Posts Tagged ‘executive speaking’

Grab/Keep the Attention of Your Business Audience: Take Stage (Part 1)

Monday, May 29th, 2017

Would you like to grab your business audience’s attention and keep them riveted to your presentations?  Do what actors do:  take stage!  Inhabit the space with a “do or die” purpose and an attitude of complete belonging.

Your physical demeanor speaks volumes about you, and your business audience is sizing you up before you even say a word.  Here are three basic strategies, to make your physical demeanor enhance your presence:

  • Whether you’re seated or standing, begin speaking with both feet planted firmly on the ground.  Imagine that your legs are tree trunks and your feet are roots extending deep into the ground.  This initial grounding helps you claim the space as your own and helps give weight to your subsequent movements.  It helps you project confidence and authority.
  • If you’re standing, stand away from furniture and resist any temptation to lean for support.  If someone offers you a podium, politely decline it, if you can.  Whenever possible, you want to eliminate any physical barriers that could come between you and your audience.  If you must use a podium, stand tall and don’t lean on it!
  • Whenever possible, give any handouts you may have after your presentation has ended, not before or during the presentation.  When you give people material to read during your talk, you are inviting them to focus on a piece of paper and inviting them to ignore you.  Giving your audience material to read also suggests the idea that they could just as effectively have read your content, and that they didn’t need to come hear you live and in person!

When you apply these strategies, you’ll be well on your way to taking stage; you will make your physical demeanor enhance your presence, and you will get buy-in faster.

 

Project Authority by Reducing Your Filler Words

Monday, January 9th, 2017

During business conversations and presentations, would you like to reduce your filler words, to sound more authoritative and get buy-in faster?  You can do it with a technique that actors use when they are preparing to speak extemporaneously.

You already know that filler words (um, uh, so, well, like, you know) rarely add meaning and are usually just a distraction for your listeners.  And that they jeapardize your ability to project confidence and commitment.  Reducing your use of fillers will help you enhance your credibility and your leadership presence.  Borrow this practice technique that actors use:

Set a timer for increasing time periods of time, two or three minutes to start, and record yourself as you speak in extended sentences on a topic of your choice.  Choose a business topic that you know well, something you enjoy speaking about (but not your elevator speech or a sales pitch).

As you speak into the recorder, imagine that each word that comes from your mouth is connected to the next one, which is connected to the next one, and so on:  the way pearls are connected on a string of pearls.  When you feel the urge to use a filler

  • Stop yourself
  • Pause
  • Say the filler silently to yourself

When the timer rings, play back the recording and notice your fillers.  Then repeat the exercise, with new topics of your choice.

As you become comfortable with this exercise, increase the setting on the timer, perhaps starting at five or seven minutes.  Then, continue the practice until you can speak extemporaneously on new topics of your choice for fifteen or twenty minutes straight, without the use of fillers.

I guarantee:  when you practice this on a regular basis, you will find that, over time, you are decreasing the number of fillers that you use.  You will sound more confident and more authoritative.  And you’ll increase your ability to influence!

How to Engage Listeners with the Power of the Surprising Pause

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

As a business speaker, would you like to learn how to use your voice, to keep your listeners riveted to your message?

Like a good actor, you can use your voice and the power of the surprising pause to command attention and add depth to your business message.  You may be interested to know that the great Shakespearian actor, Sir John Gielgud, said that the pauses are the most important moments of a speech!

Pausing at meaningful and unpredictable moments will enhance your speaking power in three ways:

1
It will create variety in your delivery:  A moment of unexpected silence provides the greatest contrast to a stream of words.
2
It will create suspense:  It teases your listeners for just a moment, making them want to hear more.
3.
It will enhance listener understanding:  A surprising pause, filled with meaning, allows your listeners to observe a difference quality in you and highlights the subtle nuances of meaning within your message.

Watch this video to see and hear my demonstration:

Right now, I’m going to speak an excerpt from a play called Other People’s Money by Jerry Sterner.  The dialogue is spoken by a character who is a CEO of a company.  As I speak,  I’m going to pause in spots that are logical and fairly predictable.  Here I go:

“One day, / when the dollar is weaker or the yen stronger, / or when we finally begin to rebuild the roads, the bridges, the infrastructure of our country, / demand will skyrocket.”

Now, a more interesting and more engaging choice would be to pause in spots that are less predictable; like this:

“One day, / when the dollar/is weaker / or the yen / stronger, / or when we finally begin to rebuild the roads, the bridges, the infrastructure of our country, / demand / will skyrocket.”

Isn’t that more interesting?

As you rehearse and deliver any business talk, take some meaningful pauses at less predictable moments.   Use the power of the surprising pause, and make your delivery truly compelling.

