In this “Rapid Success” video series I deliver a top communication tip in 90 seconds or less. In this video I discuss the power of intention and why we need to start focusing on how we want our audience to feel.
I’ve been trying to appoint a Financial Advisor over the last couple of weeks. It’s a world that I don’t really understand so I’m looking for someone who is an expert in their field and can then translate all that mumbo jumbo (my technical term for anything that appears on a spreadsheet!) into words that I can understand. I’ve been amazed at how few of the companies I have talked to have been able to do that. I’ve been bombarded with technical language and acronyms, been asked to read “Terms and Conditions” the length of United Nation Treaties just to set up an initial consultation and even had a telephone conversation where an advisor actively tried to evade my questions around fees. Needless to say these interactions haven’t led to me appointing the firms in question! It’s not all been bad news though, I have found two firms who have made things simple and I am meeting with both to see which is the best fit. So, what did these firms do differently and how can you apply the lessons in your line of business?...
Put your audience first
When you’re an expert (I believe we’re all experts in our individual fields) it’s very easy to forget that the person you’re talking to probably isn’t. They haven’t had your experiences and they possibly aren’t as passionate about your subject matter as you are. Rather than broadcast your knowledge at your audience it is important to share it with them. I think we have to take responsibility when we communicate. How can we translate what we are saying into language that the people we are talking to can understand? What examples can you give or questions can you ask that will resonate? For example, when one Financial Advisor started talking about Asset Management, Estate Planning and my projected Net Worth, whilst I had a relatively solid idea of what he was talking about, I felt nervous that I hadn’t quite understood and stupid for not being more knowledgeable. When another asked me to start thinking about my dream lifestyle, the type of house I’d like to live in when I retired and how many holidays I wanted to take each year, I felt excited and empowered. There are many ways to crack an egg. Choose the method that your audience prefers rather than defaulting to your own preference.
Cut out the jargon
Every industry on the planet has it’s own language. It might be very subtle but if you listen hard enough you’ll start to hear words and phrases that you use regularly and instantly understand, which have little or no meaning to the outside world. Whilst these act as a short cut when everyone in the conversation is fluent with the terminology, to anyone outside of the circle hearing this language can be incredibly isolating. When I work with clients on presentations I always ask them to remove all acronyms and “technical speak” completely. Not only does this make it much easier for the lay-people in the audience to understand what you’re talking about, it also ensures that you give proper weight to the terminology that you use. ROI, SIPP, FSA, ISA, IHT, LTV, NI, HMRC – without proper context it’s all just alphabet soup!
Give people time to process
If you’re worried you might be losing your audience a natural tendency is to speed up in order to get things over and done with quickly, or to bombard people with information in order to reaffirm your expert status. In fact you should try to do the opposite. Slow down and say less. It takes people time to digest and process new information. In order to give ideas meaning and give ourselves a chance of remembering new things we need to create connections and pictures in our minds. That requires space, especially with complex concepts. Better to make three key points that land, than to introduce seven topics which all go over people’s heads. You shouldn’t leave your audience exhausted and scrambling to keep up. Instead give them less information and more time to internalise what they are hearing. Trust the people that you are speaking to, if you’ve created the right environment and they need more information they’ll ask questions. If you’ve ever spent an hour on the phone with a Financial Advisor who loves the sound of their own voice you’ll know I’m right!
My final piece of advice is to ask yourself the following question: “Would this make sense to a five year old?”. If the answer is yes then you’re probably on to a winner. It’s not about dumbing down, it’s about conveying your message in a meaningful way that leaves your audience feeling empowered to act. To quote Albert Einstein “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
Have you got any tips or tricks for communicating complex ideas? Do you think I’m talking simplistic nonsense? I’d love you to join the conversation by commenting in the box below.
Keep shining (simply)!
