Interview technique: The Power of Personal Presence

After working as an actress for many years I trained in voice and communication with two world renowned voice coaches: Jeannette Nelson Head of Voice at the National Theatre and Patsy Rodenberg, who coached Barack Obama. It became very clear to me that the same tools performers develop to engage their audiences are equally necessary within the business and media worlds. If an actor cannot successfully engage his audience he is out of a job. If an executive cannot effectively engage with his team, board members, clients or customers at some stage in his career he will hit a glass ceiling.

Understanding and tailoring my services and approach to different businesses and professions has been a fascinating process which has not only been pleasurable but has also added depth to my work.

During my career as a voice coach I have trained many clients in interview techniques, both experienced business people and people who are starting out in their career. As a result of my coaching, clients have been offered positions at high levels: Project Managers, Consultants, CEO’s and interim CEO’s at Eurostar, Boston Consultancy Group Maxos Bank, Black Rock Asset Management and Deloitte to name but a few.

If as a graduate you can use your verbal and non verbal skills to engage potential employers with maximum input you’ve already developed a communication style that enable you to be remembered for all the right reasons. You will not only increase your successes in the job market you will also maximise your success moving forward in your career.

The first fifteen to twenty three seconds of interaction are key, as that is the amount of time it takes for an interviewer to evaluate whether what you are going to say is worth their full attention and whether you are credible. Research shows 55% of what a listener experiences in face to face communication is non verbal: Mainly based on body language with tone of voice at 38% and the words and content a mere 7% of what is absorbed.

My four step approach breaks down the four elements involved: the body, the breath, the voice and the delivery.

The Body

Tension in the body will be the first thing your interviewer will read. Stress, nerves and being out of your comfort zone affect your body language. Tension in the body also affects how much breath you can access, this affects your voice.

The Breath

Much like body language your interviewer will read the pattern and depth of your breath. The more breath you can access and the deeper your breath the more confident you will appear and feel (because you are getting more oxygen). The more breath you access the slower and clearer your speech becomes because you are taking longer to breathe.

The Voice

The voice is also powered by the breath so the more breath you can access the freer and more connected to the interviewer your voice becomes. Once you learn how to release tension in your body and access your full breath you can create freedom and engagement in your voice. Most adults can only access 20% of their vocal range – remember 38% of what the interviewer will respond to is the range and tone in your voice. Once you’ve created freedom in the voice you can access more range in the voice.

The Delivery

Once you master how to release tension in the body, use positive body language and access your full breath capacity and vocal range, you can have full control over your communication delivery. This will enable you to tailor the way you deliver your communication to the way you would like to be remembered.

Which communication category do you fall in to?

Essentially when we communicate we fall in to three categories or ‘circles of presence’. We call these first circle, second circle and third circle. Second circle is where we are fully connected to and engaged with the interviewer. When people are described as having that intangible and magical presence they are in second circle. The good news is that we are all born with second circle presence.

However, without training in high pressure situations and due to habits and tensions we have developed over our lifetime, most of us fall in to first circle or push into third circle. The people who remain in second circle are lucky and unusual. Only 1% of us have managed to hold on to our second circle presence throughout our lives.

Below is an outline of what happens to your body, breath and voice in each circle, as well as what you experience and how your interviewer will experience you in each of these circles. Can you recognise which circle you fall in to?

First Circle:

Body: Withdrawn and held back, perhaps even hunched up. You do not take up enough space.

Breath: Shallow and rapid.

Voice: Held back, sounds flat, dispassionate and hard to hear.

Interviewer: Will have to lean forward to hear you – may lose interest, struggle to follow what you are saying, or feel disconnected from you.

Yourself: You may feel that you lose your train of thought or develop a ‘critical eye’. This is a symptom of losing connection with active thought and the person you are speaking to. This is caused by the tense and held back body position which inhibits your ability to access enough breath and oxygen.

Third Circle: Circle of bluff and force.

Body: Tense and pushed forward, puffed out. You take up too much space.

Breath: Shallow also noisy mainly located in the chest.

Voice: May appear loud and confident but it is pushed not energised. The speech is fast, generalised and unspecific. There is a loss of clarity.

Interviewer: May retreat and find it hard to follow specific points. May struggle to listen and might feel they are being talked at and not talked to.

Yourself: You will notice tension in the throat and chest. Your voice will feel tired and pushed. This consumes a lot of energy; therefore your thoughts will become agitated and less clear.

Second Circle
: Circle of presence. 
Body: Relaxed and in control. You are fully connected to your interviewer, you are centred and alert.

Breath: Easy deep and full, you feel calm and connected.

Voice: Has natural resonance and tone and will reach the audience as opposed to falling short or pushing past. You will be able to access the three areas of your voice with more freedom and ease. Interviewer will be fully engaged, communication is connected – both giving and receiving.

Yourself: You will be fully connected to what you are saying – calm and in the moment. This authentic connection to your body and breath will dispel the ‘critical eye’ and ensure that you don’t rush or stumble in your speech.

With a little work every one can reconnect with their Second Circle Presence. If you would like to find out more about how to use the four steps to improve your interview technique please feel free to contact me via email at as I can off you a complementary Skype session:

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