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Friday 5 March, 2021

Impromptu Speeches: Some ideas and tips to get started

Most people find it hard to stand up and speak fluently off the cuff.  Perhaps you want to respond to someone’s talk, but do not have the confidence or know the right words – how often do you say nothing and then when you get home you suddenly think “now why did I not say…”. At a meeting you may be asked for your opinion or asked to comment on a particular subject. You may know the subject, but having to comment right there and then….
Perhaps you need a bit of practice — and you can do this at home, no-one else needs to be around.

Step 1: Take a noun e.g. DREAMS

Photo by Benjamin Sow on Unsplash

 

Step 2: Write down words beginning with each letter
     e.g.      Danger
                 Realise
                 Excitement
                 Anger
                 Mist
                 Satisfaction

Step 3: Take 5 minutes to draft a story using these 6 words.  It does not matter in which order  you use them, just make sure you use them all in your story.
Step 4: Read out the story you have just written (remember this is just to yourself, but it is better to say it aloud)
Step 5: Repeat step 2 — same letters, different words.
Step 6: Now, don’t write anything down, but still compose your story as you speak it, i.e. impromptu.


And now that you have tried that, you can choose any other word and repeat — until you feel more confident that you are not going to get tongue-tied next time you want to stand up and say something at a meeting or are asked for your opinion!

Diana Porterfield


Tuesday 16 February, 2021

Top Tips for Writing an Awesome Speech


 


You are sat down with a blank piece of paper, ready to write your speech; an hour later the page is still blank. You want to be entertaining and engaging, funny even, but the words just aren’t coming to you. 

 

Here are some top tips to inspire you to write an awesome speech. 

 

1. Know your audience. Identifying who your audience is will help with setting the pitch tone and content of your speech, use the right language and engage your audience appropriately. Is your speech in front of professionals or a casual setting? Setting the pitch and tone at the right level will help you to get maximum engagement from your audience. 


2. Write an outline. Much like writing a story, a speech needs a beginning, middle and end. By writing an outline of what you want to say will help when it comes to adding detail. What are the main points that you want to cover? What is the reason behind giving the speech? What do you want to achieve? 


3. How long does it need to be? Keep this in mind will help when it comes to fleshing out the details. You may have a set time that you need to stick to or the freedom for it to be as long as you like but make sure that no matter what the length, you keep to the time you set otherwise, you could run the risk of waffling which will detract from the main points you want to cover.


4. Get creative. Now you have your main points, it’s time to flesh out the details. Let your typing or writing run amok. Give yourself complete and utter freedom to write down whatever comes to you. The more writing you do at this point the better your speech will be. Even if you think of something crazy, write it down. At this stage, it doesn't matter. 


5. Editing and proofing. Following your outline as a guide, it is now time to give your writing some structure. Take out the bits that don’t support your speech, focus on your intentions, take out any waffle. Expand on the bits you know to be important. 


6. Practice. Perform your speech in front of a friend or family member and ask for honest feedback. This not only gives you the opportunity to time your speech but also to cut out or add anything to make it better. Once you have edited your speech, then recite it again and again until you are comfortable. The more you know your speech the more natural it will be when you come to deliver it. 


7. Enjoy. Even if you are delivering to a room full of professionals, if you prepared well and comfortable with your speech you will come across as confident and enjoying sharing with the room.


Next time you need to write an all-important speech, following these tips will help you to not just write a speech, but to write an awesome speech.


Monday 25 January, 2021

Platform Presence on Zoom

Computer screen showing a lectern and microphone with Zoom controls underneath.

What is good platform presence and why is it important on Zoom? Good platform presence helps to command and hold the attention of your audience, whether you are physically in front of an audience in a meeting room or appearing on a screen on the wall or even on a screen in your own home. You may not be too worried if you are simply making social contact on Zoom, but if you are in a business meeting you may need to impress and you certainly need to get your message over, to make your presence felt.

