There is no doubt that whenever anyone has to approach speaking in public the nerves set in. Countless articles and books have been written about the ways to beat the nerves, and how to create the perfect presentation. But I wanted to focus in on the “why”. “Why” is it so important to be good at public speaking today, more than ever before.
1)You Will Build Resilience and Grow In Confidence
The first time I was in a position of doing a talk that “really mattered” I was so nervous I couldn’t speak to anyone for days. I was afraid of forgetting my lines. I was afraid no one would think anything of what I had to say. I was afraid that I was going to be thought of as all sizzle and no sausage. I felt sick.
Then I did the talk.
It went really well. Like super well.
Nowadays the nerves still come whenever I talk, but I am more confident. I built some resilience to the nerves.
After attending one of my Speaker Courses, Clare saw me at an event and said to me “Kate, I went for a job interview after the course, and I decided to just be me, and be confident. On the first question I answered really assertively – and just said what I thought. I would never have done that before the course! I didn’t just get the job, I got offered a better job because of my answer to the first question”
If you can beat your fear of speaking in public – you can do anything.
2) You Will Be A Better Communicator In Day to Day Life
Great communication is a skill. It requires thought and practice. The thing is that we rarely think of it as a skill, and think of it as something we can all just “do”, and therefore we don’t apply any thought or practice. Especially when our key way to communicate today is via text or WhatsApp.
Speaking in public whether on stage, or podcast or on a youtube channel, will make you a better communicator in your day to day life, because you have to think about what you are saying and how your message is being received.
I helped a client start a podcast about 3 years ago. His podcast is on sport, his job is as a surveyor. He commented to me about a year in that he had noticed the impact of the podcast on his working life. He said “Having to form arguments and opinions on a weekly basis on the podcast means I am able to form stronger arguments at work. I am much less fearless about speaking up, and I am better at making a clear point”
3) You Will Become An Authority (and More Persuasive As A Result)
There are 2 things that make you successful:
- Be good at what you do
- Make sure people know about it
I have a friend who is a brilliant teacher. He covered a role while a colleague was on maternity leave for a year, did a brilliant job and then went for the role full time. In the interview, he assumed that they realised that he had done a good job, and so didn’t feel the need to tell stories or explain in detail what he had done.
He didn’t get the job.
When you stand up in public and tell people stories about what you do, and what you do well, you automatically become an authority on what you do.
When I did my talk to my industry I went from “person who could do a good job” to “person people knew did that job well”. In fact from that talk I found the confidence, and the authority, to launch a business to coach presenters.
The world is noisy. The world has its face in social media. The world is getting automated all the time. Being a good communicator is essential to you being able to achieve your goals – and getting good at public speaking is one of the ways that you can achieve this.
You can find out more details of my public speaking course “Speaker In 6” here.
Commercial Radio Presenters have always known the pressure of being allowed to talk, for only a certain time. Over the years it has been my job to get the most out of a presenter that has to talk for only 2 minutes. Or 30 seconds. Or 10 seconds. Or 3 seconds.
In that time it’s a radio presenter’s job to get you to listen for 15 minutes more (this is to do with how audience figures are collated). It’s not easy.
Now many presenters struggled, complaining that they couldn’t get the story in in-that time. I spent many hours and days explaining that in that short time they should be thinking “what CAN I do?” Rather than “What can’t I get done?” There is nothing like a time limit to make you self edit – but self-editing is hard.
Then one day a presenter who had been resistant, bounded up to me and with a real glint in his eye said: “Kate! I listened to my Friday show and I tell you what, this shorter link thing is amazing. When you hear my voice it’s like, boom!”
He clapped his hands together “Impact!”
Making every word count is not a new concept, Mark Twain said: “I’m sorry this letter is long, but I didn’t have the time to make it short”. And the Twitter age has had us working out how to edit our complex emotions down to 140/250 characters for some time now.
It’s still not easy. So here are some tips to self edit your content.
- Remove all mitigating language
Too many words get in the way of your message.
When you look at a painting the warmer colours (yellows, oranges, reds) attract the eye first. So if you want the eye drawn to a certain part of the canvas you paint some red in that spot. But if you paint the whole canvas red, it’s just red – and nothing else stands out.
Words are the same. Too many words, and too much detail is an ineffective way of getting someone to hear your point. You are saying everything and nothing.
The first thing to do is to get rid of any wasted words:
I was thinking that
Does that make sense?
Not only do they fill in space that needs to be cleared, but they also undermine your point.
- Rehearse and hear it back
Nothing beats rehearsal and listening back to spot where an edit is required.
Record yourself on your phone, and listen back. Film yourself on your phone, and watch it back. Even practising in front of another human gets you to hear yourself back.
Trust me – you will hear your edit immediately. I usually find myself yelling “oh shush will you” at myself. And then I just hammer out the words.
- Get to the point as quickly as you can
Helen Zaltzman-Austwick is the Queen Of Podcasters. I saw her speak at a live event a couple of years ago and she advised the audience of eager podcast makers: “Start as late in the story as possible”.
