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.

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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!)

Word Power–written, spoken & sung

Think of all the words we read, speak and write in a week, a year, a lifetime. What might encapsulate your output, by which people remember you? Politicians know a word, phrase or speech that can fast track their career. Or batter it (as in “things that batter” from Alexander Downer). Remember these?

  • I have a dream…” Revisit Martin Luther King Jnr.’s words in light of recent world events.
  • Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables”
  • Julia Gillard’s “misogyny” 
  • Paul Keating’s “the recession we had to have” 
  • “Drain the swamp”…

Do your words speak vision – or derision?

Freedom of speech is much debated at present. It’s allied with freedom of religion, seen through a kaleidoscope. Political perspectives and stances are volatile. We reel from the terrorist attack on tolerant Sweden, which welcomed so many refugees.

What of regimes where words are censored?

Many who enjoy freedom of speech and religion cannot imagine life under repression. Between 1987-1991, hundreds of thousands of Estonians expressed their patriotism in the only way they could – singing. Their Singing Revolution joined with fellow Baltic Republics of Latvia and Lithuania in nonviolent protests that gained their independence from the Soviet regime in 1991. See a documentary and SBS Great Continental Train Journeys: Riga to Tampere. (Where my great-uncle Edvard Back fought in the Civil War, as you can read in Midnight Sun to Southern Cross.)

Edvard Back soldier 2_NH

Finland fought for Independence with war and music

in 1899 (the year my great-uncle fled Finland, pursued by Russians at Suez), Jean Sibelius composed “Finland Awakens” (later renamed “Finlandia”) for a benefit concert to aid journalists repressed by the regime. Growling tremolo and biting brass chords paint in sound the “Great Hate” for Finland’s oppressors that contrast with a plaintive hymn tune. As Finns also expressed patriotism in choral groups, they added vocal lyrics: “Finland, behold, thy daylight now is dawning” and “Be still my soul, the Lord is on your side.”

The Finn Choir sings this at my book launch 23 April, 2–4.30pm

“Midnight Sun to Southern Cross” tells much of Finland’s struggle for Independence, whose centenary is celebrated this year.Midnight Sun front cover

Dr Bill Glasson, AO, who shares similar heritage, will launch the book at St Lucia Uniting Church, Brisbane. A recital of Finnish music will use the organ that my grandfather W.A. Back donated in 1954. Finnish oboist Emily Salonen plays The Swan of Tuonela by Sibelius on cor anglais.
Hear relevant passages from the book and footage of voices from the past.
It’s a free event and all welcome, but do let me know for space and catering.

Finnish pastries!

Afternoon tea will be catered by Finnish chef Bianca Kasurinen, who worked with Jamie Oliver. So please RSVP by reply email, or (61)411782404.

Where to order copies?

Autographed copies are available at the launch, or pre-order copies online.

Cheques can be mailed to PO Box 422, The Gap, Qld 4061 Australia. Or email for direct banking details. Like its predecessor, Burn My Letters, this second book of the saga, Midnight Sun to Southern Cross will be available as eBook (Kobo, Amazon, Book Depository).

So what’s it about?

In the tradition of great family migration stories, Midnight Sun to Southern Crosscontinues the saga of the Back brothers’ flight from Russian-occupied Finland to Australia as the nineteenth century turned into the twentieth.

From frozen Finland to the lush rainforests of northern New South Wales, to the dry and dusty sheep country of western Queensland, you follow the highs and lows of their new life under the Southern Cross.

It is an extraordinary tale of success, failure, hard work and dreaming. What drove the wheeler-dealer Wilhelm Anders Back, known as WA, to became in his time Australia’s richest Finn? And what stirred his eccentric writerly elder brother Karl Johan, KJ, pacifist and political dissenter? What sustained those who stayed behind in Finland, as they bravely struggled to oust the Russians from their homeland? This book, and its predecessor, Burn My Letters, are timely in the centenary year of Finnish Independence.Inside Cover F

Ruth Bonetti, WA’s granddaughter, also contrasts his and Karl Johan’s formative years in Finland with her own upbringing in outback Queensland. For her, it is a voyage of discovery and self-discovery as she tells of her extensive search in Finland and Australia for the broad Back family history and weaves the story of her own life from shy bush girl to musician and writer, wife and mother.

Enjoy the Saga!

PS. To attend the launch, bookings (email, Facebook or phone) are essential.

 

Walk Out – Talk In-clusive

The audience of ultimate indignity…someone walked out of your keynote. How to continue, wondering what nerve was hit? What sacred cow did you shoot?

We imagine the worst, take it as a condemnation of our words. But perhaps they went to take an emergency phone call or to the bathroom?

Misread Body language?

If pressured, we may misread signals. As I did, presenting my first American sessions, aware that a co-faculty member sat with bland face–as he processed my words. Yet he came first to shake hands and say “I was intrigued that you said…”

Some do tell it straight…

By posting a blog as did Yassim Abdel-Magied. She protested that acclaimed author Lionel Shriver’s Brisbane Writers Festival keynote address targeted “cultural appropriation, identity politics and political correctness.”

