Your Body Language

Audiences always remember what you were doing when you said what you were saying!

Keep Your Body Language Handy

When you are on the platform, your audience bases their judgment of you and your message on what they see, hear, and feel. Your Body Language is one of your handy tools for adding clarity and emphasis to your words. It is also one of your most useful instrument for convincing audiences of your sincerity, earnestness, and enthusiasm. Audiences always remember what you were doing when you said what you were saying.

Body language can fall into any of the three following categories – Facial Expressions – Gestures and Whole Body Movement. Your face expresses your feelings to the audience. Combine with your voice, gestures, and stance; you can communicate to your audience any or all of the six emotions, we all respond to as humans. Those emotions are happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, and disgust. Your facial expression is often the key determinant of the meaning behind the words and your message. If you are talking about a terrible tragedy but smiling, you will undoubtedly leave your audience confused. Your facial expressions should always match your spoken words.

Eye contact is especially an important part of your body language. Eye contact works both ways. It can make your audience feel comfortable or uncomfortable. In everyday life, we often associate eye contact with honesty, sincerity, interest, or nervousness — the same goes when you are on the platform. Your eye contact should be steady and not be darting from side to side or up and down. Focus on one individual until you complete your though then move to another person. Develop the technique of speaking – One to Many. Pretend you are talking to only one individual, and then shift to someone on the left or right to make your next statement. This technique makes your audience feel like you are communicating in a personal and sincere manner.

Gestures are specific body movements that reinforce a speaker’s verbal message. There are three basic types of gestures. Conventional gestures – symbols for words such as raised hand for the word “stop” or two raised fingers for the number two. Descriptive gestures – when describing, large or small, short, or tall. Then there are the Emotional gestures, which we all know only too well – clenched fists to show anger, or a huge smile, to display happiness. Your Whole Body Movement will communicate to your audience if you are confident, alert, and in command of yourself and the platform. Use your entire body to work the room with confidence and poise.

Your visual presentation plays a significant role in your speech’s success. According to many experts, more than 60 percent of our communication is nonverbal. The way you stand, your facial expressions, hand gestures, and how you use your entire body communicates more to your audience than your spoken words. When you are on the platform, it is natural to display some discomfort through nervous energy and habits which detract from your presentation. That is why you must make Using Your Body Language an essential part of preparation and practice. When you are comfortable with your body language, your speeches will resonate with your audience long after you have spoken your last words on the platform.

Tools Of The Speaking Trade

Recall and retell the stories you have collected.

justice-law-case-hearing-159832.jpegThe tools of the speaking trade are few; however, the rewards they provide are many. They are the devices we use every day – notepads, laptops, recorders, and cell phones – our everyday print and media tools. The stories they preserve are the rewards, however, no one knows when inspiration will come knocking. When your number is called to be the recorder, will you be prepared to answer, with the tools of the speaking trade?

Keeping your fun-filled stories under a separate heading in your Toolbox is a wise idea. When you are preparing any speech, although stories are essential, laughs are your currency. Laughter is one sure way to make your presentation unforgettable. The stories your Toolbox contains will often provide you with the “magic moment” for your speech. Standup comedy is for comedians. You are a speaker. Focus on recalling the funny stories in your Toolbox that perfectly fit your speech or presentation. Funny comes naturally when you focus on having fun. Don’t try to write funny. Make what you write funny.

Practice mining your stories and novel ideas as they occur. Always be prepared. Someone may be a great photographer, but without tools; a camera, they will are just another bystander. No one knows when the stars will align to present you with that special moment that you were chosen to preserve. As the chosen one to immortalize that piece of history, you must always be prepared. Some of the greatest moments in history were first recorded on napkins. Today a cellphone may be your preference. Email to self or your Toolbox if that is your medium of choice. Never leave home without a tool to preserve unexpected moments. They will provide you with valuable vignettes for all speaking occasions.

As you continue your speaking journey, keep recording and adding unexpected events to your Toolbox. They are the material that you will find is readily available when you are stuck on or off the platform. Turn those vignettes into speech brighteners – short stories that will add humor to brighten your speeches, and someone’s day. Visit your Toolbox regularly.

