Prepare To Speak!

Countdown Steps To Prepare For Your Next Presentation

I’m often asked, “What can I do to best prepare to speak?”  I recommend getting out of your head and into your body. This means, prepare yourself emotionally, physically and mentally weeks in advance. Or if it’s a big deal or event, prepare months in advance. Take the time to get very clear about your purpose and message.

When we feel emotionally tense, our bodies follow suit and tense up. Tension, particularly relating to stage fright, manifests itself in the chest, shoulders, throat, jaw, head and stomach for many people. This results in a kind of “holding oneself in” paralysis. A bit like a rabbit in the headlights – there you are speaking in front of a group and you whisper to yourself – “If I don’t move and look like a chair – they’ll forget I’m here”. Doesn’t work unfortunately. And you aren’t a rabbit.

Tension can also result in a “blank mind” and a disconnect from yourself and your audience. And “head spins” can come from a lack of oxygen (breathing too quickly from your upper chest and not being grounded, so slow it down and feel your feet on floor). It’s interesting that issues relating to the “head” figure so highly when it comes to fearing public speaking. The remedy I recommend is to: “Get out of your head and into your body”. I love this phrase; you’ve probably noticed I use it a lot. It really is a simple counterpoint to speaking nerves and tension.

Follow this countdown to prepare to speak:

Some Weeks Before Your Presentation:
Practice using the Calm Barometer and the Inner Calm Exercise daily to build a new calm habit – follow the links below to these exercises. (These are not quick fixes but a long term solution to retraining your body’s reaction to tension.)

Some Days Before Your Presentation:
Visualise yourself speaking with ease in front of your audience. Consciously choose to relax your traditional tension spots. See yourself taking your time and using the physical exercises written directly below…

The Day Before Your Presentation:
Raise your shoulders to your ears, hold, and release, letting your shoulders gently drop. Repeat twice more. Then, hug yourself tightly, just like you are holding yourself in with tension, and release, throwing your arms generously open, kind of like you are ‘hugging the world” – (I know, I know, it sounds dicky in print, it’s better at my workshops.) These exercises open your chest, face, airways, shoulders and tummy, releasing tension and awakening intention. Go for a walk and stop thinking about your presentation. Daydream. Physical exercise helps you regain perspective and breaks obsessive thoughts. Really, life goes on. Will you remember this presentation in 5 years time? And, will anyone else?

Directly Before Your Presentation:
Take a deep, even breath from the base of your stomach and release evenly. Feel your feet on the floor. Gently roll your shoulders back. This opens your chest, drops your shoulders, opens your throat and magically gives you a confident posture. Imagine the top of your head is suspended by a silken cord and the rest of your body follows effortlessly. (Thank you Alexander technique.) Use your Calm Anchor if you have one and embody your personal strengths.

Directly After Your Presentation:
Rather than go straight back into your head and do a vicious deconstruction of every mistake you made during your presentation – just don’t go there right now. Your adrenaline is pumping and what you need to do is reground yourself so that you continue to be fully present with others – answer questions, accept invitations, make decisions, network and so on. Consciously let your breath flow evenly and let your body take care of dissipating your stress hormones.

The Day After Your Presentation:
Make sure you have been for a walk or engaged in some kind of relaxation activity to switch your brain off and reboot your system. When you have surfaced, it’s time to evaluate you and your presentation constructively:

  • How effectively did you handle nervous tension this time?
  • When were your listeners most engaged with you?
  • How might you do the same presentation again?
  • Knowing what you now know, how might you help yourself prepare to speak next time?

When you give yourself the gift of generous time to prepare to speak, you’ll be able to handle speaking tension before, during and after, sooo much better. You’ll also be able to focus on your message and purpose with calm clarity, allowing you to captivate your group with authenticity and presence every time you speak.

© 2011-17, Geraldine Barkworth, authentic speaking coach. This article is the opinion of the author only.


Speak & Listen With Presence

There is no quicker way to lose your audience than by “going through the motions”. Remedy that by learning to speak listen with presence.

“Going through the motions” means your body is present, but your mind and spirit have left the building.  Sometimes the audience is quicker to recognise memorised, disingenuous rote, than the speaker / trainer themselves.  This is sad.  Going through the motions leads to boredom, the dulling of creativity and a loss of credibility. To speak listen with presence, start by listening to your audience first.

