Taps

Twenty-four solemn notes completed in 59 seconds to signal – day is done.

Sing –[Day is done, gone the sun, from the lakes from the hills from the skies, All is well safely rest, God is nigh, God is nigh]

Every Girl Guide or Boy Scout may recognize those lyrics and melody as the “Butterfield’s Lullaby” or “Day Is Done.” It is a Lullaby sung at sunset, just before lights-out, marking the end of another day of fun and festivities. But everyone, who has ever served in any of the armed services of America, will recognize that melody as Taps. It is played while old glory is folded as we listen silently to that haunting sound, played by a single bugler. Twenty-four solemn notes completed in 59 seconds to signal – day is done – for some- or – the end of a lifetime of service to flag and country for the preservation of our freedom.

I know those notes very well as I have had to play them many times for brothers in arms. Brothers I never met, Brothers I never knew. However, each time, those notes brought a lump to the throats of some and a tear to the eyes of many. Some may ask why is Taps is so important. It is important because it serves as a reminder that by honoring and remembering the contributions of our Veterans; those brave men and women who have served us in the past, we are preserving our future and the promise of life, liberty, and justice for all.

The origins of TAPS date back to 1862 when Union Captain Robert Elli and his men were at Harrison’s Landing in Virginia. The Confederate Army was on the other side of a narrow strip of land. The battle raged all day and into the night. During the night, Captain Elli heard the moans of a severely wounded soldier on the battlefield. Not knowing if that soldier was a Union or Confederate soldier, the Captain decided to risk his own life to bring the wounded soldier back to his encampment for medical attention.

The Captain crawled through gunfire on his stomach to reach the stricken soldier. By the time Captain Elli reached his own lines, it was only then he discovered the soldier was a Confederate, but his efforts were in vain as the soldier had expired. The Captain lit a lantern and went numb with shock when the dim light caught the face of the soldier. It was his own son.
Elli had lost contact with his who had gone to the south to study music and, unknown to his dad, had enlisted in the Confederate Army without telling his father. The following morning, heartbroken, the Captain asked his superiors’ permission to give his son a full military burial, despite his enemy status – that request was denied. He then asked if the Army band members would be permitted to play a funeral dirge for his son at the funeral. That request was also denied since his son was a Confederated, but out of respect for his father, he was granted a single musician’s services. The Captain chose a bugler. He asked the bugler to play a series of musical notes he found on a piece of paper in the pocket of his son’s uniform. That wish was granted, and the haunting melody we know today as TAPS used at military funerals was born.

There are three verses to this melody, which serves those who serve in the shadows of death, protecting our lives and our liberty. We can honor their lives and memory by remembering these words and lifting our voices whenever we sing these lyrics: Day is done. – Gone the sun – From the lakes – From the hills – From the sky – All is well – Safely rest- God is nigh – God is nigh.

Fading light- Dims the sight – And a star – Gems the sky. Gleaming – bright – From afar – drawing nigh – fall the night. Thanks and praise – For our days – Neath the sun – Neath the stars, Neath the sky – As we go –
This we know – God is nigh.

Watch Your Ps & Qs

There are things we didn’t learn on Sesame Street.

In your wonder years, when we all wondered about everything and cared about nothing, did you ever wonder what you should do when you were told to watch your P’s & Q’s? Did you? In case you are still wondering, that was a question. If I did, it was NFL – not for long. I knew I had to watch my mouth, my words, and my language. And if I was a little hard of hearing, I got the look. Do you remember the look from hell that sent chills up your spine? I still remember those times as if they were yesterday. Still those were happy, happy days.

It did take some of us a little time to figure out the true value of the letters P & Q. There are things we didn’t learn on Sesame Street. So you decided to make your first big purchase unsupervised – and brought home the green lemon, still sitting in your driveway. You watched your P; the price and ignored the Q; quality. Now you know good things are not always cheap, and cheap things are not always good. To drown in your sorrows, you drag yourself down to your nearby tavern and again ignored your P’s and Q’s, your pints and quarts. The next day you awaken with a headache and a hangover the size of Texas. And although you promised never to touch another pint and quart in your life, as soon as that hangover was over, so to was that promise.