The following gives you some suggestions to ponder over before you venture onto Zoom.

A Two Step Approach

Preparation

  • Make sure you have practised on Zoom beforehand — you can always try it out with a friend. But remember that there are different levels of Zoom, each providing slightly different facilities.  Search of the internet will give you lots of practical advice on how to use Zoom and how to get the best out of it technically. 

  • If you are using Zoom from your home, decide which room you are going to use and make sure your set-up is as good as it can be. Avoid busy and untidy rooms in your house. Alternatively, Zoom offers you the ability to change the transmitted background using a selected wallpaper. However, be careful what sort of background you pick. If it is too busy it will distract from your presentation. Also be aware of how any movement you make may affect the apparent focus of the background. This is definitely something to try out beforehand.

  • Make sure that your lighting is suitable, you cannot impress if your audience cannot see you clearly. The best source of light is one that you are looking towards. Light from one side can be adequate but will highlight your pores and blemishes, so it depends on how vain you are!

  • Make sure that you are in focus and that you can clearly hear and be heard. Again a  practice with a friend beforehand can be useful. If using a PC then a separate webcam and speakers may be required – make sure they are of adequate quality.

  • Have visual aids which can be brought into play without difficulty. Zoom facilities for displaying documents or slides are available. There is also a Whiteboard option. But do make sure you have tried and mastered these facilities beforehand.

  • Have your notes in order and easy to handle – cards or A4 sized documents are still best for talking from but remember that it will be possible to display key data using the facilities described in the paragraph above.

  • Be appropriately dressed. Your appearance is still important and although casual outfits may be appropriate, you do need to look as if you care.

  • Be sure you know how to get into Zoom in a timely manner and how to mute your voice when others are talking so that no extraneous noises disturb the meeting. Not everyone wants to hear your dog barking or your children quarrelling!

  • Don’t forget to close all unnecessary files or tabs that can slow down your software and connection. Make sure you have done a test run to ensure there are no unexpected technical obstacles for your presentation.

  • Place your seat so that your audience can see your head and shoulders. If using a laptop, have it on a solid surface and use a box or books to raise it up if necessary.

The Presentation

  • Greet your audience and introduce yourself if necessary. Make sure your name is appropriately displayed on the screen. If you press the “record” facility at the start, then you can review your presentation and all the audience interaction to it, afterwards. Your next presentation can then be even better.

  • Sit comfortably and try not to move around as this can be distracting and may affect the focus of your picture or the clarity of your sound for the audience.

  • Indicate when you are starting and speak clearly.

  • Maintain eye contact by looking at the screen. Avoid looking at the walls and the ceiling of your room, and never out of a window.

  • Be aware of any distracting mannerisms you may have as these can be exaggerated by the concentration of your presence on a small screen and annoy your audience:
    • Make sure your hairstyle is tidy even if you haven’t had a hair cut for a while. Untidy hair can be a distraction especially if you find yourself “fiddling” with it.

    • Spectacles that do not fit and have to be pushed up the nose all the time should be avoided if possible.

    • Gestures may not be of much use on Zoom but do not to fiddle with paper or other things on your desk / table.


  • Make sure it is obvious when your presentation has come to an end.

  • Wait for the host to close the meeting before you disconnect.

Platform presence is as important on Zoom as in any other situation. Do not be put off by the technology. With thorough preparation, your presentations can take off on Zoom and achieve the high standards you are used to. No presenter is ever perfect and nobody expects you to be. If you slip-up during the presentation, simply acknowledge it, and pick up from where you erred. Always remember to keep your audience engaged with a SMILE.

