#upfront with Year Here

YearHere is a year to test and build solutions to some of society’s toughest problems. I’ve been a big fan of this programme since it’s launch and I was delighted to speak at one of their Off the Record events at the beginning of the year. The panel I was part of was chaired by year here fellow, Mursal Hedayat, she talked to me very openly and honestly about feeling nervous before hosting the panel and it sparked the idea in my mind that I’d love to work with all of the Year Here fellows to support them in their journey to becoming confident on and off stages.

With their biggest pitch to date three days away Lindsay Dukes and I designed a workshop focused on public speaking, story telling and confidence. The day started with a check in where everyone in the group shared their current relationship with public speaking. We heard anecdotes ranging from it makes me feel like I’m about to jump out of an aeroplane to I actually get a real buzz from talking in front of people.

We then pitched in pairs. Everyone talked for one minute to a partner and then got immediate feedback. This is a very simple and quick way to get an immediate sense if you are making sense.

We introduced exercises and techniques around body, posture and breath. Lindsay Dukes is an actor and theatre maker and she introduced the fellows to very practical methods to help them become better story tellers. This picture shows the fellows learning how to warm up their neck and shoulder muscles correctly.

Lindsay showed us how to warm up our facial muscles to make articulation and voice projection easier.

We learned how to do a body roll to relax our entire bodies. We talked about a host of different things from eye contact to posture. We hold a lot of tension in our shoulders – that’s why it’s very useful to try and relax your arms. Most of us forget that our arms are physically attached to our body – we forget that if we let them go they won’t fall off. Try letting your arms hang loosely by your side. We talked about accents and realised that many of us make assumptions about how others perceive our accents. Try asking those around you what your accent sounds like to them and how it affects their perception of what you are saying.

What do you do if your body shakes? Well the truth is you can’t stop it from shaking. What you can do is a range of breathing and body exercises before hand and ideally every day that will prevent the shaking in the first place. If you are prone to shaking don’t hold paper because this makes the shaking more visible. Holding a pen is a good way to give your hands something to do that the audience won’t even notice.

How do you do all these exercises if you are sitting in the audience waiting for your turn to talk? There is no secret here. You have to do them regularly and often. When you are sitting in the audience concentrate on your breath – the out breath is your friend.

What is the best way to stand when you are on stage? This is hard. You can only get better with practice. Don’t rock. Don’t sway. Don’t cross your legs. Stand strong and firm and try not to move too much. I am working very hard on not crossing my legs. I realised a few years ago that I do this to physically make myself smaller. I am 5ft 9 and growing up was taller than most of my girlfriends so I’d cross my legs right over so I’d shrink. Now it just makes the audience think I need the bathroom. All my friends know I’m working on this and I have asked them all to tell me if they catch me shrinking. Ask the people around you to help you notice when you do things like slouch, hunch or fidget.

How do you drink water on stage? Well, you drink water. Simples. There is no secret or professional way to do this. The important thing to know is if you need a drink take the time to have one. It will be okay.

We then spent time talking about content. How do you sell your idea? How do you ask the audience for money or participation? How do you design slides? Do you have to use slides?

We then gave the fellows time to digest everything we’d talked about and design a new one minute pitch about their business idea to share to the entire room. Before everyone went on stage we asked them what they wanted feedback on. This is a good habit to get into because people can only help you if they know what you are working on.

Everyone spoke for one minute and Lindsay and I gave immediate feedback with the fellows chipping in on everything from assumptions to accents. For everyone in the room it was the first time getting such immediate and direct feedback and we sure did bust a lot of myths and assumptions.

The day ended with a love bomb. This involves everyone writing on a post it note what they love and appreciate about you and sticking it to your body. Yes it’s as fun as it sounds. Playing love songs in the background is optional but recommended.

At their pitched the fellows raised 50K for their ventures and we are so proud of them.

““ I can’t tell you how helpful your session was in preparing my pitch. Felt so much less nervous than I ever have before, and made sure I grounded myself and looked into the audience before starting. You also gave me the confidence to remember that our idea is exciting and to try and convey that on stage””

Big thanks to YearHere for having us. What an incredible bunch of people – you can read all about each and every one of them here.

A huge thank you to Lindsay for being my partner in crime.

“Yes – when doing the pitch last night, I was the most calm I have ever been when speaking in public ”

If you would like an #upfront session for your team let me know. We work with businesses in the public, private and third sector and design bespoke session based on what you need. We are also working with a range of schools.