Lessons from Hosting the Scottish EDGE Final

Mel Sherwood EDGE10 If you had an opportunity to compere the final of the UK’s largest funding competition, how would you feel? If you’re like most people, including me, you may feel a little daunted by the prospect!

The Scottish EDGE final takes place twice a year and is an eagerly anticipated event in the entrepreneurial calendar. Held at RBS Conference Centre in Gogarburn and attended by 600 people across the course of the event, audiences this round saw twenty promising entrepreneurs pitch their businesses plans to an expert panel of judges in order to win a slice of a £1.3 million prize pot.

I’ve been involved with the EDGE in some way or another since the first round 4 years ago. I’ve run pitch workshops for applicants and have personally coached more than 30 EDGE, Young EDGE and Wildcard EDGE winners who have secured more than £1.25 million between them. So I was absolutely delighted to have the opportunity to host the Round 10 final.

Having sat through most of the EDGE finals I was aware that the host has a massive duty to keep the energy and momentum up throughout the day for the benefit of the entrepreneurs who are pitching as well as for the audience.

With that kind of responsibility on my shoulders, I was keen to do a good job in the role and ensure it was engaging, informative and entertaining. I pitched some ideas to Scottish EDGE CEO, Evelyn McDonald, and COO, Steven Hamill, who embraced my suggestions to increase audience engagement and Steven incorporated it into the script he kindly drafted for me. We included activities that required audience interaction such as ‘2 Truths and a Lie’ about the EDGE team which generated some laughs as we learnt more about each of them, and we asked the audience to guess the answers to questions such as ‘What is the total number of jobs EDGE winners have created?’  We also ran a competition for audience members to come up with an alternative acronym to EDGE and they came up with some crackers. Some of my favourites included 'Everyday Delivers Grief for Entrepreneurs', 'Enjoying Da Gogarburn Experience' and 'Educating Drivers in Good Etiquette' (you had to be there!) Incidentally, EDGE actually stands for Encouraging Dynamic Growth Entrepreneurs.

At the end of the day after seeing twenty entrepreneurs get out of their comfort zone to give their #pitchtastic pitches in front of a formidable panel and a packed auditorium, I got out of my comfort zone to wrap up the event by singing a song I wrote to capture the spirit of the EDGE. This was a bit of a challenge for me because I feel the same way about singing as many people feel about public speaking – super anxious, but thankfully it seemed to go okay!

Overall, the day went really well and there has been some great feedback, but it didn’t happen without any planning or preparation - there was a whole fabulous team of people involved in bringing it together and as the host I had to make sure I did my bit to ensure the success of the event.

Congratulations to everyone involved and to the twenty businesses who delivered such a high standard of pitches – whether you won or not, you were all absolutely #pitchtastic!

If you have the opportunity to host an event, here are some of my tips to ensure you are well prepared to ensure everything runs smoothly:

Before the day

  • Research the audience and why they are in attendance
  • Understand the event and its themes so that you can align your comments and reinforce key messages
  • Find out exactly what the organisers are expecting you to do
  • Prepare a script, or at least bullet points to ensure you cover everything that needs to be mentioned
  • Prepare some relevant anecdotes and stories you can weave in throughout the day
  • Prepare introductions for all speakers; make sure they are happy with what you will say
  • If hosting a panel, research the panel and prepare introductions and questions
  • Think through possible problems and prepare some solutions should the worst occur
  • Think about ways you may be able to interact with the audience to keep them engaged
  • Ask about the pronunciation of all names or words you are unfamiliar with (I did this for the majority and was still caught out by some slightly different to ‘normal’ pronunciation so always check every detail with the actual person you are introducing)
  • Practice what you are going to say, especially any unfamiliar words or phrases
  • Visit the venue where possible; at the very least obtain pictures so you have an idea of the set up and layout of seating, etc

On the day

  • Arrive early (I arrived just before 8am for a 9.30am start)
  • Let the organisers know you have arrived and ask if there is anything additional you should know or anything they might need you to do to help prepare for the event
  • Familiarise yourself with the space, stand on the stage, walk up any steps, check where the lectern and other props/staging might be, note where you will enter and exit the stage
  • Sit in a few different seats in the auditorium so you can see what it will be like from the audience’s perspective
  • Find out about any prepared fire alarm tests, where the toilets are, etc
  • Meet sound and lighting technician/s (they will be your best friend and ensure you are seen and heard)
  • Find out where and when you will need to get your microphone and make sure you are there at that time
  • Anticipate questions the speakers may have (e.g. how to use the slide ‘clicker’)
  • Warm up your body and voice so that you aren't warming up on the audience's time
  • Take a moment to prepare yourself mentally and get into the right state before the event commences

During the event

  • Start strongly and positively; remember you are setting the scene for the event
  • Stay alert and ready to adapt as required
  • Vary your voice and use open body language to ensure your delivery is engaging
  • Listen to the speakers so that you can incorporate a comment about their talk when thanking them
  • Keep to time; you may need to fill some time between speakers but remember it’s not about you so don’t go on and on leading the event to run overtime
  • Smile, be lively and enthusiastic and keep your energy up throughout the entire event

After the event

  • Thank the organisers, the tech crew and anyone else who has supported you through the event
  • Review your performance – think about what went well and what you would do differently in the future
  • Relax and recover!

If you enjoyed this article, click here to access Mel Sherwood’s ‘Top 5 Tips for Public Speaking Success’

Mel Sherwood is a pitch and presentation specialist who prepares ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to take centre stage, embrace the spotlight and present with more confidence, credibility and conviction. To find out more about Mel’s talks and programmes go to www.grow-your-potential.com or for public speaking and pitching tips follow Mel on Twitter @MelSherwood_

7 Vocal Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Presentation

7-vocal-mistakes What does your voice say about you? Whether you like it or not, people will make judgements about you based on your voice. They’ll make assumptions about where you’re from, how well educated you are or how confident you are.

Regardless of the words you speak, your voice will impact on how engaging a speech or presentation is for your audience and how well your message is received.  Here are 7 vocal mistakes than can ruin your presentation:

Monotone

When my workshop participants discuss what makes a poor presentation, inevitably someone will mention how awful it is to listen to a presenter speaking in a monotone. It’s boring and tiring to listen to and it gives the impression that you’re not interested in what you are saying or that you don’t care about your audience.

Too Fast

When you speak too quickly it’s very difficult for your audience to keep up with what you’re saying. We often speed up our speech when we’re nervous or want to get a presentation over and done with but this doesn’t serve your audience. It will most likely be the first time they have heard your message and they need time to process the information you are providing.

Too Slow

Whilst it is important to slow down your speech when giving a presentation, speaking too slowly can be frustrating for your audience and sometimes make you sound uncertain about what you’re saying.

Too Soft

As a communicator, it is your responsibility to ensure your listeners can hear what you’re saying. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to hear someone who is not projecting their voice appropriately. It can make a presenter seem like they don’t care and also make you sound nervous and uncertain about what you’re speaking about.

Too Loud

People who speak slightly louder than normal are often perceived to be more powerful and confident; however, if you speak too loudly it can sometimes sound far too aggressive. It’s uncomfortable for people to listen to and you lose the nuances that help communicate your message.

Upward Inflection

An upward inflection at the end of a sentence will make what you’re saying sound like a question which can make you seem uncertain and undermine your credibility. Compare a downward inflection on “Hi, I’m Mel Sherwood” with an upward inflection on “Hi, I’m Mel Sherwood?” As an Australian I am very conscious of this common vocal trait!

Trailing Off

Whether it’s through nerves, habit or simply running out of air, many presenters start off a sentence with the right amount of projection and trail off as they end the sentence. Often this is repetitive which creates an undesirable rhythm and pattern that’s hard to break and difficult to listen to.

Are you making any of these mistakes? One of the best ways to find out, apart from asking someone, is to record yourself delivering your presentation and listen back to it (if you record it on video, make sure you listen back to the audio without the visual).

If you find you are making these mistakes, you’ll obviously need to add in some vocal variety to keep your audience engaged – varying the pace, the rhythm, the emphasis and the volume will help to bring your speech to life. You can do this consciously; however, the best place to start is to really connect with your material and fully express how you feel about it – keep it conversational and allow your passion and enthusiasm for sharing your message to give your voice the extra energy and variety required.

If you enjoyed this article, click here to access Mel Sherwood’s ‘Top 5 Tips for Public Speaking Success’

Mel Sherwood is a pitch and presentation specialist who prepares ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to take centre stage, embrace the spotlight and present with more confidence, credibility and conviction. To find out more about Mel’s talks and programmes go to www.grow-your-potential.com or for public speaking and pitching tips follow Mel on Twitter @MelSherwood_

How to L.O.V.E. Public Speaking

hand-heart Long ago I lost count of the number of people who have said to me “I HATE public speaking!” But what if I told you that you could learn to love public speaking?

If you fear or loath public speaking and avoid it at all costs, you may be missing out on opportunities to promote your business, progress your career or share a few words about a special person at an important occasion such as a wedding or a funeral.

Like anything, the more often you speak in public the better you get at it, and the better you get at it the more you enjoy it. You may still experience nerves and that’s okay because nerves are completely normal, they mean you care. And you can learn techniques to help manage your nerves and get those butterflies to fly in formation.

But before you do that, you need to think about why you hate public speaking in order to be able to turn that around. So here’s my 4 step process to help you to L.O.V.E. public speaking:

LISTEN

The first step is to really listen to your thoughts, your feelings and your self-talk. What do you think about when you think of public speaking? Is it triggering memories from childhood when the kids in your class laughed at your presentation about your pet cat? Or maybe your thoughts are based on someone else’s experience; you may have learned that public speaking is scary or uncomfortable because that’s how a family member felt about it. Next listen to how you feel. Deep down in your heart, what do you really feel about public speaking? Often we can get our true feelings mixed up with our thoughts and with our self-talk.

So the final step is to listen to your self-talk. What do you tell yourself about public speaking? If you tell yourself that it’s hard, that you hate being the centre of attention, that it’s embarrassing and that you're going to make a fool of yourself, etc. then that’s likely to be the case. You are reinforcing and attracting this outcome every time you say these things to yourself (or other people). So the first stage is to listen and notice your thoughts, feelings and self-talk.

OPEN YOUR MIND

All you need to start to change your mind from hating public speaking to loving public speaking is to open your mind to the possibility of it. Could you doubt your beliefs? I often do an exercise when coaching a client to help them shatter their limiting beliefs. We’ll start with their current belief which is usually something like “I don’t believe I can be a confident presenter.” And then I’ll ask them if there was any possibility of doubting that belief. All it takes is a tiny little shift to enable them to start to move away from that limiting belief and towards a more positive and helpful belief.

You choose all of your thoughts and beliefs. You also choose your attitude every minute of every day – you choose how you approach things and you choose how you react to things. So doesn’t it make sense to choose beliefs, thoughts and attitudes that help and not hinder your life? By choosing to open your mind to the possibility that you could enjoy public speaking (or least not hating it would be a start) you will have a much better chance of turning that hate to love.

VERBALISE AND VISUALISE

The next step is to share all of your thoughts and feelings either with someone else or write in a journal. Get them all out where you can start to properly address them. It’s important not to continually focus on the negative statements but instead take time to turn them into more positive statements and start to focus on helpful and encouraging affirmations. For example, change “I’m going to mess it up” to “I will prepare and practice so that I can do my best.” Or “The audience will be bored” to “I’ll make sure I understand the audience so that what I say is relevant and interesting for them.”

