Out-Shine Competition and impress judges

You’re about to walk into a public spotlight. How to present a glowing, winning persona and performance? Communicate confidence based on your solid preparation and ability…

Whether your platform is words or music

It’s music competition season and my students compete this weekend. My lesson tips are refreshed from recent adjudicating at Mt Isa Eisteddfod, west of my birthplace. The train passed our sheep property, but never carried me west to Mt Isa.

My recent memoir Midnight Sun to Southern Cross describes my outback childhood and steps on my journey to become a Classical musician and educator. Of my culture shock when plunged into city schools after correspondence lessons in remote Queensland and transition from shy outback child into one who now enjoys communicating.

Covers-1Read on for Tips to Shine.

But first, sound a gong!

I’m thrilled that  Burn My Letters is shortlisted for the CALEB 2017 Nonfiction competition. It’s  the first book of my saga.

Winners will be announced at the Omega Writers Conference in Sydney 29 October.

Preparation: Remote control and sound test before if possible

What an experience to adjudicate recorder players via webinar at the Mt Isa School of the Air. How impressive that teachers instruct with no visual cues or demonstration so remote youngsters can learn music and compete.

FullSizeRender 2

Rural Internet is too poor for Skype so judging was on pure sound, no visuals. Young recorder competitors blew too close to the mic so I jumped in my chair at their initial raw sounds.

Performance Tips for Backstage

• Hand on forehead and slow deep breaths calms excess adrenaline.
• Buzz lips to prevent tension squeaks (clarinet and saxophone).
• Stand against a wall for upright posture.
• BREATHE!

Make a positive first impression

  • Walk on with upright posture that says ‘I am the greatest!’ Smile or exude gravitas.
  • Take a moment to poise before beginning. Breathe.

Tips to stand out from the crowd

When many deserve places the adjudicator prays for someone to shine. Colour your performance/presentation with wide range of dynamics/tonal colour. Just as actors exaggerate their vocal tone, facials and body language, so winning musicians exaggerate and contrast dynamics.

In my own coming presentations…

 Sunshine Coast International Readers and Writers Festival director Wendy O’Hanlon launches Midnight Sun at 10.15 on 13 August at Coolum.

I’ll share tips on Writing Memoir and Historical Biography Saturday 12 August 11.30.

FinnFest Presentation 19 August 11am at Finlandia Village, 343 Cleveland-Redland Bay Road, Thornlands Brisbane

FinnFest Title

Includes live music:

  • Sibelius’ Swan of Tuonela played by Emily Salonen (cor anglais) with Peter Crane (piano).
  • I’ll play a Menuetto by Finnish composer Bernhard Crusell on clarinet.
  • Finnish music from my grandfather’s home village played by string quartet.

I’ll remind myself that:

A mistake, glitch, or fluffed note is not doom. (I tell my clarinet students ‘If you squeak, make it a good one!’)

Think ‘Even though I stuff up I love and appreciate and respect myself!’

Communicate with listeners! Eye contact that interview panel or conference audience.

Play or speak musically with beautiful tone, and above all…

ENJOY your performance!

Books are available on Amazon (hard copy and eBook). Autographed copies via Paypal at the web store. ruthbonetti.com

Ginger up your confidence

The symptoms of nerves can be similar whether we present through words or music. Blame that old bogey fight-or-flight. Learn to channel excess adrenalin into energy and you can shine in the spotlight.

Spotlight takes you out of your comfort zone?

Participants at my recent Communication Confidence training day were primed to deliver a three-minute speech. One shared that past presentations caused severe nausea. She was reassured to hear seasoned performers also suffer:

Even Oscar-winning actors?

Dustin Hoffman found live acting far more stressful than filming. When performing Shylock in The Merchant of Venice in London, he spent so much of his off-stage time in the bathroom that a plaque was attached to the door. It proclaimed ‘Dustin Hoffman is here’ and was signed by all the cast. (Excerpt from Don’t Freak Out–Speak Out).

After deep breathing and massaging pressure points, (and more tips below) Andrea spoke fluently, especially in an extempore segment.

