31
Mar

We all know that a speaker needs to be heard, whether it is in giving an update on a project, advising a client on an investment opportunity or explaining the functionality of a new product. Yet so often, business professionals are not heard. They do not connect with their listeners. They bury their points by over-talking an issue or by going into too much detail. If you really want someone to get your message follow these tips.

Speak louder. Louder voices are taking more seriously. A louder voice automatically signals “This is important. Please listen.” On the other hand, when a speaker has a soft voice, listeners may assume the person is insecure, nervous and lacks confidence in his or her beliefs. Additionally, if listeners strain to hear you, they will eventually tune out or look at their phones. They may also try to take advantage of someone who has a soft voice.

Speak slowly. If something is important, it can’t be misunderstood. Speaking slowly insures that people will have time to process the message and stay with you. If you speak quickly, people can’t sort and understand your ideas fast enough; they can’t ask their questions. Inevitably, they will miss some points, especially if this is new information. Additionally, when you speak quickly, there is a chance accents will not be understood or articulation will be sloppy. The lips, teeth and tongue can’t get into the right position to say the words clearly.

Intensify the eye contact. People judge honesty or credibility by the strength of your eye contact. Look at your listeners, one at a time, with sustained eye contact. Show them you have nothing to hide and that you want and expect them to take your ideas seriously. A fleeting glance will not establish the connection you need to win them over.

Move closer. If you have the opportunity to move towards your listeners, do it. Do not stay behind a podium or tethered to your laptop. When you move towards your listeners to deliver key points, they see that you are trying to connect with them. They become more attentive.

Net it out. Do not over-talk or go into too many details. Decisions are made easier when your ideas a simply expressed. Short, pithy sentences with strong adjectives or adverbs are just the thing to gain and hold people’s attention. They make your points stand out.

Show value. To be won over, listeners have to see value. What’s in it for them? If you can answer that question with clear benefits, it is likely your message will be heard. Anytime you can support your message with numbers or statistics, rather than generalizations, people take notice.

Being heard is not automatic. It takes paying attention to what you say and how you say it. Utilizing these seven tips will help you to be taken more seriously and eliminate the risk of people wondering what they should do.

Question: What have you found helps you to be heard? We’re interested in your reaction to this article.

To add your comments click on the "Comment" link below the article title or add your comments in the "Your Comment" box below, if it is present. Any questions will be answered by Judy.

Impact Communications, Inc. consults with individuals and businesses to improve their presentation and telephone communication skills. It is not what you know but how you communicate it that makes a difference. When you have to have impact, phone (847) 438-4480 or visit our web site, www.ImpactCommunicationsInc.com.

Category : p) Communication | p) Content | p) Delivery Tips | p) Executive Conversations | p) Sales | p) Technical Presentations | Presentation Communication Skills
3
Mar

One-on-one meetings can often be intense. Obviously, it is important to showcase your best self – a person who is confident and committed to his or her ideas. Your body language says it all. To deliver your message and wow, consider the following suggestions.

  • Lean in. When you are sitting across the table, remember your posture. It can easily look too relaxed. If you have something important to share, be sure to lean in.  Put your feet under your chair and your hands on the table. This will force your body forward. This will trigger the perception that what you are about to say is definitely significant. Also, this posture demonstrates that you are paying close attention to the conversation.
  • Sustain eye contact. People assess honesty and credibility through eye contact. Normally, eye contact in a one-on-one meeting is not a problem. However, it can be compromised by note taking and reading from slides. Through sustained eye contact, you can also read the other person’s reaction to your ideas. A word of caution- eye contact can be intimidating if it is too long. When you finish a couple of sentences, look aside for a moment. Then resume eye contact.
  • Use meaningful gestures. Gestures help your listener to see your passion, your commitment to your position or recommendation. Do not overlook using your hands since they create a picture for your listener. When sitting, gestures will be smaller. They will come from the elbow versus the shoulders. Some gestures, such as pointing or the back of your hand should be avoided. Your listener will notice if you play with your ring, your hair or your glasses. Make sure to gesture with an open hand and definitely not with a fist.
  • Be expressive. Your face should match your words. Avoid being too intense. Smile freely. It will put your listener at ease and demonstrate your confidence. Also, don’t forget that when you smile, your listener will typically smile back. It will relax both of you.
  • Sound friendly. Be enthusiastic. When we are nervous or unprepared, we have a lot of “filler” words or “ums and ahs.” We also speak quickly, and this often results in a voice being monotone. Make sure your sentences come to a definite end. Be careful of over-connecting with “and,” “but” or “so.” If you smile, your voice will sound warmer and you will be perceived as friendlier.
  • Pause between your points. Allow your listener time to digest your ideas to pose a question. Remember, the more you pause, the more the other person gets and the more you can think about what you want to say next.

One-on-ones are an opportunity for you to shine. If you do a good job, you wow. You impress. If you do a poor or mediocre job, you leave your listener wondering if you are the right person. Body language will be noticed. Make sure you look, sound and act confident and convicted.

