SCAMMER SOLICITORS: British legal eagle fined after defrauding ‘vulnerable’ cancer sufferer

Croydon – VIJAY SHAH via NEIL ROSE and Legal Futures

A ‘dodgy’ solicitor who defrauded one of their clients for the sum of £175,000 (USD $222,775) to plug a hole in his firm’s accounts has been fined a total of £63,000 ($80,199) after being brought to book, according to legal website Legal Futures.

In October last year, the lawyer, Neil Adrian Aiston, was hauled in front of the regulatory agency the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) after he persuaded one of his clients to give the £175,000 as an unsecured loan to another of the solicitor’s clients. The loaner was a longstanding user of Aiston’s services, having worked with the legal professional for thirty-five years, but was described as ‘vulnerable’, meaning they were at risk of being exploited due to their mental health issues. The client was also experiencing cancer, the Tribunal accepted.

Image: Hloom via Flickr / CC BY-SA, 401(K) 2013 hloom.com

 

Aiston, whose solicitors’ firm was facing troubles, alongside an unspecified outside ‘intervention’ into his business, took the money and instead used it to fill a hole in his office accounts instead. The hole came about after the lawyer took money from other clients for another loan he gave to another customer of his practice. Aiston failed to repay the loan and the client subsequently reported him to authorities.

Aiston was based in Croydon, just south of London, and had been a qualified practitioner since 1979. The client who lost their money told the Tribunal he felt ‘threatened, manipulated and groomed’ after Aiston pressured him into signing documents establishing the loan which he was unable to fully read. Aiston also told the client that he would not pay up the proceeds of a property transaction undertaken by the fraud victim unless he signed over the loan money, the Tribunal also heard. Aiston had explicit knowledge of the client’s health problems, yet continued with the deception.

A statement from the Tribunal said “[Mr Aiston] knew that he was in urgent need of funds as he was facing the prospect of an intervention. [He] has clearly considered that one way of achieving this was to ensure that Client 1 repay the monies that he owed…’

‘[His] conduct was about as dishonest as it could get. [He] had engineered this loan directly for his own benefit in an attempt to rectify the firm’s finances.”

Aiston was described as behaving with conduct that was “was about as dishonest as it could get”, and his failure to return the loan meant the client would now be seeking the money from the Solicitors Compensation Fund, according to Legal Futures.

In his witness statement, Aiston wrote: “I deeply regret the action I took and struggle to understand why I agreed to help a desperate client on that occasion when nearly 40 years’ practice told me not to do so.

‘All I can say is that I had known the client concerned for over 10 years, trusted his statements as to repayment, when I should not even have entertained his request, and as a result I will rightly be struck from the roll.

‘I did not benefit financially or in any other way, personal or through my firm.”

The Tribunal ruled that Aiston had acted when there was a conflict of interest and had been dishonest. He had ‘manipulated’ the client and had brought his profession into disrepute with his fraudulent actions.

In addition to the huge fine, the SDT ordered that Neil Adrian Aiston be struck off from the solicitors’ register and the fraudster was also found guilty of breaching accounting regulations and failing in his professional duties as a certified legal practitioner.

SOURCES:

Vijay Shah { विजय }, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/VShah1984

Eli Pressman, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/BarnetWills

“Solicitor “about as dishonest as it could get”” – Neil Rose, Legal Futures/Legal Futures Publishing Limited (3 October 2018) https://www.legalfutures.co.uk/latest-news/solicitor-about-as-dishonest-as-it-could-get

IMAGE CREDIT:

“Paying with $100 Bills – Businessman Transaction” – Hloom Templates, Flickr (15 July 2016) https://www.flickr.com/photos/95051110@N07/28394541020

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PAPERLESS POST: HEMNA reviews the Christmas e-cards you can personalise

Christmas draws ever closer with a mere weekend separating us from roasts and festive puddings, mulled wine and heartily sung carols. It is also prime card-giving season, with 668.9 million Christmas cards sold in the UK (2008) and an astonishing 1.9 billion cards sent in the United States over the festive period (2005).

