Asking Questions

When you give a presentation, do you ask enough questions? Even if they’re rhetorical questions, many people don't have enough questions in their presentations. It's simply a series of statements.  And the higher level thinking or the more familiar the topic, the more involved we are, the less easier it is to remember that sometimes we need to flip and turn a statement into a rhetorical question. For example, I was working with a client in sustainability who had some incredible stats, that she simply clicked through to on the slides and… there they were. And that was a perfect moment, which we...

Want to be a More Powerful Speaker?

Extend your vocal range.

You'd probably agree with me that one of the most crucial aspects of  an audience's ability to "hear" us is the amount of vocal contrast we use. (There are other contrast aspects too, topics for another day.) Coming across as varied enough is a key challenge that so many speakers have to face. Low vocal range equals low contrast, and low contrast leads to low engagement. We all have a natural range, don't we? Varying from very little change (almost monotone in delivery), to highly expressive...even dramatic! You can probably think of people who demonstrate very different ends of that scale! If...

How strong is your mind-to-mouth connection?

One of the things we’re always aiming for when we speak is to be clear. Sometimes to be impactful as well, but definitely to be clear. 

[Video content is below, too, if you prefer to watch.] And one of the key reasons that we don’t achieve this clarity goal is when our mouth is ahead of our mind: we don't have a strong mind-to-mouth connection.  When our mouth is running the show, any of these issues can happen. I'm sure you'll recognise yourself in at least one of them! Most people do at least one of these on a regular basis. We: Ramble ...

Do you Prefer “I feel” or “I think” when you Speak? And Why it Matters.

Speaking with a younger client hoping for promotion this week, she was telling me about meeting a partner in her firm to discuss her concerns about a team process.

And I noticed in her retelling of the conversation with him that she was continually using “I feel” and “I felt” to describe what she was observing.  Even though there were feelings involved on her part, using this language can be a concern for a few reasons:   For us. Saying “I feel” - it’s personal. It’s closer to us. We are actually priming ourselves to attach more strongly to the idea we’re expressing. This...

Why and How to Practise Speaking Under Pressure

The why - and how - to practise speaking under pressure: why it matters, and 2 super-practical tips. Do you ever get frustrated by the fact that you can practise and be fine at home or in front of the dog...but when you get into the actual space, things start to unravel? Or you feel more stressed than you thought you would, and that catches you by surprise? Here's a 2-minute video on how to put yourself under deliberate pressure in order to increase your capacity when you're actually speaking. By testing yourself in the ways I mention in the video - and there...

Speak to me, not ‘everyone’!

Speak to me, not 'everyone'

As communicators, we're always on the lookout for ways to connect and engage with our audience. What do you think is not ideal in these two examples? 1. An email I received this week from UNHCR*: "Dear Sarah, Thank you to everyone who has donated to help..." 2. My weekly email from Tim Ferriss of 4 hour week fame, which begins each week with "Hi All!" and ends "Have a wonderful weekend, all." Agh!

Tell me: do these communications engage with you directly?

Do you feel connected - as an individual, just one person - to the person or organisation sending the...

The Value of Volume When You Speak

What do I mean by the value of volume?

The amount of sound we make when speaking in public has impact far beyond simply people being able to hear us. And it doesn't matter if you're highly experienced, or new and nervous: working with aspects of volume is a great way to access greater courage or presence.

1. Let's look at volume and nerves first:

If you're anxious, your system tends to shrink and contract. And you may recognise any of these as a result: low breath, low energy, mind-blanks. This contraction happens to both your mind and your body...one follows the other: and the...

Speaking Too Fast When Presenting

If you find that you're regularly speaking too fast when presenting, there can be many reasons for this. Nerves, enthusiasm for your topic, or your natural speaking style are just a few. And when this happens and your mouth is moving faster than your brain, it's easy to feel out of control and say something you don't intend to, stumble or make mistakes. Is this typically you when you speak? You can end up gabbling and accelerating, sometimes chaotically, to the end. And breathing properly? Demonstrating presence? Forget that! Presence doesn't exist when we're not present - and rushing means exactly that.

Instead,...

A Key Audience Engagement Piece

Want to engage your audiences more effectively?

Remember this key point: the audience nearly always takes their cue from us. If we want them to be more than just informed by our presentation - and we usually do - we need to enable them to follow our lead easily. To motivate, lift, persuade or inspire...all of these need us as the speaker to model that behaviour. I'm not talking about being over the top - unless that's your style. Often quite subtle tweaks make all the difference. Here's how to think of it: An example from music I once worked with a conductor (in my...

Exhaustive Detail = Exhausted Audience

Exhaustive detail = exhausted audience!

If you've ever been in an audience and suffered through a stuffed - and possibly rushed - presentation, you'll probably relate to today's topic in exhaustive detail Cramming too much content into a talk or presentation is a bit like somebody feeding us, and continuing to put food into our mouth before we get the chance to swallow…let alone digest! We end up feeling bloated, distracted and uncomfortable. So if we now flip perspective, and you're the speaker or presenter: do you ever find yourself stuffing too much in? Cantering to the finish line to try to get through everything? I used to do...