The Best Public Speakers Are Good Listeners

 

Do you want to be an excellent public speaker?

Then you must be a good listener as well as a powerful and articulate speaker. Not only before and after your presentation but during as well. You must be a human antenna attuned to your audience at every stage of your presentation from content development, while presenting, and post speaking.

Julian explains the elements of a good listener:


How can you put Julian’s insight into practice as a public speaker?

During the content development stage you must know your audience or you will be a lecturer not a public speaker. Know your audience intimately by brainstorming the nuances of the attendees who you want to persuade. Here is an audience analysis example that a marketing firm created so they could understand who their client’s customer is. They listened and understood how best to approach their clients because they now understand how to direct their message. Sit with a piece of paper and think about who your audience – there habits and beliefs – to understand which are the best pieces of your insight to share.

While presenting watch your audience – are they intent or are they looking restless? Are they responding to you with nods of agreement or are they engaged in their smartphones. When we listen our audience gives us clues as to whether to increase the volume or let us know if we need to change the direction of our content.

If you have the opportunity meet your audience attendees ask if there is something you can expand upon or if there is a concept they did not understand. Or send a survey post event and learn what resonated and what didn’t. Then listen sharply and take comments away for your next presentation.

Listening is easy but really listening, understanding, and then deploying is hard.

To your voice,

Janice

Do you want to learn how to polish your public speaking skills? Check out my bimonthly newsletter.

 
 


This blog post has been difficult for me to write. It has been mulling around in my mind since last week. I don’t take lightly negatively critiquing public speakers. It takes confidence and a leap of faith to be front and centre and I am a champion for everyone who makes the leap.

Here’s the but – When a speaker commits to the lectern they have a responsibility to deliver to the best of their ability and also to realize that every bum in a seat has invested time being there. Each attendee believes that a speaker will deliver insightful and valuable information.

Last week I attended a session where the sole reason for everyone in attendance was to listen to a speaker. It was a train wreck and I felt badly for the presenter. My heart went out to her. The start was shaky, the middle had no substance, and the end was disjointed.

The speaker has intimate knowledge of her subject and is well respected in our community. So what went wrong and how should you approach these problems?

  • She was very nervous and let her nervousness get the better of her. Remedy: Bring yourself to the present – feel your feet on the floor – don’t let your mind wonder ahead or in the past. Practice anchoring techniques to harness nervous energy and use them.
  • It was evident that little air was going into her lungs or out of them. Remedy: Breathe, simply breathe. When you feel your breathing becoming shallow stop and take a few deep breaths.
  • It was never clear what she wanted us to take away. Remedy: From the beginning of your content development build a clear key message. What do you want your audience to learn?
  • The content was adrift and touched on too many points. She included a few case studies that didn’t relate well to her content. Remedy: Ensure that you can always support your key message with information that compliments and builds on what you want your audience to take away.
  • Far too much information and she didn’t delve into her points deeply enough for true learning. Remedy: Cull your material until only salient information remains. Then dive in deep and explain thoroughly.
  • Only  the facts were presented. Remedy: Create stories around your supporting arguments that will grab your audience in their heart and minds.
  • “Well, I guess that’s all I have to say”. Yes, a sigh of relief from many could be heard. Remedy: Don’t let your endings drift off into the nether. Finish strongly with a call to action or tie your presentation up by looping it back to the beginning. Then stand quietly to let your audience know you are finished.

We all have our failures – I’ve had some embarrassing public speaking bombs but always realized it was my responsibility to improve and not waste people’s time. And I have learned and grown as a public speaker as is my hope for the lovely young women who put herself out there.

Janice

Do you want to learn how to polish your public speaking skills? Check out my bimonthly newsletter.

Image: Noel Zia Lee

 

 

 


 
 

The Three Rules of Great Public Speaking

 

Leonard Cohen has had an illustrious career. He has taken us on a long journey of introspection and poetic musings like no other.