If like a lot of people, you are pressed for time, the idea of buying several dozen packs of paper cards, envelopes and stamps and having to individually write out each one probably is a difficult thing to move up on your to-do list. You know you have to, but those end-of-year work reports will not get finished up by Santa’s elves, no matter how good a girl or boy you’ve been!

But fear not, you won’t be magically transformed into the greetings card Grinch of Yuletide 2018 if you decide to call upon the services of Paperless Post. Headquartered in New York, Paperless Post is a remarkable, fun and innovative site offering a wide choice of impeccably designed e-cards, invites and even animated flyers, with contemporary designs brimming with flair, festive vibes and colour.

 

In the run-up to Christmas, Paperless Post has launched a range of festive cards and invites to send to your loved ones for Christmas greetings, parties and New Year’s Day celebrations. In collaboration with Paperless Post, HEM News Agency will put one of their personalised Christmas cards on a review road test.

As part of their festive promotions, the online stationery firm is offering customers the chance to spread joy instantly with their online holiday cards that are simple to send and delightful to receive. You can adapt your card’s design, track its delivery to the recipient and upload photographs of your choice, perfect if you like to make themed family greetings cards or at least want something a bit more memorable than a generic glittery robin on the front.

Under the “Holiday, Christmas, and New Year cards” section on the Paperless Post site alone there are a whopping 851 designs alone to choose from, which is far more than you can find in all but the most specialised physical paper card stores. I decided to go with the square format ‘Yule Blooms Christmas’ design as it is festive and professional in appearance in equal measure.

Although the display card is offered in ‘tall’ format’, I found you can choose from six different formats, or ‘design variations’ so if you prefer a particular card size, that option is sorted for you. Choice is a good thing, we must embrace it! Enter your log-in details if you are already signed up at Paperless Post, or alternatively log in with your Facebook or Google account and you can begin customising right away.

 

Firstly you need to choose your ‘backdrop’, which is the background your card will be displayed on. There is one free option, or for the small fee of one ‘coin’ (Paperless Post’s online currency) you can choose from several more. I went for the ‘Pure White –  Holiday’ backdrop with its alluring white snow field and pine needles and holly berries scattered above the top. Très festive, no?. Very easy to do, and just one click is needed.

Hit the Next arrow and the next customisable option is the card’s text. This is where you can really make your card’s message speak from the heart. Here you can change the text size, alignment, typeface, colours and much more, and the sliders make it easier for the less typographically inclined. Using the ‘Colors’ option, which presents their colour options in handy little spots showing the exact hue, I was able to customise the text colours to match HEM News Agency’s blog branding. In the middle of the card is a blank space with patterning reminiscent of the backs of Kodak printed photos we had in our millennial childhood family albums. Just click on that, and the photo editing suite pops up on the left-hand side menu. Here you can upload your photo or choose a pre-uploaded one. I picked the HEMNA logo stored on my laptop.

Following from that, the next option is the Envelope Liner, where you can choose the pattern for the inside of the envelope. While the presented liner choices were not really suitable for a Christmas-themed card, you can use the search box to find some that are. To match the Backdrop I chose earlier, I picked ‘A Christmas Kennel’, which despite its name does not feature dogs, or indeed kennels. Instead experience the natural warmth of holly berries and leaves, which really says ‘Merry Christmas’.

You can then change the envelope’s front with a pretend postage stamp and adapt the text where you address the recipient. However you cannot change the wording at this point, just the typeface and colour. Then it’s on to the reply card, where as with the envelope you can choose the background design. Strangely, I could not find any festive themed designs so had to make do with something more ‘around-the-year’. 

