I observed an almost surreal event when I was a business student - that started a life-long fascination with the power of communication - especially 'un-spoken'..
At the front of the classroom, an entrepreneur was practicing a pitch he would make later to venture capital firms. Specifically, he was talking about a technology his firm had developed. It was a new type of respirator which had the potential to save the lives of many infants.
When he talked about the potentially great financial returns, the audience, made up of business students, sat back passively. But when he talked about getting babies through critical moments with his respirators, every single person in the classroom sat up, alert and fully focused.
As he went back and forth between stories of saving babies and talking about financial results, almost every student in the classroom moved with him. And what's more, it seemed the students' unconscious body movements had been carefully choreographed.
The subject of public speaking is riddled with tired, worn out cliches we ought to throw out. Here are a few to let go of:
1. "Public speaking is the #1 fear."
You can count on hearing this one any time you take a presentation skills class. The problem is, there's nothing to substantiate it. The quoted source for this "fact" is usually The Book of Lists, which, even in current editions, shows a tiny blurb in the Sunday Times of London from October 7, 1973, as its source.
In this article, no mention is made of who did this research, how it was conducted, who the subjects were, whether the subjects were a representative sample of the U.S. population-nothing! Not to mention the fact that this "research" is 30 years old. Haven't people changed in 30 years? And don't we face new fears that weren't even in our consciousness in 1973? Of course. If this research were to be conducted with rigor today, we would likely have a different outcome. This tidy, shocking factoid is easily trotted out when we want to make a point, but it's just not valid. Time to let this one go.
2. "Picture the audience members naked."
OK. So you're nervous about your presentation. Perhaps you're feeling vulnerable and exposed. The solution? Imagine your audience in a humiliating position and, presto, everybody's equally degraded! Does this set up powerful communication? I think not. Rather than mentally stripping (pardon the pun) audience members of dignity so you can feel better, concentrate instead on lifting your own self-image. Besides, there are some people you just don't want to see naked.
3. "If you're too nervous to look them in the eye, look just above their heads at the back wall."
Please. You can tell when someone is looking past you, right? At a party, it's unmistakable when people shift their eyes past your shoulder to see if someone "more important" has entered the room. Besides, the back wall doesn't get a puzzled look when it doesn't understand, nor does it raise its hand when it has something to say. But your listeners do. You have to see them in order to address those needs. You can spend your whole life avoiding eyeballs. Although it might ease your nerves, it defeats the purpose of your talk: to connect. Better to spend time getting over the fear of eyeballs watching you than making audience members wonder, "What on earth is she looking at back there?"
4. "Make eye contact for 3 to 5 seconds per person."
Of course, it's important to look at your listeners. How else can you know if they're following or if they have questions? But giving each person 3 to 5 seconds of eye contact can make you seem mechanical. When I see someone following this rigid rule I can almost hear that person mentally saying "one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi." Lee Glickstein, founder of SPEAKING CIRCLES(R) and author of the book Be Heard Now, calls this kind of eye contact "eye service" because when you're following a rule, you're not really connecting; you're just checking a box. ("Woman in the red jacket: check. Guy in the blue tie: check.") Meaningful connections can't be reduced to a technique. Be flexible enough to really see those listeners and let go of the rules.
5. "Find one or two friendly faces in the audience and just speak to them."
It's nice to have support, but when you give the speech to just one or two people, you risk alienating the very supporters you're counting on. If you've ever been on the receiving end of this, you know what I mean. These friendly faces desperately wish you would look at someone else. Besides, if you're facing non-supporters, wouldn't you rather know what they're up to so you can handle their discontent? Often, you can win over those grouchy faces by simply answering a question or addressing a basic concern. If you block the grouches out entirely so you feel more comfortable, they'll be more unhappy because you ignored them. Find encouragement in the supportive faces, yes, but speak to the whole group.
*The SPEAKING CIRCLE (R) method is a revolutionary new approach for developing confidence and charisma in front of groups.
In the quest to attract customers and make more sales, the temptation is to focus on the Internet. It's easy to forget there are other tools that are less tedious, easier to use, and even more effective.
For example, simply telling people what we do and how it benefits them is the most profound marketing "secret" ever invented. And, the opportunities to talk to people are unlimited!
Consider that every service organization (Rotary, Kiwanis, etc.) needs a speaker every week! This creates thousands of opportunities to do someone a favor and tell your story! The potential is huge!
Now, the fear of public speaking is wide-spread, but at the same time, the opportunities are so compelling that no business person can afford to ignore them.
(this is not an article specifically about how to be a great public speaker - but nonetheless, its very interesting and educational)
How many times have you flipped through the pages of a magazine or newspaper and seen images of children with captions like “Brats,” “Bullies,” or “Mean and Selfish”?
Unfortunately, these are common occurrences in today’s media. For some child advocates, these images serve as a call to action: We need to do something to help America’s so-called “out-of-control” children.
The problem is, while these negative images are a wake up call, they are not doing anything to help troubled children. In fact, they only add to the problem. By labeling children brats, bullies, or mean and selfish, we are imposing the very same behaviors on them that we teach as being wrong.
