Interviewers ask all types of questions. While each interview is different, many people worry about how to answer one question in particular: What’s your greatest weakness?
This is a difficult question for many people to answer. Some people believe that your weakness should also be a strength. For example, when someone says their greatest strength is “being a perfectionist” they also say that sometimes it goes too far and then “being a perfectionist” is also a weakness.
I personally don’t believe in that method. When someone asks about your weakness, this is an opportunity to show that you can reflect on your own abilities and identify skills you can continue to improve.
For example, I tell my students in my Public Speaking program that they can reference my training in an interview. For example they could say:
I am not a natural public speaker, but I know I’ll need to present my work to my colleagues effectively. That’s why I enrolled in a public speaking class so I could hone my skills and get more comfortable in front of an audience.
Or, if you aren’t great at time management you could say:
In my former job, I realized I could get distracted by details on a project. So now, at the start of every week I write out a list of things I need to accomplish by Friday morning. I’ve found that I can be far more productive when I have a deadline in mind while still budgeting some time for unexpected events.
Or, if the job you’re interviewing for requires you to know how to use a program you didn’t use in your former position, you could say:
I know that using Wordpress is a key part of this job, so I’ve been building some websites for friends in order to practice coding for different clients. While I didn’t use it in my former job, I’ve enjoyed getting familiar with the program and am excited about using it more.
So next time someone asks you about a weakness, don’t worry. Instead, share something you’re aware you could improve, and talk about how you’re being proactive about it.
Author: Bri McWhorter
Back to back virtual meetings can be draining, so it makes sense to allow colleagues to keep their cameras off during certain events. Plus, everyone has a lot going on right now and it helps to give people the option of participating without worrying about kids running around in the background or WiFi bandwidth issues.
However, as a speaker it can be very difficult to bring the same energy and enthusiasm to a presentation when you don’t have anyone to talk to or interact with. It’s disconcerting to “check-in” with your audience and only see black boxes staring back at you.
Thankfully, there is one situation we are all comfortable with where you never see the person you are talking to, but it doesn’t throw you off — a phone call.
When you call someone, in order to visualize that person effectively, it's good to ask where that person is so you can picture them in that location and then deliver your story. Even though you never see their face, you can still feel energized because you can imagine their reactions in your head.
That’s why I recommend deciding two things if you're the only one on camera during a presentation:
Then, pretend you’re on a phone call during your presentation. Imagine the person reacting to your story and notice how your presentation changes. This way, you can keep the energy of your original talk without needing to see people looking back at you.
Author: Bri McWhorter
One of the biggest anxieties presenters have is how to handle the Q & A session after a talk. With so many variables at play, it’s completely understandable that people worry about preparing for every scenario. That’s why I’ve put together these tips to help you feel confident before your next presentation.
Scenario 1: You’ve never thought about that idea before.
Part of what makes presentations so wonderful is that it’s an opportunity for others to hear your ideas and share theirs. You’re not expected to have thought of every single possibility beforehand. That’s why you go to an event, to hear ideas from people with different backgrounds.
If someone brings up something new you could say:
“That isn’t something I’ve thought about before, but I’ll be sure to give it some consideration now that you’ve brought it to my attention.”
People appreciate when you take the time to listen to their ideas, even if you don’t have an immediate answer.
Scenario 2: You have no clue what the answer is.
If you don’t know what the answer is, instead of worrying — just tell them the truth.
You could say, “That’s a great question but not my area of expertise, so I don’t feel I can answer that right now.”
It’s important to remember that you’re human and you aren’t expected to have all the answers. As long as you don’t collapse and react negatively, the audience member will appreciate that you listened to their comment.
Scenario 3: You should know the answer, but can’t think of it.
If someone asks a basic question, and you freeze, let the audience know.
For example you could say, “That’s something I should know the answer to, but to be honest, at this moment it isn’t coming to me. I’m sure I’ll think of it right after this is over.”
People understand the stress that comes with presenting. Everyone has had a moment where they blank out. Just let people know what’s happening, and then you can move on to the next question.
Remember not to self-destruct when answering questions. You are human and you’re not expected to prepare for every possibility. Respond like you would if a friend asked you this question. If something surprises you, remember to breathe, state the facts, and then focus on continuing the conversation. That way, if you don’t know the answer to a question, it won’t matter. You can move on and still make a great impression.
Author: Bri McWhorter
Experiments don’t always go as planned and people commonly find themselves in situations where results take longer than expected. People often worry about how to present their work during a presentation, or at a conference, if they don’t have any data to show. Since people never know how an experiment will pan out, it’s important to feel confident sharing your project, even if you’re still working on it.
That’s why I’ve provided examples of phrases you can use below.
If you have no data yet, you could say:
We just started collecting data, and I’m looking forward to seeing the results.
We are in the process of analyzing the results and I look forward to sharing our findings with you soon.
We are about to run the experiment and I’ll be keeping an eye out to see if our hypothesis is correct.
