Face Your Fear! My Top 3 Tips for Public Speaking!

If the thought of public speaking fills you with dread – like you’re about to walk a tight wire high above – without a net – please read on for my top tips that appeared in my column this week in the Sunday Independent, “The Communicator.” 

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If I go on The Late Late Show and ask the audience to “raise your hand if you’d like to stand in front of everyone else and give a presentation”, how many hands do you think would shoot up?

Of course, the audience might be a little loosened up from the free wine RTE provides audience members in the green room before they take their seats. So maybe more hands would go up than normal.

But, if statistics are any indicator, most of you would literally rather die than get up and speak in public.

Fear of public speaking, as you may already know, is often listed as people’s number one fear. It out paces the fear of death or the fear of flying.

This brings me to a letter I received this week from a reader. He writes:

“I love your column and three words that would describe me would be ‘curious’ and ‘confident’ in one-to-one conversations, but a very ‘nervous’ person when it comes to standing and speaking before an audience.

“As an owner of a small business, I have occasions to stand and speak about my business. But, to be honest with you, I would rather visit the dentist than give a speech.

“I know how important it is to the growth of my business but the fear I have of public speaking is just too great. I get very red, hands shake and have the dry mouth of a desert.

“Please, please how do I get over this fear?”

If you’re like some fad-dieters who keep looking for quick trick to shed pounds (or kilos or stones or whatever), I have to point out there is no magic pill to do that or to instantly shake your stage fright nerves.

But, here are three things that should help.

1 Think positively

In an old episode of The Brady Bunch Mike Brady tells daughter Jan, who is petrified of giving a speech, to imagine her audience wearing only underwear.

I won’t go that far, although you’re welcome to try it for a laugh. But I will tell you that in my experience, every audience — no matter how they are attired — wants you to succeed.

That’s a positive place from which to start. They’re looking to find meaning in why they are there. They want to connect with you. Bear that in mind. Be self-affirming. You step up on stage at 100pc.

 

2 Take time to write it right

Don’t wait until the day before you have to speak to write your speech. Give yourself proper time to prepare.

When you craft your speech, make sure to consider and address your audience’s interests and not simply your own. What’s in it for them?

If you operate on a “brain-dump approach”, that’s fine for your first draft. But revisit it the next day to refine and edit. Get feedback on your script from a colleague.

Remember, too, that the way you write may not be the way you speak. Are you writing words you’re comfortable with? If the words aren’t conversational to you, they won’t sound conversational to your audience.

If you want to be comfortable with your public speaking delivery, you must first be comfortable with your written material.

3 Practice out loud and on camera

That silly joke, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” comes to mind. Answer: “Practice. Practice. Practice.”

This is where you really can combat potential butterflies. You have to practice the same way you expect to deliver.

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For instance, if you’re going to present standing up, then stand up when you practice. Don’t forget details like voice quality, energy and expression. Many people are uncomfortable hearing the sound of their voice when it’s projected, so they hold back when they practice. That’s a mistake. You should practice as performance-day-like as you possibly can. Smile. Gesture. Get into it. Try to get off-script. You’ll connect better with your audience and that’s the whole point.

“I feel like an actor,” one client told me recently. That’s okay at first. Over time, it will feel natural.

Bonus tip: Get help

Years ago, at my first job as a journalist with the Orlando Sentinel, I joined a “Toastmasters” group. With clubs all over the world, Toastmasters members deliver a wide-variety of speeches, receiving structure and encouragement along the way.

Joining wasn’t a job requirement, but I thought, “Hey, if I’m developing my skills as a written story-teller, it would be a good idea to practice telling stories aloud too.”

It was a great experience and one that helped me during my transition to on-camera reporting at CNN. I’ve since enjoyed going back as a guest speaker at Toastmasters clubs including in Lagos, Nigeria, and at the West Cork Toastmasters, one of top performing clubs here in Ireland.

With the right coaching, practice and time, public speaking comfort is a gift available to us all. Or, as you may have heard once or twice on The Late Late Show, “There’s one for everyone in the audience.” So, go on. When I ask, raise your hand.

Whether through Toastmasters or another training programme, I’d love to hear from readers who are learning to overcome their fears of public speaking. What is working? What are you still struggling with? Email me at sundaybusiness@independent.ie

Gina London is a former CNN anchor and international campaign strategist who is now a director with Fuzion Communications. She serves as media commentator, emcee and corporate consultant.

