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Critical Leadership Skills: Beware the “Emotional Hijack”

  
  
  
  
  

Carolyn Dickson

 

Posted by Carolyn Dickson

 

Critical Leadership SkillsAt some time or other, strong emotions may have caused you to explode in anger. Or maybe you hid yourself away in your office to avoid an unpleasant confrontation. Or you froze, a perfect picture of the proverbial deer in the headlights. Afterwards, it was hard for you to explain exactly why you behaved so irrationally. It wasn’t like you at all. For some reason you just “lost it.”
 
It turns out that the responsibility for these all-too-human reactions lies in the connection between our emotional state and our physiology. Our nervous system is set up to protect us from danger. So, if we sense a threat, we literally feel before we think.
 
Blame it on the amygdala, a part of the limbic system at the base of our brain that acts as an alarm. If the amygdala senses a threat, it seizes control, bypasses the rational thinking areas of our brain, and triggers a fight-or-flight response. This is what we can also call an “emotional hijack.” In our history as a species, this hijack saved our lives. For example, if attacked by wild beasts, our ancestors didn’t have time to muse over their various options. They either fought for their lives, or took off in the other direction. Their behavior was instinctive and instantaneous, guided by the amygdala.
 
Unfortunately for us today, our nervous systems are still mired in prehistoric times. They can’t seem to recognize the difference between real danger and a perceived threat, such as criticism of our work or the questioning of our judgment. You know you’ve been hijacked when, in a heated moment, your feelings trigger a physiological response disproportionate to the event itself. Fear and anxiety take over and your cognitive thinking is impaired. Suddenly out of control, your emotional response gets you in trouble, your performance suffers, and you do things you very often regret.
 
Your Emotional Intelligence (EI) describes your ability to understand, manage and control the emotions of yourself, of others, and of groups. If your EI is highly developed, you know how to navigate through threatening situations and fend off unwanted fight-or-flight responses. When fear and anxiety arise, you can deal with them in a constructive way. On top of that, you know how to create and maintain a positive emotional state. Clients come to VoicePro asking how to build those critical leadership skills. Developing your emotional intelligence is a good place to start.

Here is an example of how EI can be enhanced.

Robert (not his real name) is a sales executive for a large industrial firm. He had phenomenal sales figures and good relationships with his customers because, in his words, he was always “on stage.” Off stage, it was a different story. Robert had an extremely short fuse, and with co-workers, family members, and even with friends, his temper would quickly flare. Then he would say and do things he regretted and, filled with guilt he would vow never to do or say those things again.

Clearly the Jekyll and Hyde aspects of Robert’s personality were draining him emotionally, and it became harder and harder for him to keep his temper under control. When the company began to require cross-functional collaboration, Robert was alerted to the fact that if he didn’t learn to manage himself better, his career would be in jeopardy.
 
We began working with Robert, and with guidance from his coach, he was soon able to recognize exactly what it was that pushed his buttons. He could sense the amygdala in his brain springing into action and learned how to accurately identify the emotional states that could get him in trouble. He learned techniques for staying calm when he first felt his temper rising. And he learned how to use his developing emotional intelligence to build better relationships with everyone around him. Within three months, Robert reported with amazement that his colleagues were becoming more cooperative. And he was elated when his wife told him he was a changed person. His emotional hijacking had come to an end.

 

Image By In My Imagination

 

 

 

 

Have a Fear of Public Speaking? Get Over It!

  
  
  
  
  
Carolyn DicksonPosted by Carolyn Dickson

  Fear of Public Speaking

Cocktail hour had come and gone, dinner was over, and I had just finished my talk. I was pretty pleased with myself. People had laughed at my humorous stories. They had paid close attention to the points I was making. And I had had a good time. Not too shabby, I told myself, for a presentation on how to give a business presentation.

I was getting ready to leave when a woman came up to me. “Oh, that was so wonderful,” she gushed. “I just don’t know how you do it. I could never give a speech, I’m just too afraid, I know I would die right on the spot.”

Okay, so maybe they hadn’t paid such close attention. I had just delivered a talk on how to become a confident, dynamic speaker. Yet here she was, incapable of entertaining the thought of doing it herself.

