“I have some silly questions,” I said to the group of people sat in front of me, they are all senior to me and when I think about being here I grin inside that I am worthy to be at this table.
I asked the questions – all of them brought important debate, and got us to think about issues we’d not discussed before now.
There was silly about those questions. Even so, I finish by saying: “And that’s all the silly questions thank you”…
The people around the table replied “nooo they were really good questions”
I left that meeting kicking myself – I deserve to be in that room so why did I let my “pinch myself I can’t believe it” feeling get the better of me?
Why am I apologising for myself?
Self-deprecation is a great tool to win people over, knowing your flaws and exploiting them allows people to feel good about theirs in your presence. There’s a difference between this and apologising for yourself.
In presenting apology appears in the way you introduce something “I hope you don’t mind but I wanted to share this with you” or “can I ask some silly questions?” (*facepalm*)
Or in the way you move on from something: post-punchline you say “anywaaayyy”
Or in the little giggle, you let out when you say something slightly wrong.
All of these are ways we end up undermining yourself. And when pitching or presenting you have to own the room, own your content and fulfil your assumed role as someone in authority.
How to stop undermining yourself
1). Be confident in your content
Confidence in your content is vital. Rehearse it more than you need to. Make the stories your own. Do what it takes to make sure you are comfortable with what you are talking about.
Remember if you don’t know everything, or the answer to a question from the audience, that’s not something that you need to apologise for, nor is it something that undermines you. Your confidence sings through all of that. To confidently say “I don’t know but I will find out for you” hold more integrity than trying to to answer and bumble your way through it finishing on an “anywayyyyy”.
Mr C has a rule that if he is not 100% confident in his content before he goes on air, he scraps it. The audience will never know what they have missed.
2). Practice getting rid of your vocal tick, eg; um, ah or giggle
When I work with many of my clients an um or a giggle is usually a symptom of a lack of clarity and confidence in their content (see point 1). Often the presenter says “well I wasn’t exactly sure what I was saying”.
If it still bothers you, you can use this technique, Click here. Just replace the word erm with whatever it is that you are doing.
3). Let your content breathe – and just don’t apologise
One of the reasons lines like “I hope you don’t mind me doing this…” or “Please indulge me…” are useful is because sometimes it’s hard to know how to go into your content.
For example, if you are about to read a poem, it’s easy to say “I hope you don’t mind but I wanted to read this as I felt it summed up the moment…”
But if you just drop the “I hope you don’t mind…” and presented it like “I found this poem and thought it summed up the moment…” and then read it, it’s much more powerful.
Just delete the apologetic language, and go with it. Same goes if you think your joke hasn’t landed. An ‘anywaaayyy’ draws the wrong kind of attention to it. Either just move on, or make a joke out of the awkward.
4). Say thank you
This is my latest ruse. I use it in email more than when speaking. I often find myself apologising for myself for being a few minutes late, or not replying to an email quickly. Often with some perspective, it’s not as bad as my apology can make it sound. Plus I often say sorry for it, and then I am late again the next time. I either have to be on time or I have to stop apologising for myself.
So I now say “Thank you for bearing with me…” or “Thank you for hanging on I really appreciate it…” My sentiment is the same, but I don’t hear myself saying “sorry” all the time.
Of course, when you mess up, apologise. If I have kept my time-starved mate waiting I am apologetic (and say thank you!). Or if you say something wrong then say sorry for it. But you preserve the power of those “sorrys” by stepping up and confidently presenting in the first place. Save your “sorry” for when you really need it.
The word is enough to send shudders through many people I meet.
Whether you like it or not, networking is key to building the relationships that will propel your career.
No one will work with you without some level of familiarity and trust, and that can only be achieved through meeting with someone face to face.
The biggest things I hear are that; networking feels forced, people never know what to say, and they find the whole thing uncomfortable.
On the other hand I quite like networking, I always have, but I didn’t know what I was doing was networking when I started talking to people – because that’s all it is. This list will help you to shift your mindset around networking.
Networking Events Are Brilliant
So I need to caveat that even though I like speaking to people, I still struggle with networking events. I am still nervous before making contact. I still hate that uncomfortable moment of approaching someone and saying hello.
The reason I think they are brilliant is that those moments are SUPPOSED to be uncomfortable and “awks” but at an event titled “Networking Event” then the whole thing is expected. In fact, by approaching someone at a networking event where you are expected to talk to someone, you are more than likely to be met with the pure relief that they didn’t have to do it. You saved them from the initial awkward moment.
So networking events are brilliant because you’re supposed to be having the awkward moment and everyone feels the same. The “awks” moment is forgiven and the chat begins!
