Here’s a link to the recent podcast I took part in on Presentation Skills.
Here’s a link to the recent podcast I took part in on Presentation Skills.
I was recently interviewed by Cambridge TV, and while I have completed some media training and been live on radio before, this was my first foray into a TV studio. The interview was recorded “as if live”, so there would be no chance of editing out any mistakes, umms, errrs, or hiccoughs. This set my mind into overdrive to “be perfect” a trait that is so prevalent in those of us who have experienced the imposter phenomenon. So I could feel my nerves increasing as it came ever closer to the start of the interview.
Afterwards, I felt as if I had rambled through the interview, spoken too quickly and couldn’t remember what I had said or whether it made any sense at all! The interviewer assured me it was “excellent”, but did I believe her? Of course not, she says that to all of her interviewees! Maybe she does… but having watched the recording, and received some lovely tweets and emails about the interview (thank you to those who have got in touch!) it is ok, well more than ok, I’m pleased with the way I come across.
This got me thinking… in presentations I often need to get people to slow down, which is appropriate for face to face presentations. The accepted rate of speech is somewhere between 140-160 words per minute.
We have a short attention span and need to keep the energy high to maintain audience engagement. The same happened during a webinar for The Cheeky Scientist where I was the guest interviewee. We were focusing on management skills and how post docs could transition into industry. The interviewer, Dr Isaiah Hankel has written a great testimonial and not once did he say I spoke too quickly!
Kate is a incredible presenter and one of the best communicators I have ever interviewed. We brought Kate on for a live interview on management skills and she over delivered throughout the entire event. What impressed me most was her ability to break down complex topics into easy to understand and impactful takeaways, delivered in a fun, engaging, and professional way.
For those of you interested in watching my TV interview you can find it on this link:
Last week I ran a seminar on effective networking for the Federation of Small Businesses and yesterday I ran an in-house session for a client on the same topic. It was 17 years ago when I ran my first session on this topic and what has surprised me most was how much people still loathe networking.
Is there an innate fear of approaching strangers, I wonder…? Maybe we fear rejection more than we like to admit? Or are we worried about being tongue-tied when giving our elevator pitch?
Whatever the reason, it is apparent that, while networking is an essential part of doing business and getting on at work, it is often a disliked part. Approach it with an attitude of not wanting to be there and it won’t be surprising that people don’t come to talk to you… your apathy or resentment will show on your face however hard you try to hide it.
Discussing the topic of networking with a friend recently she told me she had organised a business evening event and was the only women in attendance. Not unusual for her in the sector she works in, but what saddened her was that the three other women on the attendance list all cried off at the last minute. Do women loathe networking more than men? Was it to do with it being a male-dominated field? Or were there genuine reasons for cancellation? We won’t know the answer, but I do know that sometimes we all need to build up our internal courage to put ourselves “out there” in the networking arena.
So what are the tips to get the most out of your networking and to feel comfortable while doing so? Well, apart from arranging for me to run an in-house workshop to impart my 20+ years of experience, here are a few of the common errors, and a few common-sense tips.
Networking is about buying relationships, not about sales. While ultimately everyone there is probably looking for business connections to be made with a view of creating a sale, going into an event with the mindset of “who can I sell to?”or even “who will buy from me today?” Is self-destructive. If you have this mindset it will be apparent to those you are talking to that your focus is on your sales pipeline, and not on their business.
Networking is about making connections, which may lead to sales. But it is not about sales.
The elevator pitch, so called because it is the explanation you should be able to give about your business in the time it takes an elevator (lift) to reach the top floor, is commonly misused.
A long explanation will switch people off. As will a clever or convoluted explanation. Far better to understand what you do in your head and say something more accessible and appropriate aloud, than try to be clever. To craft what to say, think about the person asking you. How much do they know about your industry? Chances are if you are at a specific industry event it could be a lot, but if you are at a general networking event, maybe not much. Then think about the benefits of what you do; what does those who buy your products or services gain? What problem does your product/service solve? Then go ahead and craft your answer. But only use a short, few seconds of your reply – give people the chance to have a conversation! Too many people see the question as an opportunity to open the floodgates and spew out all of the information straight away.
Having said above that networking isn’t directly about sales, there is still room for asking for a contact, sussing out interest, and arranging a follow-up conversation. Too many opportunities are lost, because we fail to recognise that someone may be able to help us. Not directly, but through their own network. Asking a question which starts “do you know anyone who…” could be the leverage you need to take your business to the next level.
Approach those you wish to speak to, ask if you may follow up for a further discussion, and make the most of your networking opportunities.
As Simon Sinek says in his TED talk, most people know what they do and how they do it, but some are disconnected form the WHY. If you understand your why, you may have a stronger chance of succeeding in business. But also, think about why you are networking. Just going to have a chance to socialise can be a good enough reason if you work alone all day and need to talk to people once in a while!
Having a firm (but not too firm) handshake, making eye contact and standing up straight while networking helps to create a positive impression. Don’t underestimate the judgements we humans are likely to make of each other and give some thought to how you present yourself in public, what impression do you want to give to others and whether it is congruent with you and your business.
Finally, watch your internal chatter. As an expert on the imposter phenomenon, commonly referred to as imposter syndrome, I know that feeling like a fraud can get in the way of promoting yourself successfully. Having researched into the phenomenon with successful entrepreneurs, be reassured that if you experience extreme self-doubt, and think that at some point you may be “found out”, know you are not alone. It is a common experience, but not commonly spoken about. I’ll blog more about how to overcome the imposter feelings another time. But for now, just watch your internal chatter – you are worth talking to, and your business is worth talking about!