The biggest mistake people make is to over explain the set up and give too much context. The story doesn’t start with the set up, it starts with the problem. The set up literally gives your audience the reason to keep listening to you.
It’s the same with any point you wish to make. Never make your boss wait 45 minutes before you deliver the point of your presentation. Get into your point as soon as you can.
Use these three tips to be heard, and create an impact in these noisy times.
Rejection is a yukky thing.
This week as Global Radio in the UK consolidated their local breakfast and drive shows. Industry press juggernaut Radio Today estimates that 250 presenters could be affected by the changes in the UK. And it’s all kicking in, in a month’s time. There are households across the country now wondering “what now?”.
As a radio presenter, your career is built on rejection: The number of demos and conversations that lead to nothing. The number of times a new boss comes in and you have to hold tight to find out if you still have a job. The time the station decides to refresh the lineup and you get offered a weekend show from your daily one. The time another radio group buys your station. Or as we have seen this week: The time Ofcom rules change and the “business” end of things get in the way of your dreams.
The difficulties are that it all gets played out in public and when your product is “you”, it’s very difficult to not take it personally.
I’ve been through redundancy twice, and left my role as Content Controller at Key 103 because of a “restructure”. I’ve also had to let people go: there’s a BBC National presenter who was on the receiving end of me “not renewing their contract” at a local commercial station some years ago, who I am sure (quite rightly) is and will be dining out on it for years to come. Mr C lost his beloved Xfm Manchester Breakfast show, when Radio X (another Global Station) was launched and it was announced that Chris Moyles was going to be networked from London.
Long story short the outcomes were – Tim got his gig on Virgin Radio and BT Sport and launched Hive Content. I launched The Presenter Coach which has gone from strength to strength. And the presenter I let go: well you see it say “BBC National Presenter” right?
Most stories of losing jobs, end with the protagonist saying “it was probably one of the best things that happened to me”. The thing is, in the moment, no matter how well you are compensated, you can’t help but feel utterly rejected when your boss tells you that you are no longer needed in your current role.
Here are a few of things that got me and Mr C through it the last time (and will get us through it next time):
- Permission to Grieve
When you are in the eye of the storm of rejection – it’s not a calm, reflective experience. It’s clunky, difficult and sad. It’s really sad. So allow yourself space to grieve.
The reality is that you are experiencing loss. Rejection in this way isn’t just about feeling unwanted – you will have lost a part of your life you love, and even base your identity on. It’s not easy. I found that once I recognised what I was experiencing was grief, it was a lot easier to cut myself some slack.
It’s easy to put pressure on dusting yourself off and picking yourself back up and to “man up”, but the best use of your time is going along with your emotions as they come and allow them to become part of you.
2. Do Not Get Confused Between MERIT and TASTE*
You were and are good enough to be there in the first place (this is merit), but the new boss wants their station product to sound like a Twix and you are a glorious Mars Bar (this is taste). Or the new boss wants to run a more streamlined business (I’m going to call this taste too!).
“You” are the presenting product, and that means that sometimes your product isn’t right for the station product. It feels personal, but the decision is very rarely personal. (It’s worth remembering this when you are the one delivering the news too.)
Trust you will find your new product “fit”.
3. Put Your Audience First
When your audience finds out you are leaving, be gracious. Remember without them you are just a person talking in a box on your own. A beloved mentor of mine said to me, at the time I was leaving: “if you are comfortable with it, others will be comfortable too”. The minute you become snarky or awkward, your audience will begin to doubt your intentions and feel discomfort. Remember you need them with you, in whatever you do next.
4. “Don’t Make Any Decisions For 10 Weeks”
I have to credit the same mentor with this one and it was excellent advice.
Tim and I held off making any decisions and allowed ourselves time to think (we lost our gigs at the same time). I explored options, tried things out and allowed the thing I wanted the most to rise to the top. Before setting up The Presenter Coach, I thought I was ready to go down a different path. But by holding off for the 10 weeks it allowed me to set my mind and get what I really wanted.
It also meant that Tim and I had time to redecorate the kitchen! Ha!
5. The Rejectee Becomes The Rejector…
Post-rejection is the perfect time for reflection, but you are likely to be vulnerable to making decisions out of financial or spiritual necessity, rather than personal choice.
Sort out your finances and make it so that they will last you as long as possible without work. Establish what time you have* – how many hours a day are spent on sleeping, eating, exercising, netflix. Set some goals and commitments. Think about your habits. Read, learn, eat well, exercise, sleep, find joy.
Do whatever you need to do to be in a position to choose when an opportunity comes your way. Feeling like you can say “nope” to the ideas and jobs that aren’t quite right is important in choosing the “right” thing for you next.
