Speaking Outside – 5 top tips for communicating in the open air

By | August 3rd, 2016|Blog, Building Confidence, Presentation skills, Public speaking, Voice|

Last week we enjoyed running a day’s team-building activity in the open air with the team at Bianca Sainty Personal Training. As well as looking at body language and posture we spent a large percentage of the programme exploring the speaking outside. In particular we worked on making yourself heard above the noises in a busy open air space.

On the day the conditions were perfectly challenging. In the park there was a tree surgeon felling branches with a chainsaw and someone mowing the football pitch. Along came a basketball game accompanied by amplified music. This is fairly typical London park noise and so most days a personal trainer will need to work hard when speaking outside.

Why is it important to be heard? First and most obviously so that the client can hear what you need them to do. Personal training can be quite intense and it would be a shame to break the momentum by stopping to ask for instructions to be repeated. Secondly it is all about trust. If you give directions in a clear, confident and audible way the client is more likely to trust that you are knowledgeable. Clients of personal trainers look for support from someone who can help them build their confidence so it is useful if the personal trainer exudes confidence.

The workshop covered many areas but here are 5 top tips for open air communication:

1. Face the clients

This may seem obvious but when explaining actions it is tempting for example to turn towards where you may want a client to run rather than stay facing them. In the workplace this often happens when a presenter turns their back on an audience to read their own powerpoint slide. First of all most people do not engage well with somebody’s back. Secondly people lip-read more than is realised and make up for gaps in what they have heard with what they can see. So always face your clients especially when speaking outside.

2. Hydration

Like the body needs to stay hydrated for muscles to perform the vocal cords are highly sensitive to dehydration. Drinking plenty of water helps keep your voice strong and authoritative.

3. Voice from stomach rather than throat

Engaging the core isn’t just useful when performing physical exercises. It can really help increase the sound your body can produce. Standing in a strong neutral position, engaging the core and sounding from the diaphragm rather than the throat is key.

4. Keep the sun in your eyes, not your clients’!

It is natural to keep the sun behind us so that we can see clearly when speaking outside. This can mean clients are looking straight into the sun. As well as being uncomfortable this interferes with the lip-reading we mentioned in point.

5. Don’t stick your chin out towards your client.

We often feel the need to move closer to our clients to make ourselves heard by sticking our chin out. This puts a lot of pressure on the vocal cords which can lead to us losing our voice. Use you voice to reach out, not your chin!

Proud sponsors of Windrush Aquathlon 2015

By | June 30th, 2015|Building Confidence, Featured|

We were delighted to be approached as sponsors of the junior prizes for the Windrush Aquathlon 2015, an event organised by our local Triathlon Club based in Brixton, South London. It was a really amazing event, excellently organised and we even made the local press. Check out this article on the Brixton Buzz here. It was great to see many novice athletes take part in their first race and build confidence in multisports. But most of all we are secretly delighted with the event t-shirt and our fabulous logo on the back!

 

Tips from an Olympian to tackle the Fight/Flight/Freeze effect

By | May 19th, 2015|Building Confidence, Difficult conversations, Interview Skills, Nerves, Perception|

We talk to every client about the effect the nervous adrenaline produced by our amygdala can have on our bodies. Our brain senses fear and our system rapidly produces a defence – flight/fight or freeze, in short a way to get ourselves out of imminent danger. This short extract from the BBC shows former Olympian Matthew Syed, author of Bounce , explain how in a difficult situation getting into a conversation can help you to work through the nerves and focus on the subject in hand. Great advice and one we are happy to share.

Inspirational Public Speaking: Caroline Taylor

By | January 29th, 2014|Authenticity, Blog, Building Confidence, Leadership, Nerves, Perception, Personal Profile, Presentation skills, Public speaking|

Caroline Taylor, VP Marketing, Communications and Citizenship, IBM Europe.

Caroline Taylor, VP Marketing, Communications and Citizenship, IBM Europe.

b>Part 2: If you enjoy Public Speaking it can provide a great boost to your profile, plus some top tips for building confidence and overcoming nerves.

Q: What do you look at when you speak?