I love learning and personal development. The bookshelves in my office are crammed with books on goal setting, productivity, creating successful habits and various other “lofty” topics. I have an Amazon Wishlist containing 164 business books I would like to read and my Kindle is littered with half completed manuscripts that I have mined for pertinent content and then cast aside. My problem isn’t appetite for knowledge, it’s retention. I have discovered that whilst I am digesting new information at a rate of knots, I am failing to hang on to the majority of it. I thought I was “OK” at remembering stuff. The reality is, I am not! I have never thought of my ability to learn as an issue but as I work hard to take my life and business to the next level, to push the boundaries of what I think I am capable of, I realise that I need to get some help, I need to develop some new skills. So, I’ve enrolled myself on a SuperLearner course and I’m learning how to rewire my brain to help me remember more and increase my reading speed. I’m determined to make a dent in that massive reading list!
It’s easy to go through life being “OK”, to stay within our comfort zone. The reality is however that if we want to grow, if we want to achieve our dreams, our New Year’s Resolutions, if we want to reach our full potential we have to push for more. We have to move past “OK” and aim for greatness. In my work as a trainer and a coach I meet so many people who say they’re “OK” at communication, that their presentation skills are “fine”, “not something I need to work on”. If I film them presenting and ask them to watch their performance, suddenly the reality is very different. Very quickly they come to realise that something that hadn’t seemed like a problem before, is actually holding them back from what they were trying to achieve. They realise that they don’t currently have the level of skill necessary to consistently win the pitch, inspire the team, get the promotion or whatever else it is they are looking to do. It’s not that they’re bad, it’s just at best they’re “OK”.... The moment they realise that “OK” isn’t good enough, they are able to move forward. Awareness is the key.
As human being’s we’re quick to defend ourselves, to protect ourselves from criticism. We don’t like to make ourselves vulnerable. However, unless we can be truly objective and honest about our current situation, we will find it almost impossible to achieve our goals.
I’m bad at remembering stuff and I’m a pretty slow reader. I am learning skills to change that. What’s holding you back and what are you going to do about it?
It’s been a busy few weeks. Since November 1st I’ve been up and down the East Coast Mainline more times than I care to remember, delivered 10 days of training for a total of 152 delegates, been photographed for a magazine feature, run my first ever webinar, compered a 3-day conference for 300 people and won a small business award. The most exciting thing of all though, has been meeting and working with three of my heroes. This month I’ve been lucky enough to spend time with Sir Clive Woodward (World Cup winning rugby coach), Richard Reed (founder of, in my opinion, one of the coolest companies in the UK, Innocent Smoothies) and Daniel Priestly (author of the best selling books Key Person of Influence, Entrepreneur Revolution and Oversubscribed).
When I spoke with them, all three shared some amazing insights into business, performance and success, however the most striking thing for me was how evangelical all three of them were about the need to have a coach or mentor if you want to achieve your dreams.
When you think about it, it’s obvious. Look at any olympic athlete, premiership football team, Hollywood actor or FTSE 100 CEO, they all have coaches and mentors, people who can offer an outside perspective, help them to focus on the important tasks and ultimately enable them to perform at the top of their game. If you’ve ever been lucky enough to work with a personal trainer, you’ll know how much quicker you get the results you are looking for compared to turning up at the gym on your own, floating about from machine to machine and doing whatever exercises take your fancy.
Why is it then that so many “normal people” don’t see coaching as important and urgent? They see it as the icing on the cake rather than the foundation for success. So many business owners put off investing in themselves until they’re making more money – If a football club waited until they’d won a few games before they bothered getting a Manager, you’d think they were mad! So many companies offer their staff training if they hit their targets, rather than offering their staff training to make sure they hit their targets – If the GB cycling team had just gone out for a few practice rides whenever they felt like it and waited to employ Dave Brailsford and his team until after they’d won a few races, they would never have taken gold at London 2012. So many talented individuals wait to work on their “soft skills” until they get promoted – If Rene Zellweger had waited to get a voice coach to work on her English accent until after the Bridget Jones movie was a box office hit, there would have been no box office hit.
