In last month’s life lesson, we talked about why it’s so important to open up your toolbox of communication, and why it’s a million dollar skill. This month, we’re going to inventory the toolbox and lay out your roadmap to transformation.
Let’s see…what have we got here?
To start, you’ve got some good, solid tools, the basics – a voice, a smile, eyes, gestures, body language. You’ve got a message. You’ve got two good ears and we’re going to learn to use them better.
Believe it or not, you’ve also got your own personal style. And you’ve got fear. That fear of standing up in front of a group and opening your mouth. We’ve all got it. After forty-plus years of making a living with my voice, I’ve still got it.
Fear. Even that’s a tool you can use.
Briefly, let’s look at each one of our tools. Then we’ll move on and devote each month to learning how to put each of these tools to work.
Are we going to use our cookie cutter and stamp out a Tom Brokaw, an Oprah Winfrey, a Jay Leno? No. We’re going to look at the wide range of individual styles and give you some pointers for uncovering your personal style, the style that is most natural for you. What works for you and what doesn’t. We’ll look at the traits most successful communicators share and give you pointers for incorporating them into your style And we’ll point out the major distractions that get in the way of anybody’s effectiveness.
This is the lesson that eluded me for years, and we’re going to get it right out front so you can begin to benefit right away. If all you’re doing is speaking, you’re only doing half the job. This is about communicating, and that means connecting with your audience. It might be a sea of expressionless faces or a single pair of piercing eyes. Whoever your audience, learning to connect with it is perhaps the single most critical factor in becoming a successful communicator. Forget your ego, forget your needs. Connect with your audience and you will succeed.
Next, you’ll learn how to listen not only with your ears, but with your eyes. You’ll learn how to pick up cues and signals from your audience, techniques for drawing information out of them. You’ll learn the power of silence. How good are your listening skills? Let’s work on making them better.
If you’re only speaking with your voice, you’re shutting the lid on more than half your best God-given tools. What constitutes effective eye contact? What messages are you sending with your clothing, your posture, your gestures and facial expressions? An effective communicator is an entire package. But society and the professional community and our won fear have saddled us with a bodyguard of sorts, a set of restrictions that stifle the natural expression of our enthusiasm and our authentic self. In this article, we’re going to help you fire that bodyguard.
This is the one tool most of us think of when we consider making a presentation of any kind. Surprisingly, studies have shown it is one of the least significant in terns of the entire package that is your message. Nonetheless, you can sharpen this tool. We’ll look at vocal variety, breathing, projection, diction, enunciation, dialects, non-words — that’s a biggie — and more.
The time you spend preparing your presentation is an investment in power. We are presenting you with a number of simple but effective ways to prepare a cohesive presentation, one that delivers listeners to the destination you have in mind – whether you’re making a presentation to the board, the Rotary or the teenager who isn’t quite ready as she thinks to borrow the keys to the car.
Getting comfortable in front of your audience is as simple as owning the territory. You’ll learn surefire techniques for setting yourself at ease every time you walk into a strange setting, beginning before you even walk into the room. This chapter reveals my second-favorite mantra, a simple tool that every great presenter uses.
The unfriendly audience sometimes comes with the territory. But you can learn how to take back your power from that person or people in the audience, how to disarm them, how to win them over, how to diffuse even the most difficult of circumstances.
Here we tackle the monster we all dread most. Fear. You’ll learn how to shine a light on your fear so brightly it no longer has power over you. This chapter is about more than tips and techniques; it’s the main playing field for that transformation we mentioned earlier. Because when you learn to tame your fear, you learn that you are capable of anything. Anything. If you can envision it, you can accomplish it. We’ll back it all up with the stories of others who have been crippled by fear, nervousness, anxiety, uneasiness – and how they learned to turn it into an ally. An ally we call energy.
So much of our fear comes from a little demon inside us that tells us we must Be Perfect. We’ll talk about the vast difference between being the best you can be verses being driven by the need to Be Perfect, between attainable excellence and impossible perfection.
Or passion; enthusiasm; fire in the belly. Energy is all the positive emotions we bring to the task. And some are astounded to learn that energy can be the flip side of fear, fear turned on its head. You can learn how to take the adrenaline rush of fear and transform it into power whenever you have the floor. You’ll hear from people who have seen first-hand that, without the energy born of passion or even fear, their presentations were not as effective as they might have been. “Energy” is my personal mantra. I’m betting it will be yours, too.
There you have it – an inventory of the toolbox that can lift you from wherever you are now to the level of master communicator. Tools of transformation for your career and for your life. And I must warn you, I do not make that claim lightly. If you put these tools to work, you can change from the inside out. Your outlook on yourself and others will shift.
Personally, professionally, you will soar.
If you’re serious about advancing your skills and making an investment in yourself, we invite you to our Excellence in Speaking Institute. Classes are filling up quickly so don’t delay! Visit this page to read feedback from our graduates about their experience.