What separates the ‘Steve Jobs’ from the ‘Steve Jobless?’ What makes a good speech truly great? The apple visionary had an amazing ability to speak with passion and make his ideas understandable and memorable. For a tech guru he didn’t overload us with jargon nor did he kill us with PowerPoint. Jobs looked and sounded relaxed as he walked around the stage freely. It looked natural and effortless. What many don’t know is Steve Jobs rehearsed for days every major speech and product launch. He knew what every actor knows: it takes a lot of practice to make it look natural.
Fortunately for us not-so-natural speakers most of the important parts of presentation can be learned. From slowing down to eliminating pesky ‘ums’ and ‘ers,’ there are plenty of tricks to help you be heard above the crowd.
It could be the idea that is going to change the world. But unless we can hear it- how do we know?
Whether it’s delivering that keynote presentation or simply fighting to be heard in a large meeting, finding your voice is key. When it comes to volume breath is essential. Under stress people tend to breathe from their lungs instead of their diaphragm. This results in short anxious gulps leaving speech pinched and shallow. Have you ever ran out of breath towards the end of your sentence? It’s because you’re not taking breaths from the diaphragm. Take a quick body check now. Breathe in slowly for a count of five. Do you feel your shoulders rising as you inhale? If so, you’re breathing shallow breaths from the lungs. Now try it again. This time place your hands around your waist. You should be aiming to feel your sides expand. This is a sign you’re breathing deep from near the belly. Remember, breath= fuel for the voice. And no, we’re not talking about shouting. Doing your best Malcolm Tucker impression is unlikely to endear you to any listener. There’s a difference between filling the space with a strong voice supported by sufficient breath, and straining your voice to be heard. If you leave the conference room hoarse you’re not using your voice or breath correctly.
Not so fast.
Already running on nerves, adrenalin and a gutful of macchiatos, public speaking tends to get us in a rush with our words. We’d rather just get it over and done with. As a consequence our mouths go into overdrive and our ideas end up hitting the back wall before registering in our audience’s mind. Simple tip. If you want to be heard in a fast world: slow down. Not only does slowing down enable you to articulate better it gives your brain chance to gather its thoughts. It enables the listener to collect their thoughts too. A good rule of thumb is to aim for short sentences spoken at a measured pace. Long-winded sentences can leave us gasping for breath. Never a good look. Short sentences which use shorter words are punchier and much easier to deliver. Slowing down, however, should never be confused with monotony. Which brings us to our next point…
Mix it up.
We’ve all been there. You’re sitting in a conference room for a business presentation and you start to nod off. The speaker’s voice has become so dull it’s hypnotic. All you hear is the same pitch, the same rhythm, you hear the words but the meaning has got lost in the monotony. Mix it up. Vary the pitch. Play with the rhythm. Our ears need to be entertained and kept interested. Use the full range of your vocals. Alter the tone. Your deeper range can indicate weight and credibility. Your upper ranger can communicate excitement and joy. To create passion in our voice we need to know when it is beneficial to raise the volume and increase the speed of our delivery. A good baseline is to maintain a measured pace with occasional flourishes of speed and volume.
Enjoy the silence.
A well positioned pause is a powerful skill in presentation. Too many of us feel the need to fill the silence. It takes a brave communicator to put a pause to good use. When we pause before a word or phrase, it creates anticipation. When we pause after we’ve said something, it allows the audience a moment to chew on the idea. When we talk about pacing our presentations and being mindful of the rhythm, a pause helps vary the delivery keeping ears from drifting off.
The sun-soaked cul-de-sac of Ramsay Street first reached our TV sets in the mid eighties, introducing us to Kylie and Jason, Bouncer the dog, and the Australian upwards inflection! A whole generation began to add add inflections at the end of sentences, making our statements sound like questions. Actors, however, are trained to do the opposite. Rather than ending on a question, actors finish their lines on a down note. Completing your thought, then letting it stand in the silence, allows your audience to digest the information. It sounds much more confident than the uncertainty an upwards inflection brings.
A firm recently surveyed 700 British men and women in managerial and executive roles. 85% felt that the upwards inflection trait was not only annoying, but indicated a person’s insecurity. The study suggested this style of speaking could hinder a person’s career. If you want your voice to carry more authority wean yourself off the upward inflection and end your thoughts on a down note.
Practice, practice, practice.
