Archive for September 2010
According to anthropologists, of all human expressions, smiling is the only one universally understood. Throughout the world the smile communicates pleasure, welcome and lack of fear. A smile is recognised from a greater distance than any other expression.
Over 100 years ago, the French doctor, Israel Waynbaum discovered that smiling effects human emotions. When one smiles the brain is activated to produce anti-stress hormones. These hormones then circulate throughout the body.
Waynbaum theorised that emotions often result from facial expressions, rather than always preceding them. Smiling and laughing bring about a positive mood and are indicative of joy and happiness.
By contrast, depressive moods and expressions decrease the blood flow to the brain, which in time can lead to physical ill-health.
So, claim your space, breathe from your boots and smile!
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The Voice…Your Second Face
It reveals your thoughts and feelings
Kirstin Linklater, an expert in the field of vocal production says, “Muddy thinking is the fundamental obstacle to clear articulation. Blocked emotion is the fundamental obstacle to a free voice.”
- How clear is your thinking?
- How free is your voice?
Communication is a contact sport. Through your voice, manner and bearing you make emotional contact. Miss that connection and you miss the power to persuade. One of your roles as a presenter is to establish a relationship between yourself, your material and your audience.
Every time you present you are giving part of yourself. When you shut down you make yourself less available to yourself and to others.
Self-esteem and confidence make it easier to be assertive.
What we give to our audience is what we get back. What are you giving?
You set the tone. You decide how we will be perceived. What is your choice?
The role of the messenger is to support the message. If there is a mismatch between what you say and how you say it, what do you think your listener will believe?
If a large audience intimidates you, speak as if there was only one person listening to you. Make that person your best friend.
- What does your voice mean to you?
- What qualities in a voice do you like/not like?
- What have people said about your voice in the past?
- How would you like your voice to sound?
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Beware of Mixed Messages
If you want to be understood it is vital that your communication is clear and succinct. This means communicating with total focus, clarity and commitment in order that your messages are received as you intended.
The problem with mixed messages is that they communicate verbally, physically and emotionally several conflicting ideas at the same time. The receiver is left uncertain as to how to respond; we don’t know what to do, what the communicator meant or which message is the intended one. Mixed messages lead to difficulties in communicating effectively and give rise to misunderstandings.
Mixed messages negatively impact relationships. The receiver of a mixed message has to spend time and energy on figuring out what the speaker meant. Appropriate responses are hindered because the listener doesn’t know which message to follow. This in turn leads to a lack of trust. By keeping the communication free of conflicting messages, you bring clarity and understanding to your relationships. People will know where they stand.
In addition to confusing the listener when you send out mixed messages, you make yourself appear weak. A strong communicator is direct, clear and focused. When the message is mixed it becomes diluted. Sending mixed messages makes the speaker sound unsure of himself and diminishes his personal power and impact.
The person who regularly sends out mixed messages is a bit like the little boy who cried ‘wolf.’ Eventually, the mixed messenger will be ignored because they have been confused too many times in the past.
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Research from a recent German study has shown that successful managerial careers depend 10% on performance, 30% on image and style and 60% on being seen and making a positive impression. The actual work produced counts for very little.
While this may seem a bit unjust, the findings show that we are the image we project and those who look and act the part become just that.
While reliability, hard work and quality cannot be ignored, these qualities count for little when climbing to the top of one’s profession.
One must be fit and healthy, smartly attired and project confidence, competence and charisma.
The first impression conveys a vast amount of information about a person. While subsequent impressions may further the knowledge, they don’t count for as much as the first. Pity the poor person who fails to make an impression at all.
According to Peter-Josef Senner, the author of the bestselling 8 Disciplines for Sales Managers, success is largely dependent on getting attention within the organisation and beyond, and then using it to one’s advantage.
Competition is tough, every market is flooded with pressure, information and attention seekers. If one wants to get noticed and move up the ladder, self-marketing without hesitancy or apology is vital.
Because of the intensity of competition throughout business, especially at the managerial level, there is an overload of talent. Polished self-promoters are at an advantage in this environment. Ruthlessly efficient, they know how to attract the attention of the key decision makers and opinion leaders. Their more modest colleagues are left floundering in their wake.
One has only to look at the worlds of sport and entertainment for outstanding examples of individuals who are consistently visible. These people know how to achieve their personal objectives with ease and efficiency. Posh and Becks, Michael and CZJ, Jennifer-Brad-Angelina make the public aware of them on a daily basis. They all make it to the front pages, best seats and command inordinate financial recompense. Their careers and life styles are dependent on being seen.
The need for personal publicity has lead to the growth of consultancies specialising in training people how to project and promote themselves effectively. No one in business, industry or the professions can deny that ‘show business’ is part of the culture and that corporate exhibitionism is encouraged and richly rewarded. The aim is to convert your self-image, or what you want to be, into reality through self-marketing.
Often those who possess real intellect and ability are overlooked. They say they don’t need a lot of attention and would rather be left to get on with their jobs. Inevitably, their colleagues who understand self-promotion end up with the higher profile, more influential and better paid positions. Those who say image is merely vanity and prestige are overlooking the fact that image is indispensable for achieving success.
Christine Oettl, self-marketing expert and author, says that self-promotion is not about being loud, brash or offensive. However, it is about letting people know what one does well.
Being heard making astute comments at the right time will convey competence and credibility. In addition, admitting there are aspects of the business with which one is less knowledgeable will project an image of confident self-awareness. This technique will also highlight those areas where one is strong. Would we expect a creative writer to be a technical boffin? Delivering the best in one’s chosen field is what the client wants.
Combining understatement with acknowledgement of one’s strengths is a powerful and attractive mixture.
