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Sound Serendipity

<a href="http://www.ted.com/talks/julian_treasure_5_ways_to_listen_better.html&quot;

Last night, after a near perfect beach day,  I rolled out my yoga mat.  No physical movement inspired me, so I just lay there, face down, stretched out, eyes closed.  

I noticed the sound of chirping crickets.  As I listened, I realized that the distinct throb of  chirping was on a unified beat. Somehow, I knew this but never noticed it. Cool.   Listening to the sound of summer was my entire practice, unexpected and delightful.

 

This morning, my public speaking feeds serendipitously led me to this TED talk by Julian Treasure. It’s about listening.  We talk alot about the power and importance of listening in public speaking, as it is the heart of connection.  It’s ironic that we are educated to read and write, but not to speak or listen. 

You will learn from and enjoy  this seven-minute video. Julian Treasure (great name!) is a grounded speaker, thinker and communicator.  He offers five ways to  increase your own conscious listening power. Plus (which is a plus),  it ‘s clear to me he is a devoted yoga practitioner. Today I will practice his second suggestion, “mixer” to increase my awareness.  Which will you chooses?

– Charlotte

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News Flash: You are Always Fighting for the Attention of Your Audience

We have talked about this issue before but it bears repeating. Just because you think what you have to say is ‘off the hook’ important and maybe even life-changing, doesn’t mean your audience thinks the same. You have to give them a reason to listen, and then another, and so on.

Enter the three S’s of presentation design: structure, storyboarding, and storytelling. This post addresses the first S, structure.

There are several ways in which a speech can be organized. They all serve your goal of keeping the attention of your audience. Which one you choose depends on your subject matter and your purpose. Are you trying to inform, motivate, convince, or persuade? Once you know the answer to that question, then you are ready to work with one of the following structures:

Chronological – when a time sequence must take center stage

Topical – when your key topic is so broad that you must break it down into component parts

Compare and Contrast – when you are trying to convince your audience of the pros and cons of a particular issue

Proposal to Proof – when you need to take a strong position or make a proposal. First you explain your proposal and then you prove to your audience why it’s the best option

Cause and Effect – we’ve been using this structure since our 6th grade reports on photosynthesis and it still works as a method for explaining why your audience should, say, quit smoking.

Motivated Sequence – perhaps the most used organizing tool when your goal is to persuade. The Motivated Sequence was created by a professor at Purdue in the 1930s. The structure includes five elements:

a. Attention – we have a problem
b. Need – explanation
c. Satisfaction – here’s a solution
d. Visualization – just imagine what could happen
e. Action – let’s do something

Now you’re ready to complete the first step in the preparation process. It takes a lot longer than winging it, but a good structure will increase your chances of speaking to an audience who actually pays attention.

– Barbara

Make Your Audience Feel Something

I was stuck in a meeting from hell today. Boring agenda. Listless participants. Too many tangents. If that weren’t enough, the meeting leader was not on his game and had introduced the first agenda item and then the second without taking time for introductions. One participant raised her hand and asked, “I know we’re half-way through this meeting, but I would really like to know who’s here. Could we go around the room and introduce ourselves?” Everyone agreed so we stopped the meeting for introductions. These too, were mind-numbingly dull until one guy shared a fun fact about himself.

After giving us his name, rank and serial number, he happened to mention that he just returned home from his honeymoon. At that point a few heads turned his way. The meeting leader made an off-hand comment about vows of marriage being a really big step in a person’s life, to which the guy replied, “True, but when you strike oil, you stop drilling.”

Everyone in the room perked up and looked at him directly, and what we saw was a smile on his face that went from one ear to the other. He was beaming. I don’t think it’s too much of a leap to assume that the women started smiling back at him because it is refreshing to hear a guy publicly express loving thoughts about his wife, even if he did compare her to an oil gusher. I suppose the men in the room – and I’m taking a Scientific Wild-Ass Guess here – started smiling because the speaker’s facial expression may have conjured up images of, well, a great honeymoon.

From that moment on the meeting changed. There was energy and bonding and whoever else was left to introduce themselves stepped up their game. In scientific terms, the speaker’s sharing of personal information and expression of genuine emotion opened up a neural pathway in our brains that then let in more information and encouraged us to participate.

Sharing emotion may feel risky, but it can help you make a much better connection with your audience.

– Barbara

The Paradox of Cliches

This week we are focusing on cliches, those overexposed sayings and overused metaphors that we hear everyday. As I write this I am sitting in an office reception area that itself could be a cliche: neutral colored couch and chairs, ferns and greenery (some real/some not), magazines on glass tables,and framed colored photographs of sunsets on the walls. Seriously, what is more cliche than a photograph of a sunset ? On a wall in an office?

The paradox of cliches is that they are often profoundly true (love is blind) deeply human (there’s no place like home) and embarrassingly unoriginal (easy as pie). They are also occasionally offensive, so please NEVER ask to “pick my brain.”   While we have all witnessed the gasping pinks and blues of a summer sky (I took this photo on Martha’s Vineyard) and the physical rush of “falling in love”, to use cliches in speech or writing is to communicate in tired language that masks your vivid, original self. If, as you prepare a presentation, the familiar language of a cliche speaks to you, try to reframe and recast the idea in your own words, using vibrant color, characters, setting and story. This will make you more real and more memorable.

So when you think cliches, remember:  Avoid them like the Plague.

-Charlotte

P.S. Note to Bostonians: check out the Catherine Opie photography exhibit at the ICA for an interesting twist on sunrises and sunsets.

http://www.icaboston.org/exhibitions/onview/

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul

Part One of a Two-Part Series on Ridding your Speech of Clichés

The debt ceiling debate has shed light on many problems, not the least of which is our penchant for speaking in clichés. After weeks of listening to politicians on both sides of the aisle sound like used car salesmen, we now have a list in my house of the Top Five sayings that should never be uttered again in this century:

 

  1. At the end of the day
  2. Kick the can down the road
  3. To be perfectly honest
  4. Robbing Peter to pay Paul
  5. Thinking outside the box

Thanks to the endless parade of talking heads, these expressions are plumb wore out (I just had to do that).  When you don’t have anything substantive to say, or you haven’t prepared, these clichés come in handy.  Many of our clients will respond to our feedback on eliminating clichés by saying that it’s important that they sound casual and conversational.  That’s fine.  You can still appear easy-going without uttering one of the five bizblabs above.  There is a difference between conversational speaking in which you avoid fancy, ivory-tower-sounding words and sleep-inducing catch phrases.

Do your audience a favor and delete these expressions from your memory.

– Barbara

Impersonators, ‘The Trip’ and a You Tube Video

Suddenly I am inundated with impersonators. This week I saw a Barbra Streisand drag queen, the movie, ‘The Trip’ and the attached YouTube video link sent from a friend.

The drag queen was essentially a train wreck; (one we couldn’t stop watching until we escaped, though s/he totally had that Babs sweeping the locks from across her face gesture down pat)! “The Trip” was quirkily entertaining (and slightly depressing) and the You Tube video confirms that impersonation is just plain fascinating.

‘The Trip” is a story of two semi-famous English actors on a culinary road trip. They engage in an ongoing game of one-upmanship about their celebrity impersonations.  They deconstruct and banter in the voices of Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Liam Neeson, Al Pacino, Hugh Grant, Anthony Hopkins, Roger Moore, and Woody Allen.  It’s so entertaining. And thought provoking – what makes a dead-on impersonation such a delight?

Generally, we don’t think too much about all the facets of what actually makes each of our unique communication “impressions.” But some talented actor could easily imitate you. They watch, notice and imitate -tonality, resonance, placement, pacing, breath control, emphasis, volume, and mannerisms. Put it all together and it’s like a magic trick – a hand clapping delight.  Here’s the YouTube link I was sent. Enjoy.

Charlotte

Swim to the Deep End!

Thirty minutes into a challenging indoor cycling class when I was “seeing Elvis,” the instructor said, “If you have anything left in the tank, turn the tension up one more time.”  At that moment I had an epiphany:  the human body is capable of much more than the mind allows.  Once we push past the mental barrier that yells, “I can’t! It’s too hard!,” we find that we are stronger, smarter, and open to new possibilities.   Medal-winning athletes know this, and so do successful speakers.

When you are about to stand up and speak, what’s going through your mind?  Odds are it’s something like, “Let me just get through this without embarrassment,” or “Please don’t let me trip on the electrical cord.”  Chances are that you are not thinking, “I can’t wait to take a risk and really put myself out there.”

This blog post is an invitation to let your body move past the limits that your mind imposes.  If you want to really impress your audience and leave them with a pleasant aftertaste, consider incorporating one of these physical techniques:

  1. Change your volume.  If you are naturally on the church mouse end of the continuum, try speaking much louder.  If your style is closer to the carnival barker, try softening your voice.  Notice what it does to the rest of your delivery.
  2. Sing loudly right before you present.  You will be more energized and relaxed when you begin your presentation.
  3. Make a sound effect where you would normally use an adjective.  Go from bland to “Now that got my attention!”
  4. Step away from the lectern.  It’s a crutch.  Try speaking in the “magic circle” – that space front and center of the room.  Your audience will thank you.
  5. Break the wall.  Most speakers deliver their presentation at a “professional” distance from their audience.  Try moving closer into the personal space for an important point and then move back.

Break the mental barrier that keeps us stuck in the safe-and-average shallow end and move into the risky-and-fabulous deep end of the pool!  Your body should be in the lead role, not your mind.

– Barbara