What do you do when you familiarise yourself with your notes? You practice by reading it silently in your head, right? This is not actual practice. Actors’ rehearsals are noisy, loud and most importantly an opportunity to try things out and risk failure. Yes, they may learn lines in silence, but actual rehearsal is exactly that- rehearsing what you will do in front of an audience. Don’t let the first time you’ve heard yourself aloud be in front of an audience. Read it out aloud to yourself. Anticipate those trickier sentences, know which parts sound monotonous. Play about with pitch and rhythm and pauses. Practice. Practice. Practice.
There we have it. However, those previous tips won’t mean much if you leave your personality at the door. Bring your passion and enthusiasm to your speech. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. Bring you. The best, boldest version of you centre-stage. Learn the craft, learn to love public speaking.
Professional actor and award winning theatre director Mattshares his five tips for bringing power and performance to your presentation to help you be a crowd pleaser. Matt facilitates our Presenting with ImpACT masterclass.
Shakespeare is difficult. Fact. At least when you are hearing the words fresh to the ear in the theatre. You might be able to tease out the meaning if you’ve studied the text beforehand. But if you’re ‘tobe-ing or not to be-ing’ for the first time, even the sharpest mind can end up in knots.
A good night out with the bard rests on how well the actor can transport you through time and place for a couple of hours. The best take the complexities of Shakespeare and make them easily accessible with passion and presence.
In a business setting, we are sometimes tasked with enthusing colleagues with complex ideas, through an upfront presentation, a public address or chairing a meeting. Adopting the right physical and vocal characteristics is key to ensuring your audience is on board.
Like the best actors, the best business performers, command presence.
Charisma might look natural to anyone watching in the front row, yet this skill of communication is result of practice, rehearsal and training. And if it’s a skill it can be learned. In other words- Presence can be practiced.
At PACE Development we believe acting techniques can be applied to work situations. Equipping people with the basic tools of an actor is proven to bring out star performances in the workplace. It’s not about pretending to be someone you’re not, quite the opposite. It helps you get to grips with the pressure and pain of presenting upfront, allowing you to engage with your audience positively.
Actors are trained to embody what they speak. A three minute soliloquy from Hamlet isn’t just a case of getting the words out in the right order. The sense is brought not just through what is said but how it is said. The body and the voice are deeply connected in performance. Every movement, gesture, facial expression is carefully thought out in the rehearsal room and then continuously practiced until it appears natural to an audience. For example, an actor will give close thought to how they use their hands during a speech. It has been said that 93% of communication is non-verbal. Passion and presence can be expressed as much through your hands as your words. All this leads us to the question we get asked a lot at PACE, ‘What do I do with my hands when I speak?’
Somewhere along the way, most of us have picked up this advice about public speaking: Stand still. Don’t wander about it. Keep your gestures to a minimum so people can focus on your words.
Wise words. Except studies into TED talks that went viral proved that the most popular speakers were also the most animated. According to the Washington Post, the least viewed talks had an average of 272 hand gestures. Whereas the top-ranked averaged 465 hand gestures during the same length of time. In other words, people don’t just listen to what you say, but how you say it.
The issue for many of us is working out what to do with our hands. Unless we have a plan we can easily fall into the trap of hands in pockets, or worse still – jazz hands!
It can be useful to have pre-planned or rehearsed descriptive gestures to help animate your words.
For example, if you’re talking about a small thing, pinch your fingers. If it’s a really big point, don’t be afraid to raise your hands in the air. Any time you count off less than five points, show it by counting off your fingers.
My five top tips for talking with your hands:
1. Find a comfortable base point for your hands. To avoid looking like you’re conducting an orchestra, choose occasions to use specific hand gestures which reinforce your words, and then take your hands back to a resting place. Hands in pockets can look too casual, we recommend arms by the side, or gesturing as if you’re holding a basketball between your hands. Steve Jobs frequently used this position during his public addresses. It can indicate confidence and control, as if you have all the facts at your fingertips. Your base point should avoid drawing attention to the wrong places. Some speakers clasp their hands in front of their groin. This keeps our hands locked making it difficult to use them more effectively.
2. Imagine a television in front of your torso. Keep your animated arms within this region. Anything that strays out of this area can look unnatural and distracting. Going too wide or too high can communicate insincerity. Contain your movements inside the imaginary rectangular box in front of your chest and belly.
3. Don’t point. Audiences hate it. It’s confrontational and unwelcoming. If pointing has become second nature to you, try the politician’s thumb. Pinch your thumb into your fist as you point. It’s less aggressive, however, be warned, you are communicating high status with this gesture, so unless you’re the CEO choose wisely.
4. For those of us not brave enough to use our hands imaginatively, try the ‘Prince Charles.’ Lock the fingers of both your hands and hold them flat at torso height. As well as working as a comfortable base point for hands, it also enables you to move them around, giving the illusion of expression. Although this isn’t the most effective way of strengthening your non-verbal communication, it is simple and safe, and prevents unconscious fidgeting of fingers or clueless gesturing.