Question: What tips do you have on persuasion? We’re interested in your reaction to this article. What else have you found helpful when you have prepared for a large group presentation?

To add your comments click on the "Comment" link below the article title or add your comments in the "Your Comment" box below, if it is present. Any questions will be answered by Judy.

Impact Communications, Inc. consults with individuals and businesses to improve their presentation and telephone communication skills. It is not what you know but how you communicate it that makes a difference. When you have to have impact, phone (847) 438-4480 or visit our web site, www.ImpactCommunicationsInc.com.

Category : p) Communication | p) Content | p) Delivery Tips | p) Executive Conversations | Presentation Communication Skills
4
Feb

From the time we are babies, we try to persuade others. Babies want more milk, elementary school kids want to stay up late and teens want the car. Given the fact that we have been practicing persuasion for so many years, you would think that as adults we would be really good at it. However, most people fail to grasp two key principles about influence.

The number one issue is that the person must see value with what you are proposing, either for himself or the company. Without demonstrating value, it is not likely you will gain approval. Take for example my experience in buying a large, flat screen television. The salesperson was friendly enough and showed me various models. What he focused on with each set were all the wonderful features — live video streaming, picture within picture, surround sound, 3D, etc. The list was endless. However, the salesperson never asked if these capabilities were important to me. Since I only watch one channel at a time, I could care less about anything other than a clear picture with decent sound. No one wants to pay for features they will not use. I walked out of the store saying, “I’ll think about it.”

In business, the comment, “I will think about it,” is usually the kiss of death. If, for example, you want your boss to approve allocating funds to a project or hiring a new person, be sure to have facts and figures at the ready to show how much more output your department will have and how that bump will affect the bottom line over the course of a year or resolve the issue with customer service. Do not focus on your needs but on the benefits to the business or to the boss on a personal note. Stressing value is critical!

Another issue in the persuasion game is trust. Building trust takes time. It is related to things like sound recommendations, follow through and going the extra mile. Thus, any suggestions you make must be thoroughly researched. Defining the risks and the opportunities is a must. There should be no surprises.

Rapport also affects perception. Are you friendly, approachable? Would others see you as a team player or a “Can Do” person? It’s to your advantage to build a relationship with individuals you need to influence.

On the other hand, if I don’t know you, your body language can make or break you. First impressions are lasting. A lack of eye contact or a stammer in your voice will erode the perception of you as knowledgeable or confident. Little things matter. Get feedback on how you appear to others. If there are issues, eliminate them.

There are numerous books on the art of persuasion. Various authors have identified many issues that can come into play, but the two critical ones are demonstrating value and establishing trust. Work hard at these two factors and your job of moving someone to action will become a lot easier.

Question: What tips do you have on persuasion? We’re interested in your reaction to this article. What else have you found helpful when you have prepared for a large group presentation?

To add your comments click on the "Comment" link below the article title or add your comments in the "Your Comment" box below, if it is present. Any questions will be answered by Judy.

Impact Communications, Inc. consults with individuals and businesses to improve their presentation and telephone communication skills. It is not what you know but how you communicate it that makes a difference. When you have to have impact, phone (847) 438-4480 or visit our web site, www.ImpactCommunicationsInc.com.

Category : p) Communication | p) Delivery Tips | Presentation Communication Skills
2
Jan

If you think you are a good listener, think again. Study after study confirms that most people listen effectively only 25% of the time. Instead of listening, they are focused on responding.

What is often overlooked is that there are three levels of listening. At the very basic level, there is passive listening —where we only loosely pay attention to what the other person is saying. It is the type of listening one does while multi-tasking such as when doing e-mail and talking on the phone. The second type is evaluative. This is the kind of listening that most of us regularly do when with a customer or at a meeting. We determine whether something is right or wrong, and we respond accordingly. The most sophisticated level of listening is intentional where we listen with our mind, our heart and our ears. It is demanding and draining. It takes all of our attention. It is also a very advanced skill, and one that is necessary for anyone wanting to be perceived as a trusted advisor.

There are five things that intentional listeners must master.

First, the listener must internally commit to being fully attentive. He must be willing to set aside his own needs. Most of us come to the table with our own agenda, with a message we want the other person to hear. Intentional listeners willing commit to allow the conversation to move in the direction the other person determines and only bring their message to the forefront if it offers insight or a solution. They never give the impression they are trying to sell anything.

Because of their commitment to be fully present, intentional listeners do not argue, defend, or put down, no matter what they hear. They refrain from taking things personally, even if attacked. They choose to focus on what the other person needs or wants, instead of their own needs. They also demonstrate through their body language that they are paying attention. They nod, look the person in the eye, and even move closer to verbally and visually show they are following the topic.