Yvonne Baker


Tuesday 6 October, 2020

Top 15 tips to enhance your Zoom meetings

 



Top 15 tips to enhance your Zoom meetings

Zoom has quickly become the most popular tool to keep us connected during Covid-19, especially in a professional capacity. We have adapted well to running and joining meetings at home even with the worry of invasion from the kids, the cat sitting on your laptop or the dog deciding it’s a good time to pee on the carpet. Even when we finally go back to offices, the popularity of Zoom meetings will continue, as we realise that there is no longer the need to bring everyone together for a meeting in an office environment and can just as easily be done remotely. More and more people will also be given the opportunity to continue to work from home.  So, Zoom is here to stay! Here are some great tips to help you when running or attending meetings.

1.      Add a background – Zoom offers a selection of backgrounds to use or upload one of your own. Just go into settings and get creative. If you don’t want to use a background then have a plain wall behind you.

    2.      Light up- Being in a well-lit area or having a light facing you will highlight your face. You can easily use a lamp or with a small investment, buy an LED ring light.
      3.      Level up – Have your camera at the correct level. You don’t want to be looking down or up at your screen. If you need to sit your laptop on a pile of books to get the correct level then that’s fine. No one can see what you are using. Your picture will be a lot more flattering and clearer to anyone watching.
        4.      Mute and unmute quickly – It can be very distracting if everyone is off mute throughout a meeting. Having everyone mute other than the speaker is wise. If you need to unmute quickly, simply hold the space bar down while you talk and release it when you have finished.
          5.      No need to add video when you join a meeting – When you join a meeting, generally there is a period of time when you are waiting for others to join. There is no need to activate video straight away. Wait until the meeting is about to begin before opening the video option.
            6.      Change up the screen – Use Gallery View so you can see everyone in the meeting.
              7.      Sending invites – Send well ahead of time with a follow up reminder. Often Zoom meetings fail purely because they are badly organised.
                8.      Share Screen – This enables you to do presentations or demonstrations to everyone at the same time. Both the co-ordinator of the meeting and the attendees are able to share their screen.
                  9.      Zoom App Market Place – Through these apps which integrates with Microsoft Teams and your google or outlook calendar, making the whole experience with Zoom a lot more seamless.
                    10.   Recording your meetings – There are two levels of being able to record your meetings. Zooms free level enables you to record your meeting locally onto your hard drive, whereas the paid Zoom level will allow you to save to the cloud.
                      11.  Enhance your look – Zoom offers you the chance to soften your features. (Settings -> Video -> turn on Touch up my appearance)
                        12.  Audio Transcript – The paid version of Zoom lets gives you the option to have an audio transcript of your meetings, found under advanced cloud recording settings.
                          13.  Waiting Room –It is a good idea to enable this feature as hackers or strangers could be attending your meeting without permission or an invite. Using waiting room lets you see exactly who is in attendance and who shouldn’t be. This can avoid an embarrassing situation during a meeting.
                            14.  Break out rooms – If you have a large number of attendees you can set up to 50 break out rooms for workshops or mini meetings.
                              15.  Practice –Arrange with a friend or colleague a dummy meeting to test out the Zoom features and to get the level and lighting right.

                              Saturday 3 October, 2020

                              ITC – An Education!

                              How I found out about the Scottish Colourists

                               

                              In the pre Covid times, I always enjoyed my annual visit as Region Board member to Caledonia Council meetings.  


                              Portrait of Grace McColl by J D Fergusson


                              Who would not enjoy being royally entertained by old friends? I always arrived on the Saturday evening, had a splendid meal provided by my host for the weekend, then a full breakfast on the Sunday morning, and so on to the Redhurst Hotel for the Council Meeting. On one memorable occasion, I was seated comfortably enough, and from somewhere I could hear the sound of the staff preparing to serve Sunday dinner. “I’m still full from breakfast!” I began to think, when, suddenly, I found myself on the edge of my seat, almost startled. I had hardly noticed from the programme that the last event of the morning was to be “The Scottish Colourists”, but Brendan had commenced a talk and was projecting a stunning sequence of paintings onto a screen. I was surprised because, although art has always interested me, I had never heard of this group, and had never seen any of these paintings, before.