A: I always look at the audience. In the past at a big conference the lighting often made it look as if you were talking to a vast empty dark space. Luckily these days lighting is better and it allows me to look around at different people in the crowd. As I like to use a bit of humour in my talks I look to see if it has got a response or reaction. One of the hardest gigs I have encountered is hosting our annual “Bring Your daughters to work Day” which is a scheme we introduced at IBM to show young women that technology is a career option open for them. 12-15 year old girls are quite a hard crowd, and an adult trying to make them laugh is probably the last thing they want to hear!. So I made sure I shared eye contact around to encourage them to engage with me and see that I want to communicate with them. So your audience reaction can help you to adapt your style to be as effective as you can with them.  When you are doing a talk it is a great idea to go along to the pre-event dinner, lunch or coffee and mingle with the audience. Share what your topic is and sometimes they will give you a great opinion or example that you can share during your talk. This really makes your topic come to life as you are talking about something that one of their colleagues has shared. You can look for the people you spoke to beforehand during your talk and that gives you a friendly reaction which boosts confidence levels as well.

Q: What do you hear when speaking?

A: I hear myself saying “Slow Down Caroline” ! I’ve always been a fast talker, something which people have commented on for years. In my new European based role slowing down is especially important as many of my new colleagues have English as a second language. I also try and keep an eye on the time. Although I’m therefore conscious of being slower I still speak relatively quickly because that is who I am. At IBM we talk a lot about personal eminence and about being consistently authentic in every method of communication. For example if each of your digital personalities are in conflict with each other or at odds with your public personality you will not gain the trust of your audience. So of course it is important to adapt your style of speaking so that is clear and easy to understand but no-one wants to listen to a public-speaking clone so always remember to stay true to yourself.

Q: Does public speaking help you?

A: Definitely. Thanks to my public speaking appearances I’ve been invited to do extraordinary things. One of these was being invited to be a adjunct professor at a Business school after being spotted by the Dean at a conference where I was a guest speaker. Public speaking boosts your profile and offers another angle on you, which of course must be true to who you are and what your values are. It increases your network and introduces you to others who you can learn things from. It is extremely valuable.

Q: Do you think public speaking is important for women?

A: It is just as important for women as it is for men, perhaps more important as women often struggle to build their profiles to help them achieve success in business. But don’t try and ape the guys. Trying to be something you are not will back-fire as it isn’t authentic. If you are someone who has a quiet squeaky voice then seek out some voice training but only if you really want to improve your voice. If not you can make a name for yourself in other mediums like print or on digital platforms where you can still share your knowledge and expertise. Audiences welcome someone who is knowledgeable and enjoys sharing that knowledge. Find the subject you are passionate about and public speaking can be a really enjoyable and valuable skill.

My thanks to Caroline for explaining her public speaking experiences so openly and for sharing some great tips to help people take to the stage.

About Caroline Taylor : Caroline Taylor is Vice President Marketing, Communications & Citizenship, and Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) for IBM Europe. Based in London, Caroline leads the teams responsible for all aspects of marketing, communications and citizenship for IBM throughout Europe.With 28 years of professional marketing experience, Caroline is an Adjunct Professor at Imperial College Business School in London and is also a Business to Business Ambassador for the UK’s Marketing Society, to which she was appointed Fellow in September 2012.

Caroline is a passionate advocate for equality and diversity, particularly in the workplace. She is executive sponsor for Gender Diversity for IBM in the UK. In 2012 she was shortlisted for the Opportunity Now Champion Award, recognising her contribution to advancing, promoting and embedding a diversity culture within the workplace.

 

Inspirational Public Speaking: Caroline Taylor

By | January 10th, 2014|Blog, Building Confidence, Marketing, Networking Skills, Portfolio, Presentation skills, Team Building, Voice|

Caroline Taylor, VP Marketing, Communications and Citizenship, IBM Europe.

Caroline Taylor, VP Marketing, Communications and Citizenship, IBM Europe.

Caroline was part of a very lively panel debate called “CMOs and CIOs – heading for a date or divorce” hosted by IBM in their very impressive conference centre on the South Bank. I was impressed by her engaging speaking style and her command of the debate, in which incidentally she was the only female speaker. After the debate ended I asked if I could interview her for the blog and was delighted when she agreed.

Part 1: The Importance of Emotional Engagement with your subject

Q: When do you do public speaking?

A: Most of my public speaking engagements come linked to my day job. A request will either come into IBM or to me directly after other speaking engagements. The third category would be when IBM have sponsored an event and are offered a speaker slot in return. My public speaking subjects are Marketing which is my day job, Diversity which I am very passionate about as I am the Executive sponsor for gender diversity at IBM, and Sustainability, another of my passions.

Q: How do you prepare after getting the request?