Of course, when 250 presenters lose their seat at the ever-shrinking radio presenter table it starts to look bleak. My observation is that now more than ever, the presenters that will be secure are the ones with the “portfolio” career: write the book, make the podcast, own the production company, do the voiceovers, set up a kids club, run an events company – all the while presenting too. And when it comes to changing careers and sectors all together; Lisa Kerr did a talk at Next Radio a few years ago about the invaluable transferable skills you get from radio.
In the same week the radio industry felt a sack full of rejection, I went to PechaKucha Manchester – a spoken word night with 10 speakers, each talk is 20 slides and they have 20 seconds per slide. This week’s theme: “Rejection”. (Anywhere you see an * in this blog is credit to this night). From those 10 talks I was reminded:
Rejection is a yukky thing but…
- it helps you focus on you
- it sets you on the right path
- it helps you reassess and rebuild
- it should be felt in everything you do, because then you know you’re doing it right.
“I love networking”… said no one ever!
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.
“Be bigger with your arms” I said as my client was trying out her performance.
She moved her hands up with her elbows almost stuck to her sides.
“No bigger” hoping that she would open up her arms wide
She moved her hands out to the side and kept her elbows glued to her sides.
“Ha! Bigger than that – hold your arms to the side”
She started laughing, feeling the vulnerability, but she raised her arms and spoke her line and that was when she became the leader she should be.
Whether you are on stage, on screen or on air – the performance space shrinks you.
I always tell my clients that in the performance space you need to be vintage you plus 10% or more if you’ve got it.
That means you need to be a tiny bit bigger, louder, more vibrant than you are on a Friday night. And keeping that energy up throughout your performance is tough.
As a presenter you are like the ringmaster – your energy can change the room, and people always remember how you make them feel.
Here are my 5 tips to keeping up your energy:
- Use Your Body
Just like your brain can send messages to your body, your body can do the same to your brain, and most importantly your mouth!
I was working with a presenter who, when I said “what can you do to build your energy here?” said “well I could stand up…”.
Sit forward or stand up – your body will tell your brain to be more urgent and active, and in turn, you will have greater charisma and energy. Even if you are on the radio, be expressive with your arms and your face as this will increase your “follow the leader” vibe (eg your audience will want to come with you).
It might be that before you start speaking you do your Wonder Woman Pose, or get big, or even get your heart rate up by jumping up and down. You’ll be surprised how your vocal tone follows.
2.Use Your Voice
Your voice will give your energy away. I used to hear Mr C on the radio in the early days and I could hear when he was tired!
I think we can agree that low and monotonous vocal tone sounds very boring and will lose your audience. When you are tired your mouth also stops pronouncing your words – as if your lips get lazy!
Asking presenters to put more energy into their work means they can stumble on the following trip-ups. The first is talking too fast. More energy means more energy – not to talk like a Duracell Bunny! So remember to stay well paced. The second is that you end up just shouting. And probably monotonously.
The best for vocal tone is to remember your voice has a lot of pitches or tones within it and you can use them all in your presentation. Initially try starting sentences with emphasis and high pitched and then working “down the stairs” as you finish the sentence.
3. It Should Feel Corny
Whenever I ask presenters to be “grander” in their presentation, they find themselves feeling like they are using “obvious” language, and they feel really corny in their delivery.
I want you to consider 2 things.
Firstly – the obvious is there for a reason. Opening your best man’s speech with a well delivered “Ladies and Gentlemen” is a well trodden path for a reason: it works.
Secondly – getting comfortable with cliche is the first step to finding your own voice. Sometimes you have to open the door to the the cringe, to find what’s the other side. If you refuse to be cliche or a bit cringe from time to time, you are unlikely to find your own true voice. Treat it as part of the process.
4. You Don’t Know There Till You Go There
Rehearsal is the space where you discover your style. Use rehearsal time to try new things, and the things you are afraid of.
If you are terrified of moving your arms from your waist then try rehearsing with your hands above your head. If you are feeling shy, rehearse your talk by acting out “being really confident”, you’ll be surprised what you find.
These are my favourite moments of any of my presentation courses – the moment where a client finds their power and their energy. It’s a truly amazing moment when they let out the giggle of vulnerability, and then go for it. It’s like they light up! This moment never happens in an unprepared performance. It only happens when you push through some of your worries in your rehearsal time.
5. Prepare and Protect Your Energy
Performing can be tiring for some people. I know that when I am booked to do a talk, or when I am recording my podcast, not only do I ensure that I am eating and exercising well in the build up, I also make sure I book in some down time afterwards.
I learned this from one of the presenters I worked with at the BBC. I noticed they were deliberately booking in their rest time after any performance. They were one of the most consistent presenters I have worked with.
Another radio presenter I work with acknowledged that the quick drink after work on a Friday was affecting their Saturday performance and they were frustrated by that. They got sick of walking out of the studio feeling like they’d not been entirely on their game. They felt like they let their listener down
Your audience needs you on your A-Game. In fact they need for you to generate the energy they are lacking, through your energetic performance! Make caring for your energy levels a habit.