7 soft skills for hard times

Presenting yourself in business is like acting. What was once seen as a ‘soft skill’ is now a necessity in these hard times. As a trained actress who now teaches presentation skills to business-people, I see people who are brilliant at what they do but just don’t know how to ‘sell’ those skills.

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19th January 2010 at 8:43 am

Many companies have stopped hiring and are putting more pressure on remaining staff to build business. Employees may have technical skills and top qualifications, but that’s just part of the answer; they also need to sustain relationships with their work colleagues, sell themselves, and build new or sustain existing business. People are astonished at how theatre-based ‘tricks’ can be played out in the boardroom.

Learn some magic stage tricks which anyone can pick up – once they know how. My top tips for sales teams and those individuals who struggle to present themselves are:

Learn to breathe.
Sounds obvious but most people just don’t do themselves justice. Breathing controls the voice. Find your centre and the energy will flow.

Watch your body language and eye contact. Open body language (for instance avoiding folded arms which act as a barrier) is welcoming to the audience. Eye contact is crucial – but don’t stare at an individual as this can be as off-putting as no eye contact at all.

Tonality and picking your words for emphasis.
Tonality is a measure of attitude. It’s not just what you say but the way that you say it. The sound indicates the emotion behind your words. The words themselves matter too – so pick them carefully. Avoid jargon your audience may not understand. Consider every word, every phrase and the tonality you say them.

A positive attitude is essential. Believe in what you are saying and believe in yourself to build confidence.

Practice. There is no substitute. On average practice for one hour for every five minutes you have to speak.

Slow down. Make sure the audience can hear you (this will also help you plan ahead and breathe correctly).

Visualise and know your audience. Make sure you know who you will be presenting to and get in the habit of not only visualising your audience or your visual aids but you should also visualise yourself. Try to imagine how you will be seen: your facial expressions and body language; will you be standing or seated; when and how will you control your slide presentation or other presentation aids. Consider these aspects and you will appear much more polished. If necessary, practice in front of a mirror or video yourself.

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Marcia Tucker

Marcia Tucker is a Director and Lecturer at Faculty-One, business training specialists. Marcia has trained in a variety of business sectors as well as having worked as a professional actress for many years in TV, radio and theatre. She trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. http://www.faculty-one.com/

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