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Tuesday 16 March, 2021
Avoid Death by PowerPoint
PowerPoint can be a great aid to use to support your speech however, it can also work against you. Rather than enhance what you are saying to your audience, if not used properly it can actually turn your audience off completely.
Here are some top tips to consider the next time you need to write a presentation.
1. Before you even get to your computer, consider what your subject is and what you need to cover. Have you done your research and is everything correct? What are your objectives? Are you trying to persuade, entertain, inform etc? How long does it need to be and finally, what is the outcome that you are looking to achieve?
2.Once you have a clear agenda or story, break down your main ideas into bite-sized statements for each of your slides. This will help you control the length of your presentation and decide what needs to be there and what doesn’t need its own slide.
3. Choose a single background to your presentation and use it throughout. If you use a different background it will look ill-prepared and distracting. By all means, use the tools that PowerPoint has to float words onto the screen or fade in or out, but don’t overuse these. Keep it simple and clear.
4. Use simple and clear fonts ensuring the text is big enough. Think about the audience in the back, they need to see what you have written too.
5. Use bullet points rather than sentences. You only want to give your audience a snapshot of what you are going to talk about, not the whole of your speech. When you are presenting try not to read from the screen either. Your audience can already read your presentation. When you go through each point, that’s when you can elaborate.
6. Use key words to emphasise your points. Use strong punchy words that get the point across without giving away everything.
7. Make sure that your slides follow a logical order. Nothing is more off-putting than a presentation that jumps all over the place. Think about a story needing a beginning, middle and end.
8. Use pictures. If they support your presentation then use pictures to support your key points. It will help to keep your audience interested and engaged.
9. Avoid a lot of text and too many slides. If you have ever heard the saying ‘Death by PowerPoint’ this is why. The more your audience needs to read, the less they will listen to you and the more what you are saying will fall flat.
10. Rehearse and time your presentation. Sounds obvious, but lack of preparation before your presentation will show. You need your words and your PowerPoint presentation to work in complete harmony. You are only able to see if your speech and presentation work together if you present it out loud. Present to a friend or family member and ask for honest feedback. By the time you are ready to deliver your presentation, you will be confident that your PowerPoint presentation and your speech meets all of the points mentioned in tip 1.
Bonus Tip: Love what you are presenting. Passion comes across in your voice, so enjoy your subject and good luck !
Friday 5 March, 2021
Most people find it hard to stand up and speak fluently off the cuff. Perhaps you want to respond to someone’s talk, but do not have the confidence or know the right words – how often do you say nothing and then when you get home you suddenly think “now why did I not say…”. At a meeting you may be asked for your opinion or asked to comment on a particular subject. You may know the subject, but having to comment right there and then….
Perhaps you need a bit of practice — and you can do this at home, no-one else needs to be around.
Step 1: Take a noun e.g. DREAMS
|Photo by Benjamin Sow on Unsplash|
Step 2: Write down words beginning with each letter
Step 3: Take 5 minutes to draft a story using these 6 words. It does not matter in which order you use them, just make sure you use them all in your story.
Step 4: Read out the story you have just written (remember this is just to yourself, but it is better to say it aloud)
Step 5: Repeat step 2 — same letters, different words.
Step 6: Now, don’t write anything down, but still compose your story as you speak it, i.e. impromptu.
And now that you have tried that, you can choose any other word and repeat — until you feel more confident that you are not going to get tongue-tied next time you want to stand up and say something at a meeting or are asked for your opinion!
Tuesday 16 February, 2021
You are sat down with a blank piece of paper, ready to write your speech; an hour later the page is still blank. You want to be entertaining and engaging, funny even, but the words just aren’t coming to you.
Here are some top tips to inspire you to write an awesome speech.
1. Know your audience. Identifying who your audience is will help with setting the pitch tone and content of your speech, use the right language and engage your audience appropriately. Is your speech in front of professionals or a casual setting? Setting the pitch and tone at the right level will help you to get maximum engagement from your audience.
