Improve your communication style

Here are six tips for improving your communication style:

1. Knowing how to improve communication skills will come easier once you become aware of your own communication style.

Each person has a unique way of communicating. Listen to your own speech. What sorts of words do you use? Which sort of body language and what tone of voice are you using?

Now, think of someone who, in your opinion, is a good communicator. Compare your style to theirs. You’ve just taken an important first step in how to improve communication skills.

2. Now that you are aware of your own style, study the style of those around you. How do the most important people in your life converse? How do they say things? Look for approaches you can model and make your own.

3. Adjust to the other styles of communication. Don’t think it is too late to change your way of conversing because it’s been years. You had to learn to communicate in the first place and you can unlearn certain behaviours or change them. Sometimes we get stuck in a communication rut.

4. To build rapport, during a conversation try and match the other personís movements, posture and verbal style. Don’t do everything they do, but mirror one or two things. For example, if the person gives mostly short answers to questions, you follow suit.

Or, maybe they talk at a slower pace than you usually do-slow your speaking speed to match theirs. This may sound simplistic but it is a very potent way to make someone feel very relaxed and comfortable in your presence.

5. The way you communicate at home may not be the same as in a different environment. Make sure you change your style to suit the different setting. Some comments you might want to tell your best friend, in private.

Other things can be shared in a group setting. Learn how to improve communication skills by altering your style for the appropriate setting. Many of us know someone who offers far too much information in a group setting.

6. Don’t criticize others for communicating differently. If we all communicated in the same way, weíd soon be bored with each other.

Getting a good grasp of your communication style and finding ways to accommodate other peoples’ styles, is a good way to improve your communication skills.

better communication

5 Strategies for public speaking

I was never a huge fan of public speaking. I was always very nervous and had this overwhelming feeling the audience was judging my every word. I now know how to overcome my fears and deliver a memorable presentation.

I have summarized for you the top 5 strategies I use to make sure every presentation is a showstopper.

Realize 90% of Nervousness Doesn’t Even Show.

The audience usually can’t see the telltale symptoms of nervousness. The butterflies, the shaky hands or the sweaty palms. The key is for you to not focus on them either. You need to focus on the audience. When you do this two things will happen: 1) they will like you more, and 2) much of the nervousness that you feel will go away.

Don’t Avoid Eye-Contact.

When we are nervous, it is a natural reaction to want to hide. When you are standing in front of a group of people where do you hide? You can’t. So you will tend to look down or look away from your audience. If we can’t see them they can’t see us, right? Wrong.

The other trick people try is to look over the tops of their heads. The idea here is that by looking a people’s foreheads, they will think you are looking at them. Wrong again.

You need to look directly into people’s eyes with kindness. Create a rapport with the audience through your visual contact. If anyone smiles when you look at him or her, smile back. This will make you, and the audience, feel more at ease and will make your presentation more genuine.

Identify three people in the audience whom you want to speak to, One on your left, one in front of you and one on your right. Deliver your speech to these three people. Look at each one for about 4-5 seconds and ‘switch target’ to the next person. Don’t maintain eye contact for too long. This will create an uncomfortable situation. You don’t want to creep people out.

By using this technique, it will give the impression to the entire audience that you are making eye contact because you are sweeping the room with your glances.

Don’t Apologize.

Never start a presentation with an apology. By starting a presentation with an apology for your nervousness or for having a cold, you are drawing attention to something the audience may not have noticed. You are also announcing to the audience, ‘the presentation you are about to receive is less than you deserve, but please don’t blame me.’

Avoid Rushing Monotone Voice.

A fast-paced monotone speech is a sure-fire way to make your audience feel unimportant. It will also cause them to lose focus and become bored. How many lectures did you sit through in school listening to a monotone professor drone on about whatever subject he was teaching? How much of those lectures did you actually remember?

You don’t want to subject your audience to this same torture and you want them to remember what you talked about.
You can easily avoid monotone messages. Before saying a word think about the value of your message. Think about the aspects that create passionate feelings. Think about speaking clearly with compassion. Smile. Tell yourself a joke. Take a huge confidence breath.
Use eye-contact, positively say ‘you,’ and flow with the message. If you do, you’ll hear, ‘I felt like you were speaking specifically to me.’ That’s one of the best compliments you can get. And it proves that you’re speaking TO not AT the audience.