A: Firstly I work with my colleagues to assess if the speaking engagement is a good fit for IBM if the request has come from outside the business. I need to see if the time is worth prioritising.  We look to see if it speaks to our target audience or if there is a benefit to IBM by being involved. If it is an externally ran conference on Diversity or Sustainability I check to ensure the conference is open (and therefore welcoming to multiple points of view) or that the theme is in tune with my views. For example if it is a sustainability event with a solus environmental point of view I would decline. I believe sustainability is about finding a true balance between the concerns of all the parties involved.

If I am invited to be on a panel I vet the other speakers. One thing I have learned from years of public speaking is that panels work well if everyone on them is open-minded and up for a good debate. I’m not interested in being part of a slanging match and don’t think it is enjoyable for the audience either. So if I see other panel members that are more interested in generating headlines than a useful and informative talk I decline. Of course if the person asking me to speak is someone I trust then that really helps.

After the assessment stage I get stuck into preparation. For certain topics I have my point of view very well honed through previous appearances so preparation on these occasions is very much a case of reviewing what I have, bringing it up to date, and refreshing it for the audience. If I am new to a topic then I’ll normally get together with a colleague and pick their brains as I find that different experiences and examples really help. And based on the point of view I am taking I’ll look for examples to illustrate the points I am making. Stories and examples really make public speaking interesting for the audience. I’m always looking for new ones, jotting them down when I’m at a talk or event. I do try and reference the source but sometimes the person I heard it from has been borrowing as well! I do enjoy a funny or emotionally engaging anecdote so I collect these as well. This collection of quotes and stories is a really good reference bank for any speaker to compile.

Q: How do you feel just before you speak ? During and After? How does your body react?

I am nervous just before I speak which manifests itself in shaky hands which is something I’ve done since I was a child. I’m probably more nervous before a straight speech as I am prone to forget my script, I much prefer a Q&A session or panel as I’m good at thinking on my feet and confident about my subject matter. Years ago, when I was starting a new role, my predecessor and I shared a presentation to our sales colleagues.  He handed over to me half way through the talk which was in front of 4k people. Afterwards he said he could feel my anxiety as I was twitchy and pale sitting beside him before we were on stage. He then said he couldn’t believe it when I strode on stage to takeover from him that it just seemed to dissolve away. I think this is because I really enjoy public speaking. Life is too short to do things you hate so my advice would be try it a few times but if after that you still hate doing it then find other ways to communicate, write an article or go on radio.  Because the world still needs to hear your views.

I recommend drinking lots of water (with toilet visit factored in!) because it makes your voice clearer. And make sure your blood sugar levels are right, skipping breakfast or lunch is not sensible because your brain needs the fuel. Especially when you talk on a panel your brain needs to think quickly. And only agree to talk if you care about the subject. Audiences love a speaker who sounds like they care. This works even on serious topics. I am Chair of the Trustee board of Stop The Traffik and the CEO Ruth Dearnley conveys her shock and outrage about human trafficking to deliver impactful and engaging speeches. Your own emotional engagement with your subject gives you confidence and in turn inspires the audience. Find a subject (it may be outside of work) you care deeply about and wax lyrical about that. People often find this makes public speaking easier. Once you have experienced enjoying talking about your pet subject moving on to talking about your work can be less daunting.

 

Inspirational Public Speaking Part 2- Eva Eisenschimmel

By | October 24th, 2013|Building Confidence, Interview Skills, Marketing, Networking Skills, Portfolio, Public speaking|

Inspirational Public Speaker Eva Eisenschimmel of Lloyds Banking Group

Inspirational Public Speaker Eva Eisenschimmel of Lloyds Banking Group

Part 2: Good communication skills are vital for leadership

 Do you feel public speaking has helped your career, or is it part and parcel of it?

I really see it as integral to career success. I bundle it in with all communications skills as a vital along with great stakeholder engagement and of course commercial performance. These three are the most important attributes to senior progression. If you do great things and you can’t articulate what you’ve done and your stakeholders aren’t aware you’ve done you won’t get recognition and get on. Good communication skills are absolutely core attributes they are essential. And you have to face your demons. Unless you are a trained actor (which few are) then you have to teach yourself how to appear to be confident– whether that is in a 1-2-1 with your line manager or in front of 5,000 people in the NEC!

Who are your public speaking heroes?