2. Write an outline. Much like writing a story, a speech needs a beginning, middle and end. By writing an outline of what you want to say will help when it comes to adding detail. What are the main points that you want to cover? What is the reason behind giving the speech? What do you want to achieve?
3. How long does it need to be? Keep this in mind will help when it comes to fleshing out the details. You may have a set time that you need to stick to or the freedom for it to be as long as you like but make sure that no matter what the length, you keep to the time you set otherwise, you could run the risk of waffling which will detract from the main points you want to cover.
4. Get creative. Now you have your main points, it’s time to flesh out the details. Let your typing or writing run amok. Give yourself complete and utter freedom to write down whatever comes to you. The more writing you do at this point the better your speech will be. Even if you think of something crazy, write it down. At this stage, it doesn't matter.
5. Editing and proofing. Following your outline as a guide, it is now time to give your writing some structure. Take out the bits that don’t support your speech, focus on your intentions, take out any waffle. Expand on the bits you know to be important.
6. Practice. Perform your speech in front of a friend or family member and ask for honest feedback. This not only gives you the opportunity to time your speech but also to cut out or add anything to make it better. Once you have edited your speech, then recite it again and again until you are comfortable. The more you know your speech the more natural it will be when you come to deliver it.
7. Enjoy. Even if you are delivering to a room full of professionals, if you prepared well and comfortable with your speech you will come across as confident and enjoying sharing with the room.
Next time you need to write an all-important speech, following these tips will help you to not just write a speech, but to write an awesome speech.
Monday 25 January, 2021
What is good platform presence and why is it important on Zoom? Good platform presence helps to command and hold the attention of your audience, whether you are physically in front of an audience in a meeting room or appearing on a screen on the wall or even on a screen in your own home. You may not be too worried if you are simply making social contact on Zoom, but if you are in a business meeting you may need to impress and you certainly need to get your message over, to make your presence felt.
The following gives you some suggestions to ponder over before you venture onto Zoom.
A Two Step Approach
- Make sure you have practised on Zoom beforehand — you can always try it out with a friend. But remember that there are different levels of Zoom, each providing slightly different facilities. Search of the internet will give you lots of practical advice on how to use Zoom and how to get the best out of it technically.
- If you are using Zoom from your home, decide which room you are going to use and make sure your set-up is as good as it can be. Avoid busy and untidy rooms in your house. Alternatively, Zoom offers you the ability to change the transmitted background using a selected wallpaper. However, be careful what sort of background you pick. If it is too busy it will distract from your presentation. Also be aware of how any movement you make may affect the apparent focus of the background. This is definitely something to try out beforehand.
- Make sure that your lighting is suitable, you cannot impress if your audience cannot see you clearly. The best source of light is one that you are looking towards. Light from one side can be adequate but will highlight your pores and blemishes, so it depends on how vain you are!
- Make sure that you are in focus and that you can clearly hear and be heard. Again a practice with a friend beforehand can be useful. If using a PC then a separate webcam and speakers may be required – make sure they are of adequate quality.
- Have visual aids which can be brought into play without difficulty. Zoom facilities for displaying documents or slides are available. There is also a Whiteboard option. But do make sure you have tried and mastered these facilities beforehand.
- Have your notes in order and easy to handle – cards or A4 sized documents are still best for talking from but remember that it will be possible to display key data using the facilities described in the paragraph above.
- Be appropriately dressed. Your appearance is still important and although casual outfits may be appropriate, you do need to look as if you care.
- Be sure you know how to get into Zoom in a timely manner and how to mute your voice when others are talking so that no extraneous noises disturb the meeting. Not everyone wants to hear your dog barking or your children quarrelling!
- Don’t forget to close all unnecessary files or tabs that can slow down your software and connection. Make sure you have done a test run to ensure there are no unexpected technical obstacles for your presentation.
- Place your seat so that your audience can see your head and shoulders. If using a laptop, have it on a solid surface and use a box or books to raise it up if necessary.