Watch and listen to his acceptance speech at The Prince of Asturias Awards and then dive in and unravel my critique below.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIR5ps8usuo&list=FL3L_AoBBzOEmA7IUQD_5Caw&index=1&feature=plpp_video[/youtube]

Cohen has been a performer for many years and knows how, in his Montrealish savvy way, to have us eating out of his hands. If we watch and listen closely we can hone in on what it takes to bring an audience from not knowing to thinking “what if?”.

Pacing and Cadence

Cohen begins very slowly, his word per minute (wpm) rate is about 85. This is very, very, slow – Martin Luther’s “I Had a Dream” speech and most of Obama’s oratory clocks in at around 95 – 100.

The upside of oratory at slow wpm rates is that it gives the audience time to digest the speaker’s words. The downside is that you can alienate some of your audience whose preference is rapid fire speech patterns and will become impatient with slow ramblings.

Cohen began differently than most speaker’s “Start Off With a Bang” opening. His velvety smooth words delivered at a slow cadence seduce you into his story. He enchants you with his choice of words and lets you savour them.

He draws out the words excellency and majesty to communicate their importance to that auspicious day. Cohen also articulates his words clearly. Are there any words that you can not catch his meaning of? I can’t.

At 1:20m he speaks about scribbling a few words – slow and drawn out. Then at 1:30m he picks up the pace – with a confident flick he tells us (because this is his story), “I don’t think I need to refer to them”.

Listen for silences. Those carefully positioned pauses that have you reflecting. The chosen sentences where Cohen wants you to understand what is important. A fine example at 2:18m, “In other words if I knew where the good songs came from I would go there more often”. Then a lovely pause to let us know that that statement was important.

What would pacing be without a story?

Storytelling

Cohen begins by telling you the story of preparing to travel to receive his award in Spain. He describes his guitar so well that you can see and smell it. His guitar speaks to him, “You have not given thanks”. Then he transitions into doing so.

How he found his voice and gave himself permission to do so.

He tells us what 1960 looked like while hanging around the tennis court in Montreal with his mother’s house within eyesight. And how, as would be perfectly normal for the times, a young man playing a flamenco guitar holds court and tempts Cohen to become a better musician.

He desired to play with the passion that the flamenco guitar did. (Can you even imagine Cohen not knowing how to play?) His kind and gentle teacher shows him how to play some chords (pause). Six chords…improving and by the third day he had the chords down pat.

But on the forth day his teacher did not come. He had committed suicide. I knew nothing of this man who shaped my life he tells us.

Then Cohen puts the hook in deeply by disclosing that the guitar pattern that this complicated man from Spain had taught him is the basis of all of his songs. “My work comes from this place”, he says.

Imagine, all of his body of work, all of those beautiful songs and poetry from six simple chords. From a man who shared a gift but did not think that his gift was enough.

As many good stories do, Cohen’s story circles back to the people of Spain who he thanked at the beginning of his speech and now he has let them know how his work would not have been possible without them.

Humbleness

He humbly moves the spot light off of himself receiving The Prince of Asturias award by giving thanks to the members of the audience and hosts. So much so that he has made them feel the pride of being citizens of Spain.

 

  • “Poetry comes from a place that no one commands, that no one conquers. So I feel somewhat like a charlatan to accept an award for an activity which I do not command. In other words, if I knew where the good songs came from I would go there more often.” He has gone their many times but humbly tells us that if he were truly a great man he would have done more.

 

  • When he speaks of the man who taught him the six chord he tells us that he knew nothing of this man and you can feel his resolve that it is all right that he did not know.

 

  • “My work is your work. You have allowed me to affix my signature to the bottom of the page.” Cohen tells his audience I am simply a guest who has been inspired by you. It is you who have helped create me and I am humbled by you recognizing me.

 

As the minutes go by and the camera pans to the audience you can see that they become more and more entranced with Cohen’s words.

Cohen has charmed them through his thought provoking and thoughtful story. He has paced it so that his audience came along on the journey with him. And he has told it as the humble man he is.

