Present With Confidence

10 Tips to give you that winning, speaking and presenting edge

Absolute terror is what viewers see on the face of Colin Firth in his Oscar-winning performance as Prince Albert, the Duke of York in the opening minutes of the Academy Awards top movie of 2010, ‘The Kings Speech’.

It is the year 1925 as Prince Albert addresses thousands of athletes, nobles and society elite at the British Empire Exhibition, Wembley Stadium, Brent, England. It is excruciating to watch his attempts to speak and then listen to the difficult delivery of words from a wounded soul.

Firth’s complete immersion in his character’s ordeal gives the viewer an early glimpse of the struggles of an unlikely leader who will emerge and help guide the English at the start of World War II.

Hollow victory

Over the next 14 years, Prince Albert will become known as King George VI and father of the future Queen of England, Elizabeth the II and her sister, Princess Margaret.

During this time, the King will be forced to confront his major confidence issues in the form of a stammer or stutter. He engages the help of an unorthodox speech therapist who teaches the King to overcome his fears as a presenter and find his voice in an era that demanded a steady voice and leader for the people.  

Along this journey, the King gains self-respect, the confidence of his cabinet, church officials and instills a pride and spirit in his country to claim victory over Germany.  

Confidence Tips

It is highly unlikely you will ever need to talk to a nation or be in a situation that demands exceptional speaking skills to ignite the will to fight an enemy in war times.  

Yet, you may be asked to address your peers or talk in front of colleagues at a company meeting or speak on behalf of an organisation to bring clarity to the proceedings on occasions. .

The following tips can help improve your skills and find new confidence levels for a successful outcome: .

  1. Content: Like an actor, if you know your lines (or the content) to be delivered, your effectiveness in sharing that content and speaking will be exceptionally high.
  2. Mindset: Sports people often talk about being in ‘the zone’ when they were in peak form. Mental rehearsal and positive visualisation of your performance at your best is an important area often overlooked yet it’s a skill top-level presenters have developed.
  3. Emotional State: Having high emotional and vibrant energy levels are fundamental. Learn to balance IQ and EQ within the content and flow of your presentation or speech.
  4. Passion: We hear about it, we see it at times yet how often are you really engaged at a top-level of passion and enthusiasm in a project, topic, event, client meeting or family gathering? There is a bit of truth to the ole’ saying ‘wherever you are – be there’.
  5. Oxygen: The brain needs it and your body and mind will demand it while on your feet. Take in numerous deep breaths a few minutes before a speech or presentation to help reduce nerves and get the butterflies moving in the same direction. This can slow your heart rate, enhance your voice and help you gain more control over your tempo.
  6. Rest: Sleep, spas, massages, steam rooms, saunas, swims and brisk walks the day or night before are under rated. The benefits to you will be a restful body and a sharp mind when called upon.
  7. Attire: Look sharp and chances are you will be. Audiences, clients and peers can sense if a person’s body language is congruent with their words. The proper suit, shirt, tie and belt for men or suit, skirt, blouse and accessories for woman can make a big impact and lift your confidence at the right moment. A rule of thumb is that you should look as good as the best dressed person at the event.
  8. Footwear: Proper business shoes with a suit for men or for women, heels with a suit or flats with a skirt / blouse combination is critical when in front of people. Similar to a great frame on a good picture – great shoes will enhance an overall look.
  9. Venue: Having a sense of the place and feel of the environment is an industry secret of excellent presenters. Pre-plan time to visit the hotel or conference room or if distance is an issue, layouts are normally viewable online in a Google search.
  10. Audience: The more you understand the demographics, cultures, issues, challenges or celebrations of your audience, the more confidence you will have to present your content to engage and lift the spirits and minds of those before you.

Presenting and speaking with confidence is a skill which can be acquired and developed to a high level. Preparation, practice, understanding your audience and being yourself are major areas to be mastered. Those who do it well make it look easy and natural.  

The good news regarding King George VI is that history confirms he was an accomplished communicator and well liked leader by the British people. He overcame his struggle to speak with help from a speech therapist and who, as a mentor to the King, stood by him for every important speech the King delivered on radio and in public service for the rest of his natural life.  

King George VI used his acquired skill over a life time and in doing so, brought long time benefit to his country including a victory alongside allies over Adolf Hitler and Germany in World War II.