Secondly, intentional listeners purposefully paraphrase. They want to be sure that they have accurately heard what has been said. Purposeful paraphrasing is much more than simply parroting back the speaker’s actual words. It involves reading between the lines for what has actually been said, as well as what has been intended—the message behind the message. It is very specific. If the speaker has not been correct, the person will correct him. Whether correct or almost correct, the individual will applaud the person’s attempt to be accurate.

Thirdly, intentional listeners empathize with encouragement. When they hear an emotion, they identify what they hear, and again very specifically. They take responsibility for any wrong that may have been incurred by them or their organization. They agree with the individual’s point of view and never follow it with a “But” statement since it would negate what they just said. “Ok” or “Yes” are never used as empathic responses. Instead, they might say a statement such as, “I can see why you would worry about that because I know you are very concerned about accessing information quickly in order to respond to your customers correctly.”

Next, intentional listeners want to be correct. They want to understand the problem in its entirety so they ask questions that might give them a better perspective, always cautious to avoid “grilling” the person. When asking their questions, they sometimes preface their statements with, “I am concerned that I am not seeing this correctly. Can you tell me more about…?”

Finally, intentional listeners offer insightful comments with a “tag and add” approach. Any idea or suggestion is linked to statements the speaker himself said earlier. By doing so, it seems as if the person is just adding to what has already been discussed, rather than pushing his own point.

Being an intentional listener is hard work and time-consuming. It may take two minutes or two hours to hear what a person is truly saying. Intentional listening may necessitate doing these same things over and over until the individual actually feels heard. The process cannot be rushed. However, the payoff is that we are perceived in the manner we desire, as a trusted advisor.

Question: What did you learn from this article that you can take right back on the job? We’re interested in your reaction to this article. Click here – to comment on this article, share your concerns or ask questions. Judy will respond to all questions.

Question: What did you learn from this article that you can take right back on the job? We’re interested in your reaction to this article. What else have you found helpful when you have prepared for a large group presentation?

To add your comments click on the "Comment" link below the article title or add your comments in the "Your Comment" box below, if it is present. Any questions will be answered by Judy.

Impact Communications, Inc. consults with individuals and businesses to improve their presentation and telephone communication skills. It is not what you know but how you communicate it that makes a difference. When you have to have impact, phone (847) 438-4480 or visit our web site, www.ImpactCommunicationsInc.com.

Category : p) Audience | p) Involvement | p) Listening | Presentation Communication Skills
2
Dec

If your approach to being successful in a one on one meeting is to keep your fingers crossed and “hope” it turns out well, you risk disappointment. Applause winning meetings take thoughtful preparation and flawless execution. The following tips may turn the tide for you:

Ahead: Preparation is everything. The more important the meeting, the more preparation it takes.

  • Know the mindset of the person across the table. Is the individual driven by metrics, containing cost, improving customer relations or capturing market share? If this is an outside customer or someone internally that you don’t know, reach out to your personal contacts for insights on the best approach. Listen to interviews, review the company’s 10K and notice what is written in LINKEDIN. Pay attention to memberships in professional clubs, alumni groups or other favorite organizations. If you know the person, you probably are familiar with how the individual processes information and prefers information. Think from that person’s perspective at all times as you put together content. Winston Churchill was a master at understanding people he was addressing. You need to be also.
  • Consider what questions you might be asked. Don’t be blind sighted! Sit down with paper and pencil and make a list of any potential tough questions. Then, find the answers. If you are meeting to report a delay or a downturn, be ready to explain why and how this is being addressed to prevent future problems. Figure out what the decision hinges on, whether that is man hours, availability of product or skillset, and you can anticipate where the bulk of the questions will come from. One question many managers ask revolves around the risks and the opportunities. Be sure to have facts and figures at the ready. If using slides, create an appendix of slides to further explain a point.
  • Know what questions you need answered to meet expectations. For example, you might ask, “What changes do you want our team to make?” OR “What is the new timetable?” If expectations are to be met, they need to be understood.
  • Create the appropriate support. Most people prefer a conversation, but if you must use slides, keep them at a minimum. Make sure the slides make a single point, versus multiple points. Pay attention to font size. Slides should not be an eye chart. Consider whether a hard copy would be better. Also, use slides to help persuade or explain your ideas. Do not use them as your speaker notes.
  • Send a confirmation of the meeting a day before. “It is my understanding that we are meeting tomorrow from 10-11am to discuss the revisions in the marketing plan. Please reach out to me if this is not correct.”

