Career progression can be a minefield of politics, brown nosing and back stabbing. My focus however has always been on myself and the skills I can develop to excel. I figured out quite fast that by getting good at the things others were terrified of, was like injecting my CV with EPO. Top of the list here for me was public speaking. I was a shaking mess when I started speaking first, but I knew that if I developed this skill it would serve me hugely in my career. While others came up with excuses to avoid speaking, presenting, or networking I made a conscious decision ten years ago that this was something I would try to master. From a place of blind terror I now love it and people even pay me for the privilege. Here are a few things I have learned along the way and coach people around today.
KNOW YOUR S.OC.O.
This is your single over-riding communication objective. Ultimately what are you trying to achieve with your talk. What is the key point you are trying to make and that the audience must understand before you leave the stage, or meeting. Do not leave until they have complete clarity around what you are trying to say.
PREPARE, PREPARE AND THEN PREPARE SOME MORE
There is no secret to this. It sucks and you will find a million things to do rather than sit down and research, read, plan and organise for your talk. I work off a ratio of 10:1 as a minimum. So that is 10 hours of prep for every 1 hour I talk. This can increase depending on the importance of the talk. As the saying goes,
“Preparation is the shell that holds the egg together. Without it you just have one sticky and gooey mess”
MANAGE YOUR SNS (Sympathetic Nervous System)
When we are faced with perceived danger our autonomic nervous system kicks in as a means to protect us (fight or flight) This built in threat response system then triggers our adrenal glands and adrenailne and noradrenaline are released into the blood system. What this means for you is that the perceived threat of looking like an idiot, being judged, or going blank during your talk causes the SNS to fire up. Once it does your heart rate increases rapidly, your breathing becomes shallower, you begin to sweat, your vision narrows and your muscles tighten. Not exactly how you want to feel when you are about to deliver a presentation. The solution is quite simple and in the words of Wim Hoff, “Breathe Motherfucker” Take 5 large breaths into your belly and release them very slowly. This causes you to switch from your SNS to PNS (Parasympathtic Nervous System) It will slow down your heart rate, widen your vision, increase saliva production and release muscle tightness. If you don’t believe me then picture in your head Ronaldo as he places a ball down to take a free kick or penalty. Shoulders back, had up and then 3 large breaths. Despite what people think, this is not an act of vanity.
START WELL AND FINISH WELL
I liken this to sex, in that if you start well and finish well, you can get away with a lot of average stuff in the middle. Do not stand up without knowing exactly what you are going to say in your first 3 sentences. If you leave it to chance, you will blurt out anything and this will throw you even further. Finally, you should know exactly how you will finish off. Is it a call to action for people to do something on the back of this, do you want to clarify your SOCO, or are you going into a Q&A. What they want to hear and what they need to hear can often be very different, so do not sit down until you have delivered exactly what you wanted to achieve.
This is an area I could write another 50 pages on, but neither of us have the time for that right now. If this is an area you feel you would like to develop further then drop me a mail as I run a number of coaching and training programmes for people in this area.
Ciao for now – John