The second step in this stage is to use your mind to visualise yourself in your desired state, feeling poised, calm, self-assured and speaking confidently. This powerful technique is used by successful people from athletes to entrepreneurs and will have an incredible impact on the way you feel about public speaking.

EMBRACE OPPORTUNITIES

I’ve written many times about the fact that you can’t get better at public speaking without actually doing it. You need to embrace opportunities to speak in public but you don’t have to start with a 45 minute keynote in front of an audience of 3000. Perhaps start by challenging yourself to share your point of view or ask a question in a meeting. Or join a public speaking group such as Toastmasters International or my Monthly Masterclasses where you get a chance to speak in a safe and supportive environment. You could volunteer to give an update on your work at your next team meeting. Or go to a networking event where you have an opportunity to deliver your 1 minute elevator pitch.

Whatever steps you take, make sure you prepare, practice and give yourself lots of love and kindness beforehand and afterwards. Use the 4 step L.O.V.E. process and learn to love public speaking – I can (almost) guarantee it will build your confidence, open up new opportunities and bring wonderful experiences into your life!

If you enjoyed this article, click here to access Mel Sherwood’s ‘Top 5 Tips for Public Speaking Success’

Mel Sherwood is a pitch and presentation specialist who prepares ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to take centre stage, embrace the spotlight and present with more confidence, credibility and conviction. To find out more about Mel’s talks and programmes go to www.grow-your-potential.com or for public speaking and pitching tips follow Mel on Twitter @MelSherwood_

Ten (More) Parallels Between Running and Public Speaking

runner3 Back in the summer of 2016, I decided to take up running and wrote a post about how running is similar to public speaking.

Due to some changes in my personal circumstances, running became less of a priority and until recently I hadn’t run for months.

But with my alternative way of approaching goal setting (which you can read about here), I am starting to make running a part of my life. It was whilst out running recently that I came up with ten more parallels between running and public speaking:

  1. Change your mind about your ability

No doubt you have beliefs that impact on the way that you live your life. For me, one of the beliefs that has continued throughout my life is that I’m not very sporty. I never imagined I would be able to class myself as a runner. But one day I just changed my mind. I made the decision to get out and run and I just did it. And now, even though I don’t run that fast, I still run so I assume I can call myself a runner! Change can happen in a moment and it’s so simple. If you fear public speaking, the first step is to decide not to fear it any longer. If you think you’re no good a pitching and presenting, change your mind about your current ability and then take steps to improve.

  1. You are capable of more than you think you are

I have completely surprised myself over the last 2 weeks, running further and faster than I ever thought would be possible (my achievements may not be spectacular to anyone else but for me it’s amazing!) By not setting myself a specific target for each week, or even for each run, I have been able to exceed anything I would have thought I was capable of so I have decided to take this approach into my business and life in general. And you can too. If you think you can’t give a presentation or pitch your business with confidence, think again! We are all capable of so much more than we think we are so give yourself a chance to find out just how much.

  1. Familiarise yourself with the start and finish line

I’m sure you are familiar with the streets around your house, and so am I. As a result, no matter which route I’m running, if I start at my house I feel at ease because I know where I am and what it’s like to run on those streets. My run might take me into unfamiliar avenues, over unfamiliar terrain or through unfamiliar areas, but as I get closer to returning to my home, the environment becomes more familiar and I feel confident as I approach the end of my run. It’s the same with public speaking – if you familiarise yourself with the start and the end of your presentation you can begin and end with confidence.

  1. Stop and take a breath if you need to

For my last two longer runs I have allowed myself to stop at the halfway point, take stock, do some stretches and breathe deeply. This has helped to focus on the homeward journey and re-energise me so that I could run better than I would have had I not stopped. One of the biggest challenges for many people who speak in public is that when they’re nervous they talk more quickly and forget to breathe deeply. This makes them seem more nervous and makes the experience unpleasant for the presenter and the audience. Remember that it’s okay to pause for a moment to breathe deeply or take a sip of water before carrying on; both you and your audience will appreciate it.

  1. The thought of it is often worse than the reality

Sometimes I put off going for a run and tell myself I can’t be bothered or I think it will hurt or it might rain or any one of dozens of other excuses I feed myself. But once I make the commitment to go, I usually feel fine after the first few minutes after which I get into a flow and a rhythm. And most people I know find the same thing with public speaking – the thought of it is often worse than the reality. Almost everyone gets nervous before giving an important presentation but if you’ve done your preparation you’ll generally find that after the first few moments you’ll feel fine and get into the flow so it’s important to know that and trust that it will be fine once you get started.

  1. Even if it’s a bit uncomfortable, keep going

As I am new to running, I don’t find it that easy or comfortable and a few days ago I also had a stitch to contend with. But I wasn’t prepared to let myself down by stopping so I embraced the discomfort and kept going because I knew that it would be worth it in the long run. When you’re giving a presentation, you may experience some discomfort but it’s obviously important to keep going – you don’t want to let your audience down or yourself. The discomfort will be worth it in the long run when you experience the personal satisfaction of having delivered a great presentation and you receive applause for a job well done.

  1. Wear a comfortable and appropriate outfit

One of the most important pieces of running kit is appropriate shoes and I will happily spend a lot of money for a pair that are supportive and comfortable. What I haven’t yet invested in is clothing designed for running so the other day one of the tops I was wearing kept riding up my torso. It was underneath another top so my belly wasn’t completely bare but it did get quite cold! It made me think about how important your outfit is in public speaking too. I have seen people experience embarrassing wardrobe malfunctions on stage or become completely distracted from what they were saying because they were worried about their appearance. If you are giving a presentation, choose your outfit carefully - it must be flattering, comfortable and appropriate for the situation.

  1. You’ll have good days and not so good days

The first day I started running again I was really surprised at how good I felt. I seemed to have energy, my legs felt strong and I was able to run further than I thought I could. My next run felt like I was wading through treacle; I still managed to run but I didn’t seem to have the same energy and it didn’t seem to flow. This happens with public speaking too – sometimes you’ll deliver a fantastic presentation where you feel your message is flowing and the audience is engaged and appreciative; other times it might feel a bit clunky and as though you didn’t connect as well with the audience. This is normal, even for professional speakers. Don’t let it put you off and don’t worry about it; just accept that some presentations feel better than others.

  1. Watch your posture

If I’m getting tired towards the end of a run, I notice that my body tends to slump forward and I have my head down which makes it harder to run efficiently and to feel good about it and stay motivated. As soon as I adjust my posture and hold my head up, I get a burst of energy and feel confident that I can keep running for longer. When you’re presenting, make sure you stand tall, with your shoulders back and your head up. You will not only look more confident but you’ll feel it too – exactly the way you want to feel when speaking in public.

  1. Smile and enjoy it!

Whilst at the moment I enjoy the feeling I get when I actually finish running, my ultimate aim is to enjoy the entire activity of running. And the more I do it and the more I improve the more enjoyable it is becoming. To help that along, I have started consciously smiling when I run and what a difference that makes to my enjoyment levels; I almost manage to ignore the burn in my legs. It’s the same with public speaking - even if you don’t feel like smiling, when you smile and show you’re enjoying yourself, your audience will enjoy themselves and you'll feel good too.

If you enjoyed this article, click here to access Mel Sherwood’s ‘Top 5 Tips for Public Speaking Success’

Mel Sherwood is a pitch and presentation specialist who prepares ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to take centre stage, embrace the spotlight and present with more confidence, credibility and conviction. To find out more about Mel’s talks and programmes go to www.grow-your-potential.com or for public speaking and pitching tips follow Mel on Twitter @MelSherwood_

If Goal Setting Doesn’t Work, Try This

goals At this time of year there are hundreds of blog posts and articles from all sorts of people telling you how to set and achieve your goals. And hundreds of other articles outlining all sorts of reasons why you’re unlikely to achieve your new year’s resolutions.

I don't know about you, but around this time of year I really enjoy spending time reflecting on the year that has just come to a close and making plans for the coming year. I am fortunate to have a great friend and accountability partner and we have spent several hours together discussing our plans for 2017.

What is really interesting (and quite frustrating to her I’m sure) is how different we are when it comes to goal setting. She is very structured and likes to set achievable goals with achievable time frames. She is the type of person who will beat herself up if she doesn’t achieve a goal.

I, on the other hand, like to be more fluid with my goals. I’m not saying it always works but it’s a better approach for me as I’m not driven in the same way to achieve specific goals. And I also like the idea of not limiting what you think you can achieve, because in my experience you can usually achieve more than you think you can!

As an example, I have a vague goal of improving my fitness and energy levels in 2017 so on Boxing Day I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if I went for a run today?” I don’t consider myself to be a runner and haven’t actually ‘run’ for many months; however, I figured I would just get out the door and see what happened. As I was running I felt okay and started to think “Wouldn’t it be great if I could just keep running for as long as I feel okay?”

So I kept running. At around 3.5kms I noticed my legs were starting to hurt but I thought “Wouldn’t it be great if I could run 4km today without stopping?” So I kept running. Once I reached 4km I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if I could run 5km without stopping?” (5km is the furthest I have ever run without stopping and I’ve only done that twice in my life - once last July when running with someone else and once in a ‘fun’ run more than 20 years ago!)

So I kept running. Once I got it into my head that it would be a great thing to do, I actually ran past my house and did an extra lap around the block to bring the total distance up to 5km. I completely surprised myself at my ability to achieve this. And that’s what I love about this way of setting goals. If I had have set off with a goal of running 5km that day, I doubt whether I would have set off in the first place!

So this year I’ve decided to set out my plans for the year as a series of questions. For example:

  • Wouldn’t it be great if my book was published this year? Yes it would!
  • Wouldn’t it be great if I could learn to surf this year? Yes it would!
  • Wouldn’t it be great if I was booked for more international speaking gigs this year? Yes it would!

I took a similar approach when I stopped drinking alcohol for a year. I didn’t proclaim that I was going to stop drinking alcohol for a year, I simply thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if I stopped drinking alcohol for a while?” As the year progressed I changed the question several times until I was at about 11 months and I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if I could say I had stopped for a year?” And I did. I’m going to try the same approach with junk food this year!

So if SMART goal setting doesn’t work for you (Specific, Measured, Achievable, Realistic and Time Bound), why not try a different approach?  What do you want to achieve or focus on this year? If you’re experiencing any resistance to your goal setting I encourage you to consider turning it into a question. For example if you want to get over your fear of public speaking, consider starting with, “Wouldn’t it be great if could speak up at a meeting this week?” Then you can move on to, “Wouldn’t it be great if I could visit a public speaking group just to see what it’s like?” And once you’ve done that, “Wouldn’t it be great if I could try out a short speech in front of a small supportive audience?” Yes it would!

Obviously, you also have to make the decision to do it and take action, but I find it’s so much easier to just take that initial first step with a more vague question pondering the possibility rather than a hard and fast statement of the goal. For me, this way of working towards what I want to achieve is far more appealing than specific time bound goals, and the great thing is that I never beat myself up for not achieving something because I always seem to be moving forward. Of course, you might think of this as a cop out, but I find that by using this approach I often achieve more than I would have originally thought possible.

So, if you’re like my friend who prefers to set and achieve SMART goals and that works for you, go for it. But if you want to try an alternative in 2017, why not ask the question “Wouldn’t it be great if… (fill in the blank)?”

Here’s to a year of exciting possibilities!

If you enjoyed this article, click here to access Mel Sherwood’s ‘Top 5 Tips for Public Speaking Success’

Mel Sherwood is a pitch and presentation specialist who prepares ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to take centre stage, embrace the spotlight and present with more confidence, credibility and conviction. She is a multi-award winning speaker, trainer and coach and the founder of Grow Your Potential, which specialises in supporting individuals and organisations to design and deliver winning pitches and presentations.

