Thirty seconds. According to some schools of thought, that is how long it takes for an audience to form a first impression about you. So whether you’re networking at a dinner party, speaking at a work meeting or telling school children why engineering matters, it’s a good idea to make the first 30 seconds of your pitch count.
That was the theme of a training held in 2018 for the QE Prize Ambassadors. It was a brilliant event that focused on a skill that is often overlooked by engineers; engaging your audience and making your presence felt.
We put in some work before the training started, in crafting a 30 second introduction about what we do as engineering and why engineering matters.
The training began with an introduction to Karen, our trainer for the day who has quite an exciting background in theatre. We proceeded to a trial run of our 30 second introductions. It was quite interesting to learn a little about what each of the participants do as engineers.
After the exercise, we got some feedback from Karen on the content and how we felt while speaking. I learnt so much about the power of rehearsing and being very familiar with the content of my presentation; it really helps to reduce the nerves and channel that energy into connecting with the audience. I particularly appreciated that having a structure in my speaking presentations, a purpose and an expected outcome, will definitely improve my future speaking engagements.
I was quite curious when we were informed before-hand to dress in casual and comfortable clothes. Well, it didn’t take too long to find out; we practiced some mindfulness techniques and how to relieve tension in our bodies, particularly our necks and shoulders. I particularly enjoyed finding the full range of my voice and how to inject some power into my voice while speaking.
We then went on to ‘channel our inner Obama’. Confused on what that means? Well, we practiced our powerful voices as well as the power of silence, on a speech delivered by Obama. I now appreciate the power of silence and its effect on engaging your audience during a speech. No wonder we are all inspired by Obama.
We then learnt some powerful tools for engaging the audience which were borrowed from theatre – contracts, puzzles, rhetorical questions and the law of threes. I was amazed by the transformation in our 30 second introductions upon the application of these principles.
Karen concluded the training by reminding us to keep using these techniques and improving our introductions and adapting them for use in different situations. I definitely have; I am more conscious of my posture and voice in everyday activities such as visits to the supermarket.
It was such a great experience to network and meet with such brilliant engineers doing amazing work that ultimately affects humanity in such positive ways. The individual techniques learnt as well as a well honed introduction is a very good way to develop myself personally and professionally.
How do you usually prepare to deliver engaging presentations? What do you do to reduce the nerves?
Thank you for reading,