The Next Women Pitch Evening

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The Next Women is a company that informs and inspires a community of entrepreneurial women around the world. The Next Women also organises pitching, networking and mentoring events. Their first event in London was hosted in the Orrick building which supports gender equality.

I found myself ushered toward a room full of what I can only describe as a “sea of black suits’ – everybody seemed to be very driven and very sure about exactly what they want and need. The atmosphere felt heavy with pressure. The event was for chosen entrepreneurs to pitch to a live panel of entrepreneurs who also invest, as well as a small audience of entrepreneurs and others willing to learn. The goal was to be chosen by the panel in which mentoring for their business was offered.

The pitches by the entrepreneurs were to be a presentation timed to 3 minutes. Keeping the presentation to such a short time is a difficult task for anyone, and unfortunately the majority of the participants were unable to keep to this short time. However, despite the short amount of time they had to make an impact on the investing panel and the audience, many of them presented their own start up businesses extremely well.

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After watching all the Pitches, I felt that some of them were better than others. These are the things which I felt put their Pitches above their competitors:

Eye contact
Despite the fact that the panel and the audience were in different places in the room, I felt that the majority of the pitches held really good eye contact. Eye contact is important because it engages the audience and makes them feel more involved.

Clear presentation slides
You want the audience to be listening to you and occasionally glancing at the screen when you point or refer to something. If it’s full of information, they will be looking at the screen not you. You should be telling them the information. One presentation had their slides so full, one of the audience asked if they could have a copy of the Power Point to look at at a later time. I think that all the important information should be short and sweet, the talking part should support and back up what is on the screen,

Preperation
After every presentation, each person had a 5 minute grilling session in which the Judging panel were able to ask questions. The majority of the presenters were able to give them confident answers. Knowing your stuff is extremely important. Breathing is important to, many of them paused, took a breath and then began to speak. When you stop breathing, you stop thinking.

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Watching the pitches back to back allowed me to compare and contrast each presenters way of pitching. I feel that a few pitches could have been a lot better with a few modifications.

Timing
The majority of the pitches found it difficult to stick to the allotted time per person and had to be ushered from the sidelines. The only way to make sure you keep your time is Practice. I find that a good way of doing this is filming yourself doing your talk. This way you can time your piece as well as seeing what others see. Which is never as bad as you think it is!

Slides
Lets be realistic with the amount of information you want to share and how much you can share. If you have 15 slides for a 3 minute talk, that pushes it to 12 seconds per slide. Rushing through your slides, will make your audience will feel rushed. I try to time it as 20 to 30 seconds per slide.

Assuming makes…
One of the pitches assumed that when the audience said ‘yes they understand’ assumed that the judges also understood. This led to one of the judges asking the presenter to re-explain their point at the end of the presentation. I think a better way to go about it would have been to use the time to quickly explain their point instead of asking for a raise of hands. This way time is used more efficiently.

Overall all the pitches from the entrepreneurs were delivered well. They were confident, calm and knowledgeable. The winning pitch was in fact one of my top 2 presentations, whether this weighted the decision of the investment panel we will never know. But when the idea is great and the presentation is clear and delivered well I think that it’s always a winning combination.

The Dreaded Limelight

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I had my cue cards ready and I practiced until I was blue in the face, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I just wanted to have it over and done with. Surprisingly I was more excited than nervous. It’s always interesting to see what others think of what you do, especially when they have the same interests and are going through the same degree as you.

It was the moment of truth, my tutor called my name and it was my turn to stand there and talk about me. When I noticed I left my cue cards on my seat. With a second spare it was fight or flight – I ran to my seat and grabbed my cards at which I hardly used, but it felt more like a comfort blanket. My slides (see below) prompted me to talk about certain points, I had no writing on my slides and I just wanted them to be pictorial as my commentary should be enough.