Mel’s background includes over 20 years’ experience in public, private and not-for-profit organisations in Australia and the United Kingdom and she has also worked as an actor, presenter and singer. To find out more about Mel’s talks and programmes go to www.grow-your-potential.com or for public speaking and pitching tips follow Mel on Twitter @MelSherwood_

 

How to Engage an Audience - Lessons from Professional Speakers

psa-logo-header-4 The annual Professional Speaking Association (PSA) Mega Conference is the event of the year for professional speakers in the UK and this year it was held in Nottingham from 7-9 October. It’s where members come together for three days to listen, learn, share and network with fellow speakers and trainers.

The PSA aims to help members to ‘speak more, speak better’ so the sessions were a mixture of tips on how to grow a speaking business and how to further develop speaking skills.

Whilst I have a notepad filled with brilliant takeaway messages from all of the speakers, the purpose of this post is to highlight some of the lessons we can learn from them about engaging an audience. Some are tips directly from their mouths, some are from my observations about the way the delivered their message.

1. Dress Like the Speaker

Jennifer De St Georges was one of the judges of the prestigious Speaker Factor competition and after the semi-final she mentioned that the contestants needed to consider how they were dressed. In her opinion, if they are aiming to become professional speakers they will need to dress appropriately for their audience and in a way that everyone knows they are the speaker. The following day at the finals it was clear who was dressed to win; some speakers really stood out and made the others look under dressed. Jennifer suggested that to gain respect from your audience and be seen as the expert, you need to dress accordingly (and as she says “If you’re not the expert, why are you the speaker?”)

2. Use Props

Props can really enhance your audience’s understanding of your message and over the weekend I picked out three great examples of how to incorporate props for maximum impact.

The first one was a sight gag that appealed to my sense of humour during the Comedy Night. Jason Butler had a couple of boxes wrapped up like presents; it went with line “I was told that as a speaker I need to have stage presents!” A great gag for an audience of professional speakers for whom good stage presence is vital.

Whilst sharing a story about Celebrity Service, Geoff Ramm talked about how he handed over his money to purchase something for his daughter’s birthday. The way he reluctantly reached into his pocket and pulled out a £20 note demonstrated exactly how he was feeling about parting with his cash; this would not have been as effective without the cash in his hand and demonstrated the benefit of showing over telling.

My favourite use of a prop was in Steve Judge’s Speaker Factor competition speech. Steve talked about an accident he had been in which caused him to lose a chunk of his tibia bone. He had a replica bone which he held up and snapped in two places to demonstrate where the bone had broken and then he dropped the broken piece into a metal bin. This prop not only worked visually but the sound of the snapping bone and the clunk as it landed in the metal bin really brought home the seriousness of the situation.

3. Memorable Phrases and Tweetable quotes

Whatever your topic, it’s always a good idea to include simple messages that are easy to remember and easy to share, especially if your audience is encouraged to post on social media such as Twitter. Here is a selection of my favourites from the weekend:

- If you can’t close enough sales, you’ll have to close your speaking business – Simon Hazeldine - You are your own CEO, Chief Energy Officer – Celynn Erasmus - If you want to increase the commas in your bank account, decrease the commas in your expertise – Dawnna St Louis - You don’t own your brand, it lives in the minds of other people – David Avrin - You have to deactivate to reactivate – Celynn Erasmus - Don’t do it better, don’t do it cheaper, do it different. Stand out – Katie Bulmer-Cooke

Katie also stood out by using her own very appropriate made up word; she said she was going to share her “Kate-aways” to help make our businesses much fitter and stronger. A catchy phrase like this is a simple way to be noticed and remembered. Another person who does this very well is previous a PSA Mega Conference speaker from the USA, Patricia Fripp, who delights audiences with her “Frippisms”.

4. Storytelling

It has long been known that storytelling is one of the best ways to convey a message and ensure it sticks. Throughout the conference there were numerous examples of great storytelling including talks from Peter Roper, Alan Stevens, Tiffany Kemp, Katie Bulmer-Cooke, Andy Lopata and many more.

But my favourite example of storytelling, and in fact the highlight of the entire conference for me was in Geoff Ramm’s talk on Celebrity Service. Entertaining and engaging, his attention to detail, vocal variety and brilliant stagecraft brought his crystal clear message to life. He not only used the entire stage well to ensure he connected with everyone, but his expressive face and body language drew the audience in so we couldn’t help but be captivated. For a masterclass in storytelling, I highly recommend you spend 30 minutes watching this talk (after you’ve finished reading this post of course!)

5. Authenticity

The most appealing and engaging speakers are those that are true to themselves, who are comfortable in their skin and speak from the heart. Whilst they may learn from others, they don’t try to mimic or copy other speakers.

When looking to improve our public speaking we can often get hung up on the ‘rules’ for crafting the perfect phrases, focusing on where to stand, choreographing when to move and choosing which gesture will have maximum impact.

But more important is the ability to connect with an audience just the way you are. When on stage you need to bring an energy that is slightly bigger and better version of yourself in order to connect with your audience, but you still need to be yourself.

We were fortunate to witness a number of different speaking styles throughout the conference; the American speakers tended to have a larger and louder way of communicating their message whilst the British speakers were just as capable of engaging an audience even though their style was often very different. The importance of being true to your own style was is was highlighted by Andy Rogers, last year’s Speaker Factor winner, whose quiet demeanour and natural storytelling had us spellbound and the refreshing approach of Katie Bulmer Cooke who chatted away in her strong Northern accent just like we were having a conversation over a coffee.

Peter Brandl, a speaker from Germany challenged us in his keynote by asking “Are you willing to remove the mask on stage?” He urged us to stop trying to be the person we want to be seen as; it might protect us but it also protects our emotions from coming out and therefore stops us revealing our true self.

Authenticity is so important in speaking that Lee Jackson, the new President of The Professional Speaking Association announced that it is his theme for his PSA presidential year.

So when you are preparing for your next speech or presentation, remember to consider these 5 tips around image, props, memorable phrases, storytelling and authenticity to ensure you engage your audience like the professionals.

For more information about the Professional Speaking Association go to www.thepsa.co.uk. If you're based in Scotland, why not come along to our next event in Edinburgh on Thursday 10 November - click here for details.

If you enjoyed this article, click here to access Mel Sherwood’s ‘Top 5 Tips for Public Speaking Success’

Mel Sherwood is a pitch and presentation specialist who prepares ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to take centre stage, embrace the spotlight and present with more confidence, credibility and conviction. She is a multi-award winning speaker, trainer and coach and the founder of Grow Your Potential, which specialises in supporting individuals and organisations to design and deliver winning pitches and presentations.

Mel’s background includes over 20 years’ experience in public, private and not-for-profit organisations in Australia and the United Kingdom and she has also worked as an actor, presenter and singer. To find out more about Mel’s talks and programmes go to www.grow-your-potential.com or for public speaking and pitching tips follow Mel on Twitter @MelSherwood_

8 Reasons Why You Should Stop Presenting From Behind a Lectern

On Stage RBS lectern 1b I have been a speaker and/or an attendee at hundreds of conferences and events and it often surprises me how many presenters are happy to stand behind a lectern and deliver a speech; it really doesn’t do them any favours when it comes to communicating their message effectively.

Here are 8 problems connected with presenting from behind a lectern:

  1. It creates a physical and psychological barrier to what you’re saying
  2. It can seem like you’re hiding which can portray a lack of confidence (you may well be feeling less than confident but in most cases you don’t want your audience to know!)
  3. When your hands are not in view it can create a mistrust of you
  4. It restricts your movement and gestures, therefore limiting an essential part of your communication
  5. It can feel like you’re giving a lecture which in most people’s minds equates to boring so they switch off and don’t listen to you
  6. You will be tempted to lean on it or grip it instead of using gestures
  7. It can be more difficult to see the audience and their reactions to your presentation
  8. It can be more difficult for the audience to see you and if they can’t see you they are less inclined to listen to you

It can also look ridiculous if you're short like me as the photo above taken at Royal Bank of Scotland Conference Centre shows. Compare that with the image below which really highlights the difference stepping out from behind the lectern can make.

On Stage RBS 7c

Whilst in some circumstances the lectern can define a position of power and credibility that you may not have, in most cases the benefits of coming out from behind the lectern are far greater. For example:

  • It portrays the message that you are pleased to be there and that you want to communicate effectively with your audience
  • It shows that you know your content and that you don’t need to hide behind a lectern
  • It makes you seem more approachable
  • It helps you to build rapport and create a better connection with your audience
  • It helps you appear more natural
  • It increases trust
  • It helps you to make good eye contact with your audience
  • It adds visual interest for your audience
  • It stops you relying on your notes and helps you to speak from the heart
  • It ensures people can see you and your entire body, therefore you have more of your communication tools available to reinforce your message with your gestures and movement - behind a lectern you only have your voice and face (if you’re tall enough for people to see you!)
  • It gives you the opportunity to anchor different parts of your speech to different parts of the stage or presenting area e.g. walk to a position and stop to deliver your next point before walking to another part of the stage

I don’t know about you but as an audience member I always find that talks and presentations delivered without the lectern are far more engaging; the speakers may make themselves more vulnerable but there is power in that. As a speaker I like to move about the audience where possible and when I do so I find I get a much better connection with people. There are of course challenges with that, such as moving out of the light, away from the microphone or out of camera shot if it is being filmed. However, if the organisers know in advance that you want to step out from behind the lectern they will usually be keen to make sure you have this option; just make sure you give them plenty of notice of your requirements and always ask for a lavelier microphone where possible to give you the most flexibility.

As a presenter it can sometimes be scary stepping out from behind a lectern, but the benefits to the way your audience relate to you and receive your message are so great that I encourage you to give it a try (even if you’re usually a lectern gripper like the woman in the cartoon below!)

LecternGripper_Final_2 sm

If you enjoyed this article, click here to access Mel Sherwood’s ‘Top 5 Tips for Public Speaking Success’

Mel Sherwood is a pitch and presentation specialist who prepares ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to take centre stage, embrace the spotlight and present with more confidence, credibility and conviction. She is a multi-award winning speaker, trainer and coach and the founder of Grow Your Potential, which specialises in supporting individuals and organisations to design and deliver winning pitches and presentations.

Mel’s background includes over 20 years’ experience in public, private and not-for-profit organisations in Australia and the United Kingdom and she has also worked as an actor, presenter and singer. To find out more about Mel’s talks and programmes go to www.grow-your-potential.com or for public speaking and pitching tips follow Mel on Twitter @MelSherwood_

 

 

How to Book the Best Speaker for Your Event

Speaker in front of audience Have you attended a conference or seminar where the speakers were boring, uninspiring, unprepared or delivered completely irrelevant content? Yep, I thought so. Me too!

Having the right speakers and break out session facilitators is crucial to the success of an event. Therefore, if you’re in charge of planning, it’s important to put time, effort (and money) into finding the right speakers who will engage and inspire your audience and ensure your event is talked about for years to come. And I mean talked about for all the right reasons!

Here are my top tips to help you book the ideal speaker:

Details Details Details

Before you approach a speaker or a booking agent, ensure you have all the details to hand such as: When and where is the event? What is the theme? How many people will be in attendance? What time will the speaker be speaking? How long is the slot? What kind of equipment will be available? What is your budget for speakers? What is the outcome you require i.e. what do you want your audience to know, think, feel or do after hearing the speaker?