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You can become a more deliberate communicator!


Today I ask this question: What three adjectives do others likely use to describe you?

I often have my clients first write down how they would like to be described and then square that up against how they imagine they currently fare.

That’s the challenge today in my “The Communicator” column in the Your Work section of the Sunday Independent.

Check it out here!

If you’ve ever had a 360 report done on you, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, reach out to me or your employer to get one. Kind of like President Trump’s 100 Days gauge, without hitting the front pages. Reality. Check!

What we think about ourselves is less important that how we’re perceived by others.

It’s helpful to identify what traits or behaviours of ours may be holding us back.

It’s also important to not get defensive, but to get determined once you identify it.

Don’t cop out with the old, “Well, that’s just how I am” excuse. Instead, to use this expression I’ve learned since moving here to Ireland, “Cop on!”

It’s a lot like when my mom used to make me sit down at the piano in our dining room and practice. Every day for an hour. She would set the clock on the stove and I wasn’t to get up from the bench until the buzzer rang. Except sometimes, like the cheeky eight-year-old I was when I first started taking lessons, I would sneak over to the stove and move the alarm forward a few minutes to hurry it along.  Naturally, my mom had no idea that somehow in our home, the passage of time was magically accelerated. Ha.

But, like learning to play the piano, you also can practice taking incremental steps toward changing your behaviour as I discuss in today’s column.

Experts agree leaders are made not born. So now that you’ve been born, let’s get together to make you better!

If you have an A. B. C. (Appearance, Behaviour or Communication) question for me – please write to me here or in care of the Sunday Independent and I’ll try to answer it in an upcoming column!

Your first homework challenge, make it a great week!

Kindly,

Gina

Bill Ford’s Engaging Body Language

Don’t use your body like a car to merely take your head in to the room! In today’s Sunday Independent, my weekly column, “The Communicator,” gives you three great body language tips for your next meeting or presentation.

Check it out!

And speaking of cars, on Friday I interviewed Bill Ford, the great-grandson of Henry Ford and the Executive Chairman of the company that bears his family name.

He was here in Ireland, along with his terrific wife Lisa and equally terrific sons Will and Nick, two of their four children, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Ford establishing a manufacturing plant in Cork.

In the University College Cork auditorium packed with pensioners from the factory, business students and local dignitaries, we had a “fireside chat” about the future of mobility, technology and leadership.

I’ll write more about what he said on the leadership topic, for next week’s column, which will also happen to be close to the 100 day mark for the presidency of Donald Trump, leader of my birth country, the United States. But, meantime, back to the Ford Company leader, if you weren’t in that auditorium to see him speak, you missed something critical: seeing how he delivered.  To me,

Bill Ford exemplifies the skill of using body-language to enhance a presentation.

He didn’t hide behind the lectern when he gave his opening remarks like so many other CEO’s I have interviewed.

He didn’t pace around the stage. He didn’t rock or bob on his feet as he stood. He was poised and confident in the center of it, angling his body to different parts of the room as he addressed them.

He didn’t read from a fumbling set of papers.

He looked directly out into the audience.

And perhaps most of all — he smiled.

His body language was a critical component of how he so compellingly connected with that audience.

Go online or if you’re here in Ireland, get over to your news stand and pick up a copy of The Sunday Independent and discover my top three tips how you can become more engaging in that way too.

And, of course, shameless plug, that’s one of the communications skills I train and coach here in my directorship role with Fuzion Communications. So, I’m happy to help you and your organization power-up.

Like the Ford Company says, “The Future is Unwritten.”

And much of how your future gets written is up to you!

Great relationships equals great communications.

Kindly,

Gina

Your name is the sweetest sound. . .

Early on in my professional career, I learned how important it is to get names right. In tomorrow’s Sunday Independent, I will give you my tips to help you get them right too.

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My first job in Washington was on Capitol Hill in a Congressional office. The Chief of Staff’s first name was Christopher.

“It’s Christopher. Not Chris,” he corrected me after I erroneously referred to him in the more casual manner.

Christopher wasn’t being fussy.  He simply preferred his name how he preferred it. We went on to have a very solid working relationship. I always respected him for reminding me. Nothing wrong with that.

Our names are possibly the most important part of our identity.

Later on, when I began working in television news in Washington at WTTG, I carefully made it a part of my job to learn and remember the names of everyone I met. I even made a little spreadsheet – listing names, positions and something cool or interesting about each person.