The fear of public speaking is still high on the list of universal fears. Once people have experienced a bad case of stage fright, they are terrified of ever being in that position again. So the fear of being afraid takes hold, and paralysis sets in. This does not have to be. At VoicePro® we have been remarkably successful in helping workshop participants get over their fears—from nervous jitters to outright panic. Here’s how you can do it too.

Pay attention to your audience.

The biggest mistake speakers make is that they are more concerned about their own fate than that of the people in the audience. Here are some of the thoughts that go through the minds of uptight speakers: How am I doing? What if I screw up in front of my peers? Am I succeeding? Am I failing?

Notice how all these thoughts focus back in on self. When your major concern is for your own well-being, the pressure builds, and you feel more and more out of control.

Instead, turn your attention to your audience. Ask yourself what information you have that will be of benefit to them. How can you help them be better at their jobs? Look at them. See them as individuals. The more you think about the other guy, the less time and energy you will have worrying about yourself.

Be ready.

Preparation is another important component in the fight against stage fright. Organize your thoughts into a key word outline (see VoicePro’s Persuasive Model). Keep it conversational. Use short sentences and small words. I once coached an executive whose opening sentence, which he read from a manuscript, contained 67 words. It was no wonder he started off on the wrong foot and went downhill from there.

I can’t stress enough the value of practice. Often business speakers create their PowerPoint slides, close their laptops, and think they’re ready. Not so. A couple of out-loud run-throughs before an imaginary audience will allow you to get your stumbles out of the way in rehearsal, paving the way for a smooth effort when performance time comes.

Breathe.

At VoicePro®, we place great emphasis on breathing. It helps quell the jitters when the stakes are high and you need superior communication and speaking skills.

Breath is the magic ingredient in every performance discipline, from speaking to dance to professional sports to the martial arts. Deep breathing keeps the blood flowing. It calms the nerves and improves your ability to think on your feet. It grounds and anchors you, so your hands don’t shake and your voice doesn’t wobble.

Relax your muscles.

Tight muscles are a result of the flight-or-fight response, which is the body’s involuntary response to perceived life-threatening danger. But even though we may feel like it, giving a business presentation isn’t actually life threatening, so we need to work against the tendency to tighten up.

Stretching exercises work well, as well as loosening movements such as arm swings, shoulder shrugs, and overall body shakes. Actors loosen up before a performance and athletes loosen up before competition. Business speakers could do worse than emulate their professional counterparts.

8 Facilitative leadership skills to bring out the best ideas

  
  
  
  
  

Leslie Dickson

 

Posted by Leslie Dickson

Facilitative Leadership SkillsA business colleague of mine used to have a saying:  “In a perfect world, I get to make all the decisions. In the next-best world, SOMEBODY makes all the decisions.”

While I appreciate the desire for clarity in marching orders, my years of VoicePro® experience teaching leadership skills to organizations confirms it’s not a very effective approach. Good ideas can come from anyone. The ability to tap into the talents of a diverse group to surface those ideas – and build on them – is the hallmark of successful organizations.

That’s where the art of facilitative leadership of groups comes in. Do the job well and you’ll bring out the best. Handle things poorly and you could end up with a free-for-all and a disconnected hash of opinions.

Let’s start at the beginning.

A group’s facilitator is not the leader, the trainer or the control center. You’re not the conductor of an orchestra. Rather, this is a jazz group that’s improvising. You just make sure the beat goes on and everyone gets to play their parts. What does that mean? Your job – from your opening comments to the final wrap-up – is to be sure everyone knows what’s expected, keep the group open and cooperating, and work the planned agenda. In other words, you keep the group cohesive and focused so the objectives are met.

Here are some communication skills for facilitation.