Later in life, as I began to take an interest in public speaking, I returned to Sesame Street and started watching my P’s and Q’s differently. I began watching my primacy and quantity – pace and quickness- pauses and quietness – I began realizing that by watching your P’s and Q’s, you are watching your manner, choice of words, language, and conduct. Do you pay attention to your P’s & Q’s when you are on the speaking platform?

Primacy is your primary opening statement. Don’t waste that time with pleasantries. Forget that P and get to the point; what is most important to your audience and your speech? The related Q to that P, primacy is quantity – How much information you should give your audience in your opening. How much is enough to prime your audience for what is to come? Your opening is your prime time. As World Champion speaker Craig Valentine has often said – “When you squeeze too much content in, you will squeeze your audience out.” In your opening, watch your primacy and quantity.

Pace and Quickness are also important as you deliver your speech. Whenever I take a ride on a local train line, I am reminded how to approach pace and quickness when speaking on the platform. The pace of the local train varies, making measured stops along the way. There is no rush. Each stop is identified then, the pace quickens for a while again. The process is then repeated over and over until you get to the end of the line. Don’t take the express. The express will often makes the first stop long after the first five to seven minutes. Before your next speech, take a ride on the local line and enjoy the ride. And you will learn a thing or two about pace and quickness.

When you are on the speaking platform, never pause just because, always pause for a cause. And always remember this golden rule,when you pause never to look up to the heavens while pausing. That’s a dead giveaway you’re lost. Your silence should also be delivered with the same passion as your most powerful line. A pause should not be like a silent um. Make every pause count. Do you know, there is a difference between pausing and being quiet? When you are being quiet, you should quiet your entire body. Quiet your hands, feet, and even your eyes. Quiet them before and after your power lines. Quietness creates the moment – Silence sends the message. If you keep moving while you are pausing, the message is lost.

Try adding many more valuable P’s and Q’s of your own. They will help you advance as a speaker. Word of caution, don’t ever take to the speaking platform after you have had a few pints and quarts. If you do, you will for sure have trouble watching your mouth, words, and language. And most likely, your speaking career will be NFL – Not for Long – all because, you didn’t watch your P’s and Q’s.

Two to Tango

Today! we dance the Tango!

The Tango is often referred to as the dance of love. But to me, it will always be the dance of life – Why! Because it takes two to Tango, so, shall we dance? Let’s dance!

It was a cold rainy Sunday afternoon when I stormed into a dance studio in downtown Santa Cruz. No, I wasn’t late; I wasn’t even trying to join a class. I was merely seeking shelter from the pouring rain, and that studio was the only open door I could find.

I was immediately greeted by Nina, a firecracker who mistakenly assumed I was her tardy new student. In a tissey she shouted: “Quick Jose join the other, warm-ups have already started!” Jose? As I looked around for a way out, curiosity got the better or me. The statue-like bodies of her students, flexing and stretching, caught my eye. I could not help thinking, “Am I in heaven or hell?” Feeling unworthy of a place in either, I decided to exit quietly through a side door marked – Emergency Exit Only. I did notice the sign – “Caution – Alarm will Sound,” but thought, those signs are never legit – Right? Wrong! Guess what, that one was!

“Woo. Woo. Woo.” Off went the alarm, and so too did Nina, with laser beam eyes affixed to mine. In a panic, I froze! The heat I drew from Nina was so intense my body began to thaw. With my olive oil tongue, I convinced Nina that the puddle I was standing in was rainwater. I was screaming, I am not Jose! I am – Enrique! Nina, realizing her mistake, made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. With a forgiving smile, she offered me a dry set of clothes and a dance class on the house, guaranteed to change my life forever. Would you refuse an offer like that? I didn’t! I was ready to dance.

Nina then announced, “Today! we dance the Tango! A dance born in the barrios of Argentina, a dance anyone can master if they watch their P’s & Q’s. Pints and Quarts – I thought – what does Ps & Qs have to do with dance, but before I could even ask a question, Nina explained your P’s are your POISE, POSTURE, PASSION – your Q’s – what you take from your partner. However, when I tried to inform Nina that Cue is spelled with a C, she snapped-” who cares about the Q, when the P – Passion is the point – Pair up- it takes Two to Tango.”

