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How to Improve your Public Speaking- a Puppy’s View

Any of my clients will tell you that I always emphasise the importance of preparation for speeches and presentations.

I like to research and prepare well for everything. So, when we decided that it was time to get a new puppy a few weeks ago, I went into full preparation mode. We are first-time puppy-owners, so it was important to get this right.

I drew up my list of what characteristics the puppy would have. Two elements were essential.

  1. The breed needed to be quite small
  2. We didn’t want a very lively breed

But, as Robert Burns said, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”

We fell in love with Millie on sight. As a cross between a Labrador and a Cocker Spaniel, she is not small, and is definitely very lively. In this case, my preparation was in vain…..

I have noticed similarities between puppy parenthood and public speaking. Click To Tweet

However, in these past two weeks I have noticed similarities between puppy parenthood and public speaking. Let me explain.

  1. It is all about Millie

Millie has taken over our world. Everything we do is viewed through a puppy lens.

In public speaking, it is all about the audience. All of your content should be looked at through the audience lens.

All of your content should be looked at through the audience lens. Click To Tweet

We have adapted our kitchen area to make sure that it is puppy-friendly. As a speaker, you need to adapt your content to make sure that it is audience-friendly. Is your content relevant to this particular audience?

  1. Boredom is the enemy

A bored puppy is not good. When Millie gets bored, she gets into mischief and nothing is safe!

How do you keep the audience focussed when there are so many distractions in their environment? Click To Tweet

A bored audience is also not good. If you are presenting virtually, it is even more of a challenge. How do you keep the audience focussed when there are so many distractions in their environment? Creating content that is designed to be relevant and engaging is a crucial part of the planning process. Build moments of engagement into every presentation, especially if you are delivering it online. You could use humour, anecdotes and quotes in your content. If you are delivering virtually, you could use polls, breakout rooms and the chat function. Keep your audience listening, engaged and interested.

  1. Tone matters

We are training Millie to behave and we have noticed how responsive she is to our tone. When we want to encourage her, we add extra emphasis to the phrase “GOOD GIRL Millie”, and if she starts to pull on a slipper or nip at our shins, she hears a very firm “NO!” The change in tone catches her attention.

Speaking in a monotone is guaranteed to have the audience reaching for their phones and switching off from your presentation. Click To Tweet

As speakers, we need to add vocal variety to our presentation, so that we can catch the audience’s attention. Tone is one way in which we can do this, as well as pitch, pace and pause. Speaking in a monotone is guaranteed to have the audience reaching for their phones and switching off from your presentation.

When you are preparing your next presentation, think of Millie! Your audience is central to everything you do, from the planning to the delivery. Ignore them at your peril!

Contact me to find out how I could help you with your public speaking skills.

#UnlockingPublicSpeakingConfidence

Panic to Powerful Presentations- How To Use Pause for Impact

Person with finger over lips for silence

The Power of Pause

Read time 2.5 mins

“The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.” – Mark Twain

On Tuesday last, Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, was asked to comment on Donald Trump’s reaction to the unrest in the US following the death of George Floyd last week.

Trudeau’s reaction was a pause.

A very long pause.

21 seconds of silence.

Pause is a very powerful public speaking tool.

Pause is a very powerful public speaking tool Click To Tweet

In this blogpost, I will share 7 reasons why you should use pause when presenting.

7 Reasons to Use Pause when presenting

  1. It grabs people’s attention

When you are introduced as a speaker, instead of starting to speak straight away, try a pause for 3-5 seconds. The audience will be attentive, waiting to hear what you have to say.

Alternatively, try pausing during your presentation before you make an important point. The surprise silence will help the audience focus their attention on what you say.

  1. It builds anticipation

Have you ever noticed how there is a long, drawn-out pause before the winner of the Oscars, or Strictly Come Dancing, or some other show is announced?

The pause adds to the audience anticipation. Use it to your advantage in your presentation.

The pause adds to the audience anticipation Click To Tweet
  1. It adds drama

The pause contrasts with the rest of your speech or presentation.

Imagine that you have been telling a story when you use the line “We waited three long days to get the test results”

Now imagine saying the line “We waited three….. long….. days…. to get the test results.” See the difference? 