In Robert Shaw’s book, The Epidemic: The Rot of American Culture, Absentee and Permissive Parenting, and the Resultant Plague of Joyless, Selfish Children, he asserts that “Our culture no longer offers what children need to truly thrive.” That is, some children are so unruly because society has unknowingly taught them to act this way
Getting Down to the Root of the Problem
The “epidemic” that Shaw discusses is a result of a deeply rooted social system called Authoritarianism, which is a system of behaviors that manipulate and control through pain and humiliation.
These behaviors include blaming, shaming, preaching, moralizing, accusing, ridiculing, belittling, evaluating, labeling, threatening, judging, and punishing – all bullying behaviors.
These behaviors disrespect, discourage, and devalue the person to whom they are directed. When such authoritarian behaviors are imposed on children, the end result is usually a loss of dignity and self-respect. Instead of helping them overcome their problems, these methods only make children feel worse about themselves, causing them to react by displaying the same authoritarian behaviors.
Authoritarian behaviors are so deeply rooted that even professional advocates who speak out against bullying resort to using the same tactics.
For example, on an episode of his TV. show, Dr. Phil McGraw interviewed a teenage girl who was being verbally and physically abused by other girls at school. Since the accused girls refused to appear on the program, Dr. Phil delivered a message to them by looking and speaking directly into the camera. When he began to ridicule the accused girls and call them names, the audience immediately applauded and cheered with approval. Both Dr. Phil and his audience were advocating the very same behaviors that he was speaking against. Bullying is so deeply rooted in today’s society, that it now seems reasonable.
Adding to our trouble, our nation as a whole has a reputation of being a bully because of our authoritarian behaviors. In fact, The San Francisco Chronicle recently ran an article entitled “9/11 Reminds Chinese of America, a Global Bully.” In the article a student at the Beijing Institute of Science said, “America is a bully, so when someone hits back, it feels good.” When bullying is directed at children, the cycle continues. Many bullied children end up being bullies themselves because “it feels good,” causing others to feel like victims for much of their life.
It’s Time for a Behavior Check
The fact is that children learn from modeled behaviors. While it is true that some children are, as the media says, “out-of-control,” they did not end up that way by themselves. Children are who they are because of their environment. They learn how to act by watching the people who are closest to them. The behaviors they see are the behaviors they will take on. This being said, if we truly want to help a child make a change for the better, we must first take a closer look at our own actions and behaviors.
Ask yourself the following questions:
* What kind of behaviors am I displaying in front of children?
* Are these the same behaviors I want them to show toward others?
It is Up to Us
Fortunately, alternatives to authoritarian behaviors exist. We are not powerless in our struggle for social change. Many child advocates not only speak out against these behaviors, but they also offer effective solutions that create physically and emotionally healthy children.
World-renowned experts and authors such as Alfie Kohn, Beyond Discipline, From Compliance to Community; Roger Schank, Coloring Outside The Lines; and David Elkind, The Hurried Child are social heroes of our time. They have been speaking out against the injustices of our system for many years, and their wisdom is bringing about a social change we desperately need.
The problems with America’s children may seem overwhelming at times, but there are proven solutions.
By changing our childcare practices and behaviors, we can restructure our nation’s intellectual, economic, physical, political, moral, and emotional values.
Children are at the mercy of the people responsible for their care. Instead of speaking out against our children, we need to be friendly with them, and speak up for them. It is up to us to make a difference in their lives.
Adapted from the original text by Dawn Fry
You know the feeling. Looking out at a sea of faces, you notice a few scowls, frowns, even droopy eyelids on some of your audience members. What are they thinking? Do they disagree with your points? Are they in a bad mood? Do they just not like YOU?
You bend over backwards to win them over. You smile, establish eye contact. But the longer you speak the more hopeless you feel as you see your desperate attempts to please fall flat. At the end, feeling discouraged and anxious, you limp away.
It doesn't have to be that way. By using a simple image - the porch light - you can give the same talk with such enthusiasm that scowls won't bother you. In fact, you may even be able to turn those frowns upside down!
Remember going trick-or-treating as a child? You would carefully examine all the houses to determine which ones would yield the good "loot." Most likely, the brightly lit porches with elaborate Halloween decorations would have friendly, generous, confection-laden people behind the door. Also, you most likely skipped the houses with dark, un-swept porches for their lack of promise.
Imagine the faces of your audience members as porch lights. Some will be brightly "lit" with smiles and encouraging looks; others may appear uninviting. The trick is to speak into the spirit of the bright porch lights. Let in support from those who are encouraging you.
Speak into the generosity of those porches that are lit, rather than into the perceived criticism of the uninviting ones (they could be just simply concentrating on what you're saying - the default expression)
Does that mean you ignore the unlit porches? No. Instead of speaking from a panicky need to win them over, address's the frowning faces with the same energy that you project toward the friendly faces. Easier said than done? Perhaps, but you can make it easier if you remember the following:
1. Negative expressions probably have nothing to do with you. People frown when they have a stomachache; they scowl when they're reliving a fight with their spouses; they drop off when they spent the night rocking a sick baby. Nine times out of ten, they had turned off their porch lights long before you walked in the room.
2. Usually far more porch lights are ON than off. Most people in your audience want you to succeed. But you can get so focused on forcing the negative ones to like you that you don't let in the support of those who already do! It's a shame when warm, supportive energy goes unused. Besides, if you speak appreciatively into the positive energy of the "on" porch lights, the "off" porch lights see the magic that's happening between you and your supporters. That's often all it takes to turn on lights all over the room.
3. Just because a person's porch light is off, it doesn't mean nobody's home. The person might just be concerned, anxious, or distracted. With a little more information or reassurance, that listener's porch light might come on more brightly than all the others.
The next time you speak, remember the wisdom of your trick-or-treating days: Don't spend a lot of time on dark, uninviting porches. Instead, enjoy the warm light of the inviting ones. That's where you'll find the best treats. And, who knows? The grumpy neighbors peeking out from their dark windows may see your joy and decide to turn on their porch lights after all.
* Based on an image mentioned in SPEAKING CIRCLES (R) Facilitator Training. The SPEAKING CIRCLE (R) method is a revolutionary new approach to increasing speaking confidence and charisma.
To put it another way, the effectiveness of communication can be measured by the responses it gets. It's not measured by how well we wrote or how eloquently we spoke, although those can help us get the responses we want.
Good writing and speaking help us get a response because they help get the message across. As I've argued in my book, A Manager's Guide to Newsletters, a newsletter that doesn't get read cannot get a response from readers.
So, writing, designing, speaking, and all those other creative activities matter. But, in the end, responses are what count, andeffectiveness means getting the responses we want.
That's true for all types of communication, and not just marketing campaigns. Managers who send messages to employees, for example, want employees to respond in a particular way. Maybe they want the employees to do something differently, or maybe they want to reinforce existing behaviors.
For a couple of employee newsletters I published, effectiveness meant greater awareness of health and safety issues. If the newsletter worked, then they should have helped reduce the number of plant accidents and helped employees lead healthier lifestyles.
One more point: Effectiveness cannot be achieved without articulated objectives. As the old adage goes, "If you don't know where you're going, any road with do." Or, as the inimitable Yogi Berra put it, "If you don't know where you are going... You might end up someplace else."
With that, let’s create a quick and easy checklist that takes us through the basic steps required for effective communication:
1. What is your objective, what do you want to happen? Do you want more sales, reduced employee turnover, renewals by members? Be specific about your objectives, and if you can attach time and dollar values to them so much the better.
2. What response from the readers or listeners is necessary? What action should they take? What thoughts do you want them to keep in their minds? Do you want to reinforce existing thinking or behaviors? What do they need to do in terms of your objective?
3. Why would they respond to your message? It's all very well for you to have objectives, but you'll also have to offer something that provides value in their terms. Think of commercial broadcasting, which combines free entertainment with advertising messages.
4. What message content will motivate them to act? What subjects will provide that value to them?
5. How will you present that content? You can entertain, inform, consult, challenge, solve problems, and more.
6. How often will you have to repeat the message? In many cases, you'll need to make multiple contacts to get the response you want. Stockbrokers making sales calls, for example, figure on an average of five to seven contacts before a prospect becomes a potential client.
7. If you quantified your objectives, does the value of meeting the objective exceed the cost of communicating? In a marketing context, for example, how many sales do you have to make to pay the cost of your advertising campaign?
Going through these steps will start us on the right foot, because it pushes us to think about responses. And, when we're focused on responses, we're much more likely to communicate effectively.
Adapted from the original text from Robert Abbott
Whether you want to be a part time, full time or BIG time speaker you must speak, speak, speak.
At first, deliver 25-30 minute free talks to service clubs and community organizations. Consider it to be your off-Broadway tryout. A great opportunity to fine-tune your program … and maybe get some future paid business!
Do the following to put at ease when delivering a speech:
1. Your speech needs a beginning, middle, and end. You must grab your audience’s attention in the first minute…so begin with a starting comment, question, story, or humor. End your speech on a strong note by asking a question, providing a quote, tell a story or leave them laughing.
2. Every 5-7 minutes, back up your facts with signature (about you or others) stories. Stories are out there – everywhere. Find them in the stores, at restaurants, on the airplane, at home. People retain information better when hearing a story.
3. Practice your speech out load. Record it on to a tape recorder and/or video camera. Also do this when giving a program to a live audience. Do it every time!
4. Practice pausing before and after important points. Don’t be afraid to leave open space. The use of silence is a key requirement to becoming an effective speaker.
5. Use direct eye contact. You can focus on one person when making a point … and everyone else in the audience will think you are speaking to them also(if directly looking in people eyes is difficult - or offensive like in Asia e.g. a challenge, then look just above at their forehead - it will seem the same to them)
6. Don’t just stand behind the lectern: move around, gesture. Be animated. (Fifty-five percent of how people perceive you is by body language; 38 percent by your voice; 7 percent by your words)
7. If you are happy, tell your face about it eg Smile. A lot. Be enthusiastic about what you are saying. And have fun.
adapted from an original text by Sandra Schrift