FIND YOUR VOICE

In­ter­views and pub­lic speak­ing re­quire con­fi­dence – but there are some tricks to make your­self heard, re­ports Jenny Southan

Business Traveller (Middle East) - - Contents -

When pre­par­ing for an im­por­tant job in­ter­view, have you been told to “just be your­self”? Or when feel­ing ner­vous about speak­ing in front of strangers, tried that trick of look­ing at one per­son? You’re right – they’re use­less bits of ad­vice. Like it or not, you now have to be mas­ters of self-brand­ing and self­pro­mo­tion. If you can’t sell your­self and your ideas, there’s a good chance your ca­reer will not ad­vance in the way you’d like it to.

There are many cour­ses and work­shops that help you be­come a bet­ter com­mu­ni­ca­tor in the busi­ness world. Top cour­ses in­clude lead­er­ship train­ing from Im­pel­lus (im­pel­lus.com), and man­age­ment skills for emerg­ing lead­ers at Har­vard (ex­ten­sion.har­vard.edu). There are also some great books, such as Talk Like TED: The 9 Pub­lic Speak­ing Se­crets of the World’s Top Minds by Carmine Gallo and the clas­sic The Quick and Easy Way to Ef­fec­tive Speak­ing by Dale Carnegie. The skills needed for pre­sen­ta­tion are not dis­sim­i­lar to those for job in­ter­views.

TALK THE TALK

When it comes to get­ting a “yes” at your next crit­i­cal meet­ing – be it a job in­ter­view, rais­ing fi­nance or get­ting a coun­ter­party to agree to a merger – there is one par­tic­u­lar train­ing pro­gramme, Re­hearse It (re­hear­seit.co.uk), that claims a suc­cess rate of more than 90 per cent. It of­fers one-day work­shops, pitch­ing re­hearsal ses­sions and one-on-one coach­ing from founder Robin Roberts and his team of ac­tors, and film and theatre di­rec­tors.

“An in­ter­view is anal­o­gous to an au­di­tion. It’s key that in­di­vid­u­als learn how to take con­trol of the sit­u­a­tion in or­der to de­liver their best pos­si­ble per­for­mance,” says Roberts.

Since launch­ing two years ago, the or­gan­i­sa­tion has worked with more than 120 peo­ple, many of them ex­tremely high-pow­ered – from Euro­pean Union com­mis­sion­ers to se­nior judges and chief ex­ec­u­tives. Why do they need help? “By na­ture they are per­fec­tion­ists and are go­ing for some­thing they don’t want to risk not get­ting,” says Roberts. The cur­ricu­lum cov­ers psy­chol­ogy, body lan­guage and role play.

Roberts founded Re­hearse It af­ter re­tir­ing from a long ca­reer at global head­hunt­ing firm Egon Zehn­der. He says: “While there, I no­ticed that even the world’s most se­nior peo­ple mess up their meet­ings and in­ter­views – in­clud­ing peo­ple who were can­di­dates to be chair­men of FTSE 100 com­pa­nies. It made me won­der why we can mess up crit­i­cal meet­ings.”

How does it work? “Re­hearse It is a com­bi­na­tion of be­havioural sci­ence and per­form­ing arts, which we guar­an­tee will im­prove your per­for­mance dra­mat­i­cally,” he says. “It’s not a drama class, though. We are not train­ing peo­ple in our work­shops to be Daniel Craig or Cate Blanchett. We are say­ing, look, in this crit­i­cal mo­ment when you are in front of an au­di­ence, do­ing these things will nudge opin­ion in your favour.”

How quickly do you think strangers form an

opin­ion about you? In a minute? A few sec­onds? Roberts says: “The most com­mon mis­take is not to re­alise how quickly the judge­ment is formed. It’s ac­tu­ally mil­lisec­onds. Our brains have evolved to col­lect data about other peo­ple re­ally fast.”This means that not only do first im­pres­sions count, but you have far less time to present your­self than you thought.

At what point does the in­ter­viewer typ­i­cally make a de­ci­sion about whether you are right for the job or not? Roberts says: “There is re­search that shows that all the in­for­ma­tion they will base their de­ci­sion on is gath­ered in the first 15 min­utes. Most in­ter­view­ers be­lieve they are us­ing the en­tire hour to keep an open mind, but the re­search in­di­cates that is not the case. The prob­lem is, al­most ev­ery­one sleep­walks into the room, warms up as the meet­ing goes on, and by the half-hour mark all cylin­ders are fir­ing, but by that point it’s too late. You need to come out of the gates like a race­horse.”

FAKE IT ’TIL YOU MAKE IT

We all know we need to prac­tise our pre­sen­ta­tions, but if you think re­hearsal in­volves no more than mum­bling it in the shower, think again. As Jon Dean, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Im­pel­lus, says: “Fail to pre­pare – pre­pare to fail.”

Speeches come un­der even greater scru­tiny. Nigel Ose­land, PR man­ager for Toast­mas­ters In­ter­na­tional (toast­mas­ters.org), a mem­ber­ship or­gan­i­sa­tion for peo­ple who want to prac­tise speak­ing in pub­lic, feels strongly about the way you shouldn’t de­liver a speech.“I am a lit­tle more for­giv­ing of peo­ple who are speak­ing in English when it is not their first lan­guage, but oth­er­wise, if some­one is read­ing from a script, I walk out. I find it of­fen­sive be­cause I know I can read quicker than they can read to me.”

In­stead, he says: “It is bet­ter to write your speech, get the word­ing right, dis­til it down to some key points and then talk around them. Think about the struc­ture and the con­tent that will ap­peal to your au­di­ence. It’s not about what you say but what they re­mem­ber that counts. The trick is mov­ing from a mono­tone de­liv­ery to a speech that in­spires peo­ple. Hu­mour helps you come across as hu­man and lets the au­di­ence en­gage with you.”

Another good way to en­hance your pub­lic speak­ing prow­ess is to at­tend a train­ing course at RADA in Busi­ness (radain­busi­ness.com), a so­cial en­ter­prise aligned with the Lon­don’s Royal Acad­emy of Dra­matic Art, with ex­pert tu­ition from voice coaches, ac­tors and in­flu­ence spe­cial­ists. Char­lie Walker-Wise, client di­rec­tor for RADA in Busi­ness, says: “We teach peo­ple to use their phys­i­cal­ity, breath and voice to pro­ject them­selves into any given en­vi­ron­ment. These com­mu­ni­ca­tion

skills are not just act­ing skills – they are hu­man skills.” Dur­ing the course, par­tic­i­pants learn why your voice is, as Walker-Wise says, your“great­est tool of in­flu­ence”. Sound is move­ment, he ex­plains, and just in the way you need to prac­tise kick­ing a ball into a net, you need to re­hearse your pre­sen­ta­tions out loud. “I’m a trained ac­tor, but the only way to make it look easy is to prac­tise,” he says.

Walker-Wise also says that when we are ner­vous, we for­get to breathe.“We don’t want to mess up. We tend to re­treat and play it safe, but then of­ten think: who was that?” RADA in Busi­ness cour­ses are de­signed to free us up to be the “best ver­sion of our­selves”. So when you walk into that job in­ter­view, you re­ally can “just be your­self”.

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