Getting Over Yourself

October 25, 2012

Questions aren’t the best way to engage an audience

In spite of what you may have heard, asking the wrong questions or asking them in the wrong way can turn off your audience rather than engage them.

I’ve heard too many people who apparently are just blindly following the “the best way to engage your audience is to start by asking them questions” advice. And, I have to struggle to stay with them rather than give up on them.

To say, “How many of you want to make more money?” is going to turn off at least one-third of your audience–and probably more. This question is almost always asked with the expectation that you will answer them by raising your hand. To those annoyed people, it sounds manipulative. It’s not a sure fire connector. And, often when asking a question of this sort, the speaker won’t go on until you answer. Bad idea.

If you ask a question and want an answer, it needs to be one that makes the audience feel needed. They can see that answering the question is going to help you. So, a survey question–if you really want to know the answer–can engage your audience.

And, if your question is more rhetorical, don’t make them answer and don’t pause so long they feel they are expected.

Plus, many times saying “Have any of you ever . . . ?” doesn’t require them to raise hands and you’ll be able to see the response in their body language. Maybe they nod their heads, or their eyes show that they’re right there with you. And you can continue fairly quickly by saying, “me, too,” or “then you’ll be able to relate” or “not to relate, but here’s why I think it can make a difference to you.”

So, not just any question. But questions that make the audience feel like they’re helping you move forward. And questions that you’d really like to know the answer to before you go on.


Speaking lessons from Trader Joe’s

Okay. Not literally from Trader Joe’s (or Trader Joe). But from former Trader Joe’s President Doug Rauch.

I recently heard him speak and what makes me love Trader Joe’s is pretty much why I liked his speaking. It’s not that he did everything “right,” it’s that he was genuine and connected.

The “not right” part was the pacing, which he announced right off that he did. It was stronger when he’d stay still a few moments, but he was effective in spite of it. I’m not telling you to pace, I’m telling you if you’ll get the rest of it right, people will overlook things that could be distracting and feel connected. And they’ll listen.

He used a phrase in regard to what is expected of employees that applies to your speaking (as well as other things in your life): “Mess up. Fess up.” Except, apparently, for political campaigns, it’s a great piece of advice. When you “fess up,” you’re not trying to pretend you’re perfect and willing to move forward and get it right. There’s a humanity about that that is attractive.

Mr. Rauch also spoke about the importance of trust and said the 3 components of trust are: reliability, credibility, and empathy. While many are quick to claim or to work on those first two, it’s important to recognize that third one. So, in speaking, understanding your audience, their point-of-view, and their needs, and responding to those is equally important for gaining their trust. And without trust it’s pretty hard to get anyone to buy into anything.

He was friendly, approachable, funny, and delivered valuable information about building a brand as Trader Joe’s did. And his slides were simple pictures that underscored his point.

Humor is good. One of his slides which was used to support the point about the culture of the business was a bowl of yogurt–attractively photographed. It made his point and won’t be forgotten by his audience.

Once again, being genuine, interested, focused and open will make you a hit with your audience.

October 12, 2012

Here are some tips on storytelling for your speeches

Filed under: Tips — Barbara Rocha @ 10:25 am
Tags: , , , ,

Most people do far too much “blah, blah, blah” in trying to get the audience to buy their message. Stories are much more likely to captivate your audience and move them to action. Aristotle noted that people make up their minds based on emotion and justify it with the facts.
This blog gives some specific guidelines to use in telling stories:

October 11, 2012

Voices are tricky and affect your response

Filed under: Observations — Barbara Rocha @ 2:13 pm
Tags: , , , ,

The Chase commercial where the lion gets loose is an example of the fine line with voices. You know the one? The mom explains that she takes a picture of the check and it goes straight to the bank. Then the lion gets loose prompting the little girl to not want her mom to take a picture of the lion, “No, Mommy, no!” The girl is convincing. The mother’s voice sounds technically correct as she says, “Don’t worry, honey, it only works on checks.” Technically correct, yes. But she doesn’t sound like a mom trying to calm her frightened child about a lion. Her voice would work for something way less traumatic. But no way a mom who could see her daughter’s point-of-view would sound that matter-of-fact. There’d be a different depth in her tone.

So, when you’re speaking, you need to be sure that you’re seeing the idea, really seeing it, if you want your voice to carry the weight of conviction that’s needed to bring your audience to the same place you are.

Watch how the candidates walk

There’s a certain amount of walking involved when candidates give speeches or are in debates. And it’s just interesting to see if you get any kind of message from how they walk and shake hands with each other. We (as a general thing) give more weight to these visual cues than to the content. So see if you’re being swayed by these seemingly irrelevant things.
So, tonight it’s Biden and Ryan. Next week Romney and Obama. An adequate amount of time to observe.

October 4, 2012

Office politics can undermine your presentation

To make sure those politics don’t ruin your golden opportunity to shine, keep your eye on the prize – a successful presentation.

The politics and the danger may be very real. But focusing on them will create the very problems you’re trying to avoid.
Be aware of what happened to previous presenters if the political machine got them and recognize how their fear of what might happen contributed to the outcome.
(Were they tense? flippant? subdued? agitated? torpid?)

Acknowledge the politics to yourself up front; then make yourself invisible – focus on your commitment to reaching the audience with your message.

Self-preservation will keep you from saying something damaging. Focusing on your interest will make you effective.

October 3, 2012

Is likeability the key to getting elected? Really?

Everything seems to point in the direction of the most likeable candidate winning pretty much every time. Sometimes something happens in a debate that switches that factor to the other candidate, but for your purposes as a speaker, you’d best not ignore history.

Does your audience feel connected to you? Can they relate to you? Do you relate to them? If you continue to believe that the validity of your message is all that matters and don’t make that effort to connect, you’re not going to win your “election.”

Don’t make it hard for yourself and your audience. If you’ll get out of the way and concentrate on being the matchmaker between your subject and your audience, your chances of winning the election, making the sale, getting the action you had in mind increase substantially.

So, how likeable can you be?

What to look for in the debates that will help your speaking

The presidential debates can offer you free speaking training so I suggest you watch them and look for some specific things. If you record it, you can watch once for content and once for improving your speaking. (You really have to put your personal prejudices aside for you to get the most out of this exercise.)

Things to look for:

The biggest one is did they take something personally? If so, it can be a big lesson to you on why not to do it. My mother always told me it was my tone of voice that caused the problems with my brother. Well, if you take things personally it will affect your tone of voice (and your body language). And, in this case, it may affect how listeners vote.

If they interrupt does it seem pushy or passionate?

How many times do they sidestep the question and give a pre-programmed answer? And do you care?

What are they doing while the other person speaks? Are they listening? Frowning? Looking interested? Frustrated? Angry?

How well do they stay within the allotted time?

Do they shift their weight back and forth? Grip the lectern?

How steady are their eyes?

And note as well how any anomalies strike you. For instance, during the debates, President Clinton didn’t stand behind a lectern and it worked for him. Al Gore came out from behind as well and it didn’t work for him. It isn’t always what they do or say, but whether or not it seems comfortable or forced.

Studies show that the visual and the tone of voice trump the words, so try to separate those “channels”so you can tell what’s influencing you (and everyone else).

There are subtleties in speaking that affect how your audience perceives your message. These debates are an incredibly naked and brutal forum for a speaker. And, has been said many times, running for office and governing take two entirely different skill sets.

But watching them can be a great help in your own efforts to be a better speaker. Watch and learn.

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