Recall and retell the stories you have collected. Make those stories your “isms” – Some call mine Henry-isms. Others refer to them as Miller-isms. The more you tell your stories, the better you will become at making them fit naturally into your presentations. There will always be room for one more story to gather. Don’t post them on social media. Save them for the platform. Your Toolbox may hold the key to your success someday as a master of the Speaking Trade.

Closing to Open

Your conclusion would often lead you to your introduction.

20190907_153155_001Preparing a new speech can, at times, be daunting. One question frequently asked is, should I work on the closing before tackling my opening? My suggestion; speakers should first prepare their foundational statement, then start working on their closing. Your conclusion would often lead you to your introduction.

A foundational statement is that central theme, the purpose statement that runs like a scarlet ribbon, thought your presentation from beginning to end. In your closing, if you are clear about what you want your audience to think, feel or do as you take your seat after speaking, your opening and body would seamlessly fall into place. I call this approach to speech writing and preparation; closing to open. Many great speakers use this approach. Do you close to open?

In a coaching session many years ago, I was introduced to this concept of closing to open. I was also reminded that when you are on the platform, your last words linger, so you should choose them wisely. My speaking coach also went on to state: – The most important minute of your speech is, the minute of silence after you have delivered your presentation. He then explained, that if in that minute of silence your audience is motivated to take some action, make a change or even think differently as a result of your talk, you have achieved what should be the objective of all good speakers, which is to be heard, understood and be repeated. Seldom, will an opening have that kind of effect on an audience.  It is your closing that will leave a long, lasting impact on your audience.

Closing to open works well with all kinds of speeches, even humorous presentations. Speakers should decide how they want to leave their audience. Leave them laughing is the most obvious choice. A pre-prepared closing can be quite handy, especially when speaking at a roast or extemporaneously. All great speakers use them, something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. For example, there are times you may be the only speaker at a meeting. You may want to acknowledge that fact in your closing. Here is a prepared closing example – It is always a special privilege to be the only speaker at one of your meetings. You have been such a wonderful audience; I must leave you with this happy thought. It is never too bleak; it can always be bleaker; this has been a fantastic meeting even without, a second speaker. As mama whale always says to her baby whales, only when you are spouting, you are likely to be harpooned. So please forgive me for cutting my remarks a bit short.

Running overtime is a chronic condition that afflicts many speakers. Imagine what driving records would be if a red light had no effect on drivers. A prepared closing is a must-have for those speakers struggling with that condition. Going over time can destroy an excellent presentation. Here is some sound advice for speakers who frequently go over time, especially when they are delivering longer speeches. Have a hip pocket prepared closing. Here is a sample to use once that red light appears. – I have prepared a great deal more material for my presentation, and have much more I would like to say, but I feel the time has arrived for me conclude, and follow the old advice often given to speakers on how to avoid getting into trouble with their allotted time – Breathe, through your nose. It keeps your mouth shut. Today I invite you to join me as I take a deep breath of fresh air to close.

It is my hope that you too will try this speech writing and preparation concept – Closing to Open.

The Three Ps of Public Speaking

As you open, so too you shall close

20190908_080734Whenever I hear the mighty roar of a Harley Davidson, the sound of that engine reminds me of the three Ps of Public Speaking – Presence, Poise, and Power. Now I must confess I am not a biker. I have never even ridden on a Harley; however, I have always admired the roar and gentle hum of a well-tuned Harley. I call that sound the Harley Roar. To me, it is the personification of Presence, Poise, and Power – The Three Ps of Public Speaking.

Making your presence felt in the first minute of your speech is critical. Before uttering your first word, a power-pause, you can amplify your presence. Some speakers often refer to that pause as the great equalizer. It works for men as well as women, speakers big or small, beginner or professional. Beguile your audience attention with a smile while you lock eyes with your audience in silence. Feel the energy in the room for a moment then begin your presentation. Start, not with pleasantries but with an invitation to take your audience on a ride; one they will never forget to remember. In your opening echo your speech title. Also, let your audience know where you are heading with a carefully crafted opening statement.

A power statement establishes the roadmap of your speech. Included in your roadmap should be a hint of what your audience will receive at the end. Your opening statement should leave a lingering effect on your audience. Your opener can be an ear-catching line, a personal anecdote, or an acronym that will help your audience follow you through the presentation. Pierce the silence of the room, with a bang, then rev like the Harley Roar. Prepare, practice, and polish your opening, then remove some of that polish, as you get comfortable your content.