  • Begin with the end in mind. Begin the meeting recapping the purpose and goals of the session. That means you’ll need to do some homework to arrive with a clear framework for the process, including a timed agenda.
  • Emphasize listening. Help your group understand that the group’s collective wisdom is stronger than any single person. Remind them that listening doesn’t necessarily imply agreement, it just keeps the door open to fresh ideas and points of view. There’s a great quote by Robert I. Sutton in a Harvard Business Review column titled 12 Things Good Bosses Believe:  “I aim to fight as if I am right, and listen as if I am wrong — and to teach my people to do the same thing.”  The last part of the quote is especially good advice in a group session.
  • No wallflowers, no stars. Involve everyone. In fact, communicate the importance of  diversity and open communication as part of the opening of the meeting. Sometimes the most effective leadership is letting someone else lead.
  • Help people come at issues from different angles. Whether you’re designing a new process or attacking a marketing challenge, try to help people step outside the well-worn paths to think differently. There’s a great book called The Six Thinking Hats by Edward de Bono that helps the exploration. A group systematically “wears” the different thinking hats – white for facts and figures, yellow for positive speculation, black for caution, and so forth. See for yourself how Dr. de Bono describes the process.
  • Check the emotional barometer. Every participant comes to the session with expectations, perceptions, concerns and fears. There will be disagreements. Emotions can bubble over and derail good discussion if you don’t diffuse the situation.
  • Clarify, summarize and test for consensus.  Helping keep everyone on the same page is crucial to making progress.
  • Shut down the judgment police. There are often a few group members who’ll be quick to explain why an idea won’t work. The facilitator needs to make it clear that ideas need to be nurtured not dismissed. Then, as needed, gently remind participants. One of my favorite methods is to bring a few soft spongy toy balls that participants can pitch at a naysayer in good fun.
  • Keep your eye on the clock. You have objectives to meet. Steer the conversation when it starts to get off track. A limited timeframe can actually help focus energy on progress.

Having skills as a facilitator can help you make a difference in your organization as well as increasing your value to them. Learn and practice these tips. And, if you’re interesting in building your capabilities, let’s talk about it.

 

Image By ripplemdk 

 

 

Women Leadership Skills: Your Voice is Your Vocal Signature

  
  
  
  
  

Carolyn Dickson

 

Posted by Carolyn Dickson

 

Women Leadership SkillsYour voice is your vocal signature. It is distinctively yours, unique in the same way your handwriting is unique. From what they hear in your voice, people will make quick judgments about you. They will decide whether you know what you’re talking about, whether you care about what you’re saying, and whether they should listen to you. In short, when produced correctly, your voice conveys strength, power, warmth, expertise, and authenticity.

Unfortunately, too many women don’t make use of this most incredible instrument. Because of cultural conditioning and bad habits learned in early life, they end up with either a “little-girl” voice, or one that’s pinched, brittle and strident. One client of ours, a junior executive, wasn’t advancing as fast as her superiors felt she should be. She wasn’t “living up to her potential.” It became immediately clear to us that her high-pitched, sweet, sing-song voice was the main culprit. When we called her attention to this, she admitted that she was sick and tired of answering the telephone and being asked if her mother was there.

On the other hand, bold and assertive women have often been warned in childhood that they must curb their natural enthusiasm, be more gentle, and “sound like a lady.” So their energy bubbles up, trying to get past tight jaws and constructed throat muscles. When it does escape, their natural ability bursts forth in harsh, aggressive, and/or grating tones that talk at people rather than with them.

Well-played, your vocal instrument produces a pure, full-bodied sound that is your natural voice. The secret is in relaxation and breathing. Check for tension in your jaw, your throat, and your shoulders. Any tension you feel will block the free flow of sound. As you relax those muscles, you’ll feel your voice settle—deep in your body, where it will take on a richness that will surprise you.

When you relax those important vocal muscles, your breath will also deepen. We live in a stressed-out, uptight world, and deep breathing can be one of the first victims of tension. When your breath shortens, you will lose power—no volume, no strength, no authority.

Like the proverbial chicken or egg, it’s hard to tell which comes first, relaxation or breathing. When you relax your muscles, your breath deepens. And when you breathe deeply, your body eases and your muscles let go. In either case, your voice becomes deeper, richer, and more in command. No more little-girl voice. No more harsh stridency.

One of the best ways to improve your leadership skills is to improve your voice. When you use it correctly, your voice is perfect for you. It conveys subtle messages about you as a person and it gives color and meaning to your words. Most important of all, it lets you be heard.

