satisfying; it is not very profound, as all it does is 'inform' the audience about one theme or subject. This structure is not meant to challenge or confront. Like the Baroque dance movement, it is there to entertain and please the listener.
The ternary structure is a piece of music in 3 sections, A, B and then A again (notice - not C). Although basic speech structure is seen in terms of 'Beginning, Middle and End', often the most satisfying speeches end where they started, back at the beginning. The difference between this and the binary structure is that in the 'middle section' we may go further afield in our exploring. In musical terms section B was used to contrast the 2 section A's (a typical traditional musical form would be a Minuet and Trio, where the Trio section contrasts with the opening minuet, which is then repeated after the Trio).
So a simple speech about fishing could explore all the joys of peace and tranquillity experienced by the solitary, patient fisher of one's youth; section B would take you into another phase of the speakers life, - maybe when he moved to the big city and got involved in team sports like rugby or football and how they influenced his life; section A would then return to the tranquillity and love of fishing.
This is a very useful structure for comparing or contrasting two different themes; dogs and cats - explore both and then come to a conclusion that (for instance) dogs are best.
Similarly to the A,B Binary structure, there is not necessarily a great sense of development in the material of the speech; an opening theme is introduced, contrasted with the second theme and then returned to as the conclusion. For more dramatic development we need to look at Sonata Form as the model. I would not attempt to go into great depth here, but classical sonata form is broadly a fusion of both Binary and Ternary forms and is defined in 3 sections; exposition; development and recapitulation. This allows us to deal with more complex and challenging issues, where the middle section allows us to really examine a challenging or controversial set of ideas and return to them at the end with new knowledge or perspective.
For instance; the speaker introduces the 2 apparently unrelated themes of politics and picking up his young son from nursery in section A; section B 'develops these ideas, compares and contrasts them, dissects them and re-evaluates (for instance comparing Prime Ministers Question Time to a playground fight; comparing childhood school drama to more profound political struggles). Therefore when we come back to the 2 themes again, we view them in a new and enlightened way.
Another example would be to start with the rhetorical question:
'Who believes lawyers are self-interested and money-grabbing?'
If the audience agrees, then the development would explore the great personal sacrifice and dangerous work many lawyers do around the world defending peoples rights.
The speaker then returns to the question at the end: 'Who believes lawyers are self-interested and money-grabbing?' The question is the same, but our understanding of it has changed.
The parallel between musical structure and speech structure is not intended to be taken too literally. An impressionist painting cannot be compared point for point to impressionist music, however, the comparisons are useful and stimulating if we are looking for better ways to express our ideas.
An accepted model for learning in the training world is the 4 step move from 'Unconscious Incompetence' passing through 'Conscious Incompetence' and 'Conscious Competence', ending at 'Unconscious Competence'. Usually, this model is expressed as a progression upwards through the levels, like up a flight of steps. However, in working as a trainer, in fact, in any honest field of endeavour, I would suggest, if progress is indeed like a flight of steps it is at very least a spiral staircase.
A typical example of the traditional model is a young person learning to drive. Initially, they are 'unconsciously incompetent' where it comes to driving. They have been driven around since early childhood. They have sat in a car with their mother or father and driving seems not much more complicated than pointing the car in the right direction, working a brake and occasionally using a steering wheel to turn. When it comes to driving they are unaware of how challenging learning to drive is going to be. Once they start to learn, they move to 'conscious incompetence'. Driving is, in fact, a lot harder than it seemed from the outside. With a bit of practice, the learner will progress to 'conscious competence'. That is, they begin to drive effectively if they concentrate really carefully and no one talks to them while they are thinking. And then a few years later they are reversing out of the garage, using only one hand, programming the radio with the other and holding a conversation at the same time. I am not suggesting this is a safe way to drive, but it means that the mechanics of driving are now so well ingrained that you do them without thinking, which means you are now 'unconsciously competent' as a driver.
And that is where the traditional model usually ends. However to follow the driving analogy one step further, we are probably all aware of long-standing drivers, who cut corners, no longer indicate properly, cease to use their mirrors and hold the car on a hill with the footbrake alone. The Incompetence to Competence learning model is in fact not a straight upward path; at worst it is a circle, at best a spiral, because once one is unconsciously competent, like a sportsman who no longer trains properly or a musician who ceases to take lessons, it is possible to unconsciously slip back into a form of incompetence.
As a communicator, it is feedback that stops us from tumbling from unconscious competence back into unconscious incompetence. Most training and workshop feedback forms consist of a rather bland series of general questions whose answers amount to little more than 'Yes, I had a nice day'. Feedback should be challenging. It should make both the trainer and the participant think. No one likes to feel they are being criticised. And one of the unfortunate apparent rules is that often the most useful feedback is not expressed very tactfully. As a trainer, you need to embrace feedback. If you do a good job and remain consciously competent, then most of the feedback will be more than acceptable, and the occasional sharp comment will help keep you at the top of your game.
Feedback, however, is not just an end of session event. A good leader should be looking for signs all the time; body language, actively listening, continually asking questions about pace and content to make sure everybody is still on board. There is not much point in completing the day's training if half the participants go 'missing in action'.
So for the genuine communicator, like the serious artist, the learning process is not a straight linear path; instead, it is a continuous cycle. It is about staying humble and using feedback to make sure professional competence never slips into professional incompetence.
Before starting a training session there are three questions in the heads of the participants that need to be answered. And until they have all been satisfied there is no point in starting the programme.
The three questions are:
1 Why am I here? 2 What am I going to get out of this? 3 Why am I listening to you?
If you are lucky some or all of these questions may already have been answered in a participant's head before they came through the door - but you cannot assume that!
'Why am I here?' In most cases the participant should already know why they are there - but not necessarily.
If you are working in an organisation where employees are routinely 'sent' on training for their CPD or because a manager simply decides they need it, it is possible that they are not totally clear why they are there.
On the other hand, they may be trying to fit the training into their otherwise busy schedule and so it does no harm to get them mentally in the room by reminding them of the outlines and the aims of the training. However more often than not the participant has already 'bought in' to the need for the particular training programme they are attending and so Question 1 should not be a major issue.
Question 2 is slightly more subtle - 'What am I going to get out of this?' For instance, they may be thinking: 'I know I am on a sales skills programme and although I understand it may be useful, how exactly is it going to benefit ME?'
To be properly engaged a participant needs to have a clear idea of some very tangible benefit that will help them specifically. Very often when a trainer outlines the aims of the programme - those aims are expressed in terms of why the company wants the training to take place or how the company will benefit, but not in terms of how the individual will benefit.
As a willing participant, if I know at the very beginning that I will learn skills that will help earn me more money or help develop a successful career in the organisation, I have an even better reason to participate fully.
Having at times been engaged to deliver training to salespeople, I am very conscious of maybe one or two people in the room who, having already been in sales for many years, feel that they already know all they need to know and don't see how they are going to benefit listening to some 'trainer' when they could be out winning business.
For a trainer to ignore this can be fatal and so it is vital that the trainer makes sure that even the most apparently closed participant is given some sense of how they personally will benefit from the training process.
This then leads to Question 3 - 'Why am I listening to you?' I remember one time very clearly while I was working in sales myself. Our team was brought into Head Office for a day's training to gain some 'valuable' new sales techniques and skills.
Question 1 - fine - we understood why we were there. Question 2 - fine - by the end of the day we would have some new tools to help us close more deals and so earn more money.
However within 20 minutes of the training starts, almost at the same time each of us suddenly realised that the person training us had never actually done what he was asking us to do. In our eyes, therefore, he no longer had credibility. Within seconds his words had slipped from being a potentially valuable sales tool to bring some academic theory that may or may not be of use.
So Question 3 also needs to be answered before the start of training. 'Why you?' And as trainers that need to be very clear in our own heads. After all training others is a position of huge trust and responsibility.
Usually we can assert our credibility in terms of shared experience, or years of working in the field - and a participant needs to hear this, because they are giving up their valuable time to learn from you, and so before they give you their full attention, they need to know that the time and effort will be worth it. Once that is clear, then and only then are we ready to start the programme.
First impressions in any form of public communication are vital to the success of what follows.
Similarly, a trainer whose introduction to the session is slow, ponderous or unsure is setting up a low level of expectation and energy in the participants. This is difficult to alter. It is like a juggernaut set rolling in one direction that becomes incredibly difficult to divert in any other direction.
If the first few moments of a training session seem halting and insecure, sparks of dread shoot through each participant's head and connect with everybody across the room. An unspoken thought permeates the room amid fleeting snatches of eye-contact, 'This could be a long day. I am already bored and unsure and we have not even started yet'.
The problem is that once a trainer sets up those expectations it becomes very hard to undo them.
One may argue that if you start off slowly then you can steadily improve as you move on. However, experience as a public speaker suggests that this is not the case. The introduction to a training session is a bit like a stage introduction to a speaker - it sets up a level of expectation.
Any of us speakers, at some point in our careers, will have had to endure a tame, limp introduction that leaves the audience thinking 'Yeh..and..?'.
It is very difficult to change that feeling once it has been set.
Sports trainers always emphasise how hard it is to change pace mid-match if the team or competitor has started off in a defensive frame of mind. So I would recommend that the opening of a training is regarded as a 'set piece' that should require a lot of consideration and attention.
If the opening comes across as clear, concise and controlled, psychologically the participants will settle back in the same way as a good friendly welcome over the intercom from an airline pilot makes the passengers relax and feel they will be in safe hands during the ensuing flight.
We should never forget that as a training session starts some of your participants may be arriving late or have just come from their offices or answered a text or phone call, so it is important that a good, solid, confident opening gathers their attention and helps them leave all their other issues outside the training room.
Therefore, the introduction should gather the participants together, give them a positive anticipation for what is coming next and give them a sense that they are about to embark on an interesting, valuable and worthwhile journey.
Your students' first impression will have an indelible quality.
Have you ever heard the adage that communication is only 7% verbal and 93% non-verbal, i.e. body language and vocal variety? You probably have, and if you have any sense at all, you have ignored it.
There are certain "truths" that are prima face false. And this is one of them. Asserting that what you say is the least important part of a speech insults not only the intelligence of your audience, but your own intelligence as well.
The whole objective of most speeches is to convey information, or to promote or defend a point of view. Certainly, proper vocal variety and body language can aid the process. But by their very nature, these ancillary activities can convey only emphasis or emotion.
The proof? Although today we presumably live in a visual world, most information is still promulgated in written form, where vocal variety and body language play no role. Even the "interactive" Internet is still mainly writing. The vast majority of people who surf the Net do so looking for texts, with which they may interact via hyperlinks, but it is still essentially text.
Likewise with a speech. If your words are incapable of getting your message across, then no amount of gestures and tonal variations will do it for you. You are still obliged to carefully structure your information and look for "le mot juste" (the best words or phrases) to express what you want to say.
So just what does this "7% Rule" really mean?
The origin of this inimical adage is a misinterpretation, like the adage "the exception that proves the rule". This is something else people say without examining it. If you believe that this is actually true, I will demonstrate at the end of this article that it isn't. But first things first.
In the 1960s Professor Albert Mehrabian and colleagues at the University of California, Los Angles (UCLA), conducted studies into human communication patterns. When their results were published in professional journals in 1967, they were widely circulated in the mass media in abbreviated form. Because the figures were so easy to remember, most people forgot about what they really meant. Hence, the myth that communication is only 7% verbal and 93% non-verbal was born. And we have been suffering from it ever since.
The fact is, Prof. Mehrabian's research had nothing to do with giving speeches, because it was based on the information that could be conveyed in a single word.
Subjects were asked to listen to a recording of a woman's voice saying the word "maybe" three different ways to convey 1) liking, 2) neutrality, and 3) disliking. They were also shown photos of the woman's face conveying the same three emotions. They were then asked to guess the emotions heard in the recorded voice, seen in the photos, and both together. The result? The subjects correctly identified the emotions 50% more often from the photos than from the voice.
In the second study, subjects were asked to listen to nine recorded words, three meant to convey liking (honey, dear, thanks), three to convey neutrality (maybe, really, oh), and three to convey disliking (don't, brute, terrible). Each word was pronounced three different ways. When asked to guess the emotions being conveyed, it turned out that the subjects were more influenced by the tone of voice than by the words themselves.
Prof. Mehrabian combined the statistical results of the two studies and came up with the now famous - and famously misused - rule that communication is only 7% verbal and 93% non-verbal. The non-verbal component was made up of body language (55%) and tone of voice (38%).
Actually, it is incorrect to call this a "rule", being the result of only two studies. Scientists usually insist on many more corroborating studies before calling anything a rule.
More to the point, Prof. Mehrabian's conclusion was that for inconsistent or contradictory communications, body language and tonality may be more accurate indicators of meaning and emotions than the words themselves. However, he never intended the results to apply to normal conversation. And certainly not to speeches, which should never be inconsistent or contradictory!
So what can we learn from this research to help us become better speakers?
Basically, nothing. We must still rely on what good orators have always known. A speech that is confused and disorganized is a poor speech, no matter how well it is delivered. The essence of a good speech is what it says. This can be enhanced by vocal variety and appropriate gestures. But these are auxiliary, not primary.
No less an authority than Toastmasters International, a worldwide club dedicated to improving public speaking, devotes the first four chapters of its beginner's manual to organizing the speech itself. Only in Chapter 5 and Chapter 6 does it concern itself with body language and vocal variety.
I don't know how to quantify the relative importance of verbal to non-verbal in delivering speeches. But I have no doubt that the verbal (what you actually say) must dominate by a wide margin.
Now, what about that other oft-quoted misconception "the exception that proves the rule"?
If you reflect for a moment, you will realize that an exception can never prove a rule; it can only disprove it. For example, what happens when someone is decapitated? He dies, right? And we know that this rule holds, because at least once in history when someone's head was chopped off, he didn't die!
The problem is not with the adage, but with the language. In old English the term "prove" meant to test, not to confirm as it does today. So the adage really means: "It is the exception that tests the rule". If there is an exception, then there is no rule, or at least the rule is not total.
Native English speakers are not alone in continuing to mouth this nonsense; in some other languages it is even worse. For example, the French say "the exception that confirms the rule" (l'exception qui confirme la regle), probably because it was mistranslated from English. This is quite unequivocal, leaving no room for doubt. But it is still wrong.
Philip Yaffe is a former reporter/feature writer with The Wall Street Journal and a marketing communication consultant. He currently teaches a course in good writing and good speaking in Brussels, Belgium. His recently published book In the "I" of the Storm: the Simple Secrets of Writing & Speaking (Almost) like a Professional is available from Story Publishers in Ghent, Belgium (storypublishers.be) and Amazon (amazon.com).
For further information, contact:
Tel: +32 (0)2 660 0405
Talking business is what you are about. So talk business in style.
Time is money and when speaking in public having a clear objective is even more important with business talks.
The key question is - what is the purpose of your presentation? What do you want to achieve?
Do you want to inform, persuade, inspire, entertain?
Make the context crystal clear. Spend a long time considering your subject and gathering appropriate material that will punch your key messages home. How long will you speak for? What is your place on the speaking programme? Do you have to tie in with someone else's contribution? Consider the number of people in the audience and the auditorium itself - who'll be there - and who they are? Could they have an impact on your speaking career?
What is the technical set up? (or do you want to be there)? Know how to use it properly - and carry spares! Liaise with the organizers and make sure that there are no loose ends on the day.
Get the sequence of your talk right. Would an agenda help? You will need a logical and 'signposted' structure with a definite conclusion (do not leave it in the air!). Have a strong opening with impact, something that the audience will remember long after. Similarly, the ending should be memorable. Research shows that your audience will probably remember the beginning and the ending if they are delivered convincingly.
Establish your audience's level of knowledge by research before the event. The army has an interesting saying: 'Good reconnaissance is never wasted.' Ensure you adapt your presentation to their level of knowledge and interest.
Involve your audience right at the start - including getting their agreement to your key messages early. Win them over. Smile, talk of 'we/us', and never talk down or patronize your audience.
Keep them awake. It's better without a written script (unless you have to). Aim for a variety of voice - word pictures can be highlighted within a long talk - visual aids, maybe (with pie charts rather than tables) or break it up with a 2 man act.
Circulate handouts before the event, not during. Or tell them at the start if they'll get notes at the end. Be prepared for questions. Note and remember who asked the question. Remember to repeat the question before answering in case somebody in the audience didn't catch the question.
If you don't know the answer, never flannel - it will show!
There are three keys to success: preparation - preparation - preparation.
Explore all three in great detail and you will probably succeed in your assignment.
Talking business is what you are about. So talk business in style.<:>talking-business<:>0<:>Talking business is what you are about. So talk business in style. Time is money and when speaking in public having a clear objective is even more important with business talks. The key question is - what is the purpose of your presentation? What do you want to achieve? <:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1381841340<:>1<:>How To Banish The Fear Of Public Speaking<:><:>
For many people confronted with the dreaded prospect of delivering a presentation all that is going through their mind is getting up on stage delivering the presentation with all good speed and getting off the stage.
As long as the message has been delivered and reinforced (usually by distracting and overloaded PowerPoint slides) that's the job done. Thinking about how to win over the audience is the last thing on people's mind but it is absolutely crucial.
Failing to win people over will result in 90% of the audience switching off from your presentation within the first 5 minutes; that should be regarded as a catastrophe, but regrettably it is alarmingly common.
In recent years I have made a point of asking people what they thought about a presentation that we have all sat through and it is truly horrifying how many people very quickly went off into their own dream world, so dull was the presenter.
It is not uncommon for 100 people to sit through an hour's presentation and only 10 to be still listening after a few minutes - imagine all that lost working time.
What are the steps to winning over an audience and banishing the fear of public speaking?
Firstly - know them (if you can) and as early as possible get in a statement that you know they can identify with.
Imagine a politician addressing an audience of business people all of whom are running small independent operations and that politician's opening remarks being 'Red tape is strangling this country and impeding the ability of our entrepreneurs to thrive. We will reduce this burden at a stroke by taking the following actions'.
As long as the actions made sense to the audience they will have been won over completely and utterly. The rest of the speech will now be so much easier to deliver and the fear of public speaking is lost.
Compare this to a speaker with an audience comprised solely of people working within finance departments being greeted with the remarks 'this initiative will allow us to reduce those working in finance areas by 50%'. No great surprise to hear that this initiative was resisted with all the gusto of a sprinter trying to win Gold at the Olympics!
Secondly - when you deliver this audience winning statement look them straight in the eye as you say it and see how the audience rapport builds as they look back at you. Feel the bond forging between the two of you as they do.
Thirdly - when you have finished delivering that winning statement pause briefly to allow the audience to absorb the statement and quite possibly shake their head in agreement.
Fourthly - during the rest of the speech engage with the audience by asking them rhetorical questions knowing that their answers are going to be in the affirmative.
Finally - and this particularly applies to a speech over ten minutes in length; use humour to lighten the mood. This will ensure that the attention of the audience never drifts off.
Knowing that you have won an audience over is one of the best feelings in the speaking world.
That's how to banish the fear of public speaking.<:>how-to-banish-the-fear-of-public-speaking<:>0<:><:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1384350840<:>1<:>Are Communication Skills at an all Time Low<:><:>
You have just been told that you are going to get a promotion, and you ask yourself - do I have the communication skills to cut it?
The joy you feel is quickly dampened by the realization that your new role includes presenting on a regular basis to senior management of your company and you are scared stiff!
Perhaps you enroll on a presentation skills course and while on that course you feel your nerves ebb away with each presentation that you give and each piece of feedback that you receive. One month later you are to give your first presentation at work and the nerves just flood back as though the training course meant nothing.
There are many simple ways to avoid this dreaded possibility and most of them are very straightforward.
Firstly be prepared, that means fully researching your subject and, as far as possible, your audience. Confidence increases considerably when you know your subject and know that no question from the audience can throw you.
TIP 1: All presenters naturally feel more at ease answering a question (assuming they know the answer) than they do presenting, so, if possible, get a plant in the audience to ask you an agreed question early on in the presentation; any nerves will simply vanish!
Knowing your audience will allow you to structure your presentation in a way which will hold their interest; seeing the audience interested in what you are saying will provide a great boost to your confidence.
Secondly, try your presentation on trusted colleagues first and get them to tell you what works and what doesn't. Having already done the presentation is a guaranteed way to feel more at ease on the day.
Thirdly, do not worry about making a mistake. Joking about it can smooth the incident over, while endearing you to your audience.
TIP 2: Plan to make a harmless mistake early on and have a prepared humorous follow-up. The tension between you and the audience melts away as rapidly as ice in the desert. You could say perhaps "I fully expect sales to exceed £3,000 this month" (when you and the audience are expecting a figure of around £300,000), hesitate briefly, say, "oh well I'd better cancel the family holiday to Australia that I'd planned with my bonus this year!" Then follow up with "of course I meant £300,000".
Fourthly, break the ice by meeting a few people from your audience before you speak; you will find that making eye contact with those people will be a great aid to making you feel at ease while you're speaking.
Finally, deep breathing does actually help to relieve tense muscles, a quaking voice and queasy stomach. It also helps to sit in a chair, contract and relax your arm muscles. You can feel a big difference after you have done this, but if you find yourself becoming tense again, simply repeat or try it with other muscles especially neck muscles. Always have some water handy to prevent your mouth from becoming dry.
Try these tips and you will soon see that your confidence will rapidly increase. Also make sure that you do as many presentations as you can; the more you do the easier it gets. And the very best of luck!
Communication skills matter, it's difficult to develop a progressive career path without strong communication skills.<:>are-communication-skills-at-an-all-time-low<:>0<:><:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1384783740<:>1<:>Elocution Exercises for Chinese Speakers<:><:>
Developing the budding speaker is wonderful work. It's wonderful work because you never stop learning yourself. Speakers from around the world have different vocal requirements. Working recently with many Chinese, Taiwanese, Malaysian and Singaporean speakers helped me to tune my ears to their specific needs. This group of speakers often has problems with these sounds taken from the international phonetic alphabet: the th sound as in maths, the th sound as in writhed, as well as the r sound.
Starting with some breathing exercises to ensure that the voice is adequately supported by the diaphragm, we then move on to some relaxation techniques to ensure there is no tension in the jaw, neck, shoulders, chest or rib cage.
Almost every word has one of the five English vowel sounds. Vowel sounds are ever present so it's vital that those all important sounds are produced accurately and with clarity. Producing the correct sound does not just happen - it has to be worked upon. We call it muscle memory and I'll talk more about that later on when we look at specific exercises for speakers from South East Asia.
We then work on the tone of the voice to introduce colour and warmth. Most people have a pathological antipathy to their own voice. The general comment is that it's harsh, it's unpleasant to the audience, it's weak, and it lacks vocal variety. Again, there are many useful exercises which can be utilised to change the vocal dynamic. Effecting change is easily achieved by asking the student to open their mouth more widely, therefore allowing more breath to escape from the mouth. Secondly, while retaining the wider mouth position, exaggerate the lips movements when speaking. This has a two fold effect: it slows the speaker down allowing greater use of intonation and rather curiously makes native English speakers sound more posh than usual.
We are now ready to try some specific exercises at improving the : the 'th' sound as in maths, the 'th' sound as in writhed, as well as the 'r' sound. I mentioned muscle memory earlier. When you first started driving, did you find changing gears difficult? Most people do, but once you get the hang of that skill, it starts to happen subconsciously - effectively, you don't have to think about it. Similarly, if you could ride a bicycle as a 10 year old and you haven't ridden a bicycle for 40 years, you would still be able to ride a bicycle today. The first 10 yards might be a bit wobbly, but because your mind and body are so well integrated, you'll have no problem whatsoever. Muscle memory is all important in positioning the tongue in the correct place to produce the correct sound. There is a great deal of repetition involved, but it's a worthwhile exercise and is tremendously effective when with the support of a vocal coach.
Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. There are a number of files for download on our Voice Coaching page which will help you achieve mastery of these vital exercises. Good luck!
Below are a number of vocal exercises which ensure that those key sounds are repeated regularly for Chinese, Malaysian, Taiwanese and Singaporean students.
Theodora's mathematical theories were rigorously misrepresented by insincere scholars.
The thought that Theo could run the marathon raised eyebrows in Thanet.
Thoughtless thinkers with their trite timelines enthused turtles, toys and toddlers.
I thought I would rather wake up in Reading if I fell asleep on the Thames.
Round and round the racetrack, Cuthbert cuddled a crusty rusty rag.
Think about thugs throwing thunderous thunder bolts like Thor.
The thug hurt his thumb with a thumping thud.
Throughout the threadbare throng the thorny thong wore thin.
Thereafter, the thesis for thieving thugs was more theoretical than therapeutic.
Radioactive Rodney's rakish ram caused ridiculous and rampant riots.
Over railroads, streets and roads, residents retained the ramblers' ransom.
Ricky retained reproducing reptiles unreasonably.
Regretfully, Rowena's royal blood wore thin and red, not blue.
A rigid rhino recklessly and thoughtlessly raided Thera and Arica.<:>elocution-exercises-for-chinese-speakers<:>0<:><:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1376485980<:>1<:>How to Introduce a Speaker<:><:>
Of all the facets of public speaking, introductions are probably the most abused. This is because we fail to determine the objective, the purpose and the desired result.
How seldom do we hear an introduction which is really not much more than a partial biography, uninteresting, without structure, stumbled through, essentially, merely going through the motions?
Who cares whether the speaker was born 1961 in Plompton, that he went to grammar school, high school and university, that he married a class mate, has four children, a VW Polo, a bulldog, and moved to Dublin in 1991? So they are going to speak on "The future of our forests in Africa".
Exaggeration? - Perhaps. But not too far from the truth. It recalls all the boring ritual of the average introduction.
Obviously, to increase the interest, attention and anticipation of the audience. It is only a courtesy to the speaker to condition the audience to a pleased, happy anticipation and ensure attention.
It consists of several things:
With a few rare exceptions, a good introduction should not go over two or three minutes. Don't hog the limited time of the speaker.
There should always be an "introduction of the introduction." Perhaps this is only a single sentence of an attention-compelling nature. An introduction is a short speech and should follow the rules for good speech making. Some apropos side remarks or comments might further increase the mood and anticipation if it is lightly humorous and in good taste.
The body of the introduction should raise the importance of the timeliness of the subject to be discussed. This is to increase the interest of the "so what" members of the audience. A short statement about the speaker should follow, restricted as far as possible to their accomplishments.
Up to this point, the title of the talk, the business or professional connection, or the title of the speaker and their name, have not been given. The conclusion of the introduction consists of these three:
title of speech
title of speaker
the speaker's name
in that order. The last words spoken are the name of the speaker.
All of this in three minutes? Yes. It takes some doing, but it is your duty. Try it and you will be surprised at the good reception it will get.
Rare indeed is the person who can give a good introduction if they are called upon only in the last few minutes before the speech. An introduction needs preparation, thought and ingenuity. The introducer needs to know the title of the speech, the slant the speaker will take, some pertinent facts about them, and the type of audience they will be addressing.
When you are the introducer, pay close attention to everything that happens prior to your part in the programme. Often events occur that throw into your lap a comment or bit of humour which, if grasped, establishes the easy liaison and happy anticipation which is priceless background for the speaker.
If that is your task, pay close attention to what the first speaker says. Use your ingenuity, and as they finish, comment upon their speech. Pick out some statement or thought you can refer to, and in a logical or humorous way, connect their speech with the one which is to follow. Use such remarks as the "introduction to the introduction" for the next speaker.
As you introduce a speaker, it is your duty not to bore the audience. It is your duty to increase your audience attention and anticipation. Try it next time. Condition the audience as you introduce a speaker.
When you introduce a speaker, it's also important to be respectful, enthusiastic and when the introduction is over lead the applause and the audience will take their cue from you.<:>how-to-introduce-a-speaker<:>0<:><:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1418915520<:>1<:>A Vote of Thanks Template<:><:>
A vote of thanks is a short (2-3 minutes) expression of thanks to a speaker on behalf of the audience. Therefore it is not another speech, nor is it an evaluation, nor should it repeat the Chairman's introduction of the speaker, nor may it be prepared in detail in advance - all will become clear.
The opening sentence (which may be prepared!) might be of the following nature:
"Mr Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen! On behalf of Norwich Orators, I am very happy to thank Fred for giving his speech on 'Promotion in the Mexican Navy' to us this evening..."
and the concluding sentence might be along the following lines:
"So, Mr Chairman, I say, once again, that we are all most grateful to Fred and I now ask the audience to express its appreciation in the usual way."
[Please note that they will be applauding the speaker (Fred) and not the proposer of the Vote of Thanks.]
With experience, the opening and closing formula may be modified, always provided that the principles that they embody are not forsaken.
Needless to say, the person proposing A Vote of thanks will listen most carefully to the speech. The proposer should pick out two or three points that s/he and/or the audience found particularly interesting and, in the vote of thanks, refer and respond to these. However, the proposer should NOT repeat those parts of the speech, nor discuss whether s/he agrees or disagrees with them, nor enter into any kind of debate.
With practice, how to select some useful or illuminating points, and how to incorporate references to them in the vote of thanks, becomes easier and, with time, the proposer will produce a presentation that resembles an excellent dessert following - and in happy harmony with - a fine main course.
For the moment, consider these extracts from a hypothetical vote of thanks to Fred and decide which (if any) you consider suitable in the light of the above discussion:
Fred's mention of pocket battleships reminds me of an incident during the Korean War. My uncle was on Dog Watch in the Straights of Malacca. It was a dark and stormy night...;
I was particularly impressed by Fred's tale of how Commodore Sanchez was twice passed over for promotion because of his terrible table manners.
Fred sometimes talks so quickly that we have no time to think through the implications of the very interesting but often complicated point that he is making.
I have to say that I disagree with him fundamentally regarding the role of Mexico in the American Civil War.
I have to say that, along with everyone else present, I was completely enrapt by his consideration of the role of Mexico in the American Civil War.
Fred's tale of Ensign Gonzales and the attempted mutiny on board MNS Arrogant reminded us all, I sense, of Shakespeare's reference to "vaulting ambition which o'erleaps itself".<:>a-vote-of-thanks-template<:>0<:><:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1386685020<:>1<:>Technical and Vocational Education Training<:><:>
If it is truly time for TVET, then ensuring that every training programme includes 'Communicating Clearly and with Confidence' is vital. Most of life, including the world of work, is spoken. Most of education, including technical education, is written (which includes being entered by keyboards).
In the contemporary world, effective skills are your necessary passport to success. To succeed at this time, you have to become an outstanding communicator. Somebody whose body language conveys confidence and who portrays a positive self image. Somebody who speaks effectively in meetings, presentations and at interviews. Somebody who can effectively influence others. If this is not you, then it's time to act.
A quick Google-guided stroll will readily reveal the range of opportunities and the necessary details:
Individuals keen to enhance their spoken communication skills should consider joining a Speakers Club such as those affiliated with Toastmasters International. Some companies and organisations allow/sponsor such clubs specifically for their own employees and members. As they grow in confidence and competence they may care to enter the various contests that these organisations run. And, if they want to try something different and rapidly proliferating, they may like to explore, for instance, the World Online Debating Championships or the World Online Speech Contest (the WOSC).
Experienced speakers may gain further experience - as well as performing valuable roles - as public speaking and debating coaches and judges in schools, colleges and with groups such as the Young Farmers. They are also in great demand as after-dinner speakers to various organisations such as Rotary and U3E.
A variety of short courses are available in such areas as Advanced Presentation Skills together with spoken communication workshops leading to the Training the Trainer BTEC Professional Award.
There is now a Diploma in Spoken Communication: a 300-hour university-level online programme covering advanced theoretical and practical skills for the outstanding communicator. Guided by a personal tutor, students cover issues ranging from Vocal Development and The Language of the Body through Metaphor and Rhetorical Devices and That Serious Issue of Humour to Effective Meetings and 'Speaking and the Media'. There are also Masters programmes in Corporate Communication and, of course, in Public Relations.
With modern smartphones, learning can take place anywhere; on the train, plane or riding in a rickshaw. There is no shortage of quality mobile applications to help develop your communications skills. Most of them are free. Free Mobile Apps
Time for TVET to speak up!
Comments and queries may be addressed to Vince Stevenson on 07731-876304 or email:firstname.lastname@example.org.<:>technical-and-vocational-education-training<:>0<:><:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1387376400<:>1<:>TVET's turn to Make its Mark<:><:>
In Favour of Professional, Technical and Vocational Training (PTVT) - but not at Education's Expense ardently advocated, just as the encroachment of explicit employment preparation and the world of work's practices and values upon general education or schooling is strenuously opposed.
The world changes. We try to identify the trends, avoid the looting and the riots and the retributive aftermath, and predict at least some parts of some futures. In the wake of our limited understandings, so-called TVET - by fits and starts - evolves.
We should train for those futures. Instead we train, at best, for the vaguely perceived, politically mediated presents and, all too frequently, for the erroneously recollected pasts.
Capacity development should be for the individual, the immediate community and the society. All too frequently it is for the human resource unit, the corporate body and the formal economy.
We exchange ideas and evidence and genuinely strive to learn from one another - especially if the fruits of that expert-level intercourse will bring us personal credit - handicapped all the while by our belief that schemes which worked in Oxford will now work in Omdurman.
We are all especially enthusiastic and uniquely uncritical about our own initiatives ('the TVET innovator as hero') but less so about re-applying those schemes of others, allegedly proven efficacious elsewhere and elsewhere, by those whom we do not know - mainstreaming is consequently much less effective than piloting.