Power can manifest itself in many different ways. It can be how you dress, how you speak, even in your moments of silence, you can project power. How you dress for the platform speaks volumes about you and your message. There are times to be casual and times to be formal. Think of the statement you are making as you choose your attire for each appearance. Make what you wear on the platform your an integral part of your branding.

As you develop, adopt a style that audiences will identify with you as a speaker. Make your points with power. Make them power points that you can recall in your summation. If you can embellish the point of your presentation with a quote, make that quote one that is relevant to your topic. Deliver it with poise and power or the reverence it deserves. A quotation carefully planted in the middle of your speech creates a subtle change of pace to your presentation.

Open to close. Everything in life comes full circle. I don’t want to sound biblical, however, as you open, so too you shall close. Signal to your audience that you are about to end with a salutation. Begin your closing by recalling your power statements, power points, your power quotes, and request your audience to take some action. Resist the urge to add new content. If you do, you run the risk of confusing your audience with a double ending. Stop speaking! Close your presentation with Presence, Poise, and Power; the three Ps of Public Speaking.

How to be Heard-Understood & Repeated

Audiences remember what you were doing when you said what you were saying.

20190425_185242The first life lesson we all learn as kids is your body speaks. Do you remember the many times you were told:  Now don’t you get sassy with me! You rolled your eyes, then came – Big Mama’s look that stopped you dead in your tracks. You were not even five at the time. Enough said!. Who could ever forget those good old days?

As you grew older, you learned to use your hands. You then add your entire body to communicate more effectively. Now, as a public speaker, you labor to find the right words to express your message, seldom putting the same amount of time and effort to refine what your body is saying. Body Language – that comes naturally! Really!! Then you were reminded by Ralph Waldo Emmerson that what you do speaks so loudly we cannot hear what you are saying – and darkness turned to light – Bing! On the platform, your body language and the spoken word must be in concert as one voice – to be heard, understood, and repeated.

Body Language is your nonverbal expressions of emotions, feelings, and ideas. It can be natural and also habit-forming, both good and bad.  Your habits and delivery are magnified when you are on the platform. Appearance, manner, and physical behavior convey vast amounts of information. Audiences remember what you were doing -good or bad – when you said what you were saying. Gestures say more than words and may even succeed when your words fail to make that intimate connection. Body language is your most powerful instrument for conveying to an audience, your sincerity, earnestness, and enthusiasm. You must also be aware of the habits and tells you would like to avoid; autopilot moves that show your audience you might be in trouble. Looking up at the ceiling when you are lost, is a typical tell which as speakers we all should avoid

Dr. Albert Mehrabian’s Study; Elements of Effective Communication is a guide to which I often refer. His research shows only 7% of our spoken words communicate our message – Voice, and tone 38%. And body language accounts for a whopping 55% of our communication. His study also shows that at times, all it takes is a gesture to make your point; however, it must be the right gesture in the right place, at the right time. When executed correctly, that gesture can speak more eloquently than the spoken word. Words have many dependencies. Among the many are what your audience heard, listened to, accepted, rejected, or remembered. A look, a gesture, or even silence will often send the message you are seeking to communicate. This is why we must make gestures and your body language an essential part of our preparation, practice, and performance.

Gestures and Body Language when you are on the platform can improve with practice and simple exercises. Here is one. The first things I learned as a Cadet was how to stand at attention and at ease. At attention, feet together with hands at your side. At ease, feet twelve inches apart, hand behind your back, right hand over left palm, right thumbs over left. You know the drill. From both positions, try practicing your speech. First, at attention, then at ease. Soon you will notice a significant change in your voice, inflection, tone, and the way you bring words to life – your 38%. Now add your left hand leaving the right behind tucked behind your back. Do the same with the right, leaving the left behind your back. That exercise covers your 55%. Finally, free them both as you add your 7% your speech – you are now at 100%. This exercise can pay huge dividends when practiced assiduously. Get back to where it all began.

Get sassy with your audience. Let your body speak naturally and free, but be in sync with your voice. Use that Big Mama look, now you own it. Practice until your body language is in concert with your voice. Practice, until you achieve the dream of every public speaker – to be heard, understood, and repeated.

