Nervous. Butterflies. Sweaty palms. Dry throat. Blank mind.
We’ve all been there, haven’t we? When you’ve had to stand up and present a report to the board or pitch to a room full of potential clients and suddenly you think “What the hell am I doing here?” or “Why on earth did I agree to do this?” or “Oh lordy they all look so much more senior than me”.
And then your heart starts thumping, your hands start shaking and you’ve got to start talking.
(and I don’t mind admitting at this point, that when I first walked in the room I thought to myself “Oh my goodness, I am out of my depth” and “These women all look so senior”. Yes that was my inner critic butting in.
Then my inner cheerleader shouted out “Hey Sherry, you’re in the right place – these women are just like your clients”. Thank goodness, for that inner cheerleader).
I enjoyed Sophie’s down-to-earth practical approach. She’s warm, she’s natural and she’s direct. Below I share my highlights of the brilliant tips she shared.
- Slow down and pause, often. Sophie suggested the old-fashioned Toblerone as your ‘role model’ with 1 or 2 second pauses. The pause helps the audience process what you are saying.
- Make eye contact. But not in a maniac eyes shooting all round the room way.
- Be your conversational self, keeping the language simple not ‘corporate speak’.
- Practice out loud and use prompt cards (rather than rehearse a script).
- Avoid the killer fillers e.g. “you know” “um” “err”. A hard habit to break and she suggested start small by leaving a voicemail without any killer fillers.
- Breathe from your belly not your chest. This helps to calm your heart beat too.
- Record yourself and get the timing right.
And when I discussed the presentation with other ambitious women in The Confident Mother group, these great tips were suggested by Paula, Kelly and Melissa:
- Believe in what you are talking about. If you don’t, it shows, said Paula.
- Understand and focus on what you want people to think, feel and do. Then you have a direction, something to aim for and it’s easier to bring people with you.
- Similarly Kelly shared that another speaking coach had advised her to set an intention and then before speaking, pause, breathe and remember the intention. For example is my intention to… teach? Inspire? Motivate? That really helped to come at it from the right angle.
- Melissa added: you can give greater emphasis to the pause with hand gestures too i.e. when you pause make your hand gesture pause too. Michael Grinder also taught me to to use voice speed and volume to slow down or speed up the metabolism of your listeners too.
What I loved about Sophie is how she encouraged us all to put our hands on the table and take up space. And to look out for women who don’t put their hand on the table and to call it. Not in a “hey, don’t you belong here” kind of way but offer gentle encouragement if you notice a woman looking flustered, or lacking in confidence, or who walks in the room and sits right at the back away from the table.