The objectives and indicators for (and hence the evaluation of) major so-called TVET and skills development programmes should, at the super-goals and overall objectives levels, extend to their measurable contribution to poverty reduction and social justice.
Any vision for vocational preparation must be grounded upon the realisation that paid and otherwise rewarding work will be in increasingly short supply and that, for the very many, the income-generating future will be characterised by spasmodic bursts of insecure, often part-time and typically lowly-remunerated (self-)employment.
Give a man a fish and he may feed his family for an evening. Teach a man to fish and he may obliterate his age-old eco-system.
It is surprising that some of the heartiest advocates of so-called TVET simultaneously endorse qualification frameworks which require, say, a highly skilled plumber to obtain a university degree in medieval history in order to advance any further up the ladder.
The 'ladder' is a medieval deception.
Schooling is widely perceived as a route away from unskilled primary production ("I am too educated to do the job my parents did") and, consequently, agricultural skills development is inhibited in its utility as a means of poverty alleviation.
The poor status of TVET is a major universal problem. It may best be overcome by conceptualising and organising all work-related training and preparation (internships, BTEC professional awards, seminars in management, apprenticeships, medical degrees, shop-floor work-experience, bar examination preparation et cetera) as elements within a unitary policy and administrative framework. Hence PTVT (Professional, Technical and Vocational Training).
PTVT should embrace a constructive critique of the world of work including its assumptions and the power relationships within it; the importance of professional associations and trades unions as guardians of standards and campaigners for equity should be emphasised, as should skills in workers' rights advocacy and practical capacities in various forms of industrial action.
Many youngsters reject schooling and keep on asking "why should I learn this?". The temptation to sugar coat the pill of compulsion with the saccharine of relevance should be resisted. Given that most work for most workers worldwide will be tedious, exploitative and soul-destroying, those designing and delivering education would be well-advised to steer as far away from it as possible.
'Vocational Education' and 'Education-for-Employment (e4e)' are self-contradictory oxymorons [the redundancy is for emphasis and deliberate].
Although plumbers, carpenters, electricians and suchlike are in short supply, and thus earning good money, there is a tendency for students and their parents to give higher preference and esteem to university degrees, often in traditional and 'ivory tower' subjects. This tendency is to be welcomed as an admirable recognition of the principle that education should not be in thrall to employment.
No child should leave school without basic skills - a love of learning, a respect for knowledge, a desire for wisdom, a critical fluency with contemporary technology, the ability to remain creatively human when unemployed, a fascination with that which is difficult, a unique set of enthusiasms stimulated and underwritten by education. Then and only then may PTVT commence.
Some suggest that schooling is mainly about getting a 'good job'. As most school-leavers worldwide will fail to get 'good jobs', then who should be regarded as the failures: the school-leavers themselves, their underpaid and powerless teachers, or those who propagated those falsehoods in the first place?
Education should be about being, not becoming. Given that life itself should be as pleasant as possible, education should be enjoyable - characterised by laughter rather than sorrow, by joyous self-discovery rather than over-disciplined and competitive homogeny. As an end in itself, education should be fun.<:>tvets-turn-to-make-its-mark<:>0<:><:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1391164260<:>1<:>In Training Why always comes before What<:><:>
If you know what you are going to cover in a training session, you probably know your subject.
If you know why you are running the training session, you now have a purpose.
Knowing what you are teaching might give you good session notes.
Knowing why (and therefore who) you are teaching should give you a clearly defined set of outcomes.
Whenever a training session somehow misses the mark for the students, it is usually because there has been too much focus on what is going to be taught and not enough on why it is being taught.
Therefore every training session needs to have a very clearly defined purpose (a why).
And first and foremost this purpose must be clear in the trainer's own head.
Remembering the maxim:
'You cannot teach what you don't know and you cannot lead where you won't go'
a trainer needs to be clear why they are running the programme and therefore where they are leading their students, because if the point of the training is not absolutely clear in the trainer's mind, how can he or she be able to make it clear to the students?
Students are also busy people and will always have something else that they could be doing on that day.
So if a student is unclear why they are attending their training, there will be reluctant and resistant to learning.
However, if the student clearly sees how the training will benefit them personally, they will engage without any resistance.
Luckily for most trainers, the majority of students are happy enough with what they learn, but some students (and these are usually the more challenging, questioning ones) will always need to know why they are learning.
So before you walk into a training room - ideally before you even start to plan the training - don't just ask yourself:
What will my students be learning?
Why should they be learning this and how can I bring that across to them?
Lovers of Aristotle will be well aware of his 3 kinds of creative persuasion: ethos, logos and pathos; where ethos reflects the speaker's credibility;
logos - the 'logic' of the argument and
pathos - the feelings and responses stimulated in the audience.
Whenever a speaker plans a presentation he should build his argument around each of those 3 areas: the speaker, the speech and the audience.
Therefore by the same token, a trainer should also learn to focus on 3 similar areas: the trainer; the training and the trainees.
For a training programme to succeed the student must be able to see how all 3 elements come together: ideally from the very beginning of the day.
Under 'ethos' (the trainer) the student needs to be made aware of the trainer's experience and background.
What credentials does she have?
What achievements can she point to?
What experiences does she have to show she understands the students' situation?
Sometimes a simple reference to the trainer's CV or job title is enough, but more often than not, it is worth the trainer spelling it out clearly: where they have come from and therefore what they have to offer.
Under 'logos' (the training) the trainer should give the student an outline of the structure and layout of the training.
Does there seem to be a rational thought process for the programme?
Are there clearly defined learning outcomes?
Is there a clear sense of direction?
So spend a few moments at the beginning of the day referring either to the agenda, or the aims and overall structure of the programme. This will go some way to reassuring the students that they are about to embark on something of value to them.
Leading on - under 'pathos' (the trainees), the students need to have a feeling of how this programme is specifically going to benefit them.
Salespeople are taught to highlight the difference between 'features' and 'benefits'
(-a washing machine with a spin cycle of 1800 rpm - that is a feature;
- getting your clothes dry quicker - that is a benefit).
Salespeople therefore often talk about the 'wiify' which stands for 'what's in it for you'.
1800 rpm? - 'So what! What's in it for me?'
Quicker drier clothes? - 'Now I get it!'
Telling the students what they are going to do without offering them a specific 'wiify' is no better than describing a feature:
whereas laying out specifically why they need to do it - that's the benefit!
So useful phrases like: 'By the end of the day you will be able to' or 'which will save you time', 'get you home early' or 'make you more money' will give the student a tangible personal benefit for getting involved.
Once the student understands why they need to listen to you,
how the day has been planned and most importantly,
what the real benefit is for them - you will have their full attention!
So don't be in too much of a hurry to start the training.
First, spend a few moments explaining the training triangle:
the background of the trainer;
the structure of the training;
and the specific benefits for those particular trainees.
A common refrain from potential speakers is:
'What should I talk about?'
At first glance, giving the answer, 'Anything!' does not seem very helpful.
However the point is this: there is no ideal subject matter.
Any subject can be made engaging. Unfortunately any subject can also be made dull.
So, speakers and trainers need to understand, it is not the subject, it is how one speaks about the subject that will engage or repel an audience.
Happily there is a pair of simple questions that come in handy.
'Why you?' and 'Why me?',
which is short for:
'Why should I listen to you?' and 'Why is that relevant to me?'
News and sports programmes often have an industry expert on hand to offer expert comment, because since they speak from first-hand experience, it adds weight to their opinion.
So for example a young student wants to deliver a speech on 'Bullying!'
So we test it with 'Why you? Why me'?
1. Why you?
'Have you ever been bullied or have you ever bullied anyone?
Or do you know someone who has?'
If the answer is 'No', then why should we be listening to you?
The first-hand experience that lends credibility and weight to the speaker's words is missing.
No personal story. = No unique perspective. Therefore - 'Why you?'
2. Why me?
This requires some understanding of who you are talking to.
If I have been bullied or know someone who is being bullied, I am naturally more likely to be engaged by the subject.
If I have no interest, no experience or even, no sympathy for victims of bullying, no amount of personal testimony from the speaker is going to engage me.
To use a sales example: if your presentation is about cleaning carpets and I have no interest in having my carpets cleaned, it does not matter how well you present, I am not going to be engaged.
So 'Why me' is about finding a subject matter that resonates with the audience.
In conclusion - a very simple test of any presentation, any training programme, or any speech is to ask yourself 2 simple questions: 'Why you?' and 'Why me?'
If you have credibility and I have interest, you now have a subject matter that contains the seeds of a successful presentation.
As a trainer we should try to follow the same principle.
Not necessarily literally, although many companies do like to offer freebie pens or memory sticks with company logos all over them as a marketing tool and to create a warm fuzzy feel-good factor.
However by party bag principle I am referring to something that is connected to the training itself: maybe offering a couple of simple tips or techniques that are easy to grasp, easy to understand and easy to use. That way the student immediately has something of value that can be taken away and put to good use.
It may be a small hint or trick of the trade, a computer short-cut or a neat phrase or perspective which results in the student going back to their work, thinking:
'That is useful; I see how I can use that.'
It may be something as simple as a little phrase like 'righty tighty, lefty loosey' to remind how to tighten or loosen a screw.
It might be a clever little question that works well in a sales interview.
It might be a way to save time or reach a quicker result.
This is particularly important because one of the key challenges a trainer faces is making the training relevant and thereby creating a clear connection between the training room and the 'real' world outside.
A recurring complaint from students is that the training was all very well, but a bit theoretical, lacked relevance, or that they simply could not see clearly how they could apply the learning directly to their work.
Therefore to be able to offer something specific - (however small) - something from which the student can clearly visualise a genuine benefit once they leave the training room will go a long way to winning the student over.
I remember a student telling me that having come away from an IT course which covered a large volume of material about management systems and databases, what particularly stayed in her mind and what made the whole session seem worthwhile to her, was a simple little keyboard shortcut that she had been shown.
She appreciated the full scope of the training, but it was the keyboard shortcut that really made an impression on her, as she could picture how she could use it as soon as she went back to her desk.
Practical tips, simple suggestions, professional experiences can all be those little sparks that win a student's attention and in the process make them more positive about the training.
And once they feel positive, they are more likely to engage, delve deeper and find other points of value in the rest of the programme.
So imagine your students at the end of the training. Are they leaving with something useful in their party bag?
We see in pictures.
I say 'Cat' - you see a cat.
I say 'House' - you see a house.
However we cannot 'see' a negative.
So if I say 'Do not think of a dog' - you still see a dog!
As trainers, speakers, communicators we need to be very careful about what pictures we are putting into our students' heads. Sometimes we do it accidentally: particularly at the beginning of a session when we are making the first and probably the strongest impressions.
How often have we heard opening phrases like:
' I'll try not to make this complicated.' or 'I hope this won't seem too boring.'
What do you have in your head? - 'Complicated' and 'Boring!'
With the best intentions we can find ourselves creating the exact opposite impression to the one we want.
Professional sales people and accomplished public speakers of course have learnt to turn this into an actual technique.
So that when a fashion salesperson says:
'I don't want you to think about how good you look in this coat;
I don't want you to think about how your friends will envy you;
I don't want you to think about how much time and effort went into the creation'
we of course end up thinking about all those things.
The rhetorical term for this is 'occultatio' - pointedly emphasising something by seeming to pass over it.
For instance I could say:
'Now is not the time to draw attention to you being late 3 times last week and coming in hung over on Friday.'
What are we thinking about?... - Exactly!
Unfortunately, a lot of the time, as trainers, when we use 'occultatio', we do it by accident and therefore create the exact opposite effect to the one we want.
I tend to think of it as the echo principle:
A child in the mountains shouts:
'I am not saying you're an idiot.' and the echo comes back
'You're an idiot, you're an idiot.'
'I don't need anyone to help me.' and the echo comes back
'Help me, help me.'
A 'not' in the sentence does not change the image we create in our heads.
Therefore - a key piece of advice, when preparing to deliver material:
Beware of the pictures you are creating in your audience's heads!
Are you accidentally telling people it is going to be 'difficult', 'tiring', 'boring' or 'dull'?
Rather than creating images that highlight the negative:
create clear, simple images that focus the audience positively on what we want them to be thinking about.
It avoids confusion and makes communication far simpler for everyone.
Questions are a key tool for any trainer.
They can be used in many ways and for many reasons: finding out information; developing rapport; establishing direction or even asserting authority.
Sometimes you may wish to stimulate interaction: other times not.
Sometimes you may wish to encourage free expression: other times not.
Understanding our approach to questions will go a long way to setting the tone of our training.
Firstly: do we want to encourage questions?
Normally the answer would be 'Yes'
However before we can answer 'Yes' we need to be clear about what we are trying to achieve.
In the simplest terms - will lots of enthusiastic and stimulating questions accelerate the flow of the training or slow it down?
On occasions a raft of free-flowing questions can be a recipe for chaos.
Clearly - the statement:
'If you have any questions please save them to the end.'
will set a certain level of expectation within the room.
It suggests that free unfettered interaction is not the aim of the session; it also puts the trainer in the role of 'Leader' and signals that there is an agenda to be followed.
With a large group, or limited time, putting off questions until the end may be the only practical solution to guarantee all the material is covered properly.
'If you have any questions please save them to the end.'
can be used when there is a danger that regular interruptions could detract from the flow of complex material; or maybe with material that may seem unclear at the outset, but where the trainer is confident that most of the likely questions will be answered along the way.
In which case putting a brake on spontaneous questions would probably enable the students to benefit more from the session.
'If you have any questions please save them to the end.'
is also a useful way of indicating gently that the tone of the session is more aimed at offering information than opening up a free discussion. It also suggests that any subsequent questions are probably for further clarification rather than dissection of the material itself.
9 times out of 10 'effective communication' would suggest that we would want to enable our students to express themselves freely during the session;
however we need to be clear about how best to achieve the aims of the session.
Is it better to relinquish or maintain full control?
If the content of the training is broadly set and non-negotiable;
if the time available is limited;
if the purpose of the training is simply to pass on information efficiently,
then a polite
'If you have any questions please save them to the end.'
at the beginning of the session will set the right tone.
It indicates to the attendees:
I am in charge; you follow me; and any questions later are intended for clarification, not discussion.
In its purest form, any presentation can be boiled down to 2 elements: a story and a point.
The 'point' of a presentation is like a sharp pin.
The pin may be very sharp, but it is also very light.
If I throw that pin at you, it would not matter how hard I threw it, it would probably get caught up in your clothing. The pin is too light. You would not 'get the point'!
So by itself the point of a presentation does not have very much impact on the listener.
Add to that, there are probably no points or messages that we have not already heard many times before:
'Never give up'; 'Follow your heart'; Don't judge a book..'; 'What you give is what you get', etc
By themselves, none of these messages will have much impact.
In fact most of them are very close to clich.
However if I take my pin and attach it to a broom handle and then throw it at you:
now you will definitely 'get the point'!
And that broom handle represents the stories, pictures and analogies that make our point memorable and give it impact.
It is only through 'the story' that we can transform the message from tired clich into something unique and original.
For over 10 years I was part of an organisation that provided its members a business or motivational book of the month. Over that period therefore I will have read at least 120 of those books (in reality many more).
After a while I started to become immune to the same old messages told in the same old way.
The points lost impact because any truth that is startling the first time you read it quickly becomes bland and clichd after 20 or 30 similar exposures.
Until, that is, someone comes along with a new original angle that brings that tired truth back to life.
And that original angle is always connected to an original story or new perspective that revitalises the point and in the process transfigures something we knew all along into one of those 'blinding flashes of the obvious!'
So a point needs the story to give it impact.
(And of course a story in turn needs a point to give it meaning.)
Therefore whenever I am working with someone preparing a speech, a training or a presentation, we will always test it against those 2 questions:
What's your story? What's your point?
Once the water level inside the lock is the same as the level outside, the lock gates be opened and the boat can proceed on its journey.
In a similar way, when 2 people are communicating, it is only when they are at the same level that can they freely exchange ideas.
As long as I am talking down to you or vice versa, there can be no equal exchange.
This can be both physical and psychological.
The trainer standing at a whiteboard in a typical school classroom set-up does not promote an equal exchange of ideas.
Physically the teacher is on a higher level than the students.
1 master - many followers: that is not equality.
This works perfectly well when the flow of information is only going one way, like a stream running downhill, from teacher to student.
However unless the student is a particularly 'energetic salmon', prepared to try to swim upstream, this scenario is not conducive to ideas flowing both ways.
It is likely to produce very passive learners, who are unlikely to challenge the flow.
(And as the saying goes 'Dead fish only float one way')
As an example, I remember an experience I had as a student.
By nature I am a fairly timid soul; however on occasions I can screw myself up to be assertive.
At Music College, I was called to see the Principal to discuss an issue I had.
In his office he sat behind his big desk, with only one other chair available, which was in the middle of the room a couple of meters back from the front of his desk.
If you can picture that situation you will realise immediately that this set up does not encourage an exchange of ideas between humans of equal value:
on one side there was one older man in a position of power (college principal) sitting in a big chair protected by a heavy status desk,
and on the other, a young man of lesser status (student) on a simple chair (same design as most of the other chairs in the college) sitting out in the open with no physical protection.
Realising on some instinctive level that this lay out would not help my cause I picked up the chair and moved it up to the edge of his desk.
Now his protection had also become my protection and by leaning forward onto his desk I could raise my eye-line to the same level as his and explain my position.
I remained polite and friendly throughout, but physically I was now in a position that said I needed to be heard as an equal: the water level was the same on both sides of the desk.
The point of this example is to emphasise that as trainers we should always be aware of to what extent our situation allows us to interact with our students.
Be aware of your status, both physically and psychologically and if you genuinely want a free exchange of ideas as equals, make sure you do everything necessary to put yourself on a level both physically and psychologically that allows that to happen.
A common fear in presenting is of forgetting what comes next.
And therefore a common mistake is to counteract that by trying to memorise too much.
However, in normal conversation, we never worry that much about what comes next.
So what is the difference?
Does it all come down to being 'under the spotlight'?
At a party, you could be sharing your opinion with another guest.
Suddenly the room goes quiet and everyone has turned towards you to hear what you are going to say next.
Chances are you would become totally self-conscious and no longer be able to speak.
We can talk about feeling exposed and under pressure,
we can talk about fear of failure or embarrassment
and we can talk about the weight of expectation (usually our own!).
In the end, however, it probably all comes down to 2 things: conviction and clarity of thought.
If at the party, you were talking about something that you felt strongly about;
if you were convinced about your key point and passionate in your beliefs, after a moment's hesitation, you would probably be able to continue.
So the clearer the message and the stronger your reason for speaking, the less likely you are to get lost in what you want to say.
I recently attended the final of a youth speaking event.
An hour before the contest one of the girls asked my colleague:
'What if I forget?'
He gave most of the tips we would normally suggest: slowing down, taking a breath, and he explained to her that a pause never seems as long for the audience as it feels for the speaker, etc...
I had trained this girl, so when I started to speak to her, there was a smile of recognition because she probably knew what was coming.
I asked: 'Do you know your last line?'
She said 'Yes.'
'Do you know the point of your speech?'
She said 'Yes.'
'Then you'll be OK!'
That may sound simplistic and almost dismissive.
However, I was highlighting a couple of principles that I knew she already understood.
Firstly, if you know your last line, which usually contains the 'message' or the 'point' of the speech, and you forget some of the content, you can always jump straight to your main point. The speech may seem a little short, but at least the point gets across.
Secondly, she realised that if you get stuck for a moment, that clear knowledge of your last line will usually be enough to pull you back onto the path and remind you of what you wanted to say.
And she also understood that the key to a successful presentation is simplicity.
We have a tendency when we are under pressure to overcomplicate.
So the effect of knowing your last line is twofold:
(i) it gives you a safe place to cut to if you get lost mid-speech (it is like an escape gate in a maze)
(ii) it acts like a bright beacon drawing you back onto the path to your conclusion,
â€¦which in turn brings a third benefit, - it keeps everything simple, which helps reduce the pressure,
which means you are less likely to forget anything in the first place!
For a trainer, (for that matter, any speaker) - a good voice is vital.
Is it essential to have a 'nice' voice? - Probably 'No'.
Is it essential to have an interesting voice? - Definitely 'Yes'.
Not all of us will be born with a beautiful, rich and sonorous voice.
However, we can all learn to make our voice more interesting.
Having spent many years as a professional cellist, I am very aware of the importance of sound.
Our voice is our instrument and we need to work hard to keep it interesting.
In fact, a beautiful voice can actually be a disadvantage, if the listener becomes so mesmerised by the beauty of the sound that they start to miss the words, which of course for a trainer is never ideal!
For a bedtime story, a sonorous voice may be wonderful.
However, a trainer's first job is to keep people awake!
And that will be achieved through varying the voice.
And varying the voice is usually a conscious decision.
There is no point in having valuable, stimulating content if everyone has fallen asleep listening to you.
Many is the musician who has to say to a colleague or pupil:
'I know you think you are 'doing' the expression marks, but I can't hear them!'
This is why speakers talk about the 3 'P's:
Pitch, Pace and Power.
I think of them very visually.
(Without wishing to get too mathematical on you,)
I have an image of an X, Y, Z axis graph.
My neutral voice floats nicely in the middle, but if it does no more than that, it will become monotonous and increasingly hard to listen to.
(And we have all heard that flat colourless voice, that lacks variation, that regardless of how interesting the subject matter may be, sends you into a trance.)
So in my graph the Z axis represents 'Pitch'.
My voice can go up and it can go down.
The Y axis represents 'Power'.
I can speak louder and I can speaker quieter.
The X axis represents 'Pace'.
I can slow down and even stop!......And I can speed up and build to a climax.
So when I am standing in front of people I imagine my voice floating next to me.
Is it moving or has it got stuck?
I consciously make sure it is going up, going down; going forward, going backwards; and side to side.
It is important to remember that what may sound interesting and varied in your own head, may not project so well, and the larger the group, or the larger space, the more you need to inject extra variety into your voice.
So the key element of an effective voice
is not necessarily tone and beauty,
it is more likely to be contrast and variety.
And that is a conscious decision.
I recently heard a very entertaining speech.
The subject matter, on first impression, may not sound very encouraging - the menopause.
However the lady's handling of the subject was light, witty and energetic.
And having shared her stories and experiences, she finished with the line:
'You don't stop laughing when you get old,
you get old when you stop laughing.'
Coming to a strong memorable conclusion is of course very important.
And a good rhetorical phrase will always tie things up nicely.
This particular rhetorical form is called 'antimetabole' (or sometimes 'chiasmus').
It is a neat mirror structure that appeals to us because of its apparent balance and symmetry.
(Other well-known examples, include:
'Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.'
'Beauty is truth. Truth is beauty.'
'When the going gets tough, the tough get going.')
So we had a wonderful speech with a wonderful ending.
So why was I unhappy? -
Because it seemed like a wonderful ending .for another speech!
It was like going out for a drive and thinking:
'How did we end up here?'
This is why it is a good idea when designing a presentation, (or a training), to begin with the end in mind.
And then at every stage of the presentation you can make sure your material is leading towards the desired conclusion.
Does that mean that either our speaker should not talk about the menopause, or should she have chosen another ending? - (I am sure she thought, 'I really do want to talk about the menopause and I really do like that ending!')
Could she have the best of both worlds? Yes.
All she really needs to do is tailor the content a bit more towards that ending.
It is like putting together a beautiful outfit, and having an equally beautiful hat, that does not quite match.
There might be a way of adapting the outfit: a coloured scarf, a handbag or shoes that pick up the colour or style of the hat, so that they can fit together.
So therefore, while this speaker was narrating a particular story or awkward experience, she could tell us how, despite the embarrassment, she was able to stand back and laugh; that regardless of the situation she could still see the funny side; that despite cursing the passing of time and the 'cruelty of nature' she realised that the Creator probably just had a very good sense of humour.
Having guided our thinking a little, when she now arrives at her memorable last line,
we now smile with her and think:
'Yes! That is a great point and a lovely way of summing up.'
Make sure that the content of your talk leads logically to whichever ending you choose.
Usually it is not hard to adapt stories and examples, or create little signposts that look forward to the conclusion.
Because sometimes all it takes is a bit of forward planning and a few well-chosen accessories to create a successfully matching outfit!
So always begin with the end in mind.
There are many complicated tools for analysing training needs.
Happily, however, most of us will probably not need to get too involved in exhaustive analysis.
(The truth is, once you start, it is very difficult to know where to stop, and what initially may seem like a fairly clear and simple exercise can become very complex and involved.)
However a useful little rule of thumb is to measure your training against 3 simple words,
based on Boydell and Leary's 3 'I's - which are: 'Implementing, Improving, and Innovating'.
Taking into account the level and expectation of the students and the needs of the organisation, which of those 'I's most closely fits the level at which you should pitch your training?
So for example, you are running a training session on Staff Appraisals:
based on the participants in the room and the current company situation, are you:
Situation: There is no effective appraisal system, so the training is focused on establishing one.
Relationship: It is likely that the trainer will do most of the leading in this session.
Attitude: The trainer's ideas are the 'most significant' ideas.
Situation: There is an appraisal system, but it needs an overhaul.
Relationship: The trainer will need to involve the students in discussion to find out where the perceived limitations are and how best to improve the situation.
Attitude: The students' ideas are now an important part of the solution.
Situation: There may or may not be an appraisal system but we need to come up with something new and original.
Relationship: In this case the trainer may need to step back and become a facilitator, allowing the students the freedom to explore and be creative.
Attitude: Everyone's ideas are equally valuable - however whacky!
This type of assessment could even work as a guide in my own field of Public Speaking.
The students a have little experience and confidence, in which case the trainer will need to provide most of the tips and ideas.
(I - Implementing)
The students are competent speakers, but need advice and guidance on improving, but will expect recognition that they have their own ideas, strategies and experiences to build on.
The students are experienced and comfortable in public, know the basics and are now looking for that little something extra to develop their presentations into something striking and memorable.
The 3 'I's are a simple way to help establish a suitable starting context for training.
An area of speaking controversy!
Should I stand still or should I move around?
Simple: what are you trying to achieve?
In part it will depend on your character, your message and your audience.
However in the simplest terms:
Picture a Head Teacher telling off a school assembly.
Chances are that he or she will be moving about the stage, gesticulating strongly to express their annoyance.
Arms will be going all over the place and fingers will be pointing, as they pace up and down, asserting their authority.
Many speaking coaches will recommend moving about on the stage, backing it up with phrases like 'own the room', 'assert you strength', 'take control ' and in many instances that may be exactly the right thing to do.
However notice that each of those phrases is about 'you' the speaker.
It is 'you' - owning the room; 'you' - asserting strength; 'you' - taking control.
Therefore for motivational speakers, managers, Sergeant Majors, motion on stage may well be an important physical message.
It says: 'I am in charge, listen to me!'
Standing still on the other hand does something very different:
It does not say:
'Listen to ME!'
'Listen to my words.'
The message is now more important than the messenger.
If you imagine a speaker sharing personal feelings, displaying vulnerability, being open and honest; they are unlikely to be pacing around the stage waving their arms in the air.
The power or 'connection' with the audience is in their words and is more likely to be supported by a sense of stillness, of standing on firm ground.
I often tell speakers that standing solidly sends its own powerful message.
I regard it as a visual metaphor. It says:
I am not promoting standing still as some 'Golden Rule';
I am simply saying:
Be aware of what effect your physical manner has on your message.
You cannot create rapport by taking on an attitude of lecturing.
Sometimes (usually coaching / motivating) we will need our audience to buy into us before they will listen to our words, in which case 'owning the room' may be a necessary step to getting the message across.
However - and here is my point: there are other occasions when - dare I say it -
YOU really don't matter that much!
In which case, get out of the way, stand still and let your words speak for you!
<:>should-i-stay-or-should-i-go<:>0<:>Standing still or moving around while public speaking send very different messages. <:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1398769020<:>1<:>A four time National Speech Champion with a difference<:><:>
many congratulations to College of Public Speaking Director, Michael Ronayne.
On Sunday April 27th 2014, Michael won the UK Association of Speakers Clubs' National Speech Evaluation Final, held in Glasgow.
What is remarkable - certainly rare and possibly unique (we are still checking that one) - is that Michael has now been crowned UK National Champion in each of the 3 major speaking disciplines:
impromptu speaking - and now
speech analysis and evaluation.
It is a fine achievement to be recognised as excellent in one discipline.
It is a fine achievement to be recognised as an excellent all-rounder.
It is something quite rare to be recognised as both.
And at the College of Public Speaking, we are delighted to be able to offer the assurance of this level of expertise across our training programmes.<:>a-triple-speaking-champion-with-a-difference<:>0<:>College of Public Speaking - Walking the talk!<:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1399805820<:>1<:>You can only land in one airport<:><:>
My favourite analogy for a speech or a presentation is the aeroplane journey.
It nicely sums up the simple structure of:
beginning, middle and end, as:
take-off, flight and landing.
The analogy holds very well because regardless of whether it is a short journey or a long-haul flight, the 2 moments that stick most in the memory are the start and the finish.
The analogy also works well as, like the middle of a speech, the middle the flight may need to have a degree of flexibility:
weather conditions may cause the pilot to rise to a different altitude; the plane may go off course, but if there is a clear landing destination, the plane can readjust or make up time.
It can even stack in a holding pattern before landing!
All metaphorical skills adopted by a good speaker.
The plane can even be off course for most of the flight, but as long as continues to readjust it will still make its destination.
And I am sure we have heard speeches that have wandered all over the place, but as long as they reach a suitable destination, we are happy: if they just fall apart and get lost we are not.
For me however the key value of the airplane analogy is the fact that:
you can only land in one airport at a time!
This is very important for presenters to bear in mind, as often we have so much to say we want to make lots of points. So 'Yes' - we may be able to stop off at a few key points on the way, but in the end there can only be one final destination.
So for example, I am going to deliver my beliefs on what makes a successful life.
However my considered conclusion at the end of the presentation is that
Success is a combination of things: working hard, good relationships and a positive attitude.
The problem here is that if we assume (and we do) that audiences are easily confused, it would be better for me to lead them to one overriding conclusion with one clear message.
But all 3 points are so important!
Then we just need to prioritise.
The conclusion to my presentation on Success can still end with a reference to all three elements; however because I realise I can only land in one airport, I may choose to finish with either:
'The key to success comes down to a combination of things:
working hard, good relationships but above all else you must have a positive attitude.'
'The key to success comes down to a combination of things:
good relationships, a positive attitude, but above all else you must be willing to work hard.'
'The key to success comes down to a combination of things:
working hard, a positive attitude, but above all else you must have good relationships.'
In each case I have chosen to prioritise just one key point.
So don't risk confusing your students or your audience with too many messages.
Stop off on the way if you wish, but make sure you only have one clear final destination.
Rhetoric talks of 2 forms of reasoning, deductive and inductive.
Deductive starts from the general and moves to the specific and
inductive starts from the specific and moves to the general.
In the training room most of us are inductive learners.
Are you with me so far?!
If not, that is probably because I have just started with a generalised deductive statement.
'In the training room most of us are inductive learners'
is a fairly general statement and could come across as a little detached and theoretical.
And of course one of the most common complaints of trainees is that training seems a bit theoretical and lacks relevance to their everyday work.
General theories, principles and rules can seem very dry in the training room.
It is not until they are shown in a specific context that they begin to come to life.
Therefore it is often more engaging to take an inductive approach.
And the simplest form of inductive training is to refer to specific stories or examples,
which will often take the form of a Case Study.
So let's start with a famous rhetorical example.
Below is a well-known syllogism (Don't worry - look it up later)
'All men are mortal beings
Socrates is a man
Therefore, Socrates is a mortal being.'
This starts with the general deductive statement:
'All men are mortal beings'
It then moves to the specific case of Socrates.
It therefore has a certain bookish and theoretical feel to it.
However, at work we don't deal in generalities, we deal with specific situations.
So maybe it makes more sense to try to mirror that in the training room.
Let us say we are on a First Aid course.
And to slightly massacre that famous syllogism, let us say:
'Without swift intervention, all men having a massive heart-attack will die.
Socrates is a man having a massive heart attack.
Therefore without swift intervention, Socrates will die.'
That still starts with a deductive statement and is not a lot of use to me as the student - it is still a bit detached from reality.
Instead give me something specific that I can relate to and picture in my head and work back from.
Therefore instead of starting with:
'All men having a massive heart-attack will die'
we start with the specific case of Socrates:
a precise description of how he is looking, how he is breathing, his vital signs and his general circumstances; all of which immediately takes me into a real life scenario and allows me to use my own reasoning to work back and discover the general principle.
The great thing about case studies is that they can be used in many ways.
They are very good at testing all the what, why, how and when questions.
They can bring training to life involving the student more completely because they reflect 'reality'.
Our First Aid trainer could use this particular case study example in various ways:
at the beginning of the day to establish how much the student already knows;
in the middle of the session to reinforce some of the theory learnt, or
at the end of a session as part of a practical test or assessment .
So rather than starting with a long dry list of principles and procedures and rules , try using a lively case study example as a way of empowering the student to discover those rules and principles in a much more memorable, meaningful way.
Little questions distributed through the training are great for keeping things on track:
Does that make sense?
Are we OK?
Is that clear?
They are particularly useful for the little ground rules that might meet resistance.
If you know at the beginning of a session that you have a room full of avid texters, tweeters or technology junkies, the sensible strategy would be to handle that straight away.
Typically one would say:
'We will have regular breaks during the session, so could I ask you to put phones on silent or even switch them off while we are in class.'