Speaking Humorously

The three Rs + Tagging your funny lines on the fly

20180929_095036Speaking Humorously can be challenging for those who struggle with adding fun and laughter to their style of speaking. We all have a sense of humor, some more than others. However, when you focus on the three Rs when adding humor you will recognize how easy it is to adjoin that skill to your speaking style. Speaking humorously takes practice as well as being in the moment. The three Rs + Tagging your funny lines on the fly are bridges that connect speakers to audiences. They are essential skills all speakers should endeavor to master.

The three Rs to focus on when adding Humor to your speaking style are RELEVANCE, REALISTIC and Never READ – It is that simple. A well-known secret in public speaking is, you make a point then tell a story, or, you tell a story then make your point. Similarly, the secret to Speaking Humorously – you make a Relevant point, then tell a Realistic, funny story – or tell a Realistic, funny story to make a Relevant point. Whichever approach you take, your story must be Realistic and Relevant to that audience. Also, you should never read a story on the platform. The lesson – Reading a Relevant, Realistic story on the platform is the public speaking kiss of death.

RELEVANCE:    Storytellers don’t tell jokes; they tell Relevant stories. Their delivery is succinct and to the point. Being brief makes it easier to connect with all audiences. In the speaker’s story, you may find yourself reflecting on some of your own experiences. You may begin to recall how you reacted in a similar situation. Then comes the unexpected twist. You were angry, the speaker ecstatic. You are now asking yourself why I didn’t think of that. With a smile or a gush of laughter, you can relive your moment. The story came alive for you. You and other members of that audience can relate also. Laughter is contagious. Suddenly you realize because that story was Relevant, it was humorous. The lesson, your stories must be Relevant.

REALISTIC:    When you can engage your audience with a Realistic story, your opportunities to add natural humor to your speaking style dramatically increases. Identify your best stories to make a broader point with humor; however, they must be Realistic. Being Realistic can also be ridiculously funny. Little things will often bring realism to your point. For instance, adding point nine, nine, nine to number instead of rounding it up or down will often add humor to your talk. Add Realistic anecdotes to your stories. Include your personal experiences in your style of speaking. Relive your life experiences. Weave elements of your life, the good and the bad and the ugly into your speeches. The lesson, no one can tell your stories better than you can.

NEVER READ:    Reading a funny story kills the humor, especially when you are trying to speak humorously. It is the kiss of death when you are on the platform. The only exception to the “Never Read” rule, is only read something written when it serves as a prop for the story. It could be a newspaper clipping, a letter, an anecdote, or quote you wish to deliver accurately. Even then, you can hold up the prop, refer to it when necessary as you deliver the funny parts of your story. The lesson, humor is not read! humor is delivered.

TAGGING:    Tagging is an essential skill to master when delivering your Relevant and Realistic stories. Extend your humor by Tagging your funny lines with a word, a short sentence, or even body language that provokes continued giggles, chuckles or laughter. When speaking humorously, audiences rate your ability as a humorous speaker by the number of laughs and chuckles you generate. TAGGING increases your laugh count. Never miss an opportunity to TAGG your fun-filled lines. How do you master the art of Speaking Humorously? Practice focusing on the three Rs, Relevance, Realistic, and never Reading your funny lines, Tag them, and you will soon be a natural at Speaking Humorously.

Speaking Viscerally

Satisfaction = Experience – Expectations

20190726_171948Where is that speech you have been longing to give? Is it still stuck in your head, slowly trying to making its way into your heart? Moving a speech from your head to your heart can be an arduous task for many speakers. Even seasoned professionals can sometimes find themselves fumbling and mumbling, with words as they struggle to make a connection with their audience. Speakers are prone to get caughtup in that dilemma when they more “heady” than “hearty.”-When they are trying to memorizing rather than internalizing. – when that speech is still in their head. When you can deliver that speech from your heart, it is ready to be delivered – viscerally.

To deliver speeches viscerally, the speaker has to practice painting pictures with words; we all know and say what a picture is worth. With more word pictures and fewer words, a speaker will deliver their message viscerally. Here is a useful exercise to try before you give your next speech. Imagine, when you arrive at the venue to give your ten or fifteen-minute talk, you are informed there, and then, you have only two minutes to speak. What do you say – Goodbye? – No! You ask yourself – What is my core message? – That gift you planned to leave with your audience that day. Rip those precious words from your prepared speech, and from that experience, you will discover the true messenger and a message that will leave your audience satisfied.