You’ll also need to be clear about the demographics of the audience, why they will be attending, what they are expecting to hear and how the speaker can provide the best value for the audience.

And be sure to book your speaker well in advance to get the best person for your event and ensure you have ample time to promote it.

Do Your Research

You might start with a Google search, but how do you know which speaker will be a good fit for your event and who will deliver what you require? Just because someone is well-known or an expert in their field doesn’t mean that they are a good speaker. I once attended an event with a keynote speaker who had been an extremely high achiever in the sporting arena. Whilst their sporting accomplishments were to be admired, unfortunately they not only stood and read word for word from their notes but they didn’t engage with the audience on any level and had not tailored the message to be relevant to them. At the end there was polite applause but it was pretty forgettable and finished the event on a bit of a low rather than the high that the organisers had intended.

The best way to find the right speaker is to ask people for recommendations. If you’ve run the event before, always ask your keynote speaker to give you recommendations – a good speaker will have a network of other speakers and will be best placed to identify someone else who is a good fit for the event. You can also consider using a booking agency who will provide helpful advice on who would be most suitable for your budget and the aims of the event. Most agents will also manage the entire process including booking any travel and accommodation for the speaker which gives you one less element to worry about in the lead up to your event.

Once you have your recommendations, make sure you have a look at some footage of them speaking, ideally with the same size audience as will be at your conference. And of course a conversation with them will help you get a feel for their style and approach.

You should also be looking for a speaker who:

  • will be easy to work with
  • arrives early to set up and mingle with delegates
  • helps promote your event through social media and their own direct marketing where appropriate
  • can supply you with a 30-60 second video promo that you can use in your promotional material
  • answers your call when you have questions
  • provides the information you need on time
  • and of course delivers an exceptional speech!

Consider choosing a speaker who is a member of the Professional Speaking Association or equivalent in your country; they are bound by a code of ethics which will give you further peace of mind that you can rely on their professionalism to provide the best possible service.

You Get What You Pay For (well... sometimes!*)

If you want a speaker who will engage, entertain, educate or motivate your audience as well as being deeply committed to ensuring your event is a success, you should consider paying a professional. Professional speakers have spent years developing their expertise and will spend countless hours researching your audience, tailoring their content to meet your needs and practicing their delivery to ensure it comes across smoothly, confidently and credibly on the day.

You may know of industry speakers who will speak at your event for free, but can you be sure they will deliver? They may be an expert in their field but if you’re not paying them they are more likely to be speaking for their own benefit, rather than that of the event and the audience. A paid professional speaker will not only be able to hold your audience’s attention with a well prepared speech but can offer a fresh perspective and will of course be completely focused on delivering a session that meets your expectations and the requirements of the audience.

It’s important to remember that a professional speaker speaks for a living and asking them to speak for free for the “opportunity of exposure” is not going to put food on their table! Having said that, if you don’t have the budget for a professional speaker, some speakers will consider waiving their fee if the audience is a good fit for them and if you offer something of value to them. Factors that may influence their decision to work with you may include the provision of professional recorded video of the talk, professional photographs of them in action, written and video testimonials from event organisers and delegates, contact details of attendees or promotion of their services and products. If they agree to this, please honour your end of the agreement.

*Be warned that sometimes higher fees don’t equate to a better speaker; for example some celebrity speakers will charge an enormous fee because they don’t actually enjoy speaking and they want to be compensated well for it!

Respect The Speaker!

A professional speaker will have honed their brand and refined their message over many years. Their slides will be carefully designed to ensure that their speech has maximum impact so, if you want the best from your speaker, don’t ask them to alter their slide presentation to fit with your event theme and branding.  They will also want to ensure their presentation is fresh and tailored for each audience, therefore, avoid asking for slides ahead of time and definitely don’t distribute them to delegates beforehand unless you have explicit permission from the speaker as this could ruin the impact of the session.

If you go to the trouble of selecting the perfect keynote speaker for your event, think carefully about when you schedule them into the programme; ensure there are no distractions such as eating a meal so that the audience can fully focus on their message.

A professional speaker will also provide a carefully crafted introduction to set up their talk and get the audience ready and eager to listen – ensure your compere has this in advance and communicates it word for word when doing the introduction.

If you take care of your speaker, your speaker will take care of you.

Respect Your Audience

Always remember that people’s time (and money) is precious. If you expect them to attend your event, it is up to you to ensure that you provide great value for them. Don’t scrimp on the speaker – think about what you are paying for the rest of the event and the combined value of even one hour of the audience’s time and allocate your speaker budget accordingly.

And finally, don’t be tempted to choose a speaker just because you like them; choose a speaker who is great to work with as well as being right for your audience and you will be well on the way to a successful event.

If you enjoyed this article, click here to access Mel Sherwood’s ‘Top 5 Tips for Public Speaking Success’

Mel Sherwood is a pitch and presentation specialist who prepares ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to take centre stage, embrace the spotlight and present with more confidence, credibility and conviction. She is a multi-award winning speaker, trainer and coach and the founder of Grow Your Potential, which specialises in supporting individuals and organisations to design and deliver winning pitches and presentations.

Mel’s background includes over 20 years’ experience in public, private and not-for-profit organisations in Australia and the United Kingdom and she has also worked as an actor, presenter and singer. To find out more about Mel’s talks and programmes go to www.grow-your-potential.com or for public speaking and pitching tips follow Mel on Twitter @MelSherwood_

 

10 Ways That Running is Similar to Public Speaking

Running2 Have you ever committed yourself to doing something without having any idea of how you were going to achieve it? I’m a big believer in saying ‘yes’ to things and working out the how later; it has served me well and given me many opportunities that I may not have had if I had stopped to think first!

With this in mind, and having recently come to the conclusion that I need to improve my fitness, I decided to commit to doing Julie Creffield’s Five Weeks to 5K run. I’ve never been very sporty; I also have an aversion to gyms and I certainly couldn’t call myself a runner by any stretch of the imagination - I had no idea whether it would be possible and but I was never going to find out if I didn’t try.

So over the past few weeks I have found myself out ‘running’ (if you can call my slow shuffle for a few minutes at a time ‘running’!) Of course, I rarely stop thinking about my work so during a recent ‘run’ I started thinking about the parallels between my running and public speaking.

Get your mindset right

I will never know if I am capable of running 5km unless I try it but I have to believe it’s possible. It’s the same with public speaking. You have to look at your beliefs about your ability to speak well in public and find a way to believe that you can. I often help clients to shatter their limiting beliefs and replace them with new positive beliefs that will allow them to move forward with their public speaking goals. If you are serious about wanting to improve your public speaking, you need to have the right mindset. Get help with this if you need to – work with a coach, speak with a trusted friend or mentor or look into hypnotherapy, EFT, resonance re-patterning or any of the many other options available to help you get your mindset right.

(By the way, I have a belief that everyone can learn to speak well in public so that means you too!)

Stretch beyond your comfort zone

I don‘t feel mentally or physically comfortable about running. The idea of what others might think about me huffing and puffing along the road with my wobbly bits wobbling makes me feel uncomfortable! Pushing my body beyond what it is used to challenges me physically. But unless I stretch beyond what is comfortable I know I’ll never improve. Many people feel that public speaking is way out of their comfort zone but unless you stretch yourself beyond what is comfortable you won’t be able to develop any further than your current level of ability.

Start small

5km is a good goal to have when you initially start running. I’ve still not run 5km without stopping but each day I try to run a bit longer and by next week I know I’ll be able to run the full distance. If I had set myself the goal of a running marathon it may have felt like too much and I would have stopped well before reaching my goal. When you’re starting your public speaking journey, start small. Your longer term goal might be to speak at a big event in front of 1,000 people, but give yourself a more attainable goal when you’re starting out. That might be delivering a 30 second pitch at a networking event, challenging yourself to speak up in a meeting, joining a public speaking club like Toastmasters International or getting yourself a coach.

Just do it!

I know will never get good at running by just thinking about it. And you will never get good public speaking by just thinking about it. Until you get out and speak in front of an audience you will never know what works and what doesn’t, you will never be able to build your confidence, develop your own style or to implement any learning. It is the actual doing of it that helps you grow and improve so stop thinking and start doing!

Enjoy the high of achieving your goals

Today I managed to run half a kilometre more than I did yesterday before stopping for a short rest; I felt a great sense of achievement and it gave me a bit of a high. When you have set yourself and achieved a small goal in relation to your public speaking, make sure you take a moment to congratulate yourself and enjoy the feeling. If you're someone who avoids public speaking, it might surprise you to know that just like running, many people find that once they’re over the initial resistance they experience a high after public speaking as well.

Learn from experts

In the Five Weeks to 5K programme, Julie Creffield provides helpful advice and encouragement delivered directly to my inbox each week. As I get further into running I will consider hiring a coach to review my technique and help me find ways to improve. Even as an experienced speaker, I am always looking to further develop my own expertise so I read books, watch webinars and regularly work directly with experts who help me refine my skills even further. If you want to improve your running or your public speaking, learn from the experts.

Get support

As part of the Five Weeks to 5K programme, participants can join a facebook group where they can ask questions, share their challenges and encourage each other. You should do the same for public speaking; there’s only so much you can prepare in isolation, eventually you need to speak in front of people – practice your presentation in front of a supportive audience who can give you constructive feedback, help and encouragement. Choose these people wisely – sometimes your family, though they may mean well, might not be the best for this; a public speaking group is always a good option.

Warm up

Just like an athlete warms up to ensure they are in peak condition before a race, so should we warm up before a giving a presentation. With my background as a performer I never warm up on the audience’s time. As a presenter, it is your responsibility to show your audience the best possible version of yourself and ensure your communication tools are sharp. You should ensure that your body, voice and mind are thoroughly warmed up so that you bring the best energy and delivery to your speech.

Awareness is key

When out running I become very aware of my body and how it’s performing. I notice when I’m breathless (a lot!), when my muscles are feeling tired or when I feel a twinge of pain somewhere. When presenting, you should be aware of your body as well. Are your gestures appropriate and effective or are they repetitive and distracting? Is your voice rich and expressive or are your nerves making it high pitched and squeaky? Are you speaking too quickly or too slowly? Are you sounding apologetic and unsure because your voice is too soft or you are including too many ums and errs? The more aware you are, the more effectively you can adapt your delivery during your presentation and work on improving it for the future.

Take time to reflect

At the end of each run I take a moment to reflect on how I felt and how I can improve for next time. I do the same with my talks and workshops to ensure that I am always growing and developing my ability. At the end of your presentation or speech, ask yourself what went well, what didn’t go so well and what would you do differently next time? Then incorporate your learning into your future talks to ensure continuous improvement.

If you enjoyed this article, click here to access Mel Sherwood’s ‘Top 5 Tips for Public Speaking Success’

Mel Sherwood is a pitch and presentation specialist who prepares ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to take centre stage, embrace the spotlight and present with more confidence, credibility and conviction. She is a multi-award winning speaker, trainer and coach and the founder of Grow Your Potential, which specialises in supporting individuals and organisations to design and deliver winning pitches and presentations.

Mel’s background includes over 20 years’ experience in public, private and not-for-profit organisations in Australia and the United Kingdom and she has also worked as an actor, presenter and singer. To find out more about Mel’s talks and programmes go to www.grow-your-potential.com or for public speaking and pitching tips follow Mel on Twitter @Grow_Potential

 

Why I can’t keep quiet about my latest project!

Virtual Summit Have you ever come across something that is such amazing value that you can’t wait to tell people about it?

Well, that’s the way I feel about the upcoming Boost Your Business Speaking Online Virtual Summit which I’m delighted to be part of.

The summit is mainly aimed at business owners currently using or thinking of using speaking to boost their business, such as speakers, coaches, trainers, authors and consultants. However, it is packed with value for anyone wanting to improve their public speaking generally or introduce speaking (online or in person) as part of their marketing mix.

I don’t want this post to sound salesy, but there are so many business owners and entrepreneurs I know who would find this summit beneficial, that I felt compelled to write it!

Over the three week summit, thirty expert speakers will be sharing their tips on:

  • How to give a great talk that engages your audience and increases your credibility
  • How to integrate speaking into your business model so you can increase your income potential significantly
  • How to market your speaking in new ways to reach those who matter most to your business

The topic I’ll be covering is ‘Offline Secrets for Online Speaking Success: How to Prime Your Body, Voice and Mind for Successful Presentations’ where I’ll be sharing why you should warm up before a presentation as well as loads of techniques to help you look and feel more centred, focused and confident when presenting.

Other topics covered include ‘Charisma: Discover the Secret of Audience Engagement’ with Nikki Owen, ‘How to Create a Persuasive and Inspiring Speech’ with Shola Kaye and ‘Confidence on Camera: How to Present Your Power for Video, Vlogs and Virtual Summits’ with Lottie Hearn. Plus info on creating online products, getting your contracts right, marketing using Facebook ads, Periscope and LinkedIn and much more.

If the summit sounds like something that would benefit you personally or your business, you can find out more and get access to the free digital magazine here.

I personally can’t wait to listen to the interviews over the next three weeks and to get hold of the value packed giveaways that every speaker will be sharing.

Here's that link again - see you at the summit!

 

Mel Sherwood is a pitch and presentation specialist who prepares ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to take centre stage, embrace the spotlight and present with more confidence, credibility and conviction. She is a multi-award winning speaker, trainer and coach and the founder of Grow Your Potential, which specialises in supporting individuals and organisations to design and deliver winning pitches and presentations.

Mel’s background includes over 20 years’ experience in public, private and not-for-profit organisations in Australia and the United Kingdom and she has also worked as an actor, presenter and singer. To find out more about Mel’s talks and programmes go to www.grow-your-potential.com or for public speaking and pitching tips follow Mel on Twitter @Grow_Potential

Pitching Tips from the Scottish EDGE Final

EDGE Yesterday I attended the final for Scottish EDGE round 8 which saw 22 companies pitching to a panel of expert judges for up to £100K each in grant funding and loans. Once again, I was delighted that several entrepreneurs who have attended my training or had individual coaching with me were awarded money to grow their business to the next level.

I’ve attended most of the finals and I thought the standard of pitches for this round was very high. If you’re considering entering any kind of pitching competition, read on for my tips on how you can ensure your pitch stands out for all the right reasons.

Do

  • Have a good hook to capture attention from the opening (here are some ideas)
  • Make it simple and straight to the point (the more you tell me the less I remember)
  • Be prepared to elaborate on your points during the Q&A session
  • Be confident with humility
  • Get set up quickly (ideally rehearse everything including walking on stage and setting up)
  • Familiarise yourself with the space prior to the event
  • Express your enthusiasm (if you’re not enthusiastic, why should anyone else be?)
  • Practice your timing so that you can complete it within the required time frame
  • Project your voice (it ensures people hear you and you will sound more confident)
  • Ensure you have variety in your voice; emphasise the important words and phrases
  • Show your products where possible (carefully consider what you give the panel to look during the pitch at if you want the focus on you)
  • Incorporate stories as well as some humour where appropriate
  • Know your market, your figures, your competition, your customers, etc
  • Use strong simple images on your slides with few words
  • Do something different to help you stand out from the competition
  • Make your delivery conversational and engaging
  • Put your Twitter address on all slides if there is an audience and they are encouraged to tweet
  • Know your audience (get your free Know Your Audience guide here)
  • Be your wonderful, authentic self – the best version of you

Don’t

  • Read from your notes (it looks like you’re unprepared and it is difficult to engage your audience when your eyes are on looking down)
  • Learn your script and simply recite it (think about what you’re saying and inject some energy and meaning into it)
  • Hold notes unless it is bullet points on cue cards (notes can limit your ability to gesture)
  • Rush your delivery (less is more)
  • Say you’re passionate if you’re not actually expressing that through your body and voice
  • Be arrogant
  • Say ‘um’ before answering a question (instead pause briefly to gather your thoughts before answering)
  • Use words like ‘hopefully’, ‘might’, ‘probably’ (instead use words like ‘certain’, ‘will’, ‘confident’)
  • Finish a sentence by trailing off with ‘erm’ or ‘and’…
  • Go over your allocated time
  • Look bored (especially if presenting with a partner and you are waiting for your turn to speak)
  • Fold your arms across your chest or leave hands in pockets (it can look quite casual or too defensive; keep your body open)
  • Rock from side to side as it can be distracting; stay grounded and centred (bringing your weight slightly forward onto the balls of your feet can help with this)
  • Show ‘busy’ slides with too many words (people can’t read and listen at the same time)

These are just a few tips; here is some additional advice I wrote in a previous post. Remember, you can have the best business idea in the world, but whether you’re entering a pitching competition or not, if you can’t communicate it effectively you will struggle to make it a success.

Basically a great pitch boils down to my simple formula:

PREPARATION + PRACTICE + PASSION = PITCHTASTIC!

If you enjoyed this article, click here to access Mel Sherwood’s ‘Top 5 Tips for Public Speaking Success’

Mel Sherwood is a pitch and presentation specialist who prepares ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to take centre stage, embrace the spotlight and present with more confidence, credibility and conviction. She is a multi-award winning speaker, trainer and coach and the founder of Grow Your Potential, which specialises in supporting individuals and organisations to design and deliver winning pitches and presentations.

Mel’s background includes over 20 years’ experience in public, private and not-for-profit organisations in Australia and the United Kingdom and she has also worked as an actor, presenter and singer. To find out more about Mel’s talks and programmes go to www.grow-your-potential.com or for public speaking and pitching tips follow Mel on Twitter @Grow_Potential

5 Ways to Appear More Confident When Presenting

Image - Success boy small

How confident do you feel when you stand up to speak in public?

How confident do you appear to be?

Would it surprise you to know that most people appear far more confident than they think?

Nerves before a presentation are normal and important. Feeling nervous means you care and, therefore, you will put extra effort into ensuring that your message is communicated to your audience in the best possible way. Nervous adrenaline is also useful for giving your presentation the energy it needs to keep your audience engaged, as long as you use your nervousness effectively rather than allow it to overpower you.

Almost everyone, even a professional speaker, will sometimes feel nervous giving a presentation, especially in the first few minutes until they get into their flow. But regardless of how nervous you feel, the great news is that you are unlikely to look as nervous as you feel.

In the past few weeks I have had the privilege of hearing more than a dozen speakers give talks on a variety of topics; most of them have been interesting and engaging but some could have been more effective if they portrayed a bit more confidence in themselves and their message.

So here are five easy ways to look and feel more confident when speaking in public:

  1. Dress for Success

At some stage in our life, most of us have worn an outfit that we didn’t feel good in; maybe it didn’t fit well or the colours weren’t flattering or maybe it was simply uncomfortable (unfortunately I find this with most high heel shoes!) You may have attended an event and realised that your outfit wasn’t appropriate; maybe it was too dressy, too casual, too thick or too flimsy, all of which can cause a different kind of discomfort all together.

The first step in feeling confident is to be confident in what you are wearing. Take the time to ensure your outfit is comfortable, flattering, appropriate for the event and represents you in the best possible way.

  1. Own the space

If you have been asked to give a presentation or talk it is because someone thinks you have something important or interesting to say. Even if you’re not feeling it, the audience expects you to project confidence in your message. One of the best ways to portray that confidence is through your body language as the audience will be reading this before you open your mouth to speak.

You will appear more confident if you:

  • check out and move about in the presenting space before anyone arrives so you can get comfortable in it
  • stand tall and straight with your head up
  • use the space available and don’t stand too far back from the audience (although only ever move with purpose; no aimless meandering!)
  • make eye contact with individuals in the audience rather than scanning over the tops of their heads
  • use open gestures and make them bigger if you are presenting in a larger space so that they can be seen in the back row and beyond
  • take a moment before you speak to stand and be fully comfortable before you utter your first words; this allows the audience to check you out visually and prepare themselves to listen

These suggestions will not only make you appear more confident but will help you to feel more confident too.

  1. Open strongly

You only have a few seconds for an audience to decide whether they are interested in listening to what you have to say so it’s important to engage them from the very beginning of your talk. A strong opening that connects with your audience will get you off to a great start and boost your confidence in those crucial first moments.

There are various ways to open a presentation including asking questions, telling a relevant story or incorporating the use of a prop for the element of surprise. Or you can use simple language to hook your audience in.  Here are two examples that I particularly liked from recent talks:

  • “Think back to when you were 8 years old…” – this approach allowed the audience to engage their brain and connect the topic with their own experience
  • “I wish you could have been there to see it for yourself…” – this approach was intriguing for the audience and we were immediately ready to listen to the story that followed

Decide on your opening and then practice it so that it comes across clearly and you can project confidence from the get go.

  1. Take a moment

When speaking live, all manner of things can happen to interrupt the flow of your presentation. Distractions inside or outside of the room (or inside your head!) can lead to you losing your place or having a complete brain freeze.  I saw this happen to two speakers recently and both of them handled it extremely well even though they both felt like it was a huge disaster. Whilst your first reaction may be to panic if you mess up for any reason, most times your audience won’t notice. And even if you do get complete brain freeze, your audience will not mind if you need time to find your place again. Smile and take a moment. When you have found your place, continue on from there; if you do this with confidence your audience will remember you for your message and won’t even recall you ‘taking a moment’ during your talk.

  1. Embrace The Applause

At the end of the presentation your audience will want to congratulate you on a job well done. However, I often see presenters give a great talk and then quickly scurry away the moment it is over (I have been guilty of this myself in the past). Regardless of how you feel your talk has gone, it is important to respect the audience and give them the opportunity to show their appreciation. Ensure you have a clear finish to your presentation, stand tall and look at the audience whilst they applaud you. You can also use this time as an opportunity to silently express your gratitude and thank them for taking the time to listen to you. Even though most people cringe at the thought, I strongly recommend that you film every speech or presentation you make and then review it objectively afterwards. If you follow these tips, you’ll definitely look and feel less nervous, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how confident you appear to your audience as well as how much more effective you are at delivering your message.

If you enjoyed this article, click here to access Mel Sherwood’s ‘Top 5 Tips for Public Speaking Success’

Mel Sherwood is a pitch and presentation specialist who prepares ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to take centre stage, embrace the spotlight and present with more confidence, credibility and conviction. She is a multi-award winning speaker, trainer and coach and the founder of Grow Your Potential, which specialises in supporting individuals and organisations to design and deliver winning pitches and presentations.

Mel’s background includes over 20 years’ experience in public, private and not-for-profit organisations in Australia and the United Kingdom and she has also worked as an actor, presenter and singer. To find out more about Mel’s talks and programmes go to www.grow-your-potential.com or for public speaking and pitching tips follow Mel on Twitter @Grow_Potential

 

What Dolly Parton Can Teach You About Public Speaking

Dolly Parton Quote Some time back I was watching a re-run of Glastonbury 2014 on late night TV and I was struck by Dolly Parton’s amazing ability to engage a 180,000 strong crowd. The more I watched the more I realised that her techniques could be implemented in many public speaking situations. So here’s what Dolly Parton can teach you about public speaking:

Be Authentic

Dolly’s carefully crafted personal brand and image “modelled on the town tramp” is unique to her and she lives and breathes it. She is completely comfortable with it and she owns it, regardless of what other people think.