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After attending a fair amount of workshops for Public Speaking, I decided to go with the tips from my latest workshop held by Academy at the Hub and was hosted by Jude Clayborne (see previous blogpost here). It was a very relaxed, casual talk as the audience were all students. I used the energy and feel of talking to a really good friend which I realised seemed to relax me and allowed me to speak freely and comfortably which I discovered at my latest workshop thanks the Jude.

The talk went swimmingly and even had some students approach me after the talk to ask some questions as well as advice. I think i really need to remember the next time I’m asked to do a bit of public speaking or am shoved unexpectedly into the limelight that It’s really not that terrible and they’re not wolves and they aren’t going to eat you.

Me 1 – Wolves 0.

The Three P’s

I have been asked to talk at a lecture for 10 minute about my year working in the industry- Que Presentation preparation, panic, and practice.

For the past year I have been on a sandwich course which allowed me to pursue internships within the creative industry. Being apart of this sandwich course was a big deal for me, I applied to London College of Communication for Graphic and Media Design because I saw that they had an option to undertake a year of work. There is nothing more I wanted than to move away from part time retail and work where my heart, thoughts and skills lie – Graphic Design. Above are some photos from my year in the industry.

This year was no where near an easy feat. I had to go head to head with graduates and apply for the same internships that they were. The year was a roller coaster of emotions as rejection and unanswered emails were a daily thing. However I used these experiences to better my cover letters and interview skills.
Tomorrow I am to present to a lecture hall full of  2nd year degree students and show them how working a year in industry has benefited me as a person and as a designer. The presentation is timed to 10 minutes and I will be presenting along with my peers that also undertook this course. I have only had 3 days to prepare (and panic a little) but wish me luck!

See how it went here.

Public Speaking Ninja Workshop

The evening began with anticipation as the workshop was described as a ‘practical, interactive and playful session.’ I’m always one for being a team player, but something told me this would not be a regular workshop. I arrived flustered as the directions as to where the workshop was wasn’t particularly great, and only happened to stumble upon the workshop by tip-toeing into a large building to ask for directions. The workshop was run by Jude Clayborne (photo above), she is an actress, writer, facilitator and linguist. The workshop was help by Academy at the Hub who hold workshops, classes and events to develop and support entrepreneurs.

After finally finding my feet I found that I was 1 of 5 people which resulted in a very personal workshop. It was great to see that there were people from different professions wanting to better their skills at public speaking. Jude, the workshop leader was fantastic at making everyone feel relaxed and immediately put me at ease.

The first exercise we did in the workshop was to introduce ourselves and explain why we were there, and what happens when we speak publicly. This was actually really interesting and nice to hear why other people were also there. This also allowed Jude to understand what sort of problems we faced. My favourite exercise seemed extremely unorthodox and felt (at first) really silly. We stood in a circle and with direction yelled quotes from a very retro Eastenders cast. Quotes included “Get out of my pub” (pretend pint pulling included) various Phil Mitchell impersonations and “Ricky!”. A variation of “Wellard!” was discussed, but never used (unfortunately). The yelling was structured in such a way that one quote was in reply to another. It was sort of a ‘round robin’ game in which we had to be on our toes. This exercise allowed each of us to accept that mistakes could be made without persecution and were in fact in this exercise celebrated! Doing this as a first exercise was like jumping in the deep end (literally) most of our deep fears of Speaking Publicly (Looking silly) was being shoved into the limelight. Although daunting, it was really affirming and helpful.

The most helpful exercise was when we were instructed to harness a particular energy, for example pretending as if you’re speaking as an Evangelical Christian, speaking to young children or a being secret gossip. We first practiced using this energy in a bombastic, almost over the top way, which was then followed by using the same energy but in a less obvious way. This technique seemed to inset a sort of energy into the way we spoke in which we found comfortable and helpful. Each person had a different technique which was highlighted for each person.

