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presentation skills

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Don’t frighten them to death but, to have impact and be memorable, you must make people feel something……..

Last Thursday I sat down in front of the TV with my family and my dinner.  “How about an episode of American Office?”, said Lucy.  “We haven’t watched it for ages.”  We all agreed so she lined one up. As the theme tune started, I felt the most extraordinary surge of emotion; a vivid, visceral recollection of lockdown and the many evenings we spent watching this series. It was a strange and slightly unsettling sensation. I was transported back to April 2020 – a period of heightened and intense feelings. Which is why the memories are so strong. And why…

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Ditch your lockdown false friend and turn those notes into bullets. Try this experiment to see why….

Hands up who’s got into the habit of using a script for online presentations? Hands up who’s worrying about or already struggling with the script/no script issue for real world presentations? Well, you’re not alone. It turns out that many people have seen a script as a comfort blanket during the lockdown months, and it’s a hard habit to break. But we must. Because scripts (whether you’re reading or remembering) are false friends. Here’s why…. When we create content in written form, whether using quill pen and parchment or a computer screen, we tend to construct sentences which are long…

Back to work – shiny shoes, sharpened pencils and a raised eyebrow

Among people’s concerns about going back to the office are: • Will my work clothes fit? • Will proper shoes give me blisters? • Do I really have to shower EVERY DAY! Of course, these are trivial and amusing but let’s make no mistake, FORTO (Fear of Returning to the Office) is real. Some are dreading the commute, others an oppressive corporate culture of presenteeism. And let’s not even think about all those lockdown puppies…… Very many people, though, have experienced the limitations of remote working: • Relationships are harder to manage (whether with more senior or more junior colleagues)…

Don’t fear failure, sing it out loud

Stuart the examiner looked slightly bemused when I walked in the room for my grade 3 singing exam. All the other candidates were under 10 years old. I was way out of my comfort zone. As was Stuart when I started belting out ABBA’s Thank You For The Music! But actually, part of the reason for doing the exam was to push myself into unfamiliar territory. To experience discomfort. Because what we know to be true is that going through hardship makes us stronger, more resilient and better able to deal with difficulties in the future. Robert Glazer writes about…

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How to speak confidently when you don’t know what you’re talking about…

By way of preparation for every training session, I ask attendees to share with me their strengths and weaknesses, as communicators. The issue which comes up time and time again is this – “I’m ok when I know the material well but I really lack confidence when I’m not so sure about the content”. This lack of confidence manifests itself in a number of ways – a hesitant tone of voice; lack of eye contact; fidgeting; a high-speed delivery and lack of pauses (lest someone should jump in to ask a question); apologetic language (especially at the beginning). And then…

Stranger Danger! Misreading someone’s demeanour can be disastrous

Light bulb moments in the training room are things of joy. I had one the other day during a session of interview practice. I asked my client (let’s call her Esmerelda) a question but just as I thought she was getting going with the answer, she suddenly stopped. I was slightly thrown but gathered myself and moved on to another question. The same thing happened again and then a third time, each answer getting progressively shorter. At the end of the mock interview we analysed how it had gone, and I referred to these abrupt endings. I revealed how uneasy…

Fear and Confidence – unlikely but essential bedfellows

I had an interesting conversation yesterday with an ex Olympic swimmer who competed in Seoul when she was just 14 years old.  She didn’t fulfil her potential.  When asked why, her response surprised me. “I wasn’t scared enough”. Essentially, she attributed her poor performance to a lack of fear. Perhaps because she was so young, she hadn’t appreciated the scale of the event and the enormity of the opportunity. She’d experienced little pressure and therefore failed to rise to the occasion. The issue of fear came up again on the Today programme a couple of weeks ago. Dr Pippa Grange…

Respect and Connect – the key to excellent online communication

I came across Franklin D Roosevelt’s advice on public speaking the other day:  “Be sincere, be brief, be seated”. Well said, Mr President, and especially well said in these corona months when most of us are working remotely, and when we need to finesse our communication style, to hold people’s attention. Just as tennis players adapt their game for each surface, so we need to adjust our usual face to face communication for the virtual world. It requires a particular set of techniques and a unique tone of voice. Normal rules don’t apply. Essentially, the fundamental pillars of good communication…

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Singing, lipstick and your favourite pants – managing our outer and inner persona at this testing time

In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Polonius tells his son Laertes to dress well because “apparel oft proclaims the man“. No doubt that’s what drove Boris Johnson to don a jacket and tie for his ‘I’ve got Corona’ isolation broadcast a few days ago. Margaret Thatcher’s newly released private papers reveal how aware she was of the power of clothes. She kept a ‘clothing diary’ in which she detailed outfits called ‘Wogan Burgundy’, ‘Pink Chanel Gorbachev’. Apparently, glamour was part of her approach to ending the cold war. Who knew! Last Friday, I wore a ‘Virtual Blue’ outfit for my first online training session. It was…

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New skills for a new ‘post-EU’ era. How to be heard, how to be confident, how to listen

In Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, one of the factors for success (in life generally) is knowing “what to say to whom, when to say it and how to say it for maximum effect”. That’s communication – my passion and, I believe, our most fundamental life skill. As we embark on a new era in our country, let’s take the opportunity to sharpen up our own skills and ensure that we’re “getting what we want from the world”.  Whatever role and sector we’re in, we need to be able to negotiate, persuade, charm, and impress as never before. Let’s firstly remember that…

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