As the trainer, you now think the issue has been resolved!
Why? - because the students have not had to respond.
A simple little follow up question makes all the difference:
'Is that OK with everyone?'
Now as a student, I have been asked a direct question and I will probably at least nod in response.
Depending on the character and style of the trainer, the statement:
'We will have regular breaks during the session, so could I ask you to put phones on silent or even switch them off while we are in class.'
could sound a bit imperious. Most of us don't like to be told what to do and even though that statement is phrased as a conditional question, it still sounds like a command.
So now I am probably sitting there thinking:
'I don't agree with that. I love my phone. I don't like being told what to do. In fact I am going to pretend that I have not heard and keep my phone switched on.'
The value of the follow up question:
'Is that OK with everyone?'
is that it sounds less like an order and it requires a response.
Therefore the trainer asks the question and looks around the room for the response.
Most people will nod.
Sometimes you will see no physical reaction at all.
That may just be a very quiet undemonstrative person, or maybe there is some resistance.
In some cases you may feel it is not the right time to check the response in front of everyone, so you just store that information and carry on; other times you might feel it is wiser to bring any potential resistance out into the open.
I remember asking that question about mobile phones and everyone agreed, except for one lady who looked a bit uncomfortable and did not respond.
I checked with her again (gently, non-threatening): 'Are you OK with that?'
And she said that actually her sister was over 9 months pregnant and expecting at any moment and that she would be very uncomfortable if she had to switch off her phone.
Obviously she should keep her phone on!
If I had not given her the opportunity to express her situation, either she would have complied unhappily and worried about her sister all through the session (and therefore not concentrated on the training), or she would have kept her phone on, and maybe even felt a little guilty because she was 'breaking the rules'.
Little follow on questions and question tags are very helpful.
They give you feedback and guidance.
They may give you useful information; at the very least they will give you clues.
A few hours spent in a Rome airport recently reminded me how important gestures are to developing a level of vocal variety that keeps your voice worth listening to.
It is a truism that southern Europeans gesticulate when they speak
and we probably all know someone of whom it has been said that if they were made to sit on their hands they would not be able to speak at all.
On occasions in public speaking training if I am presented with a monotonous voice I will film the speaker and play it back to them - with the sound turned off!
Almost inevitably the lack of vocal variety is accompanied by a lack of physical movement:
hands clasped or folded; in pockets or behind the speaker's back.
And based on the playback I ask a simple question:
'Just by looking at that, how interesting do you think the speaker's voice is?'
And of course the answer is:
'Not very interesting.'
Sitting in Rome airport is was possible to turn my head away and 'hear' the animation in a speaker's delivery.
Even on radio sometimes it is possible to imagine and actually feel the physical animation accompanying a presenter's voice.
It is interesting to note to what degree a variety of gesture is reflected in a variety of tone.
Whereas often you will note that frequent repetition of a specific gesture is reflected in a sameness of intonation:
such as short clipped statements being continuously punctuated by matching chopped gestures.
And repetition (unless of course is rhetorical and deliberate) becomes at best monotonous and at worst, a driver to distraction, like waiting for the next drip of a tap or a roommate's snore.
Therefore as speakers we need to be aware of keeping the gesture - voice connection uninhibited.
However when presenting there are many potential obstacles to stifle that connection:
clutching a lectern restricts physical movement and can therefore dull the voice;
clasping a powerpoint controller can also cause a restriction in vocal flow;
holding cards or notes may also cause a blockage
and the archetypal managing director pontificating with one hand in his pocket and the other meaninglessly circling in front of him will also conjure up an image of droning monotony.
So if you are working at keeping your voice interesting, consider this:
as well as working directly on tone and vocal variety, keep your mind open to what your hands are doing.
Hands and voice work together.
Variety in one will usually be reflected in the other.
One of the High Street banks was once brought up short when promoting their new mortgages.
A marketing executive explained to them that no one wants a mortgage:
they want a house!
Similarly, a frequent mistake many trainers make is to focus on the process of the training rather than the result.
Clearly if you want a house and don't have access to vast amounts of money, you will need a mortgage.
But there is a vast difference between needing and wanting.
So, for example, an IT trainer will run a programme introducing HR to the new company database, explaining how the system works, how to log and how to enter data.
They then wonder why there is a general lack of enthusiasm.
Chances are none of the staff are interested in a new system.
In fact many of them may be quite hostile to the idea, as they have become comfortable with the old system and don't want to change.
So rather than just explaining the process, explain the benefit.
It is a paradox that many salespeople face, that in the short term they are usually asking the customer to give up some of what they are trying to sell them more of.
So for instance, a new product that will save money will still have to be bought, which costs money;
a new time saving device will probably require an investment of time to understand how it works.
Equally true of the trainer: no one wants to learn about a new database, but maybe the students are interested in getting their work done more efficiently; maybe they are interested in less pressure or complaints; maybe they would like to avoid the frustration caused by unnecessary duplication.
The greater the reluctance on the part of the student, the more important it is for the trainer to keep the room focused on a desirable outcome.
And that of course is not the desired outcome for the company,
but a desired outcome for the individual being trained.
The student may be looking at saving time, avoiding frustration or handling difficult phone calls, gaining a step on the ladder to promotion or achieving greater independence.
Therefore if training is seen as a way of achieving any of those things the student will be more likely to engage in the process.
Do you really want to give up a large part of your hard-earned income to pay off a mortgage or to pay rent to a landlord?
Probably not: but you probably like the idea of somewhere nice to live.
That is why it is the trainer's job to help the student focus on the house and not on the mortgage.
My wife has the words: 'Don't make me wrong' pinned on to a cupboard in the kitchen.
Good advice for a spouse or a parent: essential for a trainer.
My father had the habit of not just winning an argument,
but in the process crushing the opponent as well.
The result for the victim was not only the loss of the argument,
but often a loss of face and the resulting wounded ego.
If the trainer is hoping to create a safe supportive learning environment, having a hurt, resentful participant is not going to contribute to a successful outcome.
There is no point in winning an argument, if you lose the person.
In the training room our first priority is to train students, not win personal battles.
This of course is an attitude of mind and there always will be exceptions.
If a student is challenging your authority or your right to train, you may have to win a personal battle in order to get them to listen at all; but that does not take away from the basic principle that:
a, their learning is always more important than your 'winning' and
b, their ability to learn will rarely be enhanced if they feel their ego is on the line.
Therefore it is worth taking care to avoid an interchange that leaves the student feeling 'wronged' or 'stupid'.
The most negative response I give to a student who says something totally off the mark is:
Partly to avoid the more confrontational: 'No!' or 'You are wrong!'
and partly because as a trainer I believe it is important to think the best of people.
If somebody does say something that may seem completely ridiculous,
they probably have a very good reason for saying it.
They may be seeing things from a different perspective, - maybe even one that you had not even considered!
In some situations, depending on how the relationship is working, you may be able to simply state: 'That's wrong' without causing any discomfort.
However if you feel an outright negative may hamper their full, continuing contribution to the training,
a more gentle way to suggest they are wrong is to preface the response with something like:
'That is interesting . Why do you say that?'
or if the answer is simply incorrect, you can allow them to save face with:
'Many people think that'
That way even if they are wrong, they know they are not the only 'idiot' out there.
There are many different approaches, and many ways of phrasing it, but for the trainer the fundamental principle holds:
Making the student wrong, is seldom right.
Many of us feel uncomfortable with silence.
Therefore a common piece of advice to speakers is to pause more while presenting.
An interesting voice is a voice of contrasts: fast, slow; loud, soft; high low.
And probably the most telling contrast of all is between sound and silence.
The ability to pause and use silence effectively, as well as creating space, also gives the listener a chance to catch up with what is being said.
In the training room it is particularly important for trainers to understand the power of silence.
It can be very annoying for a student to be asked a question and then be immediately crowded out because the trainer does not give enough time to reflect and respond.
Silence is a great tool precisely because it creates a degree of pressure and expectancy.
That is why at strategic moments during training, particularly when asking for a volunteer to go first in an exercise, I ask the question:
'Who wants to go first?'
I avoid all eye-contact - because I do not want to put any extra pressure on any particular individual
.and I wait.
Inevitably trainers ask me:
'What if no one responds?'
Someone always will - eventually!
In my mind I make an internal decision not to say another word until someone answers.
We could be sitting in silence all day!
In reality there will be someone there who sees themselves as a leader and chooses to go first; or there may be someone who thinks - 'Let's get this over with quickly.'
Or, failing that, there will always be someone who after a few moments thinks:
'This silence is getting embarrassing.'
Someone is going to speak and it is not going to be me.
If I choose a 'volunteer' myself, I may be seen as putting on pressure.
If the activity or presentation goes badly, it becomes my fault because I pressurised them into it.
However if they volunteer themselves and it goes wrong (which it wont of course), it has become their responsibility because they opted to go first!
This is not meant cynically or manipulatively.
It simply helps our students to become actively involved in their own development.
If they are only participating to please me, then they are still only taking part in my training.
If they are participating because they chose to volunteer themselves, they have now taken responsibility for their own training.
If you are standing next to a cold swimming pool, would you rather be pushed in or jump in yourself?
Some people would want to be pushed, but most of us would rather choose to jump when we are good and ready.
Silence not only creates space and contrast within a presentation, it can also be used to draw commitment.
Used properly, silence teaches people to choose; it teaches people to think for themselves.
This article was written by Michael Ronayne, director at the College of Public Speaking and four-time UK National Public Speaking Champion. To discover more of Michael's top training techniques, check out his professionally accredited Train the Trainer course here<:>the-sound-of-silence<:>0<:>Silence is a tool that draws commitment and teaches responsiblity<:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1403780220<:>1<:>Lessons from Luis<:><:>
As speakers, what can we learn from Luis Suarez?
There is no doubt that Luis Suarez is a highly talented footballer. He's a great goal scorer and a match winner at the highest level. He was the first South American English Player of the Year despite in recent years, being banned twice for biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic and racially abusing Manchester Utd's, Patrice Evra. He also bit a player during his time as captain of Ajax for which, like his other behaviours, he received a significant ban. In 2013 during a Confederation Cup match, Suarez tried and failed to bite Italian international, Giorgio Chiellini, the subject of his latest successful attack.
He does seem to attract bad publicity and bring the beautiful game into disrepute. My 11 year old daughter has seen this incident on TV several times now and it's not easy to explain the errant actions of a 'mature' adult. Having scored the two goals that sunk England's world cup challenge, Suarez claimed that it was 'rough justice' for the awful way he had been treated by the media in the UK.
It was tragic to see the Uruguayan President and Uruguayan FA back their man, suggesting that the incident was not noteworthy and really, what's all the fuss about? When you have that type of high-level backing you might almost begin to think that you're immune from sporting and societal norms.
Which leads me on to what we can learn from Luis Suarez?
Despite the bad publicity and public outrage, after each and every lengthy ban, Luis Suarez manages to come back better, stronger and more focused on his sense of purpose. What he does best is score goals and win matches; that's his top priority. When that's his one true purpose, he looks unstoppable. Just over a month ago he had knee surgery and was doubtful to play in the world cup. His physical recovery was nothing short of amazing, but he was so determined to represent his country. When the world is against him, he manages to compartmentalise his feelings of social rejection and channel them into a force so strong and compelling, he could challenge the abilities of the footballing greats.
So, how focused are you on what you really want to achieve? How strong is your sense of purpose? How resilient are you to be able to continue working at an increasingly optimal level? We have all had our ups and downs in life, but how strong is your determination to bounce back?
Suarez is now banned for nine international matches and for four months from all footballing activities. It's a tragedy for him and the beautiful game of football whose reputation has been so badly damaged by his actions.
Finally, we should always remember that we must take full responsibility for our actions and be prepared to suffer the consequences when we overstep the mark.
Vince.<:>lessons-from-luis<:>0<:>Luis Suarez, repellent role model, or study in resilience.<:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1405853820<:>1<:>Thinking with and talking at<:><:>
In an interview I was recently asked:
How many types of speech are there?
One answer of course is that there are as many types of speech as there are speakers and occasions to deliver them and audiences to hear them.
Possibly not the most helpful answer!
A simpler answer is Two!
Those speeches where the speaker hectors, lectures and probably talks down to you and
those speeches where the speaker tries to share, relate and reach out to you.
Charlie Jones used to say:
'Don't talk at people, learn to think with people'
'when you think with people they forget who's talking!'
It is every bit as true for training as it is for public speaking.
The surest way to influence your listeners is when they are free to invite you into their heads.
If you badger and hector people, they are more likely to shut the door!
Having been involved in many speaking events, I must confess to being very resistant when I feel I am being lectured to.
Whereas if a speaker meets me halfway, shares common ground and then invites me to see their point of view, I am much more likely to oblige.
Many people define a mesmerising presentation as one where they sense that the speaker is communicating directly with them.
And it is one of the great grammatical advantages of the English language that 'you' singular and 'you' plural take the same form.
So phrases like:
'Have you ever had the experience?', or
'if you find yourself
could be directed either to a group of people or to an individual.
So you may be addressing 'you' to an audience and at the same time, each individual listening can imagine that you are speaking directly to them.
That sense of intimacy usually springs from a sense of common experience: an empathy generated when the speaker is in tune with the listener.
None of us likes to be badgered and talked at and none of us likes to be driven into a corner and lectured;
instead, we all like to be appreciated and listened to and we all like to be allowed space to think and come to our own conclusion
So if you want to influence me -
Don't talk at me: learn to think with me.
Many years ago I was taught a very simple communication principle: 'feel, felt, found'.
It is simple; it goes:
'I know how you feel.
I felt the same way.
This is what I found.'
It is vital that anyone looking to communicate, whether as a speaker or a trainer can establish empathy between themselves and their listeners.
And 'feel, felt, found' is a simple and direct way of establishing a strong connection.
And it is a principle - not a technique!
I was once asked by a student,
'What if I don't know how they feel?'
Then don't say it!
We should view these sayings as principles or tools only to be used, if applicable, in specific situations, never as techniques to manipulate a situation.
Feel, felt, found: is an extension of the speaking principle: 'Why you; Why me'.
(Why should I listen to you? Why is that interesting to me? - see blog February 2014)
Probably the single biggest accusation hurled at trainers is:
'It is all very well for you, but you don't understand my situation.'
That is why it is immensely powerful if a trainer can start their teaching with any genuine reference to shared experience:
'I have done your job'; 'I have been in your situation'; 'I remember facing similar challenges.'
Both as children and as adults we spend much of our life feeling unappreciated and misunderstood.
Life's daily experiences, it is said, rarely contrive to make us feel more valued or more significant.
The bigger the organisation or corporation, the greater the danger of the 'little' person being made to feel small and undervalued.
This is why the role of trainer can be so influential and such a huge privilege, because in our training rooms, we have the power to be able to say to our students:
'Yes you do matter, Yes I do know how you feel.'
And a student will always respond better if they feel appreciated.
So if the trainer can set out their training by saying:
I know how you feel, because I have done your job, or been in a similar situation.
I felt the same way as you. So I understand your situation.
But crucially, I have a solution that may help - ie - This is what I found.
That will go a long way to establishing a foundation of trust and credibility.
I remember very vividly going to a sales training where all of us realised very quickly that our trainer had never done what we were doing; he had never been in our situation.
Therefore how could he know how we 'feel'?
He had never 'felt' the same way and so consequently we had difficulty accepting what he claimed to have 'found' as the solution to our problems.
If you know how I feel;
if you have felt what I have felt and
if you have now found a way of helping me forward,
I will listen to what you have to say.
Just as a story needs a point, a training needs a clear aim.
Therefore following the maxim -
'Begin with the end in mind'
a trainer needs to design a training with a clear idea of what the student will achieve by the end.
(For that matter a speaker should design a speech not just with what they intend to say, but with why they intend to say it.)
Depending on the nature of the training the aim may be very broad:
'By the end of the training the student will demonstrate how to make the perfect cup of tea.'
This learning outcome assumes one of two things:
the student is already advanced enough to know most of the individual steps to making a cup of tea,
the steps themselves are not set and as long as we end up with the perfect cup of tea, how we get there is not the real issue.
However if we assume the student knows nothing about tea and has never been in a kitchen then the outcomes would need to be broken down into a series of very specific stages:
'The student will describe the steps necessary to fill a kettle and bring it to the boil.'
'The student will list the order in which ingredients are put into the cup.''
Clearly in the second set of outcomes we are assuming that the student has little relevant or prior knowledge and needs to learn very specific basic steps.
So how do we define a learning outcome?
On a simple level a learning outcome for a training session is simply a 'what' and a 'how':
'What' will we be doing in the training? and
'How' will we know that we have achieved it?
The real key to creating a proper learning outcome comes down to one special word:
an appropriate active verb.
'active' suggests some form of 'doing' and
'appropriate' means that the verb is in some way measurable, so that we can know whether we have achieved our goal or not.
Verbs like 'list', 'construct', 'compare' are active and already suggest a way in which the knowledge might be tested.
However verbs like: 'understand', 'believe' or 'know', although active, are very hard to measure.
How do can I gauge 'understand'? How can I assess what you really 'believe' and to what degree will you 'know' something?
Those of you with an Education background may have come across 'Bloom's taxonomy'.
It contains a useful list of active verbs that have been put into different categories that can be used to help trainers create learning outcomes that indicate the level of learning intended.
For instance, if I am running a course in 'Using a computer' and my learning outcomes are all made of verbs like: 'list', 'name', 'find', we can assume the level of knowledge required is fairly basic , whereas:
words like: 'compose', 'create', 'construct', require a deeper level of understanding and the ability to think for oneself.
A little exercise I run with students is to give them a brief outline of a training programme and ask them to come up with 3 basic learning outcomes for beginners and 3 more involved outcomes for more advanced students.
What they always find is that basic level outcomes are easy to establish and easy to test.
Advanced learning outcomes are often harder to define, harder to describe and therefore usually more time-consuming to assess.
(Hence the fact probably why so much of school assessment remains on such a basic level.)
A clear training always requires a clear set of learning outcomes.
And the key to creating (note the high level active verb there!) suitable learning outcomes is to first establish what level of learning the students need to achieve and then choose a verb to match.
The street map app on a modern phone is a great blessing.
You just need to open it up and it will tell you exactly where you are.
Sometimes however the Location Finder is so precise that you have to zoom back out again in order to get a clearer overview of where exactly you are.
Increasingly I find myself asking presenters to zoom out from the details of their speech, or trainers to zoom out form the details of their content, to get a clearer overview of the overall structure.
Before someone runs through a presentation for me,
I stop them, and ask them to step back and give me a quick aerial view of the material:
ie: opening statement: key themes or significant elements of structure; closing statement.
If they cannot manage that easily, then I fear they are vulnerable to getting lost in the middle of their material.
I imagine the structure of a presentation more like a compass with a few key landmarks
rather than a roadmap with lots of details.
The problem with a roadmap is that you can get too close to the ground and end up getting bogged down in very precise directions:
1st left; 2nd right; 2nd exit on the roundabout; 3rd left etc.
The problem starts when you get one of those specific directions slightly wrong and find yourself going in the totally wrong direction;
whereas if you know that for the first part of your presentation you need to go 'north' for a few minutes until you reach a certain landmark (key point or message), even if you do not take the exact same route each time you still know you are going in broadly the right direction.
Once you have reached that landmark you can now take the next steps and go 'east' for a few minutes until you reach your next significant moment.
Obviously there is no substitute for knowing your route well, and the more options and possible short cuts you have the less likely you are to get lost.
Over time the details of the route become familiar, but always within the context of the greater landmarks.
A further benefit of orientating the presentation round larger landmarks becomes clear
should you take a wrong turn;
or should you need to get to your landmark quicker than you expected;
or should you need to tarry at that point for a few moments longer.
You will always have the aerial view of the presentation structure to guide you and to keep your mind uncluttered.
In training it is the equivalent of prioritising which learning outcomes matter most.
Pages of session notes become bewildering unless there is a clear view of the key messages and outcomes.
It may sound counter-intuitive, but just before a large speech or presentation rather than trying to remember ' too much', try remembering 'less'.
Remember key points and landmarks, so that, rather than getting lost in detail, unable to see the wood for the trees, you stay above the forest and always maintain the aerial view.
Training - coaching: coaching - training.
It can be a matter of approach or style, but primarily it is a matter of attitude.
For many people the words trainer and coach are almost interchangeable, or at least many people who call themselves trainers seem to behave more like coaches and vice versa.
There are many definitions.
It may be simplistic, but here is a short one?
Training is something you do to people.
Coaching is something you do with people.
Years ago my youngest son asked me:
'Where are my shoes?'
'Where did you leave them?'
and he said:
That is coaching.
If he asked:
'Where are my shoes?'
And I answered:
'You left them over there.'
That would be training.
In coaching the student is involved in the solution.
In training, the solution is usually given by the trainer
The advantage of the second answer is it is the quick solution.
The disadvantage is that I am now committed to finding my son's shoes for the rest of his life!
A coaching mentality is about leading others to find their own solutions and helping them to think for themselves.
Training is usually about giving answers.
The ideal training/coaching session will be a mixture of both.
How much will depend on the trainer, the attitude of the student and the nature of the material being covered?
Learning to assemble flat-pack furniture is likely to be mostly training.
Learning to set goals and mission statements is likely to be mostly coaching.
One is not better or worse, it is just a matter of recognising which approach best suits your desired outcome.
We have all experienced the extremes of training where we feel totally dictated to and not given space to think for ourselves.
Equally, we have probably sat down with a coach who continually asks us:
'Well, what do you think?'
And we are thinking - 'But you are the expert, you tell me!.'
There are many more factors that will help establish whether you should be training or coaching,
but the simplest way of approaching it is to ask yourself:
Do you want them to think for themselves, or do you want them to follow instructions?
If you want people to think for themselves - then you need to be coaching,
If you just want them to follow instructions - then you probably need to be training.
Creating a structure that helps both the speaker and the audience to remember speech content is always a key aim for any presentation; hence a frequent use of acronyms.
An acronym can be very useful as a 'short cut' memory aid.
Some of the shorter established ones that many of us are aware of work very well,
like 'SMART' goals or 'SWOT' analysis.
As a technique however it can easily become overused; particularly, it seems, in the world of personal development, where maybe in an effort to set themselves apart, many Speakers seem to feel compelled to come up with their own unique, neat, snappy (usually patented) acronym to highlight each of their own personal keys to success .
There are 2 problems with the over use of acronyms.
There are very few neat acronyms that really work for all the letters in the word,
which can mean we find ourselves having to shoe-horn a term or concept into the letters of a word that does not quite fit our message.
I once learnt a public speaking acronym where a letter 'E' stood for 'Elevate your voice'
(in truth the letter E appeared 3 times in the acronym - which in itself was quite confusing).
The broad meaning was of course clear - 'Elevate your voice' -
ie - 'Project your voice' or 'Speak clearly'
The only thing is, - no one in everyday conversation would ever say 'elevate your voice'.
Similarly when working with young people, we used a feedback acronym which was adapted from the standard 'Toastmaster' structure of
'commend, recommend, commend' -
It was WIN - where:
W stood for say something 'wonderful' about their speech;
I stood for offer a way to 'improve' the speech;
(all fine so far) and
N stood for finish by saying something 'nice'
Most school English teachers curl up at 'nice'; calling it an appallingly bland word,
and following on from an uplifting 'wonderful' and a constructive 'improve',
'nice' is a terrible come-down.
Clearly someone was left struggling to find a word beginning with N to complete the word WIN.
Even the famous 'KISS' analogy, only works beautifully for 3 letters -
'keep it simple' but now we are stuck with finding a term for the second 'S' because 'kis' is not a word!
The acronym 'Keep it simple stupid' originated from somewhere within the America military and civil Aircraft industry and was not supposed to imply that the person being spoken to was stupid.
It was supposed to mean 'Keep it simple stupid' - ie, a slightly awkward way of saying -
'Keep it really, really simple' - rather than 'Keep it simple, stupid!', which of course is a violation of one of the basic tenets of training, as calling your students 'stupid' is unlikely to build an open, mutually respectful 2 way relationship.
The second and the real problem with the overuse of acronyms is this:
An acronym tends to allow the structure to dominate the content.
Good speech structure should support your content.
It should not be a strait jacket dictating how your content fits in with the structure.
Therefore by implication, the overuse of acronyms is sometimes an indirect confession that the content is either too wide ranging or too weakly organised to stand up by itself.
Once a speaker starts basing their success recipe on 'CONSTANTINOPLE':
C is for 'Clear goals'
O is for 'Organisation'
N is for 'Never give up'etc(I think you have a sense of how this would continue), the acronym starts to defeat its own purpose, because it overcomplicates rather than supports the basic message.
If well-constructed, I am a great fan of any acronym, rhyme or rhythm that helps me remember names, contents, dates or any series of facts.
However, like any good tool it should be used wisely and sparingly.
And so the real point is this:
- if you find yourself relying on acronyms to get your material organised, it may reveal that your content lacks the necessary coherent internal structure to sustain itself or its own argument.
Strip away the acronym. Does the content still hold together?
If not, you may find that the acronym is not the foundation of the structure,
it is just a crutch leant too heavily upon to arrange content that is otherwise too weak to sustain itself.
Most trainers and presenters will structure their material around their key points.
So a trainer might be thinking - 'I must remember to:
- explain the context for today's training
- let them know what the benefits are
- introduce myself to the room.'
And this may work perfectly well.
However you can make life much easier for yourself and for your students, if, rather than structuring your thoughts around your prepared headings, like the ones above,
you structure your presentation around the questions that the students are likely to have in their heads.
- Why am I here?
- What am I going to get out of today?
- Why am I listening to you?
These 3 questions cover the same material as the 3 purpose statements above them, but they have the double benefit of firstly;
viewing the presentation from the point of view of the listener (never a bad place to start)
creating an internal dialogue in the presenter's head, helping the mind to access the necessary information.
Sometimes, particularly when working with young people, they can quickly run out of things to say.
So I play a little game with them.
The game is 'But Why'
One person is charged with a very simple role;
to constantly respond with 'but why' to every statement made by the main speaker.
The main speaker is now required to 'answer' that question each time, which forces them to expand on their ideas, which in turn keeps the presentation flowing.
The point of the game is to teach the students to keep an internal dialogue alive in their minds while they are speaking:
(Why is this important? When did this happen? Who was there? How does this relate to my point?)
On one particular Train the Trainer course a student took this technique to a very literal extreme - with very great effect.
Instead of internalising the questions, the student actually spoke them aloud and then proceeded to answer them.
'Good morning, so why are we here today?...
The reason we are here is to ..
Now you may be wondering 'What is in it for me?'
Well, what you will get out of today is.
And you may be thinking, why am I standing here?...
The reason is, I have been involved in this.etc'
From our perspective, listening to him, we had a sense that he was speaking with our point of view in mind.
From a technical, rhetorical perspective, the use of any form of question,
(whether you actually want an answer or not),
will always engage the listener's mind more effectively than a straight statement.
And from the presenter's perspective, he had found a very easy relaxed way of structuring his material, allowing his delivery to flow very naturally.
By using questions as the basis of your structure,
- put yourself more easily in your audience's shoes
- create a more relaxed, informal, conversational atmosphere
- and take some of the pressure off yourself by engaging your own brain in dialogue.
Many presenters say they prefer a 'Question and Answer' session to the Presentation itself.
Maybe it is because it is easier to respond to a dialogue than to remember a monologue.
We just need to create that dialogue in our own heads.
Wouldn't you agree?
A measure of good training, for that matter all good communication is:
Does the other person understand what you are trying to say?
If I come away from a training thinking:
'That trainer is a brilliant person, but I am still not sure what I should be doing.'
That is probably an unsuccessful outcome.
(A slightly cynical view of many training consultants is that they deliberately overcomplicate,
in the same way as, a couple of years ago, a government select committee on the use of 'simple English' came to the conclusion that at times the main aim of a politician is precisely not to be understood.)
Nevertheless, a successful training session should be more like watching Roger Federer playing tennis than watching a plate spinner.
It should all look very simple.
It is only when you get onto the tennis court that you realise that there is a bit more to it than you first thought!
A quote attributed to Mark Twain (amongst others) captures it well:
'I'm sorry I wrote you such a long letter. I didn't have time to write you a short one,'
the point is that creating a sense of ease and simplicity takes time and effort.
It takes creativity and intelligence to be able to boil the content of a Training programme down to its key constituent parts.
To be able to say to your students:
'In the end, it all comes down to 'this!' - and in so doing, give them the key that unlocks the rest of the process.
It may be a paradox, but we naturally feel that someone who can sum up the complex in a few words has greater mastery over their subject,
whereas someone who uses a lot of words and makes everything seem very complicated actually loses out on two counts:
firstly, the student may not completely understand what to do and
secondly, the trainer may not come across as completely in charge of their material.
It is a basic sales principle that 'people who are confused do nothing'.
Therefore, if you want your students to take positive action, it is the trainer's job to make the next steps very clear:
'This is what you will be able to do.'
'This is why you will need to do it',
(andâ€¦..most important at this stage.â€¦.)
'This is how you do it.'
You have given 'what and 'why', but as the student leaves the room, they need to understand 'how' they are going to achieve.
Therefore a true test of a successful communication is not simply:
'Do I understand?'
'Do I know what to do next!?'
Once it is clear in your mind, it will become clear in your student's.
Public Speaking is messy business.
If you are a perfectionist, then any form of public presentation is not going to be pleasant for you.
On the other hand if you are not a perfectionist your public presentation might not be pleasant for your audience!
My father, as a professional violinist, used to say either you or your audience is probably going to suffer, it should never be both.
As a perfectionist, the urge is to prepare everything to make it 'perfect'.
However, almost all presentations require a degree of interaction and flexibility.
If the presentation is too well rehearsed, it may come across as wooden and inflexible.
It is said that every presenter has 3 presentations:
The only way to satisfy that perfectionist gene (assuming you have it) is to allow your perfectionism to be taken up in creating a very clear and simple roadmap of your presentation: one where you know the destination and the key points along the way.
If you feel the need for greater control, then you can invest your time in thinking of different ways of getting from one key element to the next, so that rather than having a rigid, memorised route, you have a variety of prepared alternatives that lead you to the final destination.
Most classical solo concertos have a space for a 'cadenza' - a free section where the soloist can show off their skills.
Originally there was a principle of improvisation in this section, but increasingly as the level of expectation of technical perfection rose, these cadenzas would be learnt note for note.
A solution some soloists now take is to learn lots of interchangeable sections that they can vary and assemble in performance in different orders, so that on one level everything has been rehearsed and 'perfected', but on another level there is still that sense of freedom and improvisation in taking slightly different routes on different evenings.
On a long car journey you cannot wait for a guarantee that all the lights at all the junctions are green before you leave home.
Many presenters seem to prepare their material as if this had to be the case.
You can only leave home knowing that somehow you will get across each junction in turn.
Sometimes you may need to wait, sometimes you will be able to go straight across, (and sometimes of course you may need to take a diversion).
Preparation is still the key to a successful presentation. However, instead of striving towards an unrealistic, rigid ideal of the 'perfect' presentation, you should satisfy your perfectionist gene by increasing your flexibility and developing further strategies to reach your goal.
In the end:
Will you have been word perfect? - Probably not.
Will you have reached your objective and covered your key points? - Hopefully Yes.
And that is all that really matters to us in the audience.<:>perfectionism<:>0<:>Presenting and Public Speaking are not always comfortable for the perfectionist.<:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1412361000<:>1<:>Escaping the bubble<:><:>
The key to a good postal service is not so much how many parcels are sent as how many arrive.
As a trainer it is very easy to get stuck in your own bubble, transmitting away, thinking the students are benefiting from the training, when in fact they are not.
During training we need to continuously test to see if the connection between us and our students is really working effectively.
There are a number of ways we can do this:
formal feedback forms at the end of each training is one obvious way of finding out how the training went.
However these come after the event and the most we can do with the information is to use it to improve future sessions.
Therefore, as every session is a little different, it makes more sense to test as you go along.
One simple technique is to ask lots of 'bounce-back' questions.
- Is this making sense?
- Am I going too fast?
- Is this helping?
Like an echo-sounder this creates continuous feedback and helps to keep us on track and may even give an occasional clue to how we may need to adjust our style or content.
I once had a standing joke with an ebullient trainer friend of mine.
He used to come out of training saying:
'I was fantastic today!'
to which I would reply
'I am glad you were pleased - but what did your students think?'
Unless your antenna is continuously up during the session, you may remain happily in your bubble and may miss hints or clues that could improve the effectiveness of your style or delivery.
Of course, it always feels safer in the bubble.
There is always that anxiety that if we ask how things are going, we might not like the answer.
However we need to get over that, otherwise it is likely to create a barrier between the trainer and the students.
So ask the students questions about the training material, to find out where they are and what they know.
Ask questions about how they are feeling to discover whether they believe what you are doing is still relevant to them.
Run a little quiz either at the beginning or during the training to see how much they have retained.
You may also involve the students in helping to recap on previous training sessions.
This will help you understand how much they have taken on board and in so doing guide you as to how you should proceed.
It also means that by requiring their involvement, rather than just passively listening to you, the students are engaging actively in the training process.
Continuous feedback will help keep you free from your bubble.
So as soon as you sense a bubble forming around you, you need to break through it and reach back out to your students and make sure you are still connecting.
Otherwise like a tour guide that does not regularly check up on the group,
you could find yourself asking:
'Are you all still with me?'
- only to turn around and find there is no longer anyone there!
