Category Archives: Communication

How to L.O.V.E. Public Speaking

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Long ago I lost count of the number of people who have said to me “I HATE public speaking!” But what if I told you that you could learn to love public speaking?

If you fear or loath public speaking and avoid it at all costs, you may be missing out on opportunities to promote your business, progress your career or share a few words about a special person at an important occasion such as a wedding or a funeral.

Like anything, the more often you speak in public the better you get at it, and the better you get at it the more you enjoy it. You may still experience nerves and that’s okay because nerves are completely normal, they mean you care. And you can learn techniques to help manage your nerves and get those butterflies to fly in formation.

But before you do that, you need to think about why you hate public speaking in order to be able to turn that around. So here’s my 4 step process to help you to L.O.V.E. public speaking:

LISTEN

The first step is to really listen to your thoughts, your feelings and your self-talk. What do you think about when you think of public speaking? Is it triggering memories from childhood when the kids in your class laughed at your presentation about your pet cat? Or maybe your thoughts are based on someone else’s experience; you may have learned that public speaking is scary or uncomfortable because that’s how a family member felt about it. Next listen to how you feel. Deep down in your heart, what do you really feel about public speaking? Often we can get our true feelings mixed up with our thoughts and with our self-talk.

So the final step is to listen to your self-talk. What do you tell yourself about public speaking? If you tell yourself that it’s hard, that you hate being the centre of attention, that it’s embarrassing and that you’re going to make a fool of yourself, etc. then that’s likely to be the case. You are reinforcing and attracting this outcome every time you say these things to yourself (or other people). So the first stage is to listen and notice your thoughts, feelings and self-talk.

OPEN YOUR MIND

All you need to start to change your mind from hating public speaking to loving public speaking is to open your mind to the possibility of it. Could you doubt your beliefs? I often do an exercise when coaching a client to help them shatter their limiting beliefs. We’ll start with their current belief which is usually something like “I don’t believe I can be a confident presenter.” And then I’ll ask them if there was any possibility of doubting that belief. All it takes is a tiny little shift to enable them to start to move away from that limiting belief and towards a more positive and helpful belief.

You choose all of your thoughts and beliefs. You also choose your attitude every minute of every day – you choose how you approach things and you choose how you react to things. So doesn’t it make sense to choose beliefs, thoughts and attitudes that help and not hinder your life? By choosing to open your mind to the possibility that you could enjoy public speaking (or least not hating it would be a start) you will have a much better chance of turning that hate to love.

VERBALISE AND VISUALISE

The next step is to share all of your thoughts and feelings either with someone else or write in a journal. Get them all out where you can start to properly address them. It’s important not to continually focus on the negative statements but instead take time to turn them into more positive statements and start to focus on helpful and encouraging affirmations. For example, change “I’m going to mess it up” to “I will prepare and practice so that I can do my best.” Or “The audience will be bored” to “I’ll make sure I understand the audience so that what I say is relevant and interesting for them.”

The second step in this stage is to use your mind to visualise yourself in your desired state, feeling poised, calm, self-assured and speaking confidently. This powerful technique is used by successful people from athletes to entrepreneurs and will have an incredible impact on the way you feel about public speaking.

EMBRACE OPPORTUNITIES

I’ve written many times about the fact that you can’t get better at public speaking without actually doing it. You need to embrace opportunities to speak in public but you don’t have to start with a 45 minute keynote in front of an audience of 3000. Perhaps start by challenging yourself to share your point of view or ask a question in a meeting. Or join a public speaking group such as Toastmasters International or my Monthly Masterclasses where you get a chance to speak in a safe and supportive environment. You could volunteer to give an update on your work at your next team meeting. Or go to a networking event where you have an opportunity to deliver your 1 minute elevator pitch.

Whatever steps you take, make sure you prepare, practice and give yourself lots of love and kindness beforehand and afterwards. Use the 4 step L.O.V.E. process and learn to love public speaking – I can (almost) guarantee it will build your confidence, open up new opportunities and bring wonderful experiences into your life!

