Public Speaking and the Air Force Pilot
What could the 2 possibly have in common? That was my thoughts as well.
Late last year I was speaking to a young man who is determined to become a pilot in the Australian Air Force. I assumed (very wrongly) that the process would be to firstly enlist then go through due process. The conversation which ensued was very enlightening.
He told me the best way was to in fact apply to become a pilot without actually having joined the Air Force. He went on to explain the various processes and steps he had to go through. Sadly he was not successful and had stumbled at the last hurdle which was an interview with 3 officers and a psychologist. Not to be discouraged and highly motivated to succeed he was currently two thirds the way through with his second attempt.
As we know, one of the most critical things in improving in any aspect of our lives and businesses is feedback. Be it from our customers, work colleagues friends and family, constructive feedback is important. So naturally I asked, whether he was either provided feedback or there was a process to request feedback to clarify or identify areas which needed to be addressed. I was stunned with his response……..the FIRST recommendation was to improve his Public Speaking skills. I was speechless (which for those who know me is a rarity!). He went on to explain that they felt he lacked conviction in his responses and that to be a leader he required better speaking skills to articulate instructions or orders or respond to situations requiring fast responses. Also by his own admissions he was terrified standing in front of just 4 people! I was blown away but then got to thinking.
I am constantly faced with the misconception of what Public Speaking is. The common interpretation is to speak in front of a large group or audience of sorts. While that is partially correct, the reality is that Public Speaking is, at the core being able to better communicate in any size group. Be it one on one with a friend, family member or work colleague, a department meeting or workshop and anything in-between. He is now in the process of learning all the required skills to address his fear and confidently respond. One of those skills is the art of Impromptu Speaking. Thinking on your feet with a response or comment with no opportunity to prepare. This he tells me is without a doubt the most valuable skill.
I am convinced that EVERYONE can benefit from learning Public Speaking skills. Think about the last time you got caught in the lift with your manager or boss and he threw you a curveball to which you were like a deer in the headlights or the time you had an idea at a department meeting and you were so overcome with fear you sat quietly. Understand these are not isolated instances and they have strong ramifications for you both personally and professionally moving forward.
Remember, the quality of your communication will ultimately determine the level of your success.
To Your Success,
My name is Con and I am The Con Versationalist
Funerals and Public Speaking
Last year I attended the funeral of an elderly lady, who, to be honest, I had never actually met. The obvious question is why the heck were you there? I was there as a mark of respect to other family members who I was very close to and also to give me an opportunity to directly pass on my condolences.
The funeral was conducted according to Greek Orthodox tradition in a Greek Orthodox Church with barely standing room available. At a reasonable guess there would have been 250-300 people. Now I know most of you reading this are really wondering where am I going with this, what’s the point and more importantly, what does this in way have to do with public speaking? Trust me, I getting there!
I am a very keen “people watcher” or an observationalist. I observe people’s body language, facial expressions to understand the thoughts between their ears so as such it didn’t take too long to work out there many there were thinking and feeling the same as I was. Now you could say, well it’s a funeral, everyone pretty well has the gist of what’s going on and you would be right, BUT this is where I make my point.
I was up the back and could barely make out what the priests were saying despite the fact they had a microphone, and it wasn’t just me. I overheard many attendees mention they couldn’t hear a thing. As a speaker or presenter you have an obligation to ensure your audience can hear you. One of the fundamental public speaking tips we share is to ensure you have checked the all audio/ visual equipment. If your audience can’t hear you, they’ll be switching of REAL quick whether it’s a funeral, wedding or Bar Mitzvah. It would have taken only a few moments prior to the service to check and rectify any issues. I wanted to know about this ladies life, her experiences and the positive impact she had on her family and the community but I, along with many others, were deprived. Along with not being able to hear them, there was a significant demographic who would not have either understood the meaning of the service or the language. There was a feeble attempt at performing part of the service in English but it fell short of providing any real value.
Well the priest isn’t selling anything, what does he care who can hear or understand I hear you say…..WRONG. As there is competition in every area of life as there is in religion. As a youngster I attended church with my mother, albeit not overly willingly, but as I got older, my attendance was limited to obligatory events such as weddings, christenings and funerals because I could neither hear most of the time not could I understand. All community organisations struggle for members which ultimately drives income necessary for their ongoing survival. The next time you’re presenting anywhere, make sure your audience can not only hear you but can understand the language and the context.
If you are part of any organisation, be it a commercial entity or a not for profit it’s fair to say you have an element of passion. As such you have an obligation to not only yourself but to the organisation and maybe look at taking on a leadership role. One of the pre requisites of leadership is effective public speaking. You need to be able to communicate your message effectively. Your audience, whether its 2 or 200 need to be able to clearly hear, understand and be sold on your message so they ultimately take the required action in your message. Effective public speaking is crucial to you and your organisations success. I always say, “The quality of your communication will ultimately determine the level of your success”. One of the best ways to improve your communication is having efficient public speaking skills.