If you have preliminary data you could say:
We are in the early stages of gathering data and at this point I’ve been seeing…
We just started to get our data back and what’s popped out at me so far is…
Since this is preliminary data the overall themes and takeaways may change, but so far I’m seeing…
Many projects take longer than expected and it’s fine if you don’t have data or results to share. Just make sure you don’t end your presentation on that note. Instead, I recommend ending with the big picture. That way people leave your presentation thinking about the importance of your work and they can look forward to hearing what you find out next.
Many people feel pressured to memorize their presentations. That’s completely understandable because if you’ve worked hard preparing a talk, you want to make sure you’re not forgetting those key ideas. However, I usually advise against memorizing a talk because when you worry about getting every word correct it can take your focus away from the main goal of the presentation — connecting to your audience. Instead of worrying about remembering every word, here are three alternative ways to prepare for a talk:
1. Change “memorize” to “familiarize”
Instead of memorizing, think of it as “storytelling”. For example, when you go to a small get together, you often tell stories without practicing every word in the story. Instead, you think about how the story starts, where something changes, and specific points you want to highlight. Each time you tell this story, you realize some points you want to say a little differently or put more emphasis on. That’s how you should think of preparing for a presentation. It’s not about getting everything perfect — it’s about knowing the order of your story and certain points that will make an impact.
2. Practice key moments
An audience pays the most attention during the introduction, transitions, and conclusion of a talk. Therefore, those are the parts I practice the most. If you know how you want to start your talk, how the ideas connect, and the last idea you want to share, you’ll be adequately prepared. As long as those moments are polished, you will leave the audience with a professional impression of your speech.
3. Practice without looking at the slides
Most people practice presentations staring at their screen. Then, when they go to give a talk, they get thrown off because their view has changed. That’s because when you’re talking to an audience, there are far more variables to look at. Therefore, I recommend practicing in different environments. That way, when you give your talk, you’ll have an easier time remembering your content.
Instead of worrying about “memorizing” a talk, think about telling a story, rehearse the main sections, and practice without looking at your slides. This way you can still feel prepared before your talk and you can focus on the main reason you’re there — to share your ideas with your audience in the best possible way.
There’s a lot going on in today’s world. Sometimes anxiety and stress can be difficult to shake off. It’s even tougher when you’re feeling overwhelmed and then have to get up in front of a group and give a presentation. That’s why I find it helpful to have “reset” routines at the ready.
Here are three that have helped me in the past:
1. Watch something that makes you laugh
If you’re feeling stressed or burned out, laughter is an excellent way to reset. Laughing releases chemicals in your body to help you relax and recalibrate. I personally love watching funny interviews on the Graham Norton Show or bloopers from the tv show Parks and Rec. If there’s a show or video that makes you smile and lighten up, watch it before your next presentation. That way, you can start your next speech from a positive place.
2. Do something physical
When you’re stressed out, it can be challenging to stop your thoughts from going into a negative spiral. That’s why I recommend doing something physical so you shift your focus from your mind to your body. You can exercise, dance to fun music, sing your favorite song, or even just take a walk and feel the ground beneath your feet. If you bring your attention to your body, it gives you something else to focus on and think about.
3. Help someone else
When life feels overwhelming, I focus on helping someone else. Helping others shifts my attention from my worries into doing something productive. As a presenter, you’re sharing information that is important for others to hear. It may make someone else’s life easier or they might learn something new. If you realize your talk could be valuable for someone else, it can help you reset and refocus.
Next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, laugh, do something physical, or think about how your presentation could be helping someone else. Having things that shift your focus and reset can be incredibly powerful.
And then, to be honest, there will be days that are just hard. On those days, all you need to do is realize that you’re doing your best. We are all doing our best. And as long as you’re doing that — it is enough.
When people attend a virtual meeting, people log on at different moments. During that time, it can be awkward for people to sit in silence and wait for everyone to arrive. If you are facilitating a meeting where you want people to participate and speak up, this type of atmosphere is difficult to overcome. Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to make the virtual environment more engaging and dynamic.
1. Have music playing when people log on.
When people log on to one of my workshops, I often having music playing for everyone to hear. This accomplishes a few things. First, it gives people something to talk about and connect over when they first enter the meeting. Second, if people’s cameras are off, the meeting still feels like it has energy and momentum. Finally, if you’re playing fun music, I’ve seen people start to move to the beat or sing along, which instantly adds in a bit of fun at the start of a meeting. If people are enjoying themselves and in a good headspace before a meeting, it’s much easier to collaborate and work together.
2. Have people use a themed virtual background.
If you want to add in some creativity to a meeting, ask people to download a virtual background with a specific theme. Especially if your team is working from home, this adds some appreciated visual variety to people’s screens. You could have people put up a background of
— Ideal travel backgrounds
Japan, Barcelona, Disneyland, etc
— Favorite tv show backgrounds
Simpsons couch, the Friend’s coffeehouse, Parks and Rec office, etc
— Picture of people’s favorite hobby
Yoga studio, garden, kitchen, etc
Not only is it fun for people to think about what background they could use before the meeting, it also allows your team to bond and share a bit about themselves in an easy and engaging way.
