The last long case you’ll ever do

Over the last couple of months, I have had the pleasure of working with the physician trainees at Southern Health as they prepare for their clinical exams. One by one they sat in front of me, reeled of their long case presentations anxiously trying to keep it within 12 minutes and not look at the video camera filming their every move. Together, we then watched their video back. The trainees often groaned and there were a number of “oh no, I can’t believe I did that” moments as their attention was drawn to their body language, eye contact, rate of speech and tone. It was understood that simply having the content of their presentation was not enough, they needed to work on how they said it.

The most common mistakes I noticed were:

  • Poor eye contact – with the time constraints and not having long to prepare, trying to maintain eye contact with the examiners was not easy.  However, trainees recognised that if they wanted to keep their examiner engaged they needed to look up.
  • Speaking too fast – again due to the time constraints, often trainees spoke without pausing (or breathing!). However, the pauses are often just as important as the words as they add variety to the way you speak and can highlight higher level thinking to the examiner that may have otherwise been missed.
  • Speaking all in one tone – speaking without any variety in your tone can make it difficult for your examiner to know what are the key bits of information they should be listening to. Adding variety to your pitch keeps it interesting to listen to and also conveys your interest and sincerity in the case.

My top tips for preparing for this exam are to:

  1. Audio record yourself – listening to your rate and tone will help you know what you need to work on in terms of rate, tone and articulation.
  2. Video yourself – this will help you notice your body language and eye contact
  3. Ask others for feedback – get them to to tell you if you say um too much or you don’t make eye contact or you speak too fast. Getting this immediate online feedback can help you change your behaviour straight away.

I wish all the physician trainees out there all the very best of luck with their exam. It is not long now!! Good luck!

 

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Be assertive; not aggressive

As a good communicator we want to influence our audience not make them feel defensive or pressured. But how do we do this? Our tone of voice, our body language and the words we choose have a huge impact on how we build a relationship with our audience in a meeting and in presentations. Here are some tips to make sure your message is understood the way you want it to be understood:

  1. Body language: Be aware of yours and others body language. What is it telling you? These non-verbal cues can help you know how your message is being perceived. Do people have their arms crossed? Are they leaning forward? Crossed arms c
  2. body languagean be interpreted as defensive or closed off. Leaning forward can be interpreted as interested and focused.
  3. Eye contact: Maintain eye contact with your audience. This helps them feel like you are interested and talking to them rather than at them and will also help them maintain eye contact with you rather them being distracted by their phone or notes.
  4. Watch your tone: If you sound defensive, like your are commanding or like you are whinging you are going to make people feel unheard and disrespected and they will switch off. On the other hand, if you smile, acknowledge others point of view and their contribution and make suggestions rather than demands you are more likely to be able to influence others into your way of thinking.

All of the above is about engaging with emotional intelligence. Watch others, reflect on yours and other’s behaviour and address it mindfully. This ultimately will make you a connected and assertive communicator rather than being perceived as aggressive.

 

 

 

How to deliver powerful presentations

Presentations are hard work and often we don’t put the time and effort into creating a great presentation and then we wonder why we get a mediocre response. Here are some tips to ensure that your next presentation makes your audience sit up and listen:

  1. Plan: Don’t start putting your presentation together the day before. Take the time to think about your key message and key points so that you focus your content on the important messages for your audience.
  2. Structure: Give your presentation structure so that your audience finds it easy to follow. Have a clear introduction followed by key points that are supported by stories and examples that reinforce each of your key points.
  3. Make it relatable: If your audience can relate to the content, they are more likely to remember it. Use stories and real-life examples that make people go “oh year, I know what that feels like”
  4. A picture speaks 1000 words: When you are putting your PowerPoint together remember the 7 x 7 rule – no more than 7 words per line and no more that 7 lines per slide. Your PowerPoint is there to support what you are saying not say it for you.
  5. Practise: You can’t expect your presentation to go well if you haven’t practised. Stand up and walk around the room rehearsing your talk out loud. This is the only way to get a feel of how it sounds and whether the structure flows. This will also make you feel more confident and comfortable with the material when you present.

10 ways to have a better conversation

In today’s society we have become so engrossed in our phones, our emails and Facebook that we are rapidly losing interpersonal communication skills.

I was having lunch with my husband on the weekend and when I looked around, we were the only two people that were not sitting across from each other on our phones. I was shocked and dismayed. So, coming across this wonderful Ted talk by Celeste Headlee was extremely timely and inspiring. The first thing to remember is that having a proper conversation is actually not easy. You need to be present, engaged, put your own judgement aside, be open to new ideas and really listen. This is all easier said then done and even I, when watching this Ted talk found myself thinking “oh, I do that…”

We need put the effort back into having great conversations.