Next day she emailed: ‘Yes, I did step out of my comfort zone but I felt pretty good about myself last night when I reflected on my day.’ She was willing to be quoted as ‘it will be good to help others and even better that I am not alone in these feelings.’Ironside State School St Lucia Jen Wedding 1957

Sharing does help!

Now that I’ve overcome my own agonising childhood and adolescence shyness, I’m glad to help others by sharing, both in training/coaching and in my recent memoir Midnight Sun to Southern Cross;

(That’s me on the left, in front of  purgatory Ironside State School. I write how dreaded headmaster Mr. Murray petrified me–and others including Alan Jones!)

Midnight Sun front cover

When I now coach people to boost their confidence in presentations, I can say ‘The person you are now is not who you will be in a decade or two or five. If I can conquer such shyness and fears, even welcome public performance, so can you.’ For I evolved from a shy outback child who hid in the toilet block rather than face fearsome peers into an adult who welcomes any platform to reach out with words and music.

That’s Granddad WA Back standing in the driver’s seat (under ‘Ruth’) in 1924 when this Migrant-made-good brought his family on a whirlwind world tour home to Finland.

WA Back Hawken Drive St Lucia Big House Finn magWelcome to my BOOK SIGNING 1 July, 11am–2pm.

Come to Mary Ryan’s Books and Coffee at Milton. Have a chat, see photos of development of St Lucia and my grandfather’s 1950s Art Deco ‘Big House’ with an elevator in it.Hawken Dr lift

I quote a cousin’s anecdote:

Granddad telephoned in the 1960s.

‘Please come quickly, there’s a woman in the bath and she won’t get out.’ A vagrant had knocked on the door and the ever hospitable Grandma offered her food and drink. In her dementia, she agreed when the woman announced ‘I would like a bath.’ Police evicted this uninvited guest from the bathroom.Hawke Drive St Lucia Art Deco Big House bath

Too far to travel? Where can we buy books?

See reviews on Amazon (hard copy and eBook). Autographed copies at the web store (and these have bonus inside cover photographs!)

More quick fix tips for nerves

  • Ginger is excellent for calming upset stomachs. Drink lemon and ginger tea or infuse grated fresh ginger in hot water.
  • Some prevent nausea by wearing acupressure magnets on elastic wristbands.
  • Massage the pressure point (called Neigun or PC6) which is located about two finger breadths above the wrist crease, between the two main tendons on the inner forearm. Press firmly or stroke towards the wrist. (Stroking from this point towards the elbow can induce vomiting.) This pressure point is also useful for treating shortness of breath, insomnia and anxiety.
  • Massage or press tender points in a radius of five centimetres around the navel to relieve emotional stress.

Presentation Confidence Training and Coaching

Now these books are published I have more time for presentations, training and coaching. Email to discuss how you or your organisation could benefit.

And enjoy reading the books! As did Jeanette O’Hagan (thanks for the review!)

It don’t mean a thing…

…If it ain’t got that swing. As the classic song goes. (Tap along to Duke Ellington.)

Or ZING. Australia’s federal election last Saturday proved a double-disillusion. It flagged questions about the communication skills of key players on the national stage. Without naming names, let’s draw lessons for all those who present through words or music.

Communicate!

Reach out to your listeners, involve them, get to know them. Before a presentation, mix with the masses in the foyer, refer to some by name during your presentation or question time.

Clarity!

Convoluted rambling puts listeners to sleep, however mellifluous the voice, however beautifully modulated and paced. It leads to misplaced expectations.

Customise!

Adapt to different audiences rather than repeat worn out text, slogans and mantras. Listen before you speak. Create fresh, relevant zingers.

Commit to being and giving your best– don’t condescend. 

Never underestimate audience intelligence and insight. They see through ego, fake sincerity, and an attitude that “it’s all about me!”

Concise!

Pithy. To the point. Less is more. It’s easier to speak (or write) long than short.

Congruent – Be yourself

People, whether as audience or voter, want to relate to real people, not puppets or figure heads. Humility and reality cover a multitude of glitches.

WE HAVE LIFT OFF! BOOK LAUNCHES – Burn My LettersBML Cover med

After many drafts, edits and proofs my next book Burn My Letters is off to the printers!