One day, about a couple of months in, I passed a producer in the editing hall whom I had probably met only once or twice before. “Hey, Mark,” I tossed out as I walked by.  I won’t tell you his last name, but the cool thing I had listed was his ponytail. Very un-Washington-like.

“Hey,” he turned, “you’re new, right? You clearly make an effort to remember names.”

He went on to leave WTTG to become the producer for The McLaughlin Group, one of the best-known and longest-running current affairs panelist talk shows in US television.

I never forgot Mark. Or Christopher.

And to this day, I try not to forget names.

Last week, I traveled over to Shannon to work with a group of directors from an aviation company. One of the directors’ first names was “Iarlaithe.”  I have learned plenty of great new names here in Ireland, but this was a new one for me.

“You probably haven’t heard my name,” Iarlaithe said to me. “It’s unusual.”

Yes, it is. It even says so when you Google it.

“An unusual Irish name that means ‘earl’ or ‘tributary lord,’” reads the citation.   The name is also Irish for the St. Jarlarth, who, research shows, was noted for his piety and his teaching ability as he founded a school in County Galway.

The current Iarlaithe I met last week is known to me for his ability with numbers and that he likes his curry very hot!

I find the more I focus taking genuine interest in people and their personalities and stories that surround them, the more I will remember the names that go with them.

I’m not perfect, mind you. Last summer, when I spoke at the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Conference, I tried to show-off and go around the large ball-room and name everyone to whom I had been introduced. I got 99 percent – notoriously missing one gentlemen I had been having a wonderful talk with before I came up on stage!

Thankfully, he forgave me.  And I’ll keep trying to focus more!

 So if you’re one of those people who says you’re ‘just not good with names,’ don’t miss my column,“The Communicator,” tomorrow in the Your Work business section of the Sunday Independent to try and help you remember better.

Let me know what you think and how I may be able to help!

Also, if there’s a career communications topic you would like to me to cover in an upcoming column, or if you would like me to help you or your organization – please drop me a line at gina@Fuzion.ie

Great communications equals great relationships!

Kindly, Gina

The Number One thing I would advise my younger self

“Nice to hear from you. What an interesting and inspiring job you have. I can only imagine the young lives you touch!”

That’s the opening line I wrote yesterday upon receiving an email from a youth pastor here in Ireland where I live.

He reached out to me on Linked In to ask this question:

“What was one thing life has taught you that would have saved you a lot of hassle to know when you were 17? “

It’s a question for all of us to ponder, really isn’t it?

As I wrote to the pastor, I really appreciated being asked the question. It made me stop and think. It was hard to think of only one thing, really! I am still such a project in development.

That said, here’s what I wrote to him and what I’ll share with you all now:

One of the most empowering understandings I have today is that EVERYONE – no matter what age or what station – wants to talk about themselves.

We want someone to listen to us.

About our lives. Our hobbies. Our experiences. Our feelings. We want to be relevant. We want to share.

As a 17-year-old (or 25-year-old for that matter), I think I thought of grown-ups as super mature and slick. I didn’t realize the insecurities and need for rapport that we all continue to have.

So! Once you understand that – at any age -you can go into an interview, a meeting, a whatever – and if you have done your research properly – you can ask great questions.

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Let the other person talk. Show that you are interested more in the OTHER person – than yourself. And that, in turn, will make them interested in you.

Becoming an active listener is not an easy characteristic to develop and while I say I understand it is important, I am still working to get better at it myself.

Here’s a way to keep yourself on track: Write down questions to ask someone and bring them with you. Or simply write this on top of your notebook:

“Ask questions. Listen!”

Listening is great for interviews, negotiations, sales meetings, family discussions, parenting, everything.

We build rapport by asking caring questions FIRST!

And as I wrapped up my response to the pastor, I say finally to you:

“If I can help you in any way, I’m here to listen.”

Hope that helps.

Take good care.

Kindly,

Gina

Love and Persistence – a Valentine’s Story from a button store in Ireland.

Inspiring stories come from everywhere. This one comes from a button store. Yesterday, my treasured coat from my former home in Italy had come up missing one. It happens.

So where better to go, but to the “Cork Button Company”?!

Inside, as you might expect, the walls were covered with rows and rows of the useful fasteners. Small. Large. Colourful. Metallic. Round. Square. You name it.