Many people, particularly when speaking in front of a group, have a tendency to allow their voice to go up at the end of sentences.
This has been called the 'antipodean curse' because it is sometimes said to be a particular characteristic of many New Zealanders!
(Although to be fair - many other nationals are equally prone.)
From a purely musical point of view this means the audience lacks a sense of cadence.
A voice going up at the end of a statement tends to sound unsure of itself.
'And your name is John.' - with a questioning intonation (ie going up at the end)
It now sounds like you are actually asking for confirmation of the person's name.
'Do we all agree.' - with the voice going down at the end and it will probably sound more like a challenge than a question.
The reason this is so relevant to a speaker is because often under pressure, there is a tendency for our voices to go up. It is almost as if, under pressure, we are asking ourselves: 'Do I know what comes next?'
Add to that a little bit of shallow breathing that often comes with nerves and the voice will tend to become thinner and higher anyway.
Speakers and Trainers need to command a level competence in front of their audience or students
and a lot of the confidence that we inspire in others comes from how we use our voice.
Also bear in mind, usually, when we think of training, we think of 'gathering the facts', learning 'how to', or receiving clear instructions on what to do next.
However if you consider some of our every day phrases and metaphors you begin to realise that on a scale of up and down, we usually associate clarity and hard facts with down and vagueness and lack of substance with up:
ie, the 'known' is down and the 'unknown' tends to be up.
Hence we talk about situations being 'up in the air' and individuals 'floating with their head in the clouds';
whereas we get 'down' to business, 'settle' a question, establish the 'basis' of an argument, and describe a sensible person as being 'well-grounded' or 'down-to-earth'.
In the same way as the speaker standing solidly on the ground sends the audience the metaphorical message - 'I know where I stand',
a voice that leads to a clear cadence suggests standing on firm ground rather than floating in the clouds.
So, if there is a tendency for your voice continually to go up at the end of sentences, it helps to consciously make sure the voice occasionally comes down as well.
This will make the speaker's argument sound more 'grounded' as well as focusing and encouraging the speaker to use the whole range of their voice.
That way you are more likely to sound like you are 'getting down to business', rather than 'floating vaguely in the air'!
Feedback forms at the end of a training serve a number of purposes:
1. they are a valuable resource giving information about how well the training was received
2. They are a source of education for you the trainer, to help you improve, adapt and keep you on track
3. They are an opportunity for the participants to express themselves
4. they are a basis for establishing what further training or support may be necessary.
Viewed as part of the training cycle, they help close the training circle of:
Identify the Training need
Establish a training purpose
Create a training programme with clearly defined outcomes
Deliver the training
Gather feedback to see if it worked!
Often trainers can get too close to their feedback:
too strong a sense that the feedback is about them.
In a limited sense it can be - hence purpose number 2 above:
'a source of education for you the trainer, to help you improve, adapt and keep you on track'
However this should be kept in balance with purpose number 3
'an opportunity for the participants to express themselves'
Some of the time participants are in fact feeding back on themselves:
'I did not see the point'
'I did not like.'
Viewed individually such forms can be unpleasant reading for the trainer, which is why feedback should never be viewed in isolation. A participant who has a negative view on their work - or even their life - is unlikely to offer superlatives for anything!
I am often mystified by a form that rates the training as 'Average' with a comment at the bottom that says they learnt lots of really useful stuff and enjoyed the day.
For some people 'Average' is as good as life gets!
Equally you will get a few:
'The trainer was wonderful'
'Best day of my life'
And sometimes it is the same course on the same day!
Therefore for feedback to be useful it needs to be viewed in bulk and dispassionately;
It is not primarily about You; it is about Them and their response to the training.
However if a lot of participants are writing:
'I did not see the point'
that may indeed be a reflection on the relevance of the training.
If more people than last year are writing:
'I did not see the point'
that may be a reflection on you.
If half the participants are writing:
'I did not see the point'
and the other half are writing:
that may be a reflection on the wrong mix of people in the room together.
Feedback is about information, not judgement.
Many trainers could take the advice from a mentoring system I was involved in a few years ago where one of the key tenets was almost like an oath:
'I will listen to input from my mentor and I will not be offended!'
There is much to learn from your feedback.
One of the first things to learn:
'Don't take it personally!'
(and that applies as much to glowing as to damning feedback)
My old East German Cello teacher used to say to me that I need to know my pieces so well that he could wake me up at 4 in the morning, stick a cello between my legs and before I am even awake, I would be able to start playing. Just to reassure you he never actually did it. I think he was just trying to make a point.
A golden rule in speaking and training is to avoid learning your content off by heart, as:
- a, it loses any sense of spontaneity and flexibility;
- b, you run the risk of getting lost and breaking down;
- c, the delivery may become wooden and unnatural.
However, if there is one exception, that might be worth learning off by heart, the very opening. The opening of any presentation is one of those double whammy moments! It is when you are at your most vulnerable and your audience is at its most attentive. It is when all the cliches about first impressions come true. Once you have spluttered, stumbled and stuttered at the beginning, and made a less than positive first impression, it is very hard to fully recover.
Like most of us, I can become very nervous before speaking. I sometimes have an almost out of body experience when I start. It is as if I am looking down on myself and listening from the outside. If I am listening from the outside and I hear myself delivering a good strong first line, I find it much easier to climb back inside myself and carry on with the presentation.
However, if I am not so impressed by what I hear, it is much harder to get back on board! So not just for the sake of your audience, but for your own sake, it is vital to start well! A lot of public performance is about confidence. And starting well is a great boost.
The opening of a presentation is like the steel toe-cap on a work boot or the front end of a rocket:
it needs to be able to hold fast while taking the full impact of your nerves.
My favourite image to support that is of Shakespeare`s Mark Antony waiting to go on stage, thinking to himself:
Friends, Romans, Countrymen: Friends, Romans, Countrymen: Friends, Romans, Countrymen.
So that when he goes out into a fairly hostile atmosphere, he knows that he can deliver his first words virtually on automatic and in the process use those first few moments to adjust and acclimatise to his environment and the thousands of little pieces of information that are flooding his senses: the sound of his voice; the butterflies in the stomach, the unfriendly expression on the face of the man on the left; the itch on the back of the neck; the lady with an abnormally big nose - weird stuff!
I assume that is also what my cello teacher meant. You need to be well enough prepared that you can start well in spite of yourself and all the new and strange stimuli flooding your senses.
So before you start:
Go over those first few moments in your mind, picture a positive result and know that even when you are not feeling completely in control inside, muscle memory will get you through the opening moments until you are ready to take control of the steering wheel yourself and drive on to a successful conclusion!
Knowing a person's name says to them: 'You matter'
Not knowing a person's name says: 'You don't matter'
Getting a person's name wrong says: 'You really don't matter!'
Is that overstating it?
Probably not. And certainly not if you are a trainer.
Years ago I was part of an organisation of many thousand individuals.
I had no significant role in the organisation. I was one of the crowd; or so I assumed.
One day I passed the director of the organisation on the street
and not only did he recognise me, he spoke to me by name and even asked after my wife, mentioning her by name as well.
I was amazed; I was flattered and my sense of self-worth shot up.
Surprise , surprise - in an instant I was much better disposed towards that director,
and my commitment to the organisation instantly went up as well.
So for a trainer, to remember the names of the people in the room,
suggests to the students that they each have significance as individuals.
And if they feel better about themselves they will contribute more to their training.
And in the process commit more to themselves!
You may be thinking:
'but I am just not very good at remembering names.'
I remember a man saying that out loud once and his wife came back at him immediately:
'When they start to matter to you, you will remember their names!'
Names are too important not to remember.
Like most of us, I have days when it seems I cannot even remember my own name!
That is why I will often go to some lengths to make sure I am clear about students' names.
Obviously, if you have a 2 hours session in a room with 50 people,
it is unrealistic to remember everyone's name.
In fact in that case I would probably not try at all: all or nothing!
However usually before a training session I will ask for a list of names.
I will look through them and see if I can put them into patterns to help me remember them:
maybe I can group 3 names that start with the same letter: Sally, Simon and Sandra;
maybe there is a run of names that follow consecutive letters of the alphabet: Claire; David; Ed and Farouk;
maybe some go together to make a famous acronym or a set of initials:
Isabelle, Thomas and Veronica for ITV;
maybe 2 names pair together to sound like a famous person or someone I know, such as:
David and Cameron; George and Michael; Lilly and Alan.
At this stage I have not yet met the students, but by preparing the names in my head,
all I need to do when I meet the students on the next day is join each name to a face.
Then once everyone has sat down I will write out the names discreetly on a piece of paper in seating order and keep it next to me.
Usually I will remember the names anyway, but I do not want to risk going blank at a significant moment half way through the day and lose the connection that I have built up with that person.
2 further observations:
name tags or name tents on the desk in front of the students are clearly better than nothing at all,
but all that says is that you can read not that you care.
There is no substitute for going the extra mile and actually learning the names properly.
At the other extreme I have seen trainers who turn retaining names virtually into a party trick,
which seems more about demonstrating how brilliant they are,
than suggesting how significant the student is.
I even remember from my musical days, an American conductor learning the names of the whole orchestra in the first half of the first rehearsal: we were very impressed!
We then went our own separate ways and saw him again the next week:
he barely even recognised any of us.
It needs to be sincere.
It may take a few extra moments of your time, but a person's name is very important to them.
Therefore, as a trainer, it should be very important to you.
The most common refrain of any presenter is probably 'I don't know what I can talk about'...whereas in reality most of us spend much of our day in casual conversations, talking about 'stuff'.
When training school children, as I occasionally do, the irony is never lost on me that there are times when I have to work very hard to hold their attention and stop them chatting away to each other, and then when it is time for them to prepare a short speech, it is the same children who then say they have nothing to talk about.
So maybe the real question is:
'How can I use what I talk about anyway, to create something that would appeal to an audience?'
So what do we spend our time talking about?
Personal interests or hobbies, what we did over the weekend, our families, regular or special events, general observations about life and work, or even the occasional random, sparkling thought that pops into our head.
Good subject matter is simply, anything that is able to appeal on two levels:
1. By sharing a human perspective (so that members of the audience can empathise with the subject on a personal level)
2. In the process uncovering a deeper truth or broader principle (so that the audience makes connections with subject matter on a universal level).
This is why endless personal success stories about struggle and ultimate achievement continue to have their appeal, because:
(And there in a nutshell you also have the basic plot of most 'blockbuster' or 'romcom' films.)
Our problem, is that when preparing for a presentation we often sabotage ourselves before we even start, because we feel unable to come up with something 'significant' to say.
Be reassured: most brilliant things have already been said!
Therefore rather than looking for 'something significant to say', just start by 'saying something' and then search for a 'significance' in what you say that may work on either or both of those two levels.
Let us imagine that I am interested in the history of the railways in the UK!
Of course, the history of the railway may be very interesting in itself, especially if the audience is mechanically, technically or historically minded.
But even so, a list of dates, locomotive specifications, passenger numbers and branch lines - however informative - may still not engage the listener on either the personal or universal level.
So how can I appeal on a personal level?
By connecting on an emotional level:
How could I appeal on a universal level?
By making connections on a more intellectual level:
For instance, as I am writing this, the UK government is proposing to increase regulation on 'payday loan' companies.
A financial expert has just come on the radio to comment that the loan industry is simply going through a typical evolutionary path for many social innovations: from someone's bright idea, to unregulated practice, excess and abuse, through to legislation being introduced to protect the vulnerable or unprotected individual from exploitation.
Again - are there parallels I can draw to the early days of the railway?
As speakers we may have to search long and hard to find a subject that is guaranteed to appeal to a particular audience.
Simpler is to start by looking at situations, thoughts and interests that are immediately around us, and use them as the seeds to develop material to relate to people on both a personal and on a universal level.<:>in-search-of-substance<:>0<:>The best subject matter, themes and stories for speeches and presentations are usually right there under our noses.<:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1421001000<:>1<:>Each one teach one<:><:>
One of the quickest and best ways to learn a skill is to do it yourself. Therefore it is essential that a training programme provides as much practical opportunity as possible. A lecture may cover a lot of ground, but much of that ground will not be cultivated. Therefore we need to work out and prioritise the key skills, processes or procedures that are fundamental to mastering any particular task or role.
When I am helping one of my children learn a new piece of music, I am aware that a couple of pages full of lots of new notes can seem a bit daunting.
Most pieces of music are built on structures, sequences and repetitions.
So often by just learning the first four bars, we find we have already mastered a significant amount of the subsequent material. Typically, those four bars are repeated after the next four, and then they come back again towards the end of the piece and maybe the section in the middle follows a similar pattern or rhythm. So having learnt the first four bars of the piece, we have in fact unlocked the key to much of what follows.
Equally, whether introducing new computer software, a new Health and Safety procedure, or teaching a new set of prepared responses for answering the most common telephone queries, by paying particular attention to the most reoccurring or fundamental actions, we can focus the students' attention on practising 2 or 3 basic actions or responses, and in the process create a solid foundation for branching out further later.
Since there is often not enough time to cover everything to full satisfaction in the time available, it is always of greater benefit to the student to cover just a few key things well, practise them and embed them securely, rather than trying to cover too much in a superficial way.
So if 'doing' is the key to learning, then an even better way of embedding a new skill is not just giving the students the opportunity to practise those skills themselves, but by having them go one stage further and teach them to someone else.
The idea is that firstly:
the trainer demonstrates to the student;
then the student tries it for themselves,
and then the student is asked to teach that new skill to another person.
What now happens is that a process that we may be able to handle in a semi-automatic, unconscious way, simply by copying the trainer, is driven to a deeper level where we have to take time and think about what we are doing in order to be able to explain it to another colleague.
One of our BTEC Training the Trainer students worked for a major retailer of spectacles and contact lenses. As part of her practical demonstration she showed us how they taught new employees to measure a customer for new glasses.
First she demonstrated how to do it;
then we had to perform the actions ourselves;
and then she asked each of us to 'teach' another student those same actions. We discovered that what we thought we understood perfectly was not quite as clear as we had believed!
By trying to teach another student, we were able to highlight for ourselves those parts of the process that we were not completely clear about.
Human brains have evolved to recognise patterns.
We see faces in the clouds, recognise patterns in the weather, and connect causes with effects.
We get used to the idea that if the doorbell rings at 9.30 am it is probably the postman.
However if the doorbell rings at 12.30 - that is interesting! - Who can that be?
We are reassured by repetition; and we are stimulated by variety.
If you have ever played hiding or tickling games with a baby, first of all they love the predictability of the repetition:
'One step, two step and tickly under there.'
...but even they get bored when it becomes too predictable. until you don't tickle - or tickle somewhere else!
Once again, they are fully involved and back in the game!
We are programmed to recognise patterns, but once the pattern is too predictable, we lose interest.
Therefore if our training takes on a very formulaic pattern, we need to think about how to vary it.
One of my sons started working in a major corporation.
They had a series of workshops and training programmes.
Fairly quickly he said most of the interns started to lose interest,
because the format became totally predictable.
We are programmed to explore, hence too much repetition instils an emotional response called 'boredom'; while a bit of novelty induces an active response of 'curiosity'.
A wise trainer, speaker, storyteller will recognise that both urges exist:
This is why so many parables and nursery rhymes are woven out of almost hypnotic patterns of repetition and nearly always 'on the third occasion' something different happens to break the pattern.
The Billy Goats Gruff or the 3 Little Pigs follow the same formula.
Neither story would be very inspiring (in fact probably rather dark and depressing) if on the third occasion the exact same thing happened again!
Musicians practise scales and exercises in order to master recurring patterns, so that when they occur in the music they can recognise them quickly and play them.
However, like with the Billy Goats Gruff, it is the little changes and variations on those patterns that make the music worth listening to: turning 'Boring' into Bach.
The same holds true in any training or teaching environment where new processes or material need to be learnt.
When teaching new computer software, the student will probably enjoy and be reassured by the recognition of the pattern:
'Click on menu, click on file, click on documents...' as long as it is mixed with small steps of variety,
'but this time open'
As a musician learning new music, I remember on occasions the progress from total novelty (all new and almost overwhelming) to recognising and mastering the patterns and key moments, to feeling comfortable and enjoying being able to play the piece, to getting bored of playing the same thing night after night.
All trainers and presenters need to remember that for many participants there is very thin line between overwhelmed and bored.
Therefore trainers, speakers and storytellers should always search for a balance between repetition and surprise to keep their listeners engaged and alert.
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Our breathing is everything. The first thing we ever do is breathe in and cry. The last thing we will ever do is breathe out and others will cry. Oxygen is the fuel for our life and our speaking. The way we breathe has an incredible impact on our lives and the way that we speak. In this broad selection of breathing exercises, we'll examine how the voice works and make some recommendations on how to improve its efficiency. So let's get started...
If you found the article useful and would like to share it on social media, please select one of the social media buttons below.<:>public-speaking<:>0<:>Our breathing is everything. The first thing we ever do is breathe in and cry.<:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1453815240<:>1<:>The Power of the Pause<:><:>
The pause is one of the speaker's most powerful tools. It can create drama and most importantly it's when we breathe. Mastery of the pause will change your speaking from average to good and from good to great.<:>speaking<:>0<:>The pause is one of the speaker's most powerful tools. It can create drama and most importantly it's when we breathe. Mastery of the pause will change your speaking from average to good and from good to great.<:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1454759940<:>1<:>Conscious and Unconscious Breathing<:><:>
Conscious breathing is an important attribute of the successful speaker's tool kit.
Under normal circumstances we breath unconsciously - which is really useful as it means that we can get on with our lives!
Effectively, it's happening in the background so that we can focus on other important issues.
In this video you'll begin to understand the power and pleasure of conscious breathing and the impact it will have on you.
If you found the article useful and would like to share it on social media, please select one of the social media buttons below.<:>public-speaking<:>0<:>Conscious breathing is an important attribute of the successful speaker's tool kit. Under normal circumstances we breath unconsciously which is really useful as it means that we can get on with our lives. Effectively, it's happening in the background so that we can focus on other important issues. In this video you'll begin to understand the power and pleasure of conscious breathing and the impact it will have on you.<:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1455547320<:>1<:>Oxygen<:><:>
<p><iframe frameborder="0" height="400" name="Pause" scrolling="no" src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/155314034" title="Oxygen" width="100%"></iframe></p>
Oxygen - why do we need it? Why do we need more of it as a speaker?
Square Breathing - Have you ever become anxious in the minutes leading up to your speech?
Try this technique to calm your nerves and make an improved delivery.
Of course, if you're still anxious (and many people are) please sign up for our blog posts which will help you develop your voice and take control of speaking situations.
If you want to become an exceptional leader, then start to develop your speaking skills with us right now.
If you found the article useful and would like to share it on social media, please select one of the social media buttons below..<:>public-speaking<:>0<:>Square Breathing - Have you ever become anxious in the minutes leading up to your speech? Try this technique to calm your nerves and make an improved delivery. Of course, if you're still anxious (and many people are) please sign up for our blog posts which will help you develop your voice and take control of speaking situations. If you want to become an exceptional leader, then start to develop your speaking skills with us right now.<:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1457287080<:>1<:>The Speaker's Mantra<:><:>
The Speaker's Mantra - quite simply is pause, breathe, change eye contact and you will eliminate ums and ahs, right, y'know, kinda, sort of, and all that, bla bla bla, etc etc.
At first, you have to consciously apply this technique, but once you have embodied it you will look and feel much more fluent now that your speech has been de-cluttered.
The seven-note descending scale - Singing is the most wonderful method to develop the resonance of the voice. Singing has also made me more confident and it always brings a smile to my face. I wish I could sing more often, indeed I wish I had the time to join a choir and sing regularly.
Playing with the voice and exploring your hidden depths is a wonderful past time and that investment in time and energy will return a significant dividend when you come to speak in public.
It doesn't look like me doing the singing. In fact, it all looks a bit odd. I look a bit odd. But that is me - live and unplugged and having a great time.
If you found the article useful and would like to share it on social media, please select one of the social media buttons below..<:>public-speaking<:>0<:>The seven-note descending scale - Singing is the most wonderful method to develop the resonance of the voice. Singing has also made me more confident and it always brings a smile to my face (even though I'm out of tune. I wish I could sing more often, indeed I wish I had the time to join a choir and sing regularly.<:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1457892060<:>1<:>Macaroni - Ravioli - sounds to savour<:><:>
Vibrato - exploring the intensity and volume of the voice wave. Building resonance, strength and confidence in the voice.
The Lip Trill is one of the most popular vocal development exercises. The vibration created affects the default vibration of the three head resonators and therefore changes the sound wave of the voice.
<:>speaking<:>0<:>The Lip Trill is one of the most popular vocal development exercises. The vibration created affects the default vibration of the three head resonators and therefore changes the sound wave of the voice.<:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1459356780<:>1<:>The 13 note complex scale<:><:>
The 13 note complex scale - this is a fun exercise where we work on a complex scale. At first, you may have difficulty finding the notes. However, the harder we practice, the easier it becomes. Notice how you'll smile more and notice how you'll have more confidence in your voice.
<:>public-speaking<:>0<:>The 13 note complex scale - this is a fun exercise where we work on a complex scale. At first, you may have difficulty finding the notes. However, the harder we practice, the easier it becomes. Notice how you'll smile more and notice how you'll have more confidence in your voice.<:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1481725080<:>1<:>The 12 Days of Christmas - but not quite...<:><:>
From the 21 December 2016 I'll be publishing 12 short videos (2-3 minutes) on how to clear your mind to be a better speaker. Public speaking is both a psychological and a physiological event. These two aspects must marry to create a well-organised delivery. However, if you have any toxic goals (ego based ulterior motives) these will create a barrier between you and your audience. What are these toxic goals and how can we overcome them?
If you'd like to receive a link to this series of emails, please sign up at http://www.collegeofpublicspeaking.co.uk and fill in the drop-down form. You'll start receiving them on the morning of Wednesday 21st December 2016.
Sorry about the busy hands. It is so hard to be perfect. Whatever we mean by perfect.
I want to be perfect. So let's look at perfection...
5 + 2 = 7, 3 + 3 = 6, 2 + 2 = ?
If you answered 100 tough mathematical questions like these and they were all correct, you will score 100%.
Yes, a perfect score - but here we're talking about objective criteria. If you're a perfectionist, excellent - give yourself a gold star.
So perfection and perfectionism do exist - my apologies, a slip of the tongue in the video - yes, perfection exists with this form of objective criteria.
'The limits of my language are the limits of my world.' Ludwig Wittgenstein.
So, have you ever met the perfect speaker?
The perfect girlfriend/boyfriend? Have you ever driven the perfect car?
I will suggest not, because now we're talking about subjective criteria and your aim to be perfect is impossible.
We live in a semantic world where marketers tell us you need the perfect partner, the perfect house and the perfect children.
If that isn't you, then you'd better up your game.
But what if you have a wonderful partner, a wonderful house and wonderful children? There isn't anything to do other than enjoy life and work on some other projects.
Objectivity is totally subjective. Have you ever been a judge at a speech contest? Have you ever noticed that even with objective criteria, everybody applies them subjectivity? We all have a different lens on life.
If your aim as a speaker is to be perfect, what are your criteria for this?
When you have spent your life working that out, you suddenly realise that to be 'perfect' suggests that you can mind read the audience's subjective criteria for perfection too. I suspect that you will be disappointed when you don't receive the approbation your 'perfection' deserves.
Effectively, you're trying to achieve the impossible dream. If you want to be a good speaker, an increasingly effective speaker, an excellent speaker, then we can agree on outline objective criteria for this.
Ticking boxes on technique are fairly easy. Perfection is impossible because your subjective criteria for perfection will never be accepted.
Your language and the story that you tell yourself is all important. If you believe in perfection with subjective criteria, you're heading for a frustrating future. Be prepared to lose your remaining friends and get comfortable with your lonely life ahead.
If you want to aim to be the best that you can be then welcome to consistent achievement.
You'll have lots of friends and lots of opportunities to excel in your field. You'll attract clients like a magnet.
It's hard to resist somebody who is giving it 100%, demonstrating humility and keeping it real.
There's nothing wrong with impressing your audience by the way. Congratulations - great job. That will be a derivative benefit of your planning, preparation and practice and a great delivery. Just don't make impressing your goal. If that's what you have in mind, all it takes is a slight falter to knock you off course. If you have built trust and rapport with the audience, there's nothing for you to worry about.
If you do falter, take a breath and a moment or two to calm yourself. Perhaps take a sip of water and slow down. Get some oxygen in and focus on lining your thoughts up coherently. Slow it down and take your time. Your audience will have forgotten that moment in a few seconds anyway. They have more important things to concern themselves with.
There are some excellent speakers that we can learn from. Who is your favourite speaker and what is it about them that you admire so much? Once you work that out, how is that going to help you deliver a more relevant and convincing message? Pretending to be somebody else will only create confusion for you because you and that person have different levels of knowledge, experience and personality attributes.
More than anything you must aim to be a first-rate you and not a second-rate Obama, Sir Terry or anybody else.
It doesn't matter how good a speaker you are or how good you think you are, you are not going to win every argument and you're not going to get everybody to buy into your proposals.
When it involves getting vested interests to change position on something where they're already comfortable and asking them to change, you can expect a great deal of resistance.
People crave progress but they don't like change, especially if it means them giving up something valuable like their time or money, despite the promise of improved future outcomes.
If you don't get the outcome you're looking for, don't take it personally. Fight the good fight and let it go. I use the examples of the referendum campaign and US Presidential election where most campaigners were using negatively charged emotional language to strike fear into the hearts of the voters.
In the UK, at constituency elections, we have a first past the post electoral system. Usually, there can be 10-15 candidates, five of whom can be extraordinarily knowledgeable and articulate. But you can only vote for one person and there will be only one winner. Does that make the others losers? I hope not.
There is nothing inherently wrong with working hard and developing a great knowledge base and experience over many years. However, standing on stage or at the front of the class telling people how clever you are and how knowledgeable you are, can create the impression that you spend rather too much time reading your own headlines.
Some years ago, a really famous management guru came to talk in London. This chap is very well known for his achievements as a captain of industry and the author of several best selling books. His introduction was full of his own achievements, the number of books sold, who he had worked with and how difficult it was to find trustworthy domestic staff in California to look after houses while he is away making speeches. After 20 minutes of this I stood up and left.
Was he a good speaker? Well, he could certainly talk. Was it interesting? It was fascinating, but only to him. I attended because I wanted to find out his success strategies. I attended because I wanted to hear about the obstacles he had overcome on his way to the top. I attended because he had a great reputation as a businessman and I was willing to give up my evening to see what makes him tick. I left disappointed. I did not want to hear about how many books he anticipates selling this year, or the incidents with his domestic staff or his battles with his ex-partner about who has custody of their daughter at the weekends.
Audiences are driven by self-interest. They want to know what is in it for themselves. It has to be relevant to them. Talking to people with respect, humility and empathy will always create a great rapport. If you come across as superior it will drive a wedge between you and them. Focus on the needs of the audience and it is hard to get it wrong.
<:>public-speaking-toxic-goals<:>0<:>Standing on stage or at the front of the class telling people how clever you are and how knowledgeable you are, can create the impression that you spend rather too much time reading your own headlines.<:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1482699600<:>1<:>Toxic Goal #6 - I need encyclopaedic knowledge<:><:>
Encyclopedic knowledge is great in an encyclopedia. It's not a pleasant experience when you feel that your speaker is doing a brain dump during the allotted time of the speech. The secret is to take your audience on a journey and explore the issues in the allotted time. If you have a short presentation of say 5-10 minutes, you'll struggle to download that material in that time. Make your material easy to relate to the audience and they'll appreciate it.
In my IT days, I received a question about database management on a very specific database. I used to work on that database for two years. I knew it inside out. I was so happy to talk for an unscheduled 1.5 hours worth of information for one student who loved the answer. Unfortunately, the other 11 were less interested in my copious knowledge because it was totally irrelevant to them. We should have left class at 4:30 pm instead I kept them until 6 pm. They were not happy.
I should have taken that discussion offline and discussed it with that individual after class.
<:>public-speaking-toxic-goals<:>0<:>Encyclopedic knowledge is great in an encyclopedia. It's not a pleasant experience when you feel that your speaker is doing a brain dump during the allotted time of the speech. The secret is to take your audience on a journey and explore the issues in the allotted time. If you have a short presentation of say 5-10 minutes, you'll struggle to download that material in that time. Make your material easy to relate to the audience and they'll appreciate it.<:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1482786000<:>1<:>Toxic Goal #7 - I want to make a fashion statement<:><:>
Dress appropriately for your audience - don't worry about dress changes during the breaks unless you are delivering the Oscars. Even that 'extraordinary' event creates negativity in some fields when you consider that many people in this world don't have more than one change of good clothes.
For formal situations wear a suit. Less formal situations, a smart jacket, shirt, trousers and good shoes. Jeans and trainers will attract criticism in some organisations. In the summer I was working in Romania and some of the classes were delivered outside the venue in an outdoor museum. The students were in shorts and so was I.
I recently turned up to an event dressed informally and all of my Executive audience arrived in suits. (The message from the HR person never got through to them). My opening line to them was that of, 'I do have a suit...' which got a laugh and broke the ice.
If you think that people have turned up to judge you on what you look like, I seriously believe that you are mistaken. People are driven by self-interest. They want you to offer them something that they can adopt, adapt and utilise from 5 pm onwards. They want tips, tools and techniques, insights which will give them an advantage going forward.
Let me qualify this â€” do I shower and shave every morning and comb my hair? Yes. Do I brush my teeth and wear clean clothes for work? Yes. That makes me feel good and it shows respect for my clients.
That I think is one of the underpinning elements of rapport â€” effectively being comfortable with yourself and being accepting of others.
There can, of course, be exceptions occasionally. I have had many students in the hair/beauty world where 'image' is the thing that makes people attend. That's fine. Look and dress appropriately if your audience has an expectation. Generally, the substance is what people turn out for. Just be comfortable with yourself and how you look.
If you think you can control the audience. Could I suggest that you are mistaken? You see in the UK we have this thing called free will and adults have a lot of free will. They have the knowledge and experience to know if their time is being well spent in listening to you or indeed, anybody. The secret of getting them to want to stay is purely through engagement. What you're doing must be relevant to their needs and goals, otherwise, it's a waste of their time.
Work hard. Stay on your theme. Keep them engaged.
Yes, it's wonderful to have a great rapport with the audience.
Yes, it's great to feel valued by the audience.
Yes, there is no better job in the world than when you deliver great value to other human beings.
But you have to do this for the audience.
Our audience is hoping for an experience where they will learn some new strategies and insights into getting improved results. The speech or presentation is for the needs of the audience and not the needs of the speaker.
If they get the impression that your delivery is conditional on something other than the respect, humility and empathy you've shown them, they are going to feel uncomfortable with that.
There are some wonderful derivative benefits of being a good speaker; higher salary, more staff, bigger projects, more responsibility, travel options. But you do not get these things until you really learn to connect with the audience. If you appear needy, this will serve as client/colleague repellent. Doing a great job is your reward.
When I worked in IT, I used to deliver 5-day classes. In 5 days you can really get to know people well. You can create a great personal and professional rapport with them. After 5 days in class, they would say nice things followed by the goodbyes. As they all left, I could feel my adrenaline plummeting to the floor. That fantastic energy that was unique to that group had just departed. It was my job then to tidy the room, gather my belongings and fill in the happy sheet. I really felt alone in those moments and wished that they would come back. That was my job to send them home happy after a solid learning experience. Much as I thoroughly enjoyed their company, I had to let them go knowing that I would soon be forgotten. And that was fine because my giving was unconditional, I neither wanted nor expected anything in return.
I think it's important that when you're making a speech or presentation that you say what you say with conviction and sincerity. When we're talking about objective criteria, that is that which can be proven, we need to know our material.
That said, be aware that you can put a subjective spin on any objective 'fact'.
When it comes to subjective matters, your opinion based on your knowledge and experience should be valued. However, not everybody is going to agree with you.
Look at the divisions caused by the UK EU referendum campaign and the US elections of 2016. Both almost 50-50 in the ballots. That's a lot of disagreement and conflict. A cause of bitter division even in the closest families.
When I talk in class I draw extensively from my depth of research and my practical experience in the field. That's where my strength lies, but not everybody gets that (at first).
That's fine too because our experience of life is completely subjective and agreeing on his upfront means that we can disagree and yet respect each other's opinion.
If we disagree, I'm not afraid of asking them if they have something better or more effective than what I'm offering. I'm curious to learn if they have. I am willing to be flexible in my thoughts and opinions. If somebody comes up with a more effective tip, tool or technique I will be the first to adopt it. That's how we learn and grow: by keeping our eyes on the horizon and seeing what's out there.
It doesn't matter what you say or how well you say it, not everybody is going to buy into it. Don't take it personally. It's the way life is.
There are times in our life when it's easy to fool ourselves. We suffer from stress and overwhelm and yet the deadlines arrive relentlessly. As a young man I was guilty of negating my responsibilities and in so doing I gave my friends, family and colleagues the opportunity to treat me like a doormat. People close to you will do it totally unconsciously, simply because you haven't created any boundaries.
Your internal dialogue is critical to your success. The most important story is the story that you tell yourself. If the story reverberates around inability and damaged self-worth, this will seriously hold you back.
When I realised this, I realised I needed to take action to prevent people from dumping their work (the work they were not interested in) on me. The word 'no' was not a word I used very often. Although I had a reputation for being cooperative and collaborative, people did rather take advantage of my strong work ethic. I thought I was making friends and winning influence, but my desk was a refuse dump for their unwanted projects.
