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How to be a brilliant lightning panellist

Lightning panels are a rapid-fire event format designed to introduce an audience to a topic that they may not know much about. As an expert speaker, you’re invited to sit on a panel to share your knowledge – in a short space of time.  A typical lightning panel of 3 or 4 speakers might only take 15 minutes.  Just like a regular panel event, a lightning panel has a moderator to keep the conversation flowing, and to find out more about your specialist area of expertise.  A lightning panel does not allow for the depth of opinion or discussion that a regular panel offers – instead you only have the opportunity to give your audience the key pieces of information they need to know about your subject area.

Lightning panels often take place as part of a larger event.  Event organisers love them because they’re a great way to help event attendees make the most of an event.  A lightning panel is a brilliant way to explain your subject in a short punchy format to get people’s interest. If public speaking isn’t your first love, the added bonus of a lightning panel is that it’s an easier way to explain your topic than delivering a prepared talk.  Since you’re sharing the stage with 2 or 3 other people, you’ll be speaking for less than 5 minutes in total.  Plus you have a moderator on hand to help you out if your mind goes blank or you forget what you meant to say!  Lightning panels have become popular at careers events, where students need to hear from a variety of experts to learn about how a particular industry works.

So if you’re asked to sit on a lightning panel, what should you do? Firstly, we think that you should say yes! What better way to attract students to your industry for example, than by giving them key information that you wish you knew at their age?  To prepare, connect with the panel moderator before the event so that you understand how they plan to run the session.  Usually they’ll ask you to introduce yourself, so you’ll need a short personal introduction or ‘elevator pitch’ ready to explain who you are, what you do and why your audience should be interested. After that, the moderator will ask you one or two questions to allow you to explain your job to your audience.  When you prep for this, think about the questions you’d ask about an industry you know nothing about….. Are there common misconceptions about your industry that you’d like to dispel?  What should students study to get into your industry?  What’s the thing you like best about your job?  What’s your most memorable experience?  Think about one thing you’d like your audience to take away and find the best stories from your job to illustrate that point.

Your lightning panel appearance is a great way to encourage students to consider your industry or your organisation for their next move.  It’s a light-touch way for you to inspire the next generation.  Good luck!

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Why do great staff training programmes just work?

Teamwork, staff training

I’m sure the board of the Sussex Football Association had the best of intentions when they published their widely-ridiculed considerations for increasing participation in women and girls.  The idea – to encourage more girls to take part in football.  Their well-meaning plan was to to buy lots of pink whistles and nice-smelling bibs. The plan was panned on media channels up and down the country after it was published last week. It’s very likely that the plan was cooked up without much consultation with the women and girls it was intended to benefit.

 

Where are your staff coming from?

If you’re planning staff training in 2017,  there are lessons to be learnt from the FA debacle.  Just as great public speakers consider the needs of their audience, great L&D managers know where their team’s pain points are. You’ll get better and more lasting results by obtaining the commitment of your team before rolling out new staff training.  Over the last year, we’ve worked with clients on several skills development programmes, including this one with Ulster University. We’ve seen some stellar successes that have contributed to culture change within the organisation.

Successful training programmes

Some factors that have made training successful include:

  1. Consider raising the bar for participation. If you can put a selection process in place, you immediately change perceptions of the programme internally.  Work with your line managers to identify your initial cohort, and let word of mouth spread to encourage discretionary participation. With a well-planned training programme, other staff ask to join future training sessions –  a win-win for everyone.
  2. Align the programme with strategic priorities. Plan your programme for big results, start small with a carefully selected cohort, reflect on the experience, and refine the programme to make sure it’s working.  Then go ahead and offer it more widely.
  3. Find what makes your team tick. Maybe an internal competition to promote participants achievements will give everyone a sense of pride? Or you might consider empowering staff with the skills they need to win prestigious external awards. Great training programmes boost morale as well as develop new skills. If you can tap into your team’s intrinsic motivations, your programme will be off to a flying start.

We’ve considered some of these factors when we developed some of our more popular training programmes – Talk like TED, Leadership Communication for Impact and Influence and Persuasive Presenting. If you’ve found an innovative approach to staff training, we’d love to work with you – do get in touch!

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In a post-truth era, how can your message stand out?

post-truth

After two bruising political campaigns in the US and the UK in 2016, we’ve had plenty of opportunity to watch leaders and aspiring leaders in action as they tried to win public approval. The most successful political campaigns have been built on short, easily understood messages. But a message doesn’t work in a vacuum. We’ve been hearing lots about post-truth tactics, where showmanship and grandstanding have been the order of the day.

Does ‘post-truth’ really  just mean ‘truth+’

Watch this fiery exchange between alt-right journalist Milo Yiannopoulos and Cathy Newman of Channel Four, to understand how Yiannopoulos understands post-truth.  In his own words ‘Just telling the facts is no longer enough. You now have to be persuasive and charismatic and interesting.’

post-truth Milo Yiannapoulos Cathy Newman

Milo Yiannapoulos during his Channel 4 interview with Cathy Newman

What can you learn from post-truth tactics?

So how can you beat the post-truth brigade at their own game?  What if you’ve got an idea that you want to share, and it’s falling on deaf ears?  Without resorting to fabrication and falsehoods, how can you make sure that what you have to say gets listened to? Is there something to be learnt from the post-truth approach?

A persuasive presentation appeals to your audience’s needs and wants. Trump’s ‘Make America great again’ campaign slogan was aspirational, appealed to patriotism and tripped off the tongue. As ego-centric as Trump is, he made the voter the hero of his campaign.  He made sure to put his message in a context that resonated. Too many presenters just brain dump a series of facts, and forget about why the audience gave their time to turn up in the first place.

And do make sure to tell the audience why you’re there – what qualifies you to speak on this topic – but don’t labour the point. Give them just enough references that they understand your authority. We’re the selfie-obsessed generation, this presentation has to be all about the audience! Aristotle had it right when he talked about ethos, pathos and logos in a persuasive presentation.

post truth Hillary Clinton with selfie takers

Hillary Clinton with selfie takers during her US presidential campaign

In the immortal words of Albert Einstein – ‘Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.’  In a noisy world, only concise, clear messages are heard. When you frame them in a way that resonates, your message will stick with your audiences.

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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.