 

To Your Voice,

Janice


 
 

Via my Twitter friend @Billy2373 – thank you – a brilliant TEDGlobal presentation on the necessity of trust.

In public speaking it means we must trust ourselves that we know of what we speak and we are the best person to communicate our message. We must also trust that our audience wants us to succeed and is open to sharing our ideas and inspiration.


To Your Voice,
Janice


 
 

 

Why are you presenting and honing your skills as a public speaker? To persuade.

Not the disingenuous type of salesmanship where you bought in and later feel duped.

I’m just into Arlene Dickinson’s new book “Persuasion” and her words although written for those who are learning the in’s and out’s of business acumen, apply nicely to the presentation arena.

Dickinson says, ” If I can’t understand what you are talking about, I can’t trust you. Real expertise involves the ability to take a complex subject and distill it to the point where it is accessible to everyone”.

Presentation words to live by.

To your voice,

Janice

I did not receive or will I receive compensation for this post.

 
 

Broken Ankle Saga Part II

This morning I posted my longest walk since breaking my ankle. I was supported by my trusty crutches and although my gait resembles hobbling, I call it like I see it – walking.

I am also supported by my cheering section – the lovely souls who I have come to know since my accident and rehab. The wonderful people in my building who hold doors open for me and make sure the outside wheel chair access is clear. But my star cheering section are the lovely folks (who I have come up close and familiar with) on my seawall walks who shout out to me “Keep positive”, “You’re looking stronger than last week”, “Hey, you’re foot is landing straighter”, and “You’re rocking it”.

Those simple words of encouragement keep me going and push me to walk a little further each day.

The same goes for public speaking. Surround yourself with colleagues and significant others who will listen to your presentations. Those who will tell you which are the best bits and the parts that need improvement.

Yes, it is difficult to practice in front of others but give it a go – you will get over it.

And it’s worth it because there is no feeling like having a cheering section rooting you on and who pushes you to places you never imagined you could go!

Image attribution: Emily Tan

 


 
 

This Tuesday will be my eight week mark of healing my broken ankle. Both the tibia and fibula of my right leg were fractured.

If for a moment you thought a broken ankle is a cake walk, let me tell you, it’s not. Wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

The fateful morning has left me a bit traumatized and I’m just now coming to terms with the drama.

I was alone at a remote location when it happened and thankfully (after crawling up 40 stairs) was able to contact Mr. T who called the Coast Guard to rescue me.

I was strapped in a basket and hauled back down the 40 stairs, packed aboard a hovercraft, manhandled up a ladder (at low tide), and then delivered via ambulance to a local hospital. Phew.

Looking back I must have been in rough shape – I had an unheard of three day stay in hospital. I was sent home with an Rx for morphine and best wishes. Yes, the first three weeks home back at home are foggy.

My ankle is now a bucket of bolts, pins, and metal sheaths.

Today was the first day that I hobbled sans crutches. There was nothing gracious about my gait but I felt like I had sprouted wings.

You can imagine how much time for introspection has been part of healing, can’t you? Many hours with my foot above my heart and tears shed in frustration.

What have I learned?

Be in the moment – something I often share with clients and readers. Don’t look ahead or behind and simply be. Feel the floor with your feet and own it and that space in time. That’s what separates good public speakers from the utterly fabulous. When I was descending the stairs I wasn’t in the moment. I was on autopilot and that is why I tumbled.

People want to help. Sometimes we simply don’t heed sage advice from those who have already travelled the same road. We want to do it our way – fair enough. But sometimes experience does know better. From the public speaking aspect when your peers or coach suggest another way – try it – you may be glad you did. From the broken ankle perspective I wanted to remain independent and drove myself to frustration akin to a two year old having a temper tantrum. As the women at the farmers market told me: “It is the ultimate gift when one can be of help (service)”.

No pain, no gain. We’ve all bombed on stage but we choose whether to pick ourselves up, learn, and try again. I was told to wear the damn boot for two more weeks and I have not been the most compliant patient on that front, which has caused midnight foot throb (and trips to the Advil bottle) but I am ahead of where I was told I would be at week eight.