My inability to say 'no' created a lot of anxiety. I felt unworthy that I was unable to negotiate with colleagues about my workload. And because I was unable to negotiate these simple outcomes I felt that I wasn't good enough.
When you tell yourself that often enough it begins to look true. But it wasn't. It took a while. A long road to recovery but there isn't anything that you cannot learn. I invested a great deal in my own personal development. I learnt how to say no and mean it. I learnt how to negotiate. I learnt how to speak confidently. I learnt to defend myself and reward myself for my achievements.
Everybody is capable of greatness - if that's what they truly want.
Make an appointment with yourself to start this invaluable work straight away. Now is the time. Don't sit around waiting for the right moment. Take action now! You are more than enough for anybody.
'May you live in interesting times' says an old Chinese proverb/curse (allegedly).
Well, the last ten years has certainly seen some turbulent events.
In the last 12 months, we've had a referendum campaign.
It took 9 months to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and now we're having a 'snap' general election as the government 'aims' to strengthen its bargaining position with the EU. There could be more political upheaval in the pipeline. The polls are not so reliable these days.
We have bankers and their families concerned about their positions and location post-Brexit. The status of UK nationals living abroad regularly arises as does the 3 million EU citizens who have settled here over the years.
We have young professionals unable to get on the housing ladder. College students in debt for a generation. Education and health systems struggling with funding. Homelessness and people living from day to day via food banks. There's gloom over mortgages, housing and rising inflation. New car sales down; retail sales down. It's not looking good - is it?
I should mention here the election success of Donald Trump who is making waves nationally and internationally. Syria, North Korea, Afghanistan. Does anybody know where we are heading?
Could I make a suggestion? Don't leave yourself in the hands of politicians. Do you really believe they have the panacea for the UK's problems - the world's problems? They haven't so far in my lifetime. I'm in my fifties and I believe it's getting worse, not better, both home and abroad.
I know because I work abroad a lot with charities and have witnessed some awful situations in the UK, Eastern Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
I don't know what's going to happen in the future, the only thing I can control is what I choose to do right now. The only way I can impact the future is investing in the now. That's why we send our children to school and why we build schools and hospitals now, as an investment in the future.
In the last ten years (through the credit crunch and deep recession) I have spent over £25,000 on upskilling myself in terms of being a better technician, leader and speaker.
Those levels of investment will continue whatever is happening nationally and internationally. That investment has contributed massively towards my company's survival through choppy waters and it will future proof me, my family and the company through the next 10 years. I'm investing now for the future.
The world will take care of itself and so must you. The more you invest now, the greater the return on your investment.
In the workplace, there is a technical glass ceiling. It's the highest pay grade for your work discipline. The really big salaries come in the realm of management and leadership. All fields are competitive, so you'll need to be outstanding in what you do and how you portray yourself and your company.
If you communicate well, over the course of your professional life you will earn 70% more than your colleagues.
Wherever you are in your profession, now is a good time to invest in your future.
The world will take care of itself and so must you. Your family's future and your country's future is depending on it.
In my classes, I discuss the distinction between Fear and Anxiety because it's a slippery fish.
Fear is a good thing. It's an evolutionary mechanism designed to save your life and in so doing, help to preserve the species.
Fear is a real physical threat to your life and on your body.
It invokes the fight or flight response - the sympathetic nervous system and an array of physiological reactions designed to redirect your blood to your arms and legs, create a sense of heightened awareness and to help save your life.
Anxiety, on the other hand, is completely thought-generated.
It's what most people feel, to a greater or lesser degree, when they think about public speaking, asking somebody on a date, playing and winning at sports, acting, musical (when we're seen in public and we believe we can't control the outcomes).
Anxiety is a perceived lack of control over outcomes.
As human beings, we like pleasure and certainty. What we don't like is pain (either physiological or psychological). We avoid it.
If we perceive we can't meet the correct outcomes, well we're heading for criticism or our ego (a perception of ourselves, our self-image) will take a knock.
Our ancestors going back millennia didn't worry about bad relationships with accountants, customers and HMRC returns (common causes of today's anxiety and related stress situations). That wasn't life or death. These are modern-day manifestations.
They were fearful of animal predators on the savannah as well as the tribe down the road who wanted to steal their water, crops, animals and women.
At the moment they attack - that's fear. You've got to respond. It's life or death.
Whereas, if you're worried that they'll attack next week - that's anxiety.
My students possess anxiety. When they realise they're creating it themselves, it helps them see things differently.
Churchill was anxious that the Nazis were building a war machine that one day would threaten Britain. His claims were ignored for years. When the Nazis attacked Poland, people saw things differently and the country responded.
Heading into battle expect anxiety. The people who survive these encounters usually have the greatest clarity of thought.
When your ship is hit by a torpedo or a missile, there isn't too much time to think about it.
But the clarity of that thought (or focus) in the moment is what saves your life.
That's where I lead my students - into a resourceful state when under pressure.
What does pressure mean? What are the options for a credible response? What can we do to mitigate the risk of a panic attack?
The clarity of your thoughts and actions during these moments determines the direction of our lives. It's essential to get ourselves together for the inevitably big moments that life throws in our path.
Pressure is the privilege, said Billie Jean King, because pressure gives us the opportunity to be the real person that we know is within us. The source of who you really are.
This 10-year-old girl from Florida below was a quick thinker when attacked by an alligator. She made a snap decision that saved her life. A brilliant example of clarity of thought in the moment.
For me, anxiety is ok.
A bit of stress makes you feel like you're alive. It's situation normal. Life without challenge is dull. We find brilliant methods of thinking ourselves out of a hole.
Pressure is good. It stretches you. We learn a lot about ourselves and our creativity. We have the innate capacity to develop.
Anxiety is a situation without yet a solution.
The situation will pass and you will survive.
With anxiety, we don`t usually need the level of protection that our mind and body offers.
When you can see the difference between a real threat and a perceived threat, you`re on the road to recovery as well as better outcomes.
Want some help getting there?
Join me on my next course specifically designed to deal with fear and anxiety around public speaking.
One of the things that I come across is people's reluctance (they would say inability) to vary their voice.
It seems so unnatural to speak louder than I am doing or to speak slower for emphasis, or even to pause to allow people to absorb what I've just said so I don't do it, say delegates.
I then ask them have you ever been angry about something?
Have you ever been in a noisy pub or restaurant where you really wanted to communicate something special to the group?
This usually gets them to think, especially when I suggest to them that in a moment of anger they still say, in a quiet calm voice, What you did on the motorway could have killed us all. It's the last time I ever get in a car with you.
The idea that you could convey that thought to someone who put your life in jeopardy in a calm manner is implausible, so why can't we simply imitate that in our presentations?
The answer is very simple we don't 'live' our presentations, we simply carry them out as a routine exercise rather than an enjoyable chance to present something in which we have a genuine interest.
If you want to sound interesting and get attention, you have to come alive in the moment.
What if you're not enthusiastic about our presentation? Now that is for another blog.
Many times I have heard people complain that they cannot possibly give an interesting presentation because the material that they have to present is fundamentally boring. Maybe it is accounting information, statistics on the percentage of faults in different products, or a list of projects that their team has been working on.
Are there any methods in which you can liven up a supposedly boring talk? Of course, there are! In fact, there are three clear tactics that you can use - anecdotes, the employment of interesting associated information/action plans, and the bringing 'alive' of the talk by creating visual images in people's minds.
Let's assume that you need to talk about your costs and sales revenues for the past 6 months and what you expect to happen during the next 6 months. You could ramble on about how each of your products has performed and how your costs have varied over the past and how you can expect them to improve (or deteriorate) over the next six months. While speaking about this it is most interesting to see how long it takes people to look 'bored out of their mind' and perhaps award a prize to the person who manages to look interested in your presentation for the longest.
What are the solutions?
Anecdote: There is almost certainly something interesting that you can explain about why, for example, marketing costs fell during the period of February to April. Maybe it was because the company website had shot up the rankings and now appeared on page 1 of all the major search engines, thus reducing the need for alternative marketing strategies. Describe how this occurred and, in particular, why your company was able to jump above the opposition; this is where your presentation can really come alive - perhaps it was down to the Marketing Director's nerdy 17-year old son, or that the Commercial Director has close links to a key person who works in Google.
Employment of interesting associated information.
Could it be that the improvement in sales figures for a particular product represents one of the highest growth figures in the entire industry? If so exclaim this information enthusiastically. Maybe the sales figures for a product represent a depressing downward trend - explain why in determined tones (mixed in with some humour perhaps) e.g. 'Our competitors have been cheating by offering huge discounts which we cannot match, but we can fight back - we will offer our clients an after sales service that our competitors can only dream of.'
Creating visual images in people's minds.
If you have to explain where all the costs arise from manufacturing your product or selling your service don't just list them out in a routine fashion but explain with visual images, possibly by linking them to real people that undertake the tasks; this enables the audience to picture what's happening. Creating pictures in people's minds greatly increases their chances of listening to you as the two key senses (sight and sound) are being employed instead of just one (sound). Talk about Samantha preparing invoices, Keith sending out quotations. Tom bravely manning the telephones.
And there is one other point - often the reason a presentation is boring is that the presenter believes that it is boring and, as a result, talks in a monotonous voice.
There is a golden rule - if you sound interested in what you are saying, then you significantly increase the chances of the audience's interest in what you say.
This post is to highlight what I believe to be a real breakthrough in presentation technology. For years we have had the laser pointer and for that time it's been a useful tool in highlighting onscreen elements.
Recently, we have had a presentational step change and it's brought to us by Logitech. Its name is the Logitech Spotlight. Take a look at the slides below. It's a pretty busy slide; good graphics and lots of text. The laser pointer can move around the salient points as they are detailed.
However, what if you could focus only on the screen elements that you're interested in and dim out the elements that you're not? Well, that's where the Logitech Spotlight excels. In the second slide, the focus is on the kidneys, adrenal glands, stomach and diaphragm.
I like this tool. But more importantly, the reaction from my students is so positive when they see it for the first time. Whether you point at your computer screen or the projector screen, the spotlight comes on and does a first class job.
If you're presenting regularly and delivering focused or detailed graphics, I would recommend the Logitech Spotlight for its simplicity and elegance. I also love the fact that it is charged through a USB cable. No need to worry about battery burnout ever again. It fits in the hand easily and has timing and vibration functionality to ensure you don't overstay your time on stage.
<:>public-speaking<:>0<:>This post is to highlight what I believe to be a real breakthrough in presentation technology. For years we have had the laser pointer and for that time itâ€™s been a useful tool in highlighting onscreen elements. Recently, we have had a presentational step change and itâ€™s brought to us by Logitech. Its name is the Logitech Spotlight. Take a look at the slides below. Itâ€™s a pretty busy slide; good graphics and lots of text. The laser pointer can move around the salient points as they are discussed. <:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1506592800<:>1<:>Thinking is great - but it's not enough - take action!<:><:>
Imagine the joy and sense of personal fulfilment when you finally crack public speaking.
Warren Buffet says, Make public speaking your primary career accomplishment.
Some people unlock public speaking quite quickly so it`s faster when you hold the keys.
Thinking is great, but decisive action must follow.
Alternatively, wait, procrastinate and hand your opportunities to others.
Others have struggled, that isn`t you. You`re different.
Developing a new skill takes time. This one is a professional game changer.
For some, public speaking is extremely easy to learn. It is a pleasure to serve others.
What do you want to achieve in your life? The future is in your hands. Go and take it!
Leave control to others and they drive change for themselves.
If public speaking is difficult, why are there millions of committed teachers and trainers in the world? They're just people like you and I. We share the same DNA.
Thinking is great, it prepares the ground. But the next step is always ACTION!
Buy those flowers. Book that flight. Step positively into the world of your own potential, where the sky is blue and the clouds are white. Take that next step towards personal fulfilment.
Public Speaking is a skill and what underpins successful outcomes is utilising the correct techniques, at the right time, most of the time. Public speaking is subjective. Some members of the audience will love your message, others will not. The basics are simple. Fundamental laws - please read on...
Will you be eating or heating this Christmas?
Theoretically, life is a breeze and Christmas is coming and yet so many people are unfulfilled and they are not looking forward to the festivities and its inherent expense.
We live in a stressful world.
If it's not one pressing thought in our mind it's another.
The headlines are shocking. 100,000 banking jobs lost post-Brexit. Uncertainty prevails.
The corporate world no longer offers the trappings of the past - good pensions, high salaries and paid holidays to newbies. The entrepreneurial sector is stealing all the positive headlines.
If you're 25-45 years old and an employee, you're probably feeling the pinch as I write.
Whether you work in Finance, HR, IT, Marketing, Advertising, Law, Medicine or Accountancy, Civil Service (or any other industry), wages are stagnant, inflation is rising, and interest rates are going up in the new year.
Prognosis - painâ€¦
If you're a single parent, you're probably under massive emotional strain.
Where is the next life/career breakthrough?
Well, my work in training and public speaking for the last 25 years was the best move I ever made. Though I had no way of knowing that at the time. The work is varied, just like the audience and I take the opportunity to stand up and express myself each day.
It's not earth-shattering material and I'm not earning $1 million a year yet. I have no ambitions to eclipse Tony Robbins, become a politician or even read the news on TV.
What I find fulfilling is standing up in front of nice, ordinary, everyday people and provide them with the tools to increase their powerful persuasive potential. These tools allow you to speak up for yourself, stand your corner in a debate, and make your audience aware that you are a person of substance.
Make your colleagues take you seriously. It puts you on the radar. It helps you make a mark on your work and your future. When you're recognised for your views, when people know your values and your strengths, jobs with your name on it begin to appear.
Being a strong speaker fills you with a positive message and when you convey that message with passion, it affects you at a cellular level. Your ability to create change is infectious. Once you catch it, there's no going back. The days are better and brighter, you are filled with creative and inspired momentum.
If you don't believe me, go to your local speakers' club and feel the energy in the room. Ask those guys how they're feeling when they're making their speeches. They will tell you, I wish I had pushed this earlier in my life. I wish I had developed this skill as a kid.
If you want to formally accelerate that progress by working with experienced and specialist trainers, we have a wide range of courses for all budgets; designed to help you raise your profile, climb the financial ladder, and express yourself in a way that helps you become the person, the speaker, the leader that people want to meet.
False modesty is charming, but it's expression that pays the bills.
I hope that Christmas is fun and fulfilling and that eating and heating are both within your grasp... Whatever you choose, I hope there is warmth in your heart and in your hearth this Christmas.
<:>public-speaking<:>0<:>Bad economic news. Brexit uncertainty. Stagnant wages. What will your festive season look like? Investing in your future isn't a gamble, leaving your life in the hands of others is. Thereâ€™s only one corner of this world that you can change and that's your own, according to Aldous Huxley. A view that I fundamentally disagree with. As a speaker, you can change the lives of your friends, family and followers. But you have to speak up and be seen. Really seen! Are you ready for transformation?<:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1511456760<:>1<:>Tapping into Training Budgets<:><:>
So you want to attend a course, but your boss is a stick in the mud. She's asked you to justify why the training is necessary and explain good reasons for the expenditure.
Many years ago I asked my boss to go on a report writing course.
This seemed like a good investment because I was one of the few people on the project who wrote in legible sentences and most importantly, was willing to document the project's key technical discussions.
I did well considering the lack of guidance and that it was not a core element of my work.
I was told by the deputy team leader to introduce spelling mistakes and grammatical errors to draw attention to my uneducated scribbling, but I was uncomfortable with that. It was unethical and I held a desire to improve myself, my work and the project offering - not to let the project down.
I attended a public speaking course some months later and one of the students told the class that he'd waited two years to come on the course. He was only given permission after he had made a case for the success of his last training course in... report writing.
So, I asked - how did you get the buy-in from the boss?
â€œKirkpatrick,â€ he smiled, â€œDonald Kirkpatrick.â€
Kirkpatrick's model for training evaluation has helped individuals, bosses and HR people for over 40 years. His work sets out a 4 stage model to identify if the training process is successful. What follows is an abbreviated description of a much larger volume of work.
Stage 1 - did you enjoy the course? If you enjoyed it, you probably learnt something.
Stage 2 - what did you learn?
Stages 1&2 are discussed immediately after the course.
Now take a break for three months...
Stage 3 - what are you doing differently (better) since the course?
Stage 4 - what are the results of your new skills (more projects/better quality/more revenue/promotion/higher profile)?
If you can prove that your last training intervention was successful, it's easier to persuade your boss to invest in your potential again. Follow the Kirkpatrick method and it's hard not to succeed.
One of the favourite activities in my fear of public speaking course is asking my students to give a short speech on 'their best holiday ever'.
This helps them to connect with happy and relatable memories and to speak with more emotional impact.
Over the years, I've heard stories of working in chicken-shacks in Australia, haunted houses in Boston, and vampire-infested castles in Transylvania.
But the overwhelming story revolves around scuba-diving. Almost one in six of my students has a 'best holiday ever' diving in Egypt, Thailand or on the Great Barrier Reef of Australia.
The stories range from heart-broken singletons (one of the best stories I ever told) to loved-up young couples who are seeking thrills in and out of the water, to the debut septuagenarian catching a second breath of an exciting life.
Diving from my own extensive experience in Greece, the Middle-East and Central America is one of life's emerging and most exciting sports. It's a pastime that people get hooked on so easily. With the ever-developing list of qualifications and new experiences and locations available, it has eclipsed skiing (a long-time friend of mine) as the sport of choice for the youngish, freeish and singlish.
It's not a surprise. Though the coral-reefs are receding, the underwater beauty nevertheless has a magical attraction. Now is a good time to learn scuba diving while there's still something remarkable to experience under the waves.
That feeling of spaciousness, freedom and contact with the wonders of nature is enthralling. The water clarity, the light, the sense of escapism captivates. As thrills go, it's one of the purest. It's a genuine eye-opening encounter with the beauty and elegance of the deep.
Sadly, too many of my students' speeches end with impassioned pleas to end man's devastation of sea-life.
For some, this is their first opportunity to discuss it and vent their anger. They have seen, witnessed, observed something breathtakingly beautiful and it's their desire to maintain the world's precious eco-systems for future generations to admire. For many, this is a cathartic experience. Too often we feel that our words hold no impact on our friends and colleagues.
Come on of my public speaking courses and you will find that it's one of the greatest stories ever told.
If you want to overcome any phobia, the method is called systematic desensitisation. It's what we have practised successfully for years. It works best with people who can create supportive environments.
Quite frankly, public speaking isn’t for everybody.
It’s a lot of hard work. The audience could be hostile and inevitably, there are no guarantees about anything in life.
All that planning, preparation and practise goes out of your head once you raise your eyes to the audience.
It’s a bit risky really.
Standing up there in front of all of those disinterested souls, everyone just urging you to screw it up, so they can have their perverse pleasure in your demise.
People are like that. Watching you fail makes them feel good about themselves.
There’s something quite entertaining in seeing a competitive colleague squirm under the lights.
There’s nothing like a painful Q & A session where you can bait your colleague and make them feel ridiculous.
When we talk about worst-case scenarios and catastrophising, we’re close to the mark here. I remember one presentation, the speaker was writing something on the board when a member of the audience threw a paper aeroplane towards the stage. As the speaker turned around, the missile hit him on the glasses. It could have seriously damaged his eyes. It had a paperclip on the nose cone. Everybody thought it was hilarious.
Of course, what is written above is fiction, pure fiction.
But as Nietzsche said, ‘The real world is much smaller than the imaginary,’ and in the words of eminent physicist Richard Feynman, ‘The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.’
You can tell yourself anything. Fact or fiction, if you believe it, it will affect your behaviours.
That’s why philosophers and physicists spend so much time trying to work out how the world works.
Because when we know how things work, we can leverage the knowledge and the power.
Just as you can when you understand how and why your body reacts in stressful ways.
As you read this, look around your room and observe your laptop, your TV, anything with electricity in it.
I imagine your tea or coffee was heated in an electric kettle and may be stored in a flask for a while to keep it hot.
When you leverage knowledge, you get great outcomes. Everyone’s a winner.
We know a lot about the mind/body interaction. We know a lot about anatomy and physiology.
We know a lot about conscious and unconscious breathing.
We know a lot about speech construction and language. We know a lot about rhetoric and how to get great outcomes in speaking.
What’s holding you back?
If you’re anxious about public speaking, I promise you it’s just a story that you’re telling yourself.
Anxiety does not exist until you create it. Do you still believe in Father Christmas? Do you believe the earth is flat?
Do you believe that the sun revolves around the earth? Whatever you believe affects your behaviours.
I could tell you not to worry, and everything’s going to be ok. But you’re smart enough to know that that’s not the case.
If you want great results. You’ll have to work very hard. You’re going to have to dig deep into your innate resources.
I’ll take you on a journey to find the person, the speaker, the leader that you know is held hostage in your mind.
Once the hostage is free, you’ll be unstoppable! Give it a try. You have nothing to lose.
Join me and end the siege…
Ann and Jenny were two good friends from high school.
They both went to university where they studied IT and they both secured first class degrees.
They started work in the same large startup company where they met two good men, got married and both have two children.
Ann works in the Finance team where she has for some years been head of her small department looking after foreign-currency hedging whereas Jenny became the Chief Financial Officer of what is now one of the globe’s leading social media companies.
Why has one lady gone all the way to the top and stayed there? While the other, earning a good salary and bonuses, has somewhat stalled in the promotion stakes (although generally delirious with a satisfying life)?
The answer is that Jenny has mastered the art of public speaking. Early in her career, she sought assistance and opportunities to catch the eye of her bosses. Her strongly articulated style, confidence and flair for expression accelerated her promotional trajectory. Now a best-selling author and international speaker, her presence at industry and international policy events cause a stir in the media whenever she’s in town.
In the early years of her career, Jenny invested a lot of time and resources in hiring a speaking mentor and practising her skills regularly. Hearing your thoughts out loud doesn’t happen for most people because they’re worried that they’ll make a mistake or upset somebody. She also went on to mentor other women in her company and become a role model for them all.
Great leaders and speakers don’t worry about such things because they know and understand the subjective nature of life. They’re not worried about perfection or trying to please everybody. They’ve got their hands dirty by grappling with the issues of real life, and they’re happy articulating real-life solutions.
The good news for Ann is that it’s never too late to dive into the most valuable aspect of personal development, public speaking. It’s a long path to the top, but it’s a great view from those dizzy heights when you get there.
Why not consider one of our Executive Development Programmes for Public Speaking? It’s hard work teamed with dedication and a commitment to a better life for all those people that you touch with your message. It’s never too late to start.
Telling a good story - and what constitutes a bad one (two related articles)
We all like stories. We always have done since the beginning of language. We tell and receive stories all the time and everywhere – on social media, on TV, in films, plays and books, on bus 2 whether they are accounts of your day, a memorable encounter you had at work or a reminiscence of something. Being yourself is one of the secrets to becoming a good storyteller. The more natural you are, the more likely it is that people will connect with you and your story. If they connect, they will listen. Think back to Stephen Fry reading Harry Potter. And you have to think more about your audience than anything else.
Every storytelling exercise should begin by asking: who’s my audience and what is the real message I want to share with the people in that audience? You must, therefore, define the core moral or overall lesson that you’re trying to ‘sell’. For instance, if your team is behaving as if failure is not an option, you might decide to impart the message that failure is actually the grandfather of success. Or if you’re trying to convince senior leaders to take a risk by supporting your project or ideas, you could use the platform that most companies are built on taking calculated risks and then give examples.
First settle on your ultimate message though; then you can work out the best way to illustrate it. Your voice counts too - not your accent - but how enjoyable your voice is to listen to. Your ability to speak in others’ voices to differentiate the characters in your story. If we’re watching you tell a story then body language, facial expressions and hand movements are important. They all make a difference as does understanding and adapting to the non-verbal cues from your audience, like laughter, chatter or silence.
Good storytelling is also about the structure of your story. It has to include the setting, the main character (the hero, heroine, the protagonist, the product, the team or, say, the organisation), the plot (the events that unfold — the arc of what happens), the conflict (the obstacles or problems the characters encounter on the way and hopefully overcome), the resolution of the conflict — what’s been learned and the outcome.
The best storytellers look at their life experiences for ways to illustrate their messages. It’s a tactic of top stand-up comedians, politicians and journalists as well as religious leaders and teachers. It’s what business executives should do. What events in your life make you believe in the idea you’re trying to share? Think of a moment in which your own failures led to success in your career or a lesson that you learned, how and why. Any of these things can be interesting emotional entry points to a story.
Don’t show off. The ‘it’s all about me’ approach rarely works. You’re the observer or participant of what you’re telling. Highlight a struggle. A story without a challenge lacks interest. A story needs conflict. Is there a competitor or target that needs a resolution? Is there a market that needs your product? A market challenge that needs to be overcome? A long and winding road of bringing a new product to market? Is there a person with whom something wouldn’t or would have happened?
Anecdotes that illustrate overcoming struggle, failure and barriers are what make a storyteller real. And don’t be afraid to suggest that the road ahead has obstacles. We actually like to be told a journey’s going to be hard. We want to know what happened and we like closure. Just consider sporting journeys and individuals or teams who’ve battled to win when the odds were against them. A well-crafted story embedded with a rallying cry means that you, as a storyteller, will find that audiences become your partners and want to be part of wherever the story goes next.
Keep it simple. Not every story you tell has to be a surprising, edge-of-your-seat epic, although excitement is good. Some of the most successful and memorable stories are straightforward.
Don’t let needless details detract from your core message. Work from the principle that less is more. One of the biggest mistakes is adding too much detail of the wrong kind. You’ll lose your way and lose the audience. Keep to the point, while providing just sufficient detail so that your audience can visualise a scene. Imagination will do the rest.
Good storytellers inject emotion into their stories. Two people can tell the same story with wildly different results. One captivates, while the other has listeners checking their watches. This can mean either one storyteller has gone off-piste. It’s like telling a joke: you don’t go on detours about what the chicken was doing for the last three weeks before it crossed the road unless it’s absolutely relevant. But the actual story material isn’t necessarily what separates a good story from a bad one. What makes the difference is the emotion the storyteller puts into the narrative.
Every story needs an emotional core, no matter the subject - and that emotional core is how the storyteller feels about the events being described. If audiences can see or feel that what you’re saying moved you or made you feel a certain way, then they will empathise - and empathy is crucial.
But be careful as audiences smell false emotion in a heartbeat. You have to be interested to be interesting. If you don’t care about your story, why should anyone else? Also, good storytellers know their narrative. If it seems that you don’t know your story, are reading it word for word or are overly hesitant, then they won’t believe you. Position the story so that everyone knows why you’re telling it.
Sometimes it makes sense to back up a bit and fill the listener in on some piece of background information that wouldn’t have made sense at the beginning of the story. Relate the beginning to something that the audience will understand instantly. While every story is different (although the majority are actually similar), most follow a pattern. You start with some background, then tell the listener the event that triggered the story. The action should rise throughout until it reaches a dramatic peak — a point of no return — also known as the climax.
You then drive from the climax to the final events. After that, you can briefly explain the consequences of the story (if you like, the ‘they lived happily ever after’ moment.) This is called the denouement and it’s the ‘will he/won’t he’ moment of the narrative. Whether the ending is pleasantly conclusive or deliberately unfinished, you will want the audience to nod, smile or cry and totally understand the point. As the writer, Philip Pullman said, “Thou shalt not, is soon forgotten, but once upon a time lasts forever.”
Our thanks to Simon Maier for this article.
What makes a bad story? Is there such a thing? Well, yes there is. We’ve all seen or read stories that seem to have all the ingredients for greatness, in more or less the right order, but the whole thing just doesn’t work – whether it’s a film, a play, a book, a TV programme, a speech or a presentation. Often, it’s just a matter of having let the crucial elements of the story slip out of focus here and there. Maybe the script is bad or the main point is vague. Or perhaps the story is wrong for a particular audience. Or the characters just don’t press the right emotional buttons.
Often a story starts well and sets out an objective or perhaps keeps the audience guessing. The set-up is exciting and interesting, but then what follows just becomes dull, long-winded or confusing. If a story isn’t satisfactory it won’t work. It’s like eating something tasty. One could argue that there are few bad stories, just bad storytelling. You, as the storyteller, may assume that an audience will ‘get’ something but, if they don’t, then you’ve lost their interest. Also, if the listeners don’t know that they should care about something or someone and the story doesn’t make that clear, then the whole thing becomes flat and the point lost.
So, bad stories aren’t necessarily bad ideas but are stories not well constructed, written or told. A good story should make us ‘feel’ sad or happy, awkward or tense, excited or happy, hopeful or disappointed; or a combination of any of those emotions. A bad story won’t do these things – or worse of all it will make an audience feel the ‘wrong’ emotion. If an audience laughs when it’s not meant to or bursts into tears when you don’t intend that, then something’s gone wrong.
If a story doesn’t show belief, real belief, in its telling and its content, then it won’t be believed by an audience. Pretty obvious you may think, but it happens when we can see that the executive standing on stage just doesn’t believe in what s/he is saying. Mind you, those who tell stories for propaganda or evil purposes are often good at showing passion and belief even if it’s an act. Often, it isn’t an act of course and that’s frightening.
A bad story is one that’s under-prepared or not rehearsed. Stands to reason. If you saw a play and the actors didn’t know their lines or where to move, you’d leave, wouldn’t you? A bad story also doesn’t anchor the content to a particular place. Stories seem formless or vague unless they’re positioned somewhere - where the action takes place. Again, that's why the first ten seconds of some movies set up the starting location as well as the time. Classic example: "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away..."
Bad stories are those that gloat or are self-congratulatory. So, avoid: "Our brilliant XYZ plc was founded in Basingstoke in 1979 where we soon made amazing software history by..." Better: "The management team in this company was a lot like you here today: plenty of great experience and industry knowledge, but perhaps a little sceptical of new technology...." Unfortunately, many business people are in the habit of using jargon that sounds impressive but is meaningless. These abstractions weaken a story by making it vague or unintelligible.
A story that finishes in mid-air with no proper conclusion is bad. That often happens if time runs out. (And remember that any speech can be delivered within thirty minutes.) Not every story can have a happy ending, but every story can have an ending which gives people hope and aspiration, even if the core news isn’t great. In every story, it's not the achievement itself that's important; it's how the hero (and the audience that's been along for the ride) feels when the goal is achieved or best met. So rather than: "In the end, they doubled their ROI in three months,” it would be better to say: "Doubling the ROI meant that, rather than declaring bankruptcy, we were able to turn our long-term objective, our dream, into reality." And that’s from a real story.
Our thanks to Simon Maier for this article.
'Stories are vital to those who want to win at change.'
Stories are vital to those who want to win at change. The Native American (or, according to some, Platonic) proverb, "Those who tell the stories rule the world" resonates in some businesses. But not all alas. Great stories build relationships and make people care. In business as in life, those two things are not only important but essential.
Employees have an emotional side that must be engaged by leaders looking to inspire new behaviours that go together with any change process where head-to-heart and words-to-action are vital. Often, change is marked and communicated by facts alone and that causes fear, misunderstanding and anger. Emotional engagement bridges the gap between understanding what leaders want their people to do and the people actually doing it. Stories that engage the emotions instead of the intellect do a better job of creating buy-in among the people who carry responsibility for delivering the change. Or, as leadership expert Simon Sinek says, stories give people their ‘why’.
Emotional responses to any change are a normal reaction to the real and perceived disruption that accompanies the process. Successful change leaders know that understanding and addressing the mixed emotions that employees will experience can help those employees feel motivated and committed. Or, if badly managed, the reverse. There are vital ingredients: understanding the need for change (often omitted), the process by which the change will be implemented (often clumsy), the timescale (often too short or too long), the individual’s role, including yours (often unclear) and what the end result will look like (often no different).
It's been well established in psychological research that a distressing mental state arises when people find that their beliefs are inconsistent with their actions - something called cognitive dissonance. It simply isn’t enough to tell employees that they will have to do things differently. Anyone leading a major change program must take the time to think through the story of organisational change including what makes the change worth undertaking - or necessary. Explaining that story brilliantly well to all of the people involved in making change happen is key - obviously. Not least so that individual contributions begin to make sense to those individuals.
In any change process, it’s the emotional element that is the most transformational and at the core, because it’s hard to get right, hard to visualise and hard to amend. Getting it right at the outset is, therefore, a must and will save time, effort and anguish.
Emotions are psychological and biological responses that affect our minds, bodies and motivation. Emotions colour our perception of events or ‘facts’ and influence how we make sense of the world around us. If people assess the consequences of even small change as beneficial, then positive emotions result. If the consequences are perceived as potentially harmful, negativity is the result and people’s focus narrows. Yet, some organisations (truly) believe that expressing emotions should be actively discouraged – and even censored.
Managers who are most successful in making change happen to pay attention to the psychological well-being of employees and their families. Allowing people to share stories of how they feel, and how they plan to effect change - and their feelings - will help them develop a sense of control over the changes they will have to make. Among other things, this will deliver relief, improved morale and trust.
We have to accept that capable people will experience a mix of confusion, anxiety and doubt about change, as well as enthusiasm for it. It’s a mistake to try and talk people out of their emotions. One can’t. People need to be able to say goodbye to the past and welcome the new future. That needs structure. People need to be able to turn anxiety into curiosity. They need to be able to ‘see’ possibilities, aspirations and hope. Anticipating and identifying real and potential barriers pre-change enables people to engage in early problem-solving that could avert costly mistakes. Storytelling is key here. It’s the vehicle for sharing ideas (and people’s feelings) and that builds commitment to both interim goals and the longer-term vision.