My knees began shaking, my palms sweating. I felt like I was about to deliver my very first icebreaker. My eyes were hunting but soon realized that the “hunter was indeed the hunted” when across the room, I spied a friendly smile, with a wink, beckoning me to come, to begin, what would become the dance of a lifetime.

Nina’s first lesson was about finding your balance. “For the dance to be successful, she explained you must find your balance and maintain it. Sometimes it is OK to lean on your partner – or allow your partner to lean on you. But if you’re continually leaning – too hard or too soft, the dance is doomed to failure. Lean if you must, but lean with gentle pressure, the same gentle pressure Mother Nature uses to convert a rosebud into a beautiful rose, the signature of the Tango. At times, I couldn’t help wondering if we were in a dance studio or a philosophy 101 classroom –But soon, we were dancing like contestants fit for “Dancing with the Stars.” I was feeling the Passion when Nina shouted: “Change!”… And I responded WHY?

That’s when I got Nina’s second lesson: “The only constant in life is change – and we must change with the changes. Let your partner go! And if changes were meant to be, time would let you know.” That day, as we kept changing and changing, I began to realize that perhaps our lives did not intersect by accident. That day, Nina taught me to recognize adversity as an opportunity. That day, I changed in more ways than I could have ever imagined. As Nina promise, from that day forward, my life changed forever.

Soon, I was back with my mystery partner as if we had never left each other. By then, every dancer had blossomed, from rosebuds to roses. But every rose has its thorns. Suddenly, the room began to feel smaller. We were now bumping into each other – even exchanging dirty looks with each other. It was then we got Nina’s third and final lesson. Be a love, not a fighter – at times, your partner will back you into a corner -then what do you do? fight your way out? No! Dance! Look for that opening and dance your way out. Sometimes we must dance or walk away to live to dance another day.

That day, I realized why the Tango is indeed the dance of life. Nina’s lessons changed my life forever. And so too will yours, if you always remember, whatever you do – find your balance, embrace change and know when to dance and when to walk away – Why! Because by now I am sure, you know – It takes – Two, it takes “Two to Tango.”

Making Your Speech a Winner

Every speech should have a magic moment!

How do you make your speech a winner? Follow these tips, and your next speech will be remembered as one for the ages. It’s not all about you; it’s about what you deliver to make your speech a winner. 

Your Topic Selection: The topic you choose can decide your final placement in any competition. While you should choose a topic you are passionate about, connecting with your audience should be your goal. If your presentation is about you, your success and failures, remember your redemption is always of more interest to your audience. Make sure your speech has some universal appeal. Your challenge is to make a connection with your audience through personal stories and personal, real-life events. Your presentation should not be an act. Use persuasion and the spoken word to keep your audience engaged. 

Speech Purpose: Define the purpose of your speech early in your presentation. Ask yourself, am I speaking to INFORM-ENTERTAIN-PERSUADE-MOTIVATE. What are the takeaways for your audience – Your sound bytes and catchy phrases. 

Delivery: Don’t Tell Them–Show Them-Take Them. Be descriptive – Use word pictures to convey your message. A picture can paint a thousand words. Be concise but clear – Every unanswered question becomes a distraction. Practice your personal stories and anecdotes so that they don’t sound rehearsed-Keep it real.

Timing: Write a 6-minute Speech and Deliver it in . Find Your Speaking Rate.Calculate your average speaking rate-Men average 125 Women 150. The average number of words in your speech should be between 700 to 750 words. Use single-syllable words. What is your Magic Moment? Every speech should have a magic moment. The moment that makes your speech memorable.

Brainstorm: Once you have decided what your speech will be about, the next step is to begin writing. Like a faucet, let it all flow -the – who – what – where – why – write it all down. An excellent way to begin the speech-writing process is by brainstorming. Write down everything you could find about your topic. Keep writing until you have much more material than you will have time to include in your speech. The next step is to begin testing to see what you should keep or throw away. Keep what adds to your overall goal, keeping in mind the composition of your audience. 