I have many but I am on the Go On board chaired by Martha Lane Fox and she speaks both informally and passionately with a natural style and is very humble about how good she is. The next is Dido Harding – the most amazing woman with a sparkling background of achievements. She, like Martha, is very humble and natural but she speaks from the heart in a candid style which makes her also a great speaker. She talks about fear and how when harnessed how it can help you do special things. At Lloyds we have some amazing women on our board like Carolyn Fairburn, Sarah Weller and Anita Frew.

Here at Lloyds I’m the co-chair of the women’s network which is another one of my passions. It’s called Breakthrough. The team behind the group developed a regular series of talks we call “Footprints in the Snow” where we invite a woman to speak to the group about what has formed them: their successes and failures, challenges and values as well as offer her top tips and advice for women who want to further their career. All three board members spoke brilliantly and honestly and encouraged openness and questions from the audience.

So I think some of the best speakers out there at the moment are women. They are humble, they are often prepared to be candid and speak straight from the heart. Without generalizing female speakers can often be very empathetic and be very aware of what the audience needs.

 Any advice to women on public speaking?

Put yourself out there! Especially while you are young and not as confident, seize those opportunities and speak to small groups whenever you can. You never know there could be an invitation to speak to 5,000 people around the corner! It’s all about confidence.  Ask yourself ‘do you know more about this topic than everyone else in this room?’ because quite often you do and so don’t forget that you know this. Remind yourself of this, practice, and remember that the worst that can happen is that you might be asked a question. Go in quietly confident (not cocky or arrogant) and chances are you will do yourself and your subject justice. And of course the more practiced you are, the more confident you will become. I really like this story told by Gary Player, which sums it up nicely:

“I was practicing in a bunker down in Texas and this good old boy with a big hat stopped to watch. The first shot he saw me hit went in the hole. He said, “You got 50 bucks if you knock the next one in.” I holed the next one. Then he says, “You got $100 if you hole the next one.” In it went for three in a row. As he peeled off the bills he said, “Boy, I’ve never seen anyone so lucky in my life.” And I shot back, “Well, the harder I practice, the luckier I get.” (from Golf Digest)

My thanks to Eva for such an open and honest interview

Inspirational Public Speaking – Eva Eisenschimmel

By | October 2nd, 2013|Building Confidence, Nerves, Presentation skills, Public speaking|

Eva Eisenschimmel of Lloyds Banking Group

Eva Eisenschimmel, Group Culture Director of Lloyds Banking Group

Part 1: Putting the audience’s needs at the heart of public speaking.

I saw Eva Eisenschimmel, Group Culture Director of Lloyds Banking Group talk on September 3rd 2013 at Bloomberg as part of CIM’s 2013 Growth Summit. She gave a powerful keynote presentation that made the whole room sit up and listen and then went on to be one of the most memorable participants in a panel discussion. I knew I had to ask if she would interview for our blog as here was a great public speaker that would also be superb inspiration for clients, especially our female clients. I was delighted when she agreed to be interviewed, so two weeks later, I asked Eva to share her thoughts about public speaking.

When do you get asked to do public speaking – what are the circumstances?

The first and most frequent occasion is internally – Lloyd’s is a large organization, over 90,000 colleagues and is one of the largest employers in the country as we are a UK centered bank. So we do a lot of internal “public” speaking.

The second occasion is something that I am asked to do a lot, but which I do relatively little of – external public speaking at events or exhibitions.

Thirdly there are interviews with journalists, mainly one on one, which is a form of public speaking of course because it carries a lot of risk. Even the most straightforward of interviewers are looking for an angle or an edge and often I will be trying not to give too much away (such as details of a new campaign before launch).

So I would say that I do the most of the first internal type of speaking, a little of the third and least of the second. I do less of this for two reasons. One is personal and one is contextual. The personal one is that I’ve been here for three years and apart from a little early experience, I am new to the sector so I am therefore slightly careful and slightly reluctant to put myself out there as a sector expert as there are others with far more experience than me. At the same time, I’m still finding my feet and establishing my credibility and of course I’m working on delivering stuff and it feels like that is more important than just talking about what you’d like to deliver! So I’m therefore quite reticent to accept too many of those invitations.

So would you say that you prefer internal public speaking the most?

I would say I enjoy all types of public speaking, but perhaps the third type least, as in this age of social media what you say can be whizzed around the world in a split second and you can do untold damage to a company’s reputation or share price! I don’t think there is a lot of difference between the internal and external occasions.

How do you prepare?