First, Listen To Your Audience

Presence is the opposite to “going through the motions.”  Body, mind and spirit are working harmoniously, fully connected in the present moment.  An audience “switches on” when they realise the speaker / trainer is authentic and available to them right here and right now.  It charges the atmosphere and inspires trust, rapport and connection and generates credibility, energy and impact.  This is exciting.  Being present produces new paradigms, spontenaity, flexibility and empowered results. Listening to your audience allows you to be present with them.

Begin With Presence

Start with presence, by preparing yourself in advance. The state of presence is a habit like any other and until it becomes second nature when you speak in public, you need to prepare the space you will step into, mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Recognising the importance of your presentation to you and others, provides motivation and clarity for making time to prepare. Insufficient preparation is the most common public speaking mistake. When you don’t like public speaking, there is a tendency to over prepare (obsess) or under prepare (avoid). Like Little Red Riding Hood, talk preparation needs to be “just right” for you. By designing your own preparation habit or ritual, you send yourself the message, “This talk is important, worth my time and I am going to be present for it.” ” I am going to speak & listen with presence. ”

What is your usual pattern of behaviour before a talk? Does it serve you or dishonour you?

Stay With Presence

Stay present, by accepting that you will move in and out of the present moment with your group or audience.  That’s life. The key is to not beat yourself up when you feel a disconnect and thus get preoccupied with your own story.  Instead, stop, take a breath, connect with one person and give yourself permission to start again with them.  Staying present is a series of small comings and goings riding on the ebb and flow of mindful awareness.

Finish With Presence

Finish with presence, by making it clear to everyone that you are indeed finishing. Use verbal clues with a clear instruction like: “We’ll wrap up in ten minutes and then I’ll invite questions.” This will swing every participant’s attention back to the present moment (as well as your own), alerting them to be prepared for all that your finish may entail (Q & A, assessment, feedback, special offers).

Even if you felt disconnected throughout your presentation, you can still finish with a good connection. Stay still when you acknowledge your group in completion, making genuine eye contact with one person at a time. Take your time and stay grounded and focussed, allowing participants to acknowledge you with whatever they offer, like a clap, cheer or nod, accept it graciously and finish your presentation fully present, without your mind rushing off to the next thing.

Speak Listen With Presence Starts Now

Listeners are usually most alert at the beginning and the end of a training talk, presentation or conversation, so make the most of it by connecting strongly. Connecting with presence takes less than ten seconds.  Speak listen with presence happens every time you choose. Once you know how, you can do it anytime, anywhere.

© 2011-17, Geraldine Barkworth, authentic speaking coach. This article is the opinion of the author only.

Speak About What Makes You, Different

Name Your Point Of Difference At Networking Events

Picture this: you are at a networking event. Perhaps it’s a lunch, a book launch or a conference. Amongst others, there are 4 naturopaths, 2 real estate agents and 3 life coaches. You need their services, but how do you choose and what’s the difference between them?

And that’s the crucial question.

In today’s market, there are an overwhelming variety of services and products from which to choose. Creating a unique Point Of Difference (POD) is a strategic way to make your product or service stand out and be noticed.

Generally, people choose their service and product providers based on:

  • Whether they instantly like and trust you, more so than the others.
  • If they immediately understand what you offer and it’s what they need.
  • If they have a recommendation from a friend, so the process of trust has begun.
  • Regularly seeing and hearing you and your marketing so that it feels “familiar”.

To help potential clients recognise your Point Of Difference, build these 4 pathways:

  1. Learn public speaking techniques to build authentic trust, rapport and presence.
  2. Be able to clearly articulate in 30 seconds your Point Of Difference.
  3. Build cross-referrals with related practitioners and make sure existing clients understand all that you do. Don’t forget the most obvious: ask good clients for referrals.
  4. Create a consistent marketing message in a variety of media and share value added information to educate and inform. This builds your credibility and brand so that you become known as the familiar subject expert.

Finally, ask yourself:
Would you choose you?

If your answer is “no” and you don’t have these four pathways clearly laid out, take the time to work out your unique Point Of Difference. If you don’t know what makes you stand out from your competitors, then neither will your clients and they may choose someone else.

Find your authentic voice and message and you will have created your unique Point Of Difference.

© 2009-2011, Geraldine Barkworth, authentic speaking coach. This article is the opinion of the author only.

