Managing those Mind Monkeys For Better Career Opportunities
So, welcome to a new episode of “Experts! Speak English!”, and today I am going to be talking to the amazing Olivia Schofield. Now, I am from the UK, as is Olivia. I’ll be speaking to her a bit about that in just a moment. But let me just tell you a bit about Olivia: So, I met Olivia through Toastmasters, and I know I go on a lot about Toastmasters because it is fantastic but this lady she doesn’t just do speaking, you know, as a free-time thing or to improve her confidence or anything like that. She’s actually making her living as a speaker, travelling all over the world, all over the country. And she’s also an award-winning TEDx-speaker! So, not that I’m feeling nervous at all about that… No, no, no, no…!
What I loved about her – and I love this when you look at people’s LinkedIn profile -, she says: “I’m changing speakers from informing to speakers that inspire!”, and that is right up my street because I think every conversation could potentially be a career-changing conversation. So, let me welcome Olivia Schofield!
Corinne: Welcome to the show!
Olivia: Yeah, here I am and exactly: A speaker speaks to inspire – they do not speak to inform. If you want to inform: write an email, send a document. If you want to inspire: speak!
Corinne: Exactly. Exactly. It’s all about persuasion, isn’t it? And leadership isn’t about doing your job. It’s about inspiring people to go to the next level, isn’t it?
Olivia: Exactly. In fact, when you talked about where are careers made, often, if you get an opportunity to speak in public, you should take it because that shows you as a leader who’s willing to put themselves out front, leading by example. And a lot of people think, “I don’t want to do it. I hope they are someone else”. But there is where careers are made.
Corinne: Exactly. Exactly. And I think all too often, isn’t it the case that people get asked once and if they say no the first time, the chances of them being asked a second time are less. If you say no a second time, a third time probably isn’t going to happen.
Olivia: No. And you’ve got to be willing to get out of your comfort zone. I think that to make a better career and also to speak a different language. I remember when I first meet Germany, my German was “schlechlich” (schrecklich) – terrible. (Corinne: Das ist ja goldig!). And when I say, it was terrible – it still is terrible. However, it didn’t stop me speaking it and I knew a lot of people that because they didn’t get the “der, das, dessen” correct, they actually just didn’t practise it. And that’s a big mistake. Practise it with all your mistakes and, of course, you can always rely on the Germans to correct you and then your German gets better and better and better. And it’s the same if you speak English. Don’t worry about getting it right, worry about giving it a go.
Speak to Inspire,
Not to Inform
Corinne: Yeah. I always say: It’s not about perfectionism, it’s about passion and professionalism. So, I’m working with a lot of women at the moment and they have a real fear of speaking up. Do you have any tips for people that are kind of… putting it off, making excuses, giving people the wrong (printer goes on, “I’ve got a printer, it’s got a life of its own. I didn’t touch anything, don’t know what that’s about. I’m sure this place is haunted or something – anyway). Getting the ladies to get up onto the stage, what would you say to inspire them?
Olivia: I would say that men are very quick to put themselves forward, even if they have absolutely no talent or no idea of what’s going on. And women think “Unless I’m absolutely sorted and perfect, you’ve got the complete eye over everything. I’m not going to put myself forward”. And that’s a mistake and that’s where men often get on a lot better than women because they’re willing to take a bit of a risk and put themselves forward.
And one of the reasons for that is that women are anxious about coming across as an expert and they really want to know their stuff before they speak. But the fact is, when we speak on stage, we don’t need to worry about being an expert. What we need to worry about is connection. Connection – that is the crucial element – connection. We don’t connect just being an expert. We connect by being our own unique selves. And so, we shouldn’t be afraid to be our own unique selves and our own unique selves isn’t perfect – and isn’t that a wonderful thing? Once we try to be like others and we try to be like the speaker before us or be like another boss and seem like an expert, that’s where we get fearful, we get terrified, and we start to feel sick inside that we’re going to be found dead as an imposter. And you know what’s amazing is that I spoke at Women in Tech in Amsterdam a few years ago, actually, that was the London one. I spoke on imposter-syndrome, the room was packed to overflowing. They had to have people sitting in the aisles. They had to have the doors open. It was full because everybody feels like this, not just your viewers.
Corinne: That’s true. That’s true. And I remember when I was a little bit younger, one of my first speeches was at the e-Learning Day in Hamburg. This is going back a long time, I didn’t even have children, right, so it’s a long time ago. My son is now 19 and my German wasn’t brilliant either. And I just assumed, you know, I’m in Germany, obviously the speech will be in German.
I didn’t for 1 second think about saying, “Could I hold it in English?”, you know, because they asked me, the German guy asked me to give a speech, so obviously for me, it would be in German, right? So, I planned the whole speech in German and then the guy in front of me got up and did his in English. And originally I was thinking, “Oh, oh”, you know, at first I thought “How lazy!”, like, “How arrogant”, you know, like.. (Olivia: “How dare he?!”) Yeah, I’m like “I could have done that, I’ve gone to all this effort. (Olivia: “And what an idiot I was!”)
Corinne: (laughs) Well, no, I think it was a good learning process, wasn’t it? But then I got up and I did my thing and all of the others had been like these type presentations, you know, with a PowerPoint presentation. And they go from slide to slide and they hardly walk around and there was not really much up and down. The voice was just like monotone. Like you’re feeling on the back of a lorry or something. And then I got up and I thought, “You know, I’m just going to do my thing. I’ve prepared this now”. And I opened with like a really provocative question and they’re like, “Oh”, sitting on the edge of their seats and listening and stuff. And I just kind of went, I just decided, “Just do it your way, girl, just do it”, you know? And I did it and I was marching around the room and I was speaking to people. I said, “What do you think about that? Why is that?” You know, getting people involved in everything. And at the end, they gave me a standing ovation. I was really shocked. I didn’t know what to do. And I’m really close, you know, I’m a very emotional person, I was like “Oh, oh”, I didn’t really know what to do.
Olivia: This is one of the things that I like about you, Corinne, and why I’m doing this podcast with you because you really have your own personality. You’re a breath of fresh air. And people used to say that to me and I thought, “What do they mean? Why?”, but you are your own self, your personality, you’re dynamic. However, even if you’re listening to this and you don’t feel that you have a big personality and that you’re not as dynamic, it doesn’t matter. You have to embrace who YOU are. And I think what happens is that when we speak on stage, being who we are, being ourselves, is actually incredibly difficult. It’s easier to hide behind a facade of expertise than it is to be ourselves. So, the real work in being a great speaker is actually to feel comfortable enough to deliver yourself.
Corinne: Absolutely. Absolutely. And it is easy, isn’t it, to kind of stand behind – what do you call those things that you stand behind?
Olivia: A lectern.
Corinne: Thank you. A lectern. You know, it’s easy to stand behind that, so nobody can see what your feet are doing and, you know, nobody can see if your hands are shaking with the paper or anything. But, you know, getting away from that lectern and approaching people and bringing them into your story – not a made-up story, but your message is really powerful, and it makes it a lot of fun, right?
Olivia: Yeah. I mean, for those people that are interested in the English, the podium is the stage and the lectern is where you put your notes and has the microphone. And often non-native speakers get those mixed up and say, “Would you like to stand behind the podium?” or (laughs).
Corinne: What I would also say to people, if they are going to give a speech in front of 400 people, 500 people or however many people, and there’s been a gentleman in front of you who’s a great big guy, make sure that you have time to do something with that microphone. Make sure that you are friendly with the person is cabling you up because you don’t want to be on the bad side of them. So, make sure you leave enough time for that.
Olivia: Yeah, or you know how to change the height of a microphone yourself. But normally someone might pop onto the stage and do that for you.
Corinne: Yeah, it is nice if you can do it yourself, you’re right.
Corinne: Yeah. Cool. So, when you’re setting up your speech, obviously you can’t just show up and talk out of your whatever. You have to plan your speech. Now, how much time goes into planning an event like that? How long is a piece of (…)
Olivia: It’s like an iceberg. The presentation itself is just the tip of the iceberg and everything that goes to make it smooth and work really well is the presentation time. I mean, I can spend a week on a presentation or I can spend 5 minutes. I mean, I remember when at a big conference, their keynote speaker didn’t turn up and they made an announcement asking everyone to sit in their chairs because the speaker hadn’t turned up. And I just got up, walked backstage and said, “Would you like me to give a speech?”, and of course, when they said, “Yes, please”, and miked the girl up, I thought, “What the hell am I going to talk about?”. And I didn’t have much time. I literally grabbed a piece of paper and a big marker, I asked someone to bring and then I thought, “I can only cover three things and an opening and a close. What are the three key things I’m going to open?”. I don’t even have time to think, “Oh, should I do that, should I do that?”. Just the first three things, yeah, so then I’ve put the three words on there, the opening and closing and I said to the tech guy, “I want you to go on to the stage and I want you to sellotape this piece of paper onto the stage, sellotape it so the wind doesn’t blow it away because I’m going to need that piece of paper to remind myself when I am terrified and nervous, what are the three elements I’ve decided so that I have a good structure. So I can do it like that but in general, the reason why I can do it like that at the last minute is because I’ve got a lot of practice in creating strong presentations. And what I say is there’s a few rules:
1. Do not edit at the creative stage. Just put all your ideas down.
2. Cut your ideas into the best must-be-in and that “nice-to-have-but-not-important”.
3. Look at the time that you have.
“Am I speaking for 3 minutes?” then, “Is that six things I want to talk about? Is 30 seconds a thing?”. Most people go, “Oh, I’m talking for 3 minutes… oh, oh” If I look at it like that, actually, I’ve got 10 minutes of content.
So, it’s a question of really
“What is my time-frame?
“How much time do I want for each of these sections?
“Is it possible within that time?”
“How does that contain or reduce what I was going to do?”.
But this is only after you’ve got all the ideas. Get all the ideas, take out the bad ones and the ones that have to be in and look at your time, then think for each section,
“How am I going to open this section with a dynamic opening?
What are the points I’m going to make and how I’m going to transition to the next section?”.
And a good rule of three is in rhetoric’s: Just have three main points. One of the points might have three subsections, but generally keep to three main points and ask “How do I open the whole thing?”. It isn’t with “Um, uh, so, hello, okay, welcome”. It is with a dynamic opening. And that dynamic opening might be something like: challenge. “We have at this conference to talk about challenge. And in the next 3 minutes I’m going to share with you three elements that will help you meet any challenge head on”. There, we’ve come up with a dynamic opening, we’ve told the audience where we’re going and what they can expect and we’ve signposted how many points we’re going to have. If you get all this correct, it kind of takes care of itself. But notice we have not yet opened our computer and we have not yet started a slide deck.
Olivia: We only, after we created the speech, ask ourselves, “Does this point need enhancement from a slide or not?”. If it does, “Is that slide dynamic, interesting, stimulating, add something extra or is it just a boring slide that looks like a handout?
Corinne: Yeah, absolutely. And I think you touched on a very interesting point here. I don’t know whether you can identify with this, but being British, I find that we’re not super structured. So, this scaffolding for me has been one of the most difficult things in Toastmasters by structuring the speech. But I’m finding that it’s kind of creeping into other parts of my life, too, which is quite nice.
Olivia: What else have you structured? Have you organised your knicker drawer, for instance?
Corinne: No, I haven’t gone that far. (laughs)
Olivia: No! OK. (laughter)
Corinne: No, but it’s interesting, isn’t it, how different cultures probably are challenged by different things. So, when you’re choosing the stage as your platform for carving your personal brand, you know, when I’m working with people, we go through like the basics of Business English, then we talk about being more impactful with what they’re saying, asking more questions, using more body language, all of this kind of stuff. And then we talk about personal branding, and some people like to hide behind this their keyboards and write a blog. Other people will start a podcast and others start using the stage. So, what is it that they should know if they’re going to use the stage to publicise their expertise but also their personality?
Olivia: Never be afraid to allow your personality onto the stage. (Shows her teddy bear) This is my friend. Hello. He’s called Brex. I’m teaching him to sit. Brex, sit! He’s not very good at Brexit, no. But, always bring your personality onto the stage.
So, one of the things that I don’t hide is, I love teddy bears. And you would think as a professional woman in business, you would need to hide that. I have a teddy bear handbag that whenever I go anywhere, I take it with me and people say to me, “I love your handbag” and it’s always a conversation starter. If there’s noisy kids it shuts them up. But if I own that this is part of me – in fact, it’s become part of my brand – if I own it, that it is part of me, people accept it without a bit of an eyelid, without embarrassment or anything. If I don’t accept it and I try to cover it up, it’s like an awkwardness and people think, “Well, she’s a bit weird, she’s a bit childish, she kind of likes bears. But I say “No. The reason I love bears” and I tell the story why I share that with people, and they accept me as sort of a bit of a crazy woman that loves bears but is extremely good at her job.
