Public speaking training: the gift that keeps on giving

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With a career spanning over 25 years in Marketing, Julie Garlick has had to navigate staff and Board meetings, AGM's and difficult internal stakeholders. She credits public speaking coaching in her early years as a key to her success.  She ensures all her staff, sometime up to 70 of them were and are strong in public speaking to ensure they could do the same.

Public speaking coaching helps a career

In our interview she revealed that being able to speak well and present has helped her career immensely. “it's been absolutely critical the confidence that comes from being comfortable with public speaking means that I've been able to convey my ideas in a way that has given me credibility in front of an audience.” 

Use public speaking skills everyday

She goes beyond using them every day to say she uses them constantly. “ …everything from small meetings through to board and executive meetings, even one-on-ones with my team when I can help them, conveying to them the importance of the role they do or clarifying a situation for them.” 

Public speaking coaching is essential

Although she started learning on the job, she says she was fortunate early in her career to have a very good manager that realised for her to progress she needed the confidence and the clarity when she spoke publicly. “ He put me on a course that not only allowed me to understand the importance of content but also gave me the confidence to believe what I was saying.”

When Julie started her career in the early 1990s PowerPoint wasn’t widely used but it soon took over the presentation space. She has watched it use change and notes her own transition from using it as the speech, heavy in copy with the odd photo.  Now its key points and photos, maybe video to make it come alive.  In many ways it has come full circle to support the speech element of the presentation only.  But this has at times been a painful transition, she still sees many that aren’t great and has recently made moves to change this in her current role as a General Manager of Marketing.  She recalls one disasters with PowerPoint.

“ It (The PowerPoint Deck)  was fine when I was at work. I embedded a video and it worked brilliantly every time I was at work but when I took that PowerPoint presentation to the conference centre, I discovered the video wasn't imbedded, in fact it was a hyperlink and without Wi-Fi that hyperlink did not work !”

Public speaking skills when hiring staff

Although Julie hasn't consciously looked for hiring staff with public speaking skills and the ability to present well, she says she has been able to tell in the interview.  The skills are put to excellent use in the high pressure situation of an interview.

“…in an interview situation if they came across clear; enunciated well, got their point across, demonstrated with good examples and really made me believe them, I think that was demonstration of good public speaking skills and it gave me the confidence that if they could do it in a high-pressure interview situation they are probably good public speakers in real life”

But if a staff member didn’t display the skills needed, she has never hesitated to pass on the favour that her early manager did for her, and put public speaking training in their development plan.  Many of them didn’t think they needed them as they didn’t perceive they were ‘public speaking’, but Julie notes they come in useful when dealing with ‘strong internal stakeholders’.  If they had to represent the company it was critical that they had good public speaking skills.  Getting the training with an external provider, that specialise in Public Speaking coaching and training meant the staff member had the confidence to speak with someone who is there solely to help them.

Return on investment when spending on public speaking training

Julie says ‘there definitely is a return on investment, obviously the satisfaction of the staff member and the confidence that they gained from that course. I think the real return on investment though is found not so much from the presentation course but if they hadn't gone on it.  You don't realize how damaging a poor presentation is!  Lost revenue particularly in a sales environment or an environment where you're pitching to clients, be it sales or marketing because you just find out you didn't get the business but you don't know why.  Having the confidence and presenting well you soon learn that you would've won a lot more deals. I think the other time that return on investment really comes to light with public speaking is convincing a board or selling a story, that will lead to future growth for the business.  So it's not an immediate return on investment but it's the opportunity to present a strategy well that will then lead the company to have new revenue streams in the future.’