Once you have finished your custom card, the site takes you to the delivery suite where you can enter your recipients’ email addresses. If you are sending the cards out to a whole bunch of friends or family, or to customers as part of business marketing promotions for the Christmas period, you can upload email lists or address books to save yourself the time of manually entering everything. After sending, you can see if the recipient has collected their card and receive messages sent in response.

 

My verdict: It was a painless and easy process to create and send your own greetings card. The steps were clearly set out and in a logical order, with tonnes of design choice and options for customising, without being too technical, long-winded or complicated. There could have been more Christmas options for designs though in my opinion. The whole process took less than ten minutes from start to finish (I was writing this article at the same time) and there was no crashing, bugs or other errors during the design process. One thing I really appreciate is the attention to detail that Paperless Post weaves into every part of the design step, and the realism you get from the designs themselves. It is almost an oddly satisfying feeling when you open the email and watch the card glide seamlessly out of the pristine envelope and reveal itself. The designs are eye-catching and brilliant to behold. This is my second time reviewing Paperless and they don’t disappoint!

Choose your Christmas card adventure at paperlesspost.com

 

DISCLAIMER: The article was a sponsored post in collaboration with the online cards and stationery site Paperless Post, of which the author was compensated.

 

 

IMAGE CREDITS:

Paperless Post.

LOW-FI WI-FI?: What could be blocking your internet signal

VIJAY SHAH via TecNovedosos

Having unfettered and uninterrupted access to wireless internet, is for those of use in the developed world, now as essential as having a continuous supply of electricity, gas and other utilities. We increasingly spend much of our lives online, and the things we need to do, such as shopping and filling in government forms are moving online too. So when your wireless signal becomes weak or choppy, the frustration is palpable.

If you happen to have a rubbish signal, with constant disconnections or super-slow download speeds, it could be your provider, but it could be due to your surroundings. Presented below are some of the things in your home or office that might be interfering with the quality of your Wi-Fi. This article is based off a feature published in the Spanish-language site TecNovedosos.

 

Objects that cause the Wi-Fi to drop or fizzle out are often referred to as ‘interference sources’ or ‘wireless barriers’ in the industry. So what are these barriers and how can you solve the low fidelity of your wireless ‘fidelity’ and get back to happy surfing.

Firstly the cause might be a mirror or a metal surface in the locality. Metal has a high interference capacity, according to the technical support guys at top tech firm Apple. Indeed having flat metallic objects in the same room is by far the most drastic means of limiting the strength of your signal. So it’s time to give the full-length mirror the boot. Just don’t break it, unless you are keen on seven years of bad Wi-Fi luck.

Another leading cause of interference is bulletproof or toughened glass. Its thickness and reflective properties act as a means of soaking up and reflecting the radio waves that propel Wi-Fi. Unless you work for a top-secret agency or military complex, bulletproof glass is probably not going to be an issue for you, but for the average user, things like glass tables, desks, or fancy glass ornaments can cause major interference with the Wi-Fi signal, and you should either remove or replace these sort of objects to lessen the interference capabilities they have.

Web connections can also be affected by the presence of other appliances, especially fridges, washing machines and radiators. Their piping, which often contains liquids like water, can act as ‘sponges’ that drown the signals. The impact of white goods is considerably less than glass or metal, but this is something worth considering if you are browsing through IKEA’s latest sales on the laptop while in the kitchen, and the product pictures take forever to load.

While you’re in the kitchen looking for Wi-Fi signal thieves, you can also add your microwave oven, gas/electric oven and even baby monitors and drones to the suspects list. These devices emit electromagnetic waves that can impede the radio waves used by wireless internet. Both types of signal operate at a frequency of around 2.4 Hz, so can cancel each other out. Other suspects include webcams, cordless phones and the telly. Healthy technological competition this ain’t.

You should keep your router as far away from other electrical devices and shiny surfaces as much as possible. Most of the people I know keep their routers in the hallways or passages of their homes.