The “normal’ approach doesn’t work. Extraordinary people have a coach. It helps move the dial in the right direction. It holds you to account. It makes you show up as the best version of yourself. For the last twelve months I’ve been working with not one but three coaches and it’s been a complete game changer for me. There have been moments when I have questioned the financial investment. There have been moments when I’ve wanted to hide from their scrutiny. There have been moments when I felt like I was too busy to make time for our sessions. But ultimately it’s made me better at what I do. It’s helped me serve my own clients better and it’s enabled me to have a month like November.
The reality is that we don’t invest in a coach to learn a technique or a methodology, we invest in a coach to achieve a result. My one-to-one clients don’t come to me to improve their presentation skills and performance. Not really. They come to me to get more confidence, make more sales, become better leaders, achieve expert status, negotiate better deals and have more influence.
As we head into December it’s time to start reflecting on the year that’s past and planning for the year to come. Don’t just take my word for it… If you want to make 2016 your best year yet, listen to Sir Clive Woodward, Richard Reed and Daniel Priestly… Get a coach!
If you’re interested in finding out how you can work with me to kick start your year click HERE. If I’m not the right fit, that’s fine, I just urge you to get out there and find someone who is. You won’t regret it.
In this video I reveal the simple secret for grabbing your audience’s attention and getting them onside from the word go.
You’ve got seven seconds to make a first impression. Make them count!!
I’d love to hear how you get on with implementing this strategy so please leave me a comment in the box below.
In this video I want to share my PowerPoint do’s and don’ts…. and when I say PowerPoint I mean any presentation software including Prezi and Keynote.
I know that a lot of people use these presentation tools and used well they can be excellent. Unfortunately, all too often, I see people making easily avoidable mistakes with the software. In this video I’ll share with you some simple tips that will help you connect with your audience and get them to engage with your presentation.
Tip no.1: Don’t read the bullets!
Power point and other presentation tools are there to help you reinforce your messages, to give the audience the key points that you want them to take away. Don’t use your slides as a script. It’s distracting and boring for the audience, as they know what’s coming before the words have even come out of your mouth.
Tip no.2: Don’t have too many words on the screen
If you start to put lines and lines of text onto your slides your audience will try and read it. As soon as you flip to a new slide filled with words you lose the focus of the audience as people try and read all the information that you put on the screen behind you.
Tip no.3: Keep it simple
Use a maximum of three bullet points per slide. That’s plenty. Use three to five words per bullet point. Don’t over complicate things; leave people with the key messages
Tip no.4: Use images
I really encourage you to use pictures. Images stay with us much more powerfully than text and if we associate what you are saying with the image that you put on the screen, we are much more likely to remember it.
Tip no.5: Think of Power Point as your backdrop
Don’t let PowerPoint upstage you. We don’t want people to remember the PowerPoint, we want them to remember you and what it is you said. Use your Power Point to enhance your presentation, but remember, Power Point isn’t your presentation. You are your presentation: the words you speak and the connection that you make with your audience.
I’d love to hear your views on how to get the most out of PowerPoint, so please share your comments with me in the box below.
Breathing is really important for making you sound and feel confident when you are in front of an audience.
The first thing you should think about is the placement of your breath. A common mistake that people make when they are nervous is to start breathing up into the chest. This increases the adrenaline flowing around your system and you enter into ‘fight or flight mode’.
The best way to overcome your nerves is low breathing. Use your diaphragm by relaxing your stomach muscles and allow your breath to drop in and fill your lungs. Use your ribs and the intercostal muscles too, like you’re filling up a barrel!
The simple breathing exercise I share in this video will help you to calm yourself down before a presentation. What you are actually doing is lowering your cortisol levels (your stress hormone) and at the same time increasing your testosterone levels (your confidence hormone) so it’s an absolute win-win!
I hope that you find my video on breathing exercises for confident public speaking useful. Please share your comments with me in the box below and I’d love to hear about any other tricks that work for you.
Keep shining (and breathing)!
There are many things you can do to make your audience love you but in my opinion the simplest and most effective is to make brilliant eye contact.