Tips On Speaking To A Hostile Audience

Do You Know How To Handle It?

Ever spoken to a group, discovered they were hostile and you were in the firing line? Hostility is scary, especially en masse. With adrenaline rushing through your veins and theirs, do you know how to handle it?

In a hostile audience situation, I’ve had clients react with the following:

  • Die a little inside and carry on valiantly with sad ‘please don’t eat me” eyes.
  • Get angry and either leave or beat up the audience, creating more hostility.
  • Trust their gut and adapt to the situation. They may break the tension with something spontaneous and genuine, they may verbally acknowledge how the group is feeling or even ask the group for permission to proceed. They may cut short or change the presentation after negotiation with the group.

3 Ways To Help You  & Your Audience

1.  Research Your Audience
In advance of your presentation, research your audience. Ask the organiser lots of questions. If you can, briefly interview a few participants to hear it “straight from the horse’s mouth.” Make it clear it’s confidential to promote honesty. Ask gritty questions about motivation, morale, problems, typical problems experienced and identify what they really need.

2.  Establish Trust and Rapport
It’s just not possible to win all of the people all of the time. Start with just one person in the group. Someone who wants to be there and is willing to listen. They may be leaning forward, smiling or just making eye contact with you. These are the people to whom you give 100% of your attention. Speak directly to them. Notice their reaction to your words. When you take the time to build trust and rapport, that’s what you‘ll also get in return.

3.  Beyond Your Control
I’m not talking about giving up, shoulders drooping, when confronted with a hostile group; I’m talking about recognizing when a situation is simply beyond your control.

Sometimes it is better and smarter to make a strategic retreat or renegotiate, learn from it and survive to play again another day. The key here is to learn how to not let it affect your self esteem.

My Workshops From Hell

The three most difficult workshops I ever facilitated had 3 things in common:

  • Vague organisers who didn’t disclose the participants hated one another;
  • Very late bookings with-ever changing details and numbers;
  • I ignored my intuition to not accept the jobs.

Looking back, I learned an enormous amount from these disasters – some parts of which were beyond my control (participants hating one another; disorganised and vague organisers) and some of which were within my control (good intuition and ability to set boundaries and create trust.)

What You Can Do

  1. Learn as much as you can about your audience to relate your subject, tone and examples to their needs.
  2. Establish trust and rapport, one person at a time.
  3. Renegotiate when you can. Treat your audience with respect to earn their trust. Recognise that some situations are beyond your control and not your fault. Grab the opportunity to learn from them.

Speakers are tightrope artists, balancing the sometimes conflicting needs of audience, Hirer, Event and themselves. Ultimately, you cannot control other people’s reactions, but you can seek to control your own. And hostility may be in the eyes of the beholder. A hostile audience to one speaker, may be thrilling to another.

© 2009-2018, Geraldine Barkworth, authentic speaking coach. This article is the opinion of the author only.

Be Cool Calm Connected When You Speak

Natural Grace Radiant Authenticity

People frequently associate “public speaking” with delivering a formal speech. But I define it as the ability to have an easy conversation with anyone other than yourself. “ Cool Calm Connected ” means having the self-awareness, self-confidence and self-assurance to present who you are and what you do with natural grace and radiant authenticity. Who doesn’t want some of that? Let’s look at a common scenario:

You have been invited to speak.
In public.
In front of people you don’t know.
And in front of people you do know.

You can’t decide which is worse. Your heart pounds. You feel sick, in fact, you are definitely going to be too sick to speak on the day, even though it’s two months away.

You know this for a fact. Because it’s happened to you before.

So, you decide that it’s better for everyone concerned that you email an apology, stay in your office that day and work on new marketing strategies that allow you to avoid speaking in public. You cleverly decide that this is what they mean by, “work smarter, not harder.”

You Aren’t Alone

Never fear, you aren’t alone in your avoidance of presenting yourself in public. Self-consciousness is rampant in western society. It’s a feeling of acute separation of yourself from everyone else. Most people suffer it by varying degrees at some point in their lives.

Self consciousness can show up at:

  • parties,
  • speaking to the Board,
  • delivering a paper at a conference,
  • meeting a client unexpectedly in the street,
  • introducing yourself at breakfast networking,
  • standing your ground and stating your full fee.