Effective public speaking skills increases your confidence, which makes you more persuasive and influential. Whilst the priests at the funeral were not there to influence or persuade as the primary objective, they missed an opportunity to influence and persuade potential parishioners of the value and the overall experience they are able to provide at that church. How many times have you attended a service at either a church or with a celebrant and either yourself or others have passed comments on the experience. “That priest performed a lovely service” or “I highly recommend this particular celebrant”.
The funeral reminded me of the finality of our existence on this earth at this time. I’m not here to debate or discuss re incarnation or anyone’s religious beliefs be it Hindu, Muslim or Christian but there is no denying, when your dead in this life, your dead. We all have things we say “were gunna do” or “I must get around to …” We also have relationships which we take for granted. We hold silly grudges and don’t talk to them because we are angry. If you only get one thing from this blog, make it this! Life is limited, longer for some than for others but never the less limited. Don’t keep putting off things which are important to you, challenge you to become a better person or challenge you improve professionally. Don’t regret what you’ve done but regret what you haven’t done. Life is too short to pile up woulda, coulda and shouldas and who do you think would have the greatest clarity on life? The ones nearing the end of theirs. If you want to know about regret, I strongly suggest you read “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying” by Bronnie Ware. Make sure you have ample tissues or hankies because if this book does not draw tears you either need to check your pulse or there is a heart missing! Ware spent many years caring for those facing their own mortality. When she questioned the dying about any regrets they had or anything they would have done differently, she found common themes surface repeatedly. In no particular order the top 5 were I wish:
As always, I look forward to your comments.
My name is Con and I am The Con Versationalist
Until next week, bye for now.
But I’m JUST the MC
Just before COVID-19, I attended a small, but significant event held by a major charity. It was significant because amongst the speakers and attendees was the CEO, The Head of Marketing, a number of senior staff and very importantly the State Government Minister responsible for this area. They had done some things really well. A stage had been arranged along with good quality PA equipment which had been checked and was in working order and they had a clear running sheet for the evening. Nice canapés along with lovely, quality refreshments were on offer in a comfortable area with seating as required. Pretty good so far……. Sadly that’s where it ended! Now, I want to be clear about this, the purpose of this article is not to bag the charity or any of the participants and hence why no names will be mentioned. The purpose is to inform and prepare any of the readers should they be required to fill the role of an MC or arrange any such event.
What went wrong and what should have happened.
I have no political affiliations and politicians in general aren’t on my Christmas card list, that said, if they are invited to attend your event, they should be respected and extended courtesy. So, the minister in question turns up about 15 minutes late, no big deal but then she is left standing there with no allocated seat, in fact no seat at all! There she was, leaning on the wall, looking somewhat awkward. It was only after 10 minutes or so that someone actually offered her a seat. There should have been a designated seat for her which should have been identified.
The MC got things underway and apart from being nervous and the common splattering’s of Um’s and Ah’s, she did ok. Ill only mention this once as an aside, she wasn’t alone in the Um stakes! I would expect a CEO of any major organisation, corporate or NFP to not add um’s and ah’s after every sentence. Back to the main point. There was some good humour to entertain and I though she was going well. She introduced the minister as the next speaker and invited her to the stage and that’s when the wheels fell off!! As the minister approached, the MC walked off the stage. She should have waited for the minister to arrive at the lectern, shake hands whilst smiling and maintaining eye contact THEN walk off the stage. Why is this important? For the guest, it makes them feel welcome and comfortable and extends them the courtesy and respect they deserve. For goodness sake, we are talking about a member of parliament in this example. For you as the MC, it indicates YOU are in control of the proceedings and builds connection and report with your audience. Very import
When the minister finished, as the MC was not close by and given she wasn’t greeted at the beginning, the minister just walked of the stage…..awkward. As the MC, you need to be close by and again shake hands, quietly thank her and as she is walking off the stage, publicly acknowledge her. This, unfortunately was standard fare for the entire evening.
There were a number of awards to be handed out but as names were called out come recipients were not present. So you have the MC, CEO and MP on stage waiting for the named recipient to come on stage but it doesn’t happen. A bit uncomfortable to say the least. The fact this happened multiple times and the reasons the recipients were not present is not important for this conversation but as MC, you need to check and make sure. If they aren’t present, after announcing them as the winner you can seamlessly go on to “unfortunately Mary can’t be here this evening”. Again, this indicates confidence and authority. You know exactly what’s going on and everything is under control.
The role of MC obviously varies with the different type of events ranging from presentation ceremonies to weddings etc., but in all you need to demonstrate you have authority and control.
So let me summarise some of the key items for your next role as an organiser or MC at an event.
The role of MC is important so attending to above mentioned items will make for a more professional, organised event. Of course to really excel, get yourself some coaching or do a course. If it’s a special occasion like a wedding, there is no second chance. If its work, make an outstanding impression to you bosses and work colleagues. Work on your eye contact, body language, stage craft and your tonality to make a real impression and take your presenting to a whole new level. You just don’t know what opportunities will open up.
As always we look forward to your comments and feedback.
My name is Con and I am The Con Versationalist.
Until next time, Bye for now.
Con is an accomplished and articulate speaker and presenter with over 25 years of high level sales experience.