Any business will want to avoid the mental paralysis shown by some people when they’re first confronted with change. Any business will want to avoid denial (‘they’re kidding’ or ‘it’ll never happen’ or ‘It’s OK. I’m safe’). Any business will want to avoid anger or depression. Through the sharing of stories from the top down, an organisation’s people will explore the realities of change and begin to think about what the future will look like. Individuals will find that they’re not alone. They will more readily accept change when they have confidence in the objectives and how the outcome might look.
How the outcome might look is what frightens people most. Bad things do happen. People do lose jobs and people do have to move desks. But, being able to minimise pain by using storytelling allows for context. It allows for meaning and meaning is what often dissipates fear. Stories about ourselves and whatever the change is, contains heroes and villains who help us or hold us back, major events that determine the plot, challenges either overcome or not - and suffering we have endured. Sharing stories helps us understand the role of our actions in the unfolding drama of whatever change is about to occur - and helps us to believe that it is worthwhile for us to play our part.
<:>storytelling<:>0<:>Stories have always played an important role in changing beliefs and behaviours. As organisations embark on or continue their transformational journeys, it’s important that leaders employ the right tools to change the beliefs and behaviours of the key stakeholders throughout their business ecosystem. In particular, that applies to an organisation’s people.<:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1530606000<:>1<:>An overview of a winning mindset<:><:>
Mindsets can be categorized as either ‘growth’ or ‘fixed’. People with fixed mindsets believe their talents and abilities are pretty much unchangeable, whereas people with growth mindsets believe their talents can be cultivated and changed with hard work and focus. And mindset applies to everything and anything in life – at home or at work.
Only a relatively few people have the mindset of winners. People with a winning mindset have a powerful mental strength. They refuse to be a victim or shout ‘it’s not fair’ and they choose to be accountable for what they do or don’t do in their personal and professional lives.
They also tend not to complain about things over which they have no control. But these people aren’t superheroes and everyone has failures from time to time. That’s interesting of course because failure is absolutely part of winning. What that means is that those who have a winning mindset will take failure as part of a learning process. They will learn from failure and believe that eventually, they will achieve.
Stephen King had hundreds of rejections before he got his first story published, Thomas Edison had thousands of failures before his light bulb moment and the same with James Dyson except that his failures numbered many, many thousands. Walt Disney, Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, J.K. Rowling, Bill Gates, Colonel Sanders – all failed (a lot) before they succeeded. Richard Branson is on record as saying that he tried businesses that didn’t work (notably Virgin Cola) and most successful people will say that risk and failure are important aspects of achievement and winning.
Having a growth mindset means that you must be ready for a challenge, but you must see that challenge as an opportunity rather than a problem. Yes, we all have real problems – of course, we do, large or small. However, meeting challenges will teach us something new and invariably imply that there is an opportunity to do something to meet what’s in front of us and overcome it or succeed at it. It’s important to remember that people with a winning mindset don't grow through successes. They grow through what they go through to be successful.
The process of achieving a growth mindset may take time, so patience, hard work and keeping your endgame in mind are key. A winning mindset is about changing any negative aspects of your personality. It’s also about ditching any beliefs that you’ve had forever and perhaps need refreshing or abandoning. That’s not always easy to do and we may need help to achieve it. And there’s no shame in seeking out a mentor or someone who can support this need to change and grow.
Public speaking is a nerve-wracking experience and, according to many, one of our greatest fears, said Jerry Seinfeld,
“According to most studies, people's number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you're better off in the casket than readPublic ing the eulogy.”
Another great fear is sight loss. According to a study done in 2007, Americans report feeling more afraid of blindness, than they are of diabetes, cancer, or heart disease.
What will happen if we combine both? This should be a recipe for disaster but I believe the opposite is true. Being blind has made me a better speaker. Please let me share my tips on being a proficient public speaker from a different ‘viewpoint’.
The first thing I had to kiss goodbye was my notes. There is an ongoing debate whether a speaker should or should not use notes. I am one of those who does not use notes but this is not by choice. They say that necessity is the mother of all inventions and, in this case, it proved to be true. Since I don’t have the luxury of notes, I had to learn to use my memory better. I found that the power of this incredible tool is often underestimated.
Using your memory instead of your notes opens the door to so many advantages. Please allow me to share just a few.
Not Walking but Soaring
The biggest advantage of not using notes is that your arms are free. I believe gestures give wings to our presentations. When a speaker is hanging onto note cards or a lectern with one or both hands, it restricts their ability to use gestures. A speech without gestures is like a bird with no wings. It will survive but it will never soar.
Boost in Confidence
Notes are often used as a safety net ‘just in case something goes wrong’. Some use it as a safety net similar to a tightrope-walker. But we are not tightrope-walkers and, should we forget something, we will not fall to our death. In fact, the only person who will notice is you. Once you have put in the hours of practice that are necessary when speaking without notes, you will automatically find you have an increase in confidence.
The ability to speak without notes does not happen overnight. Like all elements of an exceptional speaker, this talent comes with hours of practice and it requires constant reinforcement. The good news is there are many tools that can assist you to memorize/remember your speech. We will be looking at these in our next article
In the meantime, remember that with public speaking, the proof is not in the pudding but in the passion. Keep your passion strong and the rest will follow.
The Blind Pilot – Theresa Roberts<:>public-speaking<:>0<:>Public speaking is a nerve-wracking experience and, according to many, one of our greatest fears, said Jerry Seinfeld, “According to most studies, people's number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you're better off in the casket than readPublic ing the eulogy.”<:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1524301200<:>1<:>College of Public Speaking - Summer Speaking Spectacular - 16th/17th June 2018<:><:>
Two Days to New Presence, Confidence and Charisma in Every Aspect of Your Life
On the 16th/17th June 2018, we're running an incredibly special event at the Holiday Inn, Kensington. It's the longest weekend of the year (sunlight wise) and we're looking to do something that has never been done before. I have brought together three international colleagues who'll be running specialist workshops in storytelling and improvisation, vocal development, physiology and the fear of public speaking.
We will have one huge room for large group activities. This room then divides into three so that students can explore their major interests and have taster sessions on other development opportunities.
The themes are fun, human connection, engagement and overcoming your inhibitions.
If you're a leader, a manager or you just want a greater sense of connectedness with your friends, family, colleagues and clients, a weekend of engagement opportunities will recharge your batteries for the rest of 2018.
Expect to make some short speeches and expect to receive quality feedback from our experts and fellow members of the group.
Dipping your toes in the pool isn't swimming. We're inviting you to dive in and immerse yourself.
Our expert specialists are:
Alex Glod - 2 x TedX speaker - improvisation and storytelling
Sylvie Lui - Canadian/Chinese actress and voice specialist
Ulf Toelle - The Motion Master - Public Health expert and corrective physiologist - the man who saved my speaking career, says Vince Stevenson
Vince Stevenson - The Fear Doctor - international speaker, author, trainer and joint founder of the College of Public Speaking
This will be the best and certainly most unique public speaking development event in London.
For more details and to register your interest in this unique event: ow.ly/tcCD30jBi29
<:>public-speaking<:>0<:>On the 16th/17th June 2018, we're running an incredibly special event at the Holiday Inn, Kensington. It's the longest weekend of the year (sunlight wise) and we're looking to do something that has never been done before. I have brought together three international colleagues who'll be running specialist workshops in storytelling and improvisation, vocal development and the fear of public speaking.<:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1528589700<:>1<:>College of Public Speaking's Blog wins 1st prize for UK's best public speaking blog on Feedspot<:><:>
College of Public Speaking's Blog wins 1st prize for UK's best public speaking blog on Feedspot - It was an unexpected but very welcome surprise to win this prestigious award. It's the result of hundreds of hours of dedicated research, writing and classroom experience. We are honoured to receive this award and we hope that this enables more students/readers to access excellent materials and resources on public speaking and training.
https://blog.feedspot.com/uk_public_speaking_blogs/<:>public-speaking<:>0<:>College of Public Speaking's Blog wins 1st prize for UK's best public speaking blog on Feedspot - It was an unexpected but very welcome surprise to win this prestigious award. It's the result of hundreds of hours of dedicated research, writing and classroom experience. We are honoured to receive this award and we hope that this enables more students/readers to access excellent materials and resources. https://blog.feedspot.com/uk_public_speaking_blogs/<:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1528813438<:>1<:>Living A Life Of Purpose<:><:><:>living-a-life-of-purpose<:>0<:>As speakers/trainers we can through our words help others find the path to a better life.<:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1531313707<:>1<:>The Power of the Pause<:><:><:>pauses-in-public-speaking<:>0<:>It's your best friend, although the pause is mostly misunderstood by nervous and novice public speakers, explains Vince Stevenson.<:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1531314060<:>1<:>Why You Shouldn't Memorise Your Speech<:><:><:>should-you-memorise-speech<:>0<:>Should you memorise your speech word for word?<:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1531314180<:>1<:>Vince Stevenson at the Bradford Literature Festival 2018<:><:><:>bradford-literature-festival<:>0<:>College of Public Speaking founder director Vince Stevenson at the Bradford Literature Festival 2018.<:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1533562920<:>1<:>Simon Maier<:><:>
A new interview with Simon Maier, an expert in elite communications strategies, who runs the brand new, online-only one-to-one coaching programme here at the College of Public Speaking.<:>simon-maier-interview<:>0<:><:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1533907920<:>1<:>A Voice For All Seasons<:><:>
This blog post is from Simon Maier, an expert in elite communications strategies, who runs the brand new, online-only one-to-one coaching programme here at the College of Public Speaking.
We accept the fact (or don’t think much about the fact) that most radio broadcasters on any radio station are pretty good. Some brilliant. We accept the same, although maybe a bit less so, of those we watch on TV.
Over a flat white and a decaf, I was recently talking to a well-known radio broadcaster and she was explaining that the job, even after many years, is often hard, despite how easy it sounds.
That, she emphasised, comes through hard work and experience.
You need, she said, to imagine what the audience wants to hear and, of course, that’s extremely hard because unlike, say, a corporate event you don’t know much about a million listeners.
Yes, there’s research and you can guess, but you don’t know. You also need, she added, to use your voice well – not too hectoring, not too loud (or soft), not too vexed, not overly bossy and so on.
Obviously, she rightly pointed out, the voice and approach totally depend on the subject matter being discussed or the type of programme it is.
As she finished her decaf, she did say that one of the most important life skills these days for anyone was to be able to stand up and speak in public – for all kinds of occasions.
This lady has on many occasions hosted and facilitated corporate events.
People like her a lot because she comes over as assured, well briefed, firm (and fair) on those being questioned, fun when required and also when needed to defuse a debate.
She has always maintained that this kind of accomplishment only comes after proper training, regular practice, rehearsals and good writing.
She said that she’d benefitted best when she did a one-to-one course in presentation techniques and wonders why nobody has thought of doing the same via Skype for people who are travelling a lot as she is.
Aha, I said, you can do that now. And it’s true, you can. At the College of Public Speaking. Check it out.<:>voice-for-all-seasons<:>0<:><:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1538583900<:>1<:>[VIDEO] Public Speaking Q&A with expert Simon Maier<:><:>
Simon Maier runs the online public speaking coaching programme here for us at the College of Public Speaking - and he really knows his stuff.
He's a best-selling author of 9 books including The 100, Speak Like a President, and In Any Event, Simon's a former Saatchi & Saatchi MD with over thirty years in the events and communications industries at the highest levels, worldwide.
In this newly recorded webinar session, Simon talks about:
>>> What never to do unless you want your audience disengaged... disappointed... and even angry with you!
>>> The single most important thing you can do to deliver a great speech
>>> The right (and wrong) way to use slides
>>> Why you (almost) have nothing to fear except fear itself
>>> What new or nervous speakers often do that drives audiences nuts (good news: it’s easily fixed)
>>> Why new ideas presented in an engaging way aren’t enough
Plus: a dozen questions answered from the floor.
<:>simon-maier-webinar<:>0<:>Free Q&A webinar recording with Simon Maier, who runs the new online public speaking coaching programme here for us at the College of Public Speaking - and he really knows his stuff.<:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1539617640<:>1<:>Richard Branson's Most Valuable Tip For Anyone Who Pitches An Idea<:><:>
'If your pitch cannot pass the "Richard Test," billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson isn’t interested in your idea," says an article in Forbes.
'The Richard Test has two components.
First, the pitch must be free of jargon.
Second, the pitch must be short enough to fit on a drink coaster.
"If your pitch can’t fit on a beer mat, a napkin, or back of envelope, I’d rather listen to someone else’s pitch that can fit," Branson told me...
"Most good ideas can be expressed very quickly..."
He tells the story of a $3 billion company that started on a beer mat.
The story begins with former Virgin Express CFO, Brett Godfrey.
Godfrey was leaving the regional European airline to move his family back to Australia.
Branson called Godfrey to wish him well and said, "If ever want to do anything in Australia, let me know."
After a short pause, Godfrey responded, "Funny you should say that."
Godfrey did have an idea. He asked Branson to hold on while he searched for a beer mat he had written the idea on. In that moment, Virgin Blue was born.
Today the company — renamed Virgin Australia Airlines — is the second largest airline in Australia.
"That beer mat resulted in a $10 million investment and a $3 billion company three years later," Branson told me. The best ideas are short and succinct.
"If it can’t fit on the back of an envelope, it’s probably a bad idea," says Richard Branson.
"Keep it short, sharp and picture-perfect."
Virgin Australia isn’t the only company in the Virgin Group that got its start from a short pitch.
On a bike ride up Table Mountain near Cape Town, South Africa, Branson’s son-in-law Freddie Andrewes rode up beside him and caught Branson’s attention with this short and irresistible pitch:
"Let’s build a movement that combines the sweat of sport with the swagger of Virgin." Andrewes knew his audience — Branson is a fitness fanatic who starts his mornings with tennis, kite surfing or swimming. Branson was sold and the sports festival, Virgin Sport, was born.
"Because I’m dyslexic. I simplify everything. I don’t complicate things," Branson told me.
"In all of Virgin’s businesses, they have to pass the ‘Richard Test." It means if Richard doesn’t understand it, the public won’t understand it..."
He gives the tip to every aspiring entrepreneur or business leader:
If your idea doesn’t fit on the back of beer mat, it’s too complicated and he’s not interested.
Since Branson has heard an estimated 25,000 pitches in his career, his tip might be worth heeding.'
The only problem?
Simple is HARD!
Coming up with a pitch that is truly 'short, sharp and picture perfect...'
...is NOT easy on your own... especially if you don't do this kind of work all the time.
But help is at hand:
Here is just the person - and the process - to help you get it done, fast and to a high standard.
What was your biggest stumbling block as a young person?
When I was young I was not particularly motivated; around my studies, work or relationships.
In fact, I felt that there was a big hole in my life.
I lacked a sense of belonging, identity and ambition. I had no long-term plans and every day would drift by rather like the last. Neither terrible nor memorable.
My peers seemed much more focused than I, and that made things worse. I made friends easily and would lose them just as quickly.
One day, I was talking to a colleague about my rudderless life, and he asked me about my lack of ambition. There was a rather judgemental regime at home. Mistakes were met with blame and derision. It was easier to do nothing. My dad’s favourite saying was ‘never volunteer for anything’.
‘If I were in your position, I’d feel exactly the same way,’ he said. ‘However, have you ever made an exception?’
‘Yes, I offered to make a speech at work once, and I almost died of embarrassment. My volunteering days are over now. I thought it would help me, but I was wrong.’
I dreaded public speaking because I felt bad about myself, and my background. Why would anybody want to listen to me?
It was pointed out that I needed to make more exceptions, and over time, that was inevitable. I grew, I became more mature, more motivated. I moved to London. I became competitive and started to take work seriously. After this awakening I could now smell the coffee.
So, when I changed the relationship with myself, everything began to change. I had created a story which at last defined me. The change was slow at first and then it built momentum.
Before I knew it, I was working in an IT training department for a global company and travelling around the world. I remember my first trip to Mauritius.
It was like a royal visit. Picked up at the airport in a limo. Swimming in the Indian Ocean. Snorkelling in the warm waters. Watching a huge orange sun disappear behind the palm trees.
As I drank a cold beer, I wondered why I’d suffered panic attacks as a young man.
The most important story that you ever tell, is the story that you tell yourself. If your story is optimistic and ‘can do’, that’s your outcome. If your story is gloom and doom, it will seem like that whether it is or it isn’t.
Have you ever felt bad about yourself?
Have you ever let yourself down?
Have you ever betrayed your real value?
If you answered yes to those three questions you’ll have an uncomfortable relationship with yourself.
It’s never too late for change. And you don’t need the cavalry to help you.
You know that you can change. You know what needs to be polished up a little. You know that you can take those first few steps to an easier relationship with yourself.
If the answer is yes, give me a day or two to work with you in London and I will change the course of your life and career. I will help you find the real ‘diamond’ within.
Because you’re worth the investment.
If the answer is yes, join me on my next public speaking course and I’ll see you in London one day soon. Start thinking about the story you’re going to tell yourself and the group.
Are you ready to make an exception?
You won’t regret it.<:>make-an-exception<:>0<:><:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1540378080<:>1<:>Perfection and a crotchety old fart<:><:>
I was recently involved in a Linkedin discussion with a young marketer/copywriter from Canada.
The issue was around the subject of perfection.
The post said his marketing/copywriting was so good, he could offer his clients perfect solutions, outcomes and revenues. I was intrigued.
So, I asked him a very reasonable question – what are the subjective success criteria for perfection as I would have liked those solutions, outcomes and revenues myself?
His first response was to say the least, touchy and evasive. His definition was that ‘perfection should be self-evident’. I was struggling with that because I didn’t know what he was talking about.
So, I just asked him the same question again, because this guy is offering the earth.
Second answer – still not cutting the mustard and the tone becoming quite offensive. I was told that I was trolling him and I was being offensive to a guy who I had never heard of because we were in the same industry. I was trying to be clever. (How dumb are the people he’s trying to convince?)
I offered him a scenario so that he could show us the power of his pen.
The USA is politically divided at the moment, and the President is quite vocal on lots of contentious issues from China, North Korea and selections for the Supreme Court.
I asked him if he could he write copy for the US President that would be so perfect, it would persuade the nation and unite the country?
Needless to say, that wasn’t answered either.
From then on, the comments became more abusive. I am not worthy of my place on the planet, despite having contributed to my country’s economy for the last 42 years. And people who want to get into arguments about perfection are just crotchety old farts.
This is a guy whose copywriting skills espouse perfection.
The upsetting thing for me as a speaker and a debater is that I learnt most of what I know at McGill University, Toronto 45 years ago. The staff, professors and peers were so welcoming and respectful. They made us feel like royalty. Sounds like education is on a downturn in Canada, although I like to imagine this is an isolated incident.
Why is perfection such a big deal for me?
Well, most of my students are perfectionists. They struggle and suffer and exhaust themselves because they can never reach their goal. They tell themselves that they’re failures, useless, and wastes of space.
And yet they’re not.
On my courses, I offer them some new tools to play with which busts perfection once and for all.
We observe and explore the subjective nature of life. We explode perfection in the context of subjective criteria. We deconstruct the issues that inhibit our authenticity and build it up with new foundations.
In a perverse way I should be applauding this guy for continuing the ‘perfection’ narrative. These guys send me a rich vein of customers every month. However, I want the hype and the bull to stop because the pursuit of perfection in the subjective realm is damaging to individuals and their health. Watching people suffer is not great viewing.
If you’ve ever suffered with perfectionism, come along and let me know. I’ll get you off it, in a fun and caring way. There’s no need to hold back your potential.<:>perfection<:>0<:><:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1547548020<:>1<:>Taking to the Stage<:><:>
Before delving into our latest blog, which places us in the shoes of a public speaker waiting to present, I would like to share with you all a short message I recently received from a student who attended the 5 Day Discovery Public Speaking course in November 2018.
Good morning all. I wanted to share some positive progress with you. This week, I joint hosted a three day sales conference for over seventy people. Multiple speakers over a great many topics. I tasked myself with the motivational sections and introduced, lead and summarised the theme over the three days. I presented four times and ran the group break out session. I could not have imagined doing any of this two months ago and so wanted to thank each and everyone of you for you help and guidance on the course. A special thanks to Vince and Banu for your coaching and coping techniques. I explained on my final presentation that I’d had significant training on presenting and it had helped enormously. I have now agreed to lead the training on sales presentations within my business!!! The final positive is that I’ve just been informed that after the success of the conference I’m being promoted to Group Commercial Director. The board were apparently keen that I could effectively communicate with the whole organisation at the same time before committing. I feel a weight has been lifted from my shoulders and I’ve changed my mindset from, I can’t, I don’t want to, I may fail - to I can’t wait to present again.
Take care all and thanks again.
The chatter of the audience could be heard despite the fact that the delegates were at least a hundred yards away from where he stood. He guessed the auditorium was full now. How many was it? About five hundred? He exhaled, shrugged his shoulders and fingered his tie. The light in the corridor was dim, although the prints on the walls were interesting views of the city. A good city he thought. The flight had been uneventful and the hotel was comfortable.
He’d done his homework. He always did. He knew what the audience needed and wanted – and what they already knew and didn’t know about his subject. He understood the event’s objectives and he knew where his speech fitted into the overall conference in particular the woman from HR who was speaking before him. He had checked the key messages once again with the event’s content manager and he knew the history of the company and its current prime issues, particularly those that were on people’s minds. He understood the number of men and women in the audience, approximate age range, experience, types of job titles, expectations. He knew what humour would work and what issues were off the table.
The two production company executives and the one banqueting manager waiting with him, looked as if they were auditioning for a low-key spy movie. Apart from their sharp suits and sharper chins, they were making him feel a little claustrophobic now by standing too close. One wore shades for no obvious reason and a set of earphones and microphone and the two were staring at their iPhones.
His boss had just left to take her seat. She’d said that she was keen to see how his presentation techniques had improved, or not. That was OK, he thought and felt no particular pressure. Sure, his adrenalin was running but that just made him feel in control. His boss had said that the company’s managing director who’d spoken that morning was well received. This, she’d said, was the gold standard that he would have to surpass. No pressure then, he thought. He smiled and carried on walking down the corridor looking from time to time at the prints on the wall and wondering why there were scenes of Venice when he was in Berlin. The executives were talking amongst themselves.
He checked his cell phone to make sure that it was switched off. He saw, just before the image disappeared, that his girlfriend had sent a text. It would keep and, anyway, he’d spoken to her last night. He knew that she was thinking of him. He also knew that she understood that this speech was a big one and a big responsibility. And a big opportunity. This sales conference had to succeed. He knew that the preparation he’d done was right and was worth all the effort despite his colleagues’ comments. He took some deep breaths and regulated his breathing as he slipped his hand inside his jacket pocket and took out ten small cards containing key points on each. His cards were just reminders. He smiled again.
They had insisted that he use PowerPoint, but he’d kept the slides simple and each one supported a single idea. And he knew that what he had to say would last for twenty-five minutes. No Q&A during this session. One of the production company executives, the one with the headphones and mic, looked at him and said, “Alright?” and he nodded.
The chatter of the audience subsided while someone made a muffled introduction. Then he heard the topic of his speech and his name and there was a slight pause, a heartbeat and a ripple of enthusiastic applause. He wondered if they’d still applaud like this after his presentation. He shrugged his shoulders again, smiled to no one - just giving his facial muscles a run, he thought - then someone patted him on the shoulder and said, ‘You’re on!’<:>taking-to-the-stage<:>0<:>An insight into the life of a public speaker. <:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1549361496<:>1<:>A Wednesday Afternoon<:><:>
Wednesday afternoons didn’t usually work that well for Sue. It was her own fault really, she mused, as she walked along the advertising agency’s uplit corridor, a skinny latte in one hand and a bulging and expensive briefcase in the other. The lighting, she thought, delicate as it was, always made people look ill. This particular Wednesday was wet and miserable, the beginnings of winter she thought gloomily. No wonder people looked a little unwell.
Sue had set up her regular sales meetings to begin at two- thirty prompt. She always said that they’d be finished by three-thirty, but that rarely happened. To begin with, back when the meetings had started, all twelve of the team had turned up more or less on time and had stayed for the full hour. Now there was always an excuse from three or four, sometimes more, often the same people; and invariably, one of the others would just ‘have’ to leave early to do something far more important. So, she just had to grin and bear it really.
Today, she told herself, she was going to be firmer. Even though her presentations tended to be flat and dull – or so she’d been told - she didn’t have time to get any coaching even though it had been offered. She knew that her presentation techniques were weak but she just didn’t seem to have time to prepare anything.
Today it was the turn of Anton Kurisov to give a presentation on new business opportunities based on some fresh research. Anton was reasonably new to the agency and in his short time had made an impression. Although born in eastern Europe, his English was first class. He had made a good impression on two external coaching courses in public speaking. Sue wasn’t sure yet how Anton would do in the long term. Certainly, she thought, he needed to present his thinking on sales in a way that was clear and enjoyable. Tough luck on him, really, thought Sue who wasn’t certain of Anton’s ability to deliver.
At twenty past two, Sally walked into the meeting room called Beta. There were ten of the team ready and waiting. Sally was pleasantly surprised by such punctuality – and attendance. The last two people walked past her in a hurry as she stood at the door. Anton had addressed the group before twice and on both occasions, Sally had been absent, once with flu and the other… she couldn’t remember the reason for the other.
“Good afternoon everyone,” she said to the room.
Everyone mumbled and muttered replies. Some continued to doodle; others drained their coffee and someone was on the phone. She looked at Anton who was standing at the front of the room waiting and smiling.
“Sue,” he said. “Shall I start?”
“Oh, yes, certainly. No PowerPoint then?” asked Sue, concerned at the lack of equipment and papers in front of him.
“No PowerPoint, no,” confirmed Anton.
“Ok,” said Sue.
“We need to be done in twenty minutes.”
“We will be,” said Anton.
“Better start then,” Sue said. “Over to Anton…”
As if on cue, everyone instantly stopped talking, put down phones, cups, biscuits and pens - and looked up expectantly at Anton. He smiled and so did everyone in the room apart from Sue, who just looked surprised.<:>wednesday-afternoon<:>0<:>A public speaking story based blog post. <:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1547805300<:>1<:>The Course<:><:>
“How’s the course going, Frank?”
“Good, thanks. And really good coaching. Just what I needed.
“So, ready for next week’s presentation?”
“I think so. Yes.”
“So, come on then, tell me how’re you going to make those senior guys take notice of you? You’re up first aren’t you?”
“Yes I am. I was worried, but now I reckon I’m OK. Today, I learned about a great new device – and it’s so simple. It’s all about repetition.”
“Surely that’s not a great way to make a great speech? Just repeating stuff?”
“Well normally yes, you’d be right, but this is different. It’s called anaphora.”
“Sounds like a disease.”
“Ha, maybe. But it’s a phrase which is repeated at the beginning of successive sentences or sentence clauses. Obama used it a lot. I’ll show you. Let me check my notes. Here we are…Listen… Back in 2008, he started his speech at the Iowa caucus: “You know, they said this time would never come. They said our sights were set too high. They said this country was too divided, too disillusioned to ever come together around a common purpose.”
“OK, I get it. And it does reinforce a point – and emotionally too. Plus, it’s easy to listen to.”
“Let me show you some more. Here. Later in the same speech Obama said: “I’ll be a president who finally makes healthcare affordable ... I’ll be a president who ends the tax breaks ... I’ll be a president who harnesses the ingenuity ... I’ll be a president who ends this war in Iraq ... ” And, wait… again: “This was the moment when ... this was the moment when ... this was the moment when ... ” And, as his speech built to its peak, he states: “Hope is what I saw ... Hope is what I heard ... Hope is what led a band of colonists to rise up against an empire.”
“Not bad! Good on his feet wasn’t he, Obama?”
“One of the best. The good thing is language like that is easy to listen to because it has a kind of musicality to it. Hey, here’s another thing. I learned about antitheses today as well.”
“Bless you. Need a tissue?’
“Very funny. Antithesis is a brilliant device for speeches. It’s the use of two contrasting words, phrases or sentences placed directly opposite one another. It uses the contrast principle to draw attention to something. When an opposite to what might be expected is given, it’s usually a surprise and makes the listener really think through an argument. We got some examples today. Yeah, here we are. The German writer Goethe said: "Love is an ideal thing, marriage a real thing." See? Contrasting to make a strong point. Memorable too. Here’s another comes from a speech given by Martin Luther King, "We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools."
“OK – yes – see what you mean. They teach that kind of stuff where you do your course?"
“Not so much teach, but more like coaching. They give us ideas which make our own – to suit whatever we need. Barack Obama used antithesis to amazing effect. This is a good one. Listen: “If we’re going to make the investments we need, we also have to be willing to shed the spending that we don’t need.”
“It’s got you going this stuff hasn’t it Frank?”
“I like it. And it means that I can make my speech really strong without being dull.”
“Where is it you’re doing this course?”<:>the-course<:>0<:>A dialogue on public speaking. <:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1548243480<:>1<:>The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth | Simon Maier<:><:>
One of Michael Jackson’s breakthrough songs famously included the pattern, ‘A, B, C, 1, 2, 3’. The same pattern has helped politicians, statesmen and businessmen alike. Three is the magic number, so let’s explore why it’s so powerful.
Obama’s forebear, John F. Kennedy, enjoyed triads. No, not the Chinese gangs. A triad in language is a group or set of three related people or things. When using the rule of three, you include three equal elements in a sentence or series of sentences. Don’t be scared of terms like these. They’re really simple to understand and simpler to use. Look at this one. Abraham Lincoln: “Government of the people… by the people… for the people… shall not perish from the earth.” Then there’s Franklin D Roosevelt with: “I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished.” Or Obama: “We must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and begin again the work of remaking America.” Or, simply this: ‘Stop, look and listen.’ And ‘Sex, drugs and rock n' roll’; the iPad 2 was introduced as ‘thinner, lighter and faster’ than the original. Three is the smallest number required to make a pattern – and we do it all of the time.
You all know these advertising slogans and propositions: ‘Just do it’, ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’, ‘Beanz Meanz Heinz’, ‘Finger lickin’ good’, ‘Every little helps’, ‘Snap! Crackle! Pop!’, ‘Diamonds are forever’, ‘Taste the difference’. Using a triad or the power of three is an extraordinarily powerful way of emphasising a persuasive point. It all comes down to the way we process information.
There are also certain elements of speech that are easy on the ear and three is a number of items not difficult to assimilate – much better than a list of two or four. There’s a kind of satisfaction in hearing a group of three things. We tend to remember words and phrases more readily when they are packaged in threes. For example, most people will quote Winston Churchill this way: “I have nothing to offer but blood, sweat and tears.” But what he actually said was “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.” One phrase simply sounds better than the other.
Triads exist in all aspects of life: ‘The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth,’ ‘Father Son, and Holy Ghost,’ ‘gold, frankincense and myrrh’, ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’. It works in French too: Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité as it does in Shakespeare’s “Friends, Romans, Countrymen. Lend me your ears.” Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address gives us several examples including: “We cannot dedicate — we cannot consecrate — we cannot hallow — this ground.” And another, of course, is a perennial favourite. It’s Churchill’s: a list of three combined with antithesis: “Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few.”
There is a myriad of examples from the world of politics, but less from business. So, if you’re in business, try the device. It’s powerful and effective. And people will listen. Relate a couple to your own life or business. Jot a few down now. Writing a speech or preparing for one is work just as much as any other activity that produces an extraordinary output. So, work at this. The results could be career changing.<:>the-whole-truth<:>0<:>An article on the effectiveness of triads in public speaking. <:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1549032300<:>1<:>The Rubbish We Speak | Simon Maier<:><:>
Some American and UK corporate speakers (including costly, professional ones) are increasingly trying to impress audiences with their use of phraseology which many in any audience don’t understand. Senior managers - and therefore junior ones - believe that this practice puts them among the alpha greats. It does not.
The air around the South Bank of London was smelling very strange on the day I was speaking at a London mindset conference. The river maybe? Burgers? Hot chestnuts on fire? Well, I soon forgot about London air and looked forward to the conference. The event was in English and the international attendees spoke and understood English. All the speakers were either American or British. However, the majority of the audience, if asked, would have had to admit to not understanding a fraction of what it heard.
It was during day one that the first alarms rang in my head. Not because of any sharp intake of Jack Daniels, but because of a plethora of jargon. It began with a speaker who said, "All these explanations lack granularity and don’t contain metrics sufficient to let us know if we need a new paradigm". This was matched by someone asking her during the Q&A, "What’s your current view on the agile governance of technology?"
It's easy to dismiss empty language that means nothing more than quirky phrases, but they're more damaging than that. Thoughts shape language and our language shapes our thoughts – and then our actions. Empty speaking not only conveys empty thinking, but sells it, too. Words and phrases are used to give an air of cleverness to the speaker and his/her arguments, but offer no real meaning. Think of ‘paradigm shift,’ ‘synergistic’, ‘wearable multitasking’, ‘data is the new soil’, ‘swim lane’, ‘magic bullet’ or ‘learning receptor units’. (The last one by the way means students. Who knew?) None of these phrases began as, or became, useful, evocative metaphors.
Abstract language leads listeners to believe a speaker is telling untruths or is waffling. This is unsurprising because abstract language evades facts. Politicians and business leaders practice abstraction all the time. The use of flaccid, mangled, verbal nonsense is an attempt at making a point without any idea of what the correct point is or if the point is worth making at all.
