PWI event: Boost Your Personal Communication Skills

Some time ago I attended a PWI event and Elisabeth Van Den Bergh was the special guest on this occasion. As an expert in communications, she gave us very valuable information to do public presentations.

The 3 key components in any communication, she said, are:

  1. Confidence: how you convey the message
  2. Content: the message itself
  3. Connexion: how the message is received by the audience

Knowing that, put yourself in a confidence mood by telling to yourself: “What I’m saying matters” before going in front of your public. Another way to boost your confidence, remind yourself of something you are proud of, something you did right in your near past.

What if you freeze? Joke about it! Prepare a slide with a picture and show it to the audience saying “You have seen a speaker that wants to run away…I’m sure I’m not the only one you saw like that”. Or just stop yourself, concentrate, breathe and then only deliver your message: it will be less quicker and with a better voice.

Elisabeth was very strict with this advice: NEVER begin a presentation by apologizing. It undermines what you’ll say next. You’re there as a speaker because your information or your perspective on the matter is relevant.

When preparing your talk, use the PWEP structure:

  • Point: This is my point, because…
  • Why: … it is important (mention the impact) …
  • Evidence: … here come the figures, or better: tell them the story behind, and anecdote or an example …
  • Point: .. and that’s why … (make here reference to your initial point)

They key word when going public is to ANTICIPATE the problems. What if I have a cold audience? What about difficult questions? How to stop a person from talking? We discussed some of these situations, here is my pick of her advice:

I you have a cold audience, remember that they are not against you, they are just turned to themselves. Ask them : “Sorry, what’s on your mind?”. Make them feel comfortable, explain why the talk is relevant for them “Who in the room wants … or has … or expects…?.
What if they don’t participate? Propose to give them a chocolate to the first who’ll dare answer honestly.

She gave us great tricks to deal with unforeseen or complicated questions for which you may not have an answer on the spot: collect 3 questions before answering them, so that you have some time to think on the answers. If you cannot find the right answer directly, don’t hesitate to say “I’m happy you are engaged with the subject, I’ll come back to you during the break” or “I’ll come back to this after the break”

You can also divert the question by saying: “It’s a little bit out of the main subject”, or “Your input is very interesting but we are on a tight schedule”

As already mentioned, the solution not to be trapped by a difficult questions is also to anticipate. Anticipate indicating the form of the Q&A session:

Tell them upfront: “I expect questions at the end” or “We will have 5’ for questions at the end”, so they can prepare them and know the structure of your presentation.
You can tell them the format in which you want their interventions, like asking them for their background before voicing the question: “Tell us your name, organisation, and please make a question, not a statement”.

If the person doesn’t stop talking, ask him/her: “Could you please come to a conclusion?”

By the end of the evening we felt more confident, knowing how ANTICIPATE and deal with those particular points. Thanks Elisabeth!

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