If you enjoyed this article, click here to access Mel Sherwood’s ‘Top 5 Tips for Public Speaking Success’

Mel Sherwood is a pitch and presentation specialist who prepares ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to take centre stage, embrace the spotlight and present with more confidence, credibility and conviction. To find out more about Mel’s talks and programmes go to www.grow-your-potential.com or for public speaking and pitching tips follow Mel on Twitter @MelSherwood_

5 Ways to Appear More Confident When Presenting

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How confident do you feel when you stand up to speak in public?

How confident do you appear to be?

Would it surprise you to know that most people appear far more confident than they think?

Nerves before a presentation are normal and important. Feeling nervous means you care and, therefore, you will put extra effort into ensuring that your message is communicated to your audience in the best possible way. Nervous adrenaline is also useful for giving your presentation the energy it needs to keep your audience engaged, as long as you use your nervousness effectively rather than allow it to overpower you.

Almost everyone, even a professional speaker, will sometimes feel nervous giving a presentation, especially in the first few minutes until they get into their flow. But regardless of how nervous you feel, the great news is that you are unlikely to look as nervous as you feel.

In the past few weeks I have had the privilege of hearing more than a dozen speakers give talks on a variety of topics; most of them have been interesting and engaging but some could have been more effective if they portrayed a bit more confidence in themselves and their message.

So here are five easy ways to look and feel more confident when speaking in public:

  1. Dress for Success

At some stage in our life, most of us have worn an outfit that we didn’t feel good in; maybe it didn’t fit well or the colours weren’t flattering or maybe it was simply uncomfortable (unfortunately I find this with most high heel shoes!) You may have attended an event and realised that your outfit wasn’t appropriate; maybe it was too dressy, too casual, too thick or too flimsy, all of which can cause a different kind of discomfort all together.

The first step in feeling confident is to be confident in what you are wearing. Take the time to ensure your outfit is comfortable, flattering, appropriate for the event and represents you in the best possible way.

  1. Own the space

If you have been asked to give a presentation or talk it is because someone thinks you have something important or interesting to say. Even if you’re not feeling it, the audience expects you to project confidence in your message. One of the best ways to portray that confidence is through your body language as the audience will be reading this before you open your mouth to speak.

You will appear more confident if you:

  • check out and move about in the presenting space before anyone arrives so you can get comfortable in it
  • stand tall and straight with your head up
  • use the space available and don’t stand too far back from the audience (although only ever move with purpose; no aimless meandering!)
  • make eye contact with individuals in the audience rather than scanning over the tops of their heads
  • use open gestures and make them bigger if you are presenting in a larger space so that they can be seen in the back row and beyond
  • take a moment before you speak to stand and be fully comfortable before you utter your first words; this allows the audience to check you out visually and prepare themselves to listen

These suggestions will not only make you appear more confident but will help you to feel more confident too.

  1. Open strongly

You only have a few seconds for an audience to decide whether they are interested in listening to what you have to say so it’s important to engage them from the very beginning of your talk. A strong opening that connects with your audience will get you off to a great start and boost your confidence in those crucial first moments.

There are various ways to open a presentation including asking questions, telling a relevant story or incorporating the use of a prop for the element of surprise. Or you can use simple language to hook your audience in.  Here are two examples that I particularly liked from recent talks:

  • “Think back to when you were 8 years old…” – this approach allowed the audience to engage their brain and connect the topic with their own experience
  • “I wish you could have been there to see it for yourself…” – this approach was intriguing for the audience and we were immediately ready to listen to the story that followed

Decide on your opening and then practice it so that it comes across clearly and you can project confidence from the get go.