5. Open palms. Any outstretched gesture should be accompanied with open palms. Behavioural experts call this one ‘no tools, no weapons.’ It shows we have nothing up our sleeves, nothing to hide. By showing open palms it signals I’ve got nothing to harm you, I’m exposed, you can trust me. If you want to build trust- keep your body language open, and that includes your hands.
JO BRITTON, founder and director of PACE Development was named winner of the new business start up of the year in the FL National Awards & Summit 2019, North West, Ireland and Wales regionat an exclusive awards lunch which took place on Friday, 13 September at the Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotel, Manchester.
Now in its 10th year, the awards are designed to demonstrate enterprise, talent and innovation from across the region’s thriving business community and have become one of the most recognised and well-attended business awards in the region.
Jo, a Manchester based marketing and manufacturing specialist founded PACE (Personal and Corporate Effectiveness) Development eleven months ago to help tackle critical skills shortages and a lack of female talent at all levels of industry. Her business is on a mission to help women in industry accelerate their careers by adopting the personal branding techniques used by icons such as Lady Gaga whilst tapping into the support of a coach and mentor.
Says Jo, “I’m delighted to have won this prestigious award in our first year of business. I was inspired to launch PACE Development having worked in manufacturing, engineering and technology based sectors and becoming increasingly frustrated by the lack of women in senior roles.”
She explains: “Sadly female talent remains under-developed and under-exploited. Today, 10% of the UK engineering workforce is female and just 5% of FTSE 100 CEOs are women who continue to be outnumbered by CEOs named Steve or Dave. In 2019, this really isn’t good enough. At PACE Development, we want to help change these statistics. Our aim is to help industry to access a massively untapped pool of female talent. This can make a huge difference to business productivity and growth.”
PACE Development also reinvests a percentage of its fees to help aspiring young industry leaders and those who face disadvantage to develop the confidence and skills to maximise their potential.
Since launching in 2009, the Forward Ladies Awards recognise leaders and organisations who have made the greatest impact on the regional and wider UK economy over the last 12 months. Winners of the regional awards will go on to compete in the national final in November.
How many times have you said this or heard someone say it to you? Perhaps you’ve been involved in a spat with the boss, frustrated that they just don’t seem to understand or see things your way? Or maybe you find yourself having to mediate or resolve conflict between two ‘warring colleagues’ at work?
In my coaching work with leaders and managers, the topic of communication frequently comes up – whether it’s the business generally that needs to improve, their team or themselves.
Being an effective communicator can save relationships, improve your ability to sell, lead through change and make you and your team much more productive.
Poor or ineffective communication can have a detrimental impact upon your relationships and the productivity of your business.
A recent study by The Economist Intelligence Unit in which over 400 senior executives, managers and junior staff at US companies were surveyed seems to back this up. It cites poor communication as the cause of added workplace stress (said 52% of respondents), delays or failure to complete projects (44%), low morale (31%), missed performance goals (25%) and even lost sales (18%).
So how can you improve communicationat work?
I’d always considered myself a decent communicator. I found it easy to chat to people and listen with interest. And in my early days working in business development, my sales mentor gave me some sound advice which seemed to serve me well, “You have two ears and one mouth. Use them in that proportion.”
It wasn’t until I trained as a professional coach and spent hundreds of hours coaching different people from all walks of life, that I truly appreciated what it takes to be good at communicating.
In my experience, too many businesses see technology as the solution to improving communication. They invest heavily in the latest digital communication platforms, video conferencing, instant messaging and social media tools to help them solve the problem. Yet, they still grapple with communication issues in the workplace.
I’m not knocking technology. It really does have its place. Indeed I’m really grateful for Skype and Zoom which help me run my coaching sessions with clients. But perhaps in our modern, digital world, we’ve forgotten something really fundamental . Communication is about people. In the businesses I’ve worked with, I’ve found that one of the greatest causes of poor communication was not that the business didn’t have the latest technology, but that it lacked the appreciation that, as individuals, we all have our own preferred styles of communicating. In other words, how we prefer to communicate ourselves and like to be communicated with, differs between people. And a lot of this depends on our personalities.
Steady, steady, aim, fire
Some of us are naturally more reserved in nature. We like to reflect and think things through. We think first before we act. And prefer to work at a slower pace. You’ll generally find that we’re members of the ‘Get it right’ or ‘Get along’ clubs.
