I was listening to the PM programme on Radio 4 on my way home the other night when there was a piece by the BBC’s Business Editor, Robert Peston, at the end of which he said to PM presenter , Eddie Mair (with whom he is currently having a feud), ‘that was alright wasn’t it?’ Well no Robert it wasn’t!
The reason that it wasn’t alright was that Peston was hardly able to utter more than three or four words without interjecting ‘you know’. I lost count of how many times I heard the phrase. However I was so busy hearing ‘you know’ that I really didn’t hear the content of the report.
I believe that Robert Peston is a skilled journalist (I know he is not universally popular) but his presentation skills leave a lot to be desired. He’s not alone. Go to any business event and ‘you know’ or other irritating habits crop up in even the shortest presentations. These bad habits are a real distraction from the message and they need to be eliminated.
My colleague, Graham Le Gall, makes a note of how many times people er and um or use irritating phrases during their presentations and most people are amazed when he shares the figures. So listen to yourself or, better still, record yourself when you next make a presentation. Do you sound hesitant or confident, intelligent or stupid? Do you distract your audience from your message? Do you make sense? You might be horrified by what you hear!
Why do phrases like ‘you know’ or ‘like’ (another of my bug bears) creep in to so many people’s verbal communication? Usually it is because the speaker hasn’t connected mouth and brain. Research suggests that we speak at around 130 words a minute but can think at up to 800 wpm so our brains run away with us if we let them. Focus. Think about what you want your audience to understand or do when you have finished speaking. Organise your thoughts in to a logical sequence. Assemble your facts. Stay focused. If you need time to think, pause momentarily but don’t fill the space with rubbish or your audience will stop listening.
Graham and I are going to be running some workshops to coach business owners to present their businesses effectively. If you would like to know more drop me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on 020 8991 2767.