Lesson: Be true to yourself, be aware of your personal brand, be consistent and be yourself when speaking – don’t try to copy other speakers or be someone you’re not. As Dolly says, "Find out who you are and do it on purpose."

Be Brilliant At What You Do

There is no denying that Dolly knows how to sing and entertain a crowd. She has put in thousands of hours perfecting her craft and it shows when she is on a stage. She and her band were well rehearsed ensuring her performance was top quality.

Lesson: If you are going to speak in public you owe it to your audience to prepare and rehearse thoroughly and give the best presentation you can.

Wear An Appropriate Outfit

Rhinestones, rhinestones and more rhinestones adorn Dolly in concert and not only was her sparkly white outfit appropriate for the occasion, but the colour and style ensured her petit frame stood out against the background on the huge stage. It was also flattering, highlighting her best features and in line with her personal brand and audience expectations.

Lesson: Wear an appropriate outfit that fits and flatters you and is comfortable to present in. Find out as much as you can about the event, the dress code and the room you will be presenting in and choose your outfit accordingly.

Involve Your Audience

Dolly’s relaxed and natural interactions with her audience ensured they were hanging on her every word. She shared stories and kept people engaged with fun banter in between songs, as well as audience participation throughout by encouraging them to clap and sing along (not that they need much encouragement for this!)

Lesson: Today’s audiences want to be included in your presentation; keep your style conversational and stay connected with them by asking questions, speaking to them rather than at them and finding ways to involve them.

Tailor Your Material For The Audience

With a good understanding of the event and the festival goers that would be attending, Dolly ensured that most of the songs she played were upbeat. She played lots of her well-known crowd pleasers, interspersed with some of her newer material. In addition, she even wrote a song especially for the event about the mud – “we won’t let it ruin our high” – as the crowd chanted “mud, mud, mud” right back at her. She also acknowledged the setting and connected with them through tales of her own upbringing in the country.

Lesson: Presentations are never about you; they are always about the audience and that should be the starting point for any speech or presentation. Regardless of what you want to tell them, always do your research and look for ways to tailor your content to connect with the audience.

Appreciate Your Support Team

Dolly recognises that she couldn’t do what she does without her amazingly talented band and support crew. She took the opportunity to introduce every band member expressing her admiration and respect for them whilst allowing them their own moment to shine, and she encouraged the audience to show their appreciation by clapping and cheering for each individual.

Lesson: If you are speaking at any event, it is important to remember that the event doesn’t just happen by itself. Always recognise the organisers and show appreciation for the tech crew who will be working hard to ensure you can be heard and seen by the audience.

Adapt To The Size of the Audience

At five foot tall, Dolly could have easily been swamped by the massive stage and surroundings. One of the ways she was able to own the space and be more easily seen was to incorporate large gestures and use the entire stage area by moving to different parts of it which enabled her connect with different sections of the audience.

Lesson: Adapt your presenting style to the size and type of venue; in a larger space you will need to lift your energy and use larger gestures than in a smaller more intimate setting.

Be Likeable

Dolly doesn’t take herself too seriously and this makes her incredibly likeable. Add to this humility, respect for everyone around her, a great sense of humour, fun antics and a traffic stopping smile and people are easily drawn to her.

Lesson: Even if your audience may not like the message to have to share, you will receive a better response to your presentation if you are likeable. Being friendly, humble, respectful, open and remembering to smile will definitely help with this. As Dolly says, "Smile - it increases your face value."

 

If you enjoyed this article, click here to access Mel Sherwood’s ‘Top 5 Tips for Public Speaking Success’

Mel Sherwood is a pitch and presentation specialist who prepares ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to take centre stage, embrace the spotlight and present with more confidence, credibility and conviction. She is a multi-award winning speaker, trainer and coach and the founder of Grow Your Potential, which specialises in supporting individuals and organisations to design and deliver winning pitches and presentations.

Mel’s background includes over 20 years’ experience in public, private and not-for-profit organisations in Australia and the United Kingdom and she has also worked as an actor, presenter and singer. To find out more about Mel’s talks and programmes go to www.grow-your-potential.com or for public speaking and pitching tips follow Mel on Twitter @Grow_Potential

 

Public Speaking lessons from a Drag Show (Part 2)

Drag queen 3 A while back I wrote Part 1 of a post about Public Speaking Lessons from a Drag Show. It was inspired by an experience I had on holiday when I went to see a drag show called MHT, or the Music Hall Tavern. The advertising guarantees that it will be the funniest night of your holiday and looking back it probably was; despite some drawbacks regarding the venue and the food, the cast were talented performers and each number brought something new and fun to watch.

The show inspired me to think about what lessons we could learn when it comes to public speaking. My initial post covered the first six lessons and here are five additional lessons:

  • Interact With Your Audience

Each of the three performers continually interacted with the audience; even when they weren’t speaking, they used great eye contact and facial expressions to really connect with everyone in attendance. They also asked questions, found out people’s names and any special celebrations and made people feel special in some way. There was a little bit of audience participation but by speaking with people as they arrived, they had already worked out which audience members would be comfortable with that and would play along during the show.

Lesson: Rather than being talked at, audiences like to be involved. That may be through asking rhetorical questions that get them thinking and responding in their minds, getting them to raise their hand to indicate their views on a particular point or it could be requesting individuals to join you to help with a demonstration to illustrate your point.

  • Look Your Best

The costumes for the show were well made, well fitted and had the obligatory and highly appropriate feathers and spangles. Some costumes were designed specifically for comic effect and they helped tell the story. The ‘girls’ were extremely well groomed and each exuded their own style and flair in their makeup, hairstyle and accessories.

Lesson: When you are delivering a presentation or a talk, you are the centre of attention (I know, this is the part most people hate about public speaking); therefore, you need to ensure you look the part and dress appropriately for the situation. Like it or not, people do make judgements about our appearance so make sure you look your best. Find out beforehand what the dress code is and ensure you wear clothing and accessories that are clean, comfortable, flattering and in line with the event.

  • Smile and Enjoy Yourself

It was very clear that the performers (and the supporting staff for that matter) were thoroughly enjoying themselves. The energy they exuded from the stage was fun, completely charming and a joy to be a part of which kept us smiling and entertained all evening.

Lesson: If you don’t enjoy yourself, you can’t expect your audience to! Obviously this depends on the situation and the topic of your talk, but a smile is one of the quickest ways to build rapport so share yours freely along with your passion and enthusiasm for your topic.

  • Commit To Being the Best You Can Be

What I particularly loved about the show was each of the performer’s complete commitment to their character, their performance and the overall show. They gave everything they had to bring it alive and their energy was infectious. Every move was purposeful and they were completely present and focused on the audience from beginning to end.

Lesson:  As a presenter, you should be aiming to give your best every time you speak. You will be judged on the quality of your talk, the amount of effort you put into your preparation and the way you deliver your material. Be authentic, passionate, and fully present; and concentrate on delivering your message in a way that is engaging and meaningful to your audience.

  • Evaluate Your Performance

Each audience member was encouraged to complete a feedback form providing a rating and comments on the food, the venue, the show and the overall experience. There was an opportunity to provide our contact details to go on the mailing list for the show’s upcoming UK tour and, whilst I’m not rushing back to see it again, a lot of people were very keen to be kept informed. This helps with marketing of course and is also great way for the producers to review and evaluate the show on an ongoing basis.

Lesson: Always review your presentation to help you to continue to develop your skills. Ask yourself “What went well? What didn’t go so well? What would I do differently next time?” (Film footage of your presentation and the audience’s reactions will assist with this process.) Where possible ask your audience for feedback as well; and if you are keen to grow your mailing list, a well-designed feedback form offering to email additional material relating to your talk can be a good way to obtain their contact details (just be sure to let them know you’ll be adding their details to your list!)

If you enjoyed this article, click here to access Mel Sherwood’s ‘Top 5 Tips for Public Speaking Success’

Mel Sherwood is a pitch and presentation specialist who prepares ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to take centre stage, embrace the spotlight and present with more confidence, credibility and conviction. She is a multi-award winning speaker, trainer and coach and the founder of Grow Your Potential, which specialises in supporting individuals and organisations to design and deliver winning pitches and presentations.

Mel’s background includes over 20 years’ experience in public, private and not-for-profit organisations in Australia and the United Kingdom and she has also worked as an actor, presenter and singer. To find out more about Mel’s talks and programmes go to www.grow-your-potential.com or for public speaking and pitching tips follow Mel on Twitter @Grow_Potential

12 TEDx Talks: 12 Lessons in Public Speaking

20160218_164340 On Thursday 18 February the TEDx University of Edinburgh (TEDxUoE) 2016 Conference was held in Edinburgh’s Central Hall for an audience of around five hundred people.

TEDx was created in the spirit of TED’s mission – Ideas Worth Spreading (if you’ve not heard of TED, check it out at www.TED.com) TEDx supports independent organisers who want to create a TED-like event in their own community and the student-led team at the university did a brilliant job of organising an exceptional event.

I was delighted to have the opportunity to coach 10 of the 12 speakers for this event and was incredibly proud of the way each of them delivered a clear, concise and engaging talk. There were a few minor hiccups on the day which can sometimes be the case with a live event, but overall the standard of talks was excellent and a fantastic example of how to do it right.

So, from my perspective as an audience member, here are some public speaking lessons inspired by each of their talks:

  1. Jo Simpson – Talk Title: The courage to trust yourself… listen to the nudges

Jo is a leading authority on values based leadership and a professional speaker. She has an excellent command of the stage and took a moment to pause before she began which demonstrated her confidence and authority. She also used just two slides; simple images that enhanced a particular part of her message. The screen was black at all other times throughout the speech so that the attention was focused on her and her important message of listening to, trusting and acting on your intuition.

  1. Sabrina Syed – Talk Title: How to feel in place, any place

Sabrina was one of three student speakers and charmed the audience with her relaxed style and touching anecdotes. By incorporating personal stories, she connected emotionally with everyone in the room. She smiled, used effective gestures to enhance our understanding and she also used her voice to great effect; her diction was clear and her tone rich, varied and expressive which was both pleasing to the ear and a useful tool to emphasise her key points.

  1. Lynne Copson – Talk Title: How to demystify academia (and why we should bother)

As a teaching Fellow in Criminology, Lynne is no stranger to speaking in front of a group of people but we could see and hear that she was nervous as she staunchly delivered her talk despite some distracting problems with the sound system. About half way through, Lynne admitted that she felt out of her comfort zone and incredibly nervous in front of the TEDx crowd, and it was this vulnerability and her self-deprecating humour that really added to her talk. Whilst I generally don’t advise admitting you’re nervous, by introducing some humour and pointing out her obvious discomfort, the audience really warmed to her proving that being your authentic self is crucial if you want to connect with people.

  1. Michael Gidney – Talk Title: Change is in your pocket

Michael is the CEO of the Fairtrade Foundation. He commenced his talk with a series of rhetorical questions which immediately engaged the audience and introduced his topic. He connected the key message of the talk to his talk title, wove in some amazing statistics and pulled at our heartstrings with horrifying photographs and stories about the people who mine for the gold we buy and wear. His message was driven home with sound bites of tweetable quotes and he included his twitter address on his final slide so that the audience could easily quote him and spread the message further.

