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The Confident Club

By The Drum | Administrator

July 29, 2005 | 5 min read

The last time Adline interviewed Phil Hesketh, the former founder of Principles waxed lyrical about his newfound career in public speaking. So, in the interest of investigative journalism, and the fact that this journalist has ‘public speaking’ written into their job description, a day in the life of the Confidence Club was not something to be sniffed at.

According to the Confident Club website around 42 per cent of adults are afraid of public speaking. Yet, according to the Harvard Business School the number one attribute those at the top of their profession all share is the ability to speak with confidence, being able to persuade an audience with their points of view through the power of confident speaking.

So, how does one Adline editor, who later on this year will be speaking to an audience of over 200 at the Recruitment Business Awards and over 500 at the Roses Design Awards, overcome this fear of public speaking? Simple. Sign herself up for a course of public speaking, organised by the aforementioned Hesketh.

One of the main principles of the course attended was that you must perform in a relaxed manner. Yet not too relaxed. According to Hesketh one of the most important points of the day is the idea of preparation. He comments: “Good presenters are themselves and over two days we not only give people specific techniques - how learning works, how memory works, how to structure your talk etc, but to see that you can be great by making the most of what you are and speak from the heart rather than from a script.

“We run around six open courses each year plus in-house ones for clients. Each one is tailored to the needs of the client. It\'s a different couple of days when helping a CEO speak to 500 people compared to eight 25 year olds doing PowerPoint presentations to five or six people.”

The course is split into three different parts. First the delegates on the course are asked to put together a brief introduction and recount a time when they felt they had underperformed as a presenter, explaining what could have been done better. Alternatively it could be a time when the speaker felt out of their depth, where a situation was out of their control, and how they felt about that specific incident. This speech takes up around two minutes.

The course that I attended had six other people on it – all from a variety of companies, from public service to private enterprises, all looking for the confidence needed to be able to stand in front of others, and deliver their information in not only a confident, but also clear and concise manner.

The entire course is filmed. At times over the two-day course we are played back the recordings so that we can see what are the annoying habits that are likely to preoccupy an audience, while also getting more feedback from the group. One of the key elements of this is to determine whether you look nervous when speaking. According to Hesketh the key to good presentation skills is to have some nerves; that way the adrenaline can kick start the body into action.

The second task of the day was to give a short speech to explain a technique, method or procedure to an uninitiated audience – the purpose being to communicate something that was technical as clearly as possible to allow the audience to fully understand what you are explaining. This time the speech lasts three minutes and Hesketh makes sure that the audience aks questions, yet again to see how the speaker responded and what their reaction might be to a barrage of questions thrown at them.

Both of these sessions were used (along with a reading that was given to each of the delegates to see how they would read from a script and present to an audience) to prepare the delegates for the pi̬ce de r̩sistance Рthe four minute speech with an additional two minutes of questions (that were made as difficult as possible for the speaker.).

The speech for this final piece of public speaking aimed to move an audience toward an action, and could be supported with two visual aids to help you along with the speech. With this final presentation comes the ability to stand up in front of an audience with no notes and speak for four minutes, along with two minutes worth of heavy-going questions – again aimed at testing the mettle of the speaker to really remain calm and collected when faced with some hard-hitting questions.

The course, which is held over two days, is one that aims to develop confidence within a person as opposed to dealing with the actual content of a presentation. The objective of the course is to ensure that the speaker at the end of the day will know what they have to work on in order to become a clear and concise speaker, but also adding an anecdote to rmake both the audience and also the speaker feel at ease. By doing this Hesketh maintains that there will be a better understanding of what the speaker is able to communicate and that the audience will be far more receptive.

Finally, Hesketh gives three tips to those who want to be able to speak confidently: “Don\'t aim to be word perfect. Speak from the heart and know exactly what you want your audience to think, say, do and feel at the end of your talk and stay focused on that.

“And remember that less is more - people typically can\'t remember more than three things from anyone\'s talk.”

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