Writing The Speech:Start with an outline that will provide you with a structure for your speech. Most speeches have an introduction, a salutation, discussion, and a conclusion. Your introduction should grab your audience’s attention. Your introduction can be humorous, a provocative statement, shocking facts, or a rhetorical question. Whatever you choose, it should make your audience think, “Wow! – That’s interesting-tell me more. Remember, winning speeches are not written – they are rewritten. Edit until you have a tight copy to practice. 

Identify Your Topic: With a sentence or two, identify where you are going with your topic. Make your opening relevant to your audience. Your audience is always more willing to pay attention if your audience can relate to your subject matter.  Discussion: Here is where you give your audience reasons to buy into your point of view. With facts, figures and confidence provide proof that you know what you are talking about – Be the expert by presenting your material with natural excitement and strategically placed humor. Take risks you have tested and carefully vetted. Organize your points. Tell personal stories.

Conclusion: Telegraph your conclusion. Let your audience know you are closing with a simple phrase – “My fellow Toastmasters” – “Ladies and Gentlemen.” Summarize the main points of your speech. If you had a “foundational statement” during the discussion portion of the address, repeat it. Callback, what you told your audience in the introduction and body of the speech. Leave your audience with a call to action. Close the deal. What’s the lasting impression you wish to leave with your audience. If your audience has a burning desire to take some action or change the world at the end of your presentation, you have hit your mark. Follow these tips, for you and your speech to be a winner. 

The Photographer or Artist

Anyone can take a picture. However, it takes an Artist to make a picture.

The Photographers and Artist have a lot in common; however, they see things quite differently. The Photographer sees things as they are. The Artist sees things from their audience’s perspective. The Photographer’s view to some is considered to be self-serving. The Artist sees things as you; the audience would like it to be. Hence, we should strive to be an Artist when we are on the platform. Anyone can take a picture. However, it takes an Artist to make a picture. The question is therefore, which one are you aspiring to be like when you are on the platform – Do you want to be like The Photographer or Artist?

While all speakers begin like the Photographers, a speaker’s goal should be to become an Artist. Photographer’s work depends significantly on the quality of their gear. All the Artist needs is vision, experience, and confidence. The great speakers never surrender their pen to satisfy their audience expectations. They are original in their thinking. While working with Derek Walcott in my early theater years, I admired how he tirelessly stressed what it takes to be an original. He firmly believed that you could not make it as an Artist without taking risks. As a speaker, very early I chose not to settle for being one of the many imitators. Imitations may get a second look. However, originals take you to places only where your imagination would ever dare to go.

Finding your voice as an Artist takes courage, conviction, and a commitment to being honest. Be true to your beliefs, even when there is a cost. In 2007 I attended a coaching session. His advice that we should never comment on something someone cannot change stuck with me. Sometimes it is best to let them figure it out. Being liked as a speaker has its benefits, but audiences also love listening to speakers they respect. The comments and feedback of the respected are often concisely packaged with wisdom that speaks volumes. Mark Brown immediately come to mind. He is a speaker coaches whose comments may sound abstract at first, but you realize they are the Artist’s teachings that make you get the picture over time.

Speakers often ask, can someone change from being like the Photographer to become more like an Artist? Indeed, they all can, but they cannot be forced or coached into making that switch. It all depends on who you want to become as a speaker. For starters, the change begins with a commitment to being observant. You should be willing to step outside of our comfort zone to see things differently. It would help if you are also more probing about the events you encounter in your daily life. Practice focusing on only one thing at a time and share your observations with friends and family. Call that sharing storytelling time. Get off the treadmill of life and observe the many exciting events that often pass by silently. They are the stories that pluck the strings of our emotions.

An excellent coach also advised me years ago to document my related emotions when I capture events in writing. I still follow that advice. He also suggested that while perfection is impossible, excellence is always good enough. The first step is to write it all down. Just like a photographer, you must first capture the moment and the emotion. Later, that experience can be re-written. It is in the re-writing, you will take what you got initially to become better. In your re-writing, you should strive to develop the picture that is relatable to your audience and not just The Photographer in you. How you choose to build on what you captured initially over time determines if you will be known as another one of the millions of Photographers on the platform, or if you are on your way to becoming known in the speaking world as The Artist

The Three Essentials

Great speeches are not written, they are re-written

Purpose – Story-line – Message

The Three Essentials of very speech are your purpose, your story-line, and your message. Those three requirements are the framework on which we add our dressing for delivery. If your goal is to deliver humor, the focus of the story-line should be to produce laughter. That laughter should extend and intensify as you close. Speakers should also count the number of times your audience responds with laughter. Your laugh-count should be in the neighborhood of twenty laughs, five chuckles, and one bellyful for humorous speeches. Your bellyful should keep your audience and judges laughing long after the minute of silence after you finish speaking. That minute of silence is just as crucial as your pause to set expectations before you utter your first spoken word.