She agrees there's a correlation on a personal level with a person’s ability to convey ideas and speak to larger groups and with career progression and income.  Julie elaborates ; “To get a promotion you need to enunciate a concept really well or to demonstrate your worth to your boss which can often lead to a pay rise.   It can certainly lead to achieving KPI targets and thus any short or long-term incentive program that you might be on. But far more important is the fact that you might close more deals through having good presentation skills or to my point earlier about being able to enunciate a strategy and then have the confidence to get internal stakeholders on board to help you deliver that strategy in a way that will lead to revenue for the company’

It is in the area of dealing with internal stakeholders and other departments that public speaking skills are often under-estimated.  This alone makes it worthwhile for companies and employers to invest in the training for their staff.  It’s what she terms as a soft investment, the benefits aren’t necessarily obvious. But the lack of investment will certainly show up eventually and often at great costs.  Public speaking and presentation skills are so vital in today's virtual economy that the benefits are every day, every meeting but particularly obviously when you're presenting to a wide audience or very strong stakeholders.  Julie concludes that public speaking training is “.. a gift that keeps on giving..

Why are women not speaking up?

SpeechMarks-women-not-speaking-up

Why are women not speaking up?

Despite all our recent achievements in the third wave of feminism, women in general aren’t speaking up. It’s not because they haven’t got anything to say.  It’s not because they don’t have an opinion, it’s not that they aren't achieving and succeeding. But in many instances, they just aren’t speaking up as loudly,  clearly or as readily as their male counterparts.

Why, Why, Why?

Every woman deserves to be heard, they deserve to have a voice in their work and their personal lives. 

It’s the hesitation to self-promote, take credit or debate a point.  It’s the fear of drawing attention to oneself, expressing an opinion or to deliver a speech or presentation. They don’t want to be seen or talked about as bossy, aggressive, or bragging.  The result being, they are over looked for promotion, not viewed as knowledgeable or competent as colleagues, not seen to be leaders.

 

Common reasons for not speaking up

In no particular order, some of the common issues holding women back that have been discussed in books and articles are:

1.     Teachers favouring boys in a co-education system – girls they learn to be quiet.

2.     Parental influence for them to be quiet - seen not heard

3.     Being labelled bossy rather than a leader

4.     Being labelled aggressive rather than ambitious

5.     Images and portrayals in media and entertainment of women be supporting roles or submissive

6.     Male bosses adopting patriarchal roles

7.     Imposter syndrome

8.     Self-deprecating beliefs - usually caused by points above

9.     Not being heard and valued in a personal relationship e.g. marriage

10.  One ‘bad’ experience – so they don’t try again.

What an exhausting list!  Not everyone will have all of these on their “reasons why I don’t like public speaking” list.   Often one will stand out.  Sheryl Sandberg and her book ‘Lean In’ identified some of these as issues, that were holding us back from top Leadership. Points one to five in particular. I say never mind top leadership how about just keeping pace and being confident and happy.  We all don’t have to aspire to be part of the corporate ladder, but it would be great to think that every woman’s voice is heard and listened to. To do that we need to be confident, and in turn we need to address the issues that are stopping us.

We need to take responsibility, maybe look at our past analyse these negative beliefs and get over them. We must take responsibility for whether we are going to be part the negative messages or do something to stop the clichés.  A woman may need to check to see if she is perpetuating them (repeating negative messages).

Ok so maybe this isn’t your battle what about number six?  Male bosses maybe to blame – gasp!  You can’t say that!  But let’s be honest some still unconsciously bring their own stereotypes to work.   In turn, they teach other men to replicate them and tell the females that they aren’t as valued.  If it has happened to you, as it did me, then acknowledge it and keep on swimming.

And then there's the imposter syndrome. It's something that's getting more research and starting to get acknowledged.  When you start a job and people put more faith in you than you think you deserve.  Or that you're not sure if you're faking it till you're making it or just failing at it.
Imposter Syndrome is something that I have suffered from. I couldn't believe the University of Auckland gave me and my girlfriend a degree each as we did so much of it together.  I guarantee no male would ever think that. Then years later it took my first female boss to push me and say you can do this, I never heard that from a male boss.