The ‘Get it rights’
We like to follow rules, processes and systems. With a tendency to be cautious, we take pride in being precise. We love the details and are polite and diplomatic. You’ll notice us in meetings as the quiet folk that take notes. When we ask questions, we like to be logical and detailed. Our motto is ‘Get it right!’. So gives us the facts and details if you want to communicate better with us.
The ‘Get alongs’
We’re usually steady, supportive and very understanding. We consider the impact of actions on others. We too like some time to reflect and often prefer a slower pace of work. We’re great listeners and look for the democratic solution. Our motto is ‘Get along!’ If you communicate with us in a friendly, empathetic and sincere way, it’ll go a long way.
Aim, fire, fire!
Some of us are more naturally outgoing in nature. We often act first before thinking. In meetings, we’re likely to be the ones that dominate discussions. We tend to belong to the ‘Get it done’ or the ‘Get recognition’ clubs.
The ‘Get it dones’
We get a buzz from working on lots of things and at a great pace. Results-focused, we like to keep things high-level. Whilst at times we may appear a bit direct or blunt at times, we just love to talk in bullet points. Detail isn’t always our favourite thing so avoid sending us a lengthy email. At best we’ll skip over it, at worst we’ll just ignore it. Tell us the bottom-line and we’re with you.
The ‘Get recognition’
We’re the highly sociable, friendly sorts. The chatty ones that you’ll meet around the water cooler asking you how your weekend was. Our sunny, glass half-full optimism and abundance of enthusiasm is what we’re known for. We love to explore new things, work quickly and be appreciated. So, pick up the phone to us or better still come and see us for chat. It’ll get you a long way.
Recognise any of these descriptions in yourself?
You do? Great. Once you know your own communication preference you can spot preferences in others. Then adapt your style to suit the preference of the person you are communicating with. This will help you develop quick rapport. And people that have rapport with you are more likely to listen and be influenced by what you say.
If you’d like help to become a better communicator, our communicating with influence and impact coaching and training may be just the ticket. Enquire here
I was joined by leaders at all levels from both public and private sector organisations who have the challenges of leading in local councils, the NHS, schools, academia, charities, legal, professional services, start-ups, manufacturing and technology firms.
The one thing we all had in common was that in today’s world of continuous disruption, as leaders we know we can’t get too comfortable. As new technologies are advancing at lightning pace, the political, economic and social factors in our external environment place pressures on us to create change and lead it through. Getting some new insights and perspectives into this emerging field of leadership was something we were all keen to seek.
So, what is disruptive leadership all about and why is it a big deal? What do disruptive leaders look like? Is Disruptive Leadership just a new fad or a trend that’s here to stay? And does every business need disruptive leaders?
Here’s what we discovered over our 45 minute discussion.
What is disruptive leadership and what do disruptive leaders look like?
At its most basic level, to disrupt is to change the way people think or change the way things are done. Businesses such as Netflix, SpaceX, Amazon and Apple have been disrupting entire business models, creating new markets and entire industries. At the helm of these organisations have been disruptors. Leaders who haven’t been afraid to shake things up and who have challenged the status quo. These leaders have been creating change, not just responding to it. Knocking out established players along the way. Professionally inquisitive, critical but open to what others think, they have been challenging practices, norms and behaviours by looking at problems in new ways in order to find and create better solutions. Often creative visionaries and usually brutally honest, they’ve pushed boundaries and haven’t accepted the normal benchmarks of success.
Is disruptive leadership a fad or a trend?
Disruptive leadership is perhaps nothing new. Its essence has roots stretching back a long way. Throughout history, we’ve always had trailblazers who have embodied a disruptive leadership approach. Think of the pioneers pre and post the first industrial revolution.
Does every business need disruptive leaders?
Today’s pace of technological change suggests so. We need leadership capability in organisations which is able to both constructively disrupt and lead through disruption. Leaders with courage and confidence, a passion for innovation and who are willing to take risks. Leaders at all levels of our organisations who can create a culture and environment where failure is embraced as learning and feedback because it’s viewed as an essential part of growth and success. Crucially, we need leaders who embrace diversity and inclusion because they recognise and value the different perspectives that a diverse workplace brings. These skills and attitudes can be developed but we need to start early by encouraging this in schools.
Need help with upskilling leaders to scale up your business through disruptive leadership learning and disruptive innovation application?
JO BRITTON, founder and director of PACE Development has been shortlisted for Business Start-Up of the year in the FL National Awards & Summit 2019, North West, Ireland and Wales region.
Now in its 10th year, the awards are designed to demonstrate enterprise, talent and innovation from across the region’s thriving business community and have become one of the most recognised and well-attended business awards in the region.
