How do you Listen

Listen to Understand and Speak Effectively

Shh!! SilenceHow we listen, is an essential skill all speakers must develop, however, it is a skill that can be developed with practice. At almost every Toastmasters meeting, members and guests get the opportunity to answer questions. Even when some guests decide to take a pass on the Table Topics questions, we usually get visitors at the end of the meeting to at least comment on what they heard, saw and felt at the meeting. Yes, we make sure that no one shall escape speaking at a Toastmasters meeting. We listen to understand and speak effectively,

While most members and guests tend to focus on answering the questions, I have found that if you use the Table Topics segment to practice and develop your listening skills, even when you are not the one called upon to answer any of the questions, you may find this portion of the meeting, extremely beneficial to your development as a listener and speaker.

As a first step, we should try to analyze what we do subconsciously when someone else is speaking. Many of us begin preparing our answer, just waiting to begin speaking. The experts claim that most likely we learned this behavior as children and perfect it as adults. When this approach is used, the result is all forms of miscommunication, misrepresentation, and misinterpretation in our responses. Yes, all the misses. Relationships are also affected by this approach when communicating in business and social circles.

An excellent approach I found to correct this method of listening is to try to understand the meaning behind the question. Paying attention to body language used by the speaker will often help clarify the meaning. I am sure you have heard it said many times, actions speak louder than words. Shut down the internal noises in your head so the incoming messages from the speaker can be received clearly. Focus on the body language used by the speaker. Again, the experts claim the spoken word accounts for only seven percent of our communication.So happy I am not an expert.

It is quite natural to have some anxiety when faced with questions. Using your standard mechanisms to control nervous impulses is a good starting point. Breathe! Where there is breath, there is life. Stabilize your heart rate. Experts believe that deep breathing is the right approach to move the noise from your head to your chest. Give it a try. It should not hurt if your focus is breathing and listening. You should feel calm.

Begin your response by using what I call a silent icebreaker. Set the mood by using your body language to express how you were affected by the question. Use facial expressions silently, as you playback what you believe the speaker meant when he said what was said. You have the six emotions to play with here. Happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, and disgust.

Once the speaker has stopped speaking, it is now your turn to speak. Paraphrasing, what you heard is a good place to start. If there is agreement about the understanding of the question, you should be off to a good start. By that time, you should be at ease to address what you saw and felt. Now that is exactly why it is so important to work on your listening skills. It sets the stage for a good answer. What you saw and felt along with your words and body language, should satisfy any Table Topics Master at your club meetings or at those testy Table Topics sessions at home.

Twenty – Ten & One Belly Roll

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Writing humor is no joking matter.  One of the most difficult things to do is to try to analyze humor, to determine why it will make an audience laugh.  Laughter itself is an emotion.  It is an emotion built up to a certain pitch, then released suddenly to create a surprise.  While there are some subjects that lend themselves easily to humor, a combination of acting funny and good humor will often earn you a nod of approval from your audience and judges.

A good barometer to keep you on track is your laugh count. Whenever  I am  asked what is my formula for preparing a successful  five to seven humorous speech, my answer is  always the same  – 20-10-1 – In a five to seven minute try to fit at least twenty laughs, ten chuckles and at least on belly roll into your content.  Laughter should also begin from the first minute of your presentation.

I arrived at this 20-10-1 formula, after a World Champions of public speaking asked me to keep count of the number of laughs he received as he delivered a keynote address. I was so fascinated by the experience, I then did the math and, arrived at an average laugh count of at least twenty laughs, ten chuckles and one belly roll. After testing my theory and found that although more is better at least a -20-10 -1- laugh count works just fine.

There are three techniques which will help you increase your laugh count.  The first is tagging.  Tagging prolongs the laughter by just adding a word or two to provide additional information to a previously delivered humorous line. Your tag may have no real connection to the main humorous bit. It might just simply be a funny addition which makes the laughter continue.