And it looks like:

  • Sweating, pounding heart, blank mind   (“I’m going to die up there”)
  • Talking too fast to fill in any spaces        (“I’ll give them no space to think”)
  • Memorising, sticking rigidly to notes     (“I must be perfect”)
  • Polished, inauthentic performance         (Looks good but feels hollow)
  • Giving way too much information          (I’ll impress them with my knowledge”)
  • Stiff, inarticulate and formulaic              (“I don’t want people to see who I am”)
  • Giggling, twitching, umming                  (“Gee I hope someone rescues me soon”)
  • Thinking: “I’ve nothing of value to offer”    (“This just confirms I’m boring”)
  • Rambling incoherence                              (“I’ve got no idea where I’m going”)
  • Believing you must be an expert             (“I’ll put it off til next year when I ready”)

Softly Softly Technique

Whatever the source of your beliefs, discomfort or fear around presenting yourself in public, there is a  “softly, softly” technique that allows you to emerge as the cool calm connected professional woman you truly are. It starts with taking a breath and slowing down.

It’s Not All About You

Whenever you speak to a group, it’s because you want to educate, promote or inspire an idea, product or service. First though, you need to build trust, rapport and relevance. As an audience member, would you listen to and buy from, a speaker you couldn’t relate to and didn’t trust?

Thinking that it’s all about you in the spotlight as the speaker, makes you feel self-conscious. If you start with the WIFM (‘what’s in it for me”) by establishing your credibility and the benefits they’ll gain by listening to you, speaking becomes about the audience, not you.

Cool Calm Connected

Your job is to focus on connecting with them, one human being to another. When you “drop the mask” and invite people in, generally, they will do the same. And what you create, is authentic connection, an understanding of who you are on a much deeper level simply by choosing to be cool calm connected.

Communicating from the heart, fully present with others, brings acceptance and understanding. There is a sense of “oneness” which is healing for all – speakers and listeners. The ability to connect with others is radiantly attractive to all people. It is the defining characteristic of great leaders and speakers …and human beings.

© 2011, Geraldine Barkworth, authentic speaking coach. This article is the opinion of the author only.

Are You Scared of Using Microphones?

There Is A Fear And It’s Called: Microphonebia!

The symptoms include sweating, a dry mouth, a blank stare and a squeaky voice.  Some people regard public speaking as a fearsome pursuit – hand them a microphone and it turns into a phobia.

Why does this simple metal device inspire so much horror in so many?

Would it be so scary if it were rainbow coloured with streamers hanging off the end? Would you then be able to hold yourself back from grabbing that microphone to sing, “We Are The World” and get everyone waving their hands in the air like they just don’t care? There’s no way you could ramble and go blank with that much love in the room.

A microphone is a magical device.  It takes sound energy (your voice or instrument) and transforms it into electrical energy.  This electrical energy can then be amplified or recorded, so that everyone can hear you.

And I guess that’s the scary part.  What if you don’t want everyone to hear you? The amplification makes your voice bigger than you, potentially takes it beyond your control. And equipment can be unpredictable – what if it makes that awful screeching sound, or your voice booms out something inane. Ah, why are we so complicated?  Why so many fears?

Fears are often imaginative and based on worry.  One way to deal with microphonebia is to drag it into the light and examine it with keen scientific detachment.  Let’s break it down into known facts:

Microphone Facts

The clip on shirt mike or the madonna mike (headset) are the least invasive mikes and you can just speak naturally.  Be careful with expressive hand movements and don’t knock it flying when you make a dramatic point.  Make sure you are wearing a belt or pockets for the power pack.

A lectern or floor mike is the most restrictive as you are stuck behind a large immovable object.  Great if you want to hide or if you have a lot to read.  Not so good if you don’t want to be mistaken as a character out of The Thunderbirds.  Find out in advance if you can unhook the microphone from its stand and if so, practise unhooking and using in advance.

A handheld mike with a cord is great for practising your skipping, while a wireless handheld mike is easier to use.  However, it means you only have one hand available for notes, props or waving that hand in the air.

What Could Go Wrong But Probably Won’t

Simply turning up earlier and practising can alleviate microphonebia and most things you worry about. Knowing exactly how to adjust the microphone height, how to switch it on or even knowing where you will stand, will free up your mind for concentrating on being with the audience rather than being with the equipment.