 

Image by jungledrumsonline

Sales presentation training unleashes “geek power”

  
  
  
  
  

Leslie Dickson

 

Posted by Leslie Dickson

 

Expand your technical sales force: empower your technical experts

Sales presentation training

 

A technical sale is, by definition, complex.  It can require a lot of man-hours and knowledge. You may want to add more sales professionals, but a tight economy is working against your budget. Here’s a frequently untapped resource to consider: your technical experts. 
If you’re laughing or shaking your head because you think “geek squads” don’t know how to talk to clients, think again. 
At VoicePro, we’ve helped organizations from multinational corporations to small businesses empower their technical staff, actually giving the companies a sales edge. Our TechConnect is a unique program that helps develop communication skills and presentation skills to make tech staff one of the greatest assets a company can have. It has as its core the Technical Presentation Triangle you see here. Let me touch on a few key facts right now.

Know your audience

They’re not techies, but assume they’re smart. Before you prepare your presentation, get a clear understanding of your audience’s knowledge about your area. You want to talk to them at the appropriate level. Caution: it’s as detrimental to talk down to an audience as it is to talk over their heads.

Know what matters. Top management might be interested in return on investment, while front-line users are interested in technical robustness, and the operations staff is focused on training issues. Your raw data may be the same, but you need to translate it into the message appropriate to the audience. In every case, think in terms of benefits to the audience, not just features of the product.

Be prepared to mingle. It’s easy for technical people to stand back and let the “business team” handle the meetings. That’s missing a great opportunity to build trust and personal connections that will serve you well. Before the meeting, introduce yourself and be ready to make a little small talk. Now, your presentation has already begun.

Know your material.

A presentation isn’t a data dump. Edit, edit, edit! Your audience will “zone out” in a long, unfocused presentation that includes every statistic, test result, performance graph and footnote. Imagine there are 3 points you want a listener to remember. Everything should support those 3 points.

Numbers don’t lie. But they can bore you to death. This is actually a subset of the previous point, but well worth repeating. Stick with the most important data that supports your most important points.

PowerPoint: friend or foe? Your business presentation should contain facts, but do you need 67 slides to do it?  And does each slide need 9 bullet points, each with 3 sub-points and a chart? You want eyes on you – not slide. By the way, a PowerPoint is never meant to have enough detail to be a leave-behind document.

Know yourself.

You’re not an “outsider,” you’re a magician. You know things, you can do things that no one else in the room can. When you think of yourself in the positive light, you’ll be able to open minds and open doors for your company.

You’re not a sales person. (That’s a good thing!) A technical expert delivers the “reason to believe” in a presentation. You can provide proof and depth that gives weight to the value proposition of your company’s product.

Everybody gets nervous. Breathe, relax, be yourself. Keep an open posture and breathe deeply. This will help you turn your nerves into a clear, strong voice and energetic delivery. Spread out and own your space, too. Personal geography is personal power.

 

 

 

 

 

Communication Skills Mastery: The Case for Negativity

  
  
  
  
  

Carolyn Dickson

 

Posted by Carolyn Dickson

 

Communication Skills Mastery

At VoicePro® , one of the major tenets of our communication skills workshops is: I am responsible for each and every one of my working relationships. In part, this means I’m obligated to be courteous and respectful, to listen closely, and to be heedful of the concerns of those around me. If I do these things, people will feel collaborative towards me and will be more likely to respond to me in positive ways. Our working environment will be pleasant and collegial, due in large part to the way I act toward my colleagues.

But that’s not the end of it.

I must also be willing to examine my behavior to see where my “niceness” may be getting in the way of open, honest communication. This is more difficult than it seems on the surface. In a 1994 article by Chris Argyris, “Good Communication that Blocks Learning,” recently reprinted in a collection by the Harvard Business Review, the author addresses this very situation. In their reluctance to be negative or to put others on the spot, managers and executives tend to avoid the very issues that could lead to lasting improvements in their organizations. “In the name of positive thinking,” Argyris says, “managers often censor what everyone needs to say and hear. For the sake of ‘morale’ and ‘considerateness,’ they deprive employees and themselves of the opportunity to take responsibility for their own behavior by learning to understand it.”

This reluctance to confront isn’t the province of the executive level only. It also extends to employees, who won’t call attention to problems because “the boss doesn’t like to hear bad news,” or they might get someone else in trouble, or they have a fear that someone, somewhere will “kill the messenger.”