  1. It allows you time to gather your thoughts

Perhaps you momentarily lose your train of thought. Or perhaps you have been asked a complex question in the Q&A session.

Pausing allows you time to think before continuing to speak. If you watch the video of Justin Trudeau, you can see how he almost speaks, but stops himself, during the 21 seconds. He worked hard to create an answer that he believed was appropriate.

  1. It allows your audience time to absorb your message

We are sometimes so familiar with our presentation that we forget that it is new to the audience. Pausing allows them time to reflect on what you have said and absorb your message. You could even prepare them for the thinking time by saying “Think about that for a moment” – and pause.

Pausing allows your audience time to absorb your message Click To Tweet
  1. It reduces filler words

When we pause, it slows us down. When we slow down, we are less likely to use filler words like “um”, “ah” “so” and “like”.

  1. It demonstrates confidence

Have you ever noticed how some people are uncomfortable with silence? Instead, try “owning” the silence by being calm, composed and in control. A smile helps too!

It can be difficult at first to get comfortable with pause. When you are at the top of the room, or on a stage, the audience expects you to speak. But when you master the pause, you will discover that it  will be a powerful tool in your public speaking toolkit.

7 Tips for Communicating in a Crisis

Sometimes, for all of us, it is hard to find the appropriate words. When we are faced with a global crisis, that problem is even more acute. 

Yet as leaders and as business owners, it is crucial that we keep the lines of communication open. 

I have seen three different forms of communication over the past few weeks- no communication; poor communication and good communication. 

My son is a 3rd year Engineering student. When schools and colleges were closed a few weeks ago, he was anxious to find out what would happen for the rest of the coursework, the projects, the exams. There was no communication with the students for almost 2 weeks. 
I’m not suggesting that the college should have had all of the answers immediately. But an email outlining that they were putting plans in place and would be back in contact would alleviate the uncertainty. 

I have seen examples of poor communication in workplaces. Employees who could work from home being told to come in to work or face consequences. Poor communication to staff regarding social distancing and hand hygiene. Poor communication with regard to temporary layoffs. All of this adding extra stress and anxiety to an already difficult situation. 

“The art of communication is the language of leadership”

Staff look to management for leadership in times of crisis. James Humes, speech writer for 5 American presidents, said “The art of communication is the language of leadership.”

We have seen the language of leadership here in Ireland since the Covid-19 crisis has begun. 
Like most of the country, I watched Leo Varadker’s speech on St Patrick’s evening. I was very impressed with how he spoke and I found the speech quite emotional. I wasn’t alone. I went onto Twitter to gauge public reaction and it was very positive. Many tweets began along the lines of “I didn’t vote for Fine Gael but…”
Politics and personality no longer mattered. Leo spoke the language of leadership and we, as a country, needed to hear it. 
Dr. Tony Holohan has also been very impressive in his communication. 

 

7 Tips for Communicating in a Crisis

What lessons can we learn from them? 

1. Keep it simple. 
Use language that is easy for the audience to understand. 

2.Have a strong key message. 
There is a lot of uncertainty about how this virus will progress. But the key message of what we need to do to slow the spread has been clear from the start. 

3. Consider the audience. 
We were struck by the empathetic nature of Leo Varadker’s speech. We are constantly being told that the public are being asked to make huge sacrifices and are being acknowledged for their role. 

4. Minimum statistics.
We could get overwhelmed by hearing the statistics of every aspect of this crisis. When speaking, keep the statistics to a minimum of what is essential for the audience to know. 

5. Speak slowly. 
Speaking slowly has many advantages. It implies confidence. It adds gravitas to the message. It allows the audience time to absorb what is being said.

6. Don’t sugarcoat bad news. 
Leo Varadker’s speech left us in no doubt that the situation was bad and was going to get worse. “Many of you want to know when this will be over. The truth is we just don’t know yet.”
By telling us upfront what he doesn’t know, we are more likely to trust him when he says what he knows- “We know the best strategies focus on testing, contact tracing and social distancing. So, that is our strategy.”

 7. End on a note of hope. 
When possible, it is important to end on a (realistic) upbeat note. I thought that Leo Varadker’s speech achieved this well. 

“Viruses pay no attention to borders, race, nationality or gender. They are the shared enemy of all humanity. And so will be the shared enterprise of all humanity that finds a treatment and a vaccine that protects us.”