Now, I’m not suggesting you need to take your bear onto stage, but what I’m suggesting is you need to embrace the fact that you are individual and unique. How is that going to come across on stage? What is your brand? My brand is authentically me.
So, if I then come up on stage and be very formal and official, I wouldn’t be living my brand. I mean, I change some things depending on the client. For instance, if I’m teaching at Zalando, I might wear a leather jacket and Doc Martin’s. If I’m teaching at Deutsche Bank, I’m probably going to wear a blue dress suit. So, I change my persona for the audience because I want them to be open to me. And if I go to Deutsche Bank in leather Jacket and Dr. Martin Boots, they’re not going to be that open because I’m not reflecting themselves.
So, you want to partly reflect the audience, but also you want to be allowing the audience to feel that they’re in safe hands. So, ask yourself all the time – not, how do you feel, the speaker, but how actually does the audience feel, how do I want to make them feel? I actually want to make them feel relaxed, comfortable, in safe hands. And if I’m nervous and anxious and twiddling and trying to cover up who I really am, then they get nervous and they’re anxious for me and I lose a lot of credibility.
Corinne: Absolutely. And I think that’s why you have to choose your clients very carefully, right? You know, like, I could be asked to go to a really trendy start-up and I’d probably feel a bit out of place, to be honest. But if I went to a place, you know, where I could be myself, then you’re more likely to deliver, you know, because…
Olivia: Well, Corinne, I disagree with you. Why do you think that you wouldn’t be great in a cool, trendy start-up? Are you kidding me? Yes, you would. You’re wacky and wild and wonderful – all those three things. But you know, when you say “Choose your clients”, of course it depends on what product you’ve got and what you’re doing. I mean, I wouldn’t go to speak to a group of mums, particularly, who are on maternity leave because I’m teaching public speaking training and they’re probably not doing that at that time. So, obviously that relates to who your audience are. But whether it is a bank or, I mean, who these days can choose their clients? You get offered work or a job or a possibility. Who, these days, can go, “Oh no, that’s not quite me. Thank you though”? (laughs) No. You can (20:20) teach anything, aren’t you? And give it a go.
Corinne: Yeah, I know. But you can kind of attract different people from your website and things like that, that’s what I meant, you know?
Olivia: Yeah, yeah, that’s true. And you know, that’s interesting. I think, you know, here I am, I’m in my tracksuit. I’ve been working out this morning and then I started working, I haven’t showered, got just into my normal clothes.
Corinne: I can’t smell anything. (laughs)
Olivia: There I am. But, you know, I just think, well, this is also part of me because I say, you know, “Accept me as I am” and I’m not going to play credibility. I’m not going to play importance. I’m damn good at what I do. I know it. I can change people and I’ve got something to offer and that’s good enough for me.
Corinne: Yeah, that’s right. And that’s good enough for all of the clients that would give you testimonials in the past, too, so. But it’s interesting what you said about, you know, women on maternity leave. I’ve got a programme that’s starting very soon. It’s called “Back to Business Baby”, and it’s for women that are on maternity leave and they’re about to come back and they’ve got those kind of mind monkeys going on, you mentioned earlier like imposter syndrome and they’re like, “Oh, am I good enough? Do I know my stuff? How am I going to organise it all?”, so it’s a 12-month-programme for them and there will be a speaking part on that.
Olivia: Well, that’s different because that’s then going back to work and there’s a lot of work to be done in remembering that actually being a stay-at-home mum is like managing your own company. I remember, you know, you got to wear about 20 hats. You’re in charge of so many different things. You’re in charge of travel, you’re in charge of catering, you’re in charge of entertainment, you’re in charge of education. You know, as a mother, you’re in charge of all these things, so going back to work is actually a doddle.
Corinne: It is. “What? I’ve only got one job to do?” (laughs).
What people don’t realise about public speaking? Tell us some behind-the-scenes secrets. What is it that they don’t know about public speaking? The good, the bad and the ugly – go on! Spill the beans!
Olivia: What don’t they know about public speaking? Well, I for instance, I do a warm-up before I go on stage. A lot of people wouldn’t even think about it. But I kind of like, you know, make sure that my body’s moving. I make sure my face is moving. So, when I say, “My body is moving”, I wave my arms around, my face is moving, I get it going. And one of the things that I do, not just before I go on stage but in preparation, is a little bit of training for my diction.
Corinne: Oh, I was prepared.
