Posts Tagged ‘how to engage your listeners’

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.

 

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.

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.

 

 

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!

Engage Listeners With the Power of the Pause (“Let Your Ideas Land”, Part 3)

Sunday, May 3rd, 2015

 

Would you like your business listeners to be drawn IN when you speak?  Would you like them to feel eager to hear what you’re going to say next?

If your answer is YES, you need the power of the pause.  Successful business speakers, like good actors, always consider pacing when they are going to speak.  The tempo of your spoken word has a strong impact on your listeners and directly influences their level of engagement and influences the way you are perceived.  Your pauses are key.

Even the smartest and best listeners need a moment to process a spoken idea.  When you listeners can see you, they need time to interpret meaning from a broad palette:  your visual delivery, as well as vocal delivery.  Your pauses can give them the time they need.

A University of Michigan study revealed that when speakers never paused, they had the lowest success rate in getting listeners to do what they wanted them to do.  And the great British actor, Sir 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.  Another benefit of the pause is that it gives you time to get a reading on your listener’s understanding and engagement level.  During the pause, breathe deeply and maintain eye contact.

During the pause, your listeners will usually be wondering why you’ve paused and wondering what you’re going to say next.  So, your pauses increase listener curiosity and engagement level, and they make you more compelling.

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

When you give your listeners time to process each thought, you are respecting their needs, communicating that your message has value, and drawing them IN.

Never underestimate the power of the pause!

 

Captivate Your Listeners: Use Focus Words to Let Ideas “Land”

Saturday, April 4th, 2015

Would you like your business listeners to feel compelled to listen to you?  Would you like them to hang onto every word you say?

Here is a tip I learned from one of my acting teachers, the late Mira Rostova, who was also coach to the great film actor Montgomery Clift.  This will help you become a more compelling speaker and is Part 2 of my Series called Engage Your Listeners by Allowing Your Ideas to Land When you Speak. 

One of the most common mistakes speakers make is to stress too many words within one spoken idea.  Speakers who do this are usually attempting to be clear, but the result is often a delivery that sounds unfocused or pedantic; it can even sound condescending.

While every word that you speak “counts” and should be understood by the listener, take time to consider WHICH  of your words should receive focus.  The more words you stress within one phrase or sentence, the more you lose focus and clarity.  Mira Rostova used to say, “go for the point; go for the point!”

To prepare for any business presentation, include the following three strategies:

  • Review your notes and identify the focus words of each complete thought.  Be very discriminating as you choose your focus words.   Find creative ways to add depth and an interesting perspective to your ideas by choosing to placing stress in unexpected moments.  This will add an element of surprise in your delivery and will help you engage your listeners.
  • Underline the focus words of each complete thought.  Then, internalize your content; don’t memorize it.
  • As you rehearse aloud, stress only the focus words of each complete thought.  Keep those focus words at the forefront of your mind, and pursue them energetically as you speak.

Rehearsing this way will drive your ideas with power.  And the paradox is this:  when you become more selective about which words to stress, you’ll help your listeners hang on to every word you speak!

 

Engage Listeners: Pace Your Thoughts to “Land”

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

One way that successful speakers engage their listeners is by pacing effectively and allowing each idea to “land” before going on to the next idea.  This helps listeners understand fully and gives variety to the delivery.  I recommend a rehearsal exercise based on one that I learned from the Academy-Award-winning actress, Olympia Dukakis.

Today, I’ll present the first step in this process:  Think in thought groups, rather than thinking in words.  This will help your pacing become organic, authentic, and compelling.

Research tell us that people don’t think in words; we think and listen in complete thoughts.  Match the way you speak with the way your listeners listen!  Apply my adaptation of Olympia’s technique, which was originally created to help actors internalize the sections and emotions of a scene.  I have adapted Olympia’s technique for business speakers, so that you will develop greater sensitivity to your listeners and more consistently pause, tune in, and allow each idea to “land” before you go on to the next idea.