Jo Britton, a Manchester based marketing and manufacturing specialist is founder of PACE (Personal and Corporate Effectiveness) Development which delivers personal brand consultancy, mentorship and coaching. Her business uses a fresh approach to nurturing and developing talent, by combining marketing and branding with the latest thinking from the world of neuroscience to help women in industry accelerate their careers.
Says Jo, ‘I’m thrilled to have been shortlisted for this prestigious award in our first year of business. I was inspired to launch PACE Development having worked in engineering, manufacturing and technology based sectors and becoming increasingly frustrated by the lack of women in senior roles in these industries. PACE Development is on a mission to help women in industry accelerate their careers and industry to access a massively untapped pool of female talent which can make a huge difference to business productivity and growth.”
Since launching in 2009, the Forward Ladies Awards recognise leaders and organisations who have made the greatest impact on the regional and wider UK economy over the last 12 months. Regional winners will be announced at an exclusive awards lunch on Friday, 13 September at the Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotel, Manchester and then go on to compete at the National Final held in November.
No, this isn’t a piece about swearing, cursing or bad language in the workplace. Well, actually it is a bit about bad language at work but maybe not the kind you’re thinking.
I recently read some research that said we have around 50,000 thoughts each day and that a whopping 70% are negative ones. That’s 35,000 pesky thoughts holding us back from achieving what we want to achieve.
Let’s say you work in an organisation of 250 people. That’s over 8.7m negative thoughts being produced and circulating the workplace. Every. Single. Day. Now when you, your team and your business are working towards goals, that’s a lot of unhelpful thinking creating blocks and barriers to progress and results.
Even the most confident and positive amongst us can get caught up in unhelpful thinking patterns and disempowering language. What if this fails? This is never going to work. This is too hard. The problem with this is….And the list of negative, fear-based or judgemental self-talk continues.
How we talk to ourselves can have a big bearing on our resulting behaviour and actions. Much of what we feel, understand and accomplish happens as a result of our self-talk. If our inner dialogue is unhelpful, then so may be the way we respond, the action we take and the results we get.
Think about this in a business context. At some point, we all face high pressure situations, times of challenge and change. The conversations we have with ourselves, what we think and how we respond in these situations can determine the level of success we have.
It strikes me that in business, we spend a lot of time on business plans, marketing strategies, scenario planning, risk analysis and reporting on numbers. Yet not quite so much on the psychological aspects which when we master, can really make the difference to our results.
It’s well documented in the field of sports that athletes spend a lot of time and effort on the psychology of their performance. Yes, they analyse their competition, focus on their strategy, tactics and physical training. And they also invest in their mindset. High performing athletes use techniques such as visualisation and mental rehearsal. Crucially, they mind their language by having conversations with themselves that keep them focused on success, whilst staving off any negative thoughts of potential failure.
How many businesses do the same in preparation for achieving their ambitions? Imagine what could be achieved if we devoted more time and effort to priming our brains as well as our business plans.
So, what can you do to create a collectively focused and success-oriented organisational mindset and create better outcomes?
Here are three simple things you can do straight away.
1. Make believe with your team. When you’re planning or communicating your next project or deliverable with your team, invest some time with them imagining and visualising the result. What does success look like? How does it feel? What are you saying to yourselves when you’ve achieved it? How do you benefit? And how will you celebrate when you’ve achieved it?
2. Mind your language by asking yourself better questions. Negative thinking is often linked to fear. And it is fear that holds us back from achieving goals. One of the common ways we create fear (and therefore negative thoughts or outcomes) is by asking ourselves really bad questions. For instance, what if this project fails? can make us feel uninspired, dispirited and disempowered. Whereas, asking the better question what will happen when this project succeeds? helps to fuel the imagination and create the motivation to take positive action. Both questions are asking for information about success, but the second question activates positive motivation.
3. Choose your words carefully. Your words matter. A lot. When confronted with a negative thought, or unhelpful inner self-talk, you can mind your language by choosing different and more helpful words. How? First notice and observe the negative thought or language. Then choose different words which help you to reframe and see things differently. For example
Instead of Try
The problem is Here’s the challenge
Plan A didn’t work Good job there are 25 more letters of the alphabet
This is too hard This may take a bit more time and effort and can be done
We can’t do it We can always learn so we’ll keep trying
By practising using more helpful words, you’ll naturally find over time, this will become your default way of thinking. As a result, you will develop a more success-oriented mindset.
If you’d like help to achieve better outcomes, more quickly with greater clarity and confidence, ask us about our coaching support