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)

When your audience looks really bored…

You’re standing in front of 100 people. You’ve sorted out a presentation, summoned the courage to get on with it and have actually made a pretty good start. Then you catch a glimpse of tonsils as a man in the front row yawns, and all the nerves come flooding back. I’m not sure there is anything more off-putting then feeling you’re sending an audience to sleep.

I went to a Confident Communications workshop today at the British Library, put on by the wonderful Create KX. They put on lots of workshops for creative businesses or freelancers, which are either free or at a very reasonable cost, especially if you’re based in Camden. The workshop was facilitated by Kathleen Sullivan.

Practical workshops

One of the topics the workshop covered was public speaking. Although you may want to avoid public speaking at any cost, the practical bits of speaking workshops are always the most useful.

We had to stand opposite another person and talk about something that we were proud of or really interested in. I talked about getting my first children’s book published and felt slightly uncomfortable being so obviously the centre of attention. The other person had to listen intently and do all the right body language, listening, nodding, smilling, generally friendly and attentive. So a lovely woman called Harriet made it look like I was the most fascinating person on the planet. This made the job a lot easier.

When we swapped around, there was a mean trick. I had to convey all the body language associated with being incredibly bored.

How to cope when people look bored

It was interesting in terms of how Harriet was able to continue speaking despite my best efforts to look like a sullen teenager, rolling my eyes, yawning, crossing my arms, checking my (non-existent) watch, peering over her shoulder to suss out more interesting things happening in my room.  She said it was because the subject was travelling which was a big passion for her.

We both agreed, however, that it was easier because she knew I’d been told to look disinterested, and whether she’d be able to do the same in a real scenario would be another matter.

Something we’ve both experienced was the horror of freezing up in the middle of a presentation. Harriet did it in a room full of men as part of a work talk. I did it while talking about a new website and wiki to a roomful of local government representatives. Suddenly, I was aware of someone looking bored and I lost concentration entirely and the words stopped coming out of my mouth.

Tears in the toilet

Two of my colleagues jumped into the breach and started talking, at which point I managed to right myself and continue. However, it was followed by an torrent of tears in the toilets and a crushing feeling that I had humiliated myself and let down my team.

But I’m learning that it’s really not that important. I think I was building up my talk as a performance and all the pressure that comes with it. I am beginning to realise that it should just be a conversation, one of many conversations that you have as part of your day.

Don’t assume you’re boring

Another useful tip that somebody else told me (can’t remember who annoyingly), was that although people may be looking bored, it doesn’t mean they are bored. If someone yawns, then assume it is because they had a late night last night. I liked that advice as it counters that automatic assumption that you are boring and only capable of inspiring narcolepsy in an audience.

Great blog coverage of Public Speaking Made Easy

Some of the people who attended have written some great blog posts about the event.

Christian Heilmann, who spoke about how to inspire as a speaker and has summed up the event really well.

Suw Charman-Anderson, who attended and has done an amazing write up of the event — if you weren’t there, this gives the definitive version, with all the questions as well.

Ian Pouncey, who also attended and rounds up the key points from the speakers