Speak for Success!

May 8th, 2017
by MrG

Four Easy Ways to Be a More Exciting Speaker with Charisma

Think charisma is a mysterious quality you just don’t have as a speaker? Learn these four simple approaches for more memorable and exciting public speaking.

Interested in engaging, motivating, and inspiring audiences? Want to be thought of highly in your industry and be recognized as a memorable speaker? If so, you need to go far beyond informing or even persuading audiences.

You need to speak with charisma. 

That level of success means you need to speak as a leader. Leaders compel an audience’s attention while speaking with stage presence and confidence. To do that requires absolute focus and control. Discover my theater-inspired techniques for commanding a stage! Download my essential cheat sheet10 Ways to Stay Fully Focused when Speaking.

Connecting with an audience and accomplishing this level of memorability as a speaker is easier than you think. One way to begin is by removing yourself from the equation. In other words, start making listeners the center of your universe.

You might be amazed at how much direction that point of view will lend you in meeting your audience’s needs and engaging their full attention. From that mindset, you can use the following four equally simple approaches to making your presentations enjoyable for audiences.

They work for informative speeches, motivational speaking, persuasive speaking, pep talks, inspirational addresses, and any other form of public speaking. Equally important, they’ll help you shine in your audience’s eyes:

1. Make eye contact to gain trust in your listeners.

Simply put, no behavior is as fundamental to persuasion as looking at the person you’re talking to. When was the last time you trusted somebody who wouldn’t look you in the eye?

So actively look at and relate to your audience when you speak. When I say actively, I mean let your gaze linger for a half-a-second to a second on each individual or section of a larger audience. Don’t “flick” your eyes at your listeners, thinking that constitutes actual eye contact. When you look at listeners while saying something you want them to believe, they’ll trust in your honesty. And that means they’ll be more willing to be influenced by you.

Avoid their gaze just because you’re nervous—or weakest of excuses, because you’re busy reading your manuscript out loud—and you’ll have virtually no chance of changing their thinking or behavior for the better. After all, eye contact is called that because it involves actually connecting with others when you speak. Here’s a technique you can use to dramatically improve your eye contact.

2. Smile to increase everyone’s enjoyment.

As public speakers we don’t smile enough, period. Smiling is another prerequisite to establishing trust with audiences (though it’s not as critical as eye contact). At the very least, it’s visual evidence of the speaker’s enjoyment in the current activity.

In speaking situations where you feel a smile is inappropriate, take one of two alternate paths: (a) “open” your countenance by assuming a pleasant expression; or (b) raise your cheekbones, i.e., visualize your facial physiology in your cheek areas “rising” slightly, which, while that may not actually happen physicially, will positively affect your expression.

To explain what I mean by that last point, look at Grant Wood’s famous painting American Gothic. That’s the one of the grim-faced farmer and his wife, complete with pitchfork. Now compare it to the Mona Lisa. There’s a lady with some raised cheekbones . . . and look how successful she’s been!


3. Energize your voice so you reach every listener.

Have you ever had to strain to hear what a speaker is saying? Soft-talkers and under-energized presenters make us work too hard just to hear them. Worse, these speakers seem distant, as though we’ve been left out of the communication loop.

Instead, be sure to generate enough vocal power and energy to reach every listener in the room. That includes not only people in the back, but those who are hard of hearing (always assume there is someone in this category in your audience). Remember also that your vocal energy must change in different spaces: the larger the speaking venue, the more you must project your voice. In auditoriums and lecture halls that echo, you’ll also have to speak slowly enough for the echo to reach your listeners before you go on.

When you project sufficient energy in a presentation, you make everything easier for listeners. Now they feel they can relax, instead of working overtime to do part of your job for you. The other benefit is that a strong vocal performance is an influencer in its own right. Here are 4 ways to achieve vocal power when you speak.

4. Enjoy yourself when you’re speaking in public!

Now there’s a novel concept! Our culture has somehow invested public speaking with an aura of inconvenience, horror, and even torture—as if the entire experience belongs in an Edgar Allan Poe story.

But think about your own experiences as an audience member. Are you comfortable listening to a speaker who is hesitant, self-conscious, or fearful? A speaker who instead presents with verve broadcasts a completely different message. Audiences instinctively feel that this is a person who has something valuable to say.

It must be good stuff, they think—look at how much he or she is enjoying talking about it! Pretty soon, they’ll be enjoying themselves as well. And that’s a guarantee that they’ll remember the experience with positive emotions.

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Rock Your Talk! — Performance Tips for Speaking to Large Audiences

September 29th, 2014
by MrG

(Sep 28th, 2014 by Gary Genard)

Imagine speaking to 500 people. Or 1,000. Or 10,000. Or ten million.

You can’t, so don’t even try.