Stay on topic

To their credit, festival organisers quickly mounted a right of reply, saying Shriver “didn’t stay with the agreed brief” of “community and belonging” but reverted to her submitted topic of “fiction and identity politics.” Even a respected author who won awards for We Need to Talk About Kevin should stay on topic. 

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Natural habitat

Writers festivals are my natural habitat. They attract thinking, articulate people, who discuss reactions, smiling as they plod though mud between tents to absorb yet more challenging ideas. Mega thanks, Byron Writers Festival and Jesse Blackadder for the opportunity to launch my book Burn My Letters.

This inspiring festival is unique amongst others in giving space for humble indie authors.

Hear radio interview

A new writers festival

And for Sunshine Coast International Readers and Writers Festival where director Wendy Hanlon launched Burn My Letters in an innovative, inclusive and friendly atmosphere. In it, I give voice to one who was censored, I “step into other people’s shoes, and try on their hats” (to quote Shriver) as authors do.FullSizeRender

I’m thrilled with 5-star reviews on Goodreads.

What’s it all about?

Out of town, I missed the BWF keynote furore. But reading the transcript I’m of two minds. I sympathise with those who felt confronted by the speech, but wonder how many silent majority audience agreed. The sort of people Hillary Clinton dismissed as “deplorables” who feel so ridiculed for conservative beliefs, and disenfranchised that they would even consider voting for extreme right politicians.

Some commentators including The Financial Review sided with Shriver.

Bring on the debate – pro and con

Did some nod at her words: “The left’s embrace of gotcha hypersensitivity inevitably invites backlash. Donald Trump appeals to people who have had it up to their eyeballs with being told what they can and cannot say. Pushing back against a mainstream culture of speak-no-evil suppression, they lash out in defiance, and then what they say is pretty appalling.”

Abdel-Magiel has appeared on GotchaLand ABC QandA panels.

But it’s simplistic to dub a walkout as as publicity stunt, not knowing sensitivities that prompted it. We value our country’s freedom of speech that enabled Abdel-Magied her voice. We can always learn from criticism.

But as a wordsmith, I worry that increasingly, words are curtailed, censored, criticised.

Shriver cited recent authors that the left judges for “cultural appropriation.” Do we add the white Harper Lee whose To Kill a Mocking Bird and Uncle Tom’s Cabin that took on American racial prejudices? Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood?

What price words?

The Australian government deems words so cheap that they consider changing laws to cut copyright to a mere 15 years. Or allow parallel importation of books, that would decimate authors’ already meagre incomes.

We need to talk, with open minds, respect and sensitivity. Dialogue, not monologue. Unless we’re the keynote speaker.

 

“Playing” music…for free or fee?

Some non-musicians can’t understand that because we “play” music, it’s our livelihood. That we have invested years of decades’ study to finesse our talents. That we still put hours into practice and in many cases into arranging and composing. OK, I’m preaching to the converted. But…

Practice or play?

Why not choose a positive title like “Practice Makes Perfect” someone asked when I published Practice is a Dirty Word: How to clean up your act.

I’m allergic to the words perfect and practice in the same sentence.

practiceIn it I wrote:

Let me explode a myth.
Practice does not make perfect.
Not exactly. Not always. Hey, not ever. Let’s face it, we can’t be perfect.
Even top performers cannot be perfect. None of us can be a hundred percent perfect. Trying to be so is the biggest single cause of nerves, insecurity, depression, low self-esteem. These can cause even the most capable and talented people to give up.
The whole problem is that “practice makes perfect” has been garbled and used as a whip around our ears. Who coined that phrase, anyway? No one admits to it, but the closest we can get to its origin is that the ancient Greek philosopher Periander said: “Practice is everything.” 

But what to call it? Play?

I wrestled to find another word for “practice”. Play is the closest, implying active, creative engagement. (But we know for some it means –er–lack of focus.)

There’s the pitfall…

Some can’t imagine we should be paid real money for mere PLAY.

I must offer professional fees for live musicians at the book launch.

Thank you to those who’ve supported my crowdfunding campaign.Special mention to Althea O’Dee for her heart-warming email:”Congratulations on your new writing project! You inspire me so much. I am working in China at the moment. I’d like to donate to your fund, but when I open the fund-site, it is all in Chinese. Could I donate into your bank account… and you don’t need to send anything in return? I just want to help you, since I already own a couple of your music books, which have really helped me.

We hit the goal! Now to pay musicians at book launchTwoCovers

When my books are between covers, we’ll raise a glass to my wonderful supporters. With live music of course. These talented musicians deserve REAL fees, not mates’ rates.
With extra funds I’ll book a singer and commission son André to arrange Scandinavian music to perform with his gypsy band Greshka).

Because Words and Music are my fortes

There’s a few days left support my campaign. Do check out my crowdfunding site.

Thanks for your support!

 

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