- Greet your audience and introduce yourself if necessary. Make sure your name is appropriately displayed on the screen. If you press the “record” facility at the start, then you can review your presentation and all the audience interaction to it, afterwards. Your next presentation can then be even better.
- Sit comfortably and try not to move around as this can be distracting and may affect the focus of your picture or the clarity of your sound for the audience.
- Indicate when you are starting and speak clearly.
- Maintain eye contact by looking at the screen. Avoid looking at the walls and the ceiling of your room, and never out of a window.
- Be aware of any distracting mannerisms you may have as these can be exaggerated by the concentration of your presence on a small screen and annoy your audience:
- Make sure your hairstyle is tidy even if you haven’t had a hair cut for a while. Untidy hair can be a distraction especially if you find yourself “fiddling” with it.
- Spectacles that do not fit and have to be pushed up the nose all the time should be avoided if possible.
- Gestures may not be of much use on Zoom but do not to fiddle with paper or other things on your desk / table.
- Make sure your hairstyle is tidy even if you haven’t had a hair cut for a while. Untidy hair can be a distraction especially if you find yourself “fiddling” with it.
- Make sure it is obvious when your presentation has come to an end.
- Wait for the host to close the meeting before you disconnect.
Platform presence is as important on Zoom as in any other situation. Do not be put off by the technology. With thorough preparation, your presentations can take off on Zoom and achieve the high standards you are used to. No presenter is ever perfect and nobody expects you to be. If you slip-up during the presentation, simply acknowledge it, and pick up from where you erred. Always remember to keep your audience engaged with a SMILE.
Tuesday 12 January, 2021
Imposter syndrome (Noun)
We have all had a moment of doubt in our abilities where we feel unsure of if we are any good at what we do, whether it is in your professional or our personal lives. It's not a nice feeling, so what do you do to overcome it? We have put together some ideas for you to try the next time that imposter devil comes knocking at your door.
- Recognise imposter syndrome. As soon as you admit to yourself that this is truly how you are feeling and not just having a bad day, you enable yourself to tackle how you feel. Sometimes giving a name to how you are feeling is just as good as a cure.
- Ask for validation. Vocalising your worries to someone you trust is a great way to not only get how you are feeling off your chest, but a good confidant will also help to boost your confidence back up again. Don’t worry about feeling embarrassed or ashamed, chances are that they have felt the same way at some point.
- Talk, talk, talk. We are all feeling pretty isolated at the moment which can impact our confidence greatly. If you are alone you run the risk of getting stuck with the thoughts in your head and can lead to depression which is the last thing you need when you are having a crisis of faith. Set up a zoom call or phone a friend just to talk nonsense if you want to. We are designed to be social creatures, so try to avoid hiding away.
- Make a list. It is easy to forget our achievements, successes and capabilities, by putting them down on paper you will have physical proof of how great you are. Keep that piece of paper to look at every time you feel this way and remind yourself daily that you are amazing!
- Ask for testimonials from customers. This may sound slightly strange, but when you feel unsure about yourself, asking for a customer to give you feedback on the great job you do, will instantly boost your confidence. Every business will benefit from having good feedback, so it is a practical thing to do anyway. As soon as those testimonials start coming though it will help no end with your confidence. Be sure to share them to your social media and website. Let everyone know.
- Know that you aren’t the only one. We are so lucky that the internet has given us an abundance of reference materials. The saying forewarned is forearmed so do some research into imposter syndrome. It will help you to recognise how you are feeling and will help you overcome this bad patch.
- Connect with others. Join a forum or networking group. Particularly in your professional life, joining in with a group will help you to learn from others. Not only will it give you that crucial social interaction, but it will also enable you to share your fears and worries without fear of embarrassment.
- Take a day off. Having a proper break from work does the world of good. Turn the laptop off, switch your phone to silent and have a 'me' day. If your imposter syndrome is personal, then do something to change up your routine. For example, if you are experiencing a day where you have doubts regarding your parenting skills, then go out for the day. You may be homeschooling every day, as well as trying to work and keep on top of the chores; take a break. Go to the park and feed the ducks or go for a nice walk. Breaking the monotony is essential for you as well as your family’s mental health. That pile of washing can wait!
