Make A Good First Impression

As the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression.

Make sure you’re making the right one by learning skills and techniques that will enable you to capture attention and make a positive impact with your opening statements.

Find out more about the next Make That Speech Course here

What Can We Learn About Public Speaking From Professional Golfers?

Take a look at this clip of the number 1 ranked golfer in the world today, Rory McIlroy:

Actually, you can find similar videos for Tiger Woods, Phil Mickleson and almost every other top layer on the tour on youtube right now.

Rory McIlroy became world number 1 in 2013 and promptly missed the cut in his next 3 events, and lost the world number 1 Spot.

So what we can we learn from the golfers?

Firstly, the sometimes you are going to have a bad day. In the case of a golfer, that doesn’t make you a bad golfer. Likewise, in the case of someone give a presentation or doing some form of Public Speaking, if, for whatever reason it doesn’t go as well as you would like, that does not inherently make you  bad at it. Too many people have one bad experience with Public Speaking, take that as conclusive proof that they aren’t good at it, and go out of their way to avoid doing it in the future. The fact that it went bad once, doesn’t mean it will or always has to go badly in the future.

Secondly, the importance of your mental state in your ability to perform. That’s equally applicable to Public Speaking (and almost every other endeavour) as it is to Golf. It’s pretty obvious that Rory McIlroy is an amazing golfer, but if his head’s not right, by his own admission, the golf’s not right either.

Thirdly, the importance of visualisation. Here’s what golfing legend Nick Faldo had to say about what makes Rory McIlroy so special and why is such a prodigious talent:

“But what I believe is his golfing DNA gift is his visualisation. I had to teach visualisation to myself but he’s got it naturally.

You just watch the way he looks at things. You watch the way he lines up bunker shots. He’s trying to hole them. He can see the perfect shot in his mind – and then can so often produce it.”

 

Confessions of a Former Public Speaking Trainer

I read an article on Forbes.com by @kristihedges, an executive coach and author, and thought it raised some interesting points.

You can find the full text of the article here, but, in summary, Kristi’s belief is that paying for public speaking training is a waste of time and money. While I’m very much paraphrasing, and I would strongly encourage you to read the full article, my understanding of her position is that you already more or less know how to communicate your message effectively and to be yourself, and doing that while Public Speaking is more important than the tips and tricks many public speaking courses teach or encourage (pacing, eye contact etc).

I tend to agree that paying to learn these tips and tricks is not always the best option for many people. If you are already comfortable with public speaking, then they can certainly help polish your performance, but as Kristi rightly notes, all you have to do is google ‘Public Speaking Tips’ and you’ll get nearly all of the sage advice that exists on making a strong opening, maintaining eye contact, using your hands expressively and on and on and on….It’s all there, you can read it, and you can decide what works for you and what doesn’t.

In my view, the single most important thing you can do when speaking in public is be yourself. If you try to be anybody or anything else, then you will come across as awkward at best, and deceitful or suspicious at worst. If you’re not the kind of person who is comfortable with making and maintaining eye contact with somebody during a conversation, then being told ‘maintain eye contact’ isn’t going to do you much good. Eye contact is good, and if you feel comfortable with it, it’s great, but if you don’t feel comfortable with it and you try doing it anyway because someone has told you it will make you a better public speaker, you’ll end up looking mild to moderately psychotic trying to force yourself into making eye contact when you don’t really want to or feel comfortable with it. As a side note, if you’re not particularly comfortable with eye contact, a little cheat is to look at the bridge of the person’s nose rather than directly in the eye. It will look to them as if you’re looking them in the eye, but it’s far more comfortable for you because you’re actually not. Give it a try.

The problem, of course, is that many people find it incredibly difficult to ‘be themselves’ in a public speaking situation. Nerves and anxiety turn people from the person they are when they are talking to friends and colleagues in a work or social setting into a gibbering mess. And then many people try to fall back on the tips and tricks to cover the nerves and anxiety. It is rarely a convincing performance. If you can be comfortable with being yourself in front of a group of people, then your delivery and style will mostly work itself out. It will feel more comfortable for you, because you won’t feel you’re trying to be someone you’re not, and it will feel more comfortable for your audience, because your authenticity will shine through. Therefore, I think the smarter way to get better at public speaking is to try and find out what’s stopping you from being your brilliant self in front of people, then deal with those key issues. Once you learn to be yourself and be comfortable being yourself in front of people then you can work on improving your public speaking skill set and incorporating the tips and tricks (which are usually good ones) into your speaking. Doing it the other way round is putting the cart before the horse. Tips and Techniques without substance aren’t going to do it.

In summary, I agree with the sentiment of Kristi’s article (don’t pay for training that isn’t useful for you), but not with the title of her article. Some training is worth paying for, but make sure you spend the time doing your research to make sure your course matches your requirements.