Talk to Yourself

Many years ago I attended a two-day “Train the Trainer” workshop. You may not be planning on becoming at trainer, but this experience also made me better at job interviews.

I conduct a lot of training but I don’t like to be called a “trainer”. Those people are too out-there for me – too extroverted – too theatrical. I’m an engineer at-heart so many of training techniques just seemed really odd and uncomfortable to me.

One of the assignments in that workshop was to prepare and present a 5-minute training session. One step in our preparation was to practice that training session out loud. I remember thinking Out Loud? Are these people crazy? Do they really want me to sit here, surrounded by other participants, and talk to myself?

The answer was yes and later that day the room was flooded with sound as fifty or more people talked to themselves – ignoring everyone else in the room. Some stood, some talked to the wall, some closed their eyes, but they talked.

I was blown away. Partially because I learned there that a good trainer can get the participants to do just about anything, but more because it worked – at least for me. I was used to practicing my training in my head. I would look at my PowerPoint slides and think about what I would say for each one, and it worked, kind of. What I learned at that session was that talking to myself paid off.

In earlier posts I advised you to have an “Elevator Speech” – a 30-second summary of who you are and what you are looking for. I also advise that you find lists of common interview questions and write out the answers to those questions. Both of these exercises start with writing, but should be followed with talking to yourself.

When you practice your material aloud, several things happen. You get a sense of pace and timing. What you thought would be a two minute response may turn out to be twenty seconds or five minutes long. You’ll find word combinations that are hard to say (so you can find easier words). By hearing the material you’ll better understand if you’re making sense.

Maybe most importantly, speaking engages a different part of your brain. The process of seeing the word on the paper and then translating that to speech will help you retain them. Repeating that process several times will make you more comfortable with the material. Soon you are able to give that elevator speech, or answer those questions easily and comfortably. When that happens, the interviewer sees the real you, not the nervous you, or the I’m-not-sure-what-to-say you.

Talk to yourself and don’t pay any attention to those funny looks you get from others. I will caution you though, this may not be the best technique to practice in public. 🙂


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