These three essentials are even more crucial when you are delivering an International speech. Your message should resonate with your audience form the beginning of the presentation to the end. Your purpose and message should be synchronized and delivered with strategically place humor. Audiences and judges often reward International speeches presented with around five laughs, five chuckles, and one magic-moment. The magic-moment and your last words should linger, not for the minute of silence, but for a lifetime. When your presentation leaves your audience fidgeting in their seats as you retire to yours, you can rest assured you have achieved your purpose.

A compelling story-line brings your purpose and message to life. A compelling story-line brings your purpose and message to life. Your speech’s title should say to your audience, tell me more; however, the real doorway to your address is your opening. It should say tell me more but not too much more. Tell me just enough to make me want to take a journey of discovery and surprises with you. Finding your beginning may not appear right away. Editing will help you make that discovery. To quote one of the best coaches, who has produced many World Champions – “Great speeches are not written, they are re-written.”

Writing the middle and end of your speech is often the most difficult. How you resolve the conflicts and difficult situations you have put your characters into now becomes your challenge. Any unanswered question becomes a distraction. With editing, you can move things around until there is clarity in your story. As your approach the end of your speech, revisit your opening. Before you close that door, you opened at the beginning of your speech, ask yourself again -What is the lesson – What is my message – What do I want my audience to think, feel, or do as I take my seat? When your purpose and message are clear to you, only then will you deliver that presentation with confidence to your audience.

Mastering the three essentials takes a commitment to writing-out, editing, and re-editing your speeches. As you write, read your text out loud to see how it sounds. Your text is the score for the spoken words. Check for repeated sounds. Vary your voice as you develop your style. There is no one right style. Style is a matter of preference. As you write and develop different styles, think about how and when you will use each one. Whether your purpose is to deliver humorous speeches or life-changing messages, the twain shall always meet when your audience can identify and remember your speech’s three essentials, your purpose, your story-line, and your message.

The Enemy Within

Make the Enemy of your Enemy, your friend.

The fear of the unknown causes many people to avoid speaking Public Speaking. Some see the audience as the Enemy when in fact, it is the “Enemy Within” that must be faced and defeated. It is the voices in our heads screaming, “you are going to make a fool of yourself, shut up!” that is the real Enemy. Audiences don’t root for you to fail. They listen and respond to what they saw, heard, and felt. Silence those voices of doom and gloom, and you will discover it is the “Enemy Within” that was preventing you from realizing your public speaking dreams. We all have unique stories to tell. Improvement and not perfection should be your goal. Even some of the best speakers known to us all will be the first to say “in Public Speaking, perfection does not exist.” Some may see perfection in a Picasso, while others may not. We will never know the unknown until we try, fail and try again. Sometimes you will succeed, sometimes you will fail. However, it is the lessons learned from your failure that will significantly exceed what you have achieved from your successes.

The first step to conquering your fear of public speaking is to embrace your fears. Make the Enemy of your Enemy, your friend. It is an ancient proverb that suggests, two parties can and should work against a common enemy. The common Enemy, the voices in your head you must silence. Those voices will never completely go away even when you have exceeded your expectations. Listen carefully to the feedback you receive as new voices emerge to help you on your journey. Mistakes will be made but not repeated. Speak to the smiling, friendly faces. They will boost your confidence and give you the assurance your audience is rooting for you to succeed. Read their faces like you are reading a book. Seek out those audience members responding to your message with a nod, a smile as you embrace the moment. Respond with your smiles and a twinkle in your eyes as you make your connection with words that matter.