A fellow Toastmaster; Lee told me many years ago, audiences want to be left feeling satisfied. Some audiences will only remember two things after experiencing your presentation – How they felt at the peak of your presentation – good or bad- and how they felt at the end – The peak and end. The more you speak, the more audience expectations will increase. Satisfaction = Experience – Expectations. < S= E1 – E2>. At some point, the emotions of audiences will begin wane. As your speech continues to get better, expectations will begin to increase. Eventually, it is natural to become more difficult to maintain the same level of audience interest. Speakers must know when they peaked and when satisfaction was achieved. Start with a bang. Don’t end with a whimper; let your last words linge. Lee was and still is a master at leaving his audience satisfied.

Visceral speakers trust their message. They believe that they can deliver their talk in two, ten, or fifteen-minutes if necessary. They know when that speech is in their heart and is no longer stuck in their head. When that speech is no longer in your head, it is ready for the platform. It is ready to be delivered viscerally. Get to the core message of your talk early. Be visceral. Work the formula S=E1-E2, and you will leave your audience satisfied. Speak from the heart, and the word pictures you create will leave a lasting impression on all those who were fortunate to have heard you speak, and who knows one day, they may also start speaking viscerally.

Staying on Time

Do you know your conversational speaking rate?

20190726_172024When you are on the platform, do you ever worry about staying on time? We all do. Speakers often ask how many words they should include in a speech to remain on time. Staying within your allotted time (AT) can be determined by a simple formula. We all know how embarrassing it is to destroy a well-prepared presentation by going way over time. The simple answer to staying on time – It depends to some extent on your average conversational speaking rate. The average number of words you speak conversationally in one minute can help determine the number of words you should include in your presentation to stay on time.

The average rate for most English speakers in the US is between 110 and 150 wpm. Do you know your conversational speaking rate? I stress conversational because your speaking rate can vary depending on the situation you are in when you are speaking. It is natural for us to talk at different rates at different times. To find your conversational WPM  – words per minute rate, select a passage from any author.  Choose one with content that is inspirational and contains many single-syllable words. Read the passage for exactly one minute. If possible, make a recording of your reading. Then, count the number of words you read to find your average speaking rate per minute – your WPM.

Once you have your AT and your WPM, you are ready to develop your formula.  The formula I use and often recommend is = Allotted Time (AT) minus one, times your WPM. (AT – 1 X WPM).  Now, let us do the math. If your AT is 5 to 7 minutes, subtract one for pauses and audience interaction – (7 – 1) = 6 minutes. If your wpm – speaking rate is around 125 wpm, your number of words should be 6 x 125 = 750 words. If your speech contains humor or you expect some audience interaction decrease or increase your number of words accordingly. I have seen and heard successful humorous or even international speeches with as little as 600 words and others with many as 800 words. It all depends on your content speaking rate.

Once you know the number of words you have at your disposal to deliver your message, the challenge is to make every word count. Firstly, you will need a copy you can edit. I am a strong advocate for writing out speeches as your ideas and content will be delivered. I once heard it said that great speeches are not written; they are rewritten. Commit a dump of all your great ideas to paper, and you will have a document to edit. Visualize how every word will impact your message. With a final draft, you can prepare your speech for delivery. The next stage is to internalize your message – developing each idea for delivery in the order as was written. Do not try to memorize your speech. Memorizing is a receipt for disaster. Deliver your address using the results of your formula and time will be one less detail you will have to worry about when you are on the platform.

What is Toastmasters

Do you make Toasters?

What is Toastmasters? Have you ever had to expFB_IMG_1550169405777lain to your friends or family what our organization does? That is a question I have had to answer many times. I once heard the most asked question by people calling Word Headquarters is – Do you make Toasters? – My simple answer I always offer – Toastmasters is an organization dedicated to the advancement of the fundamental principles of public speaking and leadership. It was officially started in October of 1924 by Dr. Ralph Smedley and can be found in over 140 countries, with more than 350,000 members worldwide.

