There are many benefits to improving public speaking ability. They are advantages because public speaking is a part of all business communications. The ability to consistently speak with clarity and authenticity is an advantage in meetings, presentations, networking events, job interviews, and sales calls. Whenever the stakes are high, the need for public speaking skills is undeniable. We all admire the individual who can appear to be calm and confident under pressure. Every way that you can promote yourself and your ideas will put your skill at public speaking to the test.
Meetings and Conference Calls
Meetings and conference calls are an unfortunate obligation of every business person’s weekly (if not daily) routine. If your desire is to promote yourself and your ideas, you have to not only show up – you have to speak up. The ability to present yourself during meetings and conference calls requires the same attention to technique as improving the sound of your voice, except that the stakes are higher. You may not have an issue with your voice, but confidence in your speech technique is crucial to your success. You need to rely on it to make a strong start and keep people’s attention. First impressions and subsequent perceptions have a tendency to last. It can be frustrating to feel that you haven’t lived up to your expectations or your potential.
You can break down the biggest challenges of meetings by viewing them through a public speaking lens. Not knowing how to jump in at meetings can send the perception that you either don’t care to engage or you actually don’t have anything worthwhile to contribute. Follow the public speaking approach of never starting in neutral. Prepare yourself physically with the forward momentum of deliberate breath support and coordinated gestures. You also need to learn the art of retracing. Public speakers do it often to allow their listeners to connect the dots. Your fellow meeting attendees need the same clarity in your delivery.
The feeling of being judged is ever-present at meetings. This is feeling comes from something called the energy of attention. It is as real as the weather. Public speakers recognize it and learn how to rise it, rather than shrink away from it. Another public speaking action step is to focus on positive perceptions, not negative. We want our listeners to use their sense of judgment to determine that we are driving the bus and taking them somewhere.
Getting your point across in a very small window requires that you use your Bumper Stickers. They are short characterizations filtered through your unique perspective. Bumper Stickers project a sense of commitment to the odds you’re saying. You also get your point across by using the right body language. Once again authenticity, trust, and confidence all rise when you look at meetings like a public speaker. Remember that these skills apply to conference calls. Just because they can’t see you, don’t mean they can’t hear that sense of commitment in your voice.
Presentations are the business communication scenarios where you have the most control and the most time to prepare. They also carry the most responsibility and the highest expectations. You not only have the responsibility of setting the tone for the presentation but you are also expected to be an expert on the subject matter. In an attempt to cover it all, your presentation can become flat and lack engagement. You need to recognize the challenges and avoid the traps already built into every presentation opportunity.
The first challenge you have is resisting the urge to overstuff. You’ve done your due diligence and your presentation seems like the perfect time to prove it. Avoid this rookie mistake by recognizing that your listeners have a three ideas limit. It’s not a matter of intelligence. It’s how we are all wired to process concepts when we’re listening. Armed with this knowledge prepare your presentation with a precise and solid framework that contains no more than three major concepts that all relate to the overarching theme, your Bumper Sticker. Make sure that you articulate that theme as a personalized statement. It should be your perspective on display. There is no right way or wrong way – just your way.
A strong framework will also keep you from losing your train of thought. But there is another challenge that every presenter needs to consider. Let your mind think and mouth speak. In other words, they don’t move at the same speed. You can never speak as quickly as you think, so don’t try it. Instead, let the power of the pause work in your favor. Listeners will always pay attention to what comes right after the silence. It indicates that you’re really thinking about what comes next. Don’t be afraid of the silence; it increase engagement.
Working with a deck my seem like your presentation lifeline but, in reality, you are in competition with your slides. They can still focus and distract or even overwhelm your listeners from the message. Build anticipation and storytelling engagement by leading your slides; don’t rely on them to lead you. Allow your slides to support what you’re saying and punctuate specific concepts. This is how you control the focus of your message. It’s all about you as a storyteller. Even a quarterly report has a story within it to be told.
Networking and Job Interviews
Successful networking and job interviewing is all about connecting. You connect by clearly sharing your perspective. But most people are not completely comfortable with talking about themselves and their unique point of view. There is a fear of sounding boring, or possibly sounding pretentious. You achieve that elusive balance between sharing and bragging by telling the right stories.