To avoid getting lots of blowy, sssyyy sounds with a lectern, floor or hand held microphone, aim to speak 5 – 10 cm across the top of the mike, not directly into it. Practise with a carrot at home. The carrot will never laugh at you of course, only with you.

If the microphone screeches, there may be another mike switched on nearby causing interference (switch it off) or you may be standing in front of or under the sound system speakers (move around until all is quiet).

Asking for help is a good idea – do it quickly and smile at the audience, don’t ignore them. They will wait if you are honest and gracious.

If you feel anxious about using a microphone, prepare in advance:  Take 3 deep breaths. Now simultaneously, imagine yourself using the microphone with ease while you are breathing deeply and calmly.  Practise this visualisation a few days ahead of time.

If someone hands you a microphone unexpectedly, try this: Hold it away from your face, stay still for a moment, take a deep breath, connect with your audience with your eyes, and when you lift the microphone 5 – 10 cm from your mouth, remember, it’s only a carrot.

The Microphone Is For The Audience

As much as you may fantasise about looking good on stage in tight leather pants and screaming fans, the microphone is not there for your benefit.  It is there so that others may hear you without having to lip read and so that no one will go home, bereft of your wisdom.  Who are you to deny them?

Well all right, a microphone does benefit you too.  If you’ve gone to all that trouble to put together a speech, argument, case, submission, idea, you need the right people to hear you, and the right equipment to make sure they hear it loud and clear.  Otherwise, what a waste of your time, effort and fear.

As a speaker, you have the opportunity to wave a powerful magical wand to transform the hearing of mere mortals.  Don’t let microphonebia hold you back any longer! Step forward onto the stage of your life and speak!!!  Wave that microphone in the air like you just don’t care!

© 2009-2017, Geraldine Barkworth, authentic speaking coach. This article is the opinion of the author only.

How To Create A Compelling 30 Second Self Introduction

Be Short And Sweet

We live in a society with advert-length attention spans. You can grab that attention by creating a short personal ad also known as a 30 second self introduction. 

One of my bugbears occurs at functions when the harassed facilitator pleads: “Now we’ve got a lot to cover today, so please give a brief 30 second self introduction.”  Before long, someone grabs 4 minutes of “Me Me Time” at everyone’s expense.  A new trend begins of 4, 5, 6 minute mind numbing self-introductions.

I used to think such people were insensitive, selfish and can’t follow direction.  As a veteran function-attender, I’ve gleaned the true reasons for self introducers who rave and ramble. And that’s because they:

  • don’t know how to structure a succinct self introduction.
  • simply are so nervous about speaking, they blank out and ramble.
  • are totally unprepared and have no idea what they are doing there.
  • really are insensitive, selfish and can’t follow direction!

Key Benefits Of A 30 Second Self Introduction

  • Good First Impression – more work upfront means less work long term.
  • Less Is More – keep your words clutter-free will make you easier to understand.
  • Being Succinct – shows respect for other people’s time and this is always appreciated.

Most people want to get a sense of who you are and what you can do for them, before they want to know your name.  And if they are interested in what you offer, they are likely remember your name.  So think about Them first, not You, when you give a 30 second self introduction.

Introduce Yourself With Ease and Grace To

  • Quickly establish rapport and open a connection.
  • Give an ‘elevator” speech and create an opportunity.
  • Make a powerful impression that gets you noticed.

It’s a good idea to have a few self-intro’s up your sleeve, because you don’t want to sound like a broken record and because everybody, every situation and everyday is different. Here’s what to include in your little personal ad plus my examples:

1. Describe the benefit of what you do for others (not your title or process.)
2. Use visual, graphic examples to which people can easily relate.
3. Give your name.

Examples: Be Intriguing, Not Boring

  • ” I help people find their toes. I’m Wendy and I help people lose weight. “
  • ” You know how some people look 20 years older than they really are? Well I fix that.  I’m an anti-aging specialist and my name is Sammi. “
  • ” I’m the person that people call when the wheels have come unstuck in their life and they want to do something about it. I help people get back on track with a 12 week program. My name is Lou and I’m an accredited Counsellor. “

Be intriguing and not boring by creating your very own 30 second self introduction. Don’t forget to practice with a Timer and include smiles and pauses in the 30 second time limit. Grab those short attention spans before they pass you by.

© 2011-18, Geraldine Barkworth, authentic speaking coach. This article is the opinion of the author only.

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