Thursday 14 June 2018, London
Stephanie Hughes came to give this very informative and interactive session. Stephanie was a presenter with the BBC for 18 years, hosting radio programmes, international broadcasts, the First and Last Nights of the BBC Proms, BBC Young Musician of the Year and Songs of Praise.
Stephanie opened the evening getting the audience to meet and greet each other in two different ways. Firstly, we acted as if we were at a school reunion meeting someone we really didn’t like or want to see. Secondly, at a happy family reunion. The two compared energy levels – with the first having low energy and little eye contact or positive body language and the second being over the top enthusiastic, lots of smiles and hugs. There was much discussion about energy levels and influencing factors such as tone of voice and gestures. If the role play was an energy scale of 1-10, most meetings should be aiming for a level 8 energy, so really quite high.
Harvard Business School did a study to ask if the power of charisma could be measured. One of the aspects they studied was the power of energy in charisma. A group observed a pitch interaction without being able to hear the content. They predicted with an 87% accuracy who would win the pitch based on those observations.
Stephanie then talked about flight, fright and freeze and how they affect us. We discussed some strategies such as the focus of attention. Your full focus of attention has to be on the task. If you suffer with nerves, your focus of attention has turned inward and you need to refocus that attention back again. Focus of attention is a key strategy in sport. Stephanie’s marker for successful energy and focus levels is that ‘you don’t want to be anywhere else, talking to anyone else about anything else’.
Energy can also be the enemy, in another interactive section, an audience member had to introduce themselves whilst the audience were smiling and friendly and then as a tough low energy crowd. The impact on how easy it was for him to carry on the introduction was impacted quite significantly with the low energy crowd. This can even be the case even when a crowd is in receive mode – a face resting in receive mode can be very similar to chronic resting bitch face! This can sap energy and cause doubt in the speaker. What often happens in this situation is that the speaker will speed up and start to flower the language.
One of the strategies Stephanie employs when training a panel for a pitch is to prime them for tough crowds to make them more robust. Panels are often purposely flat so as not to indicate or give an advantage to one pitch over another.
We did some more interactive work on setting objectives and goals ahead of meetings.
We looked at the concepts of thinking / feeling / doing and applied each of them to before and after a pitch or meeting:
Before – what is the audience in a meeting thinking/feeling/doing about this at the moment.
- This is a leap into the unknown
- We don’t want to spend the money
- We want to expand
- Getting ready to listen
After – what do you want them to be thinking/feeling/doing by the time you finish.
- Glad we both agree
- We should change direction
- I can understand why we should spend
- Talk positively amongst themselves
This thinking/feeling/doing analysis then feeds into preparation for the meeting or pitch:
Thinking - this informs the content that you give as a message.
Feeling – this is your stage direction, eg positive and confident
Doing – becomes your goals
We discussed examples of different personality types and how you need to manage your side of the see saw of personalities.
- Like evidence
- Hate revolutionary statements
Warm cup of coffee
- Value personal integrity
- Build rapport
- Will linger in small talk
- Like to have yes men and women
- If you disagree, you need to challenge correctly
- Hates things being held up
- Wants to push forward
- Don’t waffle
Managing the see saw brings in elements such as energy levels, language and delivery and providing effective answers.
Language, Delivery and Effective Answers
We looked at the type of language and delivery that can impact a meeting. This was based on FOAM:
Delivery should have a flow of logic:
- Past, present, future
- Problems, choices, futures
- Argument, evidence, conclusion
We can think of it as:
- What? – what is the initiative
- So what? – why is this the best solution
- Now what? – how do we implement this
In response to questions in any meeting, we need to have effective answers. You need to make decisions quickly pulling in the data available to you to provide responses. The structure of the answer depends on the nature of the question.
How would you… ? A good structure for these would contain process and sign posting, for example including steps. First I would… Second I would… and they tend to have verbs in the answer.
What are…? Here you are looking at process. The response tends to be nouns and then rounded off with a description or qualifying sentence.
Why…? This is looking for opinion and is where you provide evidence and conclusion.
Stephanie talked about the type of language in meetings. Trying not to use dead language or over complicate language as a reaction to stress and where people use nominalisations (nouns but not concrete things – eg education, accountability, utilisation) to hide ignorance, protect territory or influence and manipulate – a prime example being politicians.
It was a really engaging, practical and interactive session with tips that we can all use within our own working life both personally and in the support of our professionals. Her advice was don’t ‘wish’ that you are different, you can change yourself!
Sarah Longden, Quadrant Chambers