 

If you would like to find out how I can help you develop your communication and presentation skills, email maureen@softskillsuccess.ie

Online training available 

What is Public Speaking Confidence?

woman pointing a finger while smiling

Confidence is a vague concept, isn’t it? 

I was asked recently to deliver a workshop on “Communicating with Confidence”. But what does that mean? 

To one person, it could be delivering a keynote in front of a large audience. 
To someone else, it could be asking a question at an internal meeting. 

For this particular workshop, it was the latter. One participant was so anxious about speaking up at the meeting, she wrote her point on a piece of paper and handed it to a colleague to say instead. 

I was listening back to a segment of Ciara Kelly’s Lunchtime Live recently, where the topic of conversation was public speaking anxiety. There was a lot of listener engagement with the topic, with people telling how this lack of confidence was holding them back from contributing at meetings; from delivering presentations and from progressing in their career. 
Lack of confidence was holding them back from contributing at meetings; from delivering presentations and from progressing in their career. Click To Tweet
There is lots of advice for public speaking and presentation skills confidence. I share lots of articles on my social media platforms. Of course, someone can also attend a workshop run by me or by someone else. They can learn the skills and techniques to craft and deliver speeches and presentations.

But that, by itself, isn’t enough. You can’t learn confidence at a workshop. You gain confidence, by doing
You can't learn confidence at a workshop. You gain confidence, by doing. Click To Tweet
A workshop can set you on the right track, but you need to work on it, to practice and to develop the skills. 
 Speak up at the meeting.
Ask a question.
Offer to deliver a presentation.

Start small.
Build on it.
Repeat.

Congratulate yourself for what you do, rather than beating yourself up for what you didn’t do.

 

Define what public speaking confidence is for you. Aim towards that!

 

Is Training the Right Answer?

When an organisation identifies a challenge, very often training is proposed as a solution.

Sometimes it is the right solution, but not always.

Training for the sake of training is a waste of time, effort and money. For training to be effective, it needs to address an identified gap in knowledge, skills or attitude.

Training for the sake of training is a waste of time, effort and money Click To Tweet

 

Training Needs Analysis

The gap – and the correct solution to address it- is identified by performing a Training Needs Analysis (TNA). This not only identifies the gap, it also provides the foundation of a training plan, ensuring an improved Return on Investment.

The Four Step Model (Garavan et al, 2003), is best suited to prioritising interventions focussed on improving performance at an individual level. The steps involved are:

  1. Preparation of the Review
  2. Collection and Initial Interpretation of the data
  3. Analysis of data
  4. Identification of Training & Development priorities
When clients approach me about delivering in-house training, I listen carefully. Click To Tweet

When clients approach me about delivering in-house training, I listen carefully. I listen to what the issues are with regard to staff communication and presentation skills. For some, it is developing skills to participate confidently at internal meetings. For others, it is developing skills to deliver client presentations, or to share their expertise at a conference.

All of the above require good presentation skills, but the training involved is different in each scenario. Taking time to ask the right questions at this stage ensures effective training will be designed, developed and delivered.

My next step is to conduct a survey. By conducting a survey in advance with participants, I can identify what the core issues are, and address those in the training session.

After analysing the data, I work closely with the L&D function to prioritise the issues raised and create the learning objectives. This will ensure that training is relevant and meets the needs of the individual and the organisation. We work together to establish what the trainees will do differently as a result of the training.

No two training sessions are the same. Each client has a training session designed to their needs as identified by the participants in advance. That is what makes my training effective.

Contact me to see if training is the right solution for your company’s needs.

The Three Stages of Networking

two women and man talking

The Three Stages of Networking

In my recent blog post “Should we replace the word “Networking”? I spoke about the love/hate relationship that business owners have with networking.

Networking can give you the edge in business Click To Tweet

My survey results indicated that although 68% recognised the importance of networking for their business, attendance at networking events is relatively low. I attended a networking talk by Kingsley Aikins recently. He spoke about how “Life is a game of inches” and networking can help to give you the edge, push things in your direction. Yet, in my survey, 65% of respondents attend 2 networking events or fewer per month.