As the festive season approaches, you will be pleased to know that Christmas lights can also be a problem for the signal. As with microwaves, lights generate their own electromagnetic fields which can play havoc with Wi-Fi connectivity, so don’t go online while decorating the Christmas tree!.

The popular expression goes ‘the walls have ears’, well in the case of bad signal troubleshooting, if you live in a house that has stone, cement or brick walls, then it may be time for you to move out if you want a better signal, which given that most homes are made of these materials might make house-hunting a bit tricky. The thicknesses of modern construction materials can act as a barrier to getting the perfect level of connectivity. The best way to mitigate this is to keep your router on the same floor as where you go online, so if you do most of your internet activities upstairs, the router needs to be upstairs too. If you find your signal is still weak or negligible, try moving and experimenting with different positions and locations for the router. A good recommendation is to place the router in a high location above other objects in the room or passage it is situated in.

SOURCES:

Vijay Shah { विजय }, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/VShah1984

La Publicación 🇪🇸, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/LaPublicacion

“Estos son los objetos que más suelen bloquear tu señal de wifi” – TecNovedosos/Grupo Editorial Grandes Medios (15 September 2018) https://www.tecnovedosos.com/objetos-bloquean-senal-de-wifi/

IMAGE CREDIT:

“Wifi, Hotspot, Public, Travel” – mohamed mohamed mahmoud hassan, PublicDomainPictures.net/Bobek Ltd. License: CC0 Public Domain https://www.publicdomainpictures.net/en/view-image.php?image=261335&picture=wifi-hotspot-public-travel

BELGRADE: The Fortress

Belgrade – VIJAY SHAH via TARA GOLDSMITH and ReadyClickAndGo

While the capital of Serbia is not the first place that comes to mind for many when they think of a holiday destination with culture, history and impressive sights, Belgrade is in some ways an undiscovered treasure for those looking for something a bit different, but still ticking all the boxes.

Belgrade, known to its residents as ‘Beograd’, has an ancient history of settlement dating back to the Roman Empire. It was ravaged by the hordes of the Huns, and became an outpost of the Turkish Ottoman empire. In latter years, it was the capital of the Communist union of Yugoslavia, and saw much fighting, bloodshed and bombing during the collapse of that country in the early 1990s. By the end of the decade, Belgrade was bombed by NATO forces during the independence war of Kosovo. After all that mayhem, Belgrade has reinvented itself as a hip city of fashion, art and music that attracts young European things like wasps to honey.

Even with the modernisation and revamping characteristic of Belgrade now, the city has not let go of its history. Of particular importance is what is called by English-speaking tourists the Fortress. Located on the right bank of the Sava river which cuts through the city, the Fortress is chunky, stony and covers a great area of land, an inspiring monolith of masonry. The complex is said to be the final resting place of the great marauder and general Attila the Hun and was once the greatest military fortification in all of Europe.

The Fortress predates the Hun though. It was built in fact by the Romans who needed a strong fortification on the eastern fringes of their expansive empire to protect against tribes looking to overrun the territory. It was at first a Roman military camp and the largest structure in Belgrade’s ancestor, known in Latin as ‘Singidunum’.

 

After repeated incursions, the Ottoman forces overran Belgrade in 1521. Impressed by the magnitude of Belgrade’s Fortress, the Turks rechristened it Kalemegdan (or in modern Turkish “Kalemeydan”, (kale – city and megdan – field) and added two structures, the first being the fountain of Mehmed Pasha Sokolovic, the other the tomb of Damad Ali Pasha.

Over the years, the fortress became a hot potato, constantly passing between the rule of the Turks and the Austrians. The Austrians also added some cosmetic changes to the Fortress, mainly to its outer wall. The Turks were said to have preferred the local white rock (that is said to have given Belgrade its name) for their renovations, while the Austrians opted for traditional red brick. 