3. Have people share an “uninteresting fact” about themselves.
Many people dread ice-breakers because they have to think of something interesting to say. That’s why one of my favorite ice-breakers is to ask people to introduce themselves and reveal an “uninteresting fact” about themselves. It can be anything from “My front door has red trim” to “My cat is sitting next to me” to “I had cereal this morning for breakfast.” By saying an uninteresting fact, people instantly start to open up without the added pressure of having to come up with something profound to share.
The point of an ice-breaker is to help people open up around each other. So whether you’re playing music, having people show up with fun backgrounds, or sharing a bit of easy information about themselves, think about ways to help your group relax and connect.
Meetings are a great place to present your ideas and get feedback from others. However, as people share their thoughts, it’s easy for the discussion to get sidetracked. Before you know it, people are actively talking about an unrelated topic and you are faced with the task of figuring out how to get the meeting back on track. This is often hard for people to do since you don’t want to “stop” people from talking, but you also have a finite amount of time to share your ideas and get through your agenda.
As people are faced with this situation, it’s common to respond by saying:
We have a lot of other things to discuss so…
Since we don’t have a lot of time, we also need to talk about…
Let’s get back on track here…
People often use these phrases, but they aren’t necessarily the best to rely on. For example, if you’re in a senior position talking to someone junior, it could sound like you’re cutting someone off, thereby discouraging them from sharing in the future. Or if you’re in a junior position, it might be difficult to tell your boss that you need to “get back on topic”. Therefore, you want to say something that connects to the discussion while also redirecting people’s attention to your original agenda.
That’s why I suggest using theses phrases instead:
And along that line of thinking…
As you said that, it occurred to me…
And following up on that…
By using these alternative expressions, you maintain the momentum of the conversation since you aren’t cutting anyone off or telling them they need to do something different. Instead, you are relating to the current conversation and actively pivoting back to your primary plan. It’s a simple yet effective way of keeping the conversation flowing as you smoothly get your meeting back on track.
While people have been presenting online for awhile now, many events are starting to go back in-person and some speakers are finding the switch difficult. This makes complete sense when we remember that we’ve been standing in front of a desk and only having to focus on a small rectangle in front of us. Now, people are being asked to feel comfortable standing up tall, in the middle of a room, as everything in their environment completely changes. All these new variables can add up quickly. Therefore, I wanted to share one technique that’s helped people transition back to presenting in-person.
Technique: Stand on a stool or chair as you stretch your arms to feel as big as possible and practice the first few minutes of your presentation. Then, safely step off the stool, let your arms down, and (while keeping that feeling of being open and tall) practice the first few minutes of your presentation again.
The reasoning behind this technique is that for the last few years we’ve been presenting next to a desk. When you go back in-person, there is no furniture grounding and anchoring you. Instead, you’re standing at the front of a room without anything around. That’s why I recommend practicing on a stool or in the center of a room, so you can get used to that feeling. Then, it'll be a lot easier to transition back to presenting in-person.
I also recommend stretching out your arms, or going into a power pose, because you want to feel as big as possible. Online, we don’t have to work very hard to fill the screen. However, if you’re in a large room, you want to fill the space. This requires you to practice that feeling before your next event.
If you're nervous about speaking in-person again, try this technique ahead of time to help you prepare for your next presentation.
Your voice is an incredibly powerful tool. It’s especially important since most people are conducting their meetings virtually where they can’t rely as heavily on using body language to communicate. That’s why having a clear and strong voice is critical. However, when you’re in back to back meetings it’s easy for your voice to get tired. Therefore, here are three ways to help you avoid vocal fatigue:
1. Warm up your voice beforehand
People know how important it is to warm up their body before doing a physical activity, but they don’t often think about warming up their voice before speaking. That’s why I spend at least a few minutes before I teach my workshops warming up my voice. I like to blow through my lips, spend some time humming in different pitches, and I move around a bit so I am breathing deeply and fully. That way I know my voice will be ready to use when I speak up in a meeting.
2. Sit up tall
If you’re attending multiple meetings, it’s easy for your body to melt into a “schlump” where your shoulders are crouched over and your head is tilted back. This collapsed position is very hard on your voice because you’re collapsing your voice box and inhibiting your breathing. Therefore, I recommend either coming to the edge of your seat and sitting up tall, or standing as you present, if you are going to be talking for a while. That way your physical stance will keep you supported.
3. Avoid clearing your throat
Many people “clear” their throats before speaking. However, that actually makes things worse. It can aggravate your throat and, overtime, cause more vocal issues down the road. Instead, I recommend humming and then swallowing. This process still clears away any mucus you have built up, but it doesn’t aggravate your throat when you do it.
By warming up, keeping a tall and supported stance, and avoiding clearing your throat, you can help avoid vocal fatigue.
Bri McWhorter is the Founder and CEO of Activate to Captivate.