Thoughtless chatter and lazy language are often noxious – in any market sector. Their use can create an atmosphere of belligerence and aggression. Maybe ‘killing it’ and ‘bleeding edge’ work (just) in a hyped-up workplace fuelled by testosterone, high fives and caffeine. But that’s all.
Jargon is the specialised language of a professional or occupational group. While such language is useful or necessary for those within the group, it’s usually meaningless to outsiders. In my mindset presentation at the London conference, I was pleased that I had managed to present, without once using phrases such as: ‘touch base’, ‘circle back’, ‘bandwidth’, ‘deep dive’, ‘incentivise’, ‘hard stop’, ‘360-degree thinking’ and similar. As I left for the day, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the South Bank air smelt of roses.<:>rubbish-we-speak<:>0<:>An article on the harm caused by jargon and empty speaking. <:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1549119644<:>1<:>War Metaphors and the fear of public speaking<:><:>
I’ve been battling with my fear of public speaking for years; stuck in my foxhole, at war with myself. In no-man’s land, bombarded and besieged by a firestorm, a crossfire of negative thoughts. It’s like a time-bomb. The longer the delay, the greater the damage. My head could explode any moment. I need some guerrilla tactics.
My first speech was a dud. That came as a bombshell. My nerves have been shredded, pulverised. My self-esteem torpedoed.
I want to join the ranks of the confident speakers and be on the front-line with them. I want to attack this problem head-on and from all flanks. But first I’m working on a cease-fire with myself. I’m going to marshal my resources, take aim and fire.
My opening salvo will be to call in the troops and get some help.
If public speaking is killing you – give us a call. It doesn’t need to be painful.
<:>war-metaphors<:>0<:><:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1549972931<:>1<:>Persuasion – The 2nd most important soft skill (LinkedIn Survey) | Vince Stevenson<:><:>
As a former techy, hard skills were everything. I needed to know this programming language and that CRM system, as well as x years’ experience of C, and z years’ experience of J++. Hard skills dominated the landscape.
Interviews with techies are not fun, because techies don’t have a great relationship with communication. There is kudos in being known as monosyllabic. Indeed, for many of us brought up on mainframes (an unusual term for young people), we would go the extra mile not to communicate. So, interviews, your golden opportunity to spotlight your career achievements, were awkward to say the least.
Enhancing these skills in the 1980s wasn’t easy, the internet was still a dream, and corporate training so expensive as to make it impossible. But when the internet arrived, thankfully it changed everything. Now, even small companies have videos and communication channels and formal spoken communication has improved, somewhat.
As my freelance career developed, I attended many interviews and was incredibly successful due to my interest and love of communication (and staying in high-impact, ultra-competitive companies).
So why do we want to be persuasive?
Well, the simple answer is that we want to shift people’s understanding and perhaps ask them to commit to action. The action could be to sign up for a relevant newsletter or show interest in a course. Whether you’re selling an idea, a concept or a plan, you need to think it through. We’re not always selling products or services. You have to weigh up the pros and cons of the arguments and then choose your tools of persuasion, your words. In the interview context, you want to display your character in a good light, you want to be articulate in explaining your background and experience, you want to create a good chemistry with the interviewers to show them that you’re a safe bet for the job.
Persuasion is a huge subject in its own right, but think about moving people to take action. Perhaps ask yourself what moves you? What makes you do something different or change the course of your default behaviours? As a human being, it’s not surprising that other humans might have the same thoughts or similar emotions. Empathizing and building trust are all important.
Persuasion is effective communication. If you’re new to this black art (it isn’t by the way), it’s reasonably easy to learn if you’re prepared to put a few days work in. In our Level 4 Certificate in Communication, we cover public speaking, interview and meeting skills. How to speak up for yourself and be heard to be a credible colleague. In doing so, it’s the development of a super skill that will propel your future career and earnings.
According to LinkedIn, companies are desperate to hire people with the following 5 soft skills:
Creativity – Persuasion – Collaboration – Adaptability - Time Management
If you'd like to hone your communication skills and improve your powers of persuasion, sign up for our new 2-day course, Level 4 Certificate in Business Communication Skills, for just £637 + VAT! Let 2019 be your year of personal change.
<:>persuasion<:>0<:><:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1550586000<:>1<:>The dangers of pitching for the inexperienced entrepreneur<:><:>
The scene was set. I had given up my job in the corporate sector and I was going to make it big with my new start up. I was a success. I worked long and hard and I’d seen former colleagues leave, taking vast business experience with them, and making a success of their fledgling businesses.
One month into my working hiatus, I just wasn’t confident with my business plan and no matter how much time I spent reading it, it didn’t get any better.
Everybody was telling me to stop procrastinating and get on with it. So, I did. I booked a holiday to Bali to think it over, get some long-deserved sunshine, and resolve the outstanding issues.
One beer led to another and frankly, I found it virtually impossible to concentrate with beech life, beer and gregarious travel-mates.
On returning to grey UK skies, I think I had my plan together for a marketing start up. The business plan was finished. By that I mean I could read it without laughing. Thank heavens for a 12-hour delay at the airport. It would never have been finished, otherwise.
My dad took me to a pitch-fest event where there was a huge buzz. There were people younger than me who had started their own business and already had pitched for funding successfully. What could possibly go wrong?
Good intentions, courage and bravado are not the winning equation, despite all my friends and colleagues telling me to go for it.
The prospect of pitching to investors filled me with horror. I felt sick. I had delivered lots of briefings, updates and technical material, but I’d never asked for money before.
I was told to identify the KPI in the panel. The key person of influence. The one person that I could give considerably more eye contact to as I spoke. This is easier said than done. The first event I observed, there were supposed to be seven dragons and only three turned up. There’s a lot of homework to be done. You have no control over who arrives, but if a few possible investing dragons show, that investment in time is invaluable.
My first pitch was fraught with difficulty. Before I started, I was already in a Q/A situation. Being asked tough questions by a dragon really threw me off guard. All of my planning went out of the window and I felt defeated before I managed to introduce myself to the group.
Key lesson – you have to know exactly what you want to say and back it up with numbers and a credible story.
Starting a business and asking for £50,000 without any personal equity wasn’t a winner either. You have no experience of running a business and you’re asking for a huge sum without risk to yourself? You have to show that you’re all in. Totally committed to the project. It’s not fun standing there on stage while home truths are landed like blows.
Be honest and sensible with revenue projections. Prove that some common sense and science has gone into these numbers. Talking big is great until your entire pitch unravels before you. Investors with lots of money, have lots of money to invest because they can smell a bad deal from a mile away. Don’t embarrass yourself with the ‘I believe in me and I will make my plan work’, against all the odds.
Finally, when challenged by an investor, don’t try to outsmart him or her. Always be respectful. It’s their money, not yours. Yes, you want to look smart, but not at their expense. Remember you want an ongoing relationship with these guys that will progress through the ups and downs of your business development. Pretending to know all the answers when you have little or no experience doesn’t help. Showing humility and not being afraid to ask for help are positive attributes. Humility and ambition based on common sense and what is reasonably achievable set you up as a credible investment.
Is your pitching ability holding you back from selling your products or attracting funding for your business? In the course of just one day, Elaine Powell can help you to deliver a powerful pitch for any context.
Tickets are selling fast, so book your place today!<:>dangers-of-pitching<:>0<:>An insight into some of the potential perils of pitching for the inexperienced entrepreneur.<:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1551168000<:>1<:>Make Your Pitch Stand Out Using Logos, Pathos & Ethos | Elaine Powell<:><:>
The 2012 Olympic bid was a prime example of how to use logos, pathos and ethos to influence, persuade and inspire the target audience.
According to Aristotle in 3rd century BC, audiences’ decisions are influenced based on these three key aspects.
It is imperative to ensure that whether you’re pitching, presenting or speaking at a meeting, that you continually incorporate these elements into your communication.
So, let’s look at them in more detail.
Provide clarity around the proposition and what you can offer using:
Appeal to the audience’s emotions to drive action, taking into consideration:
Pathos is most effective when the presentation connects with an underlying value of the client.
Appeal to your authority or character, considering:
Let’s look at the 2012 Olympic Bid:
In many people’s view Paris should had won the 2012 Olympic bid. Just prior to the announcement, most of the world’s media and cameras were focusing on Paris. It was their turn and they had the best facilities.
However, London won - why? They delivered the most compelling and persuasive presentation.
For example, they:
Ticked all the boxes - stadium, transport links, funding etc. (Logos)
Demonstrated that the UK is the home of sport, the birthplace of football, rugby, cricket, golf, tennis etc. (Ethos)
Showed that London is one of the most important historical, multicultural cities in the world.
Promised the Olympic Committee the opportunity to dine at Buckingham Palace. (Ethos).
Completed the presentation with a story about a young African boy who was running, stimulated by the Olympics, and their overall message was that the 2012 London games would influence children around the world to take part in sport. (Pathos).
So, create your ideal pitch and incorporate Logos, Pathos & Ethos.
Is your pitching ability holding you back from selling your products or attracting funding for your business? In the course of just one day, Elaine Powell can help you to deliver a powerful pitch for any context.
Tickets are selling fast, so book your place today!<:>logos<:>0<:>How to make your pitch stand out from the crowd using Logos, Pathos & Ethos.<:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1551773700<:>1<:>Top 5 Tips for Pitching with Confidence | Elaine Powell<:><:>
You are always pitching and you get what you pitch for.
I remember when I went in for my first pitching competition. I had attended a one-day workshop on pitching and then over the next 2 weeks, I put together what I thought was an engaging pitch.
The day approached. There were to be two heats. Heat one. 40 people pitched. The best 10 were picked to pitch that afternoon in front of a panel of dragons and an audience of around 150.
I remember during heat one, thinking “If I don’t get picked, it won’t look good, as I am a public speaking coach, I am meant to be good at this”, aren’t I?
So, there I was, one of ten pitchers waiting to be called to the stage.
My time came. I walked onto stage. Looked at the audience and panel of 5 dragons watching and waiting for me to start. I took a deep breath.
I was slightly nervous but I started well. As I continued, I got into the flow. The moment came four minutes into the pitch, when I was to ask for a request. I remembered what a coach said to me earlier “ask for the thing you want the most”.
I paused and then said to everyone “I was told to ask for something that I want, that is really important to me, so what I really want is a husband.”
Well, the room erupted with a huge roar of laughter as everyone had been so serious up until then. It took a while for the room to quieten but when it did, I said “and failing that, I would like to ask for contacts to work with women in leadership roles in the corporate arena.” I received a very big applause.
The judges gave me individual feedback and I was placed fourth overall.
From this experience and since then pitching for new clients, business and funding, here are 5 tips for pitching that I hope will help:
Know the fundamentals about your market. You need to know your audience from top to bottom. What are their challenges? What problems keep them up at night? What are they looking for? What is your solution? What are the benefits of going with you?
The aim is the core of marketing. Focus on the benefits not the features. We aren’t interested in a washing machine having the latest technology, we want to know that we will get clean, fresh, environmentally friendly clothes.
All the above and much more should be covered within your pitch to show that you have done your research, your homework and that you are a credible person to invest in.
Just as when presenting, a simple structure enables not only you to be able to deliver without notes and be able to come across natural but it also enables the listeners to follow your pitch with ease. Keep it simple.
Don’t hold back. Show how passionate you are about your subject matter. People really love enthusiasm. It is infectious. Your content needs to hit the right spot as well but ‘people buy into people,’ so be alive with your passion and speak from the heart.
Be really clear on what problem you solve. What makes you the right person to solve it? What makes you unique and why nobody else can do it the way you do it? When you are a contribution to the world, the world contributes back, so be really clear how you make a difference.
Think about your competitors and what they offer. Make sure you highlight what makes you different, better in comparison. What is your unique selling point?
Dave McClure of 500 Startups said “Your job isn’t to hide your competition, it is to figure out how you can be better and different to them.”
Lastly, practice your pitch - get feedback. This is essential. You want to know, was it easy to listen to, did you answer the most relevant points? Did you manage to deliver the pitch in an engaging and confident manner? Will they be convinced that you have the solution to the problem and that you are the right person to deliver whatever it is you’re are offering?
I want to wish you happy pitching and remember “you always get what you pitch for.”
So, did I get what I pitched for? A husband. Well not quite. But I did get a 7-year relationship that is still going strong.
Is your pitching ability holding you back from selling your products or attracting funding for your business? In the course of just one day, Elaine Powell can help you to deliver a powerful pitch for any context.
Tickets are selling fast, so book your place today!<:>pitching-tips<:>0<:>5 Tips for Pitching with Confidence from pitching expert Elaine Powell.<:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1552381200<:>1<:>Make 2019 your year of incremental growth<:><:>
I’m currently reading a great book called ‘Atomic Habits’ by James Clear. It’s nothing specifically to do with physics (although physics offers many case studies of why and how things work successfully). The word ‘atom’ suggests ‘the smallest unit’ and the secret is to improve each element of the process.
The premise of the book is clear and simple. If you change/improve your habits by 1% per day, the compound effect over the course of a year yields a 37% increase. I’ll leave James Clear to explain the mathematics if you read the book.
The book cites several fascinating case studies on the process of progress that are made through tiny changes. For me the most startling case study was the hiring of David Brailsford as Performance Director at Team Sky cycling in 2003.
At this stage, the UK had won just one gold medal in the last 100 years, and subsequently 60% of the gold medals in the Beijing 2008 Olympics, followed by nine Olympic records and seven world records in London 2012. As if that wasn’t enough, three UK riders have won 5 Tours de France in recent years. If that is not evidence of significant improvement in a particular field, then I don’t know what it.
How was this achieved? Sir David Brailsford calls it the ‘aggregation of marginal gains’. Effectively, you look at what you do, break it down into small pieces and see how you can improve on each item. He deconstructed the bicycle and he looked at each and every element of each rider in the team, and looked for a 1% improvement in everything. Over time, the compound interest is startling.
There was famously, the incident with the French cycling team when it was announced that the UK team had rounder wheels (the UK team had bought wheels from a French supplier).
So, what does this mean for me/you?
I have some bad habits as a businessman. I didn’t like bookkeeping or accountancy, but I know that I have to do it. So, instead of leaving important documents in envelopes collecting dust, I’ve systematized my process. I have box ledgers for each company, plastic folders for categorized inputs, I’m putting items in date order, and I’ve started a diary of events, payments and confirmations. I annotate documents with notes and actions so I can keep track of progress.
What does that mean for your communication skills?
Imagine knowing the techniques that will bring you the success and peace of mind that you crave. What if you could improve the overall technique and delivery in one huge chunk, and then build on that exponentially in the coming years? It might be the best investment you ever make. That was certainly Warren Buffet’s best investment when he was a young man.
Why is that important?
Well generally, I’m busy as a trainer and so focused on my classes and clients. But when year end approaches, I go into cold panics trying to find the documents and evidence of payments and my relationship with my accountant because of my lack of due diligence has strained over many years.
So, in 2019 I am determined to make small incremental, positive change which I know in the next five years at least will have a profound impact on professional success and personal fulfillment.
<:>2019-growth<:>0<:>Harnessing the power of incremental growth.<:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1552986000<:>1<:>Pitching for New Business - Part 1 | Simon Maier<:><:>
Like any aspect of public speaking, selling an idea or pitching for new business always begins with preparation. It’s something that anyone ignores at their peril. Time and energy in preparation are absolutely necessary in any pitch scenario. And there’s something else that’s key and it’s this: what precisely are you selling, for what audience and why? Without knowing the precise answers to these questions, your pitch won’t work. And, if you think about it, why should it?
In order to start the pitch process, you must research, plan and prepare the content. The research and preparation stage of a winning pitch presentation is important for many reasons – to ensure that your messages are credible, to increase the confidence of everyone participating and to enable those pitching to gel as a team so that the potential client sees real cohesion. Bear in mind it’s likely that the people in the room expect that you and your colleagues will be part of the delivery team.
You also need empathy, that is a focus on the needs of the immediate audience to whom you’re presenting. They must have a pain point, and that’s what you’re addressing. You need to know as much as possible about their needs. Not easy, but critical. Can you imagine what it’s like having to sit through half a dozen presentations that all follow the same structure and content? It’s dull. It shouldn’t be, but it often is. So, the first job in preparing for a pitch presentation is to put yourself in the shoes of the immediate audience. Think about what the people to whom you’re presenting will want to see and hear – not just what you want to say and show. And speaking of audiences, whatever you say and show will count for nothing unless you deeply understand what you’re selling.
So, research is important and not to be ignored. Think beyond the brief. Understand the bigger picture. Extend the research into the needs and values of the client organisation; its history, its other work, its business reputation and other business relationships. The more information you gather, the more likely you’ll be able to identify additional value points and innovative ideas and to tailor the material more closely to the needs, style and language of the potential client.
Also, focus. This may be an obvious instruction, but many pitches fail because they meander and try and cover far too much erroneous information. Obviously in a pitch (whether for new business, a business update or in an interview), you will draw on the material in the original brief and in whatever documentation you have been asked to submit prior to your presentation. Ideally, your documentation, tender or pitch document will have made your compelling value proposition crystal clear so that the client/audience is in no doubt what unique blend of attributes and benefits you will deliver.
There will be a heart to your presentation. What’s heart got to do with it? Well, it’s the part that has the main ingredient of your powerful ‘sell’. But the heart is likely to be short – perhaps only 10 to 15 minutes of your allotted time (don’t forget you’ll need as much time as possible to pose and answer questions and interact with the client/audience). So less is more. For the heart, identify no more than three key points. And each key point should be memorable and therefore powerful. Remember, you may think that everything you’ve ever done is riveting but, if it’s not highly relevant to the pitch’s objectives, then you’re wasting effort as well as everyone’s time.
In the second of these articles we’ll explore the structure of a pitch.
Tickets are selling fast, so book your place today!
<:>pitching-part-one<:>0<:>Tips on pitching for new business - part one. <:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1553590800<:>1<:>Pitching for New Business - Part 2 | Simon Maier<:><:>
Create a structure and signpost your content. Then your audience can easily see the main points and the logic of what you’re saying and showing. Repetition (some) and reinforcement are important. There’s an old acronym: KISS - Keep it Simple Stupid - which, while a bit out of date perhaps, still holds more or less true. Whatever you’re selling or offering in your presentation, the detail may be complex: on what’s to be done, how it will be done, who will do it, the likely challenges and, of course, the cost proposals and contractual issues. But your task is to make things simple. Later discussions and questions will allow the client to get through to the small print. So be assured and convey your key points as simply as possible. Albert Einstein put it well: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”
Choose the best presentation method and audio-visuals. PowerPoint, if used (and it isn’t compulsory so there’s no obligation) must be only supportive and must never repeat what you’re saying unless it’s a crucial word or number. Think about what you’re showing and make what you show count. As your value proposition differentiates your firm’s offer from those of competitors, so must your presentation stand out from them too. Some will work just with models or simulations. Others will use music, flowcharts, handouts, flipcharts, actors, videos and all manner of other props and aids. Your choice will depend on the facilities available, the client expectations and the experience of your presenting team. But mostly, your choice must depend on what you need to say or show.
Rehearsals are wrongly often kept to a minimum and, like any public speaking engagement, practice is key as it is in the delivery of any skill. Rehearse until you can deliver the pitch accurately, comfortably and with enjoyment. Rehearse so that everyone on your team knows the content well and everything can move along smoothly. Rehearsals will also show what you must keep in and what you can do without. Managing time well is essential.
When you rehearse, prepare for questions. Anticipate all of the possible questions that the client may ask. And consider who is best in the pitching team to answer them so that the chairperson knows how to direct questions. Rehearse tricky responses so there is a common understanding. There’s nothing worse than people on the pitch team offering totally different answers to a particular question. Normally, you will be invited to ask the client panel questions. So, make sure you prepare some questions to ask - questions to which you want to know the answers and those that demonstrate your expertise and insight, questions that show you’ve done your homework and have thought above and beyond the brief, questions that add insight and make the client reflect and questions that make you and your team stand out.
It’s always worth anticipating what you’ll do if something goes wrong. What if, for some reason, your allotted time is half what you assumed? What if technical support isn’t there or if you and the client don’t have a specific cable? What if one of your team is unwell and can’t attend? And what if the client decides to take the pitch meeting in a totally different direction and far away off your script?
In the final part of this series we’ll look at emotional connection.
Tickets are selling fast, so book your place today!<:>pitching-part-two<:>0<:>Part 2 of the three-part Pitching for New Business.<:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1554195600<:>1<:>Pitching for New Business - Part 3 | Simon Maier<:><:>
You can only ever do your best but make sure that it is. Ensure that you deliver well and connect emotionally. There’s a great quote from Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Enough said really. But do recognise that people make decisions based on a mix of rational and emotional factors. It’s not always possible to understand why you lost a pitch and sometimes it’s pointless trying to find out why (and in any case you may know) although it’s always useful to ask for feedback. You may have brilliantly addressed the rational element of the decision that the client must make. But the client’s choice will depend on a whole raft of emotional factors too – how well you understood them, whether you spoke their ‘language’, the extent to which you made them feel confident and valued and so on. It’s not always down to price either.
When you do your research, you will hopefully understand something about your client’s personality and also that of your immediate pitch audience. Adapt to personality types. Body language is important too in a pitch scenario and you need to be sure that yours is not aggressive, threatening or subservient. Similarly, people will watch how you hold yourself, how you stand and wonder why you keep hitching up your trousers or fiddling about with a piece of jewellery. Everything you do is observed.
Ensure that you feel and look confident. But be aware of cultures, expectations, manners and anything that your audience will expect you to know – from the right way to address people to who’s hand to shake first. And even sometimes for how long it should be shaken. If you need to get practice in looking confident and delivering in a confident way, then maybe get some coaching. The TED video involving Amy Cuddy on presentations is a good guide too. As are Vince Stevenson’s excellent videos on the College of Public Speaking website.
Some cultures expect a ‘them and us’ seating arrangement. If you can influence the seating style, then try and avoid all of you staring at all of them. Every member of the pitching team will need to introduce him or herself and explain their role. Don’t allow overload here. It’s both boring and confusing. Keep this information relevant and simple. In some cultures, an expertise and credentials opening introduction is expected. In other cultures, a less formal and more personal introduction is the norm. Either way, keep what you say accurate and brief.
If you don’t listen, really listen, then you’re likely to fail. Sometimes it’s very easy to want to fill in any gap with what you feel you need to say, but if people in the room are speaking then you must listen. You can of course manage someone who is taking up valuable pitch time but do that with huge care and sensitivity. The rule of thumb is to not just hear, but to listen.
Almost lastly, although it’s probably the most important aspect of pitching, do tell stories. When people listen to a story to which they can connect – emotionally and practically, a whole host of cognitive functions take place. There’s a dopamine release, neural coupling and mirroring to name a few. So, during the presentation, use stories, anecdotes and short case studies to bring the material or your proposition to life. Do not go on and on, do not bore and don’t tell jokes for the sake of it. Stories also offer a great way to simplify complex ideas – through the use of metaphors or analogies. And most topics in any pitch can be set into any story shape.
Finally, control time keeping and the pitch ending. You need to ensure that you use the allocated time for presenting and questions but you absolutely must finish on time. And before you finish there should be a strong summary reinforcing the key points of your proposition and making it abundantly clear why the client should choose you and what you have to offer over anyone else.
Tickets are selling fast, so book your place today!<:>pitching-part-three<:>0<:>Part 3 of Simon Maier's three-part Pitching for New Business series. <:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1554800400<:>1<:>How to Pitch a Winning Idea<:><:>
Coming up with ideas is hard; selling them to strangers is harder. Often, entrepreneurs, sales executives, filmmakers, creative directors or executives go to great lengths to show how their new plans or creative concepts are viable and absolutely fit for purpose - only to be rejected by decision-makers who don’t seem to understand the real value of the ideas.
People on the receiving end of pitches invariably have little formal, verifiable or objective measures for assessing that elusive trait of creativity, safety or trust. Decision-makers therefore apply a set of subjective and often inaccurate criteria early in the encounter and, from that point on, the tone is set. If the decision-maker senses an inability to perform or deliver, then the proposal is toast. So, you need to know as much as possible about the people to whom you’re pitching. That’s not always easy and having a meeting of some kind with these people well before the pitch (even on the phone) is enormously helpful.
So, what’s to be done? Well, as in anything to do with sales, you must believe in what you’re selling from the outset. Be passionate, but not nuts. Passion is contagious. Show passion. Not in a mad way though believe in what you’re pitching. It’s all about painting an enticing picture of how what you’re selling is going to benefit your audience - and outlining the cost (in all senses) of not using your idea. Specifically tell the people to whom you’re pitching exactly how what you’re ‘selling’ is the only solution. Demonstrate the how and the why.
Keep your pitch short, concise and factual. Get to the point. There’s nothing worse than listening to a pitch which goes around the houses and leaves five minutes for the ‘real’ stuff. Provide visuals and avoid PowerPoint overload. It’s a guaranteed turn-off. Any slide should be simple and must only support what you say – nothing else. A slide is there to illustrate or clarify something you’re talking about. It is not there for any other reason.
Ensure the client understands what success looks like to you. Hopefully it matches what the decision-makers think it looks like to them! When selling your ideas, it’s also important to ensure you’re not over-promising anything (the decision makers aren’t daft). That means telling the truth. Set modest targets and then by all means add stretch targets provided you explain them. This gets decision-makers aligned with your definition of success.
Show your commitment. Explain clearly what you have done in your thinking so far, how you’ve tested it and what you intend to do next if you win the pitch. Show how the risk of taking your idea (and you) are calculated and one with great payback.
Be confident. An inner self-belief is like a foundation stone under the tallest building. You need to convince the decision-makers that you have the courage of your convictions and why. Practice your pitch until you know it by heart and that the tone of the message is appropriate. Practice in front of anyone you can rely on to give you honest feedback.
Persist. Dealing with rejection is all about passion and conviction and never giving up. Henry Ford said, “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” And Mark Twain put it well, ““If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got.” And so too does Michael Jordan, “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” That sort of analogy is what it's about; that's the way we should view life. You have to have determination and persistence. Develop a 'keep on keeping on' ability. Stay calm. Take five seconds to breathe and let your pounding heart slow down. Compose yourself. Silence is fine. Then, spring into life. And don't sound like you're utterly desperate or that you've just been dragged through a hedge backwards.
Don’t be condescending. Have confidence in your idea, but don’t patronize your audience. Discuss by all means, but don’t argue. You’ll lose and it’ll look unpleasant. Conflict has no place in a pitch. And, remember, above all, winning is not a right; it has to be earned.
Tickets are selling fast, so book your place today!<:>pitch-idea<:>0<:>An article on the art of pitching a winning idea. <:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1552061700<:>1<:>A Sense of Purpose – Know Your ‘Why’<:><:>
We all want fulfillment, some of us more so than others. Some of us want simplicity and comfort; others want extravagance and more money than they can handle. For decades, psychologists studied how long-term, meaningful goals develop throughout our lives. The goals that foster a sense of purpose are ones that potentially change the lives of other people, like launching a charity or business, helping the community or those less able than ourselves. It’s a spirit of willingness that is the driver – and of course a head full of ideas.
Alas, sometimes there are those with both drivers and ideas, but they are not for the greater good, and these individuals cause hurt harm, and despondency at the least. Let’s stick with the positive.
A sense of purpose has evolved in humans so that we can accomplish big things together, well actually most things - which is why any sense of purpose combines with better physical and mental well-being. People donating time to work at a charity can be life-changing. If they climb a mountain in a group and raise funds or if they do anything that involves high-level purpose. Purpose helps both us as individuals (and us as a species) to survive. Without purpose, nothing would ever happen or get done.
Many seem to believe that purpose arises from our special gifts and sets us apart from other people - but that’s only partially true. It also grows from our connection to others and our willingness or needs to connect with others. Once we find a direction, we’ll almost certainly find others traveling in the same lane, hoping to reach the same destination or result. But of course this, like most things, is easier to write about than solve. So let’s have a look at what can be done to sharpen purpose and an opportunity to find our individual ‘why’.
Well, some solutions are simple. Reading connects us to people we’ll never know, across time and in situations, we’ll never experience, but from which we’ll learn how others progressed. Reading allows education in behaviour, in what and how it can be achieved — reading fires up the imagination. Reading allows us to know about others who have the same kind of thinking as ourselves. Or different thinking that opens up different points of view. Reading builds confidence. Reading provides us with a sense of meaning and purpose. Purpose is a part of meaning; meaning is a much broader concept that usually also includes value, efficacy and self-worth. Books, articles and social media can (if chosen with care) give depth and width from which we can learn a great deal about purpose.
Reading fiction might allow youngsters, for example, to consider the whole lives of characters, giving them specific insight into an entire lifespan without having any parallel experience. By seeing the purpose in the lives of others, we are more likely to see it in our own lives. In this sense, the purpose is as much about imagination as it is about deciding to do something. That something has to arrive from somewhere, doesn’t it? TV, cinema, theatre and other staged entertainments also add to the process by which we suddenly say to ourselves, “this is a direction I want to travel.” That may be a life-changing move or a small step change. Many people find pivotal ideas and inspiration from articles and books. If we find books that matter to us - they might help us to see what matters in our own lives. Of course, finding purpose is not just an intellectual pursuit; it’s something we need to feel and need to know is right for us even though there may be risk involved.
Sometimes, another person’s pain can lead us to purpose. When we see suffering, unfairness and hurt, it can spur us on to improve the situation or to help those affected. Sometimes, emotions push us towards a purpose. If we are in awe of a cause, for instance, or we show gratitude, or we feel altruistic, then these things can push us forward to purpose. Of course, it’s not enough to feel like we’re a small part of something big; we also need to feel driven to make a positive impact on the world, however small or large that ‘world’ is.
Having a winning mindset is important, and we may need help to pull together the good things that can benefit from thinking proactively about our lives, fearing failure less and sometimes taking a risk or two. Research has it that children and adults who count their blessings are much more likely to contribute to the world beyond their immediate selves. That is because, if we can see how others make any part of the world a better place, we’re more motivated in giving something back.
One aspect of gaining proper purpose is to listen to what other people appreciate about you. Seem strange? Well, it shouldn’t. You may have qualities that you feel modest about, but others may find those qualities admirable drivers to purpose – both socially or professionally. Artists, writers and musicians often describe how their appreciation from other artists, writers and musicians fuelled their work. Sometimes this helps people understand that they have a purpose or calling that meets their talents. Gratitude strengthens relationships too, creates a bond, and that inspires a purpose to change direction or find a new one. Those closest at home or work may often have a far better knowledge of that which you might achieve than you have of yourself. So listen.
If you’re having trouble remembering or considering your purpose, look at the people around you. What do you have in common with them? What are they trying to be? What impact do you see them having on anything? Whatever it is, do you admire it or is it inconsequential as far as you’re concerned? Can you contribute to making that impact? What do they need? Can you give it to them? If the answers to those questions don’t inspire you relating to whatever it is that you’re considering, then you might need to find a different purpose - and with that thinking, a new purpose may come. But, and this is important, finding a purpose isn’t something that necessarily will take five minutes. There is a myriad of examples where people find a true purpose (big or small, but always big to them) later in life.
Whatever our age, we feel energised, motivated and expanded when we have a sense of purpose. People who consider their work or activity to be a calling — in other words, if they feel that their work or activity had a purpose — well, these people tend to be more satisfied than those who think of their work or activity as just a job or something to do. Having a calling is not restricted to people in executive positions or religions. A calling is a purpose which can be as modest as it can be high-level. Remember that in 1969 the janitor at NASA believed with absolute conviction that he had as much to do with putting a man on the moon as the astronauts or anyone else.
Nothing gives a person inner wholeness and peace like a distinct understanding of their trajectory. Fulfillment is a right that we should all enjoy; it’s not a privilege. Finding fulfillment in life starts with understanding exactly why we do what we do. If we can understand this ‘why’, then we’ll also understand what it is that drives our behaviour when we’re doing the things we like most and at which we are best. That, in turn, gives us a reference point for everything that we might choose to do in the future. We can make more deliberate choices – career, business, home, social. And others may want to join in. The ‘why’ is the definition of your end goal. The sooner that’s clear; the more defined will be everything else about your ambitions.
At some point in life, you’re going to have to stop thinking about taking action and act. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the writer, said famously, “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness.” Our own particular ‘why’ can’t be forced. It needs focus. Once you’ve defined your aims and what you want, it’s easier not to get distracted from what is important. And it’s vital to remember that people who’ve made genuine changes in their lives and managed to attain difficult goals are not necessarily stronger, more intelligent or less afraid than you. The only difference is that they decided to ‘do’ something and not just thinking about doing that something. And here’s the thing. Create a vivid mental image of your purpose once achieved – whatever that means to you, no matter how modest. This image should be as vivid and sharp as you can make it. Keep seeing that ‘picture’. That’s your ‘why’.
If you're looking to find your professional purpose, enroll on our new course, Level 4 Certificate in Business Communication Skills. This new course aims to provide young people with the necessary skills to excel in the workplace, yielding benefits for both the employer and employee. Book a place on this 2-day course for just £637 + VAT!<:>purpose<:>0<:>An article on finding your 'why'. <:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1552645800<:>1<:>The Art of Active Listening<:><:>
Listening is the most fundamental component of interpersonal communication skills. It isn’t something that just happens (that’s hearing). Listening is an active process in which a conscious decision is made to listen – and, most importantly, to fully understand the messages of the speaker.