There are a variety of reasons for this, including fear of public speaking and the 60 second pitch. For many, the anxiety of entering a room full of strangers is enough to keep them away. At my Networking Masterclass on behalf of Kildare Local Enterprise Office for National Women’s Enterprise Day in October, I shared some tips for the Three Stages of Networking.

Before the Event

A little preparation in advance could help. If you have been invited by someone to attend, ask about the format of the meeting, who might be there etc so that you know what to expect.

If you’re going along for the first time to a regular event where you don’t know anyone, maybe contact the organiser to let them know you will be attending and ask about the format. Remember, you’re not gate-crashing a party here, new faces are very welcome at networking events.

Remember, you're not gate-crashing a party Click To Tweet

Ask if there is going to be an opportunity to deliver a 60 second pitch so that you can be prepared. If you’re not comfortable with small talk, plan some general questions you could ask and how you can keep the conversation flowing.

If it’s a larger event, follow the hashtag in advance, see who is going to be speaking. Maybe research them a little so that you have some material for conversation during breaks.

During the Event

The second stage is the event itself- that walking into the room. Be aware of your body language here. You want to appear warm, friendly and open to conversation. No one is going to try to strike up a conversation with you if are standing arms folded, unsmiling, all the vibes saying “stay away”.

To tell you the truth, I find it easier walking in to a networking event than into a party, because most people at a networking event are open to meeting new people. But joining a group can be tricky, so be aware of the body language of others.

Approach the person on their own and introduce yourself Click To Tweet

When you enter a room, and don’t know anyone, it might be easier to find the person on their own, approach them, shake hands and introduce yourself. Chances are, they will welcome the chance to talk to someone.

Next is the conversation. As I mentioned, introduce yourself and shake hands. Repeat the other person’s name to try to remember it. Keep conversation general- this is not the time to start handing around your business card, as one survey respondent called it, “drive-by card flinging”. Remember, networking is about building relationships. Business might come later- remember “know, like and trust”. 

So, imagine that you have successfully joined a group and engaged in conversation and you have found out about each other’s business. But you can’t spend the entire event with one person. After a few minutes it’s time to move on. How do you exit the conversation?

Keep it simple. This could be the time to exchange business cards and arrange to follow up with a 1-2-1.

Then you join a new group new and repeat the process. Have a goal in mind when you come to a networking event- how many people do you intend to meet?

After the Event

You have spent time, energy and possibly money attending the networking event. So, make it work for you! My survey results showed that 73% of people “always or “usually” follow up after a networking event, with connecting online being the most popular. I try to follow up within a day or two by sending a Linkedin connection request. I personalise it by sending a message with the request. That means that if something from that person pops up in my timeline in a few weeks or months’ time, I can easily track back how I know them. It helps keep the relationship going. You never know where it might lead.

You have invested time in networking, so follow-up after the event  Click To Tweet

The most effective way to follow up after a networking event is arranging a 1-2-1. That’s the best way to really get to know the other person’s business and talk about yours. And that’s where business owners can really help each other. Maybe it’s by making a referral, maybe it’s by passing on a piece of advice, or a suggestion. It’s all about adding value to the other person building the relationship.

 The true value of networking doesn’t come from how many people we can meet but rather how many people we can introduce to others. Simon Sinek

 

 

 

Should We Replace The Word “Networking”?

The word “networking” has a bad name! I recently delivered a Networking Masterclass on behalf of Kildare Local Enterprise Office for National Women’s Enterprise Day. I carried out a survey beforehand to get opinions about the purpose and benefits of networking.

Many have a love/hate view of networking Click To Tweet

The results were interesting and suggest many people have a type of “love/hate” relationship with this business activity.

65% attend 2 events or fewer per month

68% of respondents said that attending networking events was “Extremely important” or “Very Important” for their business. They enjoy meeting new people, building relationships and making connections. Yet the majority of respondents (65%) attend 2 or fewer networking events per month. I found this interesting. As a start-up, networking is essential for my business, to create awareness of who I am and the services I offer, and I attend 2-3 events per week. I enjoy meeting new people and learning about their businesses.

Of course, there are many reasons why business owners might not network more frequently- time, family commitments and these cold dark mornings aren’t easy for early events. For a lot of people, attending networking events makes them feel awkward and uncomfortable. There is uncertainty about how to join in a group, talking to new people, and dealing with people who only talk about themselves. For many, they dread the 60 second pitch that is a core part of many networking events. Yet, the advantages and benefits of networking are evident in their business.

