26 May

If you missed our very own Cat Foulkes on the ZoShow on Wednesday 28th October 2020, you can watch it again with this link. https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=654238222119399If you don’t have time to watch, we have picked out some great highlights from the show here. Please feel free to contact us with any questions

Zo: Tell us a little about yourself and your role within Birmingham International Speakers Club (BISC).

Cat: I am one of the organisers of the club, I have a job that I love and although it doesn’t involve public speaking, I would not have achieved this role if I didn’t have the effective communication skills that BISC gave me

Zo: Public speaking is a huge skill, I had huge issues with a stutter when I was younger and had a real lack of confidence. So, I plucked up the courage to join BISC and as soon as I sat down, I knew I was in the right place. Can you explain to people who don’t know about BISC, what the club is all about?

Cat: I had a similar experience with public speaking that went terribly wrong. I went for a job that required a 20-minute presentation as part of the second round of interviews. I ended up not progressing further with the job because of the fear of public speaking. I knew that this fear would stop me from progressing with my career so I looked online and I found BISC. It’s a local club based in Birmingham and part of a global organisation. We have a clear set of procedures around public speaking, to enable anyone and everyone to become a competent public speaker, and to become a proficient communicator. It’s a definite life skill that impacts so many parts of our lives, so I initially joined to enable me to deliver a presentation for an interview. Now, I have learnt how to structure the content of a presentation and how to deliver in an impactful manner, becoming competent in speaking whenever I am called upon. It feels so good to overcome something that was, initially debilitating and to progress further in my career. BISC has impacted all parts of my life.

Zo: Lets talk about fear. How do you overcome the fear of speaking in public?

Cat: Communication is fundamental in progressing through life. My first speech, I was absolutely petrified, I was hoping to break a leg so I wouldn’t have to go. I wasn’t really clear and confident about my content and the delivery itself was laughable. I spoke too quickly and just ran of the stage when I was finished. Because this experience was so bad, I found that every occasion after that was slightly better. So, with the positivity of the club and my own determination, I was able to progress. There are three main points that BISC help with. The first is to know your audience, and to get the internal dialogue away from you. Think about what you are going to teach them, you are there to share information with them. Once you change the focus from you to your audience it really helps. Secondly, practice. Practice in the shower, the car, to a line of pillows on the sofa, to a family member. The more you practice the more confident you will be with your content. Third is to breathe. Take the time before your presentation to concentrate on your breathing, even write it in your notes to make sure you do it. Right before starting, take a deep breath and survey the room.

Zo: What are some quick tips on overcoming nerves?

Cat: Being well prepared, goes without saying. Have a positive visualisation of seeing the meeting going really well. Have someone manage the timing of your meeting to take that worry away. Most importantly. believe in yourself. If you have been asked to deliver a speech, then they are already deeming you competent. Having the self-belief that you can do it will help so much with your confidence and nerves.Re-focus the adrenaline that you are feeling. It is the same adrenaline that you feel when you are excited, so instead of focussing on how you are feeling nervous, change it to feeling excited instead. Time to shine!

Zo: What is a typical club meeting?

Cat: Twice a month we are currently meeting online, formally face to face, and the meeting is divided into two halves. The first is typically 2-4 prepared speeches on a pre-given topic and time frame, and the second half is a workshop which is fully interactive, either delivered by a member or external guest. The topics given could be anything from a lottery win to a bank heist and it is entirely up to the individual to take the topic and run with it however they would like to. There are two evaluations given for each speech, by more experienced members, and this is where the magic happens. You are given feedback on what went well and what to consider for next time. You get to learn your individual strengths as a speaker and often, it comes to light, things that you had never considered before. Maybe you say ummm a lot or touch your face, and once your attention is drawn to it, it makes you more conscious and able to do something about it for future presentations.

Zo: What about impromptu speaking?

Cat: I would suggest three things, think about your audience. What is the take home message that you want to give your audience? What is the one sentence that you really want to end with? Make sure that you mention why you are there and why you are addressing everyone. It could be raising a toast at a party or speaking about someone leaving a company. It is a skill and you do have to work on it, but once you do, its like riding a bike.

Zo: How do you deal with hecklers or negative members of the audience?

Cat: Address them at the end of your presentation, deal with it in a diplomatic way, without letting them disturb your flow. The main thing is, that it is your presentation, so acknowledge them and deal with their comments at an appropriate time in a way that does not derail you from your flow.

Zo: Many meetings are now been held over the internet so do you think that the world is changing in terms of switching to digital?

Cat: I think there will always be the need and desire for people to gather in a face to face auditorium to get the energy and passion that you get from a public arena. I think that learning to be a host on Zoom etc is definitely a skill in itself and we will all benefit from learning how to move to digital.

Zo: Talking about fillers in a presentation, the ummms for example. How would you suggest you tackle these?

Cat: Fillers are such an easy go to; they are the words that you use when you can’t think of what to say next instead of leaving a silence. Leaving a pause instead is actually a lot more effective, it will keep your audience’s attention without holding you back from your message. One thing we teach you is to become comfortable with holding pauses. It seems very alien at first but is very powerful, your audience will be in suspense of your next words, if used correctly.

Zo: Do you have any suggestions for anyone delivering something via digital medium?

Cat: I would suggest that meetings held on Zoom would still follow the same time management structure. Engagement is the key change. Face to face you can easily detect if someone is distracted, lost focus or they are loving what your saying. On a Zoom meeting, the way to keep engagement is to be much snappier and quicker, keep the meeting moving.

Zo: How important, now we are moving into digital delivery, that tech works?

Cat: I can’t tell you how many Zoom meetings I have been on where someone’s battery has died and the meeting has just stopped. A good hour before the meeting, check to make sure that everything is working and the battery is fine. Be prepared by checking that your background is appropriate and well lit. Check that you are a proper distance away from the camera, that the sound works etc.

Zo: For digital meetings, what is a non-aggressive way of involving those who are not participating?

Cat: There is a fine line between putting someone on the spot and trying to involve them in engaging in the meeting. I tend to make sure that everyone introduces themselves at the start so everyone knows everyone. It could be as simple as asking what they had done that morning. This involves everyone right from the get go, and it’s a bit of an icebreaker. It helps you engage everyone throughout the rest of the meeting.

Zo: What is the benefit of being able to speak in public?

Cat: Many of our members, including myself, have gone on to get promotions at work and have improved their lives dramatically. I find that I am now able to put my point across succinctly and be confident in an environment when I am put on the spot. Without effective communication we cannot succeed. In all aspects of our lives, work, relationships, friendships, we need to be able to put across our point to make sure that the recipient of our message understands. Public speaking is just the tip of the iceberg, it actually effects so much more to a person in all parts of their life.

Zo: How important is it to learn in a safe environment where you don’t feel criticized or inferior to others?

Cat: To go to a club, where your boss isn’t there and meeting other like-minded individuals who all want to grow and no one is judging is freeing. Everyone is there to encourage and support growth not to criticise. Its all about building confidence.

Zo: We’ve had some great tips here, so how do people go about visiting BISC and getting involved?

Cat: Facebook : https://facebook.com/BhamSpeakers/LinkedIn: https://linkedin.com/in/birmingham-international-speakers-club-3b36251b1/Twitter: @birminghamspeakersWebsite: http://bisc.powertalk.org.uk

We look forward to seeing you there!

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