102 Main Street Kangaroo Point (free parking, ferry to Holman St. Terminal)

(Bookings essential: email 0411 782 404 or 07 33002286)

Enjoy live music from Greshka, soprano Lyn Moorfoot and Finlandia sung by Finnish singers; give-aways; author Q&A, as you sip lingonberry saft (or stronger from cash bar) and taste smörgåsar (canapés).

lloyd@sbctc.com.au

Autographed books at launch (RRP $27.99), Paypal or email for bank transfer info.

The International Connection

I’d love to include those who’ve helped me along my journey. Join us at the Brisbane launch via live streaming on YouTube/Google. Or record for later download. (SOS for techies who can make it happen!)

If you order books via PayPal we’ll absorb extra international shipping costs.

Book 2 of the saga will launch in November

BML back cover

It’s written, edited, and will release after yet more edits and proofs.

Thanks, Peter Fenoglio for the luminous covers.

Enjoy reading!

Find your voice to speak/write

Voices reveal all. Writers wrestle to ‘find their voice’ and that of characters.

Public pressure may cause speakers to lose resonance, even voice.

  • Tension causes tight timbre. (Tip: Hum into your head, so you feel vibration in your crown. Hum while opening your nostrils and nasal passages; and while accessing the front “mask” area of your face. Keep your throat open and posture upright.)
  • Insecurity causes ‘up talk’ or that recent trend, ‘vocal fry‘.
  • Tip: Before presenting, find your natural range with a conversational ‘aha’)

Edit, edit and more edit!

Whether you write for the ear or the eye, prune excess words and redraft. 

But my coming book cries ‘no more culls!’ But how to choose between fascinating stories? Rather than publish a brick doorstop tome, I opted for two books:

  • Burn My LettersTwoCovers
  • Midnight Sun to Southern Cross

Curb – or censor?

My characters expressed their voices in archival letters and recorded interviews. 

These and my research unearthed answers to why refugee Karl Johan Back wrote in 1899 to ‘Burn My Letters!’ Under Russian occupied Finland his words were censored. Letters that were saved from the fire uncover insights into his story–and his unique voice. 

Will you help me crowd fund the final leg of a decade long journey?
This week I launch a crowdfunding campaign to publish my next two books. I’ll post a link when it goes live. I offer rewards in return for pledges from $7 up. Books, of course. Scandinavian goodies like home-baked Finnish gingerbread. 

I’m excited! It’s countdown to campaign lift off. I hope you will come aboard. 

More on my Facebook page.

Enjoy the journey as I have done with its discovery. 

April opportunity – coaching and presentation NZ, Adelaide

As I fly there for other bookings, I can offer presentations and coaching without usual travel costs. Email for available dates. 

Dare to speak–or write–your truth

What is truth? And what if our idea of truth doesn’t foot the accepted line? We risk offending or being rejected but take heart that some will respect us for speaking out, holding true to our beliefs.  

We are blessed to live in a free country. Cherish that. Challenge it.

Advocacy or Activism?

Disturbed by government funding cuts in my particular fields of words and music, I eyeballed a politician and spoke my mind. He took it with grace, as he touted his party line. I supposed that was the end of it.

> Opportunity

A year later he welcomed me onto a policy sub-committee where I could voice such reservations, written and spoken. They were noted and a slant found its way into draft working paper representations. Even the gratifying word “listen.”
Will it make a difference? Who knows. My words may be edited out in the process.

Rather than whine on the fringe, I’m satisfied that my concerns are heard.

What if people misunderstand?

Or misinterpret?
Letters to newspapers are edited, sometimes giving an emphasis not intended. If I list several names as an example of a group, the editor may choose the one most noteworthy and ignore others that would temper my argument. This may project a more extreme position than the balance I intended.

“I’m amazed to hear you support X!” people exclaim.

Actually, no. The other three names gave a broad perspective.

I cannot recall or fiddle these words above my name.

Avoid a backfire?

I could play safe. But I choose to exercise my freedom for the good I intend. Let’s hope my audience gets it.