Knowing what to talk about is challenging in a general sense. So, let’s get specific. Always choose talking about the experience over talking about the information. Rather than talk about the awards you’ve won (which could sound like bragging), talk about what it felt like to win the award. Every listener has experienced recognition on some level. Always choose experiences from your life that have the ability to resonate. The most popular are: the Overcoming Challenges story, because it reveals perseverance, the Leadership story, which highlights responsibility, and the Mentor story, that shows gratitude and humility. Use these story categories as a springboard to figuring out and preparing the stories that define you.
Most networkers admit to fearing that their stories will land flat. Knowing how to insert your stories is a crucial next step. You must first fully embrace that your stories can and will be the answer to any question. When you have your prepared stories in your back pocket, you only need to look for any possible connection to the current conversation. Your goal is to make sure you tell your stories to someone, or many someones. If you are faced with starting your stories from a neutral position, ask a leading question that has a hint of flattery. “Who do you attribute your success to? Nobody does it alone.” This will lead to the Mentor story. You might set up the Overcoming Challenges story with, “I can’t imagine that your success had been easy. What has been your biggest challenge?” You might also want to use, “Being a leader in your field can’t be easy. What caused you to jump in?”
Networking and job interviewing follow the same storytelling rules. The informational part of a job interview is right there in black and white on your resume. You need to bring it to life by talking about the experience. Your listeners want to know what it feels like to have gone through certain aspects of your life experience. Know your stories and commit to using them. They are your anchor when interviewing and networking.
Many business people consider “selling” to be a bad word. They will often say, “Don’t try to sell me on the idea!” However, business people are always looking for an opportunity. They intuitively know that if you remain status quo you are actually falling behind. Think of each and every sales call as an opportunity – for them! You are helping very busy business people not fall behind. Obviously, getting them to give you time in their busy day can be a combination of mood, need and luck.
Make sure you practice describing the opportunity in one simple phrase. This can be challenging, but it is essential for getting them to listen further. Get right to the point over the phone or via email. Avoid the urge to overstuff. Leave enough to the imagination that your potential client will need to ask a follow-up question or two. Your success on the phone depends on creating this level of engagement.
In order for a potential client to be persuaded, they have to trust you. This can only be achieved by speaking authentically and finding the common ground. Before launching into your prepared presentation, don’t be afraid to ask a question based on your genuine curiosity. The seemingly idle chit chat is often where you start to connect. Don’t base your question on numbers, that would be too obvious. The simpler the question the better. “I noticed you moved your offices there. years ago. Did you outgrow the space, or did you want better takeout?” The goal is to raise your authenticity quotient. Give your listeners the opportunity to get to know you, then they can trust you.
Staying clear and confident can be tough on sales calls. You have a quota and they don’t have much time. One of your lifelines is knowing and showing the structure of your agenda. You build trust by being transparent about the road map and getting them agree to take the journey. Recognize the behaviors of engagement. Don’t allow your confidence to erode because you are misreading your client’s body language. Short answers to your questions of inclusion do not always mean they are becoming disengaged. There is a very good chance they are processing what you are presenting to them. Allow the process to unfold.
This article is chock full of good speaker training tips. In order to execute these techniques consistently, you need to consider public speaking classes, workshops, or seminars. Nothing replaces being put on the spot in an environment of supportive feedback with a professional public speaking trainer.
A good public speaking trainer will understand the nuances of all business communication scenarios and be able to give you practical advice that will take you career to the next level. When you realize that everything you say in business requires public speaking skills, you will put yourself in a position to embrace it and leverage it – not fear it.
Paul Geiger, president of Public Speaking Advantage, has spent the past decade specializing in effective business communications. He has consulted with over 3000 executives, helping them improve their clarity and delivery when under pressure. Companies like Viacom, Google, Citi, Twitter, Bloomberg, NBC News, and Nasdaq turn to Paul and his Public Speaking Advantage as their public speaking insurance policy. #BetterBusinessSpeech #SpeakingTips2Go #PSACoach