During:

  • Build rapport – If you don’t know the person well, work at developing a relationship. Going forward, it will always give you an advantage. Comment on world events. Notice what is in the news about the company or the economy. Build off the manager’s responses, but get down to business fairly quickly. Managers are busy.
  • Be respectful of time. Speak for 70% of your allotted time. This will allow ample time for questions and discussion.
  • Open strong. Speak in sound bites or short sentences. Get through your opening remarks in two minutes or less. Don’t go into the details. The details come after you have carefully positioned your topic. Use strong descriptors. Discuss the impact of the issue if it isn’t addressed.
  • Be clear on any action steps in your introductory comments. It helps the manager process your information more readily. If you want the person to make something a priority or allocate funds, state it upfront. Otherwise, you risk disappointment. Never wait to the end to suggest the action you need. It delays a decision.
  • Be clear and concise. If you have an update to give, provide context and zero in on the information that is different or critical. Make important points stand out with strong examples. Don’t get lost in the “weeds.” Tie ideas to what is important to the manager. Use phrases such as, “How this will help us grow, etc.” “Why this is important for us to consider now is….”
  • Expect pushback. Managers can’t make a mistake. They need their questions answered. As you answer, be sure to link your answer to a benefit or action step. Have hidden slides or printed reports at the ready.
  • Take notes. It shows you are committed.
  • Summarize. As the meeting wraps up, repeat any actions for you or for the manager, clarifying any dates or times.

Afterwards:

  • Review your notes. Don’t rely on your memory. If need be, share the information from the meeting with a team.
  • Follow up on any action items. If it is not possible to complete an action step by the agreed upon date, make sure the manager is kept in the loop.

Successful meetings aren’t automatic. With thoughtful preparation and careful delivery, you will be someone that the managers trusts and wants in charge of additional projects.

Question: What did you learn from this article that you can take right back on the job? We’re interested in your reaction to this article.

To add your comments click on the "Comment" link below the article title or add your comments in the "Your Comment" box below, if it is present. Any questions will be answered by Judy.

Impact Communications, Inc. consults with individuals and businesses to improve their presentation and telephone communication skills. It is not what you know but how you communicate it that makes a difference. When you have to have impact, phone (847) 438-4480 or visit our web site, www.ImpactCommunicationsInc.com.

Category : p) Communication | p) Content | p) Executive Conversations | Presentation Communication Skills
31
Oct

People who are extraordinary communicators don’t start out that way. They work at getting better. They take communicating effectively seriously. They practice. They learn the When, Where, How and Why to improving the way they communicate.

When: People who are fabulous communicators do what Tiger Woods does – they work at perfecting their core communication game on a daily basis. They are always practicing or modifying some skill. They never say “I am good enough.”

Where: Great communicators use every opportunity to practice their communication skills. They practice first in low stakes situations, like in meetings, trade shows, “lunch and learns,” or conversations with one’s peers. They also practice off the job- in restaurants, at parties, at weddings or around the kitchen table. They don’t wait for formal presentations. By the time a high stakes presentation comes up, they feel ready because they have been practicing all along.

How: First, serious learners get feedback, either from a communication’s coach, their manager, or their peers. Some join organizations, like Toastmasters or take a communications skills class with the express purpose of understanding what they do well and what needs improvement. Once they understand their strengths and weaknesses, they set realistic goals. Then, they tackle one skill at a time until it becomes second nature for them. They do not try to correct everything at once.

Maxwell Maltz says it takes 21 days to change a habit. A lot of what we do when communicating is based on habit. Since some habits negatively affect people’s perception of a speaker’s credibility, it is important to change those things that undercut one’s impact and to work on improvement on a daily, even hourly basis, for 21 days or longer.

To be perceived as a powerful business communicator, a speaker must demonstrate both composure and energy. The skills for composure are:

  • Posture
  • Eye Contact
  • Pausing

The skills for energy are:

  • Movement
  • Gestures
  • Vocal Variety
  • Facial Animation

To practice the composure skill of posture, notice your posture whenever you see yourself in a mirror. If one shoulder is higher than another, you are not balancing your weight. Also, notice your arms when at rest. Do they rest at your sides, in your pockets or on your hips? Are they crossed on your chest? The goal with posture is to look confident, but also approachable. Each time you walk in front of a mirror or see your reflection in a window, correct your posture until you feel people will see you in a positive light. This is the first way you communicate with your audience.

Eye contact is easy to practice since you can do it anywhere. The thing to remember is that you want the eye contact to be sustained, not fleeting. You want people to feel you are talking just to them so practice by looking at an individual for a full sentence or thought. Do not try to include everyone at once by giving people a quick glance.

You can keep tabs on how you are pausing through your own voice mail system. Play back messages before you send them. Listen for non-words, speed and diction. Pay attention to how clearly and concisely you stated your message.

When you present an idea to people, their expectation is that you truly believe in it and are excited to share what you know. To convey enthusiasm, it is important that a speaker gesture to emphasize ideas and help listeners to “see” it. If the speaker has the opportunity to stand up, movement sends an additional message as to how important the idea is. When a speaker is moving and gesturing, he becomes real and demonstrates conviction. Moreover, when the speaker is gesturing and moving, the face lights up and the voice has a certain sparkle. The best way for speakers to get feedback on the energy skills is by periodically videotaping themselves and noticing what they observe when reviewing the tape. Are the gestures repetitive, overdone, or too controlled? Does the movement seem purposeful and tied to a pair of eyes? Is the voice interesting or flat?