There are many volumes written on the subjects of Leadership and Public Speaking; however, Toastmasters is the foremost organization that provides its members with the opportunity to practice those skills. Toastmasters offers a safe and friendly environment and has become the best “do it yourself” organization for those who wish to develop their public speaking and leadership skills. Although the organization provides many instructional manuals and a newly minted Pathways Program, those manuals and Paths do not dictate what subjects members can speak on at club meetings. Members are free to speak on any topic that is of interest to them, as long as their content or language is not deemed offensive to others.

Most prepared speeches are five to seven minutes. Brevity teaches speakers how to say more by using fewer words. Members quickly learn the first rule of public speaking – speak when you have something to say, that is worth saying. – And any word can become a bad word when used too often. Toastmasters is a program that encourages better listening and better thinking. Better listening and better-thinking-habits lead to better speaking. At Toastmasters, you are encouraged to find your voice. Members receive training on how to listen and evaluate the speeches and thinking of other members. With that training, they are encouraged to form their own opinions, to speak for themselves.

When Dr. Ralph Smedley first started his “After Dinner Club” at the YMCA that would become Toastmasters, he believed individuals could improve themselves to their fullest potential through better communication. Toastmasters is a program based on the principles of learning by doing. It is a proven action plan that one can improve themselves through repetition, practice, and effective evaluations. It does not ask members to subordinate themselves to a club or the organization. It is a program dedicated to the development of the individual. Members are free to join at will and leave at will. Although the focus is on the individual, members work together to bring out the best in each other and then apply those skills learned and developed to help others.

The skills learned at Toastmasters are those we all use in everyday life. Our Communication and Leadership development improvement is most valuable not only in our private engagements but also in many aspects of our public lives. Daily, our peers and superiors evaluate us not only for our spoken words but also by what we have written. Opinions are formed based on how we interact with others. Most members join our organization to achieve some definite purpose. Whatever that purpose is, you will find someone at Toastmasters ready, willing, and able to help you achieve your goal. That is what Toastmasters is and will continue to be until the end of time.

What’s Your Story

To sell a story, it is crucial that you know the story inside out.

20190720_114843Storytelling is as old as life itself. It has been a form of communication since the beginning of time. Through our oral traditions, many stories have been preserved, retold, and sold through different mediums. Some stories have survived many generations and will continue to survive as long as we value the art of creating and telling stories. Stories may serve many purposes in speech. I once heard it said al long time ago, that the secret to developing a speech is to make a point then tell a story. Make another point, tell another story. Stories help your audience visualize and make a connection with your point. Telling a story to make your point can also help you, the speaker overcome resistance, explain difficult concepts, or teach valuable lessons.

To sell a story, it is crucial that you know the story inside out. You should be able to pick up the story from any point in the narrative to proceed seamlessly. When you can say with confidence I know my story, that confidence gives you the speaker the freedom to transport your audience back to a time and place. The speaker can then feel free to make an emotional connection with the audience and the story. That approach is one proven way to bring your spoken words to life by being in the moment as you sell the story.

Stories can help you keep your audience’s attention. Activity is one of the critical factors simply because ideas that move tend to attract attention. Always try to keep your story moving forward.  Focus on the here and now. Try to not get stuck in the past. As you move from past to present and back, use movement or positions on the stage to help your audience follow your story. Another sure way to reinforce your connection with any audience is by taking a familiar concept and presenting it abstractly or unusually. Present the idea in a manner to which your audience can relate.

Conflict and suspense are also useful techniques to hold your audience attention. Introduce your conflict and suspense early in the speech. Light a fire and build the tensions to a climax through to the end of your speech. Break up the tension with bits of humor. Humor allows your audience to participate as you speak. The laughter humor generates is often the pause that refreshes for both speaker and audience. Wherever possible, use dialogue. In that conversational style, you will find many opportunities to add fun to your speaking. Create vivid images with words to visualize the scene you are creating. If you can make your audience see it, they are more inclined to believe it.

Leaving your audience satisfied is the key to receiving a thunderous round of applause. Avoid saying the dreaded, in summary. Use the good old tried and proven “tell your audience what you told them” in a manner that does not appear to be you repeating yourself. Leave with a call to action. Close with some reference to your opening and finally add a moment of silence to send your message as you end your speech. These are a few proven techniques that are known to work. Develop your own one day you too would be known as a great contributor to the art of storytelling and who knows, even story selling.

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