Back in the 1970’s, a syndrome called the Abilene paradox came to prominence. In the Abilene paradox, a group of people takes an action each individual thinks is a bad idea because nobody wants to “rock the boat.” When the Abilene paradox is in effect and well-meaning managers avoid what needs to be said and done, wrongs don’t get righted, good decisions don’t get made, and lasting change and improvement to the organization can never happen. The Abilene paradox is a humorous way to address a serious workplace problem and, in my opinion, should be revisited from time to time.

At VoicePro® , taking responsibility for your relationships means:

  • You address both the positive and negative aspects of workplace behavior. You don’t let things slide in order to maintain harmony.
  • You are willing to listen to bad news. If people have watched you dismiss negative information or sweep it under the rug, they will stop telling you the very things you need to hear.
  • You go beyond the surface, asking not only what the problem is, but also why it occurred in the first place. You treat causes, not just symptoms.
  • You’re tough on yourself. You continually analyze your own behavior to make sure you’re balancing pleasantness and courtesy with firmness and resolve.

According to Argyris, the desire to be liked is a roadblock to communication skills mastery. He ends his article with these words: “Leaders and subordinates alike—those who ask and those who answer—must all begin struggling with a new level of self-awareness, candor, and responsibility.”

 
Image By Vineyards

 

 

Corporate Leadership skills for managing dramatic change

  
  
  
  
  

Leslie Dickson

 

Posted by Leslie Dickson

 

What to say after you’ve said “You’re fired.”

Corporate Leadership skills No, this isn’t a Human Resources column. In fact, I’m sure any HR professional worthy of the name would tell you never to use the phrase, “You’re fired.” (Donald Trump, take note.) It’s not a column on what to say to a dismissed employee either. That’s the work of an HR blog.

This column is about exercising your corporate leadership skills in communicating with the people left behind. A dismissal can send shock waves through an organization. If the company leadership doesn’t have a simple, clear message, then confusion and misinformation will fill the gap, which can have a devastating and lingering impact on morale and performance.

Here’s an example.

Sometime back, a colleague called with this tough communication challenge. A change needed to be made for the health of the organization, but the employee to be dismissed had a long tenure and a high office in the small company. My friend wasn’t sure what reactions to expect and wanted to be prepared.  Wise decision. Here’s the communications plan we talked through.

Write an announcement email or letter that will go to employees as soon as the dismissal has occurred.  It should simply answer the three main questions the audience will have. What has happened? What will be the effect on me? Where can I take my questions? The announcement can be this simple: As of today, John Doe will no longer be working at the company. We thank him for his years of service and wish him all the best in his future endeavors. Mary Doe will be taking over the departmental responsibilities. If you have questions about your projects, please talk to her.”

Let people know when you expect to fill the position permanently.

Inform your senior managers and board of directors about 24 hours in advance, but make sure they understand that nothing should be shared before the official announcement. These are people who may be fielding questions or dealing with emotional responses from staff or customers. They need time to prepare.

Write an FAQ for the senior managers to help them with communications.

It should include a copy of the announcement that will be made to the whole company and include directions on how to respond to questions. Remind them that they shouldn’t get into discussions of the why and how of the decision. It’s inappropriate – unkind to the departing employee and not helpful in helping the staff move on. The responses should be simple and honest: “Human resources issues are private. It’s inappropriate to talk about that.  We’re a professional company and we’re going to stay focused on our work.”

Alert senior staff to be proactive in problem-solving. 

Change can be difficult, creating confusion on projects and schedules. Emotions may be unpredictable, too, which can hinder good work. Look for ways to troubleshoot issues during the transition time.

No office drama.

A dismissal is the ultimate water cooler talk. Perk up your ears and gently intervene when you can.  Refuse to get involved in gossip, remain even-handed, refocus on the work.

Choose a “chief executive communicator” to handle tough or unexpected questions.

If a staff member isn’t satisfied with the answers from a manager, this is the person to contact. If customers have concerns, this is the go-to guy. If the press calls (heaven forbid), this is the one and only spokesperson. It assures that every question gets the same – and the right – answer.

Relax and breathe.

If you’re calm and in control, you’ll convey confidence in the decision and the organization’s ability to move ahead.

