Public speaking skills and interviews

by: Ellen Egan


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I was conducting some interviews recently and I was struck by how important public speaking skills are in the interview process. After all, public speaking is, at its heart, one person speaking to one or many. An interview may be one of the most important public speaking engagements that you have. The fundamentals of good public speaking are also at the centre of a good interview.

1. Preparation. Anyone who has conducted an interview will tell you that it is obvious who as prepared for the interview and who has not. We can easily guess who makes a better impression. Before the interview be sure to learn as much as you can about your potential employer. Google is a great tool for this. Find out about the company philosophy and mission. Find out as much as you can about the future direction of the company. Learn as much as you can about the department you will be working with and the particular job you are interviewing for.

2. Audience analysis. I have gone into detail about audience analysis in previous blogs (just look in the categories). Once again, you will want to find out as much as you can about who you will be interviewing with, what their interests are in this position and customize your interview preparation based on this.

3. Prepare your presentation (your stories). Take a good look at the job description and think of the skills and competencies that will be required and desireable for the job. Then, think of examples in your past where you have demonstrated these skills and capabilities. During the interview you can use thes examples/stories to give a clear picture to the interviewer that you have the experience to be successful at the job.

4. Voice control. Work on your voice before the interview to be sure that you are speaking clearly, loudly enough and confidently. You don’t want a shaky and weak voice during your interview.

5. Non-verbal messaging and body language. You will want to appear confident, interested, honest, caring, etc.  during your interview.  You can give all of these messages through body language by sitting up straight, sitting at the edge of your chair, having good eye contact with the interviewer(s) and smiling.  Of course, you will want to take care that your personal appearance is professional.

6.  Practice .  The key to successful public speaking and successful interviews is practice.  Practice “mock interviews” with friends or family so that you have a chance to answer questions, weave your stories into the conversaion and get confortable talking about yourself.   The more you practice, the more comfortable you will be when the interview takes place.

A good resource which can help both with interviewing and with being successful in your current job is:

How to Be the Person Successful Companies Fight to Keep by Connie Podesta

To your success,

Ellen

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Public speaking and body language

by: Ellen Egan

Steve Punter

Body language is an integral part of public speaking.  Research has found that people will develop their first impressions of you in 7 seconds.    During presentations, you may not even be speaking during these first few seconds.  So, a lot of the audience members’  first impression of you will depend on your body language.

Further research has indicated that as much as 93 % of communication between people is nonverbal. Body language includes how you stand and move, your facial expressions, where you are positioned in relation to other people and even what you are wearing.  All of these things can send messages to other people about you.  A classic example is how hair length can send a message about a person’s politics.

There has been extensive research into body language.  it would be worthwhile to study body language in order to better understand the powerful messages that you may be sending your audience. Realize that you are using your body to get your message across in public speaking and sometimes it sends a stronger message than your words.

A few things to keep in mind about body language and public speaking (especially the critical first impressions):

1.  Facial expression:  Smile, smile, smile.  As people enter the room be sure to smile at them.  They will then know that they are welcome and will assume that you are friendly, relaxed and confident.

2.  Eye contact:  We all know that it is critical to make eye contact with your audience during your presentation.  it shows that you are confident, helps people to perceive you as an expert and gives the audience the impression tha tyou are interested in them and honest.  it is also important before your presentation to make eye contact with your audience.  If you are staring at your nots, avoiding your audinece, out of the room, or speaking with only one participant you may be giving the wrong message.  This can be interpreted as signs of a lack of confidence, dishonesty or lack of caring.

3.  Positioning:  I would always recommend standing as this sends a message of confidence.  You will also want to consider coming out from behind the podium as the podium can put a barrier between you and your audience.

4.  Gestures:  When you a practicing your presentation, watch your gestures.  Pay attention to using gestures that are open and making a connection with your audience.  Try to avoid crossing your arms, both hands in your pockets, jingling keys and change in your pockets, etc.  As these send messages of impatience and closing yourself off from your audience.  Another big thing to remember is please, never check your watch during your presentation.  This sends a message to your audience that you want to be somewhere else and are impatient to get there.

5.  Attire:  I would rather not give a long list of what not to wear.  Here are some quick rules for your attire.  Be sure everything is clean and pressed (if appropriate).  Try to dress just a little more formally than your audience.  Also, think of comfort when you are choosing your attire.  It doesn’t help your confidence if you are uncomfortable.  Pay attention to your personal hygiene as this sends a message about your self respect.

As I mentioned earlier, you should consider learning more about body language as this will improve all of your communications, not just in public speaking situations.

I would highly recommend Kevin Hogan’s courses on Body Language.

Here are some books I can recommend from Allan Pease, Tonya Reiman and Mark Bowden:

It’s a fascinating subject, don’t be surprised when you get hooked.
To your success,
Ellen

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Mindreading and public speaking – using images to project meaning

By: Ellen Egan

Are you a mind reader? Do you know what people are actually thinking when they are talking with you? Have you ever been surprised after having a conversation with someone that the “pictures” in their mind about the topic were completely different from the words that you were hearing?

