Speaking with Style Substance & Clarity

Speak to the head, the heart, or the pocketbook

20190423_144540The dream of every speaker is to deliver their presentations with style, substance, and clarity. If your purpose for speaking is clear and relevant to the audience you are facing, that dream can become a reality. Your goal may be to promote a cause, improve your image or the image of your organization, sell products and services, answer questions, inspire others, or explain a process. Whatever that purpose is, it must echo throughout your presentation from the title to the end. One World Champion of Public Speaking calls that echo, the scarlet ribbon effect.  

There are four speech-types, most presenters use to achieve their purpose for speaking.  INFORMATIVE, PERSUASIVE, INSPIRATIONAL, AND ENTERTAINING. While a speaker’s primary focus may be on one of the four types, to craft an outstanding speech; the speaker should try to blend all four types seamlessly to convey their message. When your purpose is clear, connecting with your audience depends on your passion, knowledge of the topic, and delivery. Try keeping the scarlet ribbon effect as your guide, when considering your topic selection as you progress to a final decision, 

Next, you should do a Q & A to evaluate your options. Some questions to consider are:  

  • How well do I know this topic?
  • What are my available resources?  
  • How passionate am I about this purpose or story?
  • What do I want to accomplish with this speech?
  • Can I accomplish my entire purpose and speech in the allotted time?

Timing is everything when moving from being informative to persuasive, to inspirational or entertaining. As the speaker progresses through the four types, it is crucial to decide on your Speech Strategy. The speaker must sense the right time to speak to the head, the heart, or the pocketbook if a sale is your purpose. A Speech Strategy should also be an essential part of your preparation and practice. After you have successfully touched the heads and hearts of your audience, they will always be happy to join in to take part in the heavy lifting – your purpose.  

When a speaker can convince an audience to think, do something, feel differently, or make a change to their life or the life of others, that speaker has achieved the true purpose of public speaking. In that crucial moment of silence, after you have finished speaking if your audience can’t wait to take some action, rest assured you have realized your dream. You have just delivered another speech with style, substance, and clarity.  

Your Body Language

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

hand-the-hand-gesture-stick-39393.png
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.

Impromptu Speaking – Stand & Deliver

Sell your answer with your summary.

20190317_122341
Build Your Own Models – Formulas and Templates

Impromptu, Table Topic or speaking off–the- cuff are opportunities; all speakers will never be able to avoid. You will always be called upon to say a few words when you least expect. Call it what you will; speaking, thinking, on your feet or winging it; impromptu speaking is a valuable skill every speaker must develop. Impromptu speaking occasions may occur inside or outside of your workplace, social events, or even while conversing with your spouse or kids. In almost every aspect of daily life, those speaking opportunities will occur. However, if you seize every moment to speak, your impromptu skills will one-day pay-off huge dividends.

Some may ask how do you prepare for that which you cannot predict. The trick may be to avoid trying to predict – practice being in the moment. Use the skills you have developed over the years as a speaker. Use your life stories and experiences that brought you to where you are presently standing. A well-delivered response will depend significantly on how well you listen. Be attentive. Listen for keywords and your inner voice as you silently confirm what you just heard. Your inner voice will then direct you through as you proceed to deliver your answer with confidence and a style that represents who you are as a speaker. Don’t fight the feeling – that’s a battle you will often lose.

Before you begin to answer the question or state your position, pausing with a smile is always an excellent way to start. It is a fantastic way to connect with your audience. There is no time penalty for smiling once it is not overdone. Pleasantries are unnecessary – restate the question to your audience and if possible tag it with a bit of humor to begin. Quick wit is a plus; however, in a Toastmasters Table Topic setting, your allotted time is only 3 minutes and 30 seconds. Green at two minutes, Yellow at 2:30 and Red at 3 minutes at which time you have 30 seconds grace before disqualification for going overtime. For that reason, I recommend you use the KISS approach. Keep your response Succinct and Straightforward. Keep your responses Short and Sweet. Always leave yourself some time to summarize. Sell your answer with your summary.

