Posts Tagged ‘how to engage listeners’

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.

Building Credibility When You Speak: The Value of “Acting Objectives”

Sunday, May 31st, 2015

Savvy professionals apply acting techniques to help enhance their credibility and gravitas when they speak for business.  They know that they need to build belief within the listeners, so they borrow techniques that actors have used for decades.  So can you.

Crafted actors spend years perfecting a craft that is designed to build belief.  This is why advertisers so often rely upon actors and their craft:  they understand that actors’ techniques and performance skills are fundamental to the business of selling any idea, product, or service.

When actors are preparing a role, they make careful choices about what actions to take, to help the audience believe that the make believe situation is real.  For actors, it’s all about actions; for actors, actions speak much louder than words.

To prepare, actors create “acting objectives”.  These are actions that lie underneath the words – actions they plan to take toward their listeners.  This helps actors to be motivated to speak the words that the playwright or screenwriter wrote, and speak them truthfully, authentically, and conversationally.

In rehearsal and performance, actors pursue their acting objectives as if their lives depended on it.   This helps the audience believe that the actor and the character are one and the same:  that the actor IS the character.

This applies to you when you speak for business for two important reasons:

  1. You want your business listeners to believe something: to believe that you have solutions to their problems, for example.  The more rigorously you pursue your actions (your acting objectives), the more completely your audience will believe:  believe that you and your message are one and the same; believe that you are your message.
  2. Whenever you are speaking for business, when you make listeners believe, they are very likely to overlook minor shortcomings or mistakes you might make.

Throughout my acting career, and as a professional speaker, I have occasionally neglected to rehearse with the use of acting objectives.  Invariably, whenever I have neglected to use this technique, I lost the acting job or failed to engage my business listeners.

Your business speaking/presentations will never be perfect; there will always be something to improve upon and something that you might consider to have been slightly “negative” in your “performance”.   Without the use of acting objectives in your preparation, you significantly reduce your ability to make business listeners believe.  When that happens, your listeners have little to focus on BUT the negative.

Once you have helped your business listeners believe, you’ve won them over to your side.  After that, they will forgive you almost anything!

 

How to Engage Your Listeners by Allowing Ideas to ‘Land’ (Part 3): The Brief Pause

Monday, June 25th, 2012

http://youtu.be/RC9A14CsNmM

In today’s videoblog, I’ll share the third and final step in my three-part series called “How to Engage Your Listeners by Allowing Your Ideas to Land.”

In my last two videoblogs, I talked about the first two steps in this process: (1) Speak in complete thoughts and (2) pursue your point with energy and focus.

Today, I’ll share step three: Pause briefly after speaking a complete thought, to allow the idea to “land”.

Successful business speakers, like good actors, always consider pacing when they prepare to speak. The tempo of the spoken word has a strong impact on the listener and directly influences the way speakers are perceived. This raises the issue of pausing.

Even the smartest and best listeners need a moment to digest a complete thought. When you are speaking face-to face or on camera, your listeners need time to interpret meaning from a broad palette:  a palette that includes your visual as well as vocal delivery.  So, pauses are important.

A University of Michigan study revealed that speakers who never paused had the lowest success rate in getting listeners to do what they wanted them to do.  The great British actor, John Gielgud, famously said that, when acting Shakespeare, the pauses are the most important moments of the speech!    He knew that pauses can be captivating.

Help your business listeners receive the full impact of your message by giving them the gift of time. Pause briefly after each complete thought, to let it “land”. Don’t be in a rush to go on to your next idea. The pause will also give you time to get a reading on your listener’s understanding and engagement level. During the pause, breathe deeply and maintain good eye contact.

Without the pauses, your listeners may feel overwhelmed by an unmanageable amount of input. They may lose some of your meaning; they might even tune you out.

When you give your listeners time to process each thought, you are respecting their needs while you communicate your own conviction that your message is important.

Never underestimate the power of the pause!