Begin rehearsal for any business talk with a simple exercise:

  • Set out a few chairs, as you would for the game musical chairs.  Begin by sitting in one of them.
  • As you rehearse aloud, move to a different chair each time you complete a thought.  Speak each complete idea from a difference chair.
  • Repeat this exercise until your mind and your body have internalized the moments when each complete thought has ended and the next one is about to begin.

This simple exercise will increase your awareness of your thought groups.  It will help you become more sensitive to your listeners and be better able to pause, tune in to the listeners, and allow each idea to “land” before going on to the next idea.

You listeners will understand more fully and be more fully engaged!

Conversation With Prospects: Position Yourself as an Expert

Sunday, March 30th, 2014

http://youtu.be/rrw0ni_SCsg

In my last videoBlog, I shared strategies to help you enhance your credibility and engage your listeners during the conversation that happens after you have delivered your elevator speech.

Here is a strategy to position yourself and your company as experts.

Focus on the human element:  talk about who you and your team are as human beings.  Your initial, face-to-face conversation with a prospect is the ideal time to be personable —  and project authenticity, approachability, and dedication to customer and client service.

Focusing on the human element is very wise, because it changes the focus of the conversation.  You are no longer speaking about your products or services; now you’re speaking about the way you and your team care; the way you behave on a human level.

For example, you might say something like this:  “We’re people who pay close attention whenever our clients speak.”    Or this:  “We’re people who are passionate about every assignment.”

This strategy positions you on the same side as your listener.  On the other side are

  1. all your competitors who don’t pay close attention to their clients: who put their own interests ahead of those of the client or customer
  2. all your competitors who are not passionate — who view certain projects only as a cash cow.

When you are speaking with people who have had a negative experience purchasing a product or service in your category, they might appreciate your focus on the human element.  When you say that you pay close attention to your clients, your listeners might find that refreshing; they might even chuckle.  Then you’ll have them engaged, and that’s really the whole point.  Because engagement is a very important element in relationship-building.

So, use this strategy.  Focus on the human element, and you will be on your way to conversations that position you and your organization as experts and generate more conversation that can lead to sales.

Rehearse Your Elevator Speech, Part 2; Additional Guidelines for the “Endowment” Technique

Sunday, February 2nd, 2014

Today, I’ll share more about how you can project spontaneity and authenticity in your elevator speech by rehearsing with the actor’s technique called “Endowment”.  Here is a summary of the steps:

Step 1:  Choose a person from your real life in who has qualities that help you feel liked, trusted, and respected when you speak with him or her.  Step 2:  Choose a spot to place your focus, and imagine your business listener, right there in front of you.   Step 3:  Endow your imaginary listener with these same qualities that help you feel liked, trusted, and respected.  As you say your elevator speech aloud, speak AS IF you were in conversation with the person from your life. 

Here are some additional guidelines for the Endowment process.

1.  It’s very important to be flooded with positive feelings as you rehearse this, so choosing the “right” person to feed your imagination is key.  Experiment with the technique of Endowment by imagining various people from your life, in order to discover which one person most effectively triggers your expression of warmth and relaxation when you are speaking.

2.  Never tell anyone the identity of the person you have chosen to “use” for this process.  Keeping it a secret will increase the power that the Endowment technique will have on your demeanor and delivery.  

3.  The technique of endowment may be challenging at first, so rehearse aloud as often as possible.  Over time, rehearsal of the endowment process will help you focus your mind in a very useful way.  It will help you create an emotional environment for yourself:   to project authenticity and spontaneity when you’re networking and meeting with prospects and clients.

Using the Endowment technique has a secondary benefitit will keep your mind so focused on the task at hand, that you’ll have very little emotional availability to be nervous or self-conscious.

This is a way to use rehearsal strategically:  it will prepare your for a spontaneous and authentic presentation of yourself and your business message.