Tag Archives: credibility

8 Reasons Why You Should Stop Presenting From Behind a Lectern

On Stage RBS lectern 1b

I have been a speaker and/or an attendee at hundreds of conferences and events and it often surprises me how many presenters are happy to stand behind a lectern and deliver a speech; it really doesn’t do them any favours when it comes to communicating their message effectively.

Here are 8 problems connected with presenting from behind a lectern:

  1. It creates a physical and psychological barrier to what you’re saying
  2. It can seem like you’re hiding which can portray a lack of confidence (you may well be feeling less than confident but in most cases you don’t want your audience to know!)
  3. When your hands are not in view it can create a mistrust of you
  4. It restricts your movement and gestures, therefore limiting an essential part of your communication
  5. It can feel like you’re giving a lecture which in most people’s minds equates to boring so they switch off and don’t listen to you
  6. You will be tempted to lean on it or grip it instead of using gestures
  7. It can be more difficult to see the audience and their reactions to your presentation
  8. It can be more difficult for the audience to see you and if they can’t see you they are less inclined to listen to you

It can also look ridiculous if you’re short like me as the photo above taken at Royal Bank of Scotland Conference Centre shows. Compare that with the image below which really highlights the difference stepping out from behind the lectern can make.

On Stage RBS 7c

Whilst in some circumstances the lectern can define a position of power and credibility that you may not have, in most cases the benefits of coming out from behind the lectern are far greater. For example:

  • It portrays the message that you are pleased to be there and that you want to communicate effectively with your audience
  • It shows that you know your content and that you don’t need to hide behind a lectern
  • It makes you seem more approachable
  • It helps you to build rapport and create a better connection with your audience
  • It helps you appear more natural
  • It increases trust
  • It helps you to make good eye contact with your audience
  • It adds visual interest for your audience
  • It stops you relying on your notes and helps you to speak from the heart
  • It ensures people can see you and your entire body, therefore you have more of your communication tools available to reinforce your message with your gestures and movement – behind a lectern you only have your voice and face (if you’re tall enough for people to see you!)
  • It gives you the opportunity to anchor different parts of your speech to different parts of the stage or presenting area e.g. walk to a position and stop to deliver your next point before walking to another part of the stage

I don’t know about you but as an audience member I always find that talks and presentations delivered without the lectern are far more engaging; the speakers may make themselves more vulnerable but there is power in that. As a speaker I like to move about the audience where possible and when I do so I find I get a much better connection with people. There are of course challenges with that, such as moving out of the light, away from the microphone or out of camera shot if it is being filmed. However, if the organisers know in advance that you want to step out from behind the lectern they will usually be keen to make sure you have this option; just make sure you give them plenty of notice of your requirements and always ask for a lavelier microphone where possible to give you the most flexibility.

As a presenter it can sometimes be scary stepping out from behind a lectern, but the benefits to the way your audience relate to you and receive your message are so great that I encourage you to give it a try (even if you’re usually a lectern gripper like the woman in the cartoon below!)

LecternGripper_Final_2 sm

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 @MelSherwood_




Why I can’t keep quiet about my latest project!

Virtual Summit

Have you ever come across something that is such amazing value that you can’t wait to tell people about it?

Well, that’s the way I feel about the upcoming Boost Your Business Speaking Online Virtual Summit which I’m delighted to be part of.

The summit is mainly aimed at business owners currently using or thinking of using speaking to boost their business, such as speakers, coaches, trainers, authors and consultants. However, it is packed with value for anyone wanting to improve their public speaking generally or introduce speaking (online or in person) as part of their marketing mix.

I don’t want this post to sound salesy, but there are so many business owners and entrepreneurs I know who would find this summit beneficial, that I felt compelled to write it!

Over the three week summit, thirty expert speakers will be sharing their tips on:

  • How to give a great talk that engages your audience and increases your credibility
  • How to integrate speaking into your business model so you can increase your income potential significantly
  • How to market your speaking in new ways to reach those who matter most to your business

The topic I’ll be covering is ‘Offline Secrets for Online Speaking Success: How to Prime Your Body, Voice and Mind for Successful Presentations’ where I’ll be sharing why you should warm up before a presentation as well as loads of techniques to help you look and feel more centred, focused and confident when presenting.

Other topics covered include ‘Charisma: Discover the Secret of Audience Engagement’ with Nikki Owen, ‘How to Create a Persuasive and Inspiring Speech’ with Shola Kaye and ‘Confidence on Camera: How to Present Your Power for Video, Vlogs and Virtual Summits’ with Lottie Hearn. Plus info on creating online products, getting your contracts right, marketing using Facebook ads, Periscope and LinkedIn and much more.

If the summit sounds like something that would benefit you personally or your business, you can find out more and get access to the free digital magazine here.

I personally can’t wait to listen to the interviews over the next three weeks and to get hold of the value packed giveaways that every speaker will be sharing.

Here’s that link again – see you at the summit!


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

11 Ways to Kill Your Credibility as a Presenter

Public Speaking - Microphone

During a three day conference in London I had the opportunity to watch and listen to some incredibly charismatic and engaging presenters. Amongst them all, however, there was one presenter that stood out for all the wrong reasons and she has inspired this post. (As a female speaker with a mission to help more women present at conferences and events, I was disappointed it was a woman committing these presentation crimes!)

So what did this particular presenter do that led me to leave the room part way through her presentation because I felt my time was better spent in the foyer watching paint dry?

Here’s a quick overview:

  1. No clarity – she rambled from one thought to the next, often not even completing a sentence before moving onto another point without finishing the first.
  2. No structure – as above, she had no clear beginning, middle or end and left the audience confused about what exactly she was trying to say.
  3. No signposts – given the lack of clarity or structure, there was also no signposting so the audience had no idea what part of the speech she was up to and where she was going with it next.
  4. Didn’t deliver on promises – she made a bold promise at the beginning of her presentation that the audience would have extraordinary clarity on their business direction at the end of it; I just had a headache and confusion!
  5. Didn’t understand her audience – she was speaking to a room full of experts in their field, yet she shared basic information that most would have already known whilst trying to give the impression that what she was sharing was going to revolutionise their business and life.
  6. Inability to remember – she didn’t use notes and as she lurched from one random thought to the next, asked different members of the audience to remind her of what she promised to come back to. Then didn’t remember who she had asked!
  7. Didn’t know how to use technology – despite being the first speaker of the day with plenty of time to prepare, she hadn’t practiced using the technology so had to ask how to use it during her speech.
  8. Dreadful slides – the slides were boring, poorly designed and contained some inferior quality, out of focus images (she kept forgetting to advance the slides so they weren’t very useful anyway!)
  9. Revealed the presenting techniques she was trying but failing to use – she had clearly learned about the value of stage anchoring for different parts of her message but was thinking this through out loud and including statements like ‘Oh, this is a good part of the story, I should be standing over here now’ rather than smoothly and expertly incorporating the technique without it being obvious to the audience.
  10. Tacked on an offer to work with her at the end – after killing her credibility for about an hour and a half she then spent another twenty minutes telling us about how we could work with her and what a great deal it was.
  11. Went over time and even when she was finished she didn’t finish! – Several times she seemed to end the presentation and then said ‘Oh I forgot to mention….’ As a result, each time there was a quiet but still audible groan from the audience (or was that just me?)

Overall I found the presentation incredibly unprofessional and painful to sit through and I wasn’t the only one. To be fair, as I always like to give people the benefit of the doubt, this may have been the first time she had appeared on a stage in front of 130 people. And she did have some great qualities as a speaker – she had a lovely smile, friendly style, appeared confident, displayed no nerves and interacted with the audience quite well (129 other people managed to sit through the entire presentation so she must have been doing something right!) However, she would certainly have been familiar with the other high quality speakers appearing at the conference and should have prepared more effectively to provide the audience with more value and avoid being compared so unfavourably.

You may be familiar with some of my other formulas for successful presentations and pitches, so inspired by this presentation, here is my simple formula for how to kill your credibility as a speaker:

Poor Preparation + Poor Content + Poor Delivery = Credibility Killer

For the sake of your reputation and your audience’s experience, please don’t try it for your future presentations!

Mel Sherwood empowers ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to communicate with more confidence, credibility and conviction. She 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. To find out more about Mel’s inspiring talks, masterclasses and coaching programmes go to www.grow-your-potential.com or follow Mel on Twitter @Grow_Potential

What to Wear When Presenting

What to wear when presenting

Whether we like it or not, people are making judgements about us from the moment they first see us. As the saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a great first impression.  In fact research undertaken by Michael Solomon at the Graduate School of Business, New York University, found that people make 11 judgements about you in the first 7 seconds. These include whether they perceive you to be credible, trustworthy, honest, believable and competent. Therefore, when we are speaking in public it is crucial to think about the image we are presenting as this can have an effect on how the audience perceives us and receives our message.

So what are the considerations?

Firstly, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Where is the presentation taking place?
  • What time of day is it?
  • What is the occasion?
  • Who will be in the audience?
  • What are their expectations?
  • What is the dress code?
  • What image are you aiming to project?

Getting your outfit right can be tricky so I asked several colour and image experts for some tips. In a future post I will talk specifically about colour, but for now let’s focus on clothing and style.

Always be occasion-appropriate a.k.a. know your audience

Karen Finlayson from Colour Elements says “Your appearance is your non-verbal greeting – just as we might greet a person in their teens differently from a retired person, similarly it’s beneficial to consider modifying your appearance for different audiences.  The more easily people relate to you, the less distracted they will be by your appearance.”

Choosing an outfit that is appropriate to the occasion and the audience is crucial to establishing your authority and credibility. If everyone else is in a suit and you turn up in jeans and a t-shirt you will have to work harder to convince your audience why they should listen to you.

Don’t stand out from the crowd – just make sure you look different

In order for people to focus on what you’re saying the clothes you wear should be similar to the clothes that audience members would wear.  However, Karen recommends that there should always be an unexpected element that keeps the audience alert and helps make you memorable.  She suggests, “Rather than hinting at an out-and-out rebel this might simply be the use of a contrasting colour in a tie or a piece of jewellery with personality.”

Judith Campbell from Feel Brand New says it’s important to know your own style and develop how to look like the best version of yourself. Repetition of what works for you can become a very distinctive style e.g. same cut of trouser, always wearing a scarf, creative facial hair, red lipstick. She agrees with Karen that it is important to inject pizzazz into your wardrobe, “You don’t have to reinvent yourself, just learn how to add colour, print, texture that fits with your style personality.”

I recently attended an event at which Claire Boyles from Success Matters spoke about finding your business voice. Claire suggests keeping your outfit in line with your branding. For example she is known for wearing turquoise, a colour that features in her logo and business branding. Regardless of the style of clothing she wears, this consistency and repetition of colour means that whenever people see the colour turquoise they think of her. What better way to be memorable!

Your fabrics of choice are your hidden weapon

I have had the experience of wearing a flimsy cotton frock as a costume for a singing performance that I was particularly nervous about. Normally I’m pretty good at hiding any nerves I’m feeling or using them to my advantage to enhance my performance. However, during this particular performance my legs were trembling so badly that my dress was shaking! I’ve seen other examples of this as well so I always suggest that my clients choose a heavier fabric and a style that won’t show any quivering! Another tip is to choose fabrics that don’t crease where possible, or if they are likely to crease and you are travelling, it is a good idea to bring your outfit to change into when you arrive.

Karen also advises to choose your fabric with care. “Smooth fabrics will always look more authoritative, they indicate that you are more in control.  Textured fabrics look more casual and can look downright untidy.  Light reflective fabrics are often used for evening wear so be careful in your use of these fabrics for business – a small amount can make an outfit look sharper but larger amounts can look inappropriate for daytime public speaking.  With those points in mind consider the timing of your public speaking engagement and your audience.  People who work in services such as counselling will often feel more relaxed listening to a speaker who looks more relaxed (i.e. wearing tactile textures) whereas an audience from the finance sector will usually prefer to listen to a speaker who exudes control through form fitting shapes and smooth fabrics.”

Look good, feel good

Judith Campbell says 91 per cent of women agreed with the statement, “When I look good, I feel good.”  For many of us clothes are so much more than something to cover our modesty and keep us warm.  They can be confidence-boosters with transformative powers.  You probably have garments and accessories that make you feel great such as a favourite pair of high heels or a lucky tie. Just putting on these garments can help to change your posture and the way you carry yourself, and even your change your behaviour to enhance your performance.

It’s also important to choose an outfit that fits and flatters so that you feel great. Janice Bruce, Design Consultant for Home and Fashion, suggests dressing to suit your body type; you can minimise areas by selecting a style that skims your body rather than hugs it and by clever use of colour e.g. dark colours can sometimes be better on top is you are disguising a larger bust size, similarly for the bottom if a larger hip size.

Importantly, your outfit should be clean and well ironed with no missing buttons or falling hemlines and your shoes should be polished. Shoes with rubber soles are better if you are on a wooden floor as they make less noise when you move around. Think about your overall look including make-up, hairstyle and carefully selected accessories (avoid jewellery that jangles).

Ultimately though, it’s about ensuring that whatever you choose to wear is appropriate, comfortable, allows you to move well and makes you feel great.

What do you think? Have you seen any presentations in which the speaker’s outfit and image were spot on? What about those who got it completely wrong? How did it impact on their presentation? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section.

A special thanks to Karen Finlayson, Judith Campbell and Janice Bruce for their contributions to this post. Next time I’ll focus specifically on how you can use colour in your outfit to enhance your presentation. In the meantime, if you would like more hints and tips about public speaking, head over to www.grow-your-potential.com or follow me on Twitter @Grow_Potential


19 Benefits of Being Good at Public Speaking

success man small

Though most of us have the ability to speak, many are not able to speak well when in front of a group people. Yet, being comfortable and confident when speaking in public has the potential to enrich your life both professionally and personally. In fact, people who do speak well are predominantly more successful in life and work than those who don’t. Public speaking is not something that necessarily comes naturally to everyone, but like many other things, it is a skill that can and arguably should be learned. It doesn’t necessarily mean standing in front of an audience, but it can also include when you’re commenting in meetings or other at gatherings. Being able to speak well in public will:

  1. Improve your personal and professional reputation
  2. Increase your influence in decision making processes
  3. Help you to gain the trust and respect of others
  4. Provide an increase in personal confidence and self esteem
  5. Enable you to be seen as an expert in your field
  6. Provide an opportunity to promote yourself and your business positively
  7. Help you to develop the ability to articulate ideas and persuasive arguments
  8. Allow you to demonstrate poise and leadership skills
  9. Help you to stand out from the crowd and be memorable
  10. Eliminate the fear of being asked to ‘say a few words’
  11. Improve your job and promotion prospects
  12. Help you to gain publicity for your business
  13. Enable you to inspire and motivate others
  14. Help you to engage people at networking events
  15. Provide an understanding of how to use your body and voice effectively in all situations
  16. Ensure you think about your entire image and take pride in the way you present yourself
  17. Enable you project credibility and inspire confidence in others
  18. Help you to handle questions and answers
  19. Lead to you experiencing the buzz from entertaining and informing a responsive and appreciative crowd

These are some of my thoughts about the advantages of being able to speak well in public. Have I left anything out? Are there any other benefits you have identified about being able communicate effectively in front of a group of people? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section.

And of course, if you want to learn more about improving your confidence and public speaking ability, go to www.grow-your-potential.com for hints and tips and information about our courses and coaching services.

How to Kill Your Credibility (and Lose a Customer) in 3 Easy Steps


What do you want from a salesperson? For me, it is someone who asks me the right questions to find out my requirements and someone who has the knowledge and expertise to advise me about the right product or service to meet my needs.

What don’t you want from a salesperson? Someone who does the complete opposite!

Recently I went to a specialist shop to buy a new portable recording device. I haven’t bought a portable recording device since dictaphones had cassette tapes in them so I’m a bit behind the times in terms of what technology is going to best suit my requirements. After asking a few of my friends and colleagues I had a vague idea of what I would need, but I wanted expert advice to make sure that I purchased the right product for me.

On entering the store, which I won’t name but which claims to be ‘the electronics specialist’, I walked directly towards two salespeople and told them what I needed. An older guy said to the younger guy ‘You okay to help with this one?’ The younger guy hesitated before replying, ‘Um… I suppose so’.

The look on his face and the slump in his shoulders indicated that he wasn’t comfortable about it. He set off in one direction with me following before he turned and walked in the opposite direction muttering something about the products being in two places. Already I was not feeling confident about this interaction.

When we reached the products I was expecting him to ask me some questions about what I would be using the device for, but instead he gestured towards a range of approximately six different products.

I asked what the difference between them all was. ‘Um… I’m not really sure… um… I think these are a bit better than these… um… I’m not trained in every product in the store so you could just check the packaging to compare.’

When I jokingly mentioned that he wasn’t filling me with confidence about my purchase he replied, ‘All the sales staff have our areas of expertise and mine is in phones and computers.’ Hmm… pity I wasn’t buying a phone or computer. Digging himself deeper he added, ‘We do have experts in these products, but they’re not in today.’  By this time I was getting pretty frustrated. Fortunately I had done a tiny bit of research before I went into the store so I had a vague idea about what might suit my purposes. I was in a hurry so I selected the one I had seen online, thanked the salesperson for his help and headed to the checkout to purchase the product (making sure to check the returns policy should the product be unsuitable).

All in all, it was a fairly unsatisfactory exchange and it is unlikely that I will waste my time heading to this ‘specialist’ retailer in the future.

So what went wrong? Following are three of the key mistakes made by the salesperson:

Credibility Killer Number 1

Incongruent body language – your body language and facial expressions can communicate a strong message (often a different message to what you may intend) without you realising it. I knew how he felt about serving me before he opened his mouth to speak!

Credibility Killer Number 2

Lack of knowledge – if you’re going to promote yourself as a specialist, it is important that you can back this up with proof of your knowledge or at least a willingness to find out. (I appreciate that the company had most likely put this young person in the position of being undertrained for the role, but that’s for another post!)

Credibility Killer Number 3

Poor word choice – phrases such as ‘I think…’, ‘I hope…’, ‘I’m just…’ can undermine your credibility and make you seem uncertain. As can littering your conversation with ‘um’ and ‘er’.

So what can we learn from this experience? Being aware that your attitude can affect so many aspects of your communication is crucial. Adopting a confident helpful approach will help to overcome any concerns about your lack of knowledge; it will show in the way you express yourself through your body language and it will influence the words that you use in conversation. And portraying confidence, especially in a sales situation, will ensure that your customer will feel confident about investing in you or your product.

Confident, credible communication keeps customers – a new mantra for salespeople perhaps?

What do you think? Do you agree that adopting a confident, positive manner is the key? Maybe you’ve had a similar experience – share your thoughts in the comments section.

My nerves took me by surprise…

Nerves Credibility

Last week I ran a new workshop for the first time – Credibility Killers and How to Avoid Them. To make a point at the beginning of the session I introduced the workshop in a very non-credible manner in terms of my attitude, body language, voice and my choice of words. Whilst it was the perfect way to demonstrate the importance of credibility, there were a number of factors that completely surprised me.

Firstly, the woman who hired me was sitting in the front row and the look on her face said it all – mouth tensely pinched into a taut half grin, eyes boring into me willing me to be better or her reputation for hiring great trainers was on the line. She appeared to be incredibly worried about the outcome of the workshop after my lacklustre start; perhaps I should have warned her about my strategy and saved her the angst but her genuine reaction was priceless.

Secondly, the looks on the faces of the participants was quite unnerving. I knew most of the people in the room and they have seen me confidently pitching my business and helping them to add pizazz to their own pitches and presentations. Their expressions conveyed shock, concern, disappointment and discomfort. They wanted me to do well but were embarrassed for me as I bumbled along demonstrating my ‘non-credible’ approach. I could feel their anxiousness as they too willed me to meet their expectations of a dynamic presenter and trainer.

But the biggest surprise to me was my own response to their reactions. I am generally poised and self-assured in front of an audience, my skills of engagement honed through many years of performing, presenting and training. I called on my acting skills to get into the zone of a non-credible trainer and it worked; I could immediately feel and see the difference in the reaction of participants. What I didn’t expect was to feel nervous doing it! I knew I was acting, and I knew I was going to call ‘time out’ after the first few sentences before starting again in a credible manner. However, my nerves were feeding off not only the energy of my audience who were obviously tense and uneasy about how the session was going to pan out, but intensifying as a result of my own destructive thoughts, awkward body language and negative words and phrases.

I found myself displaying all of the classic symptoms of nerves – thumping heart, shaking voice, red face and an overwhelming desire for the floor to open up and swallow me. I got to the point that I wasn’t actually ‘acting’; I could sense any credibility I may have had was quickly being evaporated! Once I had called ‘time out’ and said I was going to start again it took a concerted effort to shake off those feelings and communicate in my usual confident and credible style.

It strongly highlighted to me the importance of having a positive attitude and using body language, voice and words from the beginning to establish not only credibility but confidence as well. A positive and interested response from an engaged audience helps to perpetuate the required poise but supplementing it with confident body language and a positive mindset can also can affect our body chemistry which makes us feel confident generally. By adjusting my attitude, stance and gestures I was ultimately able to stimulate the required confidence and credibility from within. But it was much harder than if I had walked into the room with that inner strength intact from the start of the session.

In a future post I’ll be looking at five areas that can reduce your credibility and what to do about it. In the meantime, I would value your comments about this post. Have you been in a situation where an audience unnerved you unexpectedly? What are your tips for managing it?