Getting Over Yourself

December 16, 2016

How to be comfortable with strangers

It doesn’t matter if it’s a speech, networking, or meeting new people at a party, the solution starts in the same place.

I’ve talked about changing your thinking when you’re speaking from “what if I mess up?” to “how can I help these people?” And it’s the same in any group situation where you feel uncomfortable.

There’s someone else in a networking or party situation that feels just the way you do. And probably several “someones.” But when we’re focused on trying not to look stupid we don’t notice the others who are in the same boat.

When you attend an event where you don’t know anybody (and maybe you don’t even want to know anybody) you’ll make the whole thing a lot more fun for you and for others if you look for someone who looks uncomfortable and start a conversation. Ask a question that has some relevance to the occasion. “Are you a new friend or an old friend of the host?” “I thought I might miss the whole party because of the traffic. Was there much traffic for you?” “Have you tried the cookies? Which of them would you recommend?”

You’ll have something relevant to ask as soon as you start looking outside yourself and think about how to make them comfortable.

It’s very much like giving a speech where you’re considering the interests of your audience and ways to incorporate those interests into the message.


June 14, 2016

Muhammad Ali vs. Donald Trump

In listening to recent video clips played after Muhammad Ali’s passing, it struck me that while he and Donald Trump both speak with total conviction, there’s a difference in attitude.

Ali always had a touch of playfulness as he said, “I’m the Greatest!” It always felt to me like we were enjoying it with him. Trump is obviously having a good time, but it feels much more heavy-handed and more about him.

What does that mean for our speaking? We can see how important it is to speak with conviction and not let doubts about our value enter into our speaking. And also that you can be passionate with sounding personal or angry.

There are speaking lessons all around us if we’ll take a moment to look at speakers objectively to see just what about their speaking works or doesn’t work.

Saves a lot of trial and error and moves us forward faster.

January 20, 2015

Don’t despair if your audience looks blank

Speaking is just a series of problems to be solved: what to say, how to connect it to your audience, how to make it interesting–and more. So, if your audience is looking at you blankly, looking confused, annoyed, or any other reaction you weren’t hoping for, it‘s another problem to be solved, not a personal failure.

If you weren’t the speaker, you’d probably feel right on top of a solution. So, back away and look at it from the audience’s perspective. Audience’s will forgive you almost anything if you are genuine and treat them with respect.

You might say, “You’re not looking at me like I hoped. Help me out, here.” Or, “Hmmm. I was hoping for a different response. What do you need to hear from me?” Don’t be afraid of getting it wrong. Focus on how to work together for an effective outcome.

July 3, 2014

Using people’s names can backfire if you don’t do it right

There’s some truth to the conventional wisdom that people love to hear the sound of their own names. And that’s true if you do it right. The question is, why are you calling them by name? Is it because someone told you that was a good thing to do, or because you’re genuinely paying attention to them?

Sales letters and sales people sometimes overdo it by continuing to use your name. There’s something creepy about that because it’s not real.

Using someone’s name can be a great compliment or a big turnoff.

The real secret is to pay attention to people rather than worrying about yourself or struggling to connect.

So, it’s fine to use people’s names. What really makes them feel good is your paying attention to them–with or without saying a name.

April 11, 2014

3 Tips for feeling good when you start speaking

Nobody wants to have to recover from a bad start. So, here are 3
things that will help you get off to a good start in your
presentation. Which makes it likely you’ll do a better job all the
way through.

Whistle a happy tune

Have something happy going on in your head. An upbeat song
can affect your posture and your face. There’s a woman I see
when I’m walking in the morning and I can tell from her body
language what kind of song is playing on her iPod. Make sure
yours is a happy one.

Don’t start until your brain is in gear

If you start because you think the audience expects it, they’re in
control . Not you. That’s scary for both you and the audience.
Who knows what will come out of your mouth? And it probably
won’t make you look good.

Take a breath. Focus. Make sure you know who you are and
where you are. And then start.

Start with something easy

It’ll be easy to remember and you’re on a roll. There’s an
example or story or fact that connects to your point that resonates
with you. Use it and all you have to do is visualize it and tell it.

Forcing it to be what you think you”should” say, means you’ll
probably use words and phrases that have no “pictures” attached
to them. “Businesslike” rather than conversational. Hard to
remember. Hard to say. So, you’re stiff and uncomfortable.

Start with something easy. It’ll make it easy to engage with your
subject and your audience.