Find an event that is right for you Click To Tweet
Find an event that is the right fit

There are a huge number of networking events available, and it is important to find the ones that are the right fit for you and your business. You are investing your time – and usually your money- so establish beforehand what return you would like to see. Maybe it’s new connections and business referrals, but it could be support and collaboration. Set your targets for what you want to achieve- do you want to have conversations with new people? Set up 1-2-1s for afterwards? Make introductions?  

The most successful networkers I know attend a variety of events and make meaningful connections and introductions. Networking is about building relationships, connecting with others and helping them. The benefits to your business come as a result of others getting to know, like and trust you.

Check out the softskillsuccess.ie/workshops for details of our next 60 Second Pitch workshop

3 Key Ways To Make Your Business Voice Heard

Businesses- particularly SMEs- can struggle to be heard among all the noise nowadays. Those who have a strong social media presence can carve out a spot for themselves. If the business doesn’t have the time or expertise to run their own social media campaign, they can hire someone to do it for them. But people buy from people. Therefore, face-to-face communication is crucial, and no-one else can do that for you.

Make Your Business Voice Stand Out and Be Heard

There are many ways in which you can make your business voice stand out and be heard. It could be your 60 second networking pitch, pitching to a prospective client or delivering a signature talk. Regardless of format, there are some key points that you need to consider.

Identify, Communicate and Present

Firstly, the speaker needs to identify their message clearly. They must then communicate that message in a way that is relevant, so that the audience understands and remembers it. Finally, they need to present that message competently and confidently.

stopwatch, clock, 60 second pitch
You are informing the listeners about what you do in a general way, rather than pitching for business. Click To Tweet

3 Ways to get Heard:

  1. 60 Second Networking Pitch

In most cases, you are informing the listeners about what you do in a general way, rather than pitching for business.

  • 60 seconds is a short period of time- definitely not enough to explain all that your business entails- so don’t include too much information.
  • Begin with an attention-grabbing opening. It could be a question, or a relevant statistic- something that makes the listener sit up and take notice, and listen out for who you are.
  • State your name and business name clearly.
  • Outline one aspect of your business, linking it back to your opening. It could be an explanation of what you do, or a short client story.
  • Show how your business solves the client’s problem.
  • Repeat your name and business name clearly
  • Don’t try to pack too much in- 150/180 words is plenty.
  • Check my website for details of upcoming workshops
  1. Creating a Signature Talk
Identify the audience, their level of knowledge and interest in your topic Click To Tweet

Preparation is key to an effective signature talk. This is where you can expand on your business story and go into more detail about the products or services you offer

Your first task is to identify the audience, their level of knowledge and interest in your topic

  • Identify the purpose of your talk: are you going to inform the audience? Persuade them? Is there a call to action?
  • Brainstorm all of the information on the topic, and then remove anything that isn’t appropriate for this particular audience or purpose.
  • Decide on your structure. Is it chronological? Cause and effect? Topical?
  • Try to group the body of the speech using the rule of three, as it’s easier for the audience to remember. If there’s one main point, have three subpoints. If there’s more than one point- have three. They can also be sub-divided if needed.
  • Decide on your opening. Plan this carefully, as you only have 30 seconds to get the audience’s attention. You could use a story, a question, a quote, a statistic, an image.
  • Have a memorable ending. You could summarise key points and have a strong call to action. There might be an opportunity to refer back to your opening statement, which creates a memorable conclusion.
  • If slides are relevant to your presentation, prepare those after you have prepared your speech.
  • Slides are useful if they help the audience understand your message, or if it makes it more memorable for them. Slides are not a crutch for the speaker to remember what they want to say! Images are always more effective than text, which should be kept to a minimum.
  • When everything is prepared- practice! Practice your content and your timing. Be prepared for things going wrong on the day- distractions; your speech being cut short; technology not working.
  • Focus on the audience, rather than on any nervousness you might be feeling.
    1. Using storytelling in presentations

We love stories. They are a very effective way of communicating our message- when they are relevant and told well. They need a clear structure to make it easy for the audience to follow.