An important thing to remember when you are preparing your presentation is that your audience cannot read your mind. They may hear the words that you are speaking very clearly, but they may not get your message completely. If you want to help ensure that your audience gets your message, give them some images to link with your words.

Studies have shown that when we get information through several sensory avenues, we are more likely to retain the information. So, If someone describes the yearly sales figures for us AND shows us a graph of the figures, we are more likely to understand and retain the information. Now, if we take this a step further, and actually attach meaning to the words and images, we have a huge increase in the chance that our audience will retain the information. By attaching meaning, I mean that we appeal to the audiences interests, concerns, dreams, etc through our words and images. When images are attached to information, it can actually tap into our emotions.

There is an excellent video from a TED University talk by Tom Wujec about how the brain attached meaning to images. He actually shows you how the brain processes images and makes them meaningful by
1. Making ideas clear by visualixing them
2. Making them interactive
3. Making them persistent
TED University – Tom Wujec

It is clear that we will be much more successful in getting our message across if we use both words and images. And, if we then attach meaning to the words and images, our message will come across even more powerfully.

Public speaking is at its heart all about communication. We can be much more effective communicators if we include images along with our words.

How will you incorporate images into your next presentation?

To your success,
Ellen

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Dealing with the recession – Improve your public speaking skills

By: Ellen Egan

I was just reading Tom Peters list of Forty-six “Secrets” and “Clever Strategies” For Dealing with the Recession of 2008 – xxxxx.  Tom always has some brilliance to share and I recommend his blog for anyone who is looking to develop their career.  I started reading Tom Peters back in the ’80’s with In Search of Excellence and have been reading his wisdom ever since.

In his list of Forty-six “Secrets” he begins with things that some do not want to hear like: “You come to work earlier; You leave work later; You work harder”.  Tom is a master at clearly stating what we all really know we need to do to succeed and be excellent.  But, he says it in such a way that we nod our heads and think “yes, he’s right”.

One of the items in his list is “You learn new tricks of your trade.”  For me, this is where public speaking comes in.  By improving your public speaking skills you become the person who can:

  • Lead the meeting
  • Train new or existing staff
  • Move into sales
  • Gain more clients
  • Travel to meet and work with clients

As people within your company see you improving your public speaking skills they will see you expanding your expertise and skill set.  This can lead to new opportunities, promotions or simply being the person they don’t want to layoff.

If you are looking for work, join a Toastmasters club to improve your public speaking skills and use it as a networking opportunity at the same time.  Mentioning in an interview that you are actively working on your presentation skills will impress prospective employers that you are using your time to improve yourself.

Right now, take a piece of paper and list a few areas in your current work situation where you could apply public speaking to enhance your work situation.  Perhaps you could start with something as simple as “speak up more in staff meetings”.  Once you start looking for ways to apply public speaking in your career and you are actively focusing on improving your public speaking skills, new areas will open up all over the place.

Click here to see a complete package to improve your communication skills.

Check out Tom’s list of 46 Secrets and other “free stuff” here

To find some of Tom Peters recent books:

To your success,
Ellen

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No more tricks to improve your public speaking skills

by:  Ellen Egan

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We have all seen the books and courses on public speaking that tell you of the “Top ten tricks for public speaking brilliance”. When we open up the book or the course, it is filled with advice on removing the “umms” and “ahhs” from your speech. Or, we are told to practice voice techniques and eye contact. While all of this is good advice to polish your public speaking, it does little to deal with the core issues of public speaking fear or the person who wants to seriously develop their public speaking skills.

Training in public speaking is not just a matter of externals like voice, body language and eye contact. It’s not about conforming to standards or imitating the skills of someone you admire. Public speaking is about you speaking in public. I know, that’s pretty obvious but many people miss this critical point. The first thing we must understand is that we have to have something of value to share, to speak about in public. If there is nothing of value to share, then no tricks or training will make the talker anything more than a person taking up space and time.

So, the starting point is here.

1. What do you have of value to share with your audience? Do you have an idea, a product, a service, some information, etc. that will improve their lives and/or solve a problem?

Take a pen right now and write down at least five things of value that you have to share with an audience. You will probably find that have more than five when you begin listing all your experiences, ideas, information, etc.

2. How do you know it is of value to your audience? Take the time to find out as much as you can about your audience so that you can tailor your message so that it is clear to them that it is of value.

Take a pen right now and write as much as you can about your audience. Who are they? What do they already know about your topic wnd what do they want to know? Why are they going to listen to you?

Once you clearly have something of value to say and you know enough about your audience to see how it is of value to them, then you can begin crafting the presentation. At this point we can bring in the important aspects of writing a powerful speech, practicing techniques to deliver a strong presentation and using tricks to capture and hold attention.

Make a great cake (that you know your audience will like) and then add the frosting.

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