The second is “speech brighteners”. Speech brighteners can generate a “quick laugh”. “Speech brightener” requires no setup and does not interrupt the flow of your speech. It merely emphasis a point or provides a change of pace. The whole idea behind a speech brightener is to catch you audience off guard and to achieve one of the most important elements of humor, surprise. For example: “Believers, love your enemy. It will drive them crazy!”

The third is wit; the ability to make clever off the cuff remarks. No one can predict what or when humor will generate laughter, however an unexpected chuckle from your audience can be an opportunity to get witty.  A witty saying may produce very little but they all add to your laugh count. I offer you my 20-10-1 formula, however, keep in mind all audiences differ, their reactions are not always the same and it is your tags, brighteners and wit that count.

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Stand and Deliver – Move with a Purpose

Movement keeps your audience engaged.

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If as much as 60 percent of our communication is nonverbal, and our entire body communicates more to our audience than the spoken word, it is important that we include in our preparation how we stand and how we move when we are on stage or the platform.

Movement attracts and keeps your audience engaged. Your entire body communicates its own visual message to your audience. Your posture and how you move or even sit, communicate to your audience whether you are confident, alert or if you are in command of the platform. Sitting and speaking will be addressed in another article. This article is about how to stand and deliver and moving with or for a purpose.

Some speakers prefer to stand and deliver while others may choose to use the stage for different purposes. When asked the question, which one works better, my answer is always the same. It depends on the type of speech you are delivering.  When you are standing behind a lectern or podium, obviously stand and deliver would be ab better choice, however when you are on the platform or stage, a combination of both, stand and deliver and moving with a purpose – for a purpose produces better results.

Before you begin your presentation, it is important to decide how you are going to use the speaking area. Becoming familiar with your speaking area to decide how it can be used to your advantage is very important. Your movement should always be in sync with the content of your speech. Some speakers even position parts of their speech at different locations on stage.  At times they would stand and deliver. Move to take their audience to a different time and place. Move to make a connection with the audience as they make a point, or demonstrate a particular action or activity in their speech.

How ever you plan to move on stage takes practice and preparation.  Whether you choose to stand and deliver or move with a purpose or for a purpose, remember why you are on the platform. You are there to connect with your audience. You are there to deliver a message. You are there as the messenger. The stage is yours for a few minutes. You can own it, you can work it or you can use it to your advantage. Whatever you do, never forget to make your movement part of your preparation. If you do, your audience will surely remember what you and your body said, long after you have finished delivering your story or message.

 

Your Unnecessary Words

pexels-photo-890550.jpegOne of the best ways to find your – (SOs, THATs, BUTs..etc )  all those unnecessary words you add to your speeches, is to convert your written copy – your copy for the eye, to a copy for the ear. When you write your speech for the ear, those unnecessary words seem to jump out at you. You may also notice they are used more frequently at the beginning, or at the end of your sentences.

Converting your speech from – written for the eye, to a copy for the ear is simple. If you are using Microsoft Word, cut and paste your speech as written, to create a second copy. Add lines to that second copy – (Go to Page Layout – add lines continuous) Next, edit each sentence as the line will be delivered.   Add markers,,,, for pauses and look for opportunities to re-edit the speech for a more natural delivery.

Here is an example from one of my speeches entitled – Lost.

LOST

Ever lost your keys or your wallet, and as if that was not bad enough, you lost your mind and naively asked your kid, the smart one with all the answers “did you see my wallet” only to get that dreaded response-that would make any saint a sinner.  “Where was the last place you left it, daddy”. ……

Edited  For the Ear

1. Ever lost your keys,,,,, your wallet … And

2. as if that wasn’t bad enough,,,,

3. You lost your mind,,,

4. naively asking your kid,  the smart one with all the answers,,,,

5. “did you see my wallet”

6. only to hear that dreaded response

7. that would make any saint a sinner,,,,,,

8. “Where was the last place you left it, daddy”……..

Review both copies, the copy for the eyes and for the ears.   Strike out all your unnecessary words also replace your UM’s and AH’s with a breath. Make them silent UM’s and Silent AH’s.  After you have done this exercises a few times, you will notice a big change in your delivery. You will also begin to realize, unnecessary words only add time and very little value to the delivery and quality of your speeches.