 

Image by Weaselmcfee

 

Public Speaking body language, it's half the show.

  
  
  
  
  

Carolyn Dickson

 

Posted by Carolyn Dickson

 

body language public speaking “Don’t slump,” Cheryl Burke told partner Chad Ochocinco. “When you slump, you look submissive.”

Thus, ABC’s reality show Dancing With the Stars reinforced one of the main tenets of VoicePro’s Executive Presence and Speak! Present! Influence!® workshops. Your physical presence matters.

Because more than 50 percent of your communication with other people is visual, the way you stand, sit and carry yourself sends vital messages about your character, your work ethic, and your openness to other people. In fact, your credibility depends upon it.

Let me give you an example.

Not long ago we worked with a young woman from a large consulting firm. Sarah (not her real name) had a high degree of business acumen and technical expertise. She was ambitious and worked harder than most. Yet she complained of being ignored in meetings and was generally overlooked when it came to choice assignments and promotions.

When we analyzed Sarah’s demeanor, we found that everything about her behavior screamed weak. When she needed to say something, she leaned forward and clasped her hands together in the prayer position, looking anxiously from side to side. Sarah claimed she wanted to appear interested, but in fact she looked more like an eager puppy hungry for affection. It’s no wonder people avoided eye contact with her and talked around her when the discussion got going.

The fact is we communicate with our faces, hands and bodies more than one might expect. Here’s a simple way to think about body language that will stand you in good stead wherever you go and whatever you’re doing.

Stay Open!

Have you ever noticed how, when people are uncomfortable or feel threatened in some way, they tend to physically close up? The body shrinks, muscles tighten and curl, and the hands move instinctively to protect vulnerable body parts. With eyes averted, they adopt an ostrich mentality: If I can’t see you, I must be invisible, so I won't get hurt.

Work against this impulse. Sit back in your chair, with your shoulders down and relaxed and your chest open. Let your arms rest lightly on the arms of the chair. The moment you feel the least bit of tension, tell yourself, “Sit back, open up.” You’ll not only look more relaxed and in command, you’ll feel more relaxed and in command.

The same principle works when you’re standing. Shoulders down and relaxed, chest open. It helps to give yourself a solid base by keeping your feet somewhat apart and your weight evenly balanced on both feet, so you don’t sway or get twitchy.

In our Executive Presence workshop, we worked with Sarah to improve her posture and change the nonverbal signals she was inadvertently sending. She was able to open up and take more space, which gave her increased presence and a lot more confidence. A few days after the close of her workshop, Sarah phoned our office.

A true revelation!

“You’ll never believe it,” she said. “I was just in a meeting that changed my life. Before your workshop, I felt I had to try really hard to get noticed. But this morning, I pressed the small of my back against the back of the chair, and I kept it there even when I was talking. And guess what …” Her voice was more excited than I had ever heard it. “All of a sudden I realized, the meeting had come to me.”

Sarah went on to explain that eventually everyone else was leaning forward, looking to her for guidance, while she sat back and assumed control. At the end of the meeting, her boss complimented her on “how far she had come in such a short time.” She was the same person she had always been, but the change in the impression she made on those around her was astounding.

So, whether you’re making a presentation, negotiating a contract—or dancing the tango--stay open. You’ll look great—and feel that way, too.

 


Image by randomlea21

 

 

 

Business Presentation Skills Don’t Start with PowerPoint Slides

  
  
  
  
  

Leslie Dickson

 

Posted by Leslie Dickson

 

How you can be the star of your own show

Business Presentation Skills for PowerPoint

I don’t hate PowerPoint. Really, I don’t.  It’s a great tool.  But for so many people, it becomes a crutch instead.  For example, I Googled the phrase, “making better PowerPoints” and came up with about 964,000 results.  Check a few and you find suggestions about type size, making your own template, adding audio and animation.  But you know what’s not there? This tip: Use it less.

When you make PowerPoint the star of your presentation instead of you, you’re giving up influence, authenticity, connection.  Think about communication skills and work on creating PowerYou instead of PowerPoint.

Know your audience.

