Monday, November 14, 2011

Encouraging, life-enhancing, useful self-talk

How vital it is to ensure that our self-talk is healthy and is moving us towards wholeness.

The work I'm presently doing with a client is once again strongly reminding me of this. Again and again negative self-talk comes up in my teaching.  Again and again it arises in my own life.  Again and again I teach and learn how we can face our self-loathing and hear our inner voice speaking to us of our hopelessness and unlovability. Again and again I am amazed at how we can transform our experience by transforming our self-talk.

This particular client is frequently faced with a task which she believes she cannot hope to complete successfully. It involves speaking out in a professional situation in a language which she believes she speaks incompetently.

I asked her to identify her self-talk after a recent work meeting during which she delivered a report. When she realised that the only thing she told herself afterwards was, "That wasn't good enough.", she was filled with sadness.  My client at once understood how this self-talk made her disheartened and afraid, how it drained her of confidence. 

She also gained insight into just how important it was to her to be "good enough" and how much fear and anxiety she could generate around these feelings.

So now together we realised how negative, stale and even laughable her self-talk has been.

And now together we have arrived at some new self-talk for her. Statements which are encouraging, useful and truthful for her now.

"That wasn't good enough" becomes "That was good enough for now"

Her list "I'm not ... " becomes a summary of positive qualities and skills 

"I am ... "

Instead of highlighting incompetence in her speaking skills by saying "I'm bad at ..." she identifies strengths and tells herself

 "I'm good at ... "

She enhances her transformation by telling herself how she is changing:

 "Day by day I am becoming more ..."

So I encourage you to identify your self-talk and then to shed that which is old, stale, useless.

Be kind to yourself and tell yourself what you long to know: that you are, above all else, completely lovable; wholly worthy of being loved and loving.

I find this affirmation to be useful and life-enhancing, it's from Margaret Fourie's book "TALK' (Metz Press, 2007) 

"I am competent, confident and worth loving" 

Indeed you are and good luck with your presentation!

For more about me and the communication coaching I offer go to my website

Monday, October 31, 2011

Some inspiration and encouragement, enjoy!

Feeling low? Down at heart? In need of some encouragement and inspiration?Be heartened by the fulfilment that others have found and know that it's possible for you to tap into this in your own life in your own small corner of the world, however this may be, wherever you may be, whoever you may be.

Follow the link to a brief uplifting reminder of how others have succeeded in spite of obstacles

Monday, August 29, 2011

Latest rates September 2011

One of the first questions most of us need to ask about coaching and learning programmes is, "How much will it cost me?" My clients are sometimes surprised at how affordable my rates are, someone recently described my prices as "too cheap". That may be so for some, but I aim to remain affordable for ordinary Capetonians who want to improve their lives and perhaps their working prospects.

My latest basic rates as from 1 September 2011:

Communication coaching (one-on-one) R190,00/hour

These sessions are full of possibilities.  They can be about anything and everything to do with communication. We may include confidence, self-esteem, understanding personalities, voice and speech skills, public speaking, business presentations, interpersonal communication, social anxieties, social skills, customer interactions and other related material which will help you.

EFT R160,00/session or R900,00 for 6 sessions. The length of an EFT session is between one and two hours.

Group workshops and group learning programmes are priced according to content and timing. We start with an assessment for you or your business and employees, so contact me to get started.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Be more coherent using Linking Words and Phrases

Along with confidence and credibility, coherence is a quality the audience looks for in a speaker and in their presentation.  The Concise Oxford dictionary says that the adjective "coherent" describing a speech means that it is "logical and consistent; easily followed". Language provides us with many devices we can use to show how our ideas are connected so that our thinking is easily followed.  In my experience, however, these devices are not always readily available to us when we are speaking our second or third language.

During the past couple of weeks I've been working with a client who, like most English speakers, did not have English as his mother tongue.  We had noted that his presentations sometimes lacked coherence even though his thinking was logical and were working together to improve this. I was reminded of how valuable it is to show how ideas are connected, in other words to show our thinking.

My client achieved great results simply by using linking words and phrases to show how his ideas were connected and point to his thinking.  At once his seemingly disconnected and random points hung together like beads on a thread.  The flow of his speaking became easier as well and he was able to speak more comfortably without referring to his notes as often as he had been.

Whether or not you are a first language English speaker you might find it helpful to use more of these words and phrases to connect your ideas and show the logical structure of your presentation. Of course, you can use them in your writing too.

Beware! Using a few linking words here and there is not a magic cure-all for poor thinking, inadequate research and lack of planning and certainly won't make a brilliant presentation out of a few random bullet points.  However, especially if English is not your first choice of language to speak in then these words and phrases may be helpful to you.


To extend the idea: further; furthermore; in addition; as well as this; firstly . . . secondly

To state the idea again in another way:  that is; in other words

To show contrast in ideas or to note exceptions: however; on the other hand; nevertheless; unless; either . . . or; neither . . . nor

To explain a cause or reason: because; for this reason; owing to; for this/ these reason/s

To show results: as a result; for this/these reason/s; consequently

To introduce an illustration: for example; for instance; this can be seen in; as shown in; as shown by

To introduce a similar idea: this is similar to; similarly; in the same way; also; not only . . .  but also

To reach a conclusion: therefore; thus; finally; in conclusion; to summarise; to sum up; from this we may conclude that ...

To join one section to the next: "Having covered ... I'm now moving on to discuss ..."; "This brings me to ..."; "That brings us to ..."

If you'd like more clarity on using words to show logical thinking you might like to browse this article.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Presentation Basics: Step-by-Step Preparation for Beginners


Roughly note all your ideas on paper, mind-mapping is a useful technique to use.

Gain understanding of your audience, their needs and expectations.
Know your audience, their needs and expectations 

Establish your specific purpose, turn it into a statement, write it down: 'My purpose is to ...'  Ask yourself: “What do I want my audience to think and do as a result of listening to my speech?”

From your rough ideas, select the main ideas your audience will need to hear if you are to achieve your stated purpose.  It is usual for a successful presentation to have between three and five main points.

Plan your introduction:
  • Clearly state your purpose
  • Give background to your main topic
  • Give an overview of your presentation
Plan your conclusion:
  • Clearly connect your conclusion to your purpose
  • Briefly reinforce your main points
Prepare the body:
  • Use a set structure that gives logical flow and coherence
  • Clearly state your main points, make sure they are connected to your purpose
  • Support and explain main points with examples, statistics, research findings, charts, graphs, photos, references etc
  • Clearly connect your main points as well as ideas within main points to ensure coherence
  • Integrate relevant visual aids into the body
Practise and adjust your presentation until you are comfortable with it and timing is correct

Good luck with your presentation!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Warm Up your Voice Part 2: Voice and Body

This is part two of the second of my Top Ten Public Speaking Basics

Again I should say that in my experience it is preferable to work with a qualified voice teacher if you want to develop the full potential of your voice.  The purpose of this article is not to give some "quick-fix" voice exercises to try once on your own to little effect, but rather to offer some guidance on warming up your voice in preparation for your next presentation or speech.

If you haven't already done so you can start with Warm Up your Voice Part 1: Breathing

After the breathing warm-up ...

Warm up your body
  • free shoulders with gentle shrugs up to ears and then relax
  • clench hands into fists, relax and gently shake out
  • gently shake out each leg and then your arms
  • give yourself a good upward stretch, arms above head, relax
Improve your posture
Have feet about hip-distance apart, distribute weight evenly over ball and heel of each foot.  If you are comfortable doing so, you can try going down onto your haunches, resting there for a moment and then rising smoothly upwards into standing without altering the distribution of weight on your feet.  This can give a good sense of rootedness through the feet into the floor.

Now lightly smooth down your lower back and buttocks with your hands, this allows you to slightly tuck in your pelvis without tensing your buttocks.

Now you can gently, lightly lengthen your spine upwards as it rises from your tail bone up through to your neck. Keep shoulders relaxed and falling away from your ears; chest relaxed, softened and open. 

If you were now to look at your self sideways in a full-length mirror you'd see your shoulder in line with your hip and your hip in line with the middle of your foot.

Face and jaw
  • stretch mouth open as wide as you can, hold for count of five, release. Repeat.
  • make exaggerated chewing movements using your whole mouth, tongue, lips as if chewing the biggest wad of gum ever!
  • yawn
  • voice on one breath, taken without strain: 'AH'
  • voice on one breath, taken without strain: 'HUMMMMMMM'
  • repeat on one breath, as above: 'LA LA LA LA LA'
  • repeat on one breath, as above: 'ME MAH MAY MORE, ME MAH MAY MORE'
  • say 'Bring me some coffee in a proper copper coffee pot'
  • say 'She sells sea shell on the sea shore'
  • say 'A packet of mixed biscuits'
  • say 'Quick, quick, quick! Bring the twins a drink!'
Back to breathing
  • Breathe out fully without force
  • Wait till you feel the need to inhale, as your ribs spring apart inhale through your nose
  • As you inhale allow your back to relax, note how your lower ribs float apart as your diaphragm contracts and moves downwards. Pay particular attention to the swing of the back ribs as you relax your back.
  • As exhalation happens, let the air move out of your mouth, note how your ribcage moves simultaneously downwards and inwards and how your abdominal muscles slightly engage as the last of the air moves out of your body
  • Continue breathing easily and comfortably in this way for five breaths.

You are now warmed up and READY TO GO!!!

Good luck with your presentation. 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Should you use pictures to enhance your presentation?

I'm often asked for help in preparing slides for presentations. My advice is always to make them more VISUAL, that is: use pictures, photos, graphics, tables, charts.

Why?  Because audiences understand more and retain more information received as visual than they do information received as text or as spoken word. Hearing and reading are less effective than SEEING.  The combination of SEEING a photo and HEARING the speaker talk about it has greater impact than for example hearing the speaker say words while reading the same words in, for example, a bullet point.

Check out 'My Favourite Web Resources'

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Warm Up your Voice Part 1: Breathing

This is part one of the second of my Top Ten Public Speaking Basics

In my experience it is preferable to work with a qualified voice teacher if you want to develop the full potential of your voice.  So the purpose of this article is not to give some "quick-fix" voice exercises to try once on your own to little effect, but rather to offer some guidance on warming up your voice in preparation for your next presentation or speech.

All credit and honour is given to the brilliant voice coach Stewart Pearce whose teaching in his book "The Alchemy of Voice" (Hodder & Stoughton, 2005) has profoundly influenced my teaching in the past few years.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Know your audience, their needs and expectations

The first of my Top Ten Public Speaking Basics

Helpful things you should know about your audience:
  1. How many?
  2. What are their positions or occupations?
  3. What is their background?
  4. What is their gender?
  5. What is their age?
More things you should know about your audience:
  • Are they experts in the subject?
  • How much do you need to tell them in order to achieve your objective?
  • What is their attitude to you and your subject?
  • What is their previous experience of your topic and how might this influence their attitude?
You should establish:

Why your audience is there: voluntarily? no choice? they invited you?
What they are expecting: to be informed? to be entertained? Beware of assuming that your objective and the audience's expectations are the same. You should make your message relevant to them.
What they need: e.g. if their immediate need is to cut costs they'll have a hard time hearing a message about how increasing expenditure in the short term will eventually save money.

My favourite and most useful general workplace needs come from Cristina Stuart of Speakeasy Training.

For management:
  • Saving money
  • Increasing productivity
  • Saving time
  • Improving quality
For staff:
  • Making more money
  • Being recognised for what they do
  • Job security
  • Job satisfaction
  • Career advancement
In a business context you'll find that if you can meet these needs it is easier to achieve the objective of your presentation. You'll probably be able to identify other needs for your particular audience.

I use aspects of NVC or Nonviolent Communication in my work. For this reason I ask speakers to think about how their speech or presentation contributes to fulfilling more universal human needs. For example, paying attention to the need for autonomy helps us to avoid sounding dictatorial or assuming that everyone's values are the same as ours. Our ability to empathise and listen helps us to align our objectives with those of the audience.

Some basic needs you can bear in mind:
  • Autonomy
  • Celebration
  • Integrity
  • Interdependence
  • Physical nurturance
  • Play
  • Spiritual communion
  1. Autonomy: choosing dreams, goals, values; choosing plans for fulfilling these
  2. Celebration: celebrating life affirming events; celebrating losses of loved ones, dreams etc
  3. Integrity: authenticity, creativity, meaning, self-worth
  4. Interdependence: acceptance, appreciation, closeness, community, consideration, contribution to the enrichment of life, emotional safety, empathy, empowering honesty which enables us to learn, love, reassurance, respect, support, trust, understanding
  5. Physical nurturance: air, food, water, movement, protection from life-threatening forms of life, rest, shelter, sexual expression, touch
  6. Play: fun, laughter
  7. Spiritual communion: beauty, harmony, inspiration, order, peace
Being mindful of both particular and general needs will undoubtedly help you deliver a presentation or speech that is relevant and meaningful to your audience.

Good luck!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

My Top Ten Public Speaking Basics

  1. Know your audience, their needs and expectations
  2. Check out the venue in advance
  3. Warm up your voice
  4. Relax and smile
  5. Have a specific purpose and stick to it
  6. Start well
  7. Structure your presentation or speech
  8. Connect your ideas
  9. Tell stories, paint pictures
  10. End well
I'll be sharing some guidance on each of these ten tips in the coming weeks.