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Practice Makes … Anything Possible

December 14, 2014
Mary Jane Copps

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In each of my workshops someone inevitably comments that I make PhoneWork sound easy. That’s true … because I’ve been “practising” for 27 years. I’ve created well over 10,000 hours of phone conversations not only about my businesses, but about the work of others as well. Yet it bothers me that I make it seem easy because I know it’s not. Doing something new and unfamiliar is difficult and it can take a long time to make it work. So, in this last post of 2014, here’s a story about my own struggle with practice and developing new skills:

This past summer I participated in a speech competition through the Atlantic Chapter of the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers (CAPS). It was a speech I had to memorize (not something I do for workshops) and it could not exceed 5 minutes (I’ve never worked with a time limit before). Because I talk for a living, I did not anticipate how nervous I would be when I stood up to give my speech. I opened my mouth and … nothing happened! When I did find my voice it was soft and breathy, barely heard at the back of the room. What!

Despite my weak delivery, my speech was chosen to represent the Chapter in Toronto last week, in front of a panel of industry experts (Michael Kerr,  Jane Atkinson,  Nabil Doss ). I realized I had a lot to do. First I worked with presentation skills coach Natasha Marchewka. Again, because I talk for a living I was expecting a few quick pointers to improve my performance. Well … not so fast. Turns out there’s a lot more involved in giving a speech than in teaching a workshop or talking on the phone. I learned about what words to emphasize (I hadn’t chosen wisely), how to use my hands (mine were fluttering around like birds in a cage), how to place my feet (apparently shuffling back and forth is a distraction for the audience) and how to project my voice.

Then I practised and practised … and practised. I’m pretty sure that the total number of times I gave that speech, either to an empty room or an audience, was well over 100.

More practising took place in Toronto before presenting the speech to the panel on Sunday December 7. It went well. The judges provided great feedback as did the audience (special thanks to colleagues Peter Chapman, Joel Sweeney and Lea Brovedani for attending) and yet when I opened my mouth … I spoke softly. Despite all my practising, I did not project my voice to the back of the room. Was I disappointed? Yes. Did I do my best? Absolutely.

I don’t give speeches regularly. Producing a GREAT speech is going to involve a lot more work on my part.

You don’t prospect/cold call regularly. Producing GREAT results is going to involve some practice. That’s why it’s so important to pick up the phone and get started. This I know to be true: each call you make impacts, and improves, the quality and results of the next call.

I am going to walk away from speech giving for awhile but before I let is drift out of my memory, I want to share it with you. Using the tips and techniques learned from Talk It Out created by Halina St. James of Podium Coaching, I wrote a piece that contains a part of my “phone story” I hadn’t previously discovered.

And speaking of practice … I’m going to share the speech with you by connecting you to my first ever self-made video (it’s about time) and again … I have a lot to learn. Apparently horizontal is better than vertical, I need better lighting and … practice, practice, practice. But as with your prospecting/cold calling … I’ve got to start somewhere and get it out there!

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