Are you a compelling speaker who commands attention for leadership? Learn these three ways to take control of your presentations to earn maximum respect!
If "the business of America is business" (to paraphrase President Calvin Coolidge), business people ought to know how to communicate to get all that business done.
A few weeks ago, I published a piece about using your voice to sound like you mean business. Now, I'd like to take that a step further, discussing how you can use your voice and style of delivery to compel attention, while being clearly recognized as a leader.
If there's one trait leaders display when they speak, it's total focus on the matter at hand. From body language to understanding the power of silence, leaders are speakers who make it impossible for audiences to tune out. Discovery theater-inspired techniques for displaying total stage presence when you speak. Download my essential cheat sheet, "10 Ways to Stay Fully Focused when Speaking."
Here are three practical ways you can gain maximum credibility and engagement from listeners, while controlling the speaking situation to your benefit.
Your Voice Needs to Command Attention
Public speaking is difficult. There you are, demanding that an audience—sometimes total strangers—set aside all their cares, pay close attention for a significant amount of time, and take the action you're advocating. (Of course, in one of the paradoxes typical of performance, public speaking is also easy: It's just you up there, discussing something you're passionate about with people who share an interest in the topic. But for now, let's land on the "public speaking is challenging" runway.)
To corral all those listeners (to get them to be listeners!), you need to compel their attention, immediately. Sure, you have great information to impart, but if your audience doesn't tune in, how are they going to hear it? Here's an actor's secrets on how to improve your voice for public speaking.
Ever wonder why it's so easy to tune out a presentation? The speaker's voice—your voice in your own talks—is making a statement before any statements are made. "Listen to me: I'm a speaker of consequence, and I have something vital to tell you." Tape yourself, audio only, then consider what you're hearing. If you think that voice won't command attention from any listener, starting giving some attention to improving it. Take a Voice and Diction class; or even better, work with a voice coach who is an actor himself or herself.
Take Your Time: Controlling the Pace of Your Speech
For this negotiation, i.e., your speech, between you and your auditors to bear fruit, your audience needs to have confidence in you. Notice I didn't write, "have confidence that what you're saying is true," etc. Your speech needs that, of course. But unless listeners are watching confidence displayed, they won't buy into you. And that successful give-and-take needs to precede anything you say.
How do you display that level of confidence? Knowing my 5 secrets of powerful body language will help. So does a sufficient level of mindfulness, to be in the moment and able to think on your feet. But a surprising part of the equation is the pace at which you speak.
Nervous or unsure speakers hurry the entire affair. The next time you watch a scene of dialogue performed by two experienced actors, notice how slow it all is. Can they really take that long between the lines they say to each other? Well, yes. Great actors don't only speak the script . . . they play what's underneath and behind the lines, i.e., the life of the character. It's a lesson for all of us public speakers: Take your presentation at exactly the pace you want it to go. It's one of the ways you tell audiences you're in control, and totally confident in who and what you are.
Your Data Is Rubbish . . . Tell a Story!
Okay. Your data isn't really rubbish. I'm using a provocative sub-head to make a point: It's the human dimension that will send your audience's engagement into the stratosphere.
Search online and you'll find the following quote attributed to different people: "Listeners will forget what you said, but they'll remember how you made them feel." Whatever writer, philosopher, or medieval minstrel first came up with the thought, it's undeniably true. As readers of this column well know, I believe the principal mistake of business presenters is that they're intent on delivering information, instead of positively influencing listeners.
Your job is nothing less than to improve the lives of audience members in ways large and small. That means affecting them profoundly—in a reaction that continues long after you've finished speaking. It also entails hitting them emotionally: for knowledge connected to an emotional response is the kind that actually changes people. Interestingly, it changes you as well! Here's how storytelling can make you a more effective public speaker.
How emotional is your pie-chart? Do those bullet points elicit delight and wonderment? I don't mean these questions to be facetious. I'm simply trying to point out the difference between the efficiency of data versus the depth and power of stories. Stories, that is, actually accomplish the things I'm asking in those two questions.
Tell stories, which, yes, encompass your data, but go much further: characterizing it all in terms of human emotion, motive, and needs. Do that, and I guarantee that your audience will listen up every time you speak.
You should follow me on Twitter here.