  1. Take a moment

When speaking live, all manner of things can happen to interrupt the flow of your presentation. Distractions inside or outside of the room (or inside your head!) can lead to you losing your place or having a complete brain freeze.  I saw this happen to two speakers recently and both of them handled it extremely well even though they both felt like it was a huge disaster. Whilst your first reaction may be to panic if you mess up for any reason, most times your audience won’t notice. And even if you do get complete brain freeze, your audience will not mind if you need time to find your place again. Smile and take a moment. When you have found your place, continue on from there; if you do this with confidence your audience will remember you for your message and won’t even recall you ‘taking a moment’ during your talk.

  1. Embrace The Applause

At the end of the presentation your audience will want to congratulate you on a job well done. However, I often see presenters give a great talk and then quickly scurry away the moment it is over (I have been guilty of this myself in the past). Regardless of how you feel your talk has gone, it is important to respect the audience and give them the opportunity to show their appreciation. Ensure you have a clear finish to your presentation, stand tall and look at the audience whilst they applaud you. You can also use this time as an opportunity to silently express your gratitude and thank them for taking the time to listen to you.
Even though most people cringe at the thought, I strongly recommend that you film every speech or presentation you make and then review it objectively afterwards. If you follow these tips, you’ll definitely look and feel less nervous, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how confident you appear to your audience as well as how much more effective you are at delivering your message.

If you enjoyed this article, click here to access Mel Sherwood’s ‘Top 5 Tips for Public Speaking Success’

Mel Sherwood is a pitch and presentation specialist who prepares ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to take centre stage, embrace the spotlight and present with more confidence, credibility and conviction. She is a multi-award winning speaker, trainer and coach and the founder of Grow Your Potential, which specialises in supporting individuals and organisations to design and deliver winning pitches and presentations.

Mel’s background includes over 20 years’ experience in public, private and not-for-profit organisations in Australia and the United Kingdom and she has also worked as an actor, presenter and singer. To find out more about Mel’s talks and programmes go to www.grow-your-potential.com or for public speaking and pitching tips follow Mel on Twitter @Grow_Potential

 

Why Improving Your Public Speaking Should Be Your Top Priority This Year

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Are you one of those people who wrote ‘Improve my public speaking skills’ on your list of new year’s resolutions? If so, well done and I trust you are well on the way to achieving your goal (if you’re not, read on!)

And if you haven’t included ‘Improve my public speaking skills’ on your list, perhaps you should ask yourself “Why not?”

The ability to clearly and confidently articulate yourself in front of a group of people is a key skill that has the potential to enrich your life both personally and professionally. There are many benefits including having the ability to promote yourself or your business, to increase your influence and impact, and to ensure you are seen as an expert in your field. It also means you’ll never be panicked when you’re asked to ‘say a few words’.

So what exactly do I mean by improving your public speaking? Well, that depends on where you feel you need development. There are three main areas you can focus on:

  • Confidence and Self-Belief
  • Content and Structure
  • Effective Delivery

Maybe you would like to focus on one area, maybe all three; regardless, unless you take action you can be pretty sure your public speaking ability will stay at exactly the level it is currently! So be honest with yourself and ask yourself:

  • What would improving my public speaking skills mean to me?
  • How committed am I to improving my public speaking skills?
  • Am I prepared to put in the effort required to improve?
  • What specific areas will I focus on?

Once you have identified your goal/s, plan some action steps to move yourself forward. For example, when it comes to confidence, often it’s the stories we tell ourselves that feed our fear and we need to find ways to overcome these limiting beliefs. If you want to focus on building your confidence, this could involve moving out of your comfort zone a little bit at a time; maybe try speaking to a stranger at the bus stop, volunteering to chair a meeting or reading some personal development material to help change your mindset. You could also consider seeing a specialist coach, hypnotherapist or NLP practitioner.

When it comes to designing and delivering a presentation, you can gain a lot of information by reading books, watching and analysing talks on YouTube, joining a public speaking group like Toastmasters International, taking a presentation skills class or investing in some coaching to learn the skills required. But remember that no matter how much learning you do, your public speaking simply cannot improve unless you get up and do it!

So surround yourself with supportive and encouraging people and just go for it. Whenever you do a presentation, make sure it is filmed so you can review it to see what went well and pinpoint what you can to do to make the next one even better.