Safe speaking

Should political correctness inhibit public speakers? Are you more wary of speaking verbatim, in case your tongue slips into a pitfall? People have lost jobs because their flippant comment on social media went viral, or their emails were dissected for forms of “ism.” Be aware of perils if, like me, you spice your communication with humour.

What price ‘free speech?’

Written and spoken words are my metier, so I’m disturbed by this year’s terrorist attacks. Not just in Paris; I urge you to sign or write petitions to free journalists imprisoned or murdered for doing their job.

All that is needed for evil to flourish is for good men [people] to do [say] nothing.

(Attributed to Edmund Burke.)

Are private words safe?

A quick riposte on FaceBook or Twitter is out there, can be read from apposite perspectives. More disturbing is when private email has been hacked and circulated.

Most thinking persons don’t mean to offend others with their words, sounds, images or writing (my tools of trade!). But the devil is in the interpretation of “reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people”. 

Let’s lighten up

People warm to humour, if well handled. See tips to avoid pitfalls and inject safe humour in my book Speak Out-Don’t Freak Out.

(A quick 90-minute read to pep you before a presentation; it’s available on Amazon.)

Do we need to be funny?

Where relevant, humour can be a big audience winner. Jokes are safest if turned on oneself, perhaps relating a mishap or embarrassing situation. People respond to your openness. Don’t embarrass other people.

Beware especially of racism, profanity, or stamping on religious and political corns. Test those hilarious jokes on the family over breakfast to discover just how effective they are. If you do upset anyone, have the courage and grace to apologise.

Is ‘off the cuff’ off the planet?

You know those network situations where all have a minute to pop up and spruik their business? Usually I speak off the cuff, it feels natural. This week, I crafted and read my words. As the presenter, about to give constructive feedback around the table, I had to set a positive example. It felt stilted. I did a verbatim retake to show the difference.

 But be yourself

If you feel safer with a written text, so be it. Vary content according to audience/situation. Pause to breathe. Look up to include your listeners.

Ruth’s 2016 Diary is open

Email to check available dates for presentations, training and coaching there and elsewhere.

Or writing
You’re articulate… but too busy to condense a lifetime’s expertise into a pithy, witty and life-changing presentation.
Or deadlines loom for media releases, blogs and papers.
Whether you write for the ear or the eye, I can craft your scribbled bullet points into engaging text; edit out words that invite stutters into those that flow off the tongue. And polish your content so it shines!

Dare I say it?

Yes. I wish you God’s blessings, joy and peace for a happy Christmas season. However and whoever you celebrate.

Adrenaline: performance highs and lows

End of year exams, presentations, and concerts to juggle and prepare, we’re tired and living on adrenaline.

ALERT: Beware adrenal fatigue.

PRIORITISE as time runs short. I could have posted this blog sooner, but chose to schedule a massage and a nap before the afternoon’s teaching and practice sessions.

My students played their concert last week. That morning, I wasn’t surprised when some asked to change their pieces to Plan E (for EASY) instead of the mooted Plan C (for CHALLENGE) or Plan D (Doable). Because many students – and teachers – struggle to fit everything into the time before any big event. Myself included.

As I practise for solo performances this weekend, and prepare my students for exams and concerts, I need the advice in my own books! So I reread the chapter “Me-Time” in Sounds and Souls: How music teachers change lives.

The days beforesoundsandsoulsmedium

Actors and singers know to “save themselves” as well as their voices on the day of a performance. They talk less, eat less, pamper themselves a little, and don’t rush around. They retreat into themselves, focus on their part or persona, and avoid arguments or upsets. Try to plan the lead-up days, to reschedule where possible any draining commitments. Maintain a balanced, healthy diet. Curb caffeine, sugar, alcohol and…

Channel adrenaline

Seasoned presenters have learned to go with the adrenaline rush, even to welcome it as a source of energy and vitality. Yet this is also the province of the “fight or flight” response triggered by the primitive brain stem when in pressured situations. It is the very breeding ground of those unsettling physical symptoms like dry mouth, queasy stomach and shaky hands – which even experienced speakers may occasionally experience.

Try this quick fix to channel and focus this adrenaline by accessing the sophisticated part of the brain, the cerebral cortex.  Defuse the negative responses of the brain stem and to access your brain’s frontal lobes: sit quietly backstage, breathing slow and deep, with a hand on your forehead.  Holding these forehead pressure points, called the “positive points” by Brain-Gym exponents Paul and Gail Dennison, has a bonus effect of also calming an unsettled stomach. And unwelcome symptoms of nerves fall away like a pack of cards.

Hear Ruth Speak

BRISBANE: 3 December
Ruth will present and workshop around how to “Stand & Deliver and Power Up your Professional Introduction”

LikeMinds Networking breakfast The Gap  Bookings:  0406007753

BRISBANE: 3rd July 2016 Music Teachers Association Queensland

“Dealing with performance anxiety”

Ruth Tours 2016

NEW ZEALAND March, April and again September

ADELAIDE April, May 2016

Contact Ruth to check available dates for student workshops, Professional Development, training and coaching.

Ruth Performs

As soloist with Brisbane Symphony Orchestra: Mendelssohn, Konzertstücke for 2 clarinets features Ruth Bonetti and Sian Davis, principal clarinet of Noosa Orchestra.

Movie Themes Family Fun Concert

28 NOVEMBER | 3PM Lake Kawana Community Centre 07 5413 1400 29 NOVEMBER | 3PM St Aidan’s Anglican Girls’ School, Corinda Tickets

Tips to handle questions

Even experienced presenters can struggle with a question from left field. And alienate listeners if they stonewall or become defensive.

“Are there any questions?”

Part of your speech preparation is to jot down potential queries and practise appropriate answers.

What if no one asks?speakoutmedium

People may be shy of speaking or not ready to verbalise. Listeners use a different part of the brain when absorbing content.

• Give time; “While I drink a glass of water, think if you have any questions to ask me.” That water will also help you to think fast if someone lobs a curly one! in which case draw on the POWER OF THE PAUSE. Reflect.

• Clear the fog with: “Often I’m asked …”

• Plant a colleague in the hall, primed with a question you know inside out. This breaks ice and triggers other questions.

• Loosen them up with “Turn to the person next to you and discuss…”

Handling Tricky Questions 

If you can’t answer, it’s better to admit it openly than to tangle yourself up in convoluted attempts. People appreciate honesty: “I don’t think I could do justice to that without research. Let’s follow up later.”

Or “I’m not prepared to answer that at present; could someone else enlarge on it?”

Remember, you are the expert. Most couldn’t match your command of the topic.

Handling hostility

Dodge inelegant public power-struggles which will alienate the rest of the audience.

• Drop your shoulders, take a deep breath and a drink of water.
• Listen carefully to their points, looking to agree on some common ground.
• Empathy helps to defuse possible aggression and maintains rapport with listeners.
• Remain objective.
• Maintain a neutral, even voice. Curb emotive language.
• See it as an opportunity to re-state your position: “Let me clarify my point.”
• Find a source of agreement: “I understand that you do agree with me on …”
• Deal with a threatening point briefly and call for the next question.

Manage Grandstanders and Big-Noters

An “on-edge” presenter may mis-read an enthusiastic question as an effort to trip. Most wheelbarrow pushers will desist once they have their quota of attention. If they try to turn it into a debate, suggest following up the discussion later rather than take time from others’ questions.

Phrases like “Perhaps you might briefly share your expertise with us …” defer to their knowledge while giving yourself time to marshal your own thoughts.

[Excerpt from Speak Out – Don't Freak Out; Public speaking with confidence
available as hardcopy book and eBook] 

Need help with coaching and speech/blog writing? Email Ruth

Water therapy for healthy performance

‘Tis the season of exams and recitals. We’re prepared, right?

(‘Fail to prepare > Prepare to Fail.’) As stress levels lift, we need clarity to function to our ability. Or we fluster in performance and lose the plot – and control of passages or scales. “I played that perfectly at home!” we groan.

WATER: a miracle boost for performers

Under the spotlight, we challenge our systems in many ways. Multiple signals buzz from brain to body. Our bodies are made up of about 70% water. This is an excellent conductor of electrical energy, necessary to efficiently pass messages between the central nervous system, brain and sensory organs.Ruth Sian

How many glasses of water did you drink today?____

In a “normal” day we need about eight glasses of water; even more in pressured times. 