To stay focused on the topic, you can use a model, formula, or template. There are many excellent samples available for all different types of questions and occasions which you can turn into acronyms. There is the PREP formula:– POINT–REASON – EXAMPLE – then sell your POINT to summarize. There is the WAG – Where I WAS where I AM where I am GOING. Again, you must summarize to close. The CER:- CAUSE – EFFECT – REMEDY is another useful model. And the PPF:– PAST – PRESENT – FUTURE is another. Stay with the rule of threes to create your own. As you continue to gain more experience and different types of impromptu speaking opportunities build your own LIBRARY.

Mark Twain said it usually takes him three weeks to write a good impromptu speech. Although Twain makes a good point, I believe it takes a lifetime of experiences to stand before an audience without any rehearsal to speak with confidence. Whether you are an experienced speaker, or it is your first time on the platform, remember you are delivering just a “few words” and not a dissertation. Your few words must have an opening, body, and conclusion. Sounds familiar – however, it is the words you choose and your delivery that will make all the difference.

Follow the basic rules of public speaking. Never apologize, do not ramble, be authentic, and be in the moment. Sell your point with your summary. Don’t wait to be chosen; don’t wait to be called, raise your hand to be selected. Stand and deliver, and soon you will master the most useful public speaking skill all speakers must excel at – Impromptu, off -the – cuff 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.

The Art of Interpretation

Bringing words to life can be a daunting task!

20190704_140329The art of Interpretation is one of the essential disciplines speakers should attempt to master. Bringing words to life can be a daunting task for speakers and coaches. Some may ask, what is the art of Interpretation? Is it acting, well, not exactly! It is a multi-faceted dynamic style of speaking which demands the mastery of communicating your concepts, thoughts, and ideas by carefully combing words, tone, and body language. Some of the many other related fundamental requirements include breath control, good diction, vocal variety, rhythm, resonance, and phrasing. Mastery of each of these disciplines can completely change your audience Interpretation of the spoken word.

All speakers cannot fully acquire these requirements in a few short months. Certain concepts are more difficult to grasp than others immediately. It takes long and serious study and the development of best practices. Good speaking begins with proper breathing. There are two points to remember regarding the use of breath in speaking. (1) The speaker should inhale each breath quickly and deeply. (2) Its emission must be gradual and perfectly controlled to sustain, expand, or diminish their tone. The basis of breath control is good posture. Perfect posture makes inhaling easy. An active diaphragm and strong rib muscles provide the necessary perfection of controlling emission.

Speakers should also be aware that it is not the quantity of breath taken in, it is the managed column of air expelled, and that makes for an excellent speaking voice. Some additional physical requirements to produce a resonant tone are the loosening of the neck, jaw, throat, lips and tongue muscles and the regular recurrence of stressed and unstressed words, which creates rhythm in your speech patterns. It is those speech patterns, which add that distinctive quality to your tone and voice.

Tone and body language play an essential role in the art of Interpretation. While there are those who will say that Interpretation and acting are indistinguishable, there are notable differences. The speakers, who excel at this art, are those whose focus is on delivering a speech and not an act. They use verbal punctuation, correct pronunciation, and expression to connect with their audience while discovering the many joys and benefits of interpretation.

Speakers, challenge yourself to explore the use of neutral and weak vowels to heighten the effect of your tone.  Use body language to reinforce your punch lines by adding a punch look. Use silence to send your message. Be aware that sometimes your words may convey one meaning to your audiences while your tone and body language may be screaming something completely different.  And remember speakers,  what your audience decide to think, feel, or do after they have heard your speech, may depend on how well you have mastered the art of Interpretation.

Mentors Coaches And Protégés

Coaching can be part of mentoring, but mentors are not coaches.

20181207_093125Mentors and coaches have a long history of supporting and nurturing protégés through close working relationships with protégés. They offer encouragement and guidance while their protégés work on accomplishing their goals. Both mentors and coaches have the unique opportunity to share their expertise, wisdom, and knowledge while their protégé gains a foundation for building the necessary skills for achieving success in their endeavor. Mentoring or coaching can be a rewarding experience for a mentor, coach or protégé; however, although the roles of mentors and coaches may overlap, their roles and responsibilities are quite different.

