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How to talk your way to success

By Hugh Wilson
How to talk your way to success
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We all know of blokes who seem to be able to talk their way into anything, whether that means an exclusive new nightclub, a top job or a beautiful woman's affections.

But if you find yourself tongue-tied when the pressure is on, don't despair. Here are four scenarios where the gift of the gab really counts, and easy tips to make sure you have it when you need it.

The job interview
You have an interview for a job you really want, and you're worried you'll blow it. We've all been there. The most basic advice, says voice and presentation coach Joanna Crosse, author of Find Your Voice: How Clear Communication Can Transform Your Life is to prepare: "If you know what you're talking about and have done your research properly you will look and sound better. Your body language will be natural and you'll be engaged with what you're saying. If you're interested and connected to what you're saying then your audience will be too."

Caroline Goyder, author of The Star Qualities and voice coach to both A-list actors and terrified best men, reckons another great strategy is to remember your own worth. After all, you've already been through a tough selection procedure just to get to this point.

"(Actor) Bill Nighy says it's important to remember that the interviewers are as terrified as you — but in their case it's of getting it wrong," explains Caroline. "Go in with the mindset, 'how can I help?' Then you are able to be yourself, and you avoid the trap of desperation, which is an interview gremlin."

Then there are the basics, says Crosse. Whether you're being interviewed by one person or a panel, look them in the eye. Listen carefully to questions and "take a breath before answering so you are clear and confident." Be factual and relevant with your answers.

Finally, says Goyder, "let the interviewer take responsibility for silences. Rushing and gabbling makes the interviewer feel as stressed as you, and why would you give a job to someone who makes you stressed?"

The first date
The problems with first dates, says Goyder, is that nerves make many men talk too much, rushing to fill silences with mundane chatter. Nerves are not a bad thing, but try to calm them a little before you meet your date.

"Any sportsman or actor will tell you that a warm-up helps: a run, a walk, even singing in the shower, can help you manage nerves and boost energy," she says. "Once you get to the date remember that if you ask more questions and talk less, your date will relax. Finding out what interests them, and being interested in it, makes you interesting."

That's key, agrees Crosse: "Make sure you listen to what the other person is saying so you can respond naturally to them. We all like to be heard and if you seem attentive that will definitely be in your favour."

But don't feel the need to agree with everything, she adds, as you'll come across as creepy: "If you don't agree with something they say respond in an assertive but non-aggressive way. Remember opposites can attract," says Crosse.

If you're a particularly nervous dater, memorise some topics of conversation before you go, just so you always have something to fall back on. "And don't let nerves make you talk at your date at speed — it's a real no-no," says Goyder.

Public speaking
Public speaking is one of the most nerve-wracking experiences many of us go through. The secret to doing it well, says Goyder, is to keep it simple.

"John Wayne had the best advice, 'Talk low, talk slow,'" she says. "Don't say too much. Never read your speech, either from PowerPoint or a script. It's deadly boring because the audience doesn't get the benefit of your energy, just a dry flat voice. Mind maps are much better, or cards. You can use the news reporter's structure — intro-1-2-3-wrap — to help you keep it simple."

Personal anecdotes are a public speaker's best friend, says Crosse. "When you're thinking about the content use anecdotes and examples to make a point," she says. "Stories will always engage the listener."

But what about public speaking in a work situation? Crosse explains: "A good presentation is about going back to basics and delivering the information in a clear informed and engaging way. Don't try to impress anyone. Just be well prepared and be yourself."

One tip, says Goyder, is to make your speech conversational by talking to one person in the audience at a time (pick one — any will do). "Also, to sound powerful and credible think of punching the important words to give you energy. Think Churchill. "We will FIGHT them on the BEACHES." "We will NEVER SURRENDER." Churchill knew that it's best to speak in short, punchy chunks of thought, not long and rambling sentences."

Negotiating a deal
The fact is, speaking well can get you the deal you want. But don't think you can wing it. Negotiating with a used car salesman — for example — is a kind of performance and you have to be prepared.

"Preparation is (again) the key here," says Crosse. "You don't have to pretend you're an absolute expert in the car trade but you do need to know what you want. You need to gen up about your car, what it's worth in terms of current prices and know your bottom line."

The language you use is important too, she adds. "Avoid generic terms like 'we' or 'you'. If you want to say what it is you want then use the word 'I' and own it. It's much more difficult to argue with someone's opinion or request if they're negotiating from a personal viewpoint."

Then, says Goyder, channel your inner card shark: "It can help to 'act as if' — imagine that you're a character who can negotiate coolly — it can be anyone, de Niro, Pacino or a football manager."

The result? He'll give you whatever you want, and throw in an extra fifty just for the hell of it. OK, maybe not, but in all four of these situations — and many more — speaking well can give a major boost to your chances of success. Why don't you give these expert tips a try?

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