Following Kate’s interactive seminar on effective networking I can now structure how I answer “what do you do?” in a way that allows a good conversation to flow. I also feel more in control of my confidence and am comfortable that I have something to say which will make my networking more productive in the future. Stephen Way, The Work Bees
Known as an inspirational and motivational speaker, Kate Atkin gives talks, workshops and seminars across the UK and overseas on networking, confidence and the imposter syndrome. For more details of these or to discuss individual coaching give Kate Atkin a call on 07779 646976 or drop her an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or see www.kateatkin.com
As I mentioned in my last post, I discovered the theory of the Imposter Phenomenon while studying for a masters in positive psychology. This led me to realise that my own internal voices, which for years have been telling me that “I wasn’t good enough” or “if I didn’t do things 100% perfect it was a huge failure”, are actually false and quite common.
Now, I knew that intellectually before I came across the psychological term, but learning more about the phenomenon has helped me to understand and work on overcoming the feelings. So when I was offered the chance to compete in this year’s corporate speaking challenge I said yes, before really thinking about the consequences.
The finals were held in Bloomsbury House in London, last week and I gave a well-received 6-minute speech on the given topic of “everything needs to change so everything can stay the same”. And I came second. So does that mean I failed? Well, if I listened to my Imposter talking I not only failed, but I AM a failure. But is that really true? Most people would probably rather visit the dentist than take part in a public speaking competition.
It is true that I failed to get first place, but I also know the judges took ages over their deliberations between first & second place, and I know that I did my best on the night, and I know from feedback that others thought it was a very good, and informative, speech. I also know that justifying the second-place position is another of my imposter traits!
Michael Ronayne, director of the College of Public Speaking said “The Corporate Speaking Challenge brings together a wide range of accomplished speakers from all walks of society in a contest to test the fluency and credibility of the individual speakers. To be the runner up in a very strong field is a great achievement and Kate’s performance, talking about control, connection and purpose was worthy of the prize. She has great poise and a very relaxed and relatable manner. She engages naturally and draws the listener in with ease.”
Then this Friday I was listening to a programme on Radio 4 in the car about the BBC New Comedy Awards. Guess what struck me? A number of now highly successful comedians came second. Did those placed second view themselves as failures and give up, or did they go on to pursue their craft? Some of our best-known and well-loved comedians came second, or weren’t even placed, when they entered the Awards. I’ll take solace from that.
So is second place a failure? No, real failure would have been finding an excuse not to take part at all.
If you find yourself making excuses not to speak in public, or find yourself reluctant to speak up in meetings or wish to brush up on your skills, then join me on 7th December at 6.30pm at St John’s Innovation Centre in Cambridge for a glass of wine, a nibble of cheese and some sharing of presentation tips.
To book, sign up via Eventbrite and make a donation on the night to help raise funds for Arthur Rank Hospice.
Have you ever said yes to something which seemed a good idea, but when the time came you started to view it differently?
A year ago I missed the entry deadline into the Corporate Speaking Challenge run by the School of Public Speaking. So I gaily said “put me down for next year”. Well those twelve months passed and I forgot all about it until a few weeks ago when I got an invitation to attend the heats and prepare a 6-minute speech on the theme of “everything needs to change, so that everything can remain the same”.
THE day arrives. The nerves start to kick in, even though I had prepared and practiced my speech. “Why am I doing this?” I wonder to myself…
Two days before the contest I decided to set myself an evening reminder for something unconnected, by way of a daily alarm on my phone. I chose to use a song rather than an alarm sound thinking this would be a good idea, and then promptly forgot about it. After all that’s the point of a reminder!
Back to yesterday evening… at Mintel’s offices in the City of London. Phones are on silent, check! And double check! Ten participants, and I was speaking fourth. It comes to my turn to speak. As I am part way through the second of three points in my speech, a story about change in the British mining industry, strains of Enya are heard in the room, gradually getting louder. Yes, you’ve guessed it my alarm was interrupting my speech. What would you do?
The chap sitting near my handbag realised where the offending noise was coming from, so I had a choice. Do I carry on and ignore the noise, do I ask him to turn it off, or do I turn it off myself? Well carrying on wasn’t going to work, I was distracted and had lost my thread and my audience were distracted. Asking a stranger to rummage in my handbag didn’t appeal, so I opted to have the bag passed to me and turned it off myself.
Interruptions happen all the time; speeches don’t always go to plan. It’s how you deal with the matter that is important. I have never interrupted myself before, and said as much to the audience, with an apology. I then paused, regrouped my thoughts, ditched a good chunk of my speech as I had lost valuable time during the incident, quickly finished my third point and jumped to my conclusion. Finishing just on the allotted 6 minutes.
So often in business we need to deal with the unexpected. Things don’t go to plan. You need to change course or miss something out. How do you deal with it?
If no-one had noticed I could have ignored the alarm and carried on. But it was obvious to others that there was something going on, and it had also put me off my flow, so I needed to “call it out”. Once named, and dealt with using a little bit of humour, the big task was to pick up where I had left off. The only reason I could do this was because of the upfront planning I had put in to writing, preparing and practising my speech.
The old adage of know your beginning and your ending held fast for me yesterday. I was able to jump to my conclusion… And still finish on time, just.
So was it a good idea? It seemed so at the time, and I am through to the finals. Hopefully next time I’ll be able to deliver my speech without interruption!