Olivia: You were prepared. So, for training for your diction, there’s a little exercise that we learnt at the BBC, and – actually, Brex is very good at this exercise. And you put the cork just between your teeth like that, through your teeth. And then you try to speak as clearly as you can, as if you are the podcast and you wanted to be understood. But you didn’t want people to know you had a cork in your mouth.
Corinne: Right! It’s quite difficult, isn’t it? That makes your jaw hurt, doesn’t it?
Olivia: A small tip…
Corinne: You see, you had more practise than me. I’m going to do that.
Olivia: Except that your cork is probably from a bottle, which is about four millimeters higher.
Corinne: It’s from this thing. I had little chocolates in it.
Olivia: Don’t offer me one then. I’m just a guest.
Corinne: They’re gone now, they’re gone.
Olivia: Yeah, I can see! Okay, so this cork is a seven millimetre cork, so it’s a little bit less than a wine bottle. I cut it, so, it’s got to be slightly uncomfortable but not impossible. And then what happens is it’s like weight training for the tongue. The back of the tongue really has to work hard to say the words. And this is extremely good, particularly if you’re speaking in a language like English that is not your native language. In order to articulate clearly, it’s good to try this exercise. And I give this exercise to my coachees and try to get them to do a minute a day.
Corinne: A minute a day?
Olivia: “A minute a day makes the diction problems away”, is what I say.
Corinne: It sounds like addiction problems.
Olivia: I just made that up on the spot. So, that’s one really good thing. I get my voice sweaty, I do humming
Olivia: So that’s one really good thing so I get my voice sweaty. I do humming.
Corinne: Oh, well, that’s easy to do, isn’t it, when you’re waiting for the zoom call to start?
Olivia: Yeah. I do “brrrrrr”.
Corinne: Oh, I’m quite good at that.
Olivia: And I might do “rrrrrrrrrr”.
Corinne: Oh, I needed this in Bavaria “rrrrrrr”
Olivia: So, I do some of these things which just helps the clarity when I’m on stage. It makes me aware and it makes the muscles work and it makes me more articulate, which is very important when you’re talking for something. So that’s something I do to get ready sort of physically.
To get ready mentally, I have this little exercise I’d like to share with your viewers:
Now, I want you to imagine you’re a leaf on a tree. A leaf on a tree. Just imagine being a leaf on a tree. How would your body feel if you were a leaf on a tree?
Olivia: Okay. And now imagine you’re the tree. Now be the tree. Exactly. But if we don’t decide before we speak in public or on zoom or on a conference, if we don’t decide beforehand that we’re going to be tree, we’re nearly always leaf. And a leaf – it might be free, but it’s kind of nervous and it’s sort of wafting (blowing slightly in the wind) and somebody could just push me over and it’s not strong. But the tree is strong. Tree doesn’t mean aggression. I can be strong and I can smile at the same time.
Olivia: So, think tree not a leaf and that will get you into the right place to go on there and be powerful.
Corinne: Oh, I love that. Yeah. Cool.
Olivia: And when you’re speaking, try not to end with “Okay that’s it. I finished now.
Corinne: Oh, so many people do that, don’t they?
Olivia: Yeah. Try to finish with…
Corinne: Quite often my clients will start with “Hello, my name is…”, you know…
Olivia: Yeah, don’t start like that. I told you how to start which is like: challenge. That’s what we’re here to talk about today. Now I’m ending. I’m going to end with something like this: challenge. “I think you’ll agree that we’re ready for any challenge that comes”.
Olivia: So you can match the two together Yeah.
Corinne: That’s great. So, I think that’s a great note to end on, isn’t it?
At the end of every podcast I have a communication challenge. So, “It’s Coco’s communication challenge”, but I’m going to steal one from you today, and I’m going to ask my listeners, my wonderful listeners, if they could maybe try this little exercise with the tree before they go into the… – it could be anything, couldn’t it?
It could be a meeting.
It could be on a stage.
It could be…, you know, it could be having an awkward conversation with a member of your team that’s not pulling their weight.
It could be anything.
Are you the leaf or the tree? Fantastic!
Well, that is the end of today’s episode. Thank you so much for joining us, Olivia, and I will, no doubt, see you very soon at Toastmasters.
And until then, I would say to each and every one of you, have a fabulous week! And remember:
“Be the very best communicator that you can be!”
You’ve been listening to Experts! Speak English! brought to you by Corinne Wilhelm.
Take care now and be sure to check out my shownotes at englishspeakingexperts/143.