- Are you a perfectionist? If you suffer from imposter syndrome, is this because you constantly strive for perfection? Absolutely no-one is perfect, no-one is expected to be perfect. Try to realise that it's probably only you which is putting this level of pressure on yourself. Try to take a step back from the situation and spend some time letting go of the unimportant things. You will feel so much better for giving yourself a break.
- Give yourself a reality check. Yes, this does mean having a stern talking to yourself. Tell those voices in your head to get lost because YOU GOT THIS!!!!
Written By Sarah English – Write Idea 11 January 2021
Tuesday 8 December, 2020
Have you ever looked at someone and admired how confident they are? Confidence is an ability that can be learned and with a little practice, you can overcome your fears and learn a skill which will help you all walks of life, from doing well at an interview to speaking in public.
- Set goals and get stuff done.Accomplishing tasks either big or small will change your overall mood. Lifting your mood automatically, helps you stand prouder, even when you speak you will come across as happier and more confident.
- Be positive and visualise.Sound simple doesn’t it? It is fact that if you have a positive outlook, your mood changes, as does the mood of everyone around you. If you take time and visualise a positive outcome of a situation, you are far more likely to succeed. Sports professionals, entertainers, public speakers etc, practice this frequently.
- Internalise. Confidence comes from within. Really think about what confidence is and what it means to you. If you fear failure, challenge what failure would mean, how are you able to pick yourself back up again. As soon as you realise that you can bounce back with no trouble, the fear will subside.
- Posture. Work on your posture, shoulders back, chin up, chest out. Confident people will always have great posture. Not only will you look more confident, your voice will be louder and clearer.
- Reward yourself. Praise and recognise your achievements. If you won a big contract or got the job you wanted, celebrate your success. It doesn’t have to be anything lavish, just something that marks your achievement.
- Appreciate yourself. It is easy to be critical of ourselves, but when did you actually sit down and think about how great you are? Grab a pen and paper and list your qualities and achievements.
- Talk to yourself. You may feel silly doing talking to yourself, but having a dialogue with your reflection is a great way to build confidence. Tell yourself that you are amazing and confident and you can do this!
- Live in the present. It is easy to fret about something that hasn’t even happened, which causes you stress that you don’t even need. Be in the moment and let things happen. As soon as you release the worry, you will feel lighter and more in control.
- Practice eye contact. Next time you speak to someone be conscious of how much eye contact you hold or don’t hold. Being aware of our body language is a powerful tool to have at your disposal. We do it without even thinking and we read the signals that it gives out from others. Recognising positive body language signals will help you appear far more confident.
- Be yourself. Our individual personalities, tell people what we are all about. You can learn to be confident, but stay true to yourself. Don’t try to be someone you are not. It is fine to aspire to be like someone but ultimately your confidence is yours to own and embrace.
Wednesday 4 November, 2020
If you missed our very own Cat Foulkes on the ZoShow on Wednesday 28th October, you can watch it again with this link. https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=654238222119399
If you don’t have time to watch, we have picked out some great highlights from the show here. Please feel free to contact us with any questions.
Zo: Tell us a little about yourself and your role within Birmingham International Speakers Club (BISC).
Cat: I am one of the organisers of the club, I have a job that I love and although it doesn’t involve public speaking, I would not have achieved this role if I didn’t have the effective communication skills that BISC gave me.
Zo: Public speaking is a huge skill, I had huge issues with a stutter when I was younger and had a real lack of confidence. So, I plucked up the courage to join BISC and as soon as I sat down, I knew I was in the right place. Can you explain to people who don’t know about BISC, what the club is all about?
Cat: I had a similar experience with public speaking that went terribly wrong. I went for a job that required a 20-minute presentation as part of the second round of interviews. I ended up not progressing further with the job because of the fear of public speaking. I knew that this fear would stop me from progressing with my career so I looked online and I found BISC. It’s a local club based in Birmingham and part of a global organisation. We have a clear set of procedures around public speaking, to enable anyone and everyone to become a competent public speaker, and to become a proficient communicator.