Public Speaking requires that you have something to say. It is a requirement. You should also be able to anticipate how your audience might react after they have heard what you had to say. Choose your words carefully and know what you are targeting with your words. At times you will speak to the head. There are times you will talk to the heart, In all cases, narrowed your message down to a sentence consisting of no more than five to seven words. That sentence will anchor your message. It is also your go-to sentence if you should ever get lost for words. Yes, that happens not to some, but to us all even when we are on the platform. When every word you speak has a purpose – when every story you tell has the power to change lives – when the voices in your heart replace the voices in your head – Your authentic voice will be heard, and your presence will be felt.

Are you ready to accept the challenges of being a Public Speaker? As you begin to develop a style of your own, you will observe changes in those same negative voices you once heard. They become friendlier and may even start to sound like your best friend. That is when you must be careful. Taking your audiences for granted is one of the biggest mistakes many speakers make. All audiences are not the same. Prepare for each audience diligently and differently. The three P’s of Public Speaking becomes magnified each time you step on the platform. Your three P’s? – Preparation, Practice, and Presentation. Each time you speak, the expectations become greater than your last appearance. Your new voices from within must now emerge. As you speak, think about the six emotions that will make new connections with your audiences. Be happy, be sad, be surprised, be angry, add fear and even disgust to your speaking, and with time and practice, you too could become best friends with the Enemy Within.

Pathways to Your Communication Leadership Success

The Pathways Program is an evolution in our Toastmasters experience. You now get to customize your learning to fit your goals and needs. It provides the flexibility to choose what you want to learn. You can also select the skills you wish to improve as you continue to manage your Toastmasters education. Pathways sets you on a personal and professional journey of development that reflects the Toastmasters mission. It is a Pathway to your Communication and Leadership success.  

With Pathways, you broaden your abilities to meet the goals you have set for yourself. You start by choosing from 11 learning paths: Dynamic Leadership, Effective Coaching, Leadership Development, Motivational Strategies, Persuasive Influence, Presentation Mastery, Strategic Relationships, Team Collaboration, Visionary Communication, and Engaging Humor.

All paths are based on five core competencies:

      1. Public Speaking
      2. Interpersonal Communication
      3. Strategic Leadership
      4. Management
      5. Building Confidence

Each path is designed to help you achieve the last competency, confidence. The Presentation Mastery path focuses solely on public speaking skills and building confidence in your abilities. Public speaking is a crucial component of the other ten paths. Each path requires you to give a minimum of 15 prepared speeches. Each of the ten paths is divided into five levels. The levels are:

      1. Level 1: Mastering Fundamentals
      2. Level 2: Learning Your Style
      3. Level 3: Increasing Knowledge
      4. Level 4: Building Skills
      5. Level 5: Demonstrating Expertise

The goal throughout Pathways is to apply what you learn as you move from earlier to later levels.   

The evaluation process is standardized in Pathways. It encourages everyone to give evaluations that are objective and constructive. The first page provides an overview of the assignment to help the evaluator understand what you are trying to accomplish. There is also space for general comments about your speech. Speakers should submit the completed form to the Toastmaster and Evaluator for every speech before each meeting.

Your evaluator will use the second page to score the skills you demonstrated during your presentation. Evaluations are scored on a scale of 5 to 1, with five being the highest and one being the lowest. Summarize your evaluations. It is a good idea to monitor your three strengths and weaknesses of each assessment to help you focus on areas of improvement.   

Mentorship is an essential part of the Toastmasters experience. The Pathway Mentor Program is a structured program that will help you identify when you are ready to be a mentor. You will be able to enroll in this Program, once you complete Level 2 of your path. There is no extra charge for pursuing the Pathways Mentor Program. There are four projects in the Program, including “Introduction to Toastmasters Mentoring” at Level 2, which everyone will complete. 

The Pathways Program is your journey to achieving your communication and leadership goals. When you pursue and achieve your goals, they benefit you, your club, Area, Division, and your District. The Pathways Program is the path to your Communication and Leadership success.

Communicating with Empathy

When both are listening, both are connecting.

Communicating with empathy is a skill all speakers must develop to connect with their audiences. Some may ask how you do that when you are on the platform. You observe your audiences’ body language. We all have heard these words of wisdom by Ralph Waldo Emmerson repeatedly: “Your actions speak so loudly, I can not hear what you are saying.” That statement goes both ways. Studies show that your words account for only 7% of the message we convey. The remaining 93% is non-verbal. What about the non-verbal responses you are receiving from your audience. Should you ignore them? No! Communicating with empathy is crucial; whether you are the speaker or listener, when both are listening, both are connecting.

