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

Can you embrace Jantelov (Jante’s Law) and still be an effective when networking?

By | July 20th, 2012|Featured, Nerves, Networking Skills, Portfolio|

Networking and Jantelov

Du skal ikke tro, at du er noget

(Don’t think YOU are anything special)

The first of the 10 rules in Jantelov/ Jante’s Law

I was running a “Confidence in Networking” session last week. One of the delegates, who was originally from Scandinavia, explained that some of the impressions he had about networking were very much in conflict with the idea of ‘Jantelov’. He explained that this is a social law that promotes humility and frowns upon showing off.

Showing off and the social concerns about being seen to do so are worries that are often aired when we are coaching on communication skills. Although Jante’s Law is more extreme, most people with a Northern European background have had the ‘showing off’ aspect of their personalities squished from a very young age.

You can be confident and still almost obey Jantelov because confidence is not about showing off. Stating facts, such as an achievement that you have made or something that you can do to help someone you meet at a networking event is not showing off but being truthful. How you carry yourself, with a confident neutral posture, how you engage with others with good eye contact and an un-tense body all aid towards an air that you are someone comfortable in their own skin, not a rampant ego. In my desk based research for this blog (thank you Google and Wikipedia!) some examples of Jantelov in action are when people go as far as lying, deliberately underplaying their achievements to not appear to be bragging. In the UK and US falsifying either way is a strict no-no so stick to the truth at all costs.

The very best networkers are those who listen well, engage with interest in the person they are meeting and follow up the offers of help they have given. You may not even have to proffer your achievements. Those with a Scandinavian background may therefore be naturally better at networking because they will have been bought up not to be ‘me, me, me’ all the time. This would be such a refreshing change for many who often meet crashing bores at networking events. When we run these courses it can be the good listeners, quite frequently the more introverted delegates, who are the ones that feel that networking isn’t for them. But the reality is that those who listen well and understand that networking is farming not hunting are going to find it more successful for them than those who think that networking is a direct selling event.

So my advice to those who have been bought up with Jantelov is to go forth and network because you will be very adept at it. Try not to judge those who aren’t humble though. Many people are nervous on these occasions and that’s often when the showing off gets worse. You can be modest and a good networker but don’t underplay to the extent of lying about it as it could backfire.

 

p.s. Following Jante’s Law to the letter at interview however may be more problematic. I think that will make for an ideal Part II to this blog.

 

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