                               
                              The Colourists were Samuel Peploe, John Fergusson, George Hunter and Francis Cadell. They were at their height between 1900 and 1930 and were very much the heirs of the French Impressionists of the nineteenth century. The name came to be applied to them because of their “use of brilliant colour to capture the rich evocation of a place or person”. What were their subjects? To continue to quote from Dr Cummings of Edinburgh University, “whether a landscape, a portrait, a still life or a subject celebrating the vibrancy of urban life, [they] convey a real sense of joie de vivre which few can match”. It’s difficult for the layman to add to that. A large part of their attraction is that they are capable of being appreciated by anyone: the viewer can simply enjoy the use of colour and not try and guess any “hidden meaning”. Confident in their own Scottishness, they spent a lot of time in France, where the sunshine gives plenty of scope for the artist. Several of their paintings were purchased for the French nation.


                              Disgracefully, I am not aware of any of their work being on display in any of the major English galleries, and would be very happy to be proved wrong. If you want to see more, and I hope that this very brief introduction has whetted your appetite, then the National Galleries of Scotland have some fantastic exhibitions from time to time. 

                              Colin Gray

                               

                               


                              Tuesday 8 September, 2020

                              Body Language – The unspoken communicator

                               


                              Body Language – The unspoken communicator

                              Body language is our non-verbal way of expressing our thoughts and feelings. We gesture with our body and use facial expressions without even realising it. Being aware of how we use our body language is a powerful tool when it comes to the art of negotiation and persuasion and will help fully engage your listener/s.

                              Once you learn how to use your body language, you will naturally be able to read others which will help you gauge situations quickly and adjust your behaviour as necessary. This is great in meetings especially if you are needing to really capture the attention of who you are talking to.

                              Here are some top tips to consider when you are in your next meeting or giving your next presentation or speech.

                              1.      Use open body language – make sure your arms are unfolded and your hands are unclenched. This shows the listener that you are being open and will help convey honesty and integrity. If you have to deliver bad news or face a difficult meeting where there is the potential of a sticky situation, you will most likely see your audience with arms crossed, facing away from you and not making eye contact. If you mirror their behaviour then you will hit a stalemate. By showing you are open allows them to feel more at ease and they are far more likely to engage.

                              2.      Make eye contact – No matter if you are speaking to one person, a few people or a whole room full of people, eye contact is important. Of course, there is a fine balance between holding eye contact with the same person for too long and not holding it for long enough. Too long and you are in a creepy staring match, not long enough will make you appear disengaged. A few seconds at a time is more than adequate. If you speaking to a room full of people then pick out people left, right and centre and alternate every few seconds.

                              3.      Avoid touching your face and fidgeting – If you frequently touch your face or fidget you will come across as being uncomfortable, untrustworthy, dishonest and shifty. It really won’t matter how great your subject is if you let your body language contradict what you are talking about.

                              4.      Use open hand gestures – Be careful to not overdo the gestures with your hands, this can be distracting from what you are saying. Having your hands opened palmed will convey openness, sharing and trust. Unless you are putting across a serious issue and it is intentional. Never point, this will show aggression and will turn your audience right off.

                              5.      Smile – Unless you are delivering bad news of course! The simple act of smiling will show warmth and trustworthiness. Your audience will be put at ease and feel more relaxed and open. Smiling changes your whole persona and has a knock-on effect, if you are smiling you tend to make others smile. Much like how a yawn is contagious.

                              6.      Posture – If you are standing to give a presentation or speech, stand with your shoulders back and chin up, this will convey confidence and also frees your diaphragm which will help to keep your voice loud and clear.

                              Bonus Tip: Film yourself giving your presentation or speech so you can see how you are gesturing, the facial expressions you are making, and any bad habits you may be displaying without even realising it. Most of us are self-critical when watching ourselves back on film, so try not to be too hard on yourself.

                               

                              Written by Sarah English for Birmingham Speakers Club - 08 September 2020.