I looked up at the audience to see them on their phones or staring at the ceiling and one of them doing some emails. They were bored. I had lost them.
I knew why.
I was reading them a list of bullet points from a screen. I hadn’t put the effort into the one thing I always put effort into, because, I was supply teaching, standing in for someone else.
I had fallen into the biggest trap by mistake. I had forgotten the golden rule about engaging the audience.
Content FIRST. Platform second.
When it comes to marketing or speaking, or spreading a message to anyone, or any form of communication, it’s easy to become obsessed with the platform.
You feel the pressure of standing on the stage, or you get thinking about which platforms people will see your ad on… but it’s the CONTENT that comes first.
Sounds obvious right? well, It’s not! Because it even took broadcast media quite a while to suss it out too.
About fifteen years ago I was in the depths of working in Radio. Radio: the traditional broadcast medium where we put content together, blasted it out through speakers and people listened – there was no other choice. Audience engagement was pretty easy.
At the time we were starting to rethink how Radio was working. Twitter and Facebook were starting to grow, and we were aware that youtube was starting to be a place people went for information. We sat in a room and decided that it had to evolve and we came up with the idea that we should put the brand of the Radio Station in the middle, and then engage with our audience on as many platforms as possible.
This approach worked. This approach stuck.
So if you are ever sat in a meeting where someone says “we just need to do some facebook ads” or “we should get some videos on youtube” they are platform gazing, rather than focusing on the content.
For content to engage with your audience you need to go through the following 3 steps:
1) What is your point? (Also, what do you want to get out of it?)
2) What do you want your audience to remember, and feel?
3) Who are you talking to? Where are they, and what are they needing?
It is only when you’re at that third point do you begin to work out what platform will work best and how you tweak it to the platform.
My mistake was to try and deliver someone else’s content without thinking “what is MY point?” or what did I want them to remember? I was just worried that the powerpoint slides made sense. And because of that – I lost the audience.
If you are communicating in any way: Content First, Platform Second.
When it comes to asking something from someone – whether it be a colleague or a peer or a new business prospect – it is so tempting to just ask for what you want. If you have ever started to wonder why you aren’t getting what it is you are asking for, or it feels like no one is listening – try this one tool.
Pay them a compliment.
In what is considered the bible of persuasion, one of the big ideas in Dale Carnegie’s “How To Win Friends Influence People” is: “Begin in a friendly way”
Do you know anyone that doesn’t like receiving a compliment?
Can you think of a time when you didn’t like receiving a compliment?
Recently I was asking for some help with a client. The people I asked were very busy people and often I would expect an answer to take about 2 weeks. But this time I changed my approach. I asked for their help and explicitly told them that I really valued their opinion, that they were always brilliant at this sort of thing, and that they were the first people I had thought of.
I got answers from them all within 24 hours.
I genuinely believe what I wrote. It’s just that in the past I would have assumed they knew that I felt that way, which is why I was asking. Either that or the cynic in me would often think “they are going to know I am sucking up to them and they won’t believe me”.
The thing with compliments is that we rarely say them out loud.
And, the truth is – you can improve every single relationship you are in or entering into if you articulate your kind thoughts towards that person.
So from this minute on, if you can say something nice – say it. I know you will be brilliant at it.
There is no doubt that whenever anyone has to approach speaking in public the nerves set in. Countless articles and books have been written about the ways to beat the nerves, and how to create the perfect presentation. But I wanted to focus in on the “why”. “Why” is it so important to be good at public speaking today, more than ever before.
1)You Will Build Resilience and Grow In Confidence
The first time I was in a position of doing a talk that “really mattered” I was so nervous I couldn’t speak to anyone for days. I was afraid of forgetting my lines. I was afraid no one would think anything of what I had to say. I was afraid that I was going to be thought of as all sizzle and no sausage. I felt sick.
Then I did the talk.
It went really well. Like super well.
Nowadays the nerves still come whenever I talk, but I am more confident. I built some resilience to the nerves.
