Communicating effectively means more than knowing what to say and when to say it. Communication involves the subtle signals your body language sends to those listening. Over half of the information you provide as you connect with others comes from your body language. Some body language provides positive information and some negative information. Positive bodylanguage says, “I am interested in what you are saying.” Negative body language says, “I don’t believe anything you are saying – and I am bored besides!”
Here are some common body actions and the impressions they create:
- Fiddling – Playing with your watch or a pen looks like you’re bored or impatient.
- Clock watching – It looks like you’re anxious to move on to something else.
- Tapping – Tapping your foot or fingers suggests you are impatient or nervous. Drumming your fingers, scratching, twitching, and darting eyes around room all discredit what you are saying and your image as a person good to know.
- Staring – An unblinking stare conveys boredom. Blink normally and nod your head to show agreement, and that you are still alive and not bored to death.
- Body hunched – Closing up your body profile —becoming smaller— looks like you lack confidence. Stand tall and believe what you are saying.
- Arms crossed – If you keep your arms folded during communication, you appear to be defending yourself against the others. Keep your posture open, except your legs. Crossed at the knee or ankle is O.K. (Depends a lot on the culture. For example, in Thailand don’t cross your legs and point your toes at anyone!)
- Hiding your hands – Evasive people with secrets don’t show their hands.
- Touching your face – When you have your hand in front of your mouth, you appear timid. Rubbing nose, eyes, ears, head, or neck shows doubt in what you are saying or hearing.
- No eye contact – If you won’t look the other speaker in the eye, you seem to have low interest or a lack of confidence. (Don’t forget staring, above.)
How you say things in communication is just as important as what you say. Watch your body language and control the unconscious message you might be sending.
The telephone has been a part of our lives for so long we probably don’t even think of it as technology. The telephone is a great communication tool. However, just like any other technology or toll, the telephone has to be used properly to be effective. Here are some ways to manage your telephone use:
- Schedule time for outgoing calls. Place calls on your to-do list or create a separate call list and make the calls at schedules times during the day.
- Make notes of the things you need to discuss to keep the call on track.
- Make sure you have any documents, files or notes needed for the call.
- Schedule a time for the phone call if you are having problems making a connection.
- Make effective use of voice mail. When you leave a message, give as much information as is necessary for the other party to efficiently respond to your call.
Along with the science behind stage fright.
Do you get sweaty palms, weak knees, or heavy arms when speaking in front of an audience? You’re not alone. Overcoming stage fright can be a difficult task, but you can deal with it.
This animated lesson from Ted-ed looks at stage fright not as an emotional response, but as a physiological response. Then, it’s not so much something to be overcome as to be adapted to.
Here are some things you can resolve to improve the way you communicate with others. These are simple changes, easy to keep all year.
- I will talk less.
- I will listen carefully.
- I will always tell the truth.
- I will encourage someone every day.
- I will treat all people with respect.
- I will make more positive and fewer negative comments
- I will match my actions to my words.
- I will actively cultivate my relationships.
- I will write more thank-you cards.
- I will talk to myself in a way that makes me feel better.
As part of my professional development, I belong to a Human Resources association. Each month they have meetings with a variety of speakers. Each year they hold a regional conference, with more speakers and presenters. You probably do something similar as part of your profession.
By and large, the speakers at these events are marketing a product or service: often themselves. Some are blatant about it (they rarely come back a second time) while most let their presentation “sell” for them. If you’re willing to speak in public, you have to a strong tool for marketing you and your service.
Here are five reasons for marketing yourself in front of an audience:
1. It clarifies your message.
Speaking to an audience forces you to be clear about what you do and why people should use your service. This clarification can help you focus your other marketing efforts as well.
2. It gives access to a targeted audience.
You get to choose the audience you want to target. If you provide employee assistance programs, you’re going to want to talk to Human Resources professionals, benefit companies, small business owners, etc. Your focused message gets delivered to a target audience.
3. The potential for word-of-mouth marketing is unlimited.
A couple of weeks ago, my boss came in with a web address for me. He had heard a speaker and thought I might have use for the service presented. I visited the web-site and signed up for the newsletter subscription.
If you have your other marketing tools in place: web-site, blog, e-mail newsletter, etc., you can connect your listeners to your product. If they see a benefit to what your are offering, they will pass it on to others.
4. It’s creative.
An audiences can be a focus group for your product. They’re going to ask questions. If you’re attentive to the types of questions, you can find weaknesses in you current offering or grab ideas for new products and services. Let them teach you how to build your business.
5. You can make money.
Many organizations pay their guest speakers. You’re getting paid to market you’re product! This is a good thing.
Whether your goal is to build a network marketing organization, increase your exposure, sell your book, or market left-handed scrolling widgets, telling people your story always helps.
Mark Twain said, “There are two types of public speakers: those who are afraid and those who are liars.” For anyone who fits into one of those two groups, how do you overcome the fear and become better speaker?
You’re not going to eliminate the fear of public speaking, but you can learn to get past it. Here are 6 basic steps all successful public speakers have mastered:
It’s not just the Boy Scout motto. If you really want your confidence to sky rocket, be totally and thoroughly prepared. The more prepared you are to give a talk, the more confident you become. Prepare by writing out your presentation, at the every least have an outline and rehearse it more than once. At the very least, practice your stories and be sure to have stories every time you present. Try to memorize your opening, your stories, and your closing.
Preparation means not only knowing your subject, but knowing your audience and what they need to hear. Evaluating your audience is a critical but frequently overlooked aspect of presentation preparation. When you you understand your audience and their expectations, you can tailor your presentation content, language, and style to communicate effectively. That will make you more confident that the material you are presenting is appropriate and useful to the audience.
Expect the Best
Unless your speaking in a prison, you’re not talking to a captive audience. If they didn’t want to hear what you had to say, they wouldn’t be there. Take courage from the fact that you have been asked to speak because the organizers feel you have something to say to their group.
Use Your Nervous Energy
The trick is not to get rid of the fear, but to harness and control it. Your fear is energy and you can channel that energy into your speech.
Before standing up to give a presentation, it is a good idea to try to release some of this pent up tension through a simple, unobtrusive isometric exercise. Starting with your toes and calf muscles, tighten your muscles up through your body finally making a fist. Immediately release all of the tension and take a deep breath. Repeat this exercise until you feel the tension start to drain away.
Get Out in Front
Don’t hide behind your material. When we are nervous we tend to read our speeches, focus on the Powerpoint notes and hang on to the lectern for dear life. The audience wants to connect with you. Get our from behind the lectern. The movement will help release your tension and will draw the audience into the presentation.
This is another area where your preparation comes into play. Set aside your materials and communicate a bigger story than data or facts can provide.
Don’t stare at your notes or the back wall. Connect to your audience as individuals. Look into peoples’ eyes as you speak. Make your presentation personal. Eye contact can help you relax and judge audience reaction to your presentation.
See Your Success
Don’t focus on what could go wrong. Replace that image with one of you successfully delivering your presentation. If you are using props, handouts and technology, prepare a back-up plan for anything that could go wrong.
- Know how you will proceed if the projector breaks down.
- Decide how you’ll interacted with the audience if they seem to be losing attention.
- Be prepared to answer tough questions after your presentation.
Visualize a successful outcome. It is not the mistake the audience will remember, but the way you handled it.
Experience, Experience, Experience
An important factor to success as a public speaker is to speak. You can’t buy confidence on eBay. Confidence comes with experience. Get out there and speak. Building successes will lead to new public speaking challenges. You’ll be amazed at the reaction of others to your ideas, authority and leadership, when you begin speaking in public.