There is always a lot of preparation required and I especially focus on my opening and my close. It’s a tried and tested tip but it is a good one – if you know how you are going to start and how you are ending you can usually get on well. Another thing to remember is are you a subject expert ? or more crudely do you know more about this topic than your audience ? You usually do and with that comes confidence. So I would say there is so much in common with both internal and external speaking and I therefore enjoy them both.

So as you mention good preparation is vital, do you ask questions of your organizer when you accept an invitation to speak?

Oh certainly yes! Experience has shown the more questions the better really. You want quite a detailed insight into the audience such as:

  • Who is going to be there?
  • What are they going to be interested in hearing?
  • What are they hearing before and after you – the context of the day
  • What is the theme of the day?

Making sure you aren’t going off on a complete tangent and seem disconnected from the rest of the day. You need to establish what the tone is of the day, which sometimes comes from the venue. A very grand, tiered seating venue with a stage and a lectern will demand a different approach to an audience sitting on the floor cross-legged (I exaggerate to make the point but you get the idea!).

All of these questions give you clues to the structure and tone needed for your approach. And don’t let’s forget the all important questions (which we’ve all come a cropper on at one point) about AV set-up:

  • Will you be mic’d up or not?
  • Who will press the button for the video that you are showing, you or someone else?

And then finally your entrance and exit – I always wear high heels so find out if will you be clambering up and looking inelegant and or will you be all on a level so the shoes and skirt will work? All these small elements contribute to being fully prepared – will there be water? The list is endless. You can’t have too much information to prepare properly.

I read on the blog another respondent talking about visualization. I’m not sure I do it consciously but I do visualize the space and the audience that you will be looking at and how it will feel. So as an illustration about a year after joining our new CEO António Horta-Osório had arrived and I was invited to speak at an event he holds annually called the One Group Convention. It’s an idea he bought from Santander and it is lovely, it wasn’t something Lloyds did before. He gathers 5,000 people in a room and I was asked to speak. I’ve never spoken in front of thousands of people so this was a new escalation in anxiety I can tell you! So to visualize that was a feat – what does 5,000 people look like? Will you even see their faces? Someone said to me ‘imagine them naked’ which wasn’t helpful at all, pretty ghastly! But the point is quite serious, will the faces be a blur or will you be able to pick them out?  I soon decided that I wasn’t leaving anything to chance, it was absolutely scripted, and I knew every word. No ad-libbing at all, not least because timing was really important.

So it was more like a TED talk?

Absolutely, but still on stage, although there was no multi-media involved, everyone was in the room with me. So that was a real milestone.

And did it go well?

Really well, and I did it again the following year, which was a lot easier because once you’ve done something new once you have done it. So the point is visualization is helpful because when you do something on a big scale like that, or something is blasted around the world in tech form you need to really prepare to a different level. Unless you are brilliantly quick witted or you have a brain the size of a planet. Which I don’t. I think you need to know your strengths and weaknesses. For example I don’t do comedy well, I admire people that do and I know it is one of the techniques for opening a presentation  – I can’t do that! I think I have an odd sense of humour so I would never dare to do that, I know that’s not my strength. Whereas speaking passionately from the heart about what I feel and what I think really matters is something I can do well. So whatever it is that you do well, know it and design to it. Certainly don’t put yourself in a new situation (whether a new audience, new venue or new size of audience) and try something new. This is certainly not the time to experiment!

This may be a question more relevant to earlier in your career. Any physical sensations (good or bad) before you start speaking?

A healthy dose of nerves, butterflies in the stomach. Adrenaline in moderation always enhances a talk. I’d like to think that I’m excited more nervous, but it is a close run thing!

I was lucky in that I was taught to speak early on at Mars Confectionery as part of my graduate training scheme. We were expected to present a lot and had to even prepare our slides handwritten on an OHP. I learned to see invitations to present as opportunities to practice. If people invite you try and take them up on it because it gives you an opportunity to get less nervous and more excited about doing it.

What do you hear when speaking?

Nothing, nor do I remember what I have said afterwards which is very curious! I go into autopilot. You’re on the stage, someone says go, and then everything else disappears very much like an out of body experience.  I am very much there in the moment.  You’re performing really, I’m not an actress but it would be helpful. The few times I have been filmed it has been very interesting to watch back and see how I did. Not for cosmetic reasons but just to increase my awareness of how I come across so I can improve. There is always something to learn and improve upon to bring to the next occasion.

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