“Training with Sarah has demystified the art of public speaking. I always thought it was something some people were just naturally good at – and I wasn’t one of them! With Sarah’s help I realised there are some very real skills I could learn to turn me into one of those ‘naturally good speakers’. Thank you Sarah, I feel so much more confident and now I do well with my presentations and speeches.”
JW, Sydney

It is so easy to look at the strengths of others and feel intimidated or lesser and as not hitting the mark ourselves in a particular arena of life. However, as with any area of training and personal development, a little bit of knowledge goes a long way. Get wisdom, get understanding!

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

If we look at an accomplished public speaker when even the very thought of getting up and speaking in front of people makes us feel sick it can make the whole process seem even more overwhelming. However, if we begin to break it down into bite-size pieces and identify what that person is doing well and why they appear so relaxed and confident we are well on our way to conquering the fear and limitations around our own lives.

Some adrenalin and nerves are a positive as we stand up to speak and whether entirely fear-less public speaking is a possibility for every person isn’t really the issue … it is more about facing the fear, overcoming it and growing in skill – we enjoy the things that we feel we do well at! I have testimony after testimony from clients who are actually now enjoying the whole experience of presenting and doing talks in front of colleagues, bosses and peers. There is nothing more rewarding for me than to hear that what was so terrifying for clients is now something they are improving in and even enjoying.

“I never thought I could do so well” … “I did soooo well!” … “I felt so confident and in control!”

Imagine a typical scenario, if it is not yet typical for you it certainly will be one day! ,… “So-and-so is sick today and so you will have to go and speak to our clients and fill them in on where we are up to with the project!”

Unless you have had some practise at Impromptu speaking then the majority of people’s reponses to that instruction is not one of delight … our body begins to respond to the request and we may manifest a number of physical manifestations such as sweaty palms, heart seemingly beating out of our chest, or brain freeze.

Now, there are a number of well-proven techniques that can help us very practically to handle the above, or similar, situations effectively. However, once we have quickly thought about what we want to say and jotted down some barely legible notes on our phone or bit of paper, we then actually have to vocalise those thoughts and ideas. It is at this point that we have to consider three key things …

Clarity … will people be able to clearly hear and understand what I am saying ?

Fluency … can I fluently and articulately express what I want to say?

Variety … can I speak in a manner that is not going to send my audience to sleep in a matter of a few moments ?

 

I love the English language! However, as a native English speaker I have the utmost respect for those endeavouring to get to grips with the language’s abundance of inconsistencies and idiosyncrasies. There is a wonderful, if rather long, poem called “The Chaos” (Anon) which charts the majority of the rebellious sounds and would challenge the most confident of English speakers!

My wonderful father-in-law spoke nine languages fluently but I couldn’t begin to get my mouth around the unfamiliar guttural sounds, diphthongs and triphthongs that he rattled off effortlessly in Dutch, Indonesian, French, Japanese, Norwegian, Italian, Spanish and German.

It is only with a great deal of practice and focus that ESL students can master the unfamiliar sounds that are ‘th’, ‘v’, ‘s’, ‘sh’, ‘ch’ etc. However, there is no doubt that the investment of time, money and focus does reap great rewards as “Clarity undoubtedly leads to increased Confidence”. It makes the world of difference to my students to know that they can easily be understood and that there is no lid to their potential for promotion, job satisfaction and social interaction.

In extreme situations, our ability to be understood could be a matter of life and death; in more common situations it can save awkwardness, misunderstandings and even the loss of a job. As English continues to be one of the most widely spoken languages and the official language of the majority of nations we need to persevere with ‘The Chaos’ – Get rid of the lid!

 

“It doesn’t matter whether you are in the business of delivering products or services – either way, your success depends heavily on communication. When things go wrong, you can almost always trace the problem to a breakdown in communication. And when things go right, it’s usually great communicators who helped create the successful results. It’s a necessary skill in every aspect of business, social and family life.

How you communicate will determine if you lead, command respect, earn trust and are well liked. Poor communicators will suffer from low self-esteem and frustration.”

This quote from Kevin Duam is so true. Becoming a great communicator is not just about handling big crowds or large audiences but it is in the everyday scenarios of life, in the seemingly insignificant one to one interactions. The great news is that these skills most certainly can be learnt and developed.

There are a number of differences that characterise human beings from the rest of the animal kingdom… one of those differences is our ability to speak – to articulate ideas, thoughts and feelings through the medium of words.  Our ability to vocalise and speak words is nothing short of miraculous when we consider all that is involved – the process of speech production is a highly precise and practised motor skill.

To simplify the whole process, in an everyday conversation, we firstly have to hear clearly; then we process what we have heard; we then consider our response and vocalise it. Mental processing of information is a science all of its own.

Being able to speak is something that most of us absolutely take for granted until we are faced with the onslaught of a stroke, motor neurone disease or an accident that takes away, even in part, our ability to exercise what is a vitally important function in life.

Give thanks everyday for your ability to open your mouth and speak – and work to make it the best possible experience for everyone listening!

