PONY Express is currently on tour and the February event was hosted at ‘Level 39’, One Canada Square, in Canary Wharf. ‘Level 39’; is Europe’s largest accelerator space for finance, retail and future cities technology companies and also offers great event space with beautiful views over London.

I have been a member of PONY Express for over a year and it is an independent Speakers Club focused on people who want to grow their business through the medium of speaking, pitching and presenting. They run a 12-month training programme called the Members Club and a monthly Speakers Club open to anyone curious and fascinated about public speaking. If I were to describe PONY Express in four words I would say: public speaking, learning & fun.

The theme presenter this month was Stewart Bewley from amplifypresentations.com. Stewart is a mentor at Wayra UK and trained numerous technology start-ups to get their investment pitches right. He got everybody to in a connection game, which made all of us smile and laugh. If you were not there you missed out :-).

Stewart is extremely passionate about his subject and he taught everyone how to connect use our voices through our diaphragm. Many speakers speak using only the energy from their head muscles and not their tummy muscles. If you get the connection working better you will have a stronger voice that lasts longer and projects better.

‘Talk from your tummy button.’ ~Stewart Bewley

Stewart then worked live on stage with a volunteer from the audience – fellow member Alexandra Spencer (Spence) – to do a 30-second speech about something random after which he worked in some techniques to demonstrate the difference. Using the 60 seconds’ worth of feedback Spence made FIVE times more impact with her story and she dared to go the whole hog to get the audience involved in her story.

‘When you pitch, pitch as if you were telling a children’s story.’ ~Stewart Bewley

The Speakers Club is also a ‘playground’ for members to test their learnings in front of a real audience. The first Speaker was Omar Shad from my4walls.com. It was his first appearance at PONY Express and he did a great job. One of the best parts of this Speakers Club is that there are three judges present who give you feedback right after your speech. I find that getting feedback directly and straightaway is super effective for improving your speaking and stage skills.

Every event has a different set of judges and the team is headed up by Elliot Kay aka ‘The Coach with the Hat’, a professional speaker and trainer.

There is no need to speak or prepare anything when you come to a PONY Express event, but you might have the chance to do a small impromptu speech in front of three other people. I took the chance to do this and I pitched my ideas about why a publishing agent would like to work with me. It was the first time I had given this pitch and I got some great feedback, which I will implement when I present this pitch in real life next month.

Some speakers at PONY Express give you goose bumps when they speak on stage. This month it was Dion Jonson from dionjohnson.com. She made such an impact on stage and the audience was spellbound.

A new section was also introduced this month. It’s called ‘One-Trick-Pony’ and three members shared their best tips with the audience. It’s fascinating how much you can cover in one minute. Harry Singh from dentalpropertyclub.co.uk nearly gave an entire seminar in just that time :-)!

I’ve been doing public speaking and management training on and off for many years. One of the most often misquoted research results I keep hearing is the ’7%, 38%, 55%’ rule. Do you know which rule I mean? It’s about words, tone and body language. I shiver whenever I hear someone mentioning and asking about it.

As someone referred to it at the event I would like to share with you how the rule came about.

It all springs from research that was done back in 1968 in the U.S. by Albert Mehrabian.

From a blog post by Toastmasters International in London you can read the following:

Mehrabian’s Human Communication research in 1968 is credited as the basis of the notion that 55% of communication is body language, 38% is voice tone and only 7% is verbal.

If you have ever thought those figures sound unrealistic, you’re not alone. In a Radio 4 interview Mehrabian said: ‘Whenever I hear that misquote or misrepresentation of my findings I cringe, because it should be so obvious to anybody who would use any amount of common sense that that’s not a correct statement.’

If you would like to listen to an interview with Mehrabian follow this link to the BBC website. The interview starts at about 23 minutes in.

The words you say matter, as does tone and body language. I would guess that a more correct analysis would be that each element is of about equal importance.

Be aware of this when sharing your knowledge about public speaking, please never use these percentages as they are totally untrue. Always do your research when quoting studies. These days nearly everyone has a smartphone and an audience can be quick to check up on the facts you are presenting.

If you want to gain confidence or simply taking your speaking to the next level come along to the next Speakers Club on the 19th March 2014 at The Bakery Silicon Roundabout – you will leave with loads of new learnings, connections and ideas to implement. Highly recommended.

By Sofie Sandell, London, Feb 2014.

You can connect with Sofie online, www.sofiesandell.com and @Soffi_Propp