It’s a definite life skill that impacts so many parts of our lives, so I initially joined to enable me to deliver a presentation for an interview. Now, I have learnt how to structure the content of a presentation and how to deliver in an impactful manner, becoming competent in speaking whenever I am called upon. It feels so good to overcome something that was, initially debilitating and to progress further in my career. BISC has impacted all parts of my life.
Zo: Lets talk about fear. How do you overcome the fear of speaking in public?
Cat: Communication is fundamental in progressing through life. My first speech, I was absolutely petrified, I was hoping to break a leg so I wouldn’t have to go. I wasn’t really clear and confident about my content and the delivery itself was laughable. I spoke too quickly and just ran of the stage when I was finished. Because this experience was so bad, I found that every occasion after that was slightly better. So, with the positivity of the club and my own determination, I was able to progress.
There are three main points that BISC help with. The first is to know your audience, and to get the internal dialogue away from you. Think about what you are going to teach them, you are there to share information with them. Once you change the focus from you to your audience it really helps.
Secondly, practice. Practice in the shower, the car, to a line of pillows on the sofa, to a family member. The more you practice the more confident you will be with your content.
Third is to breathe. Take the time before your presentation to concentrate on your breathing, even write it in your notes to make sure you do it. Right before starting, take a deep breath and survey the room.
Zo: What are some quick tips on overcoming nerves?
Cat: Being well prepared, goes without saying. Have a positive visualisation of seeing the meeting going really well. Have someone manage the timing of your meeting to take that worry away. Most importantly. believe in yourself. If you have been asked to deliver a speech, then they are already deeming you competent. Having the self-belief that you can do it will help so much with your confidence and nerves.
Re-focus the adrenaline that you are feeling. It is the same adrenaline that you feel when you are excited, so instead of focussing on how you are feeling nervous, change it to feeling excited instead. Time to shine!
Zo: What is a typical club meeting?
Cat: Twice a month we are currently meeting online, formally face to face, and the meeting is divided into two halves. The first is typically 2-4 prepared speeches on a pre-given topic and time frame, and the second half is a workshop which is fully interactive, either delivered by a member or external guest. The topics given could be anything from a lottery win to a bank heist and it is entirely up to the individual to take the topic and run with it however they would like to.
There are two evaluations given for each speech, by more experienced members, and this is where the magic happens. You are given feedback on what went well and what to consider for next time. You get to learn your individual strengths as a speaker and often, it comes to light, things that you had never considered before. Maybe you say ummm a lot or touch your face, and once your attention is drawn to it, it makes you more conscious and able to do something about it for future presentations.
Zo: What about impromptu speaking?
Cat: I would suggest three things, think about your audience. What is the take home message that you want to give your audience? What is the one sentence that you really want to end with? Make sure that you mention why you are there and why you are addressing everyone. It could be raising a toast at a party or speaking about someone leaving a company. It is a skill and you do have to work on it, but once you do, its like riding a bike.
Zo: How do you deal with hecklers or negative members of the audience?
Cat: Address them at the end of your presentation, deal with it in a diplomatic way, without letting them disturb your flow. The main thing is, that it is your presentation, so acknowledge them and deal with their comments at an appropriate time in a way that does not derail you from your flow.
Zo: Many meetings are now been held over the internet so do you think that the world is changing in terms of switching to digital?
Cat: I think there will always be the need and desire for people to gather in a face to face auditorium to get the energy and passion that you get from a public arena. I think that learning to be a host on Zoom etc is definitely a skill in itself and we will all benefit from learning how to move to digital.
Zo: Talking about fillers in a presentation, the ummms for example. How would you suggest you tackle these?
