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!

Why doesn’t Shakespeare get tired even after 450 years?

By | April 22nd, 2014|Authenticity, Featured, Performance, Presentation skills, Public speaking, Voice|

The text remains the same, with a few spelling adjustments. People the world over have been performing and reciting Shakespeare’s words year in year out. Year upon year drama students select and perfect the famous monologues for male and female characters as set pieces for auditions.

But the words are the same, so why aren’t we bored of hearing them? The answer lies of course in the fact that it is the delivery of the words that makes them come to life. And every actor brings to the stage their own personal interpretation of the script making each performance a unique and fascinating entity.

Compare for example the St Crispin’s day speech from Henry V. The following links show Mark Rylance, Kenneth Brannagh and Richard Burton delivering this most familiar of speeches in three entirely different ways. The tonality, the rhythm and emphasis chosen by each makes the audience hear different parts of the text and consider the story in significantly different lights.

And so on Shakespeare’s birthday take a little bit of inspiration from this and remember that whatever words you are delivering  – be they a sonnet or a summary of the yearly turnover for your company you bring to it your own interpretation. There is no one “right” way to deliver any message, but you must make it your own.

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 Speakers- Frank Dick OBE

By | June 24th, 2013|Blog, Nerves, Voice|

Last Saturday I went to an open morning  hosted by my excellent career coach Simon Scantlebury. The keynote public speaker was Frank Dick OBE and as a sports fan and communications coach I was definitely interested to hear his message.

I wasn’t disappointed. Simon introduced Frank as ‘probably the greatest coach in the world’ and after he finished his talk I could also see why he is one of the UK’s most sought after public speakers. As we like to collect examples of inspirational public speakers on our blog I thought I would share my notes on his excellent technique:

Voice: Frank projected well throughout but going softer to make us lean in and even using a comic ‘role-play’ voice in one great anecdote about an aspiring young runner. The way he managed it made it easy to visualize the little girl talking to him. You could see Frank conjuring up the scene and it made it easy for us as an audience to conjure it too.

Making use of space:  At times the AV was a little shaky but it didn’t fluster Frank, he just paced to the other side of the room and posed a question to us from there. In fact if all of the video equipment had broken down it wouldn’t have mattered as the delivery more than compensated.  I could tell that Frank was passionate about his subject matter and this is what carried the talk. The videos he selected illustrated his points really well but the videos weren’t the main event.

Great facial and hand gestures: As a keen gesticulator I love to see a speaker who isn’t afraid to use the hands and face to back up their words. When describing pain or failure Frank’s face looked in agony, in total contrast to a few seconds later when he perfectly conjured up the elation of winning. As an audience it challenged us to empathise with the point he was making and feel it alongside him.

The content was excellent, and from a man who has coached the UK athletics team and super-stars like Daley Thompson, Boris Becker and Justin Rose that was almost a given. But what I loved most was his energy. He talked about ‘essential fear’ and reminded us ‘that without fear there is no such thing as courage’. He shared with the audience that despite frequently speaking to big audiences he still felt a flutter of adrenaline before speaking to us. I really admired this as a message we can all embrace – nerves are healthy and make us perform at our best.

My thanks to Simon for arranging such an inspirational event.

 

Looking after your voice this winter

By | December 22nd, 2011|Blog, Voice|

How to look after your voice this winter


It is the time of year when our voices come under a great deal of stress. Cold weather, Christmas parties and germs aplenty can leave us croaking our way up to Christmas. Here is a quick 5 tips to give you a decent chance of your voice surviving the winter.

 

1. Hydration

Liquid is to your voice as oil is to a car engine. Keep yourself hydrated with lots of soft drinks. For top marks go for drinks at room temperature without caffeine or lots of sugar (i.e. water!). For medium marks go for low caffeine or caffeine-free warm drinks. If all else fails, try to order the odd fizzy drink between the wine and beer.

 

2. Dealing with colds

Most of the drugs we take when we have a cold can have side effects for our voice. Anaesthetic lozenges can mask the damage we are doing to our voice. This is a particular issue if you take them before shouting your way through a loud Christmas Party. If you can, try to survive on honey and lemon mixed with warm water. If you can’t, then do what you need to do but just be careful not to ask too much of your voice after taking your medication.

 

3. Christmas Parties

Struggling to make yourself heard over Slade’s Christmas album? Shouting is not the answer. You need to literally talk “over” (or “under”) the music in terms of pitch. It depends on the song and your voice but experiment with deepening your pitch or lightening to make yourself heard. This will be far more effective than trying to beat the sound system.

 

4. Cover up your tubes!

Listen to what your mother told you and wrap yourself up with a nice scarf. If you see an opera singer at this time of year their décolletage will be safely hidden behind layers of warm fabric. Learn from their example!

 

5. Cut down on your vices

Smoking is not good for the voice but then you probably knew that. Drinking is bad for the voice because it dehydrates it and encourages us to shout more. So do what you can on this one but at this festive season I suppose four out of five is not too bad!

 

Best wishes for a Merry Christmas and Happy Voice in 2012.

 

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