Posts Tagged ‘successful business 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.

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.

 

 

Build Trust & Rapport in Business Conversations: Acknowledge Positive Intent

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015

Here is a strategy that will help you deepen trust and rapport with your business conversation partners:  acknowledge positive intent.

Positive intent is the good purpose meant to be served by any communication or behavior.  Always look for positive intent within others; give people the benefit of the doubt in situations that are difficult or have not turned out well, and especially when your conversation partners have caused a problem.

Take the following three steps:

  • Look for things to thank people for.
  • Verbally express appreciation for things that people have done well.
  • Acknowledge any information that people may have lacked, and promise to keep them better informed in the future, even if it’s not your job to do so.

Then say:  “Thank you for (xyz)”.   This is the point when you will mention the person’s positive intent.  For example, if a person has been excessive in some way or overly-detailed, or has made errors, you might first say something like, “Thank you for your attention to detail.”

In some situations, unfortunately, it may be challenging to identify someone’s positive intent!  If you truly cannot identify positive intent, make something up that is plausible.  When you mention a positive intent that is plausible, it’s very unlikely that your conversation partners will deny that this was their intent.  Most people want to be seen in the best light and appreciate the opportunity to save face.

In the moment when you’re identifying positive intent, blend.  Blending is any communication or behavior that minimizes the differences between you and another person.  This means that you will mirror (and not mimic) your conversation partner’s tone, tempo, volume, energy level, and body language.  Give receptive signals, such as “oh, yes, I see, I understand, etc., and use lots of head nodding.

Verbally acknowledging positive intent will help you build trust and rapport and increase your success in 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!

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!

 

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!