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Outside the Speaker's Bubble

a newsletter about speakers and speaking

The Speaker's Bubble is that wrinkle in the time/space continuum you experience whenever you speak, and experience even the slightest bit of pressure to perform. It's that place where your heart rate speeds up, just a little. Where you hear your blood pounding ever-so-slightly in your ears. Where you turn various shades of crimson, or feel short of breath. All these are purely normal physiological responses to the stress of "the-one-versus-the-many." There are ways to control this stress; excellent speakers know this. So do experienced leaders. My Communications Conditioning practice teaches speakers of all skill levels how to deal with stress and present like pros! I can give a practical road map of strategies to make anyone a better communicator for life.

Click here for a schedule of my upcoming workshops.

Monday
Jan092012

January 2012

A New Initiative

Last month I was honored to be part of the Women in Public Service Colloquium sponsored by the Department of State and Barnard College, Bryn Mawr College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, and Wellesley College.
 
The first day began with a wonderful kick-off: presentations and conversations with global leaders Hillary Clinton; Christine Lagarde; Atifete Jahjaga, the President of Kosovo (at 37, the world's youngest elected head of state); and Gloria Steinem, among others. And lunch in the Benjamin Franklin State Dining Room is always a treat!

The Power of Voice

The next day I worked with 40 global leaders who had been selected to participate in the Emerging Women Leaders in Public Service Forum. The theme was "The Power of Voice." Dr. Rangita de Silva de Alwis, the director of the forum, had asked me to serve as a resource, giving participants guidelines for effective public speaking and critiquing their speeches. I am glad she had the vision to include presentation technique on the agenda. All too often high-level trainings focus almost exclusively on the importance of content. Delivery, which is just as important (if not more so), is generally discussed very briefly, if at all.

This request posed a creative challenge: to offer constructive criticism to speakers using their second (or third) languages, who had just put content together in committee without much chance to practice. But the presenters knew their talking points inside out, so I was able to give them specific pointers on shared vocal production and presentation issues. Despite limited preparation, each speaker communicated the essence of her message with crystal clarity. They were all deeply committed to their cause (achieving UN Millennium Development Goals) and spoke with passion borne of battles against the status quo in their home countries. As Arig Bakhiet from Sudan said: "Even when these women are speaking in a language they are not fluent in, the feeling, the commitment they have for the subject comes through." She was right.

The Need to Commit

Of course, preparation is key. But knowing what you are saying is never enough. You need to be clear on your underlying intentionality: why are you saying what you are saying?

Nothing gets your message across more clearly than your commitment to it. If you are fully invested in your need to communicate, you will find it easier to connect with your audience. Whether you are speaking out of a desire to add to the conversation, jump-start the dialogue, or share best practices, you are turning passive listeners into active (if momentarily silent) conversation partners. You have a much greater chance of being heard when you cast them in that role. If you are trumpeting a triumph, announcing an achievement, or otherwise monologuing, your audience is aware that you don't think you need to fully connect with them. Protocol may dictate that they stay seated and appear to be listening. Mentally, though, they have left the building.

Tips you can use!

Make eye contact
Pick at least three different areas of the audience to focus on, for example: up front on the right, in back at the center, mid-way up on the left. And make sure you give each side equal time!

But don't hide
If you're one of those who is afraid of actually locking eyes with a listener, audiences can tell! Look with intention at the space between the ears of two people seated beside each other. Each one will think you are looking at the other.

Avoid dangly or shiny objects
Leave the chandelier earrings at home. Ditto your polished metallic disk pendant or extra-large diamonds. Things that dangle can mesmerize your audience, and shiny, sparkly things that catch the light can blind them. Either way, they are distracted and your message gets lost

 

Tuesday
Dec062011

Holiday 2011

Happy Holidays

Ho! Ho! Ho! In the midst of the December rush we have so many things on our minds . . . places to go, people to see. Who has time to cultivate new business, meet new clients, and make new connections? After all, most people we know are either winding up projects at year-end, focusing on office parties, or figuring out how to get through the piles on their desks in record time so they can leave early to do some holiday shopping. I hear from clients and colleagues that they just can't make time for new connections this month!

Hellooo 2012. . .

But you know what that means: you wake up in January and have to pay. While frantically catching up on the work you let slide during the "festive season," you also need to go out and look for new opportunities, so you can really get ahead in the New Year. Talk about the "morning after". . . !

But it doesn't have to be this way: you can "party smart" if you resolve to use the social gatherings you attend over the next few weeks as networking opportunities. Go prepared with an idea of who might be there and what you can talk to them about. Have a good social networking speech ready (and I don't mean the Zuckerberg kind). When the inevitable "What is it you do, again?" question comes up, you should have one or two sentences that succinctly convey what it is you do, and what excites you about it. Write them out at home and practice them in front of your cat, in the shower, in the car on the way to the party. The goal is to sound natural, conversational, and not at all like you are giving a sales pitch or elevator speech. If you do a good job of this, your conversation partner (and it is imperative you think of him/her this way--not as listener or audience!) will ask some questions which you will answer. Then it will be your turn to find out about him/her.

Do more than get your foot in the door

This strategy allows you to actually get to know a person---someone who might be a potential client, partner, or other valuable connection. I liken this short speech-ette to entering through the door and standing in the vestibule/foyer/front hall. If all goes well, you can leave with an invitation to come in farther: for lunch, coffee, or a meeting in the office in January.

All networking is about making connections, and establishing relationships. What better way to start than at an event that is relaxed and full of holiday cheer? Just be sure to have plenty of business cards handy. A charming "It's been great talking to you, but I won't monopolize you tonight. Let's have coffee after the New Year" spoken as you offer your card just might be the most important meeting you have had all year. See--networking can be fun!

Tips you can use!

Listen to your larynx
Whether you cheer front of your TV as you watch a bowl game, or shout in the stands as the Caps play, you need to back off when your throat starts to hurt or your voice feels strained. What was "sexy" when you croaked your way through Monday classes in college is less acceptable now that you are paid for what you do every day.

Drink less, drink more
Have fewer alcoholic drinks and more water. Especially if you're giving a toast or making a speech. There's a fine line between relaxed and tipsy. And don't forget: alcohol of all kinds dries out your throat.

Stay healthy
Getting plenty of sleep and eating right may be hard to do this season. But when you get rundown, your voice often sounds worse than you feel. Maintain your energetic sound by staying healthy!

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