In my latest video I give you my top three tips for connecting with your audience using your eyes. If you find eye contact a little uncomfortable or you’d just like more engagement with the people you’re talking to, then this video is for you.
I really appreciate the comments these posts have been getting recently. It’s been amazing to hear people generously sharing their experiences and their own ideas for how to be brilliant communicators. So, if you’d like to join the debate I’d love to hear from you in the box below.
I wanted to make some videos so that I could share with you some quick tips and tricks.
In this first video I talk about the topic that probably comes up most often in my presentation skills training sessions…. “what do I do with my hands?”.
I hope you find it helpful and would love to hear your comments so leave them in the box below or at my youtube channel.
I spent yesterday in the studio. That statement sounds very grand… the reality was somewhat more chaotic. The furniture in the office pushed against the walls, a white sheet erected for a back-drop, several lights cluttering the floor space and my iPhone 6 attached to a tripod to record the proceedings. Very soon you’ll be able to judge the results for yourselves as I start releasing the videos on YouTube but I’m amazed at what can be achieved using such a simple set up. In fact the resolution of the finished product will be significantly higher than the footage I have from an episode of Doctors I shot for the BBC 10 years ago. It’s amazing how far technology has come!
Being in front of the camera is something that feels quite natural for me now. It’s something I’ve been doing for a long time. But it wasn’t always that way. The first time I did it, I was absolutely petrified. I’d had the amazing good fortune to be cast in a big budget BBC period drama called The Lost Prince which was directed by the legendary Stephen Poliakoff. In the cast were some of Britain’s finest actors, Michael Gambon, Miranda Richardson, Tom Hollander, Bill Nighy and me… 20 years old, completely new to television and desperate not to make a fool of myself!
As I stepped up to shoot my first scene I was a nervous wreck. All the main cast were there along with about 200 extras! The pressure was huge. My lines kept flying out of my head and I just couldn’t remember what I was meant to say next. My hands were shaking and my voice felt tight. The camera was rolling and the director shouted “Action!”. A complete jumbled mess came streaming from my mouth. “Cut!” I heard Stephen cry and we reset to shoot again. I was mortified. The second take was no better. What was I going to do? It was Michael Gambon that broke the ice. All of a sudden he burst out laughing, stood up and started clapping!! He could see that I was struggling and came to my rescue offering words of reassurance. I instantly relaxed, smiled, took a deep breath and the third take was word perfect. That first TV job taught me so much about how to work on camera and I’ve been lucky enough to learn many valuable lessons throughout my career, so I thought I’d use this blog to quickly share my top 5 tips.
1. Don’t take yourself too seriously
This was my major take-away from that first challenging experience in front of the camera. The more I worried about what other people were thinking of me the worse I performed. It’s easy to become very self-conscious and serious when you’re looking down the lens. Try to stay playful and give yourself a break. The beauty of digital cameras is that you can do as many takes as you need to get the right footage, so don’t worry about getting it right first time.
2. It’s all in the eyes
The eyes are the windows to the soul and this is especially true on camera. The lens has an amazing ability to pick up on your emotion and we tend to see it in the eyes. Think happy thoughts and the eyes sparkle on screen. If you’re feeling sad or tired the eyes will seem dull and lifeless. Make sure that your mental state matches your objective when speaking on camera. If you want your audience to be excited and inspired by your message, you need to be completely energised. If you’re not, they’ll see it in your eyes.
3. Warm up your face
When we’re in a room talking to someone they can normally see our whole body. When we’re speaking on camera they normally only get to see our head. This mean’s all the extra information conveyed in our body language needs to be channeled into our facial expression. I’m not suggesting for a second that you start gurning or doing strange things with your lips to get your audience’s attention but you do need to make sure everything is alive and warmed up. There are a staggering 42 muscles in the face, so having a stretch, blowing through the lips and screwing everything up before you go on camera will make sure the lens really captures your emotion and gets your message across.
