Posts Tagged ‘public speaking’

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!

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!

 

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!

 

Put Your Business Listeners At Ease: Speak With a Lightness of Being

Monday, June 24th, 2013

http://youtu.be/8-opt6b5A1A

Business listeners respond well to a speaker’s positive energy and lightness of being.  As a speaker, you can project this kind of lightness by doing a quick emotional clearing in advance — the way actors do before going on stage.

At least an hour before you have that important business conversation, meeting, or presentation, do the following:

  1.  Take your “emotional temperature”.  Identify your current emotional state:  happy, sad, nervous, excited, disappointed, excited, angry, etc.
  2.  Find a private area to release these emotions in a big way, even if it feels exaggerated or  “phony” to do so.  For example, you can jump for joy, shout, laugh out loud, shed a few tears, if necessary; whatever you need to do to release your emotions, especially the ones that are less pleasant.
  3.  Do some deep breathing with long, slow exhalations to a count of ten; then stretch out your arms, legs, back, and shoulders to release your emotions more fully.

If you are having any emotions that will not serve to enhance your speaking delivery, releasing those emotions in advance will decrease the power they have over you and will decrease any negative impact they might have on the way you speak.

You will be more “present” with your listeners and more available to respond to them authentically “in the moment”.

You will be free to use you positive and upbeat energy to engage and inspire your listeners — with a lightness of being that will help put them (and you) at ease.

 

 

 

 

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!

How to Engage Your Listeners: Allow Your Ideas to “Land”; Step 1

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

http://youtu.be/bRvNPjBGK0s

Successful speakers engage their listeners by pacing the message in a way that allows listeners to understand fully. The key is to allow your ideas to “land” when you speak. I recommend a technique based on one that I learned from my mentor, the Academy-Award-winning actress, Olympia Dukakis.

In today’s blog, I’ll present Step One:
Think in thought groups, instead of thinking in words. This will help your pacing to become organic, authentic, and compelling.

Research tells 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! As you prepare to speak for business, focus on your thought groups by using these three strategies:

1. Review your notes and analyze your whole message. As you rehearse aloud, be conscious of the number of complete thoughts that you present in each sentence – probably one, two, or three complete thoughts in any given sentence.

2. Be mindful of the moments in your message when one complete thought ends and the next one is about to begin. These are your transition moments.

3. Here is a useful and fun technique adapted from the theater. My mentor, Olympia Dukakis, taught me a rehearsal technique that helps actors internalize the actions and emotions of each section of a play script. I have adapted Olympia’s technique for business speakers, so that you will become sensitized to your thought groups. Here is a good way to begin your rehearsal process:

1. Set out a few chairs, as you do in musical chairs, and begin by sitting in one of them.

2. As you rehearse aloud, move to a different chair each time you complete a thought. Speak each complete thought from a different chair.

3. Rehearse this way until your mind and body have internalized the moments when each complete thought has ended and the next one is about to begin.

This early rehearsal exercise will increase your awareness of your thought groups and will prepare you for Step 2 in this process (which I’ll be writing about soon).

Be sure to read my next blog and/or watch the videoblog: Step 2 for “Engaging Your Listeners: Allow Your Ideas to Land”.

May you be a successful speaker!

Do Your Hands Sabotage You When You Speak For Business?

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

In my last blog, I opened with two compelling statistics about the impact of non-verbal communication and addressed three behaviors that influence face-to-face interactions:  smiling, the head nod, and placing the fingers in front of one’s mouth while speaking.

Here are four additional aspects of body language (specifically, the use of your hands) related to general tendencies in perception within United States:

  1. Helplessness and/or an urgency to be understood are communicated when you speak with your hands open at chest level and spread sideways with the palms up.
  2. Speaking with the hand(s) up and palm(s) facing outward can communicate messages influenced by gender:  When a man does this, it sends a placating message; when a woman does it, the message is flirtatious.
  3. Pointing with a finger (and especially with an object, such as a pen) sends a message of aggressiveness.
  4. A subtext of disagreement is sent when your arms are crossed over your chest.

Here are some tips regarding your body language during business communication, whether you are speaking informally or giving a formal presentation:

  • Keep your hands open and available for natural gestures; do not plan or rehearse gestures!
  • A waist-level position for the hands (with palms relaxed and fingers slightly curved) is often appropriate.
  • When gesturing, use both hands whenever possible.
  • Put pens and pointers down when you are not using them.

Savvy business speakers think about non-verbal communication the way that actors do:  they remain conscious of the fact that listeners who can see you are watching you very carefully and interpreting meaning from every aspect of your body language.

As you speak for business, be mindful of any physical behaviors you exhibit that may be sending unintended messages, and make appropriate changes (even if it initially takes you out of your comfort zone).  The results will have a dramatic impact on your projection of confidence, warmth, and authority — as well as your ability to persuade.