Stress dehydrates. Responses become sluggish when we’re dehydrated. During challenging times, maintain water intake to improve concentration, mental and physical co-ordination. It alleviates mental fatigue, increases energy levels, and keeps our brain firing.

The downside

I know what you’re thinking! More frequent visits to the bathroom – another pesky performance symptom. Many performers notice that nerves increase their frequency of urination. Why? The smooth muscle of the genito-urinary system contracts when our sympathetic system is activated. Increased adrenaline rush and resulting cardiac racing can cause diuresis. Such issues are eased if we learn to channel that adrenaline away from such symptoms into energy. 

Make water a habit

Drink plenty of water in pressured weeks, days, the morning of a performance. Ease back in the hours and minutes before, perhaps rinsing your mouth before walking onto the platform. On-stage, I like to have a water bottle at hand for a discreet sip between pieces. This helps another problem that besets performers; dry mouth.

Singers and speakers

Water is essential for voice production, to lubricate the vocal folds. Room temperature or warm is best; cold constricts and heat relaxes. 

“Water is the only drink for a wise man.” (Or woman) – Henry David Thoreau

  Let’s drink to that!

Hear Ruth play

Mendelssohn Konzertstücke Op. 114 with Sian Davis and Brisbane Symphony Orchestra
                      Sat 28 November – Sunshine Coast Tix  
                      Sun 29 November – Corinda, Brisbane Tix Ph. 07 3847 1717

Workshops and Coaching

Ruth offers one-on-one sessions in SE Qld or via Skype. Email to check availability.

Walk the Talk

How do you prepare a speech? Consider the difference if you write for the ear or the eye; each requires a different mind set and approach. Both need active verbs and vital language to hold attention.

With presentations you engage the audience. Speak naturally.

To prepare a presentation

This works for me to create a natural rather than stilted style:

  • Brainstorm what points I will cover.
  • Walk with my notes as I speak it through (I’m blessed with paths amongst trees and by beaches).
  • Tape on my iPad notes function.
  • Email this as text to my computer, to be edited and polished.
  • With the printout I walk and speak it through to the birds. I discover clunky phrases and words that invite stumbles. As my tongue finds a vivid sentence I talk it into my iPad.
  • I time it on my iPhone as my walking pace matches thoughts and words.
  • Before a big speech I walk the talk to memorise crucial opening and closing senences. (Automaton saved me when an MC skipped my submitted biog and introduced me as ‘Ruth Cracknell.’ Gulp. Que?@#!? But on with the speech.)

Activate both brain hemispheres

Walking is a cross-crawl action, that allows us to unlock brain power and encourages a mix of logical and creative thinking.

‘When we walk, the two halves of our brains converse.’ Julia Cameron Walking in This World.

Follow the paths of pilgrims and philosophers

For philosophers like Kant, Rousseau and Nietzsche walking was daily discipline. Gandhi and Mandela walked with the masses for freedom. Jesus Christ walked as He taught his disciples. For indigenous Aborigines and American Indians their bare foot ‘walkabouts’ made contact with the land.

Walk to focus and problem solve.speakoutmedium

‘It is solved by walking.’ – St Augustine

‘All truly great ideas are conceived while walking’ – Nietzsche

Begin with the Brainstorm

Last week as I coached someone for his presentation skills, I noticed yet again the necessity to help him write his speech before we could solve performance aspects.

We began in relaxed conversation to understand issues he planned to address.

We wrote bullet points on a white board.

As he passed through that initial stumbling exploratory stage and began to fire with enthusiasm, thoughts flowed naturally. At that point I taped him on my iPad, and emailed the file. The content was fresh with flow, focus and passion. He could then edit and polish.

Big speech coming up? 

Email for speechwriting and coaching in presentation skills, training.

But it’s tomorrow!

Download my 90-minute read Speak Out: Don’t Freak Out

Your speaking can flow with ease so your experience, expertise and natural enthusiasm shine through.