Active listening means, as its name suggests, actively listening, that is fully concentrating on what’s being said rather than just passively ‘hearing’ the message of whoever’s talking. Most of us tend to listen for a while to someone on a one-to-one or small group basis and then, while hearing but not listening, spend a lot of time thinking about what to say in return. Or, if it’s a speech, lecture, presentation or a pitch to which we’re listening is less than riveting, poorly delivered or too long, then any listener will zone out and recall little.
Active listening involves listening with all the senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it’s necessary that the active listener is also ‘seen’ to be listening. Otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they’re talking about is uninteresting. Interest is conveyed to the speaker by using both verbal and non-verbal messages, such as maintaining eye contact, nodding your head and smiling, agreeing by saying ‘yes’ or simply ‘OK’ to encourage him/her to continue. By providing this immensely powerful and necessary feedback (which by the way we all need), the person speaking will usually feel more at ease and therefore communicate more comfortably, openly and honestly.
Listeners should remain neutral and non-judgmental; this means trying hard not to take sides or form fixed opinions, especially early in conversation or speech (unless of course either are abhorrent or are so against everything in which you believe). Active listening is about patience and therefore pauses and short periods of silence should be accepted. That’s hard of course because in most conversations most of us think that any silence or pause needs filling. Listeners should not be tempted to jump in with questions or comments every time there is a few seconds of silence. Active listening involves giving the other person time to explore thoughts and feelings.
Small smiles can be used to show that the listener is paying attention to the conversation or as a way of agreeing or being happy about the message received. Combined with nods of the head, smiles can be powerful in affirming that messages are being listened to and understood. It’s normal and usually encouraging for the listener to look at the speaker. Eye contact can, however, be intimidating for many people, especially for shyer speakers or where the subject matter is complex to explain, so the amount of eye contact needs to be measured to suit the situation. Which is why going for a walk while talking is a good idea in many circumstances.
Posture too can say much about the speaker and listener. The attentive listener tends to lean forward slightly or sideways while sitting. Other signs of active listening may include a slight slant of the head or resting the head on one hand. Automatic reflection or mirroring of any facial expressions used by the speaker can be a sign of attentive listening, but be careful not to end up imitating the speaker which may cause issues. S/he might wonder if you’re being rude or having a joke at his/her expense.
The active listener won’t be distracted and therefore will refrain from looking at a phone, taking a call, fidgeting, looking at a clock or watch, doodling, playing with hair or picking fingernails. Anything that distracts or shows that the listener isn’t concentrating but is just hearing and going through the motions will do absolutely nothing for the speaker and the opportunity. The speaker will become disheartened and, in all likelihood, will cut short the conversation. It may cause distress – after all, you both agreed to talk, and you shouldn’t abuse that trust. It’s more than possible that s/he won’t seek a similar opportunity with you again.
Whether in social or work environments, we don’t just want to speak – we want to be truly understood. Active listening is a way of paying attention. It’s fully concentrating on, engaging in, and absorbing what someone else is saying to you. We see people on TV regularly practice the art of not listening because they are thinking about what to say next or have rehearsed soundbites to spout. These scenarios are not models from which we should copy.
The workplace is often fuelled by stress and pressure, and every person deals with this in their way. Most people appreciate having supportive and understanding peers. Whether you’re a manager or colleague, others will find great value in having a person around who reaches out and shows understanding. For example, knowing and acknowledging some of the work-related or personal issues that face your team, will make them feel valued and likely inspire confidence. And it’s respected, self-assured teams which accomplish great results. When you’re actively engaged and listening to your peers’ concerns or wider business issues, you can always gain a better understanding of the problem and subsequently formulate the most optimal and accurate solutions. But be wary here. Sometimes the speaker will assume that what s/he is saying is tantamount to expecting you, as the listener, to do or promise something for the speaker - time off, promotion, salary increase, different ways of working, holiday entitlement, benefits, job title – whatever. You may inadvertently be agreeing to any of these by a nod or what seems to be an implicit promise, so be careful to summarise your understanding of the output either verbally at the end of the conversation or follow up, as appropriate, with a confidential email. You can, of course, ask the speaker if s/he minds if you take notes while listening, which gives you a better fix on the issues after the meeting. Of course, note-taking wouldn’t be suitable for all topics. Those of an emotional nature may need you just to listen and look. But jotting down just a few notes throughout the meeting can enable you to stay engaged and connected as key issues emerge. It also means that you’ve got a record of the meeting, and can provide valuable feedback and follow-up questions long after the encounter has concluded.
There are times in the workplace when you may have to deal with conflict. Although you may not always agree with others’ opinions, it’s important to be open to the experiences and perspectives of those around you and the best way to demonstrate this is through active listening. The conflict between two parties makes people defensive, but if a person feels that his/her concerns are being understood and taken seriously, the chances of landing a resolution are high. Or higher. And, if both parties feel that their point or stance is clearly understood, then the beneficial outcome is likely to be longer-lasting. It may also encourage other people to speak regularly and openly about other areas of conflict, resulting in a more transparent workplace generally.
Being an active listener is not easy, but it’s an essential social and managerial skill. It conveys good character, care and commitment, all of which contribute to being a better person.
If you're looking to find your professional purpose, enroll on our new course, Level 4 Certificate in Business Communication Skills. This new course aims to provide young people with the necessary skills to excel in the workplace, yielding benefits for both the employer and employee. Book a place on this 2-day course for just £637 + VAT!<:>active-listening<:>0<:>On the importance of active listening to interpersonal communication skills. <:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1553272260<:>1<:>Why effective delegation is the key to managerial success<:><:>
There are many supervisors, team leaders, managers and bosses in general who find delegation difficult and sometimes impossible. Or they delegate and then micro-manage the delegated project so that whoever tasked with the work is destined to fail.
One of the first and most important lessons that anyone with direct reports tends to learn is that effective delegation is a key to managerial success. No manager can - or should even try to - do everything on their own because a) it’s impossible and b) the manager will fail as will the work. However, delegation is about more than just giving out unwanted or unpleasant tasks. There is a great deal of thought and skill involved in delegation including understanding when it’s appropriate and to whom.
There’s no one right way (as is the case with most aspects of running a successful organisation), but there are some accepted rules of delegation. The first and most important step towards delegating any task is to ensure that there are the right people in place to whom you can delegate. If you can’t trust the people available to you to handle a task on their own, then you need different or new people. Unless the task is so unusual - and on the assumption that you’re delegating work that should fit within your (and your team’s) area of responsibility - then there shouldn’t be an issue of ability to deliver. When it comes to mastering delegation, nothing makes the process easier than knowing there are trustworthy individuals to handle the responsibility. All this is very easy to write and hard to do but, if you’re in any supervisory capacity, then you’re there to sort things like this out - and you possibly have others in the organisation who can help and advise you. Getting wrong people out and new ones in of course isn’t a five minutes job particularly with legislation and HR processes as they are So, you may need to insist that the current members of your team are retrained or trained in new skills. Again, that’s not a quick fix either. However – and this is the point – there’s no point in delegating something to someone whom you know won’t be able to deliver it. There’s also the unpleasant issue of blame; many managers don’t consider delegation an issue and will always blame the worker who is unable to deliver. Some managers put up with the status quo simply because that’s the hand of cards dealt and they will accept that they have ‘poor’ staff. These ‘poor’ staff will find themselves as the recipient of harsh words and probably more. That’s of no use to anyone least of all the organisation.
Many tasks need delegation, and some do not. Managers need to be careful about the tasks that they delegate, and they must ensure that they are focusing not just on the tasks that they want to do, but the ones that they need to do and that will use their time and their skills in the best possible way.
That leaves other projects to delegate. You have to know that the person to whom you’re delegating understands the brief (and that doesn’t happen so often) and also fully understands the checking process - and the clear objectives. Clear and concise instructions should always come with an assignment and a delegated assignment without proper instructions (and understood instructions) is doomed. Those who are not clear about managerial expectations can’t hope to get the initial and continued guidance they need. If you’re eventually frustrated and unhappy with the entire situation because the project is not going the right way, you can be reasonably sure that part of the problem was in the briefing and detail of expectation. That’s you. Blame is an easy dustbin into which to fall, and it’s essential that you don’t. If you delegate, then you still have accountability, and you’ll need to look at yourself just as much as the person to whom you’ve delegated.
It's worth reiterating an important point. When delegating any task, you must focus on what you want as an absolute outcome and less on the path that the individual takes to reach this outcome. Every person is going to approach any task in a slightly different way. A different path to the same outcome isn’t a bad thing. When it comes to effective and efficient delegation, you need to expect that your delegated member of staff is going to (and probably should) take his/her approach to complete it and you’ll need to trust that the outcome is going to be what they want – just as much as what you want. If you consider companies like Amazon, Google, Apple and many others including those in the creative sectors (but not only), they all operate this approach of allowing people to manage a delegated project in their way and the results are by and large creative and productive. Of course, this approach would not be suitable where there is a legal or expressly prescribed methodology involved such as the science, pharma and engineering sectors. Similarly, health and safety demands for a certain process must come first.
For delegation to work properly, quality communication is key. It’s often overlooked and it’s the main cause of all corporate failure. No team member wants to feel abandoned and unsupported with a task given by his/her boss. Receiving an occasional, “How’s it going?” in the lift is also unacceptable. Continual (but not overbearing or micro) support can make the entire delegation process go smoothly. Clear and concise communication (verbal as well as written) and precise answers to questions are key. Individuals should feel as though they can expect and receive, agreed and regular communication from their manager. But that’s a two-way street, and everyone involved in a delegated task must know the rules of communication. And it’s down to you as a manager to set those rules. Once set you can expect compliance. Also, it’s important that a wider group of people – may be the whole organisation (as appropriate obviously) – understands the project, what’s happening and who’s doing what, when and why.
Feedback is part of good communication too of course. Make sure to contribute both positive and (constructive) negative feedback, so the delegated person or people will understand what’s tasks well and where/how they need to improve. Do not leave this to the ‘end’. Then it’s too late. Exceptional performance is more likely to continue if it's recognised and rewarded. It’s important to follow through when someone performs particularly well and, you can be generous with whatever is appropriate within your organisation (could be a bonus or promotion). Forget this at your peril. If the work veers big time away from your communicated guidelines and, despite assistance, then take decisive corrective action. Don’t wait too long either. You're not doing anyone any favours by stepping back entirely when things are clearly going drastically wrong. End the assignment or change the team and move on. Managing that may need sensitivity, depending of course on the reason for non-delivery.
Earlier we mentioned micro-management, a common problem and extremely annoying. It’s what happens if you delegate something and then insist that the task be delivered in the way you would do it, with checking every day and sometimes more frequently. Delegating is all about helping managers like you save time by having other capable people or teams take over other responsibilities. Unfortunately, many managers struggle with the idea of letting go when delegating and spend just as much time looking over the shoulder of their team members as they would if they were doing the project themselves. That will result in disaster, a waste of everyone’s time and probably a resignation or two. Possibly project failure as well. You should always be looking for ways that can strengthen your team and make it a better and more successful unit. Not the reverse.
Fear is a driver in the world of delegated tasks. Fear can be something that sits within the person to whom you’ve delegated the task. He or she may not mention it (why would they?), but you have to know if they are afraid of failure or simply unsure whether they have the skills to deliver. You need to know. Of course, the world is the world, not all delegation tasks are going to go smoothly. Some people may rise to the occasion and exceed expectations, while others may fall short. Successful managers know that these situations aren’t a reason to take back responsibility, but an opportunity to use the failure as a learning opportunity and a way to recognise where things went wrong and how they can be remedied in the future. But many hiccoughs are due to fear of failure and you, as a manager, will need to manage that. And there’s often a reticence in all of us to go into some ‘territories’ that are new or different.
So, sometimes delegation will mean that individuals to whom a task was given must step outside their comfort zone. Everyone has a comfort zone - we all do - and a lot of people, no matter what their role, hate stepping out of it. It’s cold, it’s scary, and it can mean failure. People do not want to get even close to failing. A very few like risk, but most don’t. (Of course, it’s often the risk takers who fail and then succeed, but that’s a separate topic). When delegating tasks, you as a manager need to be willing to possibly push your team members to step outside their comfort zone and see what they can do. Fear of failure is worth discussing with them too. It’s common. We all have it, so it shouldn’t be the big off-the-table topic that it is.
Any delegated task must be accompanied by a delegation of authority – that’s the power and sufficient resources to get the job done. Too much restriction will cause the result to be less than even adequate, and blame will become a regular part of everyone’s vocabulary. But, equally, there’s no huge value in being over-generous because that can lead to sloppy and expensive cul-de-sacs. Like any project, a delegated task should be costed out properly to include every likely aspect that will aid delivery. Authority may include giving the employee power to spend money, travel, seek assistance from others internally and externally or make decisions that are within the set ‘rules’. This authority has to be crystal clear from the outset so that it’s not under-stepped or abused. There will be little point if the person charged with a project keeps having to refer back to his or her boss each time a decision is made.
Managers sometimes view planning as a hindrance to getting work done, but planning to delegate is an investment in people and the organisation's culture. It's a good thing, not a bad thing. So, when assigning a task, consider the assignee’s demonstrated skill sets, mindset, interest in the task and current workload. Know his or her record of success on similar assignments - how they work with others, when they operate best and how well they deliver under pressure. Explain both the goals of the task, the reason for it in the greater scheme of things and the standards that will be used to measure results. Make sure the goals are specific, attainable, relevant and measurable.
Delegation is of course not just about finding ways to dump your responsibilities onto others’ shoulders. That route demonstrates poor management and will probably lead to your downfall let alone your team’s. Keep considering the benefits of doing things well because the results can be terrific. One research study showed that 53% of business owners believe that they can grow their business by more than 20% if they only delegate 10% of their workload to someone else. That's terrific.
If you're looking to find your professional purpose, enroll on our new course, Level 4 Certificate in Business Communication Skills. This new course aims to provide young people with the necessary skills to excel in the workplace, yielding benefits for both the employer and employee. Book a place on this 2-day course for just £637 + VAT!<:>delegation<:>0<:>An article on the importance of effective delegation.<:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1553869740<:>1<:>How to Give Feedback<:><:>
To be an effective manager, you need to be skilled at giving out both praise and criticism. While praise is easy to give (although sometimes it’s given, but not truly meant) or (given for the wrong reasons or to the wrong people), it’s far more challenging and unpleasant to criticise your employees. Managers avoid it as nobody enjoys the thought that their work or behaviour isn’t meeting the recognised standards. The practice of management, supervision or direction requires you to occasionally show employees where they need to improve, why and how.
The first thing to realise is that people generally respond more strongly to negative events than positive ones. In other words, we’re often more upset about losing £100 than we are happy about winning £100. People don’t like failure. Fear of failure is common to people at all levels. They don’t want to be embarrassed and nor sometimes do they want to accept the truth. Negative feedback can have significant adverse effects on an employee’s well-being and, in all likelihood, their productivity. Franklin D Roosevelt, former American president, put it well in his inaugural address, albeit in a different context, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
You should avoid inadvertently criticising any of your employees just for the sake of it (easily and, alas, commonly done). Sounds weird doesn’t it but bosses shout, criticise, accuse and create mayhem for no real reason sometimes or just because they’re having a tough day themselves. That’s bullying and will never, ever lead to a successful outcome. (You might wish to read an excellent book on this subject called The Evil Executive by Simon Maier).
There’s a huge difference between flat criticism of a general nature, “This is lousy work” and a softer, “Let’s go through this and see how we make it better.” If an employee writes a report, say, some managers might want to suggest revisions even if the draft was generally good. In these situations, managers should communicate that their revisions are merely suggestions coming from an alternative perspective and that they aren’t a criticism of the employee’s performance. Of course, if the draft report is totally off beam then either the communications or instructions were fallible, or the employee isn’t up to the task for whatever reason. Or they’re just on the wrong wavelength.
Be careful. There’s a thin line to tread. If you criticise your employees, you’ll possibly provide corrective information, but you can also alienate that employee. That shouldn’t stop you doing what’s necessary, but there’s no value in being negative over something inconsequential. Choose your criticism as you would your battles. That doesn’t mean at all that anyone should be exempt from criticism if there’s a serious issue, but repeated criticism will eventually defeat someone.
It’s important not to lose sight of your purpose for offering any feedback and primarily it is to improve the employee’s performance. As much as you might want to give the employee the most serious of warnings for what you believe is a spectacularly awful performance, if nobody gains anything and if nothing changes, then there’s no value in it. Certainly not mid-project unless it’s going wrong. Not least, employees who suffer regular criticism will likely decide to decrease their productivity intentionally. So, soften the emotional blow stifles their creativity. You want your employees to focus on the result that you seek rather than any intense negative emotion.
Ensure that all of your critical conversations are private. There’s nothing more humiliating than being criticised in front of colleagues or, indeed, anyone. Would you like it? Maintain a collaborative tone. Make it plain that your employee still has your support - and your respect. Without either, failure will ensue. Also, you should focus on potential future improvements, instead of dwelling on past errors. But, on the other hand, over-praising becomes diluted with over-use and therefore achieves diminishing returns.
High performing people and organisations that appreciate them don’t happen by chance. Positivity and practical criticism play their part. There is no one right way to give feedback because the one giving feedback, you let’s say - and the one receiving it - is unique in temperament, emotional intelligence and in how you process information. But get the balance right, and the result can be huge, for everyone concerned.
If you're looking to enhance your professional skillset, or would like to help an employee on the road to success, enrol on our new course, Level 4 Certificate in Business Communication Skills. This new course aims to provide young people with the necessary skills to excel in the workplace, yielding benefits for both the employer and employee. Book a place on this 2-day course for just £637 + VAT!<:>feedback<:>0<:>An article on the art of giving feedback.<:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1554480840<:>1<:>How to Handle Conflict<:><:>
If you're looking to enhance your professional skillset, or would like to help an employee on the road to success, enrol on our new course, Level 4 Certificate in Business Communication Skills. This new course aims to provide young people with the necessary skills to excel in the workplace, yielding benefits for both the employer and employee. Book a place on this 2-day course for just £637 + VAT!<:>conflict<:>0<:>On how to handle conflict in the workplace. <:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1555085880<:>1<:>The Difference Between Leadership & Management<:><:>
Leadership and management are often confused as being the same thing - but they’re different. One general difference between the two is that leaders have people who follow them, while managers have people who work for and with them. But sometimes one person can be both the leader and the manager. For a small business owner to be successful s/he needs to be both a strong leader and manager to get their team on board with working towards a vision of success.
Leadership is about getting people to comprehend and believe in whatever vision is set for the organisation. If you’re a leader, it’s about getting people to work with you on achieving your (and the corporate) goals. Management is more about administering the work and making sure the day-to-day activities are happening as they should.
Leadership and management must go hand in hand though. They are not the same thing, but they are necessarily linked and complementary to one another. Any effort to separate the two within an organisation is likely to cause more problems than it solves. For any organisation to be successful, it needs management that can plan, organise and coordinate its staff, while also inspiring and motivating them to perform to the best of their ability. And it’s consistency that’s often hard to achieve.
Leadership is about inspiring, and management is about planning. Managers will focus on setting, measuring and achieving goals by controlling situations to reach or exceed their (or someone else’s) objectives. A leader’s job is to ensure that everyone believes in that direction – back to the vision again.
Managers give directions while leaders provide the vision. Leaders ask questions. Leaders have followers. Managers tell while leaders tend to show. Managers and leaders have good ideas – but leaders will make sure that everything is there for a good idea to work. Leaders create that all important vision, managers set goals.
Leaders paint a picture of what they see as possible after which they inspire and engage their people to turn that vision into reality. They think beyond what individuals do day to day in a place of work. They activate people to be part of something bigger. They know that high-functioning teams can accomplish a lot more working together than individuals working autonomously. Managers focus on setting, measuring and achieving goals. They control situations to reach or exceed their team’s and personal objectives.
Leaders are agents for change (a supremely tricky role), while managers maintain the day to day delivery and targets. Leaders are disrupters – they want to be innovative. They embrace most change and know that, even if things are working, there might be a better way. And they understand that change often creates difficulties. Managers stick with what works, refining systems, structures and processes to make them better.
Leaders tend not to worry what people might say about their ways of thinking, but the best leaders will be super listeners and are consultative. Once, though, they have an idea that they feel will work, they stick with it. They are confident in their tasks and the outcomes. That, of course, doesn’t mean that success happens every time – it doesn’t. But leaders are willing to try new things even if they may fail. There is a myriad of examples where a business has failed in its endeavours before success arrives. Managers copy and mirror the competencies and behaviours they learn from others, and adapt their leadership style rather than defining it.
Leaders take risks, managers control and minimise risk. Leaders are in it for the long haul; managers think short-term. Leaders remain motivated without receiving regular rewards. Managers work on shorter-term goals, seeking more regular acknowledgement and rewards. Leaders always remain curious. They seek out people who will help expand their thinking. Managers often double down on what made them successful, honing existing skills and adopting proven behaviour.
Leaders focus on people – all the stakeholders they need to influence to realise their vision. They know who their stakeholders are and spend most of their time with them (and that, of course, can and should include all staff). They build loyalty and trust by consistently delivering on the promise. Either which way, being a leader and a manager has responsibility and accountability where the rewards can be immense in every sense.
If you're looking to enhance your professional skillset, or would like to help an employee on the road to success, enrol on our new course, Level 4 Certificate in Business Communication Skills. This new course aims to provide young people with the necessary skills to excel in the workplace, yielding benefits for both the employer and employee. Book a place on this 2-day course for just £637 + VAT!
<:>leadership<:>0<:><:> 10<:>web<:>6<:>1<:>1559040840<:>1<:>Show Them They Can<:><:>
At the end of a fairly intense section of training on storytelling and presentation skills, just before we went for a break, I thought it wise to quickly ask a couple of re-cap questions.
Well – it is a good thing to do anyway, to make sure that key points are being taken on board,
but at this moment we had just had an intense session where a lot of key principles - and to some of the students, very new principles - had been demonstrated, shared and discussed.
Being aware that we had just covered a lot of information, and fearing it might all have seemed a little overwhelming, I briefly said:
‘Just before we break, let’s see if this is all making sense. A couple of quick questions on what we have done:
1. ‘If you want to make sure that your voice is staying active, varied and interesting, what connection do you need to keep, while speaking?
They answer: ‘Hands and voice working together.’
(we had spent a lot of time on this – so that was an easy answer for them to recall)
2. ‘Eye contact achieves three things:
- It keeps the connection alive;
- it makes you seem confident and
They answer: ‘It makes you seem honest.’
I then asked a third question, (which depending on the level of confidence or knowledge in the room, may be a bit more challenging, to test them a bit more).
And they went to the break happy.
In those few moments what have I done; what have I achieved?
Try it just before a break.
At least 2 of those questions must be relatively easy to answer, to give confidence.
You want the right answers, but you also want them to feel encouraged.
Therefore, don’t ask very challenging complicated questions that make them feel foolish when they don’t know the answer.
You don’t want them walking off to break thinking:
‘This is hard; we are stupid.’
Let them walk away thinking:
‘I can do this.
This training is making a difference.’
because they will then probably come back after the break eager to learn more!
In a nutshell:
A quick summary at the end of a section gives the students an easy win: it builds their confidence; it reassures them that they are learning, and convinces them that you know what you are doing.
People who think they lead or are meant to lead are plentiful. Really successful leaders are rare.
There's no right way to be a leader. Everyone who steps into a management, supervisory, directorial or executive role has a different way of making things happen, of making decisions and of motivating people. But there are some congruent ingredients.
The best leaders adapt to the ever-changing demands of direct reports, to the workforce as a whole, to markets, to stakeholders – indeed to all audiences. They are cognisant of what communication channels are used and how well – and they ensure that the right channels are used extremely well all of the time – including social media. Quality communication at all levels and in all guises is one of the most pertinent ingredients in any leadership model. It’s also extremely rare.
Communications via social media is becoming a (possibly the) most important medium. By leveraging social media, particularly outlets such as LinkedIn, employees can become ambassadors. Constructive and positive messages can be hugely amplified. It's effectively free PR, but more powerful, because it's usually authentic and believable. It’s a two-way street and nobody wants adverse publicity, but usually people say nothing on the likes of Linkedin (normally) if they have nothing positive to say.
Quality leaders and the organisations they lead also recognise the long-term benefit of focusing on human capital development. Getting the best possible team to deliver plans is time-consuming and extremely hard. Many at executive levels see this as an intrusion into their ‘day jobs’ but essentially this is one of the day jobs. It’s necessary – as is taking a vested interest in helping employees thrive in all areas of their lives (not just work). Importantly, value-driven Gen Y and Gen Z talent continues to leave command-and-control style cultures for more collaborative workplaces. And a collaborative culture is one that is led; it doesn’t just occur.
Industry-leading businesses are recognising how staff working from home or freedom of working practice both support the acquisition and retention of top talent. Good leaders recognise that work-life blend is key. Employees won't just opt for bean bags, chocolate fountains and ping pong tables anymore, but will seek employers (and schedules) that allow staff to better blend their work and lives to optimise enjoyment, to add value, to reduce burnout and to increase output.
With the rise in the #MeToo movement and similar initiatives (along with the related publicity), more employers are less tolerant of sexual harassment in the workplace and will work to deal with claims faster and more effectively. That takes strong leadership in ensuring that any initiative is properly balanced and not one-side. Balance and true fairness – hard to achieve – are core attributes of any leader. Leaders, managers, supervisors and, indeed, anyone who is responsible for any leadership, have long managed to get away with vocally supporting policies and procedures, but their actions often say otherwise. That tide is turning. With so much light being shed on unacceptable behaviour in all workplaces, good leaders understand that they need to not only hold their teams accountable for proper behaviour, but hold themselves accountable for managing proper behaviour.
Leaders are now also fully expected to articulate a point of view based not only on belief and fact, but also on practice - on socio-political issues such as diversity, inclusion, religion, racism, demography and immigration. Remaining quiet or ignoring matters is no longer an option. There is a big emphasis on C-suite leaders to develop their abilities to be ambassadors for the values of their companies. That’s what they should be doing anyway, of course.
As the business, political and other landscapes persistently grow in competitive intensity, every organisation must become smarter. Therefore, continuous learning is at the forefront of any management's agenda to gain and sustain a competitive advantage. Learning is no longer confined to formal training, but is extending to online micro-learning platforms and highly focussed in-house on-the-job training. Getting that right requires strength and focus.
Leaders of worth are selfless and unconditional in their strength and focus. They help followers to find their positive mindset. They accept that there is simply no excuse for not adapting to what customers really want.
They understand that traditional industry boundaries are becoming blurred. They believe in disruption and reinventing their organisations. They know that they must master corporate statesmanship, proactively shaping critical societal issues that increasingly affect not only their organisations, but others too. They must focus on creating social as well as economic value - strengthening the social contract between business and community.
Think leadership and what comes to mind? All too often, it’s an image of leadership as a title, reserved for those in the highest echelons of corporations and public institutions. But leadership comes in all shapes and sizes. It’s not a title; it’s a state of being. And it’s not reserved exclusively for the privileged domain of the few in large organisations. Rather, leadership is a way of stepping up, taking responsibility for something and guiding their actions through to a conclusion, one that everyone else agrees is excellent.
To hone your leadership and management skills, book a place on our 2-day Leadership and Management Course. Over two days, packed full of insight, interaction and learning, you will make significant progress towards becoming a better leader and a more effective manager of people.
Click here to book your place today!
We all know that the only true constant is change and, in today’s world, nothing is changing more, or growing faster, than information. A 2010 estimate put global Internet traffic at 21 exabytes, that’s 21 million terabytes and a terabyte, for the sake of clarity, is a unit of information equal to one million million. In 2016, global traffic reached 1.1 zettabytes. Again, for the sake of wowness, a zettabyte is 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes.
Every day in 2019, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created. Look it up. That’s huge. The ability of companies, much fewer individuals, to consume and make sense of the information that is available (and necessary) to make good decisions is becoming an almost insurmountable challenge. The problem to be solved is to how to deal with and manage this mountain of information with both technology and know-how to convert this information into actionable knowledge.
Information overload involves tweets, texts, emails, reports, articles, research material, background data, 140 characters on social media, videos, photographs, posts, source websites, channels, fake news, real news and much more. We’ve created more information in the last ten years than in all of human history before that. All of this is more information than any human or computer brain is currently configured to handle. The conscious mind can pay attention to three to five, things at once. If we get much beyond that, we begin to exercise poorer judgment, lose track of things and lose our focus. Try remembering a phone number that’s not a family member or a reference number that has more than five digits.
The problem is accelerating. We’re bombarded with more and more information, and, because it’s easy to find and send and because the senders are often careless or sloppy, much of it is irrelevant or erroneous to our needs. And what compounds this is that we have less time to process it, to sort out what’s helpful and what’s not. What’s worse, it’s affecting health and limiting people’s ability to do their jobs confidently. Research shows that 25% of office workers and 36% of managers worldwide experience significant stress and poor health due to the volume of information they’re required to process.
In other research conducted with managers from the United States, England, Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia, 73% of them felt they needed large amounts of information to do their jobs well. These same managers reported that at no time were they ever up-to-date with the information presented to them and invariably, therefore, mistakes, and time-wasting occurred. Many also reported tension with their co-workers and their senior management as well as reduced job satisfaction.
Many people in most organisations suffer in silence, believing that there’s something wrong with them. They believe that they’re less capable than their colleagues. They become anxious, irritable and unfocused. They feel that they’re not achieving and forever ‘losing’. They feel overwhelmed. However, people don’t always help themselves. We’re always looking at material on our phones – on average every fifteen seconds. People are easily side-tracked. People also tend not to read important information carefully or sufficiently well for it to be remembered. Often people don’t understand the terminology and go to little effort to become educated in terminology or the specifics of the information we receive. And so on.
The cause of information overload isn’t necessarily too much information. The problem is less about the information and more about our response to information. Expectations around information have changed. Expectations regarding response times have shifted. We used to have a reasonable time to respond to a particular piece of information or the request for information. Now we’re expected to respond almost immediately. We receive reminders about almost impossible deadlines or schedules.
Thanks to smartphones, social networks, smart TVs and other devices, we’re constantly flooded with information 24/7, particularly but not only in large, global organisations. We’re expected to work faster, harder and longer. Our performance is expected to grow exponentially. We’re expected to take in or discover more information, but we often don’t know how to do that – or we don’t have the tools. More than likely we don’t fully understand the information we receive or what we’re supposed to find. Every two days we create as much information from the dawn of civilization up until 2003. Only 0.5% of all data is ever analysed or used.
The causes of information overload come down to people. Our information-processing limitations are variable but generally low. Our attitude towards lots of information is to ignore most of it. Sometimes the information is just badly written or poorly translated and sometimes it’s irrelevant to us, but we still get it on a cc or bcc anyway. One of the most common issues is that people see information as a nuisance and not part of their job. Another is that it’s used as a power tool – ‘if you don’t understand this, then you must be stupid’.
Information is often saved regardless of its value, purpose or relevance. That’s a hindrance and is like keeping millions of steel filing cabinets with stuff that you’re never going to look at. Ever. Some people request surplus information but don’t read or do anything with it. Others read it, but don’t know what to do with it or how it can help them make a decision.
The problem of information overload is going to get worse. Fighting information overload isn’t the solution to the problem because there’s nothing we can do about that. Managing what we do about and with it is within our capability. While technology is playing and will play a crucial role in information management, the primary solution will come down to our choices, habits and responses. When offered data from multiple sources, it will become increasingly possible to use metrics and various standards to filter out the sources we don’t want. That may be frightening at first because there’s an unspoken fear lurking behind the scenes: ‘What if I miss something important?’ Implementing this approach takes a bit of faith, but if we do miss something, it’s highly unlikely to be the end of days.
Another aspect of making information overload less of a burden is to train ourselves to focus on one thing at a time. Easier said than done but try and say no to interruptions. Information isn’t created equal, so we must choose our priorities and explain to anyone who needs to know what our priorities are. At any given point we may find that one task is more important than another. Sometimes that requires dropping the current task.
It can be useful to use computing tools to save, track and annotate the web pages and content we’re working on. We can use these tools to tag content with standardised keywords we can use to find them later. And we can add notes, share information and store it in a format that works best for us.
We must work with information that’s, directly and indirectly, related to what we’re doing when we’re doing it. We must do our best to eliminate, filter out or block irrelevance. We must do what we can to ensure that the information we need is available to us when we need it. That takes access, practice, requires discipline and depends on patience. Usually yours.
Information, when it’s managed well, creates opportunity. The vast majority of people around us all are drowning in excess data so we should focus on relevance in all that we do. While most people enjoy a growing capability to extract relevant information that supports their projects, lives and careers, much of what is encountered is at best of marginal value and often gets in the way of our goals and objectives. We don't have hours on end to contend with everything that competes for our attention; most of the time it feels as if we don't have sufficient time at all.
Planning comes into its own. The more we plan, the more we can control what we need to do against a timeline. But life is real, and plans get hijacked. We can only achieve what can be achieved and, if the schedule we’ve been given is unrealistic, then it should be challenged at the outset not later on. Some requests, tasks and people should be given back if we can do that – or refused. If we can’t, then we must talk to someone about it. If we’re overloaded, we must say something. If nothing changes, we need to think about changing jobs.
To hone your leadership and management skills, book a place on our 2-day Leadership and Management Course. Over two days, packed full of insight, interaction and learning, you will make significant progress towards becoming a better leader and a more effective manager of people.
Click here to book your place today!