Limit your talk to a few key points.

Narrow down your topic to either one key point for a short talk, or three key points for a longer talk (a talk longer than 30-minutes). Ask yourself, ‘If my audience only remembered one thing from my talk, what would be the most important thing for them to remember? ‘the more points your presentation has, the less focus the audience will have on each individual point. Once you have your key points, then create your PowerPoint slides.

If you remember these five key points, you will be sure to knock-em-dead

9 tips to keep your audience attention.

In almost all gatherings (conventions, alumni, commencement exercises, fundraising or awarding ceremonies), guest speakers are usually invited to highlight the occasion.

To make the gathering memorable, guest speakers are selected for a certain reason, some according to their popularity and accomplishments.

As much as possible, the speaker’s profession or line of achievement must be in some way related to the occasion.

Let’s say the occasion is a convention of home developers. The likely guest speaker to grace it could be a famous housing czar well known and respected by the city and state.

To impart a lasting impression to the audience, a speaker must find ways to keep the attention glued to his speech.

If it so happens that you are the invited guest speaker at a gathering, the suggestions below may help to keep your audience listening instead of walking around or doing something else.

1. Speak in a clear, crisp, comprehensible voice with an enthusiastic tone. Avoid mumbling. Try not to eat the words as if there’s a gum in your mouth.

2. Your speech should be in consonance with the aim of the gathering, touching on issues relevant to its objective and applicable to current needs for the benefit of the majority.

3. More speakers prepare a list of the issues they want to touch on instead of a speech prepared and read (or memorized) word for word. A spontaneous speech aligned with the ideas prepared or written on the list is projected more naturally.

4. Inject humour into your speech to keep the audience attentive and waiting for more. Studies reveal that, when humour is involved, audiences find the speaker interesting to listen to. But be aware not to go beyond the line of humour because this may unintentionally embarrass others or be misunderstood by them. This might raise comments that criticize your speech. Try your best to avoid criticism.

5. When you raise an issue, one of the best ways to project it is by citing instances or examples. Correlate the example and the issue clearly.

6. Suppose the gathering was organized to save an industry or boost the morale of those that will be directly and indirectly affected by it. Try your best to deliver an inspiring speech. A speech filled with positive thoughts, like projecting a bright tomorrow, can turn a depressive mood into an enthusiastic one. If you are well versed in the industry with a solution to offer to suppress its downtrend, then say it.

7. Audience participation may seem to turn your speech into a discussion, but it is one way to confirm the effectiveness of what you are saying or offering.

8. Imagine how the industry will look like 5 or 10 years from now in a positive light. Be specific and realistic in your projection. If hard work is called for, say so.

9. Leave a lasting, meaningful message as you wrap up your speech.

A speech that leaves the audience thinking long after the speech has been made will also leave the audience remembering the speaker for a long time.

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9 Ways to handle Questions

How you handle questions from an audience can often be the deciding factor as to how your presentation is received. If you’re pitching for business, then it’s absolutely vital to handle questions well.

1. Be prepared for questions – When you write your presentation, think about what you’re likely to be asked and what your answer is going to be. Maybe you won’t want to answer a particular question there and then, so think about what you’ll say to satisfy the questioner.

2. Make it clear at the start – You may decide to take questions as you go or at the end of your presentation. Whatever you decide, make it clear at the start and don’t change your mind. I would suggest questions at the end of a short presentation; if you take questions as you go, then your timing will get knocked out. And always remember, an audience won’t forgive you for taking half an hour when you were only scheduled to speak for fifteen minutes.

3. Never finish with questions – Far better to ask for questions five or ten minutes before the end, deal with the questions and then summarise for a strong finish. Too many presentations finish on questions and the whole thing goes a bit flat – particularly if you don’t get any.

4. Listen – When asked a question, listen and look like your listening. It may be something you’ve heard a million times before. Treat the questioner with respect and don’t trivialise their point.

5. Thank the questioner – It’s only polite, it shows respect and it gives you a bit more time to consider your answer.

6. Repeat the essence of the question – Some people may not have heard the question so your answer may not make any sense to them. It can also be irritating for them not to hear the question. Again, it gives you more time to think of the answer and it makes you look so clever and in control.

7. Answer to everyone – Don’t fall into the trap of only answering the questioner. If they happen to be near the front then you could end up having a conversation with them and exclude everyone else.

8. Keep it simple – Many speakers, when it comes to questions, have become more relaxed and the fact that someone is interested enough to ask them a question, leads them to go on too long with the answer – DON’T.

9. Don’t bluff or bluster – If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so and find out. Suggest to the questioner that you’ll ‘phone them or come and see them with the answer. It can even be a good way to make further contact after the presentation.

As we all know, it’s possible that you may not be asked any questions and you then have that awkward silence. People may be thinking about what you’ve just said and may need more time to ask. They may also be a bit shy and may take a few minutes to speak out. Why not have a question of your own prepared and say something like. “You may be asking yourself………?” If you still fail to get any questions then go straight to your summary and closing statement.

Handling a question and answer session well, demonstrates your professionalism and reflects on your message.

5 ways to engage with your audience

Has a boring speaker ever put you to sleep? Your head begins to nod as you fight off the urge to slip mercifully into the Land of the Z’s. Or has your mind ever wandered during someone’s dull presentation?  Although you appear to listen intently, what you are really thinking about is a million tasks waiting for you at home.

Sure, this has happened to all of us, more than we would like to admit. However, don’t let it happen to you when you are the speaker. The key to keeping your audience from taking a mental exit is to involve them in your talk. Yes! Studies show that the more you involve your audience, the more they retain. Why? Because they are listening!

You can involve your audience in several ways, and I have listed 5 of my favourites below. Select those that will work well with your presentation and that feel genuine to you. If it feels uncomfortable, it will look uncomfortableóso donít use it.

1. Ask questions.
Questions will cause your audience members to try to think of an answer. They can’t help it, it is simply how our brains are wired. If the energy in the room starts to drop, ask a question and select a member of your audience to respond. Then, thank him or her for participating and move on to the next person. Don’t worry about losing control of your audience. Sales guru Brian Tracy emphasizes, ‘He (she) who asks questions is in control.’ I personally prefer questions like ‘How many of you . . .,’ and then I ask for a show of hands. These closed-ended questions get your audience involved both mentally and physically.

2. Finish your sentence.
For example, if you said to your audience, ‘Lions and tigers and bears . . .’ and did not finish the sentence, what do you think they would say? As long as they are familiar with the movie The Wizard of Oz, they would respond with ‘Oh my!’ This is a fun way to get your audience to participate. If they know the answer, they will blurt it out. If they don’t, you answer it. Choose something that should be so obvious they will absolutely get it.

3. High-five.
This is one of my personal favourites, and if you have attended one of my talks you have experienced it first hand. If you ever feel like the energy in the room is heavy, you can change it by using this technique. Simply ask a question (remember the power of asking questions). Ask,’ìs this good stuff?’ When your audience responds with ‘Yes,’ say ‘Then, turn to the people on either side of you and give them a high-five and say -This is good stuff!’ Most people get a kick out of it. However, if you have an individual in your audience who does not want to participate, don’t worry about it. Some people simply just don’t want to have fun.

4. Do exercises.
Get your audience to do the work’ To accomplish this, ask them to break into groups of two or three (with people that they don’t know) and give them an exercise that is congruent with your presentation. Afterward, ask them to share openly with the rest of the group and thank them for doing so.

5. Give them sweets.
Reward your audience for participating, and they will participate even more. Simply ask a question and when someone answers it, gently throw a small sweet to that person. I find that chocolate works best. You will find that it becomes a game and people will compete for the chocolate. I don’t use this throughout my entire speech, only for a few minutes in the middle of my talk.

There are many other ways and techniques to get your audience involved. What is important as a speaker is for you to come up with as many different ways as you can think of that is appropriate for your audience and for you as a speaker. Believe me, your audience will thank you.