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feeling of others. Reading your listener’s reactions does not mean your audience will agree with everything you are communicating. Your presentation is your point of view. You can show empathy by showing that you care, and you are willing to understand why your audience may feel a particular way when you sense agreement or disagreement. Granted, you are not going to make significant changes to your speech when you are on the platform; however, if you take a moment to acknowledge your audience’s reaction, they are more inclined to connect with you. When you sense disagreement, you can show compassion or use eye contact to maintain your connection.

Your audience responses are usually nonverbal; however, a smile or a questioning look will often alert you to the fact that you may have made a connection or have raised a question in the minds of your audience. All unanswered questions are distractions. Put yourself in your listener’s shoes for just a moment. Listeners want to understand what the speaker is communicating. They may have silently verbalized what they have just heard. It is only natural for listeners to respond in a manner that shows agreement or disagreement with the speaker. The speakers who tune into their audience reactions and responses will usually make a connection. Those speakers also practice their formula for maintaining that connection with their audience.

Regardless of how strange your audience responses may appear, it is wise to believe that they will always have a rational explanation for their reaction. Go with the flow as you try to understand their frame of reference. Understanding is an essential first step, especially when dealing with difficult topics. By letting the listener express their deepest emotions, you will most likely understand their frame of reference. As is often said, seek to understand, if you wish to be understood. How you choose to frame your reaction can also make all the difference in defusing disagreements when you are on the platform.

Some speakers handle strong emotions with success by deflecting their feelings. The practice being counter-intuitive. They turn right when you are expecting them to go left. That move can even generate a bit of humor at times. Observe and acknowledge the body language you are receiving as you speak. Make small adjustments as you deliver your presentation. Be in the moment. Maintaining a connection with your audience will determine your success or failure on the platform. When you can make everyone feel special – when you can make people listen and know that you care – when you are present, you are communicating with empathy.

Communicating Effectively

Silence sends the message.

20190423_144540Effective communication depends on the development of your speaking and listening skills. We speak to be heard, understood, and to be repeated when communicating. However, when the message sent is not the message received, we seldom focus on if the listener was listening effectively. Effective communication is sharing information in a manner that the listener understands what the speaker is saying. It also depends not only on what is said but also on what’s heard. What is heard may not be the result of how what was said but more about well we listen. We can significantly improve our communication skills when we are conscious of how we communicate as the speaker as well as the listener.

The first question we should ask ourselves is how present we are – when we are the listener. As the listener, do we impress upon the speaker we are ready to tune in to their message? Do we assure the speaker that they have our undivided attention? When speakers are on the platform, they can emphasize the importance of receiving the audience’s attention by patiently waiting in silence before delivering their first words. Body language will tell you when your audience is ready with high expectations and are prepared to listen. And when you begin speaking, the onus is on you to fulfill their expectations by continuously reading their active or silent responses to let you know how what you are communicating is being heard and received.

How you convey your message will determine your success or failure on or off the platform. It is not what you say; it is also how it is said. The body language of the listener will tell if they understand what they are hearing. Their smiles or icey steers will make you realize if your listeners are uncomfortable with what you are delivering. As you speak, you must read your audience’s emotional responses. Their agreement sometimes takes place silently. When communication is being conducted face to face silence, should not be regarded as an opportunity to butt in quickly. Active listening requires that you wait your turn to make an appropriate response at the right time. When you are the listener, whether the speaker is on or off the platform, let your speaker pause. Silence sends the message.

Speakers and listeners can significantly improve their communication by developing good habits and correcting bad practices. The best place to start is by observing how you communicate at home. Focus on reading the body language you are receiving as you speak. Resist trying to begin speaking before you have your audience’s undivided attention. Be clear about what you heard before attempting to respond and to be understood. Use that moment of silence to ask your audience before you begin speaking, are prepared to start listening? And once you are sure that you, the speaker and listener, have established a connection. The messages you send will be messages received, and both speaker and listener are now well on a path to communicating effectively.