Why: The answer to why one should get better at communicating is simple. It is the number one skill for business people today. It is essential for anyone who wants to move up the corporate ladder. To be considered a good leader, one must be able to communicate effectively with senior level managers, one’s peers and one’s direct reports. Without clearly communicating the message, projects get scuttled, opportunities are overlooked and wrong decisions are made, costing the company market shares and profits. With “ordinary” communication skills, one’s career stagnates.

To join the ranks of extraordinary communicators, be a continuous learner. Dedicate yourself to perfection. Pay attention to many opportunities you have for growth.

Question: We’re interested in your reaction to this article. What else have you found helpful when you have prepared for a large group presentation?

To add your comments click on the "Comment" link below the article title or add your comments in the "Your Comment" box below, if it is present. Any questions will be answered by Judy.

Impact Communications, Inc. consults with individuals and businesses to improve their presentation and telephone communication skills. It is not what you know but how you communicate it that makes a difference. When you have to have impact, phone (847) 438-4480 or visit our web site, www.ImpactCommunicationsInc.com.

Category : p) Confidence / Nervousness | p) Delivery Tips | p) Speaking Style | Presentation Communication Skills
30
Sep

Filler words, such as “um,” “ah,” “like” and “ok,” represent verbal static or noise that your listeners have to filter out. The more fillers you have, the more difficult it is for your listeners to hear your message. Minimizing these annoying irritants will boost your credibility.

Researchers tells us that listeners perceive those who have the “um and ah disease” in a negative way. They see them as nervous, unsure, or stalling for time. The more eloquent you are, the more intelligent you seem.

The question for many of us is how do we eliminate these meaningless words, phrases or sounds?

First, one has to be observant. Record your voice three to five times a day, every day for a three week period. Since you leave voice mails for colleagues, family and friends, use your cell phone to heighten your awareness. Before you disconnect, carefully review your message. Count the number of non-words. Additionally, listen for how quickly you speak. Notice if you connect one sentence to another with “and,” “but” or “so.” Assess whether your voice fades every so often? Evaluate how often you pause. If you have a video camera, turn the camera on yourself and watch your eyes. Do your eyes often go up as you say “ah?”

Once you know what is causing your filler words, you can take action.

For example, if you have discovered you speak quickly because you have a lot of content, you may want to be more realistic about the amount of material to be covered in the allotted time. Concentrate on the “must know” information and reserve the “nice to know” for another time. It will eliminate the pressure to speak quickly to cover everything.

Fast talkers have a lot of filler words because their brain is struggling to catch up with their mouth. Notice “on air” newscasters. They speak at a slow pace and pause where there might be a comma or a period, and, as a result, they almost never have filler words.

Over-connecting with “and, but or so” also causes problems. Speakers who over-connect talk until their voice fades or they run out of air. At which point, they drag in air with an elongated “so ah.” Instead of breathing from the diaphragm, they breathe shallowly through the upper chest and use fillers to bring in air. Olivia Mitchell suggests “chunking” information. Once you finish a chunk, pause. Take a deep breath and begin to speak on the exhaled breath.

The good news is that when speakers are practiced or rehearsed, they have very few fillers. The brain accesses the information from a memory bank, instead of creating it on the fly. With awareness and practice and pausing frequently, you will come across as confident and knowledgeable.

Question: If you have had filler words and eliminated them, what other suggestions do you have? We’re interested in your reaction to this article. We’re interested in your reaction to this article. What else have you found helpful when you have prepared for a large group presentation?

To add your comments click on the "Comment" link below the article title or add your comments in the "Your Comment" box below, if it is present. Any questions will be answered by Judy.

Impact Communications, Inc. consults with individuals and businesses to improve their presentation and telephone communication skills. It is not what you know but how you communicate it that makes a difference. When you have to have impact, phone (847) 438-4480 or visit our web site, www.ImpactCommunicationsInc.com.

Category : p) Communication | p) Confidence / Nervousness | p) Delivery Tips | p) Executive Conversations | Presentation Communication Skills
4
Sep

Presentations that change minds are not overly complex. They are simple with a limited number of key points. If you want to impress your listeners, don’t “supersize” the portion of information you give them. They aren’t that hungry. They will leave much of what you say on the table.

Think about the number of speakers you have heard who have rambled and drowned you with data or spreadsheets. Most of us can recall the murder trial of former football legend, OJ Simpson. The jurors simply did not understand the vast amount of technical evidence and opted for a “not guilty” decision. Like the jurors, you have probably left a meeting or a presentation more confused than you started. Serving your listeners a “Big Gulp” gives them one big stomach ache.

Strong presenters simplify – and simplify greatly. They follow the Rule of Three – three points or ideas and no more. This is the way our brain stores and organizes information. This is how we remember telephone numbers, social security numbers and dates. With three points as the maximum, not six or seven, you insure that your listeners will retain information and be able to share what they have heard. The test of a good communicator is what gets passed on from person to person after the meeting.