Wounds, ego, and the psyche heal. I have two ankle zippers to prove it – show me your scars and I’ll show you mine. On second thought, that’s okay, no old crony comparing war wound stuff. ;D

To your voice,

Janice

 

 

 

 

 


 
 

Carrying on from my last post critiquing Jeffrey Gitomer’s “Getting Your Way ~ How to Speak, Write, Present, Persuade, Influence, and Sell Your Point of View To Others” let’s discuss whether humour in presentations is acceptable.

Gitomer suggests that humour is appropriate while working with all levels of an organization and believes that it is the tie that bonds us. He suggests that behaving professionally does allow for a few guffaws.

Are you writhing at your computer screen right now remembering awful, poorly executed jokes that you have been subjected to? Or remembering feeling uncomfortable because the speaker did not consider the audience and missed the mark around appropriate humour?

Using humour as part of your presentation strategy is a fine balancing act not to be taken lightly. There is nothing more rewarding than listening and learning through well executed jokes and stories. Deep learning happens when the experience is enjoyable. But when the jokes and humour bomb, it’s not pretty.

How do you ensure that you don’t go down the Rodney Dangerfield road of “Getting no respect?”

Easy in concept but hard work to get exactly right: “Know your audience!” Profile them until you understand the who, what, where, and why of their being. Get to know them intimately. Tools like Meyers Briggs are a starting point. Only from that place of knowledge will you be able to execute “on the mark” humour.

My experience tells me that not all audiences appreciate humour – I can think of a few board situations where it was not welcomed. I often agree with Gitomer but this time I will respectfully disagree.

Move wisely and well armed.

You want some respect don’t you?

To your voice,

Janice

 

 

 

 

 


 
 

Do you know Jeffrey Gitomer of “The Little Red Book of Selling” fame?

If you don’t, you should. Gitomer shares vast knowledge on the art of sales. Not the smarmy, slick type of sales but the relationship building type where people who sell product/service sell to clients who need their service. If you want to learn professional salesmanship best practices – Gitomer is the go to guy.

*Sidebar – I am often amused by people who say they hate sales/salespeople – I simply don’t understand the logic. We live in a consumer age and most days we buy something. Logically there is a saleswoman involved in the process. Don’t you want a well informed person to explain a product/service’s pros and cons when you are considering buying? I do.

Gitomer has written a large array of coloured primers that tackle sales from different aspects. Today I am reading the green book called “Getting Your Way ~ How to Speak, Write, Present, Persuade, Influence, and Sell Your Point of View To Others”.

 

Gitomer’s comment on page 40 made me chuckle (actually choke) over  my morning soy milk latte, “If I had a dollar for every corporate leader, from CEO’s to branch managers, who have lousy presentation skills, I would be a multi-billionaire.”

Which led me to thinking, “Why are so many corporate leaders in need of presentation skill development and why do those who are unskilled continue to remain lousy (as Gitomer states)?”

Is it fear, status quo thinking, lack of time, or perhaps unaware of the need for improvement?

I believe it is all of the above.

  • Fear: It is easy to get trapped by fear and the paralysis that results in improving our weaknesses.
  • Status quo thinking: If everyone else is happy at this level, then It’s okay for me too.
  • Lack of time: My client’s lament and I hear you. But it is about choices, priorities, and the big picture.
  • Unaware: Hmm, retracting here, not so sure.

What do you think?

More tomorrow….

To Your Voice,

Janice

 

 

 

 

 

 


 
 

Presentations should only be used when you have something important to communicate. Information or ideas that solve a problem or answer a question needs to be a presentation developers mandate.

So, ask yourself, is it really necessary to gather a group together for a presentation?

If 40 people attend a one hour presentation it equals one person working a 40 hour week.

Is your presentation’s message important enough to invest a week of time?

 
Be bold. Get heard. Inspire action.