Can you speak to one person whose opinion you value, for whom you want to do right in their eyes, someone who will say to you after your presentation: “That’s the kind of speech I know you’re capable of. Well done.”

Of course you can. In fact, that’s the only person you can speak to when addressing the filled-up seats of a large auditorium, or thousands listening to you on the radio, or millions watching you on TV. (Got an important speech coming up? Find out about The Genard Method’s short-term and powerful Presentation Coaching.)

For Effective Public Speaking, You Need to Personalize Your Listeners

For most people, large audiences bring on self-consciousness, anxiety and nervousness where none existed before. Like every speech coach, I’ve heard this sentence hundreds or even thousands of times: “I’m fine in front of a small group, but getting in front of a large audience terrifies me.”

It doesn’t matter that this isn’t logical—after all, these are the very same individuals you feel perfectly comfortable around chatting in a café or sharing comments with in a meeting. But something about the aggregate of a large grouping of these same people makes speakers break out in hives.

Solving this problem is relatively simple, since it means going in the opposite direction from where your fear is taking you. Leave the many behind, so you end up with the one. Literally. No one can stare into a television camera or even 2,000 people in their seats and come up with a way of talking to all of them!

So select that one person whose opinion you cherish and speak to him or her. Personalize your talk. You’re at your best when you’re talking to another person about something that matters to both of you (a good definition of speaker and audience!). Call up that feeling, and just . . . talk. You’ll come across as your authentic best, and you’ll be whittling down that AUDIENCE MONSTER to a manageable and even enjoyable size.

Four More Tips to Speak with Presence to Large Audiences

Get close to them. If your audience is set up to be too far away from you, find ways to close the distance. Once, at a conference, I scouted the venue the night before and discovered I was expected to speak in a cavernous auditorium (to 75 people at this breakout) with a nearly postage-stamped-size stage at one end. Enough of that! I thought. I delivered my entire talk in the aisles and never got up on the stage once. If handlers are present, politely but firmly point out that you’re the speaker, and you’d like to improve the set up. It’s painful for me as an actor to say this, but traditional theater seating with row upon row of seats is a terrible configuration for a speech. Find ways around that if you can!
Make your greeting longer. Your greeting is an essential part of your speech because it opens the channel of communication between you and your listeners. Too many speakers rush into their Introduction and leave any kind of greeting behind. Here’s how to start a speech powerfully instead—with twelve foolproof ways to grab your audience! Remember: audiences need a relationship with you! At a medical conference, a video was shown that was heartbreaking. The next speaker told the audience that he wanted everyone present to absorb for a moment what they had all just watched. Then he asked their permission to start his speech. He understand that everyone needed that moment to share the experience.
Meet people beforehand. Will there be opportunities for you to meet some audience members before you’ll speak? If there are, take advantage of them. Introduce yourself, say that you hope they’ll enjoy your talk, and tell them you welcome the opportunity to chat afterwards. It’s a great way to “lower the “stranger quotient.” More than once, I’ve done this and have heard a comment I was able to use in the opening of my talk. It’s amazing how your audience can seem smaller if it’s sprinkled with familiar faces!
“Touch them.” The big reason we feel anxious in front of a large audience is because we feel isolated from them. Often that’s physically true; but it’s that psychological distance that’s worse. It can feel like a lonely monologue. So work to create a dialogue instead. Here are two ways you can do that: (1) Ask questions—actual questions if your audience is small, rhetorical questions if it’s large. People who are asked questions respond mentally. And (2) Find ways to phrase what you’re saying in terms of their world, not yours. In other words, always bring them into the conversation. “Touching” an audience this way will dissipate the feeling of isolation, replacing it with a sense of community.

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Five Key Tools of Vocal Dynamics

September 19th, 2014
by MrG

To speak effectively, you must use vocal expressiveness or “vocal dynamics.” These speaking techniques keep your audience attentive, engaged, and thoroughly informed and persuaded. Here are the “5 Key Tools of Vocal Dynamics” that you should know about and practice:

1. Energy and Emphasis. Emphasis is the stress you place on important ideas,
which should come naturally. But you also need enough energy so that your voice “encompasses” your audience. Nothing turns off listeners more than a speaker who makes them work too hard, reminding everyone of the distance between that presenter and his or her audience.

2. Pitch Inflection. Varying or inflecting your pitch adds color and excitement to what you say. A pitch without any variation is a “mono-tone,” which is where we get the word monotonous. A speaker who uses pitch inflection, however, is much easier to listen to. That speaker also helps listeners grasp important points, since these become “peaks” of inflection that stand out from the rest of the “plateau.”

3. Rhythm and Pace. Have you ever listened to a speaker who seemed to be racing in the Indy 500 without a car? How about someone with a speaking rhythm like a metronome? Audiences need a varied pace to stay interested. If you’re completely invested in what you’re saying, your rate and rhythm will vary naturally, since ideas and emotions change constantly throughout a speech.

