A small task

February 28, 2009

jukebox on whiteThis week I have a small task for you. I would like you to choose one of the three options below to complete.

Option 1

Find your favorite piece of music and listen to the piece, write down why you like it. Do you like the tempo, the highs and lows is it the chords that are used or the words? Think about what attracts you to this particular song.

Option 2

Watch your favorite movie and as above, write down what you like about the story, is it the characters, is it the drama or excitement, how does the story start and end.

Option 3

Read your favorite book, poem or story and as with the film look at where the story starts, how are the characters described? what words are used and how does the story end.

You may be wondering why I’ve set you this task but over the next few weeks all will be revealed. We’ll be looking at why particular pieces attract us and how we can use similar principles and styles in our public speaking.

Keep speaking – Carrol

Just Relax

February 20, 2009

pier1This morning I woke up to see a huge spider sitting just near the bedroom door.

My heart started pounding, I was getting anxious, I wanted to run from the room screaming as spiders are not my favorite things to see at the best of times, much less first thing in the morning, but it was blocking the doorway and I had no way out.

Panic was starting to take hold. I realise I had to stop it before it got out of control.

As I reflect on this incident, these symptoms reminded me of the way some of my students have said they felt about public speaking: Heart racing, panic, unable to think logically.

What do I tell my students when they feel like this “just relax”.

Believe it or not this can be achieved.

1. Breathe – if you’re starting to panic, taking a couple of deep breathes will really help. Breathe deeply into the abdomen as this will help to relax the diaphragm and provide the brain with more oxygen allowing you to think more logically. 

2. Relax the shoulders and neck – roll the shoulders forwards and backwards, lift one shoulder up toward the ear and then the other. Carefully roll the head in a full circle and then back the other way.

3. Self talk – keep self talk positive “I will give an incredible presentation” Every time you start to think negative, give yourself a pinch on the arm to remind yourself to replace the negative thought.

4. Visualise – The mind can’t tell the difference between a real event and a visualised event. Visualise yourself giving your speech, picture yourself being the star of the show and revel in how great it feels.

Now repeat after me: “If I can see it, I can be it.”

As I stood there looking at the spider, I realised that I had blown the incident out of proportion.

The spider, while big, was tiny compared to myself. I took a couple of deep breathes, told myself the spider wasn’t going to hurt me. I visualised it sitting there looking at me worrying about what I was going to do and could it run away before I noticed it.

Once I had relaxed I was able to walk calmly out the bedroom door.

I feel I’ve now conquered my fear of spiders, so I know you can conquer your fear of public speaking.

Just Relax

Keep speaking – Carrol

Hot Stuff

February 8, 2009

flameHave you ever noticed that some times you’re on fire when you give a presentation?

Everything is going your way; no nerves, the audience is listening and laughing, you speak effortlessly and at the end of the presentation people actually come up to you and tell you how much they enjoyed your segment.

Why is it, that some times you can do no wrong and other times everything seems to go wrong?

I had one of these hot presentations the other day. I don’t think I prepared any more than usual, I don’t think I worked harder than usual, so why was this one so much better than others?

Your audience can have a lot to do with your presentations: how well do they know each other, how much have they endured before you speak, how interested are they in your topic and how well you connect with them can make the difference between a good, bad or hot presentation.

Other things like the time of day you speak, the venue, distractions – both visual and noisy can all have an impact on your presentation.

You, as the presenter, have to try and factor everything in to ensure you give the best presentation you possibly can on the day, but sometimes the gods are just smiling on you and you’re “Hot Stuff”.

Keep speaking – Carrol

Need a life buoy for job interviews?

January 31, 2009



Yesterday I read an interesting article on the Toastmaster website. See link below.


It was talking about how Toastmasters and public speaking skills had helped people with being more confident when it came to job interviews.

With so many people around the world loosing their jobs and perhaps having to attend an interview for the first time in 10 or 20 years, I truly believe that anything you can use to your advantage to help you find a new job in the shortest possible time, is well worth investing in.

Being able to answer questions during an interview can sometime make or break whether you get the job or not. Many questions are structured around the “tell us a time when,” where you have to let the interviewer know when you were in a similar situation and how you handled it.

Imagine if you had your own secret life buoy, skills that would help you with the interview and handle those questions.

If you can enter the interview with confidence, speak easily, make good eye contact and provide an answer with a beginning, middle and end you will be well on your way to finding a new job.

Public speaking can help in so many ways, even more so during these hard economic times, when how you present in an interview is vitally important.

Keep speaking – Carrol

A lesson from Barack Obama

January 24, 2009


Many of you would have watched as Barack Obama was sworn in as the President of the United States this week.

Many of you would have seen this eloquent man, who has given numerous speeches in the past, stumble and forget the words presented to him. But did you notice how he handled the situation?

Barack stood there confident and poised and waited for his line to be presented to him again.

Even the most confident of speakers can have a moment or two where their mind goes blank. How you deal with this when it happens will make all the difference.

The secret is to be confident in your self.

If you need to look at your notes then go ahead, you may also want to pause slightly longer than normal to gather your thoughts together. (see last weeks blog on pausing). Think about what you’ve been talking about and what you’d like to say next, have a sip of water if you need to extend the time slightly and then continue on.  

Watching other speakers, such as Obama, can help with those vital lessons on how to become a better speaker.

Keep speaking – Carrol

Silence is Golden

January 17, 2009

shhhhhMany people under estimate the power of the pause, but a well timed pause is a powerful speaking technique and can add impact to your words.


That’s right folks, sometimes saying nothing is better than saying something.

So when should you use the pause?

  • You can use the pause to allow your audience  time to catch up with what you’ve been talking about and it allows you, the presenter, time to breathe.
  • The pause can be used for punctuation to let your audience know that you’ve finished a thought or sentence.
  • You can use the pause to attract attention, especially if you see that your audience has become distracted. If you pause the audience will look up to see what you’re doing.
  • Use a longer pause to emphasize your main point or just before your big statement. This tells your audience that you’re going to say something significant and they should listen.

When it comes to the length of a pause this is what I use:

For a short pause I count to 3 in my head, for a longer pause I count to 5 in my head.

When you practice this it feels really strange, but once you get use to it you’ll find it one of the most valuable tools around.

Keep speaking – Carrol

Jelly legs eradicated

January 9, 2009

Jelly Bean Diversity

I watched as my name slowly started to move its way up the agenda and I knew that sooner, rather than later I would have to make my presentation. 

My legs felt like they were made of jelly, I had dragonflies dive bombing inside my stomach, my mouth was dry and I was sure my mind would go blank the minute I stood up.

Well, that’s how I remember the first time I had to speak.

If you feel the same way I did, what can you do to help?

1. Practice your presentation – go over what you want to talk about, remember it doesn’t have to be word perfect.

2. Breathe – take a couple of deep breathes to help pump more oxygen to the brain.

3. Relax your muscles – roll the shoulders backwards and forwards a couple of times.

4. Have some water handy – this will help with the dry mouth.

5. Have cue cards – write your main points on index cards just in case your mind does go blank and you can refer to them.


Remember, most people feel a little nervous before they make a presentation or stand in front of a crowd.

Instead of thinking about how nervous you are, think about HOW EXCITED YOU ARE.

Changing your mind set can help eradicate those jelly legs.

Keep speaking – Carrol

Try something New

January 2, 2009

Fireworks clusterNew Year is a great time to reflect on not only what you’ve achieved over the past year but it also gives you time to think about what you’d like to achieve during the coming year.

 Have you vowed to try something new this year?

When it comes to public speaking there are a range of things we can do.

1. You can join Toastmasters and learn speaking and leadership skills

2. You can hire a speaking coach to improve you skills

3. You can watch other speakers or join the National Speakers Association

4. You can read books, listen to tapes and watch videos on the subject

5. You can commit to speaking more often – practice makes perfect

6. You can use speaking to generate new business or sell more products

7. You can mentor someone else on their speaking journey.

The New Year is a great time to think about what you’d like to achieve.

There are so many options when it comes to speaking so step outside that comfort zone, write down what you would like to achieve and a date you’d like to achieve it by.

Keep speaking – Carrol


December 26, 2008

AnnouncementHave you ever used a callback in your presentation?

Some of you may be asking “what’s a callback?”

Think of a song or smell that transports you back to a certain time or event, this is a callback.

So how do we use them in our presentations?

We can use callbacks in a number of ways: If something funny happens before you walk on the stage and it’s relevant to your presentation, you can refer back to that situation and the audience will be transported back to that point in time and they should laugh. This will enable you to connect instantly with your audience as you have a shared experience.

If you’ve told a story with a memorable character, you can refer back to that character to reinforce your point at the end of your presentation. “Do you remember Mr Smith, the man who had lost everything?” –  you take your audience back in time and they’ll be able to remember the story and hopefully the message or point you were making.

There are a number of different kinds of callbacks that you can use: Characters, Incidents, Comments, Sounds and Gestures.

Next time you put together a presentation think about what callbacks you can use to refer back to your most important points or to connect with your audience on a deeper level.

Keep speaking – Carrol

One with the lot!

December 14, 2008

sandwichMany presenters, both new and experienced like to pack as much as they can into their presentations.

This is can be difficult for the audience; you may be overwhelming them with too much information and they end up with brain overload, or the speaker sets their rate of speech at a fast pace in order to cover everything, and the audience switches off as they don’t have time to digest what has been said.

So how much is too much?

I always recommend 3 to 5 main points depending on how long your presentation is.

If you’re speaking for 5 – 10 minutes, I would only have a maximum of 3 main points. If you are speaking for an hour, you may want to have 5 main points.

10 minute presentation

1. Introduction would be approx. 2 minutes long

2. Main content would be 6 minutes long – 3 points x 2 minutes per point

3. Conclusion would be approx. 2 minutes long

From here you can expand your presentation to 20 minutes or contract to 5 minutes.

One hour presentation.

1. Your introduction would be approx. 10 minutes long

2. Your main content would be 40 minutes long – 5 points x 8 minutes per point.

3. Your conclusion would be approx. 10 minutes long

From here you can expand your presentation to 90 minutes or contract to 40 minutes.

Rehearse your presentation to ensure you fit within the time allocated.

Remember not to overload your audience with too much information but make sure that the information that you pass on is relevant and informative.

Keep speaking – Carrol