The proprietor’s name of this eye-popping little store is Catherine Bluett.

She greeted each customer like a friend. My total purchase was about five dollars, but she paid attention to me as if I were buying a new car.

I asked her how long she had owned the button company. She told me she began working here years ago, when she was just 14. David McCormick owned it at the time. And although Catherine was close to her own mother Brenda, she also became close to David, his wife and their children too. She got a second family along with her job.

So, Catherine worked there. She grew up. She got married. She had children. Along the way, she separated from her husband. She stopped working. Or maybe she had already given up her full-time job by the time she found herself on her own. I forget the precise chronology. Years went by.

And then her mother Brenda died. Catherine, without full-time work, a partner and her mother. Felt alone. Depressed. Hopeless.

A year after her mother passed, on an April day, feeling especially down, Catherine turned to an unseasonable movie to lift her spirits. “It’s a Wonderful Life”, in which George Bailey finds meaning in his life.

Catherine told me she had come to the harrowing point in the film where George is about to throw himself into the river. She felt the same way. Ready to give up on life.

In her own desperation, she shouted out to her dead mother, “Please give me something. A sign. Anything!”

Catherine told me before the film concluded, she fell asleep. Crying in her despair.

She was awakened by someone at her door.

When she answered, it was a young woman.

“Are you the Catherine who used to work at the Button Company?” the young woman asked.

Catherine confirmed she was.

“The McCormicks asked me to come over to you to see if you would come back to work a few hours a week. They need your help.”

David McCorimick and his family needed her. Needless to say, Catherine needed them.

The young woman started to give Catherine the number to the shop. But Catherine told me she still didn’t need to be given it. She still remembered it by heart.

Then, as the woman turned to go, Catherine told me she asked the young woman her name.

“My name is Brenda.”

The same as Catherine’s mother.

* * *

Catherine returned to the button shop and began working for the McCormicks again.

Eventually, David was ready to retire. His grown children didn’t have any interest in taking over the button shop. But Catherine did. That’s how she came to own the Cork Button Company.

David died two years ago. Catherine showed me his framed portrait on the wall.

His wife still comes by to check in on things from time to time, telling her she has improved it a lot. Adding yarn and other notions to the inventory.

And, in addition to her new career as store owner, something else has been added to Catherine’s life. Fitting a proper Valentine’s Day story, if not for the Cork Button Company, Catherine would not have met the man whom she introduced to me as “the love of my life.”

Colin worked for a courier service and regularly delivered to the button shop after Catherine took over. For the longest time, she enjoyed his company only when he passed by, but, although he asked, she refused to go out with him for a drink after work.

One day, he announced he was taking a new job and wouldn’t be passing by any more. Suddenly, Catherine told me, she realized she cared about this person more than she had realised. She finally agreed to that drink after work. And as, she told me yesterday, she and Colin, have been inseparable from that day since.

She also proudly showed me her left ring finger. They are now engaged.

In “It’s a Wonderful Life,” George Bailey is disappointed time after time. If you don’t know how it’s going to end, the first three-quarters of the film is actually pretty painful to watch.

Then, with the heavenly help of Clarence the angel who wants to earn his wings, George ultimately prevails due to the kindness of the people he has been kind to and sacrificed himself for over the years.

The film ends with George surrounded by family and friends as he learns that life is indeed, “Wonderful.”

How do we persevere through difficulty? Through times with no bright career prospects? Through Valentine’s Days with no Valentine?

It’s not easy when you don’t know how your own movie is going to end.

But, I do know that sharing stories of other people’s triumphs over dark times – are inspiring. These stories remind us that while we don’t know if we are guaranteed to find career success, or true love, or name your dream – around the next bend—we can be certain that we won’t find it if we don’t force ourselves to get up and go around the corner in search of it.

So, no matter where you are on your professional and/or personally journey this Valentine’s Day, I am filled with hope and happiness as I share with you the story of Catherine Bluett.

If you ever need a button, come to Cork’s Button Company. Tell Catherine, Gina sent you.

With love,

Gina

Language of Leadership: A lesson from the 2016 Election

Much will be said and written in coming days and years about the biggest presidential election upset the United States has seen since 1948.  Donald J. Trump, candidate is now Donald J. Trump, president elect. He even changed his famous Twitter page on Wednesday to reflect it.