  1. Elizabeth Dulemba – Talk Title: Is your stuff stopping you?

Elizabeth is a successful children’s author and illustrator. During her preparation she worked very hard on refining her idea to a single sentence which became the title for the talk; this ensured a succinct and easy to understand message. She had a warm relaxed delivery style enhanced by her dazzling smile, open and expressive gestures and comfortable shoes! (Many of the speakers were challenged by wearing stilettos on the red carpet rug they were standing on; always find out about the floor surface where you’ll be presenting and choose your footwear accordingly!) When Elizabeth couldn’t recall a particular word she wanted to use, rather than get flustered, she just moved on so smoothly that the audience barely noticed.

  1. Vimbai Midzi – Talk Title: Writing Ourselves into History

Vimbai was the second of the student speakers. Having worked as a freelance journalist and someone who frequently blogs, her writing skills were evident in her well-crafted talk. Apart from her beautiful posture, confident stance and charming smile, Vimbai shared a personal story about her father to engage the audience and reinforce her message. She also used the rule of three throughout her talk – this is a powerful technique which gives the listener a sense of completeness and helps to ensure that key points are remembered.

  1. Catherine Wilson – Talk Title: Making Poetry Loud

Catherine is a successful performance poet and her talk stood out as a result of this. Her skilful use language was a real treat and demonstrated how using descriptive expressions, rhyming, alliteration and other writing techniques can connect emotionally with an audience and take them on a journey. In addition, Catherine owned the stage, was fully present and really lived the words as she spoke them, taking time to think and connect with her thoughts before using her body and voice to portray the feelings linked to her words.

  1. Jennifer Culbertson – Talk Title: The hidden symmetry of language

A Chancellor’s Fellow in the Language Evolution and Computation research group at the University of Edinburgh, Jennifer was able to take a complex topic and provide a simple example to prove her argument that despite the huge differences between languages spoken around the world, language is still a unifying force of human connection. She used a well-designed slide presentation to demonstrate the idea and she concluded with the words “The final message to take home is this…” before sharing her closing comments which left a very clear message with the audience.

  1. Matthew Bailey – Talk Title: My genes don’t fit! Living in a salt-saturated society

Matthew is the Director of the Centre for Cardiovascular Science in Edinburgh and he bounded onto the stage with liveliness and enthusiasm which radiated into the audience. His energy, open body language and eye contact were very engaging. Whilst there were opportunities for some of his slides to be simplified, he did use his own hand drawn images which made his presentation more unique. After talking about the implications of too much salt in our food, Matthew also left every individual in the audience in no doubt about what they should do next. He strongly encouraged everyone to 1. get their blood pressure checked and 2. be salt aware, then reinforced his point with his final line, “We have to change it, we can change it and I think that’s an idea worth spreading.”

  1. Chloe Edmundson – Talk Title: Unleashing the potential of university eco systems

Chloe was the final student speaker and a perfect example of how taking on feedback and practising diligently can transform a presentation; the difference in her talk from our first coaching session a few months prior to the masterclass a couple of weeks ago to the actual event was outstanding. This was not only in the way the content was structured but also in her body language which was much more relaxed than I had seen previously. Chloe also incorporated a quote in her talk which neatly connected her opening to her conclusion and underpinned her message.

  1. Emma van der Merwe – Talk Title: Why I do something every day that scares me

The biography in the programme states that Emma is a storyteller, world traveller and amateur adventurer and this was demonstrated in her moving talk which started with a beautifully told personal story and was filled with anecdotes throughout.  Emma also shared a statistic about suicide about three minutes into her talk and made it relevant by explaining that since she started speaking four people somewhere in the world had died by suicide. By sharing three decisions she made and how they had helped her manage her depression she was able to demonstrate the life changing benefits of stepping beyond your comfort zone. She offered a simple challenge to the audience with her final line “Why not do something every day that scares you?” – a powerful ending to an inspiring talk.

  1. Deri Llewellyn-Davis – Talk Title: Everest: F*** the fear, it’s not real anyway

Deri is a speaker, entrepreneur and author who aims to enable businesses and individuals to fulfil their potential. Whilst sharing his personal story about being on Everest when the earthquake hit Nepal in 2015 resulting in an avalanche and the death of more than twenty people on the mountain, Deri demonstrated a number of techniques that set him apart as a speaker. His well-designed slides included personal photographs and diagrams to indicate the scale of Everest and he specifically acknowledged his Scottish audience by mentioning Ben Nevis as he talked about the mountains he has climbed. Whilst he was speaking about his own experiences, he turned this around and frequently used the most powerful word in presentations: YOU, which really helped him to connect with the audience. And he used the element of surprise; for example half way through his speech he revealed that F*** in the title was for Face The Fear, Feel The Fear and Free The Fear which brought an audible chuckle from the audience. Finally, rather than scurrying off the stage immediately he was finished as I have often seen presenters do, Deri owned the applause and gave his audience the opportunity to show their appreciation for his talk.

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During the conference, we are also treated to some videos of TED talks from around the world and I particularly enjoyed seeing Benjamin Zandar’s talk ‘The transformative power of classical music’. I loved his energy, humour and fabulous demonstrations on the piano which helped people to listen to classical music differently – watch this TED talk if you want to know how to fully engage an audience.

 

If you enjoyed this article, click here to access Mel Sherwood’s ‘Top 5 Tips for Public Speaking Success’

Mel Sherwood is a pitch and presentation specialist who prepares ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to take centre stage, embrace the spotlight and present with more confidence, credibility and conviction. She is a multi-award winning speaker, trainer and coach and the founder of Grow Your Potential, which specialises in supporting individuals and organisations to design and deliver winning pitches and presentations.

Mel’s background includes over 20 years’ experience in public, private and not-for-profit organisations in Australia and the United Kingdom and she has also worked as an actor, presenter and singer. To find out more about Mel’s talks and programmes go to www.grow-your-potential.com or for public speaking and pitching tips follow Mel on Twitter @Grow_Potential

 

Why Improving Your Public Speaking Should Be Your Top Priority This Year

Improve Your public Speaking2 Are you one of those people who wrote ‘Improve my public speaking skills’ on your list of new year’s resolutions? If so, well done and I trust you are well on the way to achieving your goal (if you’re not, read on!)

And if you haven’t included ‘Improve my public speaking skills’ on your list, perhaps you should ask yourself "Why not?"

The ability to clearly and confidently articulate yourself in front of a group of people is a key skill that has the potential to enrich your life both personally and professionally. There are many benefits including having the ability to promote yourself or your business, to increase your influence and impact, and to ensure you are seen as an expert in your field. It also means you’ll never be panicked when you’re asked to ‘say a few words’.

So what exactly do I mean by improving your public speaking? Well, that depends on where you feel you need development. There are three main areas you can focus on:

  • Confidence and Self-Belief
  • Content and Structure
  • Effective Delivery

Maybe you would like to focus on one area, maybe all three; regardless, unless you take action you can be pretty sure your public speaking ability will stay at exactly the level it is currently! So be honest with yourself and ask yourself:

  • What would improving my public speaking skills mean to me?
  • How committed am I to improving my public speaking skills?
  • Am I prepared to put in the effort required to improve?
  • What specific areas will I focus on?

Once you have identified your goal/s, plan some action steps to move yourself forward. For example, when it comes to confidence, often it’s the stories we tell ourselves that feed our fear and we need to find ways to overcome these limiting beliefs. If you want to focus on building your confidence, this could involve moving out of your comfort zone a little bit at a time; maybe try speaking to a stranger at the bus stop, volunteering to chair a meeting or reading some personal development material to help change your mindset. You could also consider seeing a specialist coach, hypnotherapist or NLP practitioner.

When it comes to designing and delivering a presentation, you can gain a lot of information by reading books, watching and analysing talks on YouTube, joining a public speaking group like Toastmasters International, taking a presentation skills class or investing in some coaching to learn the skills required. But remember that no matter how much learning you do, your public speaking simply cannot improve unless you get up and do it!

So surround yourself with supportive and encouraging people and just go for it. Whenever you do a presentation, make sure it is filmed so you can review it to see what went well and pinpoint what you can to do to make the next one even better.

As Dale Carnegie said, “Great speakers are not born, they’re trained.” We don’t come out of the womb being great at public speaking; like any skill it can be learned but it takes commitment. And it’s a commitment worth making because the benefits of improving your confidence and communication skills will be felt in every area of your life.

So what are you waiting for?

If you enjoyed this article, click here to access Mel Sherwood’s ‘Top 5 Tips for Public Speaking Success’

Mel Sherwood is a pitch and presentation specialist who prepares ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to take centre stage, embrace the spotlight and present with more confidence, credibility and conviction. She is a multi-award winning speaker, trainer and coach and the founder of Grow Your Potential, which specialises in supporting individuals and organisations to design and deliver winning pitches and presentations.

Mel’s background includes over 20 years’ experience in public, private and not-for-profit organisations in Australia and the United Kingdom and she has also worked as an actor, presenter and singer. To find out more about Mel’s talks and programmes go to www.grow-your-potential.com or for public speaking and pitching tips follow Mel on Twitter @Grow_Potential

What Mary Poppins Can Teach You About Public Speaking

Mary Poppins - linkedin2Image: Shutterstock

Whilst in Australia recently I had the pleasure of watching a brilliantly produced and performed amateur production of Mary Poppins. I had seen the professional stage show previously and the 1964 Disney film was one of my favourite films as a young girl. I watched this production completely captivated from beginning to end and, as is so often the case when I attend live theatre, I identified a number of tips that can be easily transferred to your talks and presentations.

Use the Element of Surprise

Mary Poppins is a magical show but given the relatively small budget of an amateur production, I didn’t expect the special effects to be particularly good. However, I was surprised and delighted to see Mary Poppins fly across the auditorium to make a grand entrance and to watch her glide up the stairs unexpectedly during the second act. Not to mention her ability to pull out a lamp, a mirror and a coat rack from her carpet bag! You can use the element of surprise to keep your audience engaged and entertained during your presentation.

Repetition Repetition Repetition

How often have you had a set of song lyrics stuck in your head? The phrase ‘Anything can happen if you let it’ was used in a song as well as in the dialogue during the show. And who can forget that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down? Just like when we get song lyrics stuck in our head, repeating key phrases in your talk will help your audience to remember your message.

Tell a Story

The story of Mary Poppins may not appeal to everyone but it does have all the elements of a good story – interesting characters, magical settings, plot twists and turns, conflicts and resolutions, morals and life lessons. People love listening to stories so by incorporating stories in your presentation you will ensure your material is more relevant, interesting and engaging for your audience.

If You Feel Good, Your Audience Will Feel Good

Throughout the entire production the cast were completely committed to their characters and they put 100% effort into ensuring that their production was the best it could possibly be. They all clearly loved being on stage and this positive energy exploded into the auditorium, generating a warm feel good factor for the audience. When you are asked to give a talk, it is important that you approach it with a positive mind set. Even if you don’t enjoy presenting, you need to find a way to turn that around, because if you’re not enjoying yourself or interested in what you’re saying, no one else will be either.

Proper Rehearsals Are Vital

Unlike some amateur productions I have seen, the cast and crew in this show all knew exactly what they were doing; in fact it was probably the slickest ‘amdram’ musical I have ever had the pleasure of seeing. The musicians were in time, the singing was harmonious, the dancing was tight, the set changes were seamless; this was a team of people who were clearly prepared, extremely well-rehearsed and committed to excellence. As an audience member I was extremely satisfied; I felt my evening’s entertainment was exceptional value for my money. Regardless of whether your audience has paid a fee to hear you speak, they are paying you with their time; therefore, you owe it to them to prepare and practice so that you can give your best possible ‘performance’.

