The importance of authentic communication

In this 2009 video Sheryl Sandberg, American technology executive, activist, and author reflects on the importance of authentic communication when it comes to being successful. In her view (and we tend to agree), your expertise alone will not get you to where you want to be. It’s how you interact with others that will make a difference. Here are some of the highlights from her talk: Great decisions cannot be made unless everyone is honest. There is no absolute truth – only a subjective truth, your truth or my truth. Stating forceful opinions and “being right” usually inhibits authentic communication. Sharing “your truth” and leading with belief statements is more likely to encourage authentic and meaningful dialogue. Authentic communicators use the active voice and take responsibility for their actions. Incidentally, what do think of the way she speaks herself? Do you find her authentic? We especially like the way she shares well-chosen stories, examples and anecdotes from her personal experience. This always helps to boost credibility!   The Training Box recommends: “Leading Out Loud: A Guide for Engaging Others in Creating the Future” (John Wiley & Sons, 2013) by Terry Pearce...

Conquer your nerves

It’s no secret that the mind – how we think and approach things – has a critical impact on success. Here are our insider tips for developing the kind of attitude, approach and thinking that will help you to conquer your nerves when you have to deliver a presentation or make a speech. 1. Prepare your content Being well-prepared has an enormous influence on the amount of free space you will have in your mind as you stand in front of your audience. Instead of worrying about what you are going to say, you can relax and focus on the task in hand. 2. Rehearse Don’t skip this important part of the process. Speaking your planned content aloud and trying out your planned movements, gestures, words, expressions etc helps to fix everything in place. Even without “learning” what you want to do, it will all seem more natural to you if you have walked through it in advance. 3. Check room and equipment Never take things for granted. Not checking and arranging things to suit yourself and the needs of your talk could result in on the spot fire fighting and damage control which will interrupt both your own thought processes and those of the audience. 4. Know your audience Analyse your target audience and prepare content based on their needs and expectations. Predict the kind of questions they might ask and prepare answers to the questions in advance. If you feel well equipped to deal with as many eventualities as possible, you are much less likely to panic and you will be more likely to stay calm under...

Positive, powerful ways to channel your energy

The fight or flight reaction kicks in when we feel nervous  about a speaking or presentation challenge. Cortisol is released by the adrenal glands as part of this mechanism. Essentially, nature is providing us with the energy and power we need for fast or powerful reaction. However, when that challenge is delivering a presentation or speaking in public,  the impact of the cortisol can be detrimental rather than helpful. Frequently, it powers down our performance instead of powering it up.  The secret to staying in control and being successful is to find positive, powerful ways to release the energy. Once you have identified where you would like to improve, follow our guidelines below:   1. Be grounded and plant your feet firmly As strange as it may seem, the key to using up excess energy is to stand still in one place (not all the time though, as explained below). Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, spread your weight evenly on both feet and adopt an upright (but comfortable) posture. Remain evenly balanced and resist the temptation to shift weight from one leg to another. This will make you look calm, in control and confident – the adrenaline can then be released in a variety of positive ways. 2. Movement with a purpose gives adrenalin a positive release It makes sense to stay in one place, holding your grounded position, rather than wandering about aimlessly. However, you can plan to change position throughout your presentation if and when it makes sense e.g. open from the centre, move to be next to the screen to explain your visual material...

The science behind speaking stress

Confronted with the task of speaking in public or delivering an important presentation, many people suffer from nerves that manifest themselves in a number of different ways; dry throat, sweaty palms, shaking knees, flushed skin, breathing difficulties, perhaps even a “frozen in the headlights” glazing over of the eyes. It is also not unusual for the nerves to be translated into an involuntary display of hectic non-verbal signals that tend to make us look afraid and panic-stricken in the eyes of the audience. Although the symptoms vary, their impact invariably sabotages our best efforts to make a good impression and think clearly. Most of us by now are aware that the adrenaline released as part of the fight or flight reaction is to blame for what we feel. An article published in Psychology Today online provides us with the following information: “The fight-or-flight mechanism is part of the general adaptation syndrome defined in 1936 by Canadian biochemist Hans Selye of McGill University in Montreal. He published his revolutionary findings in a simple seventy-four line article in in which he defined two types of ‘stress’: eustress (good stress) and distress (bad stress). Both eustress and distress release cortisol as part of the general adaption syndrome.” Whether in response to “good” stress or “bad” stress, cortisol is released by the adrenal glands as part of this mechanism. It is also clear to scientist that fear increases cortisol. With good stress, we experience an invigorating surge of energy to help us rise to the challenge we are facing and cortisol returns to normal upon completion of the task. When we are distressed,...

Keep technology in its place

“The newest computer can merely compound, at speed, the oldest problem in the relations between human beings, and in the end the communicator will be confronted with the old problem, of what to say and how to say it.” Edward R. Murrow The media is there to support you and your message in a presentation – it will NOT do the job for you. Your audience does not just want to hear what you have to say and look at your PowerPoint slides – they also want to get a feel for who YOU are. The presenter who relies on overloaded slides, complicated visual support and confusing special effects is placing the technology in the spotlight and not the person. Here are our top ten, simple to apply tips that will enable you to make a real connection to your audiences AND use technology the right way: 1. Feel comfortable with equipment: check out and test BEFORE the presentation starts so that you can control the technology (and not the other way round). 2. Keep slides simple (less is definitely more): hold attention with one main message per slide, a cohesive graphic style, some visual variety and a few simple transition and animation effects. 3. Plan to use a media mix: combine hi-tech with low-tech by occasional use of a flipchart or white board to answer questions or emphasise an important point. 4. Practice the opening: get off to a good start by knowing exactly what you want to say at the beginning and deliver the first few sentences confidently WITHOUT slides. 5. Let them see you: deliver your...

Design your slides

We offer you the following insights courtesy of a great book called “slide:ology” by Nancy Duarte (2008, O’Reilly Media). Duarte Design created the presentation for Al Gore’s Oscar-winning film, An Inconvenient Truth. This extract is from Chapter 12 and offers a five-point manifesto: 1. Treat your audience as king: they didn’t come to your presentation to see you. They came to find out what you can do for them. Success means giving them a reason for taking their time, providing content that resonates, and ensuring it’s clear what they are to do. 2. Spread ideas and move people: …communicate your ideas with strong visual grammar to engage all their senses and they will adopt these ideas as their own. 3. Help them see what you are saying: …guide your audience through ideas in a way that helps, not hinders, their comprehension. Appeal not only to their verbal senses but to their visual senses as well. 4. Practise design not decoration: don’t just make pretty talking points. Instead display information in a way that makes complex information clear. Display information in the best way possible fro comprehension rather than focusing on what you need as a visual crutch. Content carriers connect with...