Watch this Ted talk, listen carefully and then why not go out and try some of these strategies. I know I will.

 

5 tips to preparing the perfect end of year speech

The end of year function often proves challenging for CEOs and executives where they are required to give a speech but its often very casual and people normally have a glass of wine or other beverage in their hand.

Here are five tips to ensure that your end of year speech hits the right note rather than being off key:

  1. Remember, the focus of the event is on having fun and celebrating the end of the year so keep your speech upbeat, informal and short. Ideally, this speech should be no more than 3-4 minutes.
  2. Focus on positive achievements and celebrate these. This is not the time to focus on the “tough” times you went through this year or the tough times ahead.
  3. Make it personal and reflect on the year gone by. This is the time to let your employees know that you are human too. Let people know what you have enjoyed and learned this year by working with the team. Try to pick  2-3 highlights that encompass all that your organisation does so everyone feels a part of those achievements.
  4. Try not to use notes and definitely don’t use PowerPoint. This takes a speech quickly from informal to formal. Of course, you still need to prepare and you may want to jot a few key points on a piece of paper but this is not the time for a scripted speech.
  5. Finish on a high. Talk about the vision for the year ahead and how excited you are about working with the team to achieve this goal. Finally, wish everyone (from you, not the company) a safe and happy holidays with their families and friends.

How to answer that dreaded “Tell me a bit about yourself” question at a job interview

There are a lot of questions that are fairly common across job interviews which means you can prepare but I find that people have the most trouble answering this one – “tell me a bit about yourself.” People have told me that it makes them feel uncomfortable as they don’t want to come across as arrogant or like they are showing off. People also don’t know how much information they should be providing when answering this.

In my opinion this question is really your chance to shine. This is your opportunity to let the interviewer get to know a little bit about you, what you’re passionate about and where you come from. This is your chance to be memorable. The interviewer has already read your CV so they are not asking for you to summarise this, they are looking to understand who you are as an individual.

When preparing an answer for this question think about the following

  1. What are you passionate about in terms of your career goals? (this should tie into why you want to work for that company). Where have you come from (in terms of your career) and where do you want go? e.g. do you love a challenge, do you enjoy learning new things – give an example of when this has happened.
  2. What are your core values and do these resonate with the company for example, are you extremely passionate about the environment or politics etc?
  3. What do enjoy doing outside of work? – this demonstrates that you are a well-rounded person who respects a work-life balance. Of course, don’t say things like “I like to go out partying to 5am every night” but if you enjoy running or have other hobbies that you do with your partner, kids or pet that make you stand out, mention these here.

Through all of this, make sure you are making eye contact with the whole interview panel, not just the person that asked the question and keep smiling! Try to keep your response concise as this is only the opening question after all, there are still many more to come!

Going, going, gone: an auctioneer’s worst nightmare

What could be worse for an auctioneer that having lost their voice on auction day? Probably not much!

As a voice coach, I cringe when I see an auctioneer yelling across the street to potential buyers as cars drive past, trams ding down the main street and there’s not a microphone in sight.

The demands on an auctioneer’s voice and speech are huge in these situations. Not only must they be heard but they must be able to be understood. This means that there speech must be clear and articulate despite all the distractions and background noise. Finally, they must also engage their audience and keep them interested in the process. Not an easy task.

I have worked with both novice and experienced auctioneers. We have worked together on ensuring they get that loud voice but also ensure they look after their voices.  Here are some key tips for auctioneers:

  1. Breathe from the belly – rather than taking short sharp breaths which ultimately puts strain on your throat, take breaths deep into your belly. This way you’ll be able to project for longer and the strain won’t be felt in your throat
  2. Have periods of voice rest – if you know you have a big day of auctions coming up, rest your voice the night before and after your auction make sure you also have some quiet time
  3. Drink plenty of water – keeping your vocal tract moist and yourself hydrated is essential during these high voice use periods
  4. Warm up – Before your first auction for a day warm up your voice by humming and doing some breathing and pitch exercises
  5. Finish your words – When there is a lot of background noise and we have to maintain a high volume and speak quite fast, often we drop off the ends of our words e.g. the ‘-ed’ or ‘-ing’. With all the distractions at an auction, this can make it difficult for the audience to understand what has been said and if they can’t understand, they’ll switch off and not engage.

To learn more about looking after your voice and making the most of your voice, why not attend a few voice coaching sessions? Contact naanki@vocalchord.com.au for more information.