4. Treat the camera like a friend
It’s important to remember that when you look directly down the lens of a camera you are looking straight into the eyes of your audience. To make the connection between you and the viewer really strong, the best piece of advice I was ever given was to imagine that you are talking to a friend. If you treat the camera as if it is someone you like and trust, that will come across in what the audience sees. It’s a really simple technique to implement and it makes a massive difference to your performance.
5. Don’t be afraid to go off script
Obviously if you’re acting in a big budget feature film this tip isn’t really an option (unless the director gives you permission) but when we’re making videos in order to connect with and serve our audience sometimes a full script can make things too rigid. If you’re not experienced in the actor’s art of bringing word off the page, you can often come across as wooden or stilted. In my experience it’s much better to sketch out a few bullet points that you want to talk about and use the other 4 tips above to bring them to life. There’s something about an “off the cuff” video that gives you real credibility and builds trust with the audience. So, next time you’re tempted to write the whole things out, take a risk and shoot from the hip instead. I guarantee that the results will be more authentic and engaging.
I hope you found these tips useful and would love to hear any other things you do to come across like a pro on screen, so leave your comments in the box below or tweet me @dominiccolenso.
Good luck with your videos.
What a match! Novak Djokovic pounded a cross-court winner past Roger Federer on Sunday afternoon to seal his third Wimbledon championship and ninth grand slam title. But what can the world’s most famous tennis tournament teach us about public speaking?
#1. Love your audience.
In a game of tennis the cheers of the crowd make a big difference. When they feel like the audience is behind them, it can give players a big boost. When they loose the audience, Centre Court can be a very lonely place! Standing in front of large groups of people can make us nervous. Put yourself in Djokovic or Federer shoes and imagine standing in front of an audience of 15,000 people (plus a few million more watching from home)… pretty scary stuff!! For most of us the idea of presenting in front of 100 people causes anxiety. So what can we do to make sure that we give a confident performance and get our audience on our side?… Simple. Show them some love!
The big secret is that there is little difference in speaking to an audience of one or an audience of one thousand. I understand that it feels different but don’t let that feeling fool you. Look at the people we consider great speakers, Steve Jobs, Barack Obama, Stephen Fry, they all have different styles and different subject matters, yet they all have one thing in common: whatever the size of their audience, they make every single person feel engaged and special. Treat the people you’re speaking to as if they were your best mates and you can’t go wrong. Just like in a game of tennis, the audience is your friend and they want to be part of your success.
#2. Focus on the task at hand.
It’s easy to get distracted, especially when things don’t go our way or we make a mistake. However, great performers and athletes focus on their objective and don’t let themselves get pulled off course. If we stumble over a word when we are speaking or forget to mention a key point, we can often spend the next few minutes beating ourselves up. When we see this on the tennis court we know a player is in trouble. If they can’t move on quickly they will find themselves heading towards defeat. The key to success is having a strong objective to focus on. If you know what you are trying to achieve – to inspire the audience or to challenge their current way of thinking for example – then you can direct your energy towards that goal when you find yourself in trouble. If the goal is big enough and exciting enough it will outweigh any negative emotion and help you to continue to move forward. Without a strong objective you’ll trip yourself up at the first hurdle and find yourself crashing out of the competition!
#3. Get in the game.
The more you do something the easier it gets. No athlete, whether professional or amateur, would ever advocate competing in their chosen discipline without first putting in many hours of hard work before the event. In the same way that Djokovic spends most of his time training, you have to seek out opportunities to speak in front of large groups. So many people say “ I’m not a public speaker, I’m just no good at it”. The truth is that if you’ve ever had a single interesting conversation with another person in your entire life then you already have all the skills that you need to be a great public speaker in front of thousands of people! It’s just a case of practicing (and working with a good coach) to find out what works and what doesn’t. Djokovic has been knocked out of many more competitions than he’s won but that doesn’t stop him playing, in fact it probably makes him more determined. That’s the sign of a true champion in any discipline!
What do you do to make sure you “win” when you’re performing in front of a large audience? What other professions have you learned lessons from? I’d love to hear your ideas (and what you thought of the match!) in the comments box below.