The Importance of Mastering the Chinese Negotiation Style

When your business grows to the point that you have the opportunity to expand into the overseas market or even if you hold a position in a company that involves business negotiation, it can be a very exciting time, especially if you get the chance to do business in China. In either situation, most people get all wide eyed at the idea of the profits that can be made but if you aren’t careful you can throw all of it away with one wrong move. You may thing you can answer the question “what is business etiquette” but when it comes to the business culture of China, there are a lot of unique rules that come into play.

The business culture of China is much more structured than in the west and adhering to their rules is of the utmost importance when entering into that market. In the United States, business etiquette doesn’t get discussed as much because most of the business negotiations styles are standard. We wear suits, exchange business cards, prepare, present and end with a hearty handshake. What is business etiquette in the U.S. involves guidelines but they’re very different in China and are based on nurturing the relationship, respect and cultural considerations. You’ll need to bow your head when you are introduced and be ready with a business card and your business cards must not be bent or worn in anyway. You’ll have to wait to be properly seated at meetings and make sure to speak clearly and not jump to conclusions or interrupt anyone. Showing respect is one of the most important factors that come into play when it comes to the business culture of China.

Chinese negotiation style is also unique and can take years to master, but there are some things you’ll want to keep in mind that will help, even if it is your first time at the table. First of all, bring plenty of business cards with you. You’ll be exchanging them a lot and you need to make sure yours are in perfect condition and have your information printed on the back in Chinese as well. Don’t flick the card at anyone either, hand it to them directly and when you receive one lay it out on the table after examining it, and make sure not to put it away until negotiations are finished. Secondly, learn the art of Guanxi which is very important when it comes to the Chinese negotiation style as well and this means you’ll need to have a hookup. You’ll need to have someone along with you that the group you’re negotiating with knows and trusts. Social status is very important in China, and other countries as well, so make sure that your group isn’t just made up of rookies; have someone there both groups can trust.

Chinese negotiation style is also built around a certain level of distrust, at least in the beginning. You’ll need to make sure that you have someone there who is Chinese to make the negotiations more comfortable. When you speak directly to whomever you are meeting with, use short and quick sentences that are to the point. This will help make you appear professional, legitimate and even save face when it comes to your business approach.

Americans and most of the west put their money on innovation and talent but in China loyalty, honor and respect are the most important aspects of any business partnership. Once you’ve met these aspects, the business relationship and profits will follow. Make sure to adhere to their structured Chinese negotiation style so that you can flourish in the foreign market. By understanding the business culture of China you’ll be much more likely to succeed.

How Do You Know Your Presentations Are Powerful? Get REAL Feedback

Presentations are powerful things. When they’re done well, they can persuade an audience, enhance the presenter’s credibility and motivate action. So how do you know when you’re hitting the mark with your audiences? For most presenters, the answer is to simply ask a colleague or audience member afterwards. The problem is, a simple “How’d I do?” isn’t likely to be answered with an illuminating response. Many people are uncomfortable at giving anything but the most positive or at least neutral feedback (“I thought it was fine.”) Of course, getting helpful and precise feedback is one of the reasons executives hire presentation coaches. You can get good feedback though after your performances if you learn to ask the right questions. Next time you present:

MAKE FEEDBACK EASY: You can construct a simple feedback survey on index cards to hand out after your presentation if it’s an outside audience. This removes the uncomfortable hurdle for some people of having to tell you in person, should they have anything but positive reactions. Always include at least one open-ended question about what could have been improved. For internal audiences, you might select a few people to ask the same questions via email.

ASK SPECIFIC QUESTIONS: If you know someone who’ll be attending your presentation, ask them ahead of time if they’ll listen for specific things you’re working on. For instance, if you’re working on reducing the “uhms and ahs” or other verbal fillers when you present, tell a colleague to listen for those as you present. If you make it clear that you’re welcoming that feedback precisely, you’re more likely to get accurate feedback on how you did.

PICK YOUR PRIORITIES: Don’t ask for more feedback than you can handle at one time. Select one or two priorities at a time, such as slowing your hurried pace, or making more eye contact with the audience. You’re much more likely to make real improvements by narrowing your focus.

TAKE IT IN STRIDE: The purpose of feedback is to better your performance as a presenter. Consider the feedback you get but don’t use it as a substitute for your own best judgement. If you have good reason for doing what you do, and it’s working for you, take that into consideration as well. Remember, presenting isn’t “acting”, so if any suggested changes make you uncomfortable, stay true to yourself. Every time you present, you want your audience to see you at your best. Put the effort into improving this key executive communication skill so others can truly appreciate what you have to offer.