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Lessons from TEDx – trust me, they’re not nerves that you’re feeling ….

David Meade TEDx

So the day of TEDx was upon us.  The sense of occasion in the great hall during the speakers breakfast was palpable.  There were twenty or so of us there ready to share our ideas. We were ushered into the senate chamber for a comprehensive briefing from the organisers and the production team.   It really did feel like being part of a television show which definitely added to the feeling of apprehension.

Approximately 30 minutes before I was due to go on, the organiser excitedly told  us that there were approximately 10,000 people watching via live stream online!  Until that point I didn’t even know there was going to be a live stream, never mind one with 10,000 people watching!

Talk about raising the nerves to an all time high!

One of the speakers, David Meade, is a household name in Northern Ireland and is the host of his own TV show.  Suddenly, David started saying how nervous he was getting. What did this mean for the rest of us, if the most experienced person among us was getting nervous?

I then had a quick chat with David that went something like this:

Me: “But hang on David, you’re on TV, you do stage shows and corporate events every day of the week –  how can you be nervous?”

David: “Nerves never leave you, they’re a good thing, they keep us in check and show us we care,. Nerves are good.  Do you know nervousness and excitement are very closely linked in the brain. So if you’re getting overly nervous just tell yourself you’re excited.”

I was very sceptical at this piece of wisdom but thought I would give it a try.  There I was backstage a few minutes later telling myself out loud:

“I am excited, I am excited, I am excited.”

I couldn’t believe it but it actually worked. The nerves subsided to a manageable level ,and I even felt my body language shift to being more upright and confident.   As you probably know, everything David Meade says is true!  But if you don’t believe him here’s more about the science of this idea by Harvard Business School.

I encourage you to give it a try, the next time you are about to give a speech or presentation find a quiet corner and say to yourself a few times over:

“I’m excited, I’m excited, I’m excited.”

Just see what happens!


Richard Wasson

Richard Wasson has sailed the world on exploration superyachts. He has many stories to tell from his years as captain and chief officer to the very rich and the very famous! Now officially retired from sea, his quest to help people be happier in their life and careers is ongoing. Watch Richard’s TEDx talk here.

“This post is the last in a series of three posts, where I share just some of the things I learnt from my TEDx experience. You can read the others here and here.”

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Does your audience listen when you speak?

presentation at meeting

You’ve been asked to give a presentation at your next staff meeting.  Do you think:

a) “I have so much to say, I just don’t know how I’m going to fit it into a five minute slot”

b) “My topic is really boring…. no-one is ever interested in what I have to say”

c) “I don’t even know where to start!”

We all want our audience to take our message on board when we speak.  After taking the first step and considering the needs of your audience, here’s a simple structure to help you to write your message so that they really listen to what you have to say.  We call it the SABA structure, and you’ll see it underpinning so many great talks and messages. In the post below, we’ve chosen two popular TED talks to highlight the use of the SABA structure.  Brené Brown’s widely-watched TED talk on the power of vulnerability  and Bryan Stevenson’s TED talk on racial inequality both follow SABA, whether they intended it or not!

 

S – Scene

First of all set the scene for your audience. You can’t assume that they know about your topic.   In a sales pitch, this might be as short as a single sentence, explaining the need for your proposal. In a longer talk you can take the opportunity to set the context for your idea.  Bryan Stevenson ‘s talk delivers a hard-hitting message, but gives it personal context with a warm story about the power of identity.  Brené Brown opens her talk with a short story that connects her audience to who she is and why she’s passionate about the work that she does.

 

A – Approach

What’s your approach?  In your presentation, what are you going to do to address the need that you’ve established in your audience’s mind?  Or maybe you want to give your audience some concrete information to lend credibility to your message. But beware! This is where many people put most of their focus in their presentations. You’re in danger of losing your audience completely, if you drown them in detail. In her talk, Brené Brown makes brief reference to her ten-year career as a social worker and her work as a researcher, but it’s all we need to believe in her conclusions later in her talk.