It's no wonder that woman feel trapped in marriages where they're not being heard. It’s hard wired into them.

The real woman’s views on it

These are some challenging views that have been researched, some are slowly changing and being addressed.   However, in an everyday situation they aren’t what women identified.
Via a Social Media request for thoughts I was overwhelmed by the response that women are their own worst enemy in many situations.

Someone commented that they believe we are our own worst critics we doubt, question and put ourselves down so much more the men.   Candice Venter of Infinity Marketing also went on to say, “we tell ourselves the stories about our past or what might happen, and err on the side of caution and least rejection, we can be your own worst nightmare”

Caroline Williams confirmed my points above “As a woman in business I find that speaking up gets labelled bossy or difficult and there is research to back that up” she went on to say that we are still from the generations whose parents thought that there were gender differences and that you should be a good girl and not be heard too much.    She proposed that woman that put men on a business pedestal and they try to adopt a male assertive approach rather than finding a way to be comfortable with themselves.

Hormones are to blame


So physiologically there are also some reasons why women don't tend to speak up.  You don’t have to subscribe to the paleo theory of diet (that our diet has change radically in the last 50 years than any other time and our 2.5 million-year history and we aren’t equipped to handle it) to understand that a lot of what we think and do in this modern technological world is still ruled by the old brain.  This includes our reactions to being watched or making loud noises, standing out from the crowd. All things that are required in public speaking.

Our ‘Fight or Flight’ hormone, adrenaline, kick in and we want to run away. But we also may have norepinephrine and cortisol.  All contribute to the not wanting to speak, but both genders have these.  Levels of oestrogen and testosterone are known to affect the way we react to stress and perceived threat.  Testosterone levels favour men in their ability to face perceived threat. However, one woman via my social media survey said, it may be Prolactin, the breast-feeding hormone, that could make us more submissive and therefore reluctant.   So, women have a hormonal disadvantage, great let’s Just blame that!

One bad experience.

Today’s culture is widely acknowledged as one of instant gratification and fast paced consumerism.  An underlying subliminal requirement is that if it doesn’t work get a new one, if you fail move onto something else.    The problem with public speaking, like sports or learning an instrument, is that you will fail or at least not succeed as well as you hoped.  If you don’t have a mind- set of 'try and try again' then you won’t improve as a public speaker.  I don’t think this is a conscious attitude but it certainly could be a contributing factor for many.  This is compounded by our video world. We can watch TED talks and season professionals execute a perfect performance. It’s easy to be discouraged that we will never be as good as them so why bother.

Solutions for another day….

I will address the solutions on another blog.  Rest assured there are many.  Read Lean In for one, go on a public speaking course for another, Google advice – well maybe not.  But identifying what is holding you back is the first step. Being honest that is was one average speech or one person that didn’t want to listen “that made you hate speaking up / public speaking” and you are on the way to recovery.

 

Networking - simple tips to make it easier

Speech Marks Diana Thomson Networking Tips

Speaking up at Networking Events is simpler than you think.

 

Networking events or events and meetings with a networking element can be really off putting to many people, because they don’t know what to say, don’t know where to start or how to introduce themselves.

I often hear “I am OK once I get going but….”  insert excuse “I would rather hide in the toilets than speak to strangers/ I wait until someone talks to me / only go with someone I know…”

Firstly ‘You are not alone’ this is a natural reaction to a room full of strangers.  The key is to be prepared and have a few strategies prepared.

 

Who’s there?

Find out if there are any potential clients or connections attending.  Figure out who they are, search or LinkedIn and even contact them to say you hope to meet up at the event.  If this feels to bold maybe try to write a list of who you want to meet. This will keep you focused and will get you prepared for the next step.

Don’t arrive late.  

That’s not Mrs. Manners just talking.  Arriving on time and showing that you value the event, the event organisers time, are keen to meet people is worth the effort.  It also gives you a chance to meet people beforehand an event starts and say let’s catch up after the speaker/ dinner if you want to.