When one speaks publicly, one always appears to be afraid that the worst is going to happen, that they are going to get eaten alive, that they (heaven forbid) make a mistake and look silly. One (of many) thing(s) I learned is that there is nothing wrong with looking silly – It’s not the end of the world.

The rest of the workshop was spent finding and then harnessing a particular method that enabled us to speak publicly with diction, heartfelt enthusiasm and a secret energy. Everyone had a different method, and a workshop with a small number of participants allowed us to work with Jude to identify it. Some parts of the workshop had a Mr. Miyagi moment, at which at first one thinks ‘why on earth am I doing this’ only to have it unravel at a later point, showing how important and poignant that particular exercise was.

Overall, the workshop was enlightening and most definitely helpful. Jude’s personality and nature really helped the workshop become a learn and play exercise. I feel like I was able to take away some really useful tips from this workshop. That you shouldn’t be afraid to make a mistake, we are all human and can’t deliver spotless, perfect speeches or pitches (yet). That imagination will take you further than you think, visualising that big lump in your throat dissolving will actually make it feel like it has disappeared. Having a secret energy that allows to you speak easily and energetically about your subject will do wonders to relax you and enable to you speak efficiently and comfortably. But most of all, posture and warming up your muscles will make a huge change! It was a wonderfully different workshop which was most certainly worth the energy and effort put in.

Workshop visited and post written by Kristine Omandap.

Let me intruduce myself

Hello people of the internet, my name is Kristine Omandap. I am the Communications Officer, I help manage Speaking Out’s various Social networks as well as attend events on behalf of the Company and write about them in our blog. I am a Graphic Design student in my final year who has recently finished working for a year in the creative industry.

My relationship began with Speaking Out events because of my habit for cowering behind others, keeping my lip buttoned or pretty much to do anything to avoid speaking in public.

My particular difficulties seemed to lie within situations in which what I am saying holds any sort of importance, be it a graded presentation, a pitch to a client or even raising my hand to ask a question within a lecture hall. Being a young Graphic Designer (soon to graduate) I feel that it is important to better my skills in public speaking as pitching against other creatives is a very real possibility when doing that all important thing that is earning money, acquiring employment and meeting clients.

Speaking Out has helped me enormously. Do not get me wrong, I am not fully ‘cured’ I still have qualms with speaking publicly in front of others. However, working with Speaking out has allowed be to understand and remember key things which help me to contain my fears and keep my gestures to something positive. I am still working towards becoming better at Public speaking, but It’s something that only gets better with practice. (Que quickened heartbeat)

Inspiring Leaders – event on public speaking and leadership training

A great event taking place on Saturday 6 November.

Inspiring Leaders, a partnership event between Camden Speakers Club and Progressive Women, is a day of leadership training, discussions and debate.

They are working together to ask questions, spark dialogue and find solutions. Do you want to learn from women who made it to the top? Explore the obstacles and gender imbalance of leadership and discuss what needs to be done? Be inspired to pursue your own ambitions?

Keynote speaker: Fiona Mactaggart MP, Shadow Junior Minister for Equality, will share her lessons on leadership

Other speakers: Professor Deborah Cameron (Oxford University linguist and author), Louise Doughty (novelist), Boni Sones (Executive Producer, Women’s Parliamentary Radio), Vicky Booth (Lib Dem Campaign for Gender Balance), Lee Chalmers (leadership coach), Kathryn Perera (Labour Women’s Network, barrister and writer)

Training includes: public speaking, debating, self-promotion, the path to self-employment, confidence and communication, assertiveness, a political career.

The event is open to women and men of any age and any background, and has disability access.

Cost: £12.50

Saturday 6 November, 10:00 – 16:00
London Irish Centre, 50-52 Camden Square, London, NW1 9XB

Book here

Girl Geeks manga discussion – speaker tips

The London Girl Geeks ran an event as part of Sci-Fi-London on 29 April 2010. It was a discussion on manga with three women in the industry – Emma Vieceli, Kate Brown and Karen Rubins.