Coaching can be part of mentoring, but mentors are not coaches. Coaches are responsible for their protégés meeting specific short-term goals. Common goals a coach can effectively facilitate are skills-based and are specific. Coaches focus on the short-term accomplishment of a goal or, the development of a single skill.  For example, a coach can have a powerful impact when a member wants to enhance or develop their use of pauses, vocal variety or gestures when preparing to deliver a presentation. A coach will assume the responsibility for providing the steps for the protégé to meet their presentation goals by giving specific feedback and direction to a protégés as they prepare for that single event. The coach determines the tasks and steps for the protégé to achieve a successful outcome.

The Mentor’s role is different. The mentor’s role is to provide support as the protégé takes personal responsibility for working toward the accomplishment of broader goals over an extended period. An experienced and knowledgeable mentor knows the value of their wisdom.  They also know how to balance sharing their expertise while allowing their protégés to learn on their own. For example, the protégé may choose to discuss their experiences while working on a challenging project and to share the knowledge they gained by trial and error. A mentor can support a protégé by listening to their thoughts, concerns, and challenges faced, and offer advice for handling similar situations in the future. The mentor offers advice, however, it is the protégé who determines the necessary tasks and steps for their success.

When the primary functions of mentors and coaches are clearly understood by the protégé, the chances of a successful outcome are much higher. Mentors and coaches should identify the needs of the protégé by asking probing questions and listening to the specific needs and goals.  An initial interview is one of the best ways for a mentor or coach can determine the role best suited for a particular protégé.  By listening and noting differences, but focusing on commonalities, a coach or mentor can enhance their relationship and partnership with a protégé. A tailored approach to suggestions and feedback, designed to coordinate with the protégé’s goals and personality, will often form a strong bond and a foundation for the success of mentor coach and protégé.

Project Pathways_ L2_3

Controlling Your Fear on the Platform

Don’t fight the fear. Embrace it!

20190425_185242Most speakers are conscious of the fact that the fear of public speaking-bug can strike at any time when they are on the platform. But with time and experience, when they begin to accept that all speaking in public is, in fact, public speaking the platform becomes less intimidating. Whether you are on or off the platform, it doesn’t matter. To be successful, speakers must learn to utilize the normal tension and nervousness associated with speaking in public. Don’t fight the fear. Embrace it. Tension can give speakers energy. It can make speakers more alert and make the difference between a compelling presentation and one that is dull and lifeless.

The act of speaking and proper breathing play a vital role in the process of reducing tension.  As you talk and discover that your audience accepts and understand what you are saying, your nervousness will dissipate. Physiologically, your body is using up the excess adrenaline it generated. Speaking aloud and moving with purpose reduces fear. Use body language to help you channel your energy as you show and tell your story. Be alive when you are on the platform, and your audience will respond positively to you and the topic you are presenting,

Topic selection and subject mastery are critical for your success. Select topics with which you are familiar and passionate about. Choose topics that will easily let you take your mind off yourself. Speech anxiety sometimes arises because of self-centeredness. Avoid being more concerned with your appearance and performance. Instead, focus on your audience and subject matter. Think more about introducing the subject and purpose of your talk rather than just starting your speech. Open with a statement that is simple, easy to say and engages your audience.  Choose statements that allow you to get to the point of your speech quickly and clearly.

Audience and situation analysis is also critical. The more you know about your audience and their expectations, the less you should have to fear. As you speak, feed off the positive non-verbal responses, you are receiving. The more you speak in public, the more you will become confident and be able to relax when you are on the platform. Speaking several times in front of the same group can help you reduce your fear; however, speakers should try to step out of their familiar surroundings to explore speaking in front of unfamiliar groups whenever possible. Over time and with repetition of the public speaking experience, you will realize and develop your own strategies for controlling your fear when you are on the platform

%d bloggers like this: