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Communication

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!

 

Heading for communication skills

Are You Held Back by Fear of Public Speaking ?

fearful eyes

A Fate Worse than Death?

You probably have heard Jerry Seinfeld’s oft-quoted joke:

“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 doing the eulogy.”

The accuracy of public speaking  being the number one fear nowadays could be questioned. The original study carried out by R. H. Bruskin Associates took place in 1973.

However, for many people, there is no doubt that the fear of public speaking is real and that fear can prevent them making progress in their careers .

Do you feel your career has stalled because of lack of public speaking confidence? Click To Tweet

Does any of this sound familiar?

  • You avoid speaking up at meetings
  • You decline the opportunity to give presentations
  • You feel you career has stalled because of your inability to speak in front of others

There are steps you can take to help you become more confident when delivering your presentations or speaking out at meetings. Over the next few weeks, my blog posts will share some tips and techniques to help. In this post, I will give you a brief overview of the 3 P’s of delivering a confident presentation. 

Sharpen the Axe

Abraham Lincoln said “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”

Sharpen your axe before the presentation.

Prepare carefully. What is the key message for the audience? Click To Tweet

 Prepare.

Prepare carefully. What is the key message that you want your audience to take away? When you establish that, build your presentation around it. 

Practice.

Practice the material – be familiar with it. Practice your timing. Practice using your slides. 

Post-Presentation Feedback. 

Before you congratulate yourself on delivering your presentation, think about how you can improve the next time. Maybe you can ask a colleague to give you feedback on certain aspects of the presentation. Or maybe you could video your presentation and watch it back later. Watch to see what went well, and where you can improve next time. 

Effective public speaking takes practice, so start gradually Click To Tweet

Effective public speaking takes practice, so start gradually, notice improvements and build on them. 

If you would like help developing public speaking and presentation skills for you, or your team, feel free to contact me to arrange a free 15- minute no-obligation call.

maureen@softskillsuccess.ie

Infographic 3 p's confident presentation