As Dale Carnegie said, “Great speakers are not born, they’re trained.” We don’t come out of the womb being great at public speaking; like any skill it can be learned but it takes commitment. And it’s a commitment worth making because the benefits of improving your confidence and communication skills will be felt in every area of your life.

So what are you waiting for?

If you enjoyed this article, click here to access Mel Sherwood’s ‘Top 5 Tips for Public Speaking Success’

Mel Sherwood is a pitch and presentation specialist who prepares ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to take centre stage, embrace the spotlight and present with more confidence, credibility and conviction. She is a multi-award winning speaker, trainer and coach and the founder of Grow Your Potential, which specialises in supporting individuals and organisations to design and deliver winning pitches and presentations.

Mel’s background includes over 20 years’ experience in public, private and not-for-profit organisations in Australia and the United Kingdom and she has also worked as an actor, presenter and singer. To find out more about Mel’s talks and programmes go to www.grow-your-potential.com or for public speaking and pitching tips follow Mel on Twitter @Grow_Potential

The Show Must Go On: 7 Tips on How to Give a Presentation When it’s the Last Thing You Feel Like Doing!

Professional Speaking Association

For many people, the thought of delivering a presentation makes them feel sick with nerves. But what if you’ve been booked to speak at an event and you are feeling unwell?

I was brought up with a strong work ethic and wouldn’t dream of not going to work unless I was in hospital or dead! I’ve also had many roles in theatre shows where I had no understudy so there was no option but to perform, or I would be letting down both my fellow cast members and the paying public. As the saying goes, “The show must go on.”

However, last weekend during the Professional Speaking Association Annual MEGA Conference, I was starting to worry that the show would not go on, or at least my 45 minute session wouldn’t. The conference ran from Friday until Sunday; my session was on Sunday morning and I started to feel unwell on Friday evening. By Saturday lunchtime I felt like I had been hit by a truck; my body ached, I was overcome with exhaustion and my mind was so jumbled that I could barely string two words together. I was concerned but determined not to let anyone down so on Sunday morning, despite not feeling 100%, I put on my happy face and delivered the session I had been booked to deliver.

I learnt some important lessons as a result – here is a quick overview of what worked for me and what I will do differently in the future:

1. No one needs to know

Regardless of the fact that I was feeling increasingly unwell (and the pressure of speaking in front of 200 professional speakers when I wasn’t in top form), I knew that I would do my best to deliver my session as promised. Therefore, I decided not to let people know that I was struggling with my health and kept it from the organisers – they had enough to worry about already, especially as it turned out that two other speakers had to cancel on Sunday! I’m so glad I was able to fulfil my obligations and I hadn’t worried anyone unnecessarily.

2. Cancel all non-essential commitments

I had been really looking forward to the convention, the speakers, the learning, the networking, the gala dinner and seeing the fabulous Celia Delaney providing the after dinner entertainment. But it wasn’t about my wishes; I knew I had to do whatever it took for me to show up on Sunday morning and give my all to the audience. So I stayed in my hotel room and focused on getting well.

3. Give yourself the time to rest

Our mind and body cannot continue to deliver what we need it to if we don’t give it enough time to rest and recuperate. I had a lot of work on in the lead up to the conference and had been burning the candle at both ends. Eventually I just had to stop and give it some rest or I would not have been capable physically or mentally to deliver a 45 minute presentation to the standard that I and the audience expected. A good night’s sleep definitely contributed to feeling a bit better by Sunday morning. In hindsight, I realise I should have managed my diary better in the lead up to the conference and ensured I had enough rest time.

4. Treat yourself well

Not only do we need enough rest but we also need to fuel our bodies with healthy foods to perform at our optimum. As I had been so busy I hadn’t been food shopping so wasn’t eating well enough to give my body the nutrition it required to function at its best. I had even run out of vitamins! Once again, a reminder to myself to make my health a priority and to balance work with looking after myself.