Explaining a new insurance process to doctors affected by it is not the same as talking to the medical office billing staff who’ll handle the real paperwork. Or the processing department at the insurance company. Or the sales reps who’ll be facing customers.  If you don’t have time to do some research, you may want to ask your audience a few questions as you start the program and adapt accordingly.

Tap into your passion.

If you’ve been asked to make a business presentation, it’s likely to be in an area of expertise. Expertise generally grows out of a passion for a subject area.  Let that be your guide. It can infuse your presentation with energy and help you trust your instincts, relax and feel more confident.

Answer the question: “What’s in it for me?”

A colleague of mine in marketing says the first law of advertising is answering that question. It applies to presentations, too. Whether you have 30 seconds or 60 minutes to influence a decision, start with the audience’s self interest.

Make a personal, emotional connection right at the start.

Tell a story that captures your point. Read a customer comment that expressed the idea. Share a surprising factoid. Or,  (PowerPoint alert!) a great photo. You engage people rather than simply talking at them.

Practice, always. Memorize, never.

Not even the best speakers can “wing it.”  Practice out loud.  Find a willing friend, or tape recorder.  You’ll find (and smooth out) the inevitable bumps.   Don’t memorize your speech though.  It’s likely to become stilted and distant – and you won’t be able connect with and react to your audience. If you have a chance, you might want to videotape yourself.  In our years of experience at VoicePro workshops , we know that seeing yourself on a tv screen makes your strengths obvious and points up areas for improvement. 

Breathe, relax, let your natural energy come through.

We find so often at VoicePro that people who are feeling stressed tend to pull in, hunch over, take shallow breaths.  Open up, breathe, and the power will flow into a stronger, more energetic voice.

Own your space.

Don’t cower behind a podium.  Move your whole body if the environment permits or at least your face and hands.  Keep an open stance and stay loose.  Bring a few props along if it will help.  And don’t turn your back on the audience to read your PowerPoint slides.

Focus on the audience, not yourself.

If you’re concentrating on what they need and what feedback they’re providing, your nervousness will give way to honest connection.

 

Image by Adam Foster | Codefor

 

Mastering Public Speaking: Release the Power of Your Inner Voice

  
  
  
  
  

Gregory Dickson

 

Posted By Greg Dickson

Whether or not you love opera, you have to admire Dmitri Hvorostovsky’s ability to project, not only his powerfully resonant voice, but also the passion with which he tells his story. Hvorostovsky fills the great concert halls of the world with every aspect of his presence, and audiences everywhere are inspired by the emotion he brings to his performances.

Hvorostovsky is a gifted artist with a sizable natural talent. I would not begin to suggest that, even if we really applied ourselves, we could learn to sing the way he does. However, I can say that the technique Hvorostovsky uses to bring his brilliant talent to the stage is in many ways similar to the methods we teach in our VoicePro® workshops. They can be developed by all those who want to improve  their speaking skills and their physical presence.

Listen to Hvorostovsky. Hear him fill the room with his powerful voice. Watch his eyes—how he connects with his audience. Feel the emotion he projects. His presence is commanding, authoritative, and genuine. These attributes are within us all. We don’t have to be a great opera singer to find them. We need only develop the speaking and business communication skills that will allow us to develop to our own fullest potential.

How can you present yourself and your ideas in a public speaking venue the way Hvorostovsky does in the opera house?

  1. Learn to breath. Hvorostovsky’s voice can fill a great hall because he uses the power of breath. You can do the same. By harnessing the power of your breath, you can project with authority in the boardroom, at a conference, or in any other public speaking venue.
  2. Take command of yourself and relax under pressure through good posture and release of muscle tension. Hvorostovsky  is using every ounce of his energy, yet his shoulders are down and there’s a relaxed quality about him. He’s totally at ease. You, too,  can achieve and maintain an easy, relaxed demeanor that will carry you through any situation.
  3. Use your face, your voice, your hands and body to communicate the meaning behind your words. Paint word pictures that make people "see what you see."
  4. Take command of your thoughts. Eliminate extraneous, inappropriate thoughts that pull you away from your message and create unnecessary tension and anxiety.
  5. By taking the interests and needs of your audience into account, you will develop a powerfully persuasive message. When you reach and touch your audience, you will feel heard and understood, and you will achieve your desired outcome, almost without effort.

 

 

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