From being a military showpiece contested by regional powers, the Fortress wound up with a less dignified role centuries later. As Yugoslavia dwindled in size in the 1990s, local entrepreneurs turned the Fortress into a nightclub, playing probably house music inside a castle, you could say. Eventually the city government renegotiated the terms of use, and the Fortress was reborn as a local tourist icon and a museum.

The Fortress is split into four parts linked together via eighteen gates in total. The Fortress is large enough that it is considered as two phases, the Upper and Lower Towns, which are home to Orthodox churches, a planetarium, an apparently claustrophobic World War II bunker, and various monuments and museums.

Highlights available to visit today at the Fortress of Belgrade include a collection of Roman sarcophagi, gravestones and Christian church alters brought in from all of Serbia, the National Museum’s Collection of Stone Monuments. The Roman Well (which was actually built by the Austrians with their usual red bricks) was built for water supplies for troops, can be visited for a fee. There is also a clock tower and the 500-year-old Nebojsa Tower, built for the unsuccessful defence strategy against the Ottomans. Indeed the Fortress is essentially a combination of monuments of historical importance, museums, places of interest, religious buildings and parks, mostly with free entry and reasonable opening times. The fortress is also an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

SOURCES:

Listed@DrStephanieLang, Dr. Stephanie Lang, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/DrStephanieLang/lists/listed-drstephanielang

First Night Design, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/FirstNightArt

TaraGoldsmith, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/Best_of_Tara

“BELGRADE FORTRESS” – Tara Goldsmith, ReadyClickAndGo Private Day Trips/ReadyClickAndGo (26 June 2015) https://www.readyclickandgo.com/blog/belgrade-fortress/

IMAGE CREDIT:

“Belgrade Fortress, once one of the most powerful military strongholds of Europe” – Jorge Láscar, Flickr (20 August 2012) https://www.flickr.com/photos/jlascar/13810353553

MOTHER NATURE: Nature photo blog marks 5th anniversary

Croydon – VIJAY SHAH with ALEX SMITHSON

Mother Nature, the nature and photographic diary blog of Croydon-based blogging enthusiast Alex Smithson, has marked five years of being online this past week.

Alex has been a long term friend and supporter of HEM News Agency for the past four years, from when it was called the Half-Eaten Mind Blog. Based in the suburban town of Croydon, just south of London, Alex first started working on Mother Nature (under its former simpler title, ‘Photography – Nature’) on the 6th of June, 2013 when he uploaded a number of photography projects taken with a Samsung ST200F camera he carried around with him.

 

Alex began to use the new blog to explore his passions of gaming, technology and nature photography and show his imagery to a steadily growing audience.

Five years on, Mother Nature has gone from strength to strength, chronicling Alex’s pictorial journey around his hometown, his commencement of an A-Level photography course at a local college and even him getting to grips with the graphic design software, GIMP.

While the design and look of Alex’s blog has shifted much over the years, he still uses Mother Nature as a creative venue for his photos of colourful flowers and wildlife. For Alex, photography is a stimulating vocation that has motivated him in the hard work of maintaining his website and keeping the interest flowing.

In addition to his photography and writing work, Alex Smithson has also taken on the mantle of mental health advocate, publicising various issues and neurological conditions,  such as autism, mental health stigma and the impact of social media on youngsters’ minds. The blogger had lent his support to various mental health charities like Depression Alliance, the Samaritans, Mind and others. His advocacy for mental health and neuro-diversity has already won him praise from actor Oli Regan, who collaborated with Alex on one of his articles. Alex plans to further his campaigning for mental health issues through the medium of photography as part of his blog’s fifth anniversary celebrations.

Mother Nature

SOURCES:

“Celebrating 5 Years of Mother Nature!” – Alex Smithson, Mother Nature (6 June 2018) https://asterisk15.wordpress.com/2018/06/06/celebrating-5-years-of-mother-nature/

“Mental Health Organisations” – Alex Smithson, Mother Nature https://asterisk15.wordpress.com/mental-health-organisations/

IMAGE CREDIT:

Alex Smithson/Mother Nature.

EXCEL CAREERS FAIR: Arrives at Newham’s ExCel centre

London – VIJAY SHAH via TOM HORTON and Newham Recorder

The UK’s largest careers fair has made its way to the ExCel centre in Newham, east London this weekend, attracting around 30,000 visitors to the Custom House area in search of new and exciting employment opportunities, local newspaper the Newham Recorder reported on Thursday.

 

Skills London 2017 is geared towards young people between the ages of 15 and 24, and is hosted by London First and Prospects, and is supported by the office of the Mayor of London and the National Careers Service. The event will feature a selection of interactive activities and inspirational careers options for youngsters looking for their future career choice or to enter a new line of work.

The event is open to students, teachers, career advisors and jobseekers, with an astonishing 40,000 jobs on offer from 200 exhibitors from the fields of education, leading employers, training courses and job experts. Companies such as Google, Heathrow Airport and the supermarket chain Tesco and others will be on hand to offer careers advice and guidance.

Skills London is now in its tenth year and has been lauded for its high levels of interactivity and engagement with its target audience in a fun and inspiring atmosphere. Speaking to the Recorder on the fair, Jasmine Whitbread, the chief executive of London First, said: “London’s leading employers are stepping up to help young people make the most of their potential.”

The staging of the event in one of London’s lowest ranking areas for youth employment is also a sign of the recovery of the British economy after the 2008 financial crash which saw young people bear the brunt of job losses and a decline in opportunities.

Skills London 2017 takes place over 24-25 November from 9.30am to 4.00pm. Entry is free.

SOURCES:

Newham Recorder, Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/Newham.Recorder/

“UK’s largest careers fair expected to bring 30,000 to the ExCel over the next two days” – Tom Horton, Newham Recorder/Archant (23 November 2017) http://www.newhamrecorder.co.uk/news/uk-s-largest-careers-fair-expected-to-bring-30-000-to-the-excel-over-the-next-two-days-1-5293496

“Skills London 2017 – ExCeL London 24 & 25 November 2017” – skills London 2017/Skills London http://www.skillslondon.co.uk/Home.aspx

“About”- skills London 2017/Skills London http://www.skillslondon.co.uk/About.aspx

IMAGE CREDIT:

“Youth on the Move – Skills London” – DG EMPL, Flickr (22 November 2014) https://www.flickr.com/photos/socialeurope/15861149125

 

HIGH STREET TV – New senior team appointed at media company

York – VIJAY SHAH via Entirely Yorkshire

A Yorkshire-based retail channel company, High Street TV, has announced the creation of a new team of senior executives which it is hoped will help boost the profile and success of the company, reports the website Entirely Yorkshire.

High Street TV operates five television channels dedicated to shopping in the UK, and is described as the country’s most successful and longest running multi-channel DRTV Home Shopping Channel, diffusing around 3,000 hours of viewing time across its platforms, along with advertising on another fifty channels including major outlets like Channel 4 and Five. The media firm specialises in selling home and fitness goods, such as food preparation devices, electronics and fitness machines. 

 

The company has already enjoyed considerable success in a highly competitive industry, making it to the The Sunday Times Fast Track 100 business rankings of fast-growing firms. High Street TV has also being named the third fastest growing in its native county with a 42nd place ranking in the national league.

The company’s most significant appointment is Andy Haywood. Previously involved with High Street TV as a creative consultant, Haywood will commence a new role as Head of Creative. He has worked in a  creative capacity for several high-profile media companies, agencies and other clients. In a comment attributed to him by Entirely Yorkshire, Haywood said: “The opportunity for me to leave my own footprint on High Street TVs brand identity and creative portfolio is really exciting. We’ve already begun assembling a fantastic team with the knowledge and experience to really push the company’s brand and creativity to another level so I’m looking forward to seeing what we can achieve for High Street TV.”

Alongside Haywood, the shopping channel firm have also hired three other executives who will bring more original content and creativity to High Street TV. Jill Ford, formerly of baby products company Mamas & Papas joins as Senior Designer. Will Parkinson , previously a graphic designer at electronics firm Siemens, will start a new job as Middleweight Designer; and James MacDonald, a Dublin-based medical animation specialist and television director, will take on the mantle of Lead Animator.

High Street TV’s marketing director Francesca Woodward told Entirely Yorkshire: “We were continuously impressed by Andy’s innovative approach to his role as Creative Consultant, so when we were looking towards appointing a Head of Creative, Andy was a natural fit.’

Along with Andy, we’ve welcomed three new employees to the High Street TV team. Will, James and Jill have brought a wealth of experience to the company, and they will work together to strengthen our brand identity through fresh and innovative creative content”

SOURCES:

Vijay Shah { विजय }, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/VShah1984

Business Talk RTG, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/BTRTG

Entirely Yorkshire‏, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/EntYorkshire

“Newly appointed team at High Street TV” – Entirely Yorkshire https://www.entirelyyorkshire.co.uk/news/retail/york/newly-appointed-team-at-high-street-tv9888?x=3

High Street TV https://www.highstreettv.com/

IMAGE CREDIT:

“Free illustration: Shopping, Final Sale, Shopping Cart – Free Image on Pixabay – 1163506” – Alexas_Fotos, Pixabay (28 January 2016) https://pixabay.com/en/shopping-final-sale-shopping-cart-1163506/

QUOTE MOMENT: A problem is an opportunity

 

Everyone hates problems. I do. You do. Hell, even your pet cat probably does. But in the name of positive thinking, it doesn’t hurt to think of a problem as an opportunity to learn, to self-improve and as a challenge to conquer. As strange as it may seem, encountering a problem gives you a chance to consider things from all angles and to find solutions to a) solve said problem; and b) get it out of the way and go back to living and enjoying life. Just as they say you should seize opportunities by the horns, so you must prepare to kick a problem in the rear end, as so to speak. Consider every problem that comes your way as a chance to really do your best and prove yourself. Remember, you may have 99 problems, but being the best certainly isn’t one of them.

SOURCES/IMAGE CREDIT:

HEM News Agency, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/halfeatenmind

Burton Brown Sr.‏, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/BurtonBrown

PUBLIC SPEAKING: Ways to overcome the jitters

There comes a point in most people’s lives where they will have to do a bit of public speaking, Whether you end up being the best man toasting the groom during a wedding, or having to do a ‘make-or-break’ presentation for your university degree, public speaking is like jury duty, it is hard to get out of. For many of us, the very thought of standing in front of people, talking and showing things, is enough to leave us in a cold sweat. Paranoid fears of messing everything up or making a verbal faux-pas and embarrassing yourself in front of a whole bunch of people paralyse you, and in a slightly ironic self-fulfilling prophecy, those jitters and fears end up making you screw up the big talk. Big time.

For many people, it is preferable to be buried alive than to get up on stage, but public speaking, such as presentations of quarterly results, speaking at conferences and of course, those cringeworthy wedding speeches, are an important part of becoming successful in both our professional and personal lives. You only have to think of great figureheads such as Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Margaret Thatcher and Malala Yousafzai to understand that many of these people get their message across because they are great orators.

 

A Peruvian non-verbal language analyst and biology expert in human behaviour and neurocommunication, Miguel Figueroa, had published a book “Rompe el miedo y habla en público”, whose English title translates as Breaking Fear and Speaking in Public, late last year, in which he advises on ways to vanquish the trauma associated with public speaking, especially for first-timers. In a special tete-a-tete with Spanish-language online magazine GrandesMedios.com, Figueroa suggests techniques you can adopt to master the fear of speaking to an audience, as well as improving your expression skills.

  1. Bare your sole.

When sitting down for interview or presenting at conferences, for example, you may notice people touching or holding their feet. That is because, in an unconscious way, we instinctively protect the soles of our feet, due to their perceived vulnerability. According to Figueroa, placing the bottom of your feet and holding your feet can help relax you and dissipate any nerves. This is due to a ‘hormonal chain reaction’ that encourages relaxing mindsets, according to Figueroa.

2. Sit down and stay down!

While it is not always possible at all public speaking occasions, taking a seat can help you feel more comfortable and less ‘exposed’. Sitting helps provide mental and physical stability and, according to Figueroa, imparts a sense of confidence and authority of the speaker in the audience’s eyes, like a monarch proclaiming to their court from the throne.

3. Go walkabout and let your feet do the talking

Figueroa advises that public speakers should move around on their feet. At first this may seem strange advice. Surely, you might be thinking, trotting around the stage is the surest sign of nervousness. But Figueroa says that it is in the way you walk. You should take measured steps, first placing your heel on the ground, then bringing the arch down, followed by the toes. By doing this, you will avoid the quick rushed steps associated with someone who is frightened out of their wits, helping you feel more in control of the situation and again, upping the confidence levels, in both your and your audience’s perception.

4. Put your feet up!

Another foot technique to help you relax. Figueroa advises that a few minutes before you go out there and wow them with your wise words, you should find somewhere a bit private where there is a table or desk and literally put your feet up. Doing this will tell our brains that we are relaxed and calm, helping quell the  flight-or-flight feelings currently whizzing through our minds. This tip is especially useful for people attending interviews or auditions, who can do this in the waiting room or lobby before they go. However, do not do this in a public area and especially not in front of your audience. I do not have to tell you that it is the height of bad manners.

5. Do a little striptease

No, we are not advising you to do a sweaty nerve-wracked Full Monty in front of your audience, but Figueroa explains that hiding your hands when speaking is not a good idea as it tells your audience that you are nervous or insecure. To maintain your look of confidence, the best thing to do if you are wearing a long-sleeved garment, is to simply roll up your sleeves, ideally to your elbow.

6. Pose like an Egyptian

The ancient Egyptians saw the pyramid as an important cornerstone in their respect for the dead. It is this humble shape that can also help you bury the feelings of awkwardness in your public speaking. Figueroa suggests placing your hands together with palms slanted towards each other, fingertips touching so that your hands make a sort of pyramid. This hand position suggests balance and intelligence, and is an ideal gesture for saying concrete things, giving messages in depth and when concluding a speech or a negotiation dialogue.

7. Stretch Armstrong

Extending out our hand and fingers, such as when you move your hands when talking, has the advantage of telling you brain that you are in tiger mode, ready to pounce and actively engage the audience. In the audience’s eyes, constant and passionate movement of the hands suggests you want to get their attention and have important mission critical things to say. It also conveys confidence and engagement. A familiar gesture used by expert public speakers is the ‘what to do?’ position.

8. Barriers up!

The last technique Figueroa suggests is to use an object that will act as a barrier and help keep fear away. By holding an object, such as a pointer or a pen, the object serves as a ‘safety placebo’ which will trick the brain into thinking that everything is safe and calm. It is a comforting crutch on a psychological level, and is something that is a legacy of our childhoods from when we would take a stuffed toy to bed before sleep to keep away the big bad monsters in the dark. The barrier can also act as a distraction from negative thoughts or worries, and can be useful for the practicalities of pointing out things to an audience in a presentation.

SOURCES:

HEM News Agency, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/halfeatenmind

Trinadores, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/Trinadores

“8 técnicas para superar el miedo a hablar en público” –  GrandesMedios.com/Grandes Medios (18 November 2016) https://www.grandesmedios.com/tecnicas-hablar-en-publico/

IMAGE CREDIT:

“Speaking Out – Public speaking made easy” – Christian Heilmann, Flickr (10 February 2010)  https://www.flickr.com/photos/codepo8/4348899776