Getting Over Yourself

October 11, 2012

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.

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October 3, 2012

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.

September 6, 2012

Will Mitt Romney’s Eyes Decide the Election?

According to polls, Mitt Romney has a problem with “likeability.” And the Republican Convention presented a lot of evidence to the contrary. Plenty of people spoke to how likeable he is.

Yet, when he speaks, he doesn’t lift himself much in the likeability arena. He’s one of those that sounds stronger when you’re listening and not watching.

I think everyone has identified that he tucks his chin–which doesn’t help. He adds two more elements that work against him. He tucks his chin, tilts his head and then rolls his eyes to another part of the audience without moving his head. It looks coy. Not the image you’re looking for when you want credibility. (Try it, you can see that it doesn’t even feel good.)

There can be a number of reasons he does that–habit, his not wanting to look pushy, discomfort with his message. But even with the best of reasons the audience gets a message that he’s not wanting to send.

Audiences may interpret this as insincerity, ineffectiveness, uncertainty, dishonesty. And none of those may be true.

But, if 55% of whether or not an audience buys your message is visual, then you have to retrain yourself to make sure your visual component (everything the audience can see) isn’t giving off the wrong message.

Learn from the candidates so you’re making sure you’re sending the right message–the one you intended.

August 29, 2012

What was Romney thinking?

Really. What do you think Romney was thinking when the convention erupted at the end of Chris Cristie’s speech?

I can hazard a guess that he was uncomfortable and didn’t want to look like he was showing off. It was the moment of everyone’s jubilation at Mitt being the nominee and he stayed seated and kept his face neutral.

This matters to you because you can be tempted to try not to look inappropriate when someone is praising you–in a meeting, as they introduce you, as you get an award. But if you look at how it makes him look distanced from the idea and what’s going on, you should be able to see that letting yourself appreciate the bigger picture rather than focus on yourself will actually make you look interested, happy, appropriate–and invisible.

If you didn’t see it, watch and let me know what you think: http://video.pbs.org/video/2273864818. It’s at the end of the evening. Because it’ll be a quick lesson for your own speaking.

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