Things Will Go Wrong

No matter how much you plan, prepare and practice, there is always a chance that something will go wrong. In this particular production there were two quite noticeable incidents. Firstly, a massive crash could be heard backstage when one of the actors exited the set (I’m still not sure what it was but the actor appeared unhurt when he returned to the stage!) Secondly, Mr Banks experienced a challenge when a vital prop caught on part of the set and he had to give it a huge yank to free it; he simply said “Whoops!” (which produced a short chuckle from the audience) and he carried on with the scene. Audiences recognise that live presentations and performances won’t always be perfect. Whilst they won’t tolerate lack of preparation, if you have clearly done everything you can to prepare effectively, you’ll find that people are very forgiving of any mishap. As a presenter, you need to take any distraction or interruption in your stride, remain focused and continue your talk as planned.

And of course if all else fails, you can simply saySupercalifragilisticexpialidocious!”

If you enjoyed this article, click here to access Mel Sherwood’s ‘Top 5 Tips for Public Speaking Success’

Mel Sherwood prepares ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to take centre stage, embrace the spotlight and present with more confidence, credibility and conviction. She is a multi-award winning speaker, trainer and coach and the founder of Grow Your Potential, which specialises in supporting individuals and organisations to design and deliver winning pitches and presentations.

Mel’s background includes over 20 years’ experience in public, private and not-for-profit organisations in Australia and the United Kingdom and she has also worked as an actor, presenter and singer. To find out more about Mel’s talks and programmes go to www.grow-your-potential.com or for public speaking and pitching tips follow Mel on Twitter @Grow_Potential

 

My Top 5 Public Speaking Blog Posts for 2015

Top 5 Blog Posts 2015 v2 I don't know about you but I love increasing my knowledge and learning from other experts so I am often reading blog posts about confidence and communication. I enjoy writing my own blogs too and am always fascinated by which ones are the most popular amongst my readers.

This year I posted fewer blogs than last year, although there were more readers overall! I also wrote some guest blog posts for Citrix Interactions Blog which has been voted as one of the top 20 business blogs in the UK so I was delighted to be asked to write for them and to share my thoughts with thousands more readers.

If you've not yet read them, here are the Citrix Interactions posts:

11 Presenting Mistakes That Make Your Audience Cringe

7 Secrets of Confident Presenters

And now for my top 5 posts for 2015:

Tips for Managing the Q&A Part of Your Presentation

Public Speaking Lessons From The Professionals

How to Talk Like a TEDx Speaker

11 Ways to Kill Your Credibility as a Presenter

3 Areas Most Presenters Forget to Prepare and Why You Should Make Them a Priority

If you've not read these posts, do take a look. And if you have, do feel free to share them if you think they would benefit your network.

I look forward to sharing more posts with you in 2016.

 

If you enjoyed this article, click here to access Mel Sherwood’s ‘Top 5 Tips for Public Speaking Success’

Mel Sherwood prepares ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to take centre stage, embrace the spotlight and present with more confidence, credibility and conviction. She is a multi-award winning speaker, trainer and coach and the founder of Grow Your Potential, which specialises in supporting individuals and organisations to design and deliver winning pitches and presentations.

Mel’s background includes over 20 years’ experience in public, private and not-for-profit organisations in Australia and the United Kingdom and she has also worked as an actor, presenter and singer. To find out more about Mel’s talks and programmes go to www.grow-your-potential.com or for public speaking and pitching tips follow Mel on Twitter @Grow_Potential

 

 

 

 

How To Become a TEDx Speaker

TEDx2 I love TED and TEDx talks and I’ve been coaching a number of TEDx speakers recently so at the moment I am immersing myself in all things TEDx.

If you’re not familiar with TED, it is a nonprofit organisation devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages. TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world.

The TEDx events I’ve been involved in have had a good representation of women, and in fact the upcoming TEDx University of Edinburgh event has an overwhelming majority of women speakers. However, this is not always the case at TEDx events and Tabby Biddle, Author, Speaker and Women’s Leadership Coach, is on a mission to change this.

Recently I listened to Tabby’s teleseminar on how to become a TEDx speaker; the session was aimed at women who aspire to be on the TEDx stage. Given that many people I meet are keen to promote their ideas via TEDx, I thought I’d share some ideas from Tabby’s teleseminar for securing a speaking slot at a TEDx event.

Firstly, Tabby outlined five key components to giving a great TEDx talk:

  1. Identify your idea worth spreading
  2. Identify why your idea matters to others
  3. Teach the audience something they don’t know
  4. Convince the audience why your idea matters (use storytelling to do this)
  5. Change the audience’s view of the world

She then explained the steps to becoming a TEDx speaker. As a first step, you will need to research future TEDx events at www.TED.com/tedx/events to find out what’s coming up. Sometimes individual events will have an open call for speakers; however, others will consider proposals. Keep in mind that the organisers will likely be looking for speakers at least two to three months in advance.  Most events will have a theme and it is important to respect that and make sure your talk fits in with that theme.

It is useful to get to know the organisers of the event in advance; you will be able to find them and their contact details on the TED website when you research the events. That’s not to say you need to connect with them immediately; consider getting to know them through social media such as reading their profile on LinkedIn or following them on Twitter before making contact.

Finally, when you do make contact, it’s important to pitch yourself as a speaker. You should be able to provide the following information:

  • What is your big idea?
  • Why you? What is your expertise or personal story?
  • An outline of your talk
  • Sample videos of you presenting

In my experience, getting clarity on the big idea is the thing that most people struggle with; if this sounds like you, check out my previous blog post on How to Talk Like a TEDx Speaker.

Once you have your big idea, a reason why people should listen to you, an outline of your talk and some footage of you speaking you will be ready to approach a TEDx organiser. Then when you’ve secured your speaking slot, it’s all about preparation and practice – remember your TEDx talk has the potential to reach a global audience so it’s important to put the time and effort into making sure it is the best it can be.

If you enjoyed this article, click here to access Mel Sherwood’s ‘Top 5 Tips for Public Speaking Success’

Mel Sherwood prepares ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to take centre stage, embrace the spotlight and present with more confidence, credibility and conviction. She is a multi-award winning speaker, trainer and coach and the founder of Grow Your Potential, which specialises in supporting individuals and organisations to design and deliver winning pitches and presentations.

Mel’s background includes over 20 years’ experience in public, private and not-for-profit organisations in Australia and the United Kingdom and she has also worked as an actor, presenter and singer. To find out more about Mel’s talks and programmes go to www.grow-your-potential.com or for public speaking and pitching tips follow Mel on Twitter @Grow_Potential

 

Public Speaking Lessons from a Drag Show (Part 1)

drag queenImage: Shutterstock

Whilst on holiday recently I had the opportunity to see a drag show called MHT, or the Music Hall Tavern. The producers guarantee that it will be the funniest night of your holiday and looking back it probably was; despite some drawbacks regarding the venue and the food, the cast were talented performers and each number brought something new and fun to watch.

Given that I struggle to relax on holiday, I immediately started to think about what lessons we could learn when it comes to public speaking. There were many lessons so I have divided this article into two parts; here are the first six lessons:

  1. Get Your Marketing Right

It is crucial to promote your talk or presentation to the right audience in the right way; this is highlighted in a fabulous book called Watertight Marketing by Bryony Thomas (call me sad but this was my holiday reading!) The Music Hall Tavern show is aimed at British tourists so it is promoted by the hotels and tour companies through their brochures and holiday reps.

Lesson: Think about how your talk is being marketed and to whom; support the organisers of the event at which you will be speaking and help to market it through your own connections and social media channels so that you have a good crowd of your ideal audience in attendance.

  1. Research Your Audience

I harp on about this continually with my clients, masterclass participants and through my social media posts, but it is absolutely crucial to know your audience. The drag show audience were British tourists so the show included lots of relevant references such as popular television shows and commercials (not all of them resonated with me given that I’m Australian but the rest of the audience seemed to love it!!)

Lesson: Take the time before you create your presentation to understand your audience and their perspective so that you can create an engaging presentation that really connects with them. (Get your free Know Your Audience guide at www.grow-your-potential.com)

  1. Build Rapport Before You Get On Stage

When we arrived at the Music Hall Tavern venue (bizarrely in an aerodrome), one of the cast members welcomed us at the entrance for a quick chat before the show. After a short wait we were ushered to our seats but not before having a quick photo with the other two ‘girls’. Of course this is all geared towards making you want to buy a photo of you with two drag queens but the other benefits for the performers are that these interactions enabled them to start building rapport with the audience before they even took to the stage.

Lesson: Aim to interact with your audience before your presentation, whether that is in the lead up to the event or immediately before you present. This will help you gain information you can use in your talk to help engage them and will also ensure you have some familiar faces in the audience when you stand up to give your presentation.

  1. Appropriate Humour

Despite our expectations that the show might be ‘tacky’, ‘touristy’ and potentially 'distasteful', we were genuinely entertained and found ourselves laughing throughout. Apart from one particular remark (which admittedly would have possibly only felt uncomfortable to me) the comedy was appropriate and relevant. Much of it was visual humour due to the exceptional performances of the three drag queens who incorporated subtle innuendo, used relevant and funny facial expressions and body language as well as sharing self-deprecating humour to entertain the enthralled audience.

Lesson: Inject some appropriate humour into your presentation to keep your audience engaged and entertained. Done right, humour can also help your message to stick.

  1. Rehearse, But Allow For Spontaneity

The show we saw was extremely well rehearsed and for the most part it ran smoothly. However, as with any live performance, occasionally things went wrong. One particular incident involved part of a costume falling off one of the performers who completely lost it and cracked up laughing. The trained performer in me thinks that losing focus in this way is an absolute no no; however, it was quite amusing to see both performers in this particular sequence struggling to maintain their composure and it made it extremely funny to watch. Whether this entire event was planned was difficult to know, but the fact that they were extremely well rehearsed and comfortable with the material ensured that they were able to stray from the ‘script’, acknowledge and embrace the situation before getting back to the correct material showed their professionalism and preparation.

Lesson: As presenters, we need to be well prepared and practiced to easily manage any unforeseen interruption to our presentation.

  1. Admit mistakes and laugh about them

In another unexpected moment, one of the performers seemed to completely forget what they were meant to be doing. Instead of pulling a face and looking nervous and uncomfortable as I have seen many performers and presenters do in various similar circumstances, this performer smiled and laughed at the situation and caught up with the others.

Lesson: In most instances it is better to just move on as if the mistake didn’t happen (the audience is unlikely to have noticed unless you draw attention to it.) But if you make an obvious mistake, take it in your stride, admit it, make a joke of it if you can and move on – in most cases your audience will forgive you for your honesty (they’re probably grateful that you’re the one on stage, not them, and will applaud your honesty accordingly!)

Those are the first six of the lessons I identified after watching this drag show - I trust you found them useful for your own public speaking. In a future post I’ll share the remaining lessons; in the meantime, what do you think? Have you learned any public speaking tips from watching another form of live performance?

If you enjoyed this article, click here to access Mel Sherwood’s ‘Top 5 Tips for Public Speaking Success’

Mel Sherwood works with ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals who want to speak with more confidence, credibility and conviction. She is a multi-award winning speaker, trainer and coach and the founder of Grow Your Potential, which specialises in supporting individuals and organisations to design and deliver winning pitches and presentations.

Mel’s background includes over 20 years’ experience in public, private and not-for-profit organisations in Australia and the United Kingdom and she has also worked as an actor, presenter and singer. To find out more about Mel’s talks and programmes go to www.grow-your-potential.com or follow Mel on Twitter @Grow_Potential