4. The Power of Silence. “She was the most . . .” If a speaker paused right there before going on, wouldn’t you be interested in what was coming next? Pauses work wonderfully to create suspense, emphasis, to bridge ideas, and to transition between points. And silence, by itself, is one of the most powerful tools in your speaking arsenal.

5. Vocal Quality. Vocal quality includes all the elements of tone, richness, pleasantness, and emotional connection that create the subtleties of human speech. Think about someone whose voice you love listening to, versus the grating speaker who gets on your nerves. Your audience too wants a voice that not only informs them but makes listening to you enjoyable and, dare we say, memorable?

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Speak for Success

December 4th, 2013
by MrG

Body Language and Power Poses: How to Achieve Amazing Presence!
Sep 7th, 2014 by Gary Genard

When it comes to using body language to achieve presence, can you fake it till you make it? Social psychologist Amy Cuddy believes instead that you should fake it till you become it.

Cuddy’s 2012 presentation “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are,” is the second most-viewed TED talk ever, with 19 million views to date. Clearly, we’re all fascinated by body language. If we’re not trying to decipher each others’ nonverbal cues, we’re trying to learn ways to use body language to impress others.

(For tips on how to use body language effectively in any situation, see my free cheat sheet, “5 Secrets of Powerful Body Language.”)

Body Language Contributes to How We Think and Feel About Ourselves

“Our bodies change our minds,” Cuddy says. Equally important, however, is a fact actors and speech coaches have always known: our body language changes how others perceive us.

An intriguing element that Cuddy and her colleagues bring to the conversation is in demonstrating that our bodies release different hormones depending upon our own self-programing. According to her findings, assuming “power poses” results in an increase in testosterone (the dominance hormone), and a decrease in cortisol (a stress hormone).

In other words, assume a power pose and you’ll feel more able to control the situation and experience less stress. Outcomes like this are of obvious importance in situations such as job interviews, public speaking, and explaining to your boss why you deserve a raise. When it comes to speaking in public or interviewing for a job, for instance, you need to know how to establish instant rapport through body language.

What Are Power Poses?

The natural world gives us plenty of examples of power poses adopted for mating rituals, territorial defense, or self-preservation. Peacocks spread their magnificent tail feathers to court females; a grizzly bear standing to defend its territory is a frightening sight; and pufferfish, who are slow swimmers, blow themselves up into a hard-to-swallow ball when threatened by predators.

We humans exhibit our own power poses, also in mating situations, public encounters, and sometimes for defense. Poses that spread our arms or position our bodies more openly apparently boost the secretion of that “good” hormone while inhibiting the release of the “bad” one, making us feel more confident and in control.

If you want to follow Cuddy’s prescription, you should adopt any of the poses in the image below prior to entering a stressful situation. They will help you come across more as who you really are, rather than the inhibited person you’re in danger of becoming, and who you don’t want around anyway:

high power poses
From Nonverbal Communication to Physical Expressiveness

All of this appears to be a simple way to use body language to improve your self-confidence and effectiveness, right? Yes, as far as it goes. But if you want to be a truly dynamic speaker, you need to go one critical step further.

You have to learn how to speak with physical expressiveness.

Power poses may juice up those hormones and help you fake it till you make it, and eventually, till you become it. But effective speakers don’t fake anything.

Using body language as nature intended you to, as a tool of communication, means developing true physical expressiveness. It’s not only your hormones that need to be involved through the poses you assume—it’s your audience’s understanding of the link between what you are saying and showing.

Ultimately, that means not posing but expressing. You and I, in other words, need to find a physical expression for our messages. Think about that: how can you use your body to clarify, strengthen, and amplify the sense of what you’re saying? That truly is the value of body language in public speaking. And there’s also no doubt that there are many ways body language can demonstrate leadership.

10 Body Language Techniques to Achieve Amazing Presence

What techniques can you use to accomplish this? There are the ones that come easily to mind, of course: unwavering eye contact, excellent posture, strong gestures that amplify meaning, and facial expressions that reveal a range of emotions. But other tools are equally effective, including your position on stage and your proximity to your audience.

Removing obstacles between you and your listeners (such as a lectern) is a great strategy. So is breathing with the diaphragm to power the voice—which is produced physically, after all—and using pitch inflection to point up interesting and important points. Finally, develop an awareness of using your entire body to express what you’re saying. When audiences watch a speaker who practices that last technique, they are sure to remember it.

So, assume those power poses before you enter your performance space. Once there, however, give your listeners the full effect of a body in complete synch with a mind. Passionately express your ideas physically as well as mentally and you’ll give listeners the opportunity to hear and see them.

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