Speaking Mistakes: Humility Saves Face

Sunday, June 26th, 2016

Have you ever made a mistake during a business meeting or conversation: a big mistake that was obvious to everyone?  You don’t have to lose face in situations like these.  Here is a tip that will help you save face.

At one point or another, in your professional life, you may at one time or another, have dropped the balls. You said the most inappropriate thing or your spoken mistake that everyone noticed was a serious one.  These situations present two choices for you.  You can

1:   Pretend that it didn’t happen:  this is never advisable when you are sure that everyone noticed your mistake!

2:   Accept that you dropped the balls and demonstrate humility.

Humility might be an instant and sincere apology. It might be self-deprecating humor.  It might be that you allow others to see you try with your heart and soul to correctly your mistake and maybe even fail to correct it!  Humility means that we accept our right relationship with nature and allow people to see our human-ness.  Because human beings make mistakes and are sometimes wrong — and most everyone we do business with can identify with that.

Humility is a very importance ingredient in successful business speaking.  It’s not a weakness.  It’s actually strategic.  It’s a quality that makes us approachable, more likeable, and more attractive to do business with.

Demonstrate Your Ability to Be a True Business Partner: Listen Actively (Part 2)

Monday, May 2nd, 2016

Do your prospects believe that you will be a true business partner for them? To help you achieve this goal, I shared with you in my last video the first three steps of active listening. Today, I’ll share the final 2 steps.

I shared Step 1 for active listening: Blend; Step 2: Backtrack; and Step 3: Clarify.

Now, here are the final two steps:

Step 4: Summarize
Here, your goal is to show that you have listened and understood. Paraphrase what your partners have just said. Say something like, “So, if I understand you correctly…xyz. Paraphrase their meaning as accurately and concisely as you can.

Step 5: Confirm
Here, your objective is to be sure that your conversation partner feels satisfied. Ask: “Do you feel understood? Is there anything else?”

When you use the five steps of active listening (Blending, Backtracking, Clarifying, Summarizing and Confirming), you’ll be better able to convince your prospects that you’ll be a true business partner for them.

That’s a strategy for building relationships and generating business.

Show Prospects That You’ll Be a True Business Partner by Listening Actively

Monday, March 28th, 2016

Would you like your clients and prospects to believe that you will be a true business partner for them?  You can help make this happen by sharpening your active listening skills.  Active listening helps you project a spirit of good will and project your most positive, professional image.

Very often, it’s wise to listen as your conversation partners express themselves fully, before you present your own thoughts, opinions, and perceptions. People are more likely to agree when they feel that they themselves have been heard!

Here are three steps that will help you listen actively:

Step 1:  Blend
Blending is any behavior that helps reduce the differences between you and your conversation partners. The goal is to increase rapport.  As we speak, listeners are often subconsciously wondering “Are you with me, or against me?” — so building rapport is very important.  Blending will help you do it.  This means that you will mirror – and not mimic – your conversation partner’s tone, pacing, volume, facial expressions and posture.  Give receptive signals: “Oh, yes, I see, I understand”, and use a lot of head nodding.

Step 2: Backtrack
The goal of backtracking is to show that you are listening and want to understand. When you backtrack, you repeat verbatim your conversation partner’s words.  It is important not to paraphrase; use the exact words. This is particularly useful during business conversations on the phone.

Step 3: Clarify
Ask clarifying questions.  Your goal is to gather as much information as possible and delay giving your own responses. Clarifying questions begin with the words “why”, “how”, and “tell me about…” There are three main benefits to backtracking: it shows that you are patient and supportive, it helps an unreasonable conversation partner behave more reasonably, and it helps reveal any hidden agendas that your conversation partners may have.

These three steps for active listening will help you project a spirit of good will and caring.  Next time, I will share the final two steps to help you listen actively and make it easier for your clients and prospects to believe that you’ll be a true business partner for them!

Increase Harmony in Challenging Conversations: Part 2

Monday, February 22nd, 2016

When you’re in the middle of a challenging business conversation, and you’re certain that your tone of voice has been “above reproach”, what else can you do to increase harmony?

I recently talked with you about the importance of monitoring your tone of voice to increase harmony in challenging conversations.  Here are three more strategies to help guarantee your success: 

#1: Give positive reinforcement.

We often need to continue having business conversations with people whom we have already experienced to be difficult.  Be on the lookout for their positive behavior, and acknowledge it verbally.  Whenever you witness behavior that you would like to see repeated, you can say something like, “That’s one of the things I admire about you:  your ability to ___”.    Identify the positive behavior; praise it. 

#2:  Interrupt people tactfully when they are shouting, dominating a conversation or meeting, or complaining with increasing negativity

Calmly repeat the person’s name over and over again.  When the person stops speaking, state or restate your own intention in the conversation. 

#3:  Respond to criticism strategically.