2. Small Talk Is ACE (Secret: It’s All About The Follow Up Question)
If we continue on the theme of “it’s supposed to be awkward”. And that everyone accepts that small talk is a step to a deeper chat. Then small talk is ace. It leads into the next thing.
The small talk question: “What do you do?” Or “what’s keeping you busy at the moment?”. Or “how was your day?”. Is a vehicle into the follow-up question – which is when the conversation actually begins:
You: How was your day?
Them: It was good
You: What was good about it? / What was the best thing that happened?
You: What do you do?
Them: I am a barrister
You: Oh whereabouts? / What does that entail?
You: So what’s keeping you busy at the moment?
Them: Actually my kids are a real focus at the moment
You: Oh how many do you have?
3. Newsflash: You Don’t Have To Go To An Event
There is an assumption that to network you have to go to events, meet new people or people above you in your career status. Well yes, this is a good assumption. But. In my career, the opportunities have come from those people I have been working with over the years. My peers, my colleagues and my friends.
You are actually networking all the time.
I network in many ways. I have got work from joining a netball team. I will often ask people to go for a coffee just me and them. I will meet someone through a client and that will lead to more work. One of the benefits of my podcast is that I get to meet more people. I met one client after she replied to an Instagram post, and I followed it up while I was on a beach in Greece.
Networking can take on the form you choose – which means you are in control of how it happens and you can do it on your terms. The key outcome of networking is to create trusting connections, that form business relationships. Not every conversation will end there, you don’t know the outcome of the conversations. But. You do know the outcome if you avoid meeting people.
One word has the power to undermine your authority.
The presenter on the radio is telling a story about how he came out of his house to find someone had sprayed hummus over his car. “Hummus?” He said “That’s a very Waitrose style vandalisation! I have arrived” He let it hang… then said the one word that makes me scream at the radio…
I screamed at the radio.
As a presenter, you are an authority.
When you say “Anywaaayy” you are undermining yourself.
It’s one thing to be self-deprecating, or to lose track, but when you are telling your story the word “Anywayyy” gets right in the way.
The solution: just pause and move on to the next thing. Use something else to get you out – some audio, some music, or if you are presenting on stage a new slide.
It often transpires that the presenter hasn’t fully thought the story through, or they didn’t quite believe the story or what they are saying. Have confidence in your content. Make sure you do the prep. And remember just cos you can’t hear them laughing doesn’t mean they aren’t (and that goes for if you can see your audience or not).
And have you ever wondered why your other half is defending themselves even before you’ve asked them the simplest question?!
The answer is in …..Your Voice
Your impact is defined by how you use your voice, in any environment. Getting it right will change your life.
So, here are some tips to “change your life”
1. Pause and Emphasise
There is a technique called the Hudson Technique where you learn to end a sentence, pause, and emphasise the beginning of the next sentence. Letting your thoughts and words run into each other is exactly how to lose your listeners. This is especially true when you are moving between topics. So to keep your listener’s attention you have to start with an energetic word or phrase to indicate “this is new”. And you can use the power of the pause to build up the emphasis.
You will well know that the one thing that gets your attention most these days is silence. Think about what it is that makes you actually look at the radio?!
2. Sing Song
Your voice has a natural melody. Except when we are under pressure (like in a talk) we can lose the melody or over use the melody entirely. In his TEDx Talk Vocal Coach Roger Love talks about the fact that staying monotonous means your audience just knows what is coming. He talks about embracing the melody in “going up the stairs” and “coming down the stairs”. How one implies happy, and one implies sad.
You can watch it here:
3. Use Your Face to be Believable
When you are doing a serious pieces: frown and it will make you sound serious. When you are doing a happy piece, or you need energy: smile – you won’t believe the difference in a smile! And then there is just plain believing in what you are saying. The reality is that you will have to talk about something you either don’t really fully understand, or don’t care about. At this point you must deploy self reflection. Engaging with either what you know to be true about what you are talking about, or engaging some empathy around what you are talking about, can help you to believe in what you are saying.
4. Self Care
Your voice is a muscle, that is part of your body, and it needs to be cared for. Some people when they get overworked and overtired – it shows in their voice. The vocal cords take a hammering. I’m not suggesting that you start getting all diva honey and lemon over your voice. I am suggesting that you can remember to rest, to stand tall, to allow your lungs the space to breathe, to breathe properly, to stay hydrated and one final tip to keep your vocal cords in check: hum. Hum around the house, and wherever you can. The vibrations are supposed to help keep the muscles strong and lubricated!
Use your voice to create impact and engage your audience, and you can sweep them off their feet.