Additionally, a speaker demonstrates that they have laser beam focus on what is important to their listeners. They understand them and respect their time and interests. They don’t bore them with unnecessary detail. They save additional information for another time should their listeners want more.

Our job as a speaker on any topic is to educate and persuade our listeners. Listeners yearn to get our points, but they want to do it effortlessly. When we remember The Rule of Three and avoid “supersizing”, we make it simple for people to grasp ideas and savor them. We present like a pro.

Question: We’re interested in your reaction to this article. What else have you found helpful when you have prepared for a large group presentation?

To add your comments click on the "Comment" link below the article title or add your comments in the "Your Comment" box below, if it is present. Any questions will be answered by Judy.

Impact Communications, Inc. consults with individuals and businesses to improve their presentation and telephone communication skills. It is not what you know but how you communicate it that makes a difference. When you have to have impact, phone (847) 438-4480 or visit our web site, www.ImpactCommunicationsInc.com.

Category : p) Content | p) Delivery Tips | Presentation Communication Skills
31
Jul

Most people enjoy humor. They love to laugh. However, when it comes to the workplace, opinions vary. Some people feel it’s a good thing, others do not. Even in the camp that says humor is a good thing, a lot of folks would say they are just not funny! Humor, if done right, can be a great tool for relating to your listeners whether face to face, on the phone or virtually.

Why humor works:

Humor lightens any situation. There is no doubt that some situations are trying; profits are down, customers are dissatisfied and the competition is eroding business. By addressing the elephant in the room in a lighter fashion, it releases anxiety and fear. The speaker suggests that we can’t be overwhelmed, and we can move forward. There are brighter tomorrows! William Arthur Ward, author of Foundations of Faith, said, “A well- developed sense of humor adds balance to your steps as you walk the tightrope of life.”

Humor turns a mundane, boring topic into something dynamic and worthwhile. People go from meeting to meeting all day long, every day of the week. They are on information overload. After a while, the information they are hearing can sound like background noise, music in an elevator. A humorous comment prevents people from pressing the “off switch.” The presenter’s points are remembered and highlighted.

Lastly, humor makes you look real; others want to get to know you because of your upbeat personality. Hugh Sidey, an American journalist for Life and Time Magazines said, “Some laughter on one’s lips is a sign the person down deep has a pretty good grasp of life.”

When it doesn’t work:

Humor doesn’t work when others are the brunt of the joke or comment. No one likes being put down. If humor insults a person’s gender, race, sexual preference, creed or age group, it is vulgar. Jobs have been lost in a second with a misplaced attempt to be funny.

None of us are David Letterman or Jay Leno. Joke telling is never a good idea. Let me repeat. Joke telling is never a good idea! If you tell a joke about zebras, you have zebra lovers who might be offended.

How to use humor effectively:

First consider the situation. Is it appropriate? Too much and you can look frivolous. As the speaker, you have to decide whether the risk will pay off.

Humor that is effective has a lot to do with calling attention to one’s own foibles or missteps. People who are good at workplace humor frequently relate experiences that are familiar to their listeners so that their audience shares in the experience firsthand. Stories about business travel, career paths, client blunders, and family, for example, usually score a hit.

Some people don’t tell any stories but are still funny. They simply make an aside or a one-liner based on what someone else said. The look on their face, a roll of their eyes or the shaking of their head can evoke laughter, even when they haven’t said a word.

In addition, a speaker can be seen as witty by quoting others. Obviously, comments from humorists like Mark Twain, Garrison Keillor or Dorothy Parker can add color to any topic. However, some people who would never be called funny make outrageous comments if one pays attention. Mike Tyson, the boxer, said, “I always have a plan until someone smashes me in the face.”

Lastly, PowerPoint slides can fast-track you to becoming a memorable speaker. The visual is six times more compelling than the auditory. A clever graphic can speak volumes. It can highlight a point or diffuse a bad situation. Graphics can be found by doing a search on the web, although some are copyrighted or require a small fee to purchase or use.

Many of us think we are just not that funny. However, there are plenty of things we can do to flavor a meeting. When deciding whether or not to add humor, just remember what Steve Allen once said. People will pay more to be entertained than educated!

Question: Think about meetings where you have added humor. What have you done? How did it go over? We’re interested in your reaction to this article. What else have you found helpful when you have prepared for a large group presentation?

To add your comments click on the "Comment" link below the article title or add your comments in the "Your Comment" box below, if it is present. Any questions will be answered by Judy.

Impact Communications, Inc. consults with individuals and businesses to improve their presentation and telephone communication skills. It is not what you know but how you communicate it that makes a difference. When you have to have impact, phone (847) 438-4480 or visit our web site, www.ImpactCommunicationsInc.com.

Category : p) Communication | p) Content | p) Speaking Style | Presentation Communication Skills
1
Jul

Savvy presenters know you have to get two things right, your opening and your close. If you do those well, you will be a success because people remember the first words out of your mouth and the last. However, while presenters know the importance of a strong opening and close, often they fizzle at the end. Some run out of time and simply say “I am out of time. Thanks for coming and contact me with your questions.” Others fail to let their listeners know they are about to end. When the say their final words, people have no response. Listeners leave uninspired or disinterested. Put as much time into writing and practicing your close as you do other parts of your presentation.

Ways to Close Effectively:

Summarize the main ideas you have discussed. Restate your point or position in a slightly different way. “In summary, we have discussed the opportunities and the risks. Our team feels we can and should proceed with help from our engineering team in Bangalore.” If you have talked for more than 20 minutes, it is important to summarize what has been discussed since people may have forgotten or drifted. By re-stating your position or point of view on a topic, you influence those that don’t have the breadth of knowledge that you do.

Call your listeners to action. Never let your listeners walk away unsure what they should do after the meeting. Directly state what you want them to think or do. It may seem obvious to you, but unless you ask for what you want, you risk being disappointed. “What we need from you is immediate approval for our team of four, two from Raleigh and two from India, to proceed with the design phase. We believe if we work full time, the project can be completed in three weeks, allowing for a little cushion.” A strong call to action commands attention.

Challenge them to do something different. “If you want to get better, you have to put in the work. Tomorrow, when you go back on the job, I challenge you to change one thing about the way you communicate with others. Keep working on that skill until it is part of your DNA.”

End with an inspirational or dramatic statement, a quotation. A lot of people collect inspiring quotes or they go on-line to see what statesmen, business people, actors and other well known people have to say around a topic. A pithy statement or quote, not only grabs attention, but it leaves listeners on a high note. It allows you to go out with a bang.

Go back to your opening. If you have told a great story at the beginning, go full circle and link back to it. It brings your story to a close. “My hope for you is the same as my college professor once had. You have to think big to be big!”

Your close is the last thing your listeners will remember. It’s one last opportunity for you to impress your listeners. Wow your listeners by restating your position, asking for what you want and inspiring others to take action. Don’t flame out by leaving your final words to chance. Carefully plan your close. Practice it. End on a bang!

Question: Think about your presentations. How much time do you spend preparing for your close? What specifically do you do? We’re interested in your reaction to this article. What else have you found helpful when you have prepared for a large group presentation?

To add your comments click on the "Comment" link below the article title or add your comments in the "Your Comment" box below, if it is present. Any questions will be answered by Judy.

Impact Communications, Inc. consults with individuals and businesses to improve their presentation and telephone communication skills. It is not what you know but how you communicate it that makes a difference. When you have to have impact, phone (847) 438-4480 or visit our web site, www.ImpactCommunicationsInc.com.

Category : p) Communication | p) Content | p) Sales | Presentation Communication Skills
3
Jun

We’ve all heard the old adage, “Practice makes perfect.” Practice doesn’t make perfect; it makes permanent! It can reinforce bad or wrong habits. Getting to the next level in your communication skills depends on knowing what you are doing well and what you doing that is distracting. Feedback is critical.

Feedback from Colleagues:

In order for feedback from a colleague to be meaningful, your co-worker has to know what kind of feedback you want. Are you asking for feedback on your content, your delivery, your visuals or your engagement with your audience? The mistake many presenters make is to ask for feedback after their presentation. Ahead of your presentation define the kind of feedback you want. That way, the person can take notes as you speak. The more specific you are, the more meaningful your feedback will be. If you simply say, “Tell me how I did,” your observer is likely to default to saying, “Good job.” If you say, “Please count the number of ums and ahs you hear because I want to see if I have made progress in that area,” your colleague will be able to offer you good insights.

The co-worker also has to be willing to be honest.  Some people find it difficult to give honest feedback, thinking that your feelings might be hurt.  For example, I never ask my husband how an outfit looks since he will always say, “Fine.” If I ask my daughter, she will tell me the truth. Be sure to select a person who will help you to grow.

Two by Two Feedback is always an efficient way to request feedback. With Two by Two Feedback, the person jots down two things that worked well, for example, with your visuals, and two things you might consider doing differently.

Self-Feedback:

Because of the abundance of technologies, smart phones, iPads, Notebooks and movie cameras, it is easier to do self-assessments. All we have to do is turn them on, press record and review. Even if you can only audio tape yourself, you will learn a lot about how you explain a concept, how often you pause, the number of filler words you have and whether you sound friendly, confident or sincere.

Most of us can find a million things wrong with how we present, but we are seldom aware of what we are doing well. As you review your recordings, be sure to notice those things that work well. You would not be in the position you are in if you weren’t an adequate communicator. In stressful times, knowing our strengths builds confidence.