Thank people when they criticize you.  When we defend ourselves, it often  appears to be an admission of guilt.  Instead, you can say something like,  “Thank you for telling me how you feel”, or “Thank you for being honest”, or just “Thank you.”   “Thank you” is a complete sentence! 

When you monitor your communication in these three ways, you’ll help bring out the best in people, increase harmony, and set the stage for greater success in challenging business conversations.

 

 

Building Belief With Acting Objectives: Benefits for You

Monday, November 2nd, 2015

In my last few blogs, I have described the value of applying acting objectives when you prepare to speak for business.  Here are some additional benefits that you will experience when you use this technique.  Pursuing acting objectives

#1:  gives you laser-beam focus and simplifies the process, because it gives you just one thing to think about: what you are doing with your words as you speak

#2:  galvanizes your energy toward your listeners; it’s the quickest and most powerful way to project energy, commitment, passion, and poise.

#3:  provides a completely organic way to make your voice and physical demeanor support your content.  It turns your voice, body language, and content into one seamless, unified message.

When you are speaking in business conversation or making a presentation, this gives you maximum power and delivers to your listeners maximum impact.

Enhance Your Leadership Presence With Acting Improvisation

Friday, August 28th, 2015

Would you like your business listeners to trust you more?  Would your business improve if you could convince prospects that you will be a true business partner for them?  Would you like to generate more new business and keep more the business you already have? 

If you’re answer is YES, you won’t want to miss my exciting program called “Enhance Your Leadership Presence with Acting Improvisation.”  You’ll learn how to enhance your leadership presence by using acting improvisation, storytelling techniques, and the “yes and” mindset to transform your communication skills. You’ll learn how to generate business by deepening interpersonal connections, speaking with authenticity, building trust, and engaging your listeners. And you’ll learn how to address the changing needs of your existing clients by expanding your creativity and spontaneity. 

I describe this work as “serious fun”. You’ll be engaged in playful, interactive activities:  acting improvisation, theater and imagination games, and mind, body, and voice techniques that will help you project a spirit of collaboration and convince your prospects that you can (and will) help them solve their business problems. 

Let me tell you how acting improvisation will enhance your leadership presence: 

#1:  Whenever you speak for business, your listeners have one over-riding concern: they want to know what’s in it for them.  Acting improvisation addresses this concern.  Early in their training, actors learn that the audience is always asking the question, “Why are you telling me this?”  Acting improvisation teaches that you must answer this question, and answer it in a way that is compelling for your listeners.  This is a skill that every business leader needs!  If you’re not answering this question in a way that is compelling for your listeners, you’re losing business. 

#2:  To generate new business and keep the business you already have, you need to engage your listeners.  Acting improvisation teaches what a message is made of, what needs to happen; it teaches you how to discern when the beginning should be over, when your listeners have had enough of the middle, when it’s time to move on to the ending, and how long that should last, etc. Leaders who use this knowledge and the timing that it develops become truly engaging:  become masters of engagement.  And they have a measurable competitive edge! 

You, too, can become a master of engagement. Acting improvisation will teach you how!  Don’t miss the opportunity to experience this innovative program: you’ll take away powerful techniques to transform your leadership presence.  

Discover how play will enhance the way you work. And get ready for some serious fun!  I look forward to working with you.

 

 

 

Build Listener Belief by Creating Acting Objectives

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015

You can build your credibility by building listener belief in the way that actors do:  Create and pursue acting objectives.  An acting objective is an action that lies underneath the words you speak; and ACTION that you take toward your listeners as you speak.  It is a specific, active verb; it expresses what you want to do to your listeners; what you want to make them feel or do.

Choose objectives that are personally appealing and  for you to pursue, so that you’ll be motivated and project energy.   There are three ingredients for an effective acting objective. Each objective should have the following qualities.  It should be

  1. a specific, active verb, Directed toward the listener
  2. personal and appropriate to the spoken message and the listener’s situation.
  3. truthful  (not necessarily actual, but  believable) 

Pursuing an objective gives you energy and focus as you speak, because it is a powerful action to take toward your listeners; a powerful action that lies underneath the words.  Listeners pay a lot of attention to the actions underneath the words you speak.

Here are some power verbs that might be useful at acting objectives (think, “I wish to __ my listeners”):  welcome them; stir their pride; impress them; honor them; warn them; make them laugh, etc.

Keep your acting objectives private; they should be your secrets.  The longer you keep a secret, the more power it holds for you.  You want your objective to have power of you; to have power to affect your delivery.  Keeping your acting objectives private will strengthen your motivation to speak and galvanize the commitment and passion in your voice and your gestures.

Actors write their acting objectives in the margin of the script, right next to the dialogue. Identifying power verbs as your acting objectives for each beat of your presentation will help you organize your ideas, internalize your message, and prepare you for the next step:  pursuing your acting objectives, as if you life depended on it!