One thing I noticed was how relaxed and informal it was. Everyone was taking turns to say things, and it was just like a chat.

I spoke to Karen Rubins afterwards (check out Karen’s website for some amazing manga and graphic novels) — during the discussion, she came across as very relaxed and comfortable when she was speaking, and wanted to get her take on it.

Karen Rubins self-published a graphic novel The Dark, co-authored with her sister Anna, and her Manga Tales by Ghost Light was nominated as a runner up and exhibited in the Embassy of Japan’s Manga Jiman competition.

Karen said the comic industry is more informal and the three women know each other — so this could partly explain why the discussion was so comfortable.

Karen’s tips and experiences as follows:

* The first thing to do is make a joke and make sure it’s funny, gets the audience on your side. It lightens the mood. (Although this has been disputed by someone else the other day, who said never make a joke – so who knows about this one! Guess it depends on whether you feel comfortable enough and, as Karen says, it’s funny).
* Try not to read out the stuff that you write on a slide, as the audience would have already read that
* I was nervous when making presentations before but has done it loads now, and practice really helps
* There was a big presentation at the V&A in front of 100 people, was very nervous (she became the first comic book artist in residence at the V&A). But the thing is that when I am nervous, I seem really relaxed. Someone said in the lift, oh you look really relaxed
* Then the thought occurred: they’re just normal people like me. And they’re interested in what I have to say.
* At the manga event, I couldn’t see anyone in audience, it was totally dark so it was just like having a chat with the others on stage

Speaking Out – at City Hall

The Speaking Out event at City Hall was a great success.

Around 75 women from the Greater London Authority Women’s Network got together on Tuesday 20 April 2010 to watch presentations from from Rosie Boycott, Chair of London Food, and Speaking Out presenter Katie Streten.

Guests then took part in one of three workshops on public speaking: how to feel comfortable and confident (Katie), how to handle male-dominated environments (Emer Coleman, London Alliances Project Director) and how to engage with an audience effectively (Christian Heilmann).

I had a chat with one of the women after the workshops to find out about her dislike of public speaking and whether the workshop with Katie had helped:

See more about the event, including photos and videos

Friends: the one with the English accent

My friend is charming, good-looking and very composed (yes, all very annoying, and it has been from a young age when all our mums loved him).

I thought he’s be perfect to chair the first Speaking Out event back in February when I was still resolutely refusing to do it myself, as he’s very friendly and puts people at their ease.

So, I wrote him the following email:

“I need someone who is  friendly, good at speaking in public, able to take questions from an audience, good at operating laptops, and likes chairing events. So, obviously, I thought of you! (apart from the chairing event thing as I don’t know if you ever do that, but I imagine you’d be bloody good at it.)”

He responded to my request with this:

“To be honest public speaking still brings me out in a cold sweat – I’m slowly getting used to it but certainly not the person to be giving lessons. I wish! Sorry 😦 ”

I was very surprised. He is one of the most self-assured people that I know. I met up with him and another friend yesterday for a drink.

He’s told me that he’s doing a talk in America in the summer in front of 200 people which lasts a whole hour. “I’m really not looking forward to it,” he said. “It’s not so bad because it’s with students and it’s in LA so they’ll like my English accent.”

Now, I have no idea whether the audience will like him better because of his English accent, or if he’s just scrabbling around for reasons to make himself feel better, but it reminded me of the episode from Friends when Ross gets really nervous delivering his first lecture and speaks with a (bad) English accent.

My other friend suggested that he make the talk more interactive, and ask questions or perhaps do a quiz. I suggested perhaps less helpfully with regards to improving confidence with public speaking, that he play a long film clip to eat up some of the vast 60 minutes chasm.

But I must say that if someone who has won over all mothers with his confidence and charm, manages to get nervous when speaking in public, then there’s hope for us all.

It means that nerves around public speaking are very common and affect even the people who look totally assured. Don’t assume it’s just you.