 

The story can demonstrate very clearly the value of your product or service. Click To Tweet

The story can demonstrate very clearly the value of your product or service.

  •         Begin by setting the context and introducing the character. Outline their problem. It should be something with which the audience can identify. 
  • Highlight the pain caused by the problem.
  • Explain your role and how your product or service provided a solution for the problem, and the result for the client.
  • Make sure there is a clear link between what your product or service offers and the solution to the client’s problem.
  • If you are telling your own story, keep the audience in mind. It’s your story, but they have to be able to relate to it, or they won’t care about it.
  1.  

If you would like to find out more about how I can help you develop your business voice, email maureen@softskillsuccess.ie

who will be in your audience

7 Steps to Making your Audience Central to Your Presentation

The Local Elections took place recently. We had the usual parade of candidates calling to the door, handing us their literature and asking us to give them our number one vote on polling day. It’s a tough job. I admire anyone who puts themselves forward for public office, and I don’t envy them the task of canvassing door to door for weeks on end.

But what has this to do with public speaking?

One candidate stood out for me. My husband answered the door, so I overheard the interaction. Instead of the usual asking for the vote, this candidate asked was there anything my husband wanted to know about him, or about the Council. This impressed me, and it’s a lesson we can learn when delivering a speech or presentation.

During our presentations, we need to show awareness of our audience. Click To Tweet

 

It’s about the audience. The candidate showed an awareness of the voter and was open to addressing any concerns the voter might have. During our presentations, we need to show that same awareness of our audience. What are their concerns and interests? If we are telling our story, it needs to relate to the audience. If they can’t identify with it, then they won’t listen.

7 Steps to Making the Audience Central to Your Presentation
  1. It begins with your preparation. Think about the audience- who they are, what their concerns are. What previous knowledge do they have about your topic? What questions might they have? What resistance could they have to your ideas?
  1. How can you clearly demonstrate that what you are offering will be of benefit to them? Why should they listen to you?
  1. Keep jargon to a minimum and use as little data as possible. Keep your presentation easy for them to understand. There is no benefit in bombarding the audience with lots of information. If they need more, they can ask!
  1. Involve them! Create opportunities for them to engage with your presentation. This could be done with relevant stories, questions or humour, for example.
  1. If you’re using slides, make them easy for the audience to read. That background colour you choose might look great, but if the audience can’t read the font against it, then you’re wasting your time. Make sure the text is large enough to read in the room where you will be presenting. Slides should help the audience to better understand, or remember, your presentation.
  1. Eye contact! Make sure that you connect with the audience by having eye contact throughout your presentation.
  1. You need to be heard clearly from all parts of the room. Do a soundcheck in advance so that you know the volume required, or if you need a microphone.

If you follow these steps, you are showing care for your audience, and you are setting yourself up for a better presentation.

As for the politician- even though I didn’t meet him, his approach made me more open to reading his material and considering him for a vote. Open up your audience to receiving your ideas.

If you would like to see how I could work with you or your team to help create and deliver presentations with impact, contact me for a no-obligation call.

 maureen@softskillsuccess.ie

Unlock Your Public Speaking Confidence

Padlock
Rosette prize

When we were asked to bring a prop to describe our business to last night’s Network Ireland Kildare Branch event, I didn’t have to think about it for very long!

I brought a padlock with me. Why?

So many people are trapped by their fear of public speaking.

Business owners attend networking meetings as ambassadors for their business. They need to communicate clearly in their networking pitch what they do , how they do it and for whom. Poor presentation skills can hinder that communication. 

Maybe their team members are held back by public speaking nerves from contributing at meetings or  avoid delivering work presentations, potentially stalling their career progress.

Or maybe it’s in a social setting- the father of the bride who is dreading the speech on his daughter’s big day. 

Public speaking is a skill, and skills can be learned!

We help individuals unlock 🔓 their public speaking confidence.

We provide presentation skills training that helps individuals to identify their message, create and deliver presentations that communicate their message clearly and competently. 

I was delighted to win “Best Prop” on the night. Thanks to Tara Lane from Centrepiece Rosettes for the lovely rosette prize! 

If you would like to discuss how we could help you or your team unlock your public speaking confidence, contact us for a no-obligation call

https://softskillsuccess.ie/contact/