 

 

Happy New Year! As we find ourselves well into another new year, it is a great time to consider “what am I finding difficult in the world of personal communication?”

Perhaps you are needing …

  • to develop skills to prepare and deliver an outstanding speech or presentation;
  • to work on projecting confidence and assertiveness in work meetings and different work-related situations;
  • help with your staff who are struggling to present themselves well;
  • to prepare for important interviews that will open new doors for you in 2018;
  • to work on your voice – sounding more engaging, warm and interesting ;
  • to become more confident that your voice can be heard and understood, that you are getting your message across …

the list goes on of scenarios where clients have overcome fear and limitations and found greater freedom in their communication abilities.

What a privilege it is to help people to achieve their goals and more fully enjoy life!

‘Confident Communicating’ regularly works with people who recognise that a lack of confidence in the areas of effective public speaking and interpersonal communication have held them back from pursuing their dreams and boldly applying for their prize jobs. This fear has stunted growth and kept them in a box. Undoubtedly self-limiting and self-defeating thoughts can trap us into a life that restricts our potential.

Another true observation is cited in Robert Dilenschneider’s book ‘Power and Influence’… “You start to communicate effectively, this leads to recognition and recognition in turn leads to influence”, I would add to that a fourth positive outcome – ‘OPPORTUNITIES’ – improved communication skills undoubtedly lead to open doors as we effectively connect with others!

If you can relate to this – NOW is the time to make a CHANGE, take a STEP and G–R-O-W. There is help at hand and there is nothing more exciting than overcoming those things that have stopped us from moving forwards.

Happy New Year from Confident Communicating!

I love the start of a new year. It speaks of freshness, newness; new hopes, new dreams, new opportunities … a natural break to celebrate the good things of the previous year and let go of the things that didn’t go so well. A time to get up and keep doing what is working and a time to adjust what needs changing. A time to stir fresh vision.

One thing that is a definite for all of us and that is that we must keep developing and learning. If we think we know it all then we will, at best, stagnate and at worst shrink back. What might our Personal Development goals be for this year ? …

I recently read a letter from the admissions department for Oxford and Cambridge University in which were addressed the concerns of a headteacher asking as to why her academically capable student had not been accepted into either university. The reply was that although the student had a great Personal Statement and had clearly spent his/her time pursuing many worthwhile things there was a big gap in their education … this was firstly an inability to engage in verbal conversation with tutors with confidence and intelligence and secondly, a lack of ability to read English accurately and fluently.

Continuing to develop excellent communication skills and an ability to connect and engage with others must be high on our list of goals for 2019!

 

As I walked down an extremely busy street in London sometime ago with a friend, a young man stopped me and said in a rather puzzled manner, “Do I know you?” I replied that I did not think so.

Later, as I considered this brief exchange of words, bearing in mind that I certainly had never seen him before; that I am not world-famous nor was he trying a smooth chat-up line, I concluded that the only reason he could possibly have had for stopping me was the fact that I had smiled at him, as I tend to do to many people. This little scenario got me thinking how important it is to maintain an openness and connection with other people even if we do not know them. Mother Teresa said “We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do.”

Children, apparently, smile about 400 times a day; adults, however, smile 40-50 times a day when happy and only 20 times a day when not! Interestingly though it actually takes far less effort, from a physiological point of view, to smile than it does to frown and I often find myself encouraging clients to remember the power of a smile in connecting with others and simply to feel better.

The benefits of smiling are well documented and proven …

• Smiling helps you to feel happy and relaxed. If you are in a bad mood, simply by choosing to smile you can lift your spirits. Consequently, smiling can change your mood, your feelings, even your resulting actions by helping to generate more positive emotions.

The scientist Andrew Newberg has said that in experiments, the smile was “the symbol that was rated with the highest positive emotional content.”

• Smiling stimulates your brain’s reward mechanisms in a way that nothing can match.

• Smiling boosts your immune system.

• Smiling reduces stress as it leads to a decrease in stress induced hormones, this positively affects physical and mental health.

• Smiling is contagious. A recent study in Sweden showed that it was extremely difficult for others to frown when they looked at others who were smiling!

There is a reason that the most read book in the world says “laughter does good like a medicine”.

 

The whole subject of speaking is absolutely fascinating and difficulties in this area are so often not what they seem on the surface.

Absolutely we can have a difficulty with the distinctness of being able to say our ‘th’ sound or our ‘l’s’ and we need to work on those in order to have clear speech. However, we do have to come at speech work, at times, in a more holistic manner …

In another arena of life, people may experience financial difficulties which could be simply due to the loss of a job or a stream of income, but so often it can be more a symptom of a deeper issue ie. overspending due to lack of self esteem, an inability to budget and so some fiscal discipline and management is needed. Similarly, very often, this can be the case with regards to being able to confidently stand up and speak in front of others. The moment the spotlight is on us, if we are untrained and unskilled in this area, a myriad of thoughts and feelings can manifest which make it extremely difficult to function and do a great job.

Happily, I believe that there are some very practical ways through these difficulties …