Many audiences begrudgingly attend meetings with presenters.
Audiences look upon many presenters as an interruption. The last thing a busy audience wants is more information. Often the presenter can be unprepared, distracted and pre-occupied. Anything but focused on the audience and audience needs.
Afterwards, the audience quickly forgets the presenter’s message as they move to another meeting. The presenter’s responsibility is to pull distracted audiences into the world of the presenter; otherwise, the presentation is for naught. A golden opportunity may be lost forever.
A great way to engage multi-tasking audiences is with a good story. People love stories. Since Biblical days, it is the way humans have learnt best and retained information.
By telling a story, your value proposition comes alive. If you aren't already incorporating stories into your conversations, you need to get on the bandwagon.
The mistake that many presenters make is to think audiences want only the facts, the data. Presenters assume they might waste time and annoy them by telling a story. While audiences do need the facts, the data becomes relevant or makes sense through a relevant story.
Consider for a moment how many business meetings most professionals attend in a day or a week. Often audiences get confused when so many companies seem to offer and promise the same thing. The one that wins the business is not necessarily the one with the best solution. It's the one that connects with the audience. A story can do just that.
Many presenters feel they are already using stories when they cite a case study or an example. While these do add color, the human or emotional element is missing. Remember, data is sterile, while stories paint a picture.
Stories have to be short i.e. 2 minutes or less, and the link between your story and what your audience cares about has to be obvious. Your story has to be rich enough to keep your audience engaged from start to finish.
A good story needs a main character, someone with whom your audience can identify. For audiences to visualize, your story also needs a setting and some action. The action begins with an inciting incident and intensifies with additional difficult challenges your hero or main character must overcome. Finally, your story needs a strong ending or resolution.
If your story is engaging, your audience will connect on more than an intellectual level. Pay attention to the fact that there are three levels of connection. The first is to think, the second to feel and the third to remember.
This third level is where you should aim. It is reached when you tie your story to your audience’s business issue. It enables your audience to repeat your value proposition to others after you walk out the door.
As you prepare for your next presentation, invest time ahead thinking of one or two stories to make your topic come alive and to create a memory hook for your audience to share your idea or solution to others.
Remember, any event in your life can make for a good story!
All the best with your future presentations!
Soft voices are the bane of many people.
Soft speakers may think this is not such a big issue. However, for listeners, a voice that is not clearly heard is maddening. It causes people to interrupt or to tune out, especially if they are on a long conference call or the soft speaker is delivering a long presentation.
One of our clients said, "When I cannot easily hear a presenter, I ask the person to speak up one time. If nothing changes, I begin to respond to email. I am not going to aggravate myself or waste my time".
Most people with soft voices feel it is just something they are born with, and there is nothing they can do about it. In fact, to them, their voice sounds plenty loud enough since it is bouncing off the gray matter in the skull. There are some solutions.
Typically, a soft voice is a badly produced voice. Breathing is often shallow and irregular. The person pauses for air, only when they run out. The solution is to breathe from the diaphragm. Practice taking in a breath while counting to five, holding that breath for a count of three and slowly exhaling for a count of five. Repeat five times.
Lie flat on the floor or speak in front of a mirror while your hands are above your head. The only way you can breathe from these positions is from the diaphragm. Now try raising the volume of your voice. Speak on your exhaled breath. Imagine that you are talking to people who are hard of hearing. Undoubtedly, you will have all the air you need to produce a louder voice.
Until you master diaphragmatic breathing, speak in short sentences. Often a person whose voice gets softer and softer speaks in very long sentences or they connect one sentence to another with "and, but or so." Let each sentence come to a definite end. Then, pause and refuel.
Picture your voice on a continuum from 1-10. Most soft talkers speak with the volume maximizing at 3-4. If you are speaking at a round table meeting, your volume needs to be raised to an 8-9, particularly if there are others sitting around the table or remote listeners.
To monitor the volume of your voice, record your voice regularly. Most mobile phones have the capacity to record. Set your phone on your desk and stand up. Review and see if you can comfortably hear it. Next, move the phone further and further away and continue to raise your voice.
Use a headset when possible and move the mouth piece closer to your lips. Announce to others that you are working on increasing volume. Give people on the phone permission to interrupt if they are not hearing you well. After any phone conversation, ask for feedback on your volume from someone who will be honest.
Soft speakers are not born that way. The environment a soft spoken person was raised in might not have tolerated volume etc. A soft spoken person may have learned to dial down their voice over time.
It is important to remember in a business environment, a stronger voice is taken more seriously. Make sure no one has to say, "I can't hear you."
Ensure or learn to "Speak up!"
All the best with your business communications.
A voice with inflection is captivating and motivating.
Your voice can command attention and makes people want to hear you more. A voice without inflection is flat and monotone.
An uninteresting voice bores, annoys and confuses those having to endure it. As you consider how you might ‘raise the bar’ when communicating, record your voice and review it as if you were a listener. Is it a voice your audiences would like to hear? If not, make a conscious decision to bring more inflection into your voice. Consider the following suggestions.
1. Sing in the shower
As ridiculous as this might read, singing takes the voice from high to low. It helps to expand your range. Remember, it is a flat voice that audiences find unappealing.
2. Read out loud from business journals or your company's marketing pieces
Make sure you are saying all the syllables, especially the beginning and final consonants. Use your mobile phone to record your voice. If you are skipping over syllables, practice enunciating all syllables in those particular words. Redo until you hear a noticeable difference.
3. Practice stressing particular words in a sentence
For example, "I can imagine how annoying that must be" or "Let's see what I can do to fix that for you." In any one sentence, there should be two or three words emphasized.
4. Assess the length of your sentences
People with a monotone voice often speak in long sentences. Their voices frequently trail off as they conclude because they are out of air. Often, listeners ask such a speaker to repeat.
5. Read stories to children or poetry out loud
The words of a story or poem will demand energy and vocal variety. Again, use your mobile phone to record your voice. Review what you hear.
6. Use your own internal voice mail system to monitor your voice
Before you leave voice messages for colleagues or customers, review them. Redo the message until your voice sounds interesting and sincere.
7. Assess the speed of your voice
If you speak quickly, it is easy for your voice to sound flat.
8. Listen to newscasters
Notice how much they pause, how slowly they speak and how much they open their mouths. Assess whether you are doing the same.
9. Stand in front of a mirror and pay attention to how much you are opening your mouth and moving your lips
A tight jaw causes a nasal voice. Practice talking with a wide open mouth.
10. Keep a mirror on your desktop at work
As you speak to clients etc. by phone, look in the mirror. Pay attention to whether your face seems tense and how much you are moving your lips.
Your voice is the best tool you have for convincing people you can solve their problem and you value their business.
If your voice has inflection, you will be perceived as warm and friendly. You will make a positive impression and distinguish yourself from other business professionals!
All the best with your ongoing communications.