Skillset New Zealand Blog

Ideas to help your team develop personally and professionally.

Chances are you won't believe this tip works until you try it out on someone whose feedback you trust.  Here's what to do.

Find a children's story with a good narrative and read a couple of sentences to your feedback friend. Her job is to pretend to be a five-year-old and tell you if the story sounds sufficently exciting. She's likely to tell you your voice needs to go up and down a bit more. (Just one caution: avoid the sing-song unnatural voice some parents use when reading stories to their children. Just more up and down to add excitement.)  Once you've got the 'yes, it's exciting' tick of approval, continue with a couple more sentences listening to the cadence (lift and drop) of your own voice.

Now switch to a few sentences from one of your serious work-related topics, still with the same cadence - as if it too were a children's story. Talk it over with your friend. Would that sound credible for an adult audience?

You're likely to be pleasantly surprised by the response.

So what's going on?  How can a children's story have anything to do with adult audiences?  When we feel nervous, our subconscious - doing it's job - kicks in to protect us. It compresses the natural up and down of our voices to make our words harder to take in. Get the significance? Please don't notice me. For many, the protective instinct is so strong they speak in sleep-inducing monotones.

The tip above reverses that problem. 

You don't even have to find a children's book. You probably already know the beginning of something starting with 'Once upon a time...'

Once upon a time, there were three little pigs. The time came for them to leave home and build their own houses. The first little pig built his house out of sticks. The second little pig built his house out of wood. And the third little pig built his house out of bricks... 

That should be plenty - go find a trusty source of feedback.  Wait... please lose any idea that speaking is only about conveying facts. Decades back, philosopher Marshall McLuhan said, "The medium is the message."  So right. You're the medium. You and your personality are a vital part of conveying any message. To children or adults.

  

 

 

 

So simple, so effective. This works really well for many trainees, especially if they're a little nervous.

Scroll back through your life memories and milestones. Look for an event that made you feel absolutely terrific. An achievement? That first kiss?  A birth?  Won a prize? Overcame a fear?  Choose a moment when you felt in control and you were 'walking on air'. Don't tell me you don't have such a memory - we all have them. For me, it's the moment when - after months of preparation - I first headed our yacht out to sea.

Now, modern science tells us that our thoughts and our bio-chemistry are strongly linked.  Every thought you have modifies the mix of chemicals cascading continuously through your body. Mind affects body. And the reverse - body affects mind.  

Here's what to do. Just before you go in front of the audience:

Fix that wonderful moment in your mind. Focus on it so vividly that you feel it in your stomach. Wallow in that feeling for a full minute, the strength of your remembered feelings are the magic ingredient here.

Now, step out in front of your audience, riding that feeling. You're using your mind to influence your body, which influences your mind.  Neat.

Was it a racy memory? If anyone compliments you the way you spoke, tell them that your secret can never be revealed to the world :-)

 

Interested in a workshop on presentation skills to help your team become confident, engaging speakers?

About Michael Brown

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Michael is a senior trainer with Skillset, based in Christchurch.

He is a leading authority on training in presentation and news media skills in New Zealand. He has special expertise in how to present emotionally charged topics to challenging audiences. Michael has trained thousands of New Zealanders and worked with people who speak on behalf of some of the country's largest organisations.

Michael is a prolific author and his books on speaking and working with the media are in their fourth editions.

Speaking Easy: how to speak to your audiences with confidence and authority

Media Easy: how to handle the news media with confidence and authority

One of Michael's books is about his family's adventures sailing in the Pacific.

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