The Power Of The Spoken Word In An Interview Situation

Can being a good speaker make the difference to landing a new job and what makes a good orator and a good speech?  A business presentation or a speech to colleagues or clients my not be quite the same as Gordon Brown addressing the nation but the basic skills are the same.

Unlike politicians, most of us will never need to address the media or a press scrum hanging on every word we utter, but nonetheless we would do well to practice the self same presentation skills employed by those in the public eye.

First impressions are crucial to impressing at a meeting or appointment and while the written document is a more efficient means of communicating data, it is not as effective as the spoken word because of our predisposition to communicate with each other face-to-face.

The ability to make a coherent, convincing presentation is a vital ability for every person who has the ambition to succeed. Surveys in subsequent years have consistently placed public  speaking at the top of lists of things people would rather not do. Because of ‘speaker anxiety‘, many talented and competent people avoid speaking in public and thereby choose to remain on the sidelines.

 Others do make presentations because they have no choice, but hide behind the fatalistic myth that speakers are born, not made. They make no effort to improve their speaking ability.

 Calum Meikle, Managing Director of Edinburgh based management development company, Fastforward, has a theory as to why this should be. “Over 75% of this anxiety comes from a lack of speech preparation. It’s only natural to have some trepidation when speaking publicly but the fear can largely be eradicated with the correct preparation. Mark Twain used to say that it took him three weeks to deliver an impromptu speech!”

Meikle places great emphasis on the importance of structure when it comes to speaking in public. “People should employ something akin to Trinitarian thinking when delivering a speech. Whenever you listen to an experienced speaker, you’ll hear them tell you what they’re going to say, they’ll then say it before finally citing evidence to support their point?

For example, in an interview situation you should expand on your career background, and then your current situation and finally where you see your career going with the prospective employer.”

In an interview situation speech delivery is clearly an important factor, but preparation and research of the speech  content are also vital ingredients, as John Hailstone, managing director of Scotland’s largest privately owned recruitment consultancy, First People Solutions, asserts. “With preparation comes confidence – knowing your subject matter will enable you to remain calm and in control. Only after knowing the role, organisation and the key performance measurements in detail can a candidate confidently use examples confirming their value to the new organisation.

 First impressions always count and how the interviewee is perceived in the first 2-3 minutes could make or break the interview. So, if the preparation and hard work has gone in for the interview then you will automatically appear confident.”

 Part of feeling confident, is looking confident, and all this  adds to the speakers ability to project themselves in the correct manner, as Hailstone explains. “Looking confident and wearing the correct attire makes the right first impression. Going to an interview armed with company information, CV, preparation notes, employer references and any supporting evidence of suitability will ensure that the interview starts off on the right footing.

 At the end of the interview always explain why you wish to work for the new employer citing relevant experience, ambition, cultural fit and the value that you can bring to the organisation using suitable examples – this will ensure that you leave them with a lasting impression.” {mospagebreak)

Perhaps, the most important characteristic you must possess to be an effective speaker is credibility.

 Whether you are attempting to secure a new job, make a sale or extol the virtues of a political manifesto, without credibility you have little chance of persuading anyone of anything.

 Aristotle, father of public speaking training, used the Greek word ethos to describe this characteristic. He maintained that an audience that knows little of the subject being discussed would be inclined to accept the point being advocated if the speaker had ethos. With technology advancing as it is, interviews, meetings and presentations will all too soon yield to video conferencing, therefore good presentation skills are certain to be in demand.

 Martin Wright, Director of Marketing &  Communications for the University of the Highlands & Islands explained that the disparate locations of the university’s campuses means that these technologies

and skills are already being employed. “With campuses and learning centres spread throughout the Highlands & Islands much of our teaching is delivered through video-conferencing, including

seminars and tutorials. Our students acquire skills in presenting to others through what is effectively the medium of television. This will become increasingly important as use of videoconferencing in business develops more widely.

 We couldn’t operate without it – not just for teaching but also for managing the institution. In fact, on one occasion we interviewed a job candidate by video-conference all the way from Fiji!”

We would we do well to remember the words of another Greek, Pericles, the statesman and orator, who over 2500 years ago stated that “A person who can think, but cannot express what he thinks, places himself at the level of the person who cannot think.”

 But we needn’t stray as far back as ancient Greece to trace the root of this matter; in fact, Edinburgh in 1876 is as far as we need go.

One of the city’s favourite sons, Alexander Graham Bell, is of course, most famous for his invention of the telephone, a mundane, everyday item these days, but one that most people would freely admit that they could not live or work without.

 Clear and effective communication were key to Bell’s success in pioneering the technology. However, it was his occupation in the early part of his career that laid the foundations that ensured that today’s generation could rely on email, the internet, and mobile phones.

Alexander Graham Bell was, to trade, an elocution teacher and he studied under his father and his grandfather, both renowned speech teachers of their time.