How did it happen? Well, they say hindsight is 20-20 and I, as someone who thought Hillary Clinton would be America’s first female president, think I see much more clearly now.

Election 2016 will go down as the year when the Clinton Campaign discovered they were out of touch with the majority of Americans. Well, as it appears Hillary Clinton will actually win the popular vote, not the majority perhaps, but out of touch with enough Americans that it cost the party the deciding Electoral College vote.

There are a multitude of reasons, of course. But I think the difference in communications styles between the two candidates is one of the main reasons.

  • Hillary Clinton campaigned by the book. Donald Trump tore up the book.
  • Democrats bragged about how much Hillary Clinton studied and prepared for debates. Trump was more seat of the pants.
  • She provided detailed policies that bored the average voter. Trump had short slogans that they remembered: “Make American Great Again.” “Drain the Swamp.”
  • Democrats released lengthy policy papers.  Trump had one pagers and more slogans, “Build the Wall.”
  • Hillary Clinton appeared in photos with high-profile celebrities. Trump had Scott Baio and Stephen Baldwin and tweeted a photo of himself eating a taco bowl from Taco Bell.
  • Democrats had endorsements from major newspapers. Newspapers that many voters view as full of high-brow bullshit. Trump didn’t.
  • Hillary Clinton was measured, disciplined, studied, rehearsed, practiced.  She gave long involved answers.
  • Donald Trump used punchy sentences. Sometimes not even full-sentences. (Like that one-see what I did there?!)

From a communications stand-point, Democrats, long considered the party of unions, minorities, reproductive rights for women and the “little people” had become the party of the college-educated, the self-righteous, the deep-thinkers, the liberal lefties, the out-of-touch. The dreaded “Elite.”

Democrats messaged to the minds and intellect of the American people using facts and logic to bolster the reasons why Hillary Clinton should be elected president. But, excluding the genuine appeal of Michelle Obama, they didn’t use enough heart-felt emotion.

Research shows people make decisions based on emotion first. A-ha, you didn’t need me to tell you about the research part, though, did you? You know it’s true in your heart. And that’s a lot of what happened during this campaign.

Trump appealed to the hurting hearts and the gut of the American people. The weaker the economy, the stronger his vote.

Yes, he said offensive things. But when the Democrats or so-called “liberal,” media-folks pointed those gaffes out, they did so in logical ways – using college-level words like “misogynist” and well, “gaffe.” They simply didn’t connect with the lonely and marginalized rural voters or disaffected middle class or blue-collar workers whose jobs and dreams had disappeared and died.

I remember when my dad died, the neighbors in my hometown of Farmland, Indiana didn’t come over and say, “Hang in there, time will heal, we’ve got a ten-page grieving plan you need to listen to.” They cried too. They said they were sorry.

Democrats underestimated how hurting many of the people were. They were like know-it-all parents to unhappy, frustrated kids. The “eat your vegetables, they’re good for you“ kind of parent. The kind of parents that kids resent. The kind of parents that don’t get it. The kind that are out of touch.

I’m not literally saying that the electorate are children and the president is a parent, of course.  America’s president should be a leader. A leader who can knows how to connect.

With his name emblazoned jets and designer family and his no-teleprompter style of speech, Trump masterfully combined the American dream of attaining prosperity with the common touch.

His communications style touched a chord. He connected. And he will be moving into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in January.

Yes, he used inflammatory language and hopefully he will move away from that to the more statesman-like tones he used during his victory speech and after his first meeting with President Obama.

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The challenge and the opportunity, therefore, for Democrats and other would-be leaders, is to take a bit of one of the lessons from Election 2016. Don’t use negative language, of course, but get real. Get human. Use language your audience uses. Try to really focus on your audience’s perspective. What are their hopes, dreams and fears?  Consider those first and then build your message from there. Use your gut. Your heart.

Speak from the perspective of your audience– not above them.   That’s the language of leadership.

Kindly, Gina

I’m so grateful you are reading my essays. I train, consult and speak about the language of leadership. Please click ‘Follow’ (at the top of the page) and reach out to me directly to support you or your organization via LinkedIn, TwitterFacebook and at GinaLondon.com and Fuzion.ie

PS. Clearly, Trump must now put his short, pithy messages into action. Workable policy DOES have to happen after January 20, 2017. That remains to be seen. But the lesson about language and connecting with people is what, I believe, largely won him the election… now, don’t shoot the messenger… this one, I mean! Cheers.