We're in the process of organising some training days on communicating with impact for women who preach, present or otherwise want to get their message across. Details will be available in the next couple of weeks. We did a trial day last autumn and it was excellent. We want to encourage women to develop communication skills, and are thinking about how we can promote and develop women speakers, so watch this space. In the meantime, here are our top ten tips for communicating that some of you will have heard at our Youthwork the Conference receptions last year.
1. It's natural to feel nervous and worried about how you’ll come across, but focus on your listeners not yourself. What do they need to hear from you?
2. Develop your own style – don’t try to be like anyone else – you’ll be rumbled. Don’t be taken in by the popular blokey, shouty, stand-up comic style of preaching. Is that really the most effective way of communicating?
3. Breathing is key to getting on top of nerves. Breathe from your stomach, not your chest – makes you grounded and connected. Take time to centre, to be calm. Take heart – you’ll appear more calm than you are.
4. Tell stories. Personal anecdotes are always good – they reveal something about you. Allow a bit of yourself out. Audience want to see what you bring that no one else can.
5. Make eye contact. Don’t talk to the back of the room, or the wall behind people’s heads. People want to connect with you.
6. It’s hard to make a written script dynamic. By all means write it out in advance so you know what you’re going to say, and can check it has a good structure - but then speak from bullet points or notes.
7. Focus on the furthest place your voice needs to project to – the back row of your audience – and your voice will adjust to fill the space. If you focus on your notes, that’s how far your voice will go.
8. Be a tree! Legs rooted and grounded, moving top half. Or walk around - but don’t wobble, or cross legs over each other, or be too frantic. It can be distracting and undermine what you’re saying.
9. Have a clear objective for your talk – summarise in one sentence. You may need to prune out some good stuff in order to be more effective.
10. You are allowed, as a woman, to speak, to preach, to communicate, to persuade, to influence and to be good at it. We sometimes lack role models; some people want us to keep quiet BUT you are allowed… So practice, develop your skills, invest in yourself.