December 9, 2013

Speak like you mean it

Filed under: Tips — Barbara Rocha @ 11:04 am
Tags: , , , , ,

I’m not good with those “Eat like you mean it” commercials. We tend to be all too willing to do that with not such great results.

On the other hand, “Speak like you mean it” would be far more effective and productive. (And I’ve even seen a number of people for whom “Walk like you mean it” would be an appropriate motto.)

All too often the noise in your head (the audience, the content, the slides) is so distracting that the actual speaking gets lost.

My son-in-law’s motto is “It’s better to be decisive than right.” And while I can think of a few instances where that’s not true, it can make a huge difference when you’re speaking.

Decisive doesn’t mean argumentative and not necessarily assertive.  Speak like you mean it still gives room for other perspectives but you’ll get listened to more, get fewer questions, and get your way more often.

August 22, 2013

Watch out about “informing people”

Filed under: Tips — Barbara Rocha @ 10:24 am
Tags: , ,

“I’d like to inform you . . . .” “She informed me that . . . .” There’s something off-putting about the word inform. It sounds official and scary. Consider alternates such as: “She told me . . . .” “He let me know . . . .” “I’d like to give you some ideas . . . .”  “Inform” is usually not a friendly connecting word to be using when you’re talking or writing something where you’d like people to relax and consider what you’re saying.

June 24, 2013

Representative Mike Kelly makes it hard to listen to him

On “This Week” on ABC yesterday, Representative Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania was a good example of how to stop the conversation. It’s good to speak with conviction (which he does) but it’s also good to look as though you are open to other views (which he didn’t).

The others on the panel were able to state their views in a way that you knew they believed what they were saying, but they didn’t give the sense that if you didn’t agree with them that you were wrong. Representative Kelly gives the impression that there are no other views. It’s the end of the subject.

When you’re giving a speech, talking to your coworkers, teaching someone how to do something, your best bet is to believe in and be focused on what you have to say. And, as you do that, if you’re also respecting the other person’s right to a point-of-view and respecting them, you’re a lot more likely to get them to cooperate with you. We all need to feel that we’re respected and being heard.

February 7, 2013

3 Things you can do to sharpen your presentations

First, are you spending enough time really getting to know what your audience cares about – in life and in your subject. It’s pointless to tell them what you want them to know if you don’t arrange it around what they’re interested in and how your topic relates to them.

Second, seamlessly weave in something everyone’s thinking about or familiar with. This month offers several possibilities. It’s not too late to find something about the Super Bowl that helps your point. Or Valentine’s Day, or the Academy Awards. If you do a good job of connecting the dots between these and your subject your audience will stay awake and get your point. It’ll also be easier for you to give.

Third, don’t blow off the closing. Ever. Give it your full attention while you’re planning what to say so that it sounds and feels like closure to you. And then do the same when you’re delivering it. Bring your whole self to the party as you say it rather than letting yourself think about sitting down.

These 3 things give you sharper content, give you a happier audience, and make you feel good about what you’ve accomplished after it’s over. Give it a try.

November 28, 2012

When did “you’re welcome” become “no problem?”

Filed under: Tips — Barbara Rocha @ 10:36 am
Tags: , , ,

Please. Practice saying “you’re welcome.” When I thank someone, it’s sometimes just a social nicety to keep things easy. And when they answer, “no problem” it’s annoying. Because they often haven’t really done anything. And it totally changes the dynamic in almost every situation. I heard my granddaughter say it to someone the other day and I’m pretty sure that what she meant was, “I didn’t really want to be here and do that for you, but don’t lose any sleep over it.”

“No problem” often just puts the other person in a lesser position. I’m sure that many times that person isn’t really thinking — they’re just giving a robotic answer. So, if I had my druthers, I’d rather have a robotic, “you’re welcome.”

And along those same lines, listen when people are being interviewed and the interviewer says, “thank you.” The majority of the time, the person being interviewed also says, “thank you.” I’ve noticed that when they say, “you’re welcome,” I like it better. Now, if they were promoting a book, or in some other way benefited from the interview, perhaps “thank you,” is appropriate. But when their role was to offer their expertise, then “you’re welcome,” seems more appropriate.

But wait, there’s more. A somewhat related topic is whether to say “thank you” when you finish giving a speech. If you’re going to say it, you should have a reason and not just have it be a knee-jerk reaction to finishing or because you don’t have an actual close and want your audience to know you’re through. Those are not good reasons for finishing that way. And if you do say it, be sure you’ve let your point sink in before you say it. Otherwise, you’ve just stepped on the point you wanted to make and weakened the impact.

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