After attending one of my Speaker Courses, Clare saw me at an event and said to me “Kate, I went for a job interview after the course, and I decided to just be me, and be confident. On the first question I answered really assertively – and just said what I thought. I would never have done that before the course! I didn’t just get the job, I got offered a better job because of my answer to the first question”
If you can beat your fear of speaking in public – you can do anything.
2) You Will Be A Better Communicator In Day to Day Life
Great communication is a skill. It requires thought and practice. The thing is that we rarely think of it as a skill, and think of it as something we can all just “do”, and therefore we don’t apply any thought or practice. Especially when our key way to communicate today is via text or WhatsApp.
Speaking in public whether on stage, or podcast or on a youtube channel, will make you a better communicator in your day to day life, because you have to think about what you are saying and how your message is being received.
I helped a client start a podcast about 3 years ago. His podcast is on sport, his job is as a surveyor. He commented to me about a year in that he had noticed the impact of the podcast on his working life. He said “Having to form arguments and opinions on a weekly basis on the podcast means I am able to form stronger arguments at work. I am much less fearless about speaking up, and I am better at making a clear point”
3) You Will Become An Authority (and More Persuasive As A Result)
There are 2 things that make you successful:
Be good at what you do
Make sure people know about it
I have a friend who is a brilliant teacher. He covered a role while a colleague was on maternity leave for a year, did a brilliant job and then went for the role full time. In the interview, he assumed that they realised that he had done a good job, and so didn’t feel the need to tell stories or explain in detail what he had done.
He didn’t get the job.
When you stand up in public and tell people stories about what you do, and what you do well, you automatically become an authority on what you do.
When I did my talk to my industry I went from “person who could do a good job” to “person people knew did that job well”. In fact from that talk I found the confidence, and the authority, to launch a business to coach presenters.
The world is noisy. The world has its face in social media. The world is getting automated all the time. Being a good communicator is essential to you being able to achieve your goals – and getting good at public speaking is one of the ways that you can achieve this.
Have you ever noticed that some people just seem to get you on side really easily, where some just wind you up? Keep reading and take the iMA quiz!
Have you ever wondered why that person you work with just isn’t listening to you and doing as you ask?
Wouldn’t it be amazing if you felt you actually did understand your boss?
And what about the guy who never reads your emails? (For reference I am that guy that rarely makes it to the end of an email).
I am constantly on a mission to unhook snags like these for my clients (and for me!), so I recently trained as an iMA Strategies Affiliate.
iMA Strategies is a simple tool designed by Founder James Knight. iMA suggests that there are 4 types of communicators – denoted by how open and assertive they are. They are all colour coded.
High Blue– Open and Non-Assertive – loves bringing people together and creating teams, is usually a good right-hand man/woman but will feel uncomfortable making decisions or making the first move.
High Yellow – Open and Assertive – likes people, playful, distractible, not worried about detail, quick decision maker, and usually the last one up at a party
High Red – Closed and Assertive – likes detail but only what they need to know, likes getting things done, not so fussed about spending lots of time with lots of people, people can drain their energy.
High Green– Closed and Non-Assertive – likes detail, a lot. Likes processes a lot. Likes getting things done. Does not enjoy spending time with lots of people because they feel drained of energy.
In our most comfortable state, we fall more into one of these categories. If you know what colour you are, you can work out how to communicate better with someone of a different colour.
For example, I am High Blue, which means in my most comfortable state I like being in rooms full of people, but I am not a very good instigator. I also have to find ways to be a better decision maker. High Reds are good for me, but they read me as not focused enough too much waffle. I have to think about how I speak to High Yellows, to be sure that I am a bit more to the point, and for High Greens, I can lean on details but have to be clear with the process.
When we get some idea of which type we are, it’s easier to know what we need, and how to self actualise in order to communicate with other colours. If you are High Green, you can recognise that networking events are your least comfortable place, so either work hard to get good or know to avoid them and find other routes.