Cat: Fillers are such an easy go to; they are the words that you use when you can’t think of what to say next instead of leaving a silence. Leaving a pause instead is actually a lot more effective, it will keep your audience’s attention without holding you back from your message. One thing we teach you is to become comfortable with holding pauses. It seems very alien at first but is very powerful, your audience will be in suspense of your next words, if used correctly.
Zo: Do you have any suggestions for anyone delivering something via digital medium?
Cat: I would suggest that meetings held on Zoom would still follow the same time management structure. Engagement is the key change. Face to face you can easily detect if someone is distracted, lost focus or they are loving what your saying. On a Zoom meeting, the way to keep engagement is to be much snappier and quicker, keep the meeting moving.
Zo: How important, now we are moving into digital delivery, that tech works?
Cat: I can’t tell you how many Zoom meetings I have been on where someone’s battery has died and the meeting has just stopped. A good hour before the meeting, check to make sure that everything is working and the battery is fine. Be prepared by checking that your background is appropriate and well lit. Check that you are a proper distance away from the camera, that the sound works etc.
Zo: For digital meetings, what is a non-aggressive way of involving those who are not participating?
Cat: There is a fine line between putting someone on the spot and trying to involve them in engaging in the meeting. I tend to make sure that everyone introduces themselves at the start so everyone knows everyone. It could be as simple as asking what they had done that morning. This involves everyone right from the get go, and it’s a bit of an icebreaker. It helps you engage everyone throughout the rest of the meeting.
Zo: What is the benefit of being able to speak in public?
Cat: Many of our members, including myself, have gone on to get promotions at work and have improved their lives dramatically. I find that I am now able to put my point across succinctly and be confident in an environment when I am put on the spot. Without effective communication we cannot succeed. In all aspects of our lives, work, relationships, friendships, we need to be able to put across our point to make sure that the recipient of our message understands. Public speaking is just the tip of the iceberg, it actually effects so much more to a person in all parts of their life.
Zo: How important is it to learn in a safe environment where you don’t feel criticized or inferior to others?
Cat: To go to a club, where your boss isn’t there and meeting other like-minded individuals who all want to grow and no one is judging is freeing. Everyone is there to encourage and support growth not to criticise. Its all about building confidence.
Zo: We’ve had some great tips here, so how do people go about visiting BISC and getting involved?
Cat: Facebook : https://facebook.com/BhamSpeakers/
We look forward to seeing you there!
Thursday 15 October, 2020
Due to the current pandemic POWERtalk Pollokshields have been meeting via Zoom. This has proved to be very successful and the members have enjoyed lively meetings. On Wednesday 14th October the club met at 7.30 pm. The Theme for the evening was "The World is your Oyster - or is it?" President Brendan opened the meeting and introduced Roz as Chair for the evening. The topics were taken by Louise, Grace,Liz and Scilla. A very entertaining Education/Fun session followed by Carole Ford introducing a shared Screen and a lively Quiz. The two speakers were Anita - "Pearls of Wisdom" and Brendan on "Is the Future Google?" A useful General Evaluation was given by Grace and the Timing and Vote of Thanks was given by Liz. Members are really enjoying the Zoom Meetings which gives us an opportunity to continue with the club in these very difficult times.
The next meeting is on 28th October and the Theme will be "Sights and sounds and smells".
Tuesday 6 October, 2020
Top 15 tips to enhance your Zoom meetings
Zoom has quickly become the most popular tool to keep us connected during Covid-19, especially in a professional capacity. We have adapted well to running and joining meetings at home even with the worry of invasion from the kids, the cat sitting on your laptop or the dog deciding it’s a good time to pee on the carpet. Even when we finally go back to offices, the popularity of Zoom meetings will continue, as we realise that there is no longer the need to bring everyone together for a meeting in an office environment and can just as easily be done remotely. More and more people will also be given the opportunity to continue to work from home. So, Zoom is here to stay! Here are some great tips to help you when running or attending meetings.
1. Add a background – Zoom offers a selection of backgrounds to use or upload one of your own. Just go into settings and get creative. If you don’t want to use a background then have a plain wall behind you.