Open body language is another avenue toward creating trust and credibility as is providing the names of credible people and companies with whom one has worked. On this last point, it is important to avoid the trap of name-dropping which is a sure turn-off.
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Feeling nervous before giving a speech is both natural and healthy. It is caused by an abundance of energy and shows you care about performing well. Uncontrolled nervousness can work against you. Your audience will quickly become aware that you are nervous which in turn will make them uncomfortable. Your message will be lost and all the effort you put into your speech will be wasted. Here is how you can control that nervous energy and make effective, memorable presentations.
1. Be Familiar With the Room. Arrive early, walk around the area where you will be speaking and practise using any equipment you will need
2. Know Your Audience. Find out as much as you can about them before you arrive. What have they come to hear? What are their concerns and biases? Greet some of the audience as they arrive. You’ll find it’s easier to speak to a group of friends than to a group of strangers.
3. Know Your Material. Practise your speech and revise it if necessary. If you’re not familiar and comfortable with your material you’ll become more nervous and so will your audience.
4. Breathe. Abdominal breathing provides a flow of oxygen to the brain and helps you think clearly. Ease your tension by doing some warm up exercises. Neck and shoulder rolls and a few tongue twisters will hep calm those nerves.
5. Visualise yourself giving your speech. Imagine yourself speaking calmly, confidently and with commitment. By visualising yourself as successful you will become successful.
6. Trust Your Audience. They want you to do well. They have come to hear an interesting, stimulating, informative and entertaining speaker. Satisfy their expectations.
7. Never Apologise. By mentioning your nervousness or apologising for any problems or failures you think you may have with your speech, you may call the audience’s attention to something they hadn’t noticed.
8. Focus on the message. Concentrate on your message and your audience. You will soon forget about your anxieties and your nervousness will dissipate.
9. Convert Your Nervousness Into Positive Energy. Harness your nervous energy and turn it into vitality and enthusiasm.
10. Gain Experience. The more you speak in public the more confidant you will feel. The most important element in public speaking is self-confidence.
In his book “You are the Message” Roger Ailes tells us that a recent poll of human fears revealed that twice as many people were more afraid of speaking in public than of dying. The fear of failure and embarrassment keep people from doing certain things in life, including speaking in front of an audience.
The most common symptoms of “stage fright” are increased heartbeat, a fluttery stomach, sweating, trembling, dry mouth, short or gasping breathing and difficulty in speaking. You might not experience all of these symptoms at once, but even the most experienced speakers feel some of them some of the time. What it takes to overcome this fear is courage – the ability to take action in the presence of fear. And in order to have courage you must have a strong sense of personal worth.
Performance anxiety results when self-confidence wanes. You fear that all of your weaknesses will become apparent the moment you stand up to speak. As those times ask yourself: “What is important now? What does my audience need or want to know now? Why was I asked to speak about this subject? How can I best communicate to this audience?”
By asking yourself these questions you have put the situation into perspective and can get on with your job. Overcoming performance anxiety is a mental process that requires practice. Repeat to yourself, “I have a right to be here. What I have to say is of value to this audience. I am the one best suited to talk about this subject” By saying these words to yourself you might discover that you’re actually better than you thought!
If, however, you still feel anxious before making a presentation, ask yourself: “What is the absolute worst thing that can happen? (You could faint. The audience could leave, laugh, throw their dirty socks at you. You could be asked to leave the stage. You’ll lose your job and will never get another one.) Then ask yourself: “How likely is any of that to happen, even if I do momentarily blank out?” You’ll see that your fears have been exaggerated out of proportion. By fantasising the worst and knowing it won’t happen you’re able to put the situation into perspective and see that in terms of life’s pattern this one presentation is not that critical.
Before you begin your talk, remind yourself that you are the authority on the subject. Knowing that, you can draw on a positive energy and approach the speaking engagement with confidence.
Not only is it normal to experience nervousness before speaking to an audience, it is good. It gives one a heightened sensation of energy and the conviction that what you say and do in front of your audience really counts.
The single greatest antidote to fear is preparation.
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P – Posture. How we hold our bodies reflects our state of being. Our state will influence how the audience reacts to us. To create a strong, confident and accessible presence stretch with your hands pointed toward the ceiling. Hold this position for 10 seconds to lengthen your spine. Then stand with your feet hip-width apart and your weight equally balanced on each foot. You will now send out a visual image of confidence and authority.
L – Legs. Move with purpose. Bobbers and Bouncers convey an image of uncertainty and look uncomfortable. Random movements distract from the message. Breathe into your abdomen and claim your space. You are speaking to your audience because you are the person best suited to do the job.
A – Arms. Gestures are a physical means of telling your story. They help both you and your audience remember your message. They add interest and variety to what you are saying and support the voice, helping to keep it lively and full of energy. Make sure your gestures are specific and illustrative.
T – Tension. It is common for a speaker to feel tense. Use that tension productively, as a means of extra energy. If you show your audience that you are feeling tense, they will feel tense, too. To get rid of tension from your body tighten each muscle group in your body, starting at your toes. Tighten, tighten, tighten! Then release. This exercise will calm your body and focus your voice.
E – Eyes. The eyes are the mirror of the soul. If you look at your audience they will look at you. Maintain eye contact for approximately 60% of your speaking time.
S – Smile. Smiling is inborn, instinctive and universal. A natural, spontaneous smile elicits a smile in response. A fake smile is easy to spot and will be perceived as untrustworthy and false. It is not natural to smile all the time, so don’t feel compelled to do so! There are times when smiling is inappropriate and a stern or solemn is more appropriate and effective. As long as your smile is genuine, it is a good device to use at the beginning and end of your meeting or presentation.
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