Obviously, any communicator can improve. Knowing what to improve is important. Put what you do under a microscope or magnifying glass. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is there a strong structure to my content? Would others say my content was well organized?
  • Do I have a solid opening and a strong close?
  • Have I limited the number of key points? Would my listeners be able to repeat my ideas?
  • Do I have transitional statements between my points?
  • Is my content memorable or boring?
  • Do I make an emotional connection?
  • What stories, examples or analogies have I used to make points stand out?
  • Do visuals have pictures and icons?
  • Are visuals speaker notes?
  • Is the number of visuals appropriate?
  • Have I geared my visuals to my audience?
  • Do slides have titles? Do they make one point or multiple points?
  • Is there too much animation?
  • Am I standing or sitting up straight?
  • Am I shifting or moving with purpose?
  • Do I sustain eye contact with one person at a time?
  • Is my pace too fast?
  • Do I pause often?
  • Do I sound friendly, sincere, and confident?
  • Do I have a monotone?
  • Are there sentences I start but don’t finish?
  • Do I have more than 10 non-words or filler words?
  • Do I say the same thing more than once? Are there redundancies?
  • Are gestures meaningful or redundant?
  • Do gestures come from the shoulder, wrist or elbow?
  • Do I look, act and sound like a subject matter expert?

Practice is, of course, important to changing behavior. Be sure when you practice, you know exactly what to practice and how to improve. Being an effective communicator is a journey. It takes time and effort.

Question: Think about your presentations. Do you have impact? Do you practice? What are the best ways you have found to improve? We’re interested in your reaction to this article. What works in your organization to put a smile back on people’s faces?

To add your comments click on the "Comment" link below the article title or add your comments in the "Your Comment" box below, if it is present. Any questions will be answered by Judy.

Impact Communications, Inc. consults with individuals and businesses to improve their presentation and telephone communication skills. It is not what you know but how you communicate it that makes a difference. When you have to have impact, phone (847) 438-4480 or visit our web site, www.ImpactCommunicationsInc.com.

 

Category : p) Communication | p) Confidence / Nervousness | p) Content | p) Speaking Style | Presentation Communication Skills
29
Apr

Little things matter when it comes to influencing others. Overlooking these may be costly since they cause confusion and delay a decision. The wise communicator avoids the Big Seven Sins or missteps like the following:

  1. Leaving research and preparation to the last minute. A lack of preparation always shows. Without preparation, it is inevitable that the speaker will stumble. Often the person ends up reading from their slides since they aren’t comfortable with the content. Listeners really want a conversation. The more prepared you are, the better able you will be to have an intelligent discussion.
  2. Coming in at the “Tree Level.” A common mistake that many make is assuming that everyone is up to speed on an issue. The speaker launches right into the details and forgets that listeners need context. Without background, your listeners will grope to follow the discussion. Always be sure to briefly define a problem and its criticality as you start. You may also want to send out a brief summary of an issue for discussion the day before.
  3. Asking for what you want. Many speakers aren’t clear on what their goal is and, consequently, hedge on directly asking their listeners for what they want; mistakenly thinking that it is obvious. Most decision makers prefer to hear the “ask” upfront since it helps them to follow your argument better. It makes a decision easier. As you think about how you open and close your presentation, directly state what you would like people to consider doing after the meeting ends.
  4. Forgetting Check-ins. Most speakers know the importance of dialogue but often, in the heat of the moment, they just dump information on their listeners. Without check-ins, a speaker will not know if their listeners are in agreement or have additional insights. They can also appear ego-centric and uninterested in what others think or feel. Make sure to preplan spots to check-in.
  5. Not connecting to your audience and the things they care about. It easy to forget that people have needs and interests different from ours. As often as we can, we need to make links to how this will solve their problems or add value.
  6. Weak transitions between points and slides. Your content should logically tell your story. Your slides should help support or strengthen that story. Transitional statements are very important to providing on-going context. The way to avoid this mistake is to practice out loud with your slides ahead of time.
  7. Praying no one asks that question. Some speakers go into a meeting hoping to avoid discussing a difficult issue. However, your ability to handle the tough issues makes listeners feel confident that you know your stuff. The best way to avoid a disaster is to brainstorm the tough questions ahead of time and be prepared with solid answers. It may mean you research the answers, ask others, prepare slides in reserve or have handouts ready.

There are no do-overs when presenting. To influence others, one must be cognizant that little things can trip you up. Keep a check list of these Seven Sins handy so that you don’t commit these blunders.

Question: Think about presentation mistakes you have made. What additional things do you think people need to avoid? We’re interested in your reaction to this article. We’re interested in your reaction to this article. What else have you found helpful when you have prepared for a large group presentation?

To add your comments click on the "Comment" link below the article title or add your comments in the "Your Comment" box below, if it is present. Any questions will be answered by Judy.

Impact Communications, Inc. consults with individuals and businesses to improve their presentation and telephone communication skills. It is not what you know but how you communicate it that makes a difference. When you have to have impact, phone (847) 438-4480 or visit our web site, www.ImpactCommunicationsInc.com.

Category : p) Communication | p) Confidence / Nervousness | p) Content | p) Technical Presentations | Presentation Communication Skills