In most jobs, and life in general, it’s crucial not just to have a great idea – but to get it across. And nail it. Basically, yeah, people will listen if you sound like you know your stuff (and don’t begin sentences with “basically, yeah”).
Gosbert Chagula of Young Enterprise, and Ben Plain of O2′s Think Big programme both have years of experience with public speaking so are well placed to provide some tips and tricks for when you’re in the spotlight. Or even just when you’re just trying to convey something really cool, and don’t want to mess it up by sounding confused/bored/weird.
No, not slides and images (although these are always a good idea), but more about looking confident. If you look confident, people will be more inclined to take you seriously. Never, for example, adopt the classic “young person” pose. Y’know, the crossing your legs and arms and sort of flopping to one side as though you’re about to wobble over. Yes you have seen it and everyone does it but it makes you look like you have no idea what you’re on about.
If you’re standing, plant your feet on the ground and stay there. If sitting, stay in the same position and try not to fidget wildly because, again, you’ll look unsure of yourself.
Use gestures to highlight key points, but don’t point (as that looks way too confrontational) and actually look at people, as opposed to the floor or the ceiling or your own hand making the aforementioned gestures.
Speak slowly and clearly, giving you time to think and the person you’re talking to time to absorb what you’re saying. Really try hard not to say “like”; sometimes it’s almost impossible not to, and it will probably slip out a few times, but bombarding people with “uh like, it’s a bit like some like like like-like” isn’t going to do you any favours. “Basically, yeah” is another pet hate. Of everyone.
Nerves can make you race through things, so to counter it, pause. Pause more. Pause for emphasis and before/after key points of your idea. We’re not talking ten seconds, but don’t panic if your mind goes blank- just use a nice, hearty pause to gather your thoughts and get the conversational ball rolling once more.
Vary your volume to highlight key words- a bit of extra oomph can make anything sound exciting. Don’t overdo it – screaming occasional words while whispering alternate ones could make you sound unhinged, but don’t drone like you’ve never once been excited or emotionally moved. Excitement is contagious, so if you sound all fired up, the people you’re talking to are more likely to be swept up too.
Following on from that last point, strike a balance between sounding professional and sounded like yourself. We remember people from their facial expressions, from that funny throwaway comment they made, from their creative approach.
It’s easy to start using meaningless jargon just because you’re in a professional setting, but you want to be remembered, not lumped in the same category as everyone else. Talk like you normally talk.
Throw in a curveball. I once said, in a meeting four months ago, that my favourite word was “bugle” and someone remembered me from that meeting and brought it up the other day. And that’s not even particularly creative, interesting or funny, so imagine the possibilities…