When presenting this is useful as you probably want to include ways of communicating that hit all 4 types of people. Bright, vibrant and to the point for the High Yellow and Reds in the audience, a little more facts and detail for the High Blues and Greens. Story wins all colours of course.
Want to know more? This simple test will show you what you are and you’ll get information about how you like to be communicated with, and how you can communicate with the other High Colours. katecocker-ima.com
“I have some silly questions,” I said to the group of people sat in front of me, they are all senior to me and when I think about being here I grin inside that I am worthy to be at this table.
I asked the questions – all of them brought important debate, and got us to think about issues we’d not discussed before now.
There was silly about those questions. Even so, I finish by saying: “And that’s all the silly questions thank you”…
The people around the table replied “nooo they were really good questions”
I left that meeting kicking myself – I deserve to be in that room so why did I let my “pinch myself I can’t believe it” feeling get the better of me?
Why am I apologising for myself?
Self-deprecation is a great tool to win people over, knowing your flaws and exploiting them allows people to feel good about theirs in your presence. There’s a difference between this and apologising for yourself.
In presenting apology appears in the way you introduce something “I hope you don’t mind but I wanted to share this with you” or “can I ask some silly questions?” (*facepalm*)
Or in the way you move on from something: post-punchline you say “anywaaayyy”
Or in the little giggle, you let out when you say something slightly wrong.
All of these are ways we end up undermining yourself. And when pitching or presenting you have to own the room, own your content and fulfil your assumed role as someone in authority.
How to stop undermining yourself
1). Be confident in your content
Confidence in your content is vital. Rehearse it more than you need to. Make the stories your own. Do what it takes to make sure you are comfortable with what you are talking about.
Remember if you don’t know everything, or the answer to a question from the audience, that’s not something that you need to apologise for, nor is it something that undermines you. Your confidence sings through all of that. To confidently say “I don’t know but I will find out for you” hold more integrity than trying to to answer and bumble your way through it finishing on an “anywayyyyy”.
Mr C has a rule that if he is not 100% confident in his content before he goes on air, he scraps it. The audience will never know what they have missed.
2). Practice getting rid of your vocal tick, eg; um, ah or giggle
When I work with many of my clients an um or a giggle is usually a symptom of a lack of clarity and confidence in their content (see point 1). Often the presenter says “well I wasn’t exactly sure what I was saying”.
If it still bothers you, you can use this technique, Click here. Just replace the word erm with whatever it is that you are doing.
3). Let your content breathe – and just don’t apologise
One of the reasons lines like “I hope you don’t mind me doing this…” or “Please indulge me…” are useful is because sometimes it’s hard to know how to go into your content.
For example, if you are about to read a poem, it’s easy to say “I hope you don’t mind but I wanted to read this as I felt it summed up the moment…”
But if you just drop the “I hope you don’t mind…” and presented it like “I found this poem and thought it summed up the moment…” and then read it, it’s much more powerful.
Just delete the apologetic language, and go with it. Same goes if you think your joke hasn’t landed. An ‘anywaaayyy’ draws the wrong kind of attention to it. Either just move on, or make a joke out of the awkward.
4). Say thank you
This is my latest ruse. I use it in email more than when speaking. I often find myself apologising for myself for being a few minutes late, or not replying to an email quickly. Often with some perspective, it’s not as bad as my apology can make it sound. Plus I often say sorry for it, and then I am late again the next time. I either have to be on time or I have to stop apologising for myself.
So I now say “Thank you for bearing with me…” or “Thank you for hanging on I really appreciate it…” My sentiment is the same, but I don’t hear myself saying “sorry” all the time.
Of course, when you mess up, apologise. If I have kept my time-starved mate waiting I am apologetic (and say thank you!). Or if you say something wrong then say sorry for it. But you preserve the power of those “sorrys” by stepping up and confidently presenting in the first place. Save your “sorry” for when you really need it.