28 Mar Creating Muscle Memory

When I work with clients on strengthening their communication effectiveness, I’m often asked, “How can I make these new tools come more naturally?”

I assure them that when they carve out time to practice they are creating ‘muscle memory’.  Muscle memory is something we often take for granted, yet it’s there and if harnessed, we can use it anytime to project confidence in doing any task.  Obvious examples include putting your car key into the ignition, zipping a jacket, brushing our teeth.  Any habit repeated dozens or hundreds of times creates muscle memory.

This muscle memory comes in a  3 part process: Level 1 is self awareness: “What am I doing that is working well and what areas do I need to develop?”  This is often the most challenging part of a learning process. If unsure, ask people you trust what they feel you do well and could strengthen.

Level 2 is being brave enough to try new tools and techniques. I love the quote, “The mind is like a parachute, it only works when it’s open.”  Once your mind is open to trying and thinking in new ways, you are ready to learn helpful new tools and techniques.  Just like fashion, communication tools go in and out of style. My passion as an Executive Communication Coach is watching clients as they try structuring or using a purposeful gesture in a new way.   Our level of credibility as a speaker is often assessed by the confident, concise way in which our message is delivered, verbally and non-verbally.

Level 3: Practice! Practice! Practice!  Muscle memory happens when a skill is practiced multiple times.  Get yourself motivated by carving time out on your calendar dedicated to practice.  Consider capturing yourself on your device of choice and watching it.  Get feedback from others.  The more you try a skill, the more you customize it to your own style.  The end goal is that you will be able to seamlessly deliver your message in a way that looks and feels natural to your listeners.

Proving you have the ability to take your own communication to the next level is wonderfully empowering!

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Monica Murphy
monica@speechimprovement.com

27 Mar Keying Off the Keynote

Recently I saw a conference agenda that listed multiple keynote speakers. This is all too common, and it’s wrong.

Formally, there can only be 1 keynote speaker. Consider it like this. In an orchestra, where the term keynote comes from, a member plays a “key note” before they begin, and all other members tune their instruments to that note. The result is a symphony! Without this important step, you have something that’s musically akin to kids with instruments sitting on the stage together playing out of key.

At a conference, the keynote presentation should do the same. It is designed to set the tone for the conference, such that all other speakers connect to the keynote in some way. Even though topics will vary, there should be some tie-back, providing the attendees a common point of reference.

This is exactly where speech coaches help conference speakers – working together to ensure key points or ideas are consistent with, and connect to the keynote and to each other. We almost always see presenters using the same sponsor-designed PowerPoint templates. But consistency in the visual aids gets you nowhere if those presenters use different language, have different viewpoints, present conflicting data, or go off the rails in terms of the central theme of the conference.

Some conference planners will brush my comments off as trivial, but it can be the difference between world-class conferences and spending a lot of money by parading a bunch of big name speakers across the stage. It’s boring.

Executing well means people leaving at the end of the conference are feeling like they got a lot of valuable information and much needed motivation. Otherwise, they leave feeling like something or other went on in the conference and wow, did they have a great time in Vegas!

For a high-value, high-impact event, at least 1 or 2 months in advance, conference planners should make absolutely certain that their speech coach is working with the keynote speaker and every speaker planning to present. This provides the “glue” ensuring follow-on speakers include meaningful references that tie their speech to the keynote in some form. This of course means the keynote needs to be drafted well in advance of the other presentations. Easy for me to say, but I know that’s hard to do. One very powerful technique for a keynote is to discuss the topic, then pose some questions that are answered through out the conference by other speakers. If they can’t, then you may want to ask if that presentation is going to be relevant to the event.

Sadly, all too often we see an uninformed conference planing organization seek to promote several big names as keynote speakers, plural. While this may sound good for marketing and promotion, it’s a sure signal that the conference is likely not going to be very impactful.

So, conference sponsors and speakers, beware. Push hard on your conference planners to ensure there truly is only 1 keynote. If you have a celebrity speaker, its OK if he or she is called the keynote for promotional purposes. But then have a company person do the real keynote speech, even if it’s titled something else, like “message from the CEO”. This will set the proper tone for the conference and go a long way to making it memorable.

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Dr. Ethan Becker
ethan@speechimprovement.com

06 Mar So Easy to Like: Apps Add to Speech Coaching

My colleagues and I are delighted to welcome a new app, LikeSo into our toolbox of  techniques to help clients become top notch speakers and communicators.

We coaches are always on the lookout for ways to help clients practice and progress in their crazy busy lives.

The leaders, managers and professionals I work with are attached to their mobile devices (Ok, I admit, so am I!)

That’s why I am so delighted to collaborate with Audrey Mann Cronin, a vivacious advocate for more effective speaking, and the creator of the LikeSo app.

Over the years, I’ve observed that folks in the speech communication field are filled with passion for all things speech. Same with Audrey!

Audrey was inspired to create LikeSo a few years ago when she made a few observations—all in one week!

First, her well-spoken teenage daughter started injecting her sentences with “like,” “totally,” and “ya know.” Later that week, a colleague shared that his two brilliant co-workers made him cringe when he heard them speak on the phone and in meetings. And then – to top it off… her doctor, a top surgeon in her field, said that she heard poor speaking habits during high stakes situations, and even in the operating room. Audrey was on a mission to do something and with her technical team, developed the LikeSo app.

The app is like an assistant coach—a tangible practice and feedback tool to rely on when Coach Laurie isn’t around.

The app tracks filler words and speaking speed, and provides colorful feedback and a “speech fitness’ score.

Clients say working with the app is fun and confidence building when an important meeting or talk is coming up.

And I’m delighted that clients are practicing between our meetings, with LikeSo and tips I’ve recorded on their smartphones.

Don’t get me wrong—I am enthusiastic about the future of speech apps, and confident that technology will never replace a great coach or live workshop.

Speaking is