Who do you talk to?

This is another common problem. You may have to play social detective.   If at all possible find someone you recognize, however if they are in deep conversation wait until you can be welcomed in.  The easiest thing to do is look for a group of three or more.  This way one person can say hello to you, the person talking can continue un interrupted and the third can listen.   Look for a group where someone isn’t very engaged, their face or body language will indicate they are open to a new person.

 

Now it’s time to use the prepared mini speeches you have in your tool box.

Small Talk and introductions – the Escalator Pitch

Groan I hear you say?   Ice breakers are often small talk in disguise but keep it relevant if talking to strangers.   Best option “Hi there I am XYZ this is my first time at this event I am really impressed with it so far, what about you?”    Something like this, is open friendly, positive and asks them an easy to answer question.

 

Elevator Pitches are a useful basis for the introductions you need to do at Networking type events.  I believe they should be the basis not the fall back of choice.   Elevator pitches are great if you are job hunting, a sales person or are speed dating.   Escalator speeches maybe more useful.  Escalators are slower are usually more social and can travel at different speeds but take longer.  So is your networking event introduction.  Its more fluid, two or even three ways.  But if your goal is to meet you potential clients or customers then you need to keep it on track.

Have some great stories of the company success (or personal success) Use the company language and tone.  There is no point sounding like a BBC presenter if you are a McDonalds Employee.  Live and love the brand. 

 

Smile and the whole world smiles with you

It’s true, it works a charm and cost nothing. People will be more welcoming and think more positively of you if you smile.  You only have 10 seconds to make a good first impression, so even if you don’t say anything they will at least remember your smile.

Everyone likes talking about themselves

It’s true, because it’s easier to talk about ourselves than others.  So be the one to ask questions and find out about what they do, after you have impressed them with your self-introduction.

Remember that in general men like highlights, achievements and sports talk.  Women lean more towards people you know in common, things you have in common and current events.

 

You can prepare for this if you are going to be in a male or female dominated event.

Networking at a Networking Event

If you are going to an event that is promoted as a one.  Be even more prepared.  Have business cards on the ready, a phone charged to take photos to post to social media or exchange contacts and make appointments.  Ask for the attendee list if it isn’t given to you in advance. 

Post Event

In our digital world, this is now an essential step.  Send the Linked IN request, follow their business on Facebook or them on Instagram, share something they are promoting.  Go again, that’s right you need to attend the event again and even again before you get a strong association.  Monthly meetings are great for this so get them in your calendar and attend them.

Networking is a contact sport

Like any sport you can learn and train to get better at it, you can just ‘pull on your big girl pants’ take a deep breath and say “I can do this”.   Reward yourself afterwards.  Like any form of public speaking there is an element of muscle memory.  The more you do it the easier it gets, you make get rusty, but you can get back in the flow.  You can also use social events as practice both for your mind set and your introductions.  Practice smiling, looking at people, answering questions well and saying prepared escalator pitches.   You will be surprised how quickly you settle into them andbuild your confidence.

 

 

Speaking of TED Talks

Speaking of TED Talks

I have watch many TED Talks, obviously I am a fan of the platform, they are all people speaking and making presentations.  It would be fair to say its my primary source of video content consumption. It alone makes me aspire to make Vloggs and videos. It has made me realise that its not only me that has discovered they can speak in front of a huge audience if they put in the practice and have a great message, or in TED terms " an idea worth spreading". ( see www.tedtalks.com )

How to Prepare for a Job Interview or a Presentation

How to Prepare for a Job Interview or a Presentation

While researching on issues around job interviews for applicants and the ways they could reduce nerves and anxiety I came across endless similarities in public speaking and some great new hints and tricks. In many ways, you need to undertake the same preparation for a job interview as a presentation and you can use the same tools. Preparation for both will reduce nerves. Simplified they are: