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4 Public Speaking Lessons from the European Referendum

4 Public Speaking Lessons from the European Referendum

As we all know, last week the UK voted to leave the European Union in a historic referendum.

From political leaders at home and abroad, singers, actors and sports personalities, it seems that just about everyone was ready to share their views on the matter in public. Given the significance of the decision and that fact that the majority of voters made their decision based on the myriad of contradictory speeches it is worth reflecting for a moment on what we can learn from those who presented their views to the public.

Here are 4 big public speaking lessons we can learn from the campaign on both sides

Lesson 1 – Craft a Message That Sticks

Anyone can present and idea or share information, albeit with varying levels of confidence, charm and success. Whether you are the Prime Minister of the UK or a parent representing to your PTA the one thing you need above all else is a clear and powerful message.

That message also has to be totally relevant to your audience; it has to be concise, easily understood and memorable.

Politics aside, which of the following messages would you tick as:

Clear and concise

Relevant

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Easily understood

Powerful

Memorable

LEAVE

  • The UK cannot control the number of people coming into the country while remaining in the EU
  • Leaving the EU would free up £350m a week extra to spend on the NHS
  • We need to take back control over sovereignty, democracy, trade deals and immigration

REMAIN

  • You will be worse off if we leave
  • The UK is stronger, safer and better in a reformed EU
  • We get to trade freely

Regardless of your nationality, political bias or whether you had a vote in the UK last week, which of those messages do you believe is more likely to ‘stick’ with you?

Lesson 2 – Nothing is More Potent than Passion

It’s all well and good having a clear and compelling message that is relevant to your audience and hard to challenge, but if you can’t communicate it with passion you may as well not bother.

As much as I respect David Cameron as a speaker, on this occasion it seemed to me that the one missing ingredient was his own personal passion for the need to remain. Many would argue that he appeared to be on ‘autopilot’ as he continually restated his view of the economic risks of Brexit.

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For all their eccentricity, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage on the other hand were vibrant, colourful and completely animated each time they took the platform to persuade their audience to leave.

Lesson 3 – Help your audience to see the future

I’ve never forgotten a profound pep talk that one of my very first bosses gave to me as I began to climb the ‘corporate ladder’ over 30 years ago. One day whilst discussing the ever increasingly important topic of motivation he said to me: “Maurice, the only thing you really need to know about motivation is this: the only people who need to be motivated are the people who can’t see the future and it’s your job as their leader to help them to see it.”

What has that got to do with public speaking and presenting?

Absolutely everything

Whether you are giving a quarterly update, selling widgets or calling for a historical vote, all your audience really wants from you is for you to help them to see, feel and understand the future.

In the EU referendum campaign here is how the respective speakers described the future to a nation:

LEAVE

“Just imagine that the EU had never been invented and the history of the last 60 years had been entirely different. It had been all about free trade and economic cooperation between our friends and partners in the European Union, with peace guaranteed by NATO, as indeed it has been.

“Where we take back control of £350 million per week, take back control of our borders.”

“We can see the sunlit meadows beyond. I believe we would be mad not to take this once in a lifetime chance to walk through that door because the truth is it is not we who have changed.”

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REMAIN

The central theme of the ‘remain’ campaigns argument was the economic risks of Brexit.

“Nothing is more important than the strength of our economy.

Upon it depends the jobs and livelihoods of our people, and also the strength and security of our nation.

If we stay, we know what we get – continued full access to a growing single market, including in energy, services and digital, together with the benefit of the huge trade deals in prospect between the EU and the United States and other large markets.”

Lesson 4 – Know your audience

Addressing the economic risks of leaving the European Union is of course critically important as much of our strength, security and success does depend on our economic stability and growth.

However, the gap between the richest and poorest in the UK has dramatically widened in the past decade and far more people are struggling financially than they are flourishing. The harsh reality of the financial climate that most people live in today was likely to ‘deafen’ voters to the risk of a further decline.

Given that for many it feels as though things couldn’t get much worse anyway it was perhaps easier to imagine the upside and benefits to voting to leave the EU.

It seems to me that the least wealthy amongst us who rely heavily and care passionately about services everyone uses and experience first-hand and the adverse financial impact of ever increasing immigration are issues likely to trigger greater concern.

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The ‘leave’ campaign’s empathy for so many of the British Public’s feelings of hopelessness enabled them to craft far more impactful speeches

The 4 Lessons

Whatever happens over the next few weeks and months it’s very clear to me that these are 4 very significant lessons we can take from this historic referendum. What I find even more interesting is that these aren’t new lessons; all the great speakers throughout history have taught us that:

  • Your message is absolutely critical and you must make it ‘stick’
  • Passion is beyond doubt the speakers greatest asset
  • ‘The only people who need to be motivated are those who can’t see the future’
  • If you don’t really know and understand your audience then you are likely to fail.

Is it all in the message?

Despite the value of these 4 lessons the one that stands out for me as a key one to consider which drove this campaign is the message.

Isn’t it interesting that since the results of the final vote were announced it has been alleged that a key element of the ‘Leave’ campaign’s message was a fallacy.

It’s since being suggested that it is unlikely that the £350m we would free up each week will be given to the NHS.

It has also been suggested that despite the power, relevance and clarity of the ‘leave’ campaigns message they don’t actually have a plan to see it through.

That means that the greatest lesson for public speakers in this historic campaign is that whilst it’s your message that counts above and beyond everything else, it doesn’t have to be completely true and you don’t even have to have a plan to make it happen.

That of course is where I would draw the line and insist that despite the success of the leave campaign whatever you speak on it must be true and you must have a clear plan of action.

Featured photo credit: © Pojoslaw | Dreamstime.com –

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Last Updated on April 17, 2019

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

What’s the secret of professional success? Some of it lies in the mastery of your discipline and all the technical skills you have to carry out your job; but a much bigger part lies in the soft skills list you possess.

Soft skills are your people or relationship skills—how well you get along with others and your ability to communicate and collaborate—as well as the personal characteristics you bring to the job, such as optimism, a can-do attitude and the motivation to work hard. These skills are not always easy to point out, but their absence can cause serious problems and negatively affect the whole work atmosphere.

They say that hard skills will help you get the job, but soft skills will help you get along—and get ahead. With that in mind, here’s the top-10 essential soft skills list to help you advance your career.

1. Communication Skills

Communication skills are hands-down the most sought-after soft skill that bosses want, and this one ability covers a lot of ground.

To communicate well, you have to listen carefully, interpret the context of the conversation, express yourself clearly, persuade others of your point of view, check your body language and use an engaging presentation style that won’t intimidate or bore your audience. That’s a big ask!

Your personality traits can influence the way you communicate with others. For instance, some people get straight to the point and center their arguments around facts and logic; others are cooperative and sensitive to how others feel. Both these approaches are equally valuable but there can be misunderstandings if you don’t understand where the other person is coming from.

Taking a comprehensive personality test can help you understand why you communicate the way you do and where your blind spots are. It can also help you understand other communication styles is so you can tailor your communication to the person you’re dealing with.

After all, connecting with your conversation partner is the hallmark of good communication.

2. Flexibility

Change is an essential part of any business. Companies need employees who are flexible enough to work with new initiatives, open to new ideas, and generally are able to tough it out when things don’t go as planned.

Research has found a link between job performance and flexibility over the long term because there will be times when you have to step outside your routine and rise to fresh challenges that didn’t exist before.

Being flexible doesn’t mean you have to hop into a new task or job role like an expert. Rather, it’s about showing you’re willing to accept new responsibility and learn different things.

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Bosses look for people who are prepared to step outside their comfort zones and are open to alternative solutions when their first idea doesn’t work.

3. Being a Team Player

Working on a team can be challenging but learning to do it well can definitely help you get ahead in your career. Employers look for people who can negotiate, cooperate and manage conflicts with other people to achieve a common goal. That includes the ability to build lasting relationships with customers and clients.

What makes a good team player? Essentially, it’s someone who knows the goal and knows her role. Employers look for evidence that you know your strengths, your responsibilities and how you can best contribute to the team, then put those skills into action by sharing ideas and communicating in a respectful manner. That’s the definition of being a good team player.

This is another area where taking a personality test can help you get ahead. When teams work together, each member brings a unique set of skills and qualities to the group. Research has shown that different combinations of personalities affect how teams collaborate and how productive they are.

Knowing who you are, and how you work on a team, can drive new insights and open the door to better teamwork.

4. Positive Mental Attitude

There are plenty of things you can’t change at work, like the people you work with or the fact that the printer is broken again. The one thing you can change is how much you let these things bother you.

Bosses like people who are calm, rational and upbeat—those who diffuse tensions in the workplace, not get all grouchy and go around slamming doors.

Studies show that people who maintain a sunny disposition have better relationships at work, are happier in their jobs and make better decisions than those who whine and complain. Some suggest that a positive mental attitude can also make you live longer—which means it’s beneficial for every area of your life![1]

It’s not always easy to keep a “glass half full” mentality when work is stressful and the deadlines are piling up. But there are some things you can do to help maintain a positive attitude. Laughing at your unfortunate circumstances keeps the work environment positive, and taking “sanity” breaks can help you keep your cool in high-pressure situations.

Managers look for positive mental attitude in a team member that is ready for a promotion, so it really does pay to keep your cool in challenging situations.

5. A Strong Work Ethic

People with a strong work ethic are committed to the role, persevere when things get tough and are inspired by challenge. These people are ambassadors for the organization, and will always be seen as top talent and ideal candidates.

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If you can exhibit this skill, then expect to be seen as a great candidate, eligible for new opportunities and positions throughout your career.

Since a strong work ethic can mean different things to different people, it helps to show specific examples of your exceptional work ethic during a performance appraisal or interview. For instance, you might talk about:

  • A time when you persisted in the face of challenges and did not shy away from hard work.
  • How you volunteered to help with projects even though these tasks did not form part of your job description.
  • The networking, workplace learning and skills betterment you’ve undertaken, which shows ambition and drive (people with a strong work ethic have those qualities in spades).
  • How you own your mistakes and never, ever point the finger of blame at others.

For help with building a strong work ethic, check out these tips: How to Build a Reliable Work Ethic

6. Public Speaking

Who’s terrified of public speaking? Pretty much everyone, since public speaking is America’s number one fear, ahead of death at number five and loneliness at number seven.

Yet, according to Warren Buffett, mastering this one skill you could increase your personal value by 50 percent.[2] That’s huge!

If you’re not natural at public speaking, you’re in good company. Buffett had to work hard to overcome his stage fright and once dropped out of a public-speaking course before it started—because he was afraid of public speaking! He eventually realized that he needed to build up his confidence by just doing it; over and over in front of small groups.

For a more structured approach, Toastmasters International teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a variety of pathways. Membership of this non-profit looks good on your resume but the real payoff will come when you can put your newfound skills to use on the job or in the interview room.

Or, you can check out this advice: The Ultimate Public Speaking Tips to Hook and Impress Any Audience

7. Integrity

From a manager’s point of view, the two integrity skills that will set you apart are:

  • Always doing what you say you will do
  • Owning an error instead of minimizing or hiding it

…even when no one is around to check up on you.

There are lots of people who have climbed the ladder without scruples, but they are not the people who others trust, respect and support when promotion time comes around.

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Behaving with integrity is a safe and consistent way to enhance your reputation and achieve your professional goals.

8. Managing Your Time

Phone calls, texts, Slack pings, meetings, huddles, side projects, multitasking—we are busier today than any generation before us. There’s no denying the workplace is an incredibly distracting place to be.

A lot of us have traded effectiveness for busyness which we wear as a badge of honor, both as a proxy for productivity and to show our value to the company. But what bosses want, what they really, really want, is someone who actually gets stuff done on time.

Time management is not merely the art of being on time, but of managing your time so you focus on the projects that really matter and add value to the business. This means prioritizing well, sticking to schedules, delegating, and not getting distracted by tasks that are easier to perform or less important. It means planning ahead and learning when it’s appropriate to say no.

Time management can be a tough skill to maintain, but not a difficult one to pick up. Monitor your actions for a few days—how long do your tasks take to finish? What’s interrupting you? What causes you to lose focus? Once you have the answers to these questions, you can set a schedule for yourself to make sure you’re spending your time wisely and this valuable asset is never wasted.

These 20 Quick Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity are also great to try.

9. Assertiveness

In any workplace, you typically will find people with the following conflict styles:

  • Passive: Those who go out of their way to avoid conflict.
  • Passive-aggressive: Those who express their negative feelings through actions rather than words.
  • Aggressive: Those who respond to conflict in a hostile and rude manner. These people get their opinion heard but they won’t make any friends in the process.
  • Assertive: People who stick up for their rights while still respecting the rights of others.

Managers look for assertiveness above all other styles because it allows decisions to be made without conflict or alienating people.

How do you use this information for yourself?

It starts with understanding your personality so you can anticipate how you will react when conflict arises and address your own shortcomings. Then, you can start influencing the team for top results, and securing your own career advancement in the process.

Learn how to be assertive and gain respect:

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How to Be Assertive and Stand up for Yourself the Smart Way

10. Creative Thinking

LinkedIn recently analyzed over 50,000 skills that employers search for when looking for candidates to find out what skills are currently in demand.[3] Taking the number-one slot on the 2019 soft skills list was creativity: the ability to solve problems and think outside the box.

Creativity is about bringing fresh, and sometimes unorthodox, ideas to the table. This helps companies to innovate, and companies that do not innovate will not survive very long.

How do you showcase your creative thinking skills? The golden rule is to participate.

Be brave and share your ideas during group brainstorming sessions. Volunteer to run a society, networking event or recruitment drive. Ask “what if” questions: “What if we add this information to the client welcome pack?” “What if we eliminate step 3 from the process?”

These activities demonstrate that you’re prepared to go beyond “business as usual” towards creative problem solving—an ability that will serve you every day, all throughout your career.

You can learn to unleash your creativity power:

What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

Final Thoughts

The good news? Every item on this soft skills list can be learned. Although you may feel lacking in certain areas, taking an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to focus in on the areas that you’ll benefit from developing.

So take an inventory of your personality, skills, and talents. This will give you a baseline for your communication style, attitude to change, conscientiousness and more. You can then identify your weak areas and develop strategies for improving your team-building, assertiveness and conflict skills.

The better news? The effort is worth it. Developing your soft skills opens the door to a new job or a promotion, and helps you succeed once you get there.

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Featured photo credit: Rachael Gorjestani via unsplash.com

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