 

B – Benefits

Why should your audience care?  What would your audience do if they didn’t adopt your proposal? Stop for a moment and consider your audience’s second-best option.   Now go ahead and position your proposal against the competition – explain why you’re painting a brighter picture or what they’ll get out of following your suggestion.  Both Bryan Stevenson and Brené Brown make use of storytelling to invent a better future.

 

A – Action

Finally, give your audience a call to action.  What do you expect them to do as a result of your talk? Where can they go to get further information?  In a work presentation, a simple, concrete step that your audience can adopt will further your cause –  visit our shop, sign up for a free trial, set up a meeting with key stakeholders.  In Brené Brown’s case, she’s made the case for us  to slow down and embrace who we are – “Because when we work from a place, that says, “I’m enough”, we’re kinder and gentler to the people around us”.  By the end of his talk, Bryan Stevenson has built up a resonant talk that calls on us all to keep an eye on the prize, and hold on, no matter how difficult the circumstances.

 

For your next talk, how can SABA help you to develop a compelling message that results in action?

 

 

 

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Lessons from TEDx – how can you enjoy your speaking more?

emotions in audience

Sometimes after getting invited to do something we get that sudden excitement followed by the realisation – “Oh no I have to actually do this now!”  That was certainly the case after I got invited to speak at TEDxStormont in 2014.  I needed practice, lots of it!

At first practising went ok, I gained a tiny bit of confidence quite quickly but unfortunately soon after that I hit a brick wall. I felt there would be no way I could be ready to stand up and speak in the Great Hall at Stormont, I was hating the practice.

One day about a month out I decided to throw in the towel and I penned an email to the organiser apologising but I wouldn’t be able to do the talk after all.   I didn’t send the email in the end; perhaps many people wish I did!    I decided to give it a couple more attempts and I was invited to speak at an event in Dublin that would serve as a good final test to see if I could do this thing.  When I came off the stage I felt completely different to every other time I had spoken. It suddenly dawned on me that for the first time I had actually enjoyed it.

Then the organiser came over to me and thanked me for what he thought was a very good talk.  He said, “I really felt you shift emotions in the room and that’s what a successful talk does: shifts people’s emotions.”  He was a very well respected speaker so to hear that gave me confidence and I decided to plug away and get this TEDx done as best I could for the person I had written it for.

As I drove home that day I reflected on how I came to the point where I finally felt more confident about my speaking. I realised there were four key things I’d learnt:

  1. Practice is always beneficial even when it feels horrible.
  2. Eventually practice brings a breakthrough and then real enjoyment.
  3. Enjoyment is felt by the audience and that’s what shifts emotions.
  4. A successful speech shifts people’s emotions.

So I’ll leave you with a question to think about “How can you enjoy your speaking more?”  Get in touch on Facebook if you have any comments!


Richard Wasson

Richard Wasson has sailed the world on exploration superyachts. He has many stories to tell from his years as captain and chief officer to the very rich and the very famous! Now officially retired from sea, his quest to help people be happier in their life and careers is ongoing. Watch Richard’s TEDx talk here.

“This post is the second in a series of three posts, where I share just some of the things I learnt from my TEDx experience. You can read the others here and here.”

 

 

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One simple tool to help your next presentation or talk

FLeD Goals

What’s the first thing that you do when you’re asked to give a presentation? Do you spend weeks putting it off, and finally sit down the night before to pull it all together? Or maybe you want to whip out a blank piece of paper and start to scribble down your thoughts straight away? Or perhaps you open up Powerpoint and start working on your slides right away?   Well whichever approach you take, here’s a little tool to help you to cut down on the time that it takes you to prepare a presentation.   It’s a simple device that we call FLeD Goals.

Your FLeD goals should be the beginning of every presentation.   Before you start, sit and reflect for a moment on what you want your presentation to achieve. Think about your audience and what you want to give them in your talk.  When you know where you’re going, you’re far more likely to get there.