5. Warm up effectively to give your best

My talk was titled ‘Prime Your Body, Voice and Mind: Off Stage Secrets for On Stage Success’; ironic when I hadn’t prepared effectively in terms of looking after my health! However, the focus of my session was about warming up immediately prior to giving a presentation to ensure you are in a state of readiness and fully present when you step onto the speaking platform. Therefore, I took my own advice and did a thorough warm up of my body, voice and mind. This really helped to lift my energy and enabled me to focus fully on the audience and the task at hand. If you don’t currently warm up before a giving presentation, I strongly urge you to do so and notice the difference.

6. Get over yourself and get on with it

My partner laughs when I use the phrase “get over yourself”, but that’s exactly what you have to do sometimes to get on with it. After an obligatory moment of feeling sorry for myself, rather than dwelling on how poorly I felt it was important to focus on being positive and on doing whatever it took to ensure I was able to meet the expectations of the audience and the organisers.

7. Smile!

Smiling releases endorphins that make you feel happier. Smiling is also contagious so it makes people around you feel good. Smiling, even when you don’t feel like it, is one of the best ways to feel better. I’m known for my smile so I shared it freely with the audience and by the end of my 45 minute session I felt much better. The feedback from the audience indicated that they felt good too!

Was I completely happy with my performance at the conference? No… (If I’m honest, I’m never completely happy and am always looking for ways to improve!) However, given the way I felt the day before, I was really pleased that I managed to find my sparkle and lift my energy enough to deliver the session to the best of my ability. And even better, the audience were none the wiser – they got what they needed and that’s all that matters!

Have you ever had to perform at your best when you’re feeling at your worst? What tips do you have to ensure the show goes on? I’d love to hear them; please do share in the comments section.

If you enjoyed this article, click here to access Mel Sherwood’s ‘Top 5 Tips for Public Speaking Success’

Mel Sherwood works with ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals who want to speak with more confidence, credibility and conviction. She is a multi-award winning speaker, trainer and coach and the founder of Grow Your Potential, which specialises in supporting individuals and organisations to design and deliver winning pitches and presentations.

Mel’s background includes over 20 years’ experience in public, private and not-for-profit organisations in Australia and the United Kingdom and she has also worked as an actor, presenter and singer. To find out more about Mel’s inspiring talks and programmes go to www.grow-your-potential.com or follow Mel on Twitter @Grow_Potential

How To Ensure You Are Understood

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Whether you are leading your team meeting, pitching to investors or talking to your partner over a romantic dinner, the ability to be understood is critical. What you are saying may be extremely important but unless your audience can understand what you’re saying your message will be lost. And one of the best ways to ensure that your message is understood is with good diction.

Diction is the opposite of mumbling; it requires the crisp, clear pronunciation of consonants. Improving your articulation takes practice but it is well worth the effort. And the great news is that even just a few exercises each day to strengthen and stretch the muscles involved in speech will have a significant impact. Exercises will also bring your attention to any habitual speech patterns that may need improvement.

The type of exercises I am referring to are tongue twisters. You will probably know many of them, there are thousands to try; each one exercises a different part of your speech and focuses on improving a different consonant.

Following my training as an actor and singer I barely go a day when I don’t do some sort of vocal exercises, and I ALWAYS do some tongue twisters before an important meeting, networking event or presentation. I find that warming up my articulators enables me to feel more in control of my speech and ensures I don’t ‘trip over my words’.

I’ll be sharing some of my favourite tongue twisters below, but before you start I recommend doing a few exercises to wake up your tongue and mouth:

  • Open your mouth wide and then pinch it tightly closed a few times
  • Mouth the word ‘WOW’ stretching it as wide as you can on the ‘O’
  • Make an exaggerated chewing motion as if you were a cow
  • Sweep your tongue around your mouth into each cheek and across the front of your top and bottom teeth then poke it out and move it about a few times

These might feel weird to begin with but they will make a huge difference when you start to vocalise your tongue twisters. A couple of tips for practising tongue twisters:

  • Begin repeating each phrase slowly and carefully making sure that each consonant is crisp and clear.
  • Then gradually increase the speed whilst still maintaining the clarity.
  • If you stumble, start again until you can do it quickly and clearly.

Now try saying some of the tongue twisters below:

  • Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?
  • She sells sea shell by the sea shore; the sea shells she sells are sea shore sea shells
  • I want a proper cup of coffee in a proper copper coffee pot; if I can’t have a proper cup of coffee in a proper copper coffee pot, I’ll have a cup of tea
  • The Leith police dismisseth us
  • Mixed biscuits, mixed biscuits, mixed biscuits
  • Suzy sells sizzling sausages; the sausages Suzy sells are sizzling
  • Red leather, yellow leather, red leather, yellow leather, red leather, yellow leather
  • Red lorry, yellow lorry, red lorry, yellow lorry, red lorry, yellow lorry
  • You know you need unique New York, New York’s unique
  • She is a thistle sifter and she has a sieve of sifted thistles, and a sieve of unsifted thistles because she is a thistle sifter
  • Five flippant Frenchmen fly from France for fashions
  • Betty Botter bought a bit of butter, but she said ‘This butter’s bitter. If I put it in my batter it will make my batter bitter.’ So she bought a bit of butter, better than the bitter butter, and it made her bitter batter better!

How did you get on? You’ll find that some are easier than others, and of course it is the more challenging ones that you should focus on!

To remind you on a regular basis of the importance of clear diction and to give you new tongue twisters to try, I have introduced #TongueTwisterTuesday. Follow me on Twitter @Grow_Potential or facebook at Grow Your Potential for a new exercise every week.

I’m always looking for different tongue twisters to try to please share your favourites in the comments section and I’ll add them to my list.

Mel Sherwood is a multi-award winning speaker, trainer and coach and the founder of Grow Your Potential, a company passionate about providing the seeds to speaking success. Mel’s background includes over 20 years’ experience in public, private and not-for-profit organisations in Australia and the United Kingdom and she has also worked as an actor, presenter and singer.

Specialising in helping others transform their life and their business through clear, confident and credible communication, Mel empowers ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to clarify their message, engage their audience and use their body, voice, mind and heart to enthusiastically and authentically express their ‘inner oomph’. To find out more go to www.grow-your-potential.com or follow Mel on Twitter @Grow_Potential

10 Tips to Make Challenging Conversations Easier

Challenging Conversations Made Easy

Do you avoid what you perceive might be a difficult conversation? I confess that I do! I am a person who likes to keep the peace; I dislike confrontation or upsetting anyone so I therefore find I am the queen of avoidance when it comes to speaking out about something that may cause angst for myself or others.

Once I had an ‘argument’ with a flatmate about something he said that upset me. But he didn’t even know I had fallen out with him! For at least two weeks following the incident I did everything I could to avoid coming into contact with him in our flat and secretly seethed every time I heard him even so much as clear his throat. But the argument was completely in my head and the only person it bothered was me; he continued happily with his life completely oblivious to my feelings.

Years ago I read the book ‘Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway’ by Susan Jeffers. At the time it helped me move forward with a situation I had been avoiding. Despite the fact that I can’t remember the content in detail, the phrase ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ has stuck with me and often comes to mind when I’m feeling anxious about a situation. This phrase is great advice for when you find yourself avoiding a potentially difficult situation. (Notice I said ‘potentially’ difficult situation – it is more often than not a situation that isn’t difficult at all; it is just our perception which has been blown out of all proportion by our overactive imagination). Remembering this phrase, I did finally face my fear and confront my flatmate with how I was feeling. As I suspected, he had no idea how his behaviour had made me feel but he was incredibly grateful to me for raising it and allowing us to clear the air.

I have a personal belief that when you hold onto negative feelings they impact on your physical body in the form of ailments of varying types and severities. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure that you find a way to express yourself and not continue avoid it.

So here are some tips for preparing and managing the conversation:

1. Purpose

Knowing why you want to have the conversation, what you want to accomplish and what would be an ideal outcome is the best place to start.

2. Past experience 

Consider what in your past experience may have led you to feeling the way you do about the situation. Has the other person triggered something in you that has led to you reacting in a certain way? Are you more emotional than the situation would normally warrant?

3. Point of view 

Think about the situation not only from your point of view but from the other person’s point of view as well. What assumptions are you making about them? Could it be possible that your assumptions are incorrect? Do they perceive the situation in the same way? Are they aware of what you want to talk about? How are they likely to feel about what you are going to say?

4. Preparation 

It’s important to spend some time thinking through and maybe even writing down what you would like to say.  Some suggestions for how you could open up the conversation to ensure the most favourable and least defensive response are:

I’d like to share with you something that has been concerning me and then it would be great to get your take on it so that we can discuss it. 

I’d really like to understand what just happened – do you have a moment to talk? 

I get the sense we have different perceptions about ___________ and I’d like to hear your point of view. 

I’m keen to see if we might reach a better understanding about ___________. I really want to hear your feelings about this and share my perspective as well.

Always approach the conversation with an attitude of curiosity; by stating up front that you’re interested in what the other person has to say, they are more likely to take the time to listen and engage in the conversation.

Once you have explored the other person’s point of view a good way to calmly express yours is by using the ‘UHT’ technique:

I understand… (recognise the other person’s point of view); however, … (outline your point of view), therefore I’d like… (outline your proposed solution).

5. Plan

Think about the possible outcomes and plan how you are going to handle different responses or emotions that may be triggered in you or the other person. Also consider the best time and place to initiate the conversation to ensure the other person is in the most receptive state.

6. Practice 

Sometimes when you hear your words for the first time out loud they can not only sound strange, but they may not come out quite the way you intended or with the right tone. Therefore, take some time to practice out loud, ideally with a trusted friend or colleague who will be able to support you and give you feedback as to how what you’re saying is coming across.

7. Position 

Where you are situated in relation to the other person can make a difference to how the conversation pans out. If you are sitting behind a desk this can create a barrier between you and the other person may feel intimidated. Consider whether it is best to be standing or sitting and aim to be at a 45 degree angle to each other rather than facing each other directly.

8. Pay attention

One of the most important aspects of any conversation is the ability to listen to the other person without interrupting. Pay attention to what the other person is saying, listen with an open mind and let them know that you understand. Take a moment to clarify anything that isn’t clear. Notice their body language and tone of voice as well so that you can get a sense of how they’re feeling when either of you speak.

9. Personal power 

It is crucial to remain calm and centred as this is where you have most control.  Before you approach the other person take a few deep breaths and focus on managing your emotional energy. If you feel yourself (or the other person) moving off-centre, concentrate on bringing yourself back to centre as this will ensure you stay in control and help the other person to remain centred as well.

10. Positive outcome

Aim for a positive outcome from the conversation. Even if it’s not the outcome you had hoped for, at least know that you did everything you could to communicate effectively and keep the relationship on positive terms.

What about you? Are you a person who avoids what you perceive to be difficult or challenging conversations? Or are you always up front about what’s on your mind? If you’ve got some techniques that have worked for you I’d love to hear them – just add them in the comments section.

Mel Sherwood is a speaker, trainer and coach and the founder of Grow Your Potential, a company passionate about providing the seeds to speaking success. Mel’s background includes over 20 years’ experience in public, private and not-for-profit organisations in Australia and the United Kingdom. She has also worked as an actor, presenter and singer and she is a multi-award winning speaker.

Specialising in helping others transform their life and their business through confident and credible communication, Mel empowers business people to clarify their message, engage their audience and use their body, voice, mind and heart to enthusiastically and authentically express their ‘inner oomph’. To find out more go to www.grow-your-potential.com or follow Mel on Twitter @Grow_Potential