FLeD – F – Feel

What do you want your audience to Feel by the time you’ve finished your presentation?   Maybe you want them to feel reassured that they’re in the right hands – that you are the person to guide them through the problem that you’re addressing?  Or maybe it’s fear – fear of missing out – that if they don’t work with you, they’ll miss out on an opportunity?   Whatever you want your audience to feel – joy, sadness, nostalgia, disgust, admiration, surprise – just make sure that you leave them feeling something!

FLeD – L – Learn

What do you want your audience to Learn? This can be a tricky one.  After all, you’re an expert in your topic, and the temptation is always there to try to pass on everything that you know to your audience.   Instead, think about the number one thing that you want your audience to learn, and build your presentation around that.

FLeD – D – Do

What do you want them to Do? Hopefully your audience has learnt something new, and ideally you’ve changed what they’re feeling.  But what’s next?   What would you like them to Do now?  Your Do might be something simple – Like our Facebook page, visit our shop, sign up online for a free trial – or you might be looking for something bigger like a change in behaviour or a shift in attitude.  At the end of your presentation, what small step will you ask your audience to take to move towards that outcome?

Your FLeD Goals is a simple device that can really help you to focus on what you want your presentation to say. Try this the next time you’re asked to speak.  It will help you to put a better presentation together in less time.  Get in touch on Facebook – let us know how you get on!

 

 

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Lessons from TEDx – it’s not all about you

Richard Wasson TEDx

Firstly I’d like to say I have the upmost respect for anyone who stands up to speak in front of a group of people.   If you’re nervous about speaking, I completely understand.

The reason I know what you’re going through is because in 2014 I got invited to give a TEDx talk in the great hall in Stormont, in front of 200 or so people and a film crew. It was to be filmed and put online forever.

Scary is not the word – even the great hall itself invokes nerves due to it’s grandeur and history.

In my preparation for my TEDxStormont talk, I learnt quite a few things that have helped me up my public speaking game.

Key learning number one- ‘it’s not all about you’

In the weeks after receiving the invite, any time I thought of the talk I would get obsessed with negative thinking all about myself. Things like:

  • “What if I trip and fall on my face?”
  • “What if I stutter and stammer and sound like an idiot?”
  • “What if they don’t get what I’m talking about?”

I even started thinking what would happen if I went on stage with my fly down!

I then met with a very wise speaker and he pointed out that this talk is not about me at all. He wisely informed me that a speech is about the audience, not about the speaker. He asked me:

  • “What are you giving your audience?”
  • “How will they benefit from listening to you?”

He then politely informed me I was getting very self-centred and to focus on the audience’s needs, not my own. He was right.

This really resonated and I took it a step further by writing a profile of a person who I felt would benefit from hearing my talk. I then crafted the talk to speak to that person directly. It obviously worked as only minutes after coming off stage someone came up to me and thanked me and said it was exactly what they needed. That person fitted exactly the profile I had drawn up.

So here are some questions to help you with crafting your speech:

  •  Who are the key people you are talking to?
  • What are their needs and desires and how can you talk directly to them?
  • How will they benefit from listening?

This advice has helped to keep me on track when I’ve been asked to speak, I hope it will help you too!


Richard Wasson

Richard Wasson has sailed the world on exploration superyachts. He has many stories to tell from his years as captain and chief officer to the very rich and the very famous! Now officially retired from sea, his quest to help people be happier in their life and careers is ongoing. Watch Richard’s TEDx talk here.

“This post is the first in a series of three posts, where I share just some of the things I learnt from my TEDx experience. You can read the others here and here.

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How top speakers manage nerves

Managing nerves when you’re asked to speak in public is something that you might struggle with. And you’re not alone! One of our favourite discoveries at Bespoke Communications is the Harvard commencement speech from the great American tv host, Oprah Winfrey.  In her speech, Oprah talks about the nerves that even well-known performers feel when taking part in a tv interview with her. She name checks President Obama, Beyonce and beyond.  Regardless of how famous they are or how frequently they appear on tv or in public, every interviewee she’s worked with looks for feedback after their tv appearance – ‘Was that OK?’  or ‘How did I do?’. Even at Bespoke, we don’t have to look too far to realise that’s true. Sarah has a tv career spanning two decades, and will readily admit to managing nerves before going on air.

Managing nerves

So it’s liberating to know that everyone feels nervous before appearing in public. Its not just you! Nerves come knocking to remind you that you care – that you want your words to mean something to those that hear them.   Giving a speech requires that you open yourself up, even just a little.   Your audience wants to get to know you and what makes you tick.  And when you’re being yourself, and showing empathy, then it’s natural to want the respect and approval of your audience.  Let’s face it, it’s a basic building block of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Your preparation process

The great news is that your nerves can be harnessed to help your performance rather than hinder it.    You can use the principles of performance psychology to develop a preparation process to help you when you’re called upon to present in public.  Identifying the source of your anxiety and breaking it down into skills to be mastered is the first step.  For some people, that means practicing a killer opening.  For others, it’s about structuring their content so that they get their message across more easily.  And many people just want to focus on the pace of delivery. Finding low-risk situations to help you to practice those skills is key.  Giving yourself the opportunity to practice, knowing that you’ll make mistakes is the best way to learn and improve. Your preparation process is very different to your performance process when you’re on stage with all eyes on you.

Your performance process

Your performance process will be unique to you, but here are some tried and tested techniques to help you on the day.  There’s something in here that you can adapt and make your own.  Here’s Sarah talking with Denis McNeill on Q Radio recently about the Speakeasy Club, and how to overcome public speaking nerves.  With the right tactics, you’ll master those nerves to give a great performance every time!

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Nerves when presenting – how to cope

Nerves, Relaxation

What’s holding you back from stepping out and making that speech or presentation? For many people, it’s fear of fear itself! Nerves when presenting are common and – believe it or not – necessary for a good performance! But if your nerves are getting in the way, here are some coping strategies that we’ve used to help us manage that negative inner voice and overcome presentation nerves.

nerves Amy Cuddy Powerposes

Amy Cuddy Powerposes

Visualisation

Imagine what success looks like to you. Create a mental picture to enhance motivation and confidence. Envision what it feels like to have the audience in the palm of your hand, the go out there and deliver your speech with confidence.

Affirmations

These are positive statements to overcome your negative inner voice. We always think that the Huffington Post talks a lot of sense, so here are 35 Affirmations to change your life.

Exercise

If you’re a runner, go out for a run that morning. Or a brisk walk. Exercise gets the serotonin going, and will put you in a more positive frame of mind. There are those that advocate taking yourself off to the bathroom before your presentation, and doing some star-jumps. Try that and see if it helps?

Reframing

Reframe your nerves as excitement. Adrenaline gets your nerves going, but it also gets you excited. Swap your negative emotions around felling nervous for positive emotions relating to excitement. And don’t just listen to us, Harvard Business School have studied this technique and found that it works!

Plan ahead

It may sound like common sense, but this is feedback that we see after a great many workshops and courses that we run.  The popular quote ‘Failing to plan is planning to fail’, often attributed to Benjamin Franklin, holds true in a public speaking situation like no other.  Develop your structure, build out your content and try it out on different audeinces before your live event.  You’ll be glad you took the time, honest!

Mindfulness

Being present and thinking about the here and now can really help you to avoid catastrophising.  There are lots of free apps you can try to help you to meditate at home. We love Headspace, and founder Andy’s calming voice. He’s helped us through many a stressful situation!

Smile!

And here’s the small piece of advice that might just change everything – Smile! As Amy Cuddy advocates, fake it till you make it. Smile and you’re forced to think more positively about any experience.

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Ethos, pathos and logos in a TED talk

acc stephen martin ethos pathos logos

As public speaking partners to TEDxStormont, we’ve been lucky enough to hear talks from a variety of innovative and creative speakers. .  We’ve heard about everything from innovation (David Meade), women in science (Jocelyn Bell Burnell), and the power of relationships (ACC Stephen Martin).  We think there are lessons for us all in the way TED speakers prepare their talks. Aristotle talked about the three artistic proofs of ethos, pathos and logos when composing a persuasive public speech. Hundreds of years later his advice still rings true. When faced with a blank page, our TED speakers can draw on the these three artistic proofs to build up their talk from scratch.

Ethos – Your own credibility and character

ethos Lord Alderdice TEDx Speaker

Lord Alderdice

What references can you use in your speech to reinforce your credibility as an authority on the topic that you’re discussing? Lord Alderdice references his medical training and uses medical analogies to build the case for a kinder, more tolerant society. Fergus Cumiskey references his work over a period of many years with young people in the care system before talking about suicide prevention. Or watch Therese Charles tell her self-deprecating story in the case she makes for the space between failure and success.

Logos – your arguments or reasoning

Cheylene Murphy, TEDx Speaker ethos pathos logos

Cheylene Murphy

Can you provide examples that back up your central claim? Watch Jarek Zasadzinski argue the case for a formula for success. Cheylene Murphy invokes the power of storytelling to build the case for collaboration and opening up. Or how about the top down logic of Deirdre Heenan’s appeal to the need for a focus arts and creativity in educational policy? John Sturrock uses language and metaphor to point us towards solutions for social polarisation.

Pathos – your audience

Rachel Smith TEDx Speaker ethos pathos logos

Rachel Smith

An audience is defined by their interest in your topic and their ability to mediate change. Can you appeal to your audience’s needs and values to make a persuasive case? WIIFM – What’s in it for me? If you can tap into emotions to make your case, then you’re well on the way to making a connection with your audience. Rachel Smith talks about her work with people at the end of their lives. She makes an eloquent case for valuing what’s important. And we love Joris Minne’s passionate appeal to his audience for valuing the arts in a time of straitened funding and competing priorities. When used well, pathos creates a connection that helps the audience to feel the same emotions as the speaker.

When you’re faced with a blank page the next time you’re asked to give a talk or a presentation, we hope that some of these great speakers can inspire you. Ethos, pathos and logos were first advocated by Aristotle over 2,000 years ago. As these speakers demonstrate, the three artistic proofs still hold true today.

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Storytelling plots for a business presentation

TED Speaker Aimee Mullins

We run workshops in presentation skills for all kinds of audiences – managers, front-line staff, sales teams, volunteers and more.  If you’d like to make a presentation to inspire your audience to make a change, there is nothing more motivating than your own story.  And when it comes to telling your story, it’s always good to have a narrative to pique your listener’s interest.   We’ve realised that there are seven basic story structures that you can use to map out your story.  According to a 2004 book by journalist Christopher Booker, ‘The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories’, all stories ever told boil down to seven basic storytelling plots.. Read on for some examples to inspire you to tell your story.

The two most frequently used storytelling plots that we see in business presentations and speeches are The Quest, Voyage and Return, Rebirth and Overcoming the Monster. Watch some of the presentations below for ideas on how you could build these plots into your own presentation.


The Quest

Adele Doherty TEDx Speaker storytelling

Adele Doherty, TEDx speaker

The Quest refers to the relentless pursuit of a goal, in spite of set-backs and deterrents along to way. Oprah Winfrey, in her own Harvard commencement address, surprisingly shares what drove her during a period of failure in an otherwise glittering career. Center Parcs appealed to the struggling parent’s quest to spend time with their children with their ad for family breaks that aired in the months after Christmas 2015. A Quest story is about changing the frame and using your values to take on tough situations and triumph.  We remember fondly a story about Grandma’s teeth that began a journey for the presenter, Adele Doherty as she pursued a lifetime of helping those with dementia.

Voyage and return

This story is very common in children’s literature with stories like the Wizard of Oz, Robinson Crusoe, the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. This is a lesson plot where the central character overcomes darkness, which may even be internal to themselves, and returns having learnt a lesson. Aimee Mullins TED Talk uses this structure in her compelling story of overcoming the amputation of her lower limbs to build a career as an athlete and model. In a Voyage story, the central character pushes themselves out of their comfort zone and learns something as a result.

Rebirth

This is the story of eternal redemption in Les Miserables, Scrooge and Despicable Me. The character falls under a ‘dark spell’, mistakes are made, lessons are learned, and the central character experiences a new beginning. This story type is used to great effect by tech companies positioning technology as a force for good in people’s lives. Witness the Nintendo Wii ad overcoming implicit objections about screen time in families.

TED Speaker Bryan Stephenson storytelling stories

TED Speaker, Bryan Stephenson

Overcoming the Monster

This is a classic story plot that’s been used to great effect in Hollywood blockbusters like Star Wars, Erin Brockovich and James Bond. In a presentation, it can motivate change. It can be used to talk about overcoming obstacles that affect society like addiction, illness or debt, like this Save the Children video with Paul O’Grady. Or read how a make-believe competitor of a leading digital marketing company inspired sales success.  Bryan Stevenson uses a story from his childhood to illustrate the power of identity in his popular TED Talk.

 

 

 


We see and hear the other story types all around us in creative movies, advertisements and novels that change how we view the world.

Coming of Age or Rags to Riches

This is a lesson plot or a story that’s used to show how someone found their calling. Pretty Woman and the Ugly Duckling are two classic Coming of Age stories. JK Rowling’s Harvard commencement address takes an unexpected turn to carry an inspirational message.

Tragedy and Comedy

And finally, tragedy and comedy are the great approaches used to create messages that stick with audiences. Find out how we can all help to build a sustainable planet with little personal effort in this hilarious video from the Rainforest Alliance.

We hope these great examples of speeches and communications have helped you to think about how to craft your next story.

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Stories …. even in a business presentation

TED Speaker Amy Cuddy

Effective stories can change our opinions, they can inspire us to achieve goals that we didn’t think were possible, and they can show us how we can change things for the better. But for some people telling stories just doesn’t seem professional or technical enough. Storytelling is associated with words like ‘fiction’ or ‘fabrication’, and feels a bit personal and subjective.

But in a business presentation, stories can make the difference between success and failure. Stories help us to grasp information and retain it long after the presentation is over. Did you know that your audience is over 20 times more likely to remember a message when it’s conveyed using a story than they will remember any individual statistic used to back the story up (1)?  There is a lot that we in business can learn from the TED Talk model. Here are some greats for you to ponder:

Building trust

Bryan Stevenson is the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, fighting poverty and challenging racial discrimination in the criminal justice system. Watch this TED Talk, where Bryan uses a full five minutes of his introduction to set the scene with an endearing and personal story. The audience gets to understand what makes Bryan tick, and why his work is so important to him.

bryan\

 

Conveying an idea

Social psychologist Amy Cuddy, Associate Professor at Harvard Business School, investigates how people judge and influence each other. Her 2012 TED Talk was the inspiration behind her recent bestseller Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges. In this TED Talk, watch how she uses stories to make the case for you to Fake it till you make it.

amy-cuddy

Emotional connection

For third sector organisations, emotional connections are so important to influence your audiences. We admire how James Nesbitt skilfully brings us to a time and a place in this keynote to the Alzheimers Research UK annual conference. He’s got a moving story to tell and it really resonates.

james-nesbitt

Do you have a favourite speaker that you’d like to share with us? Come chat on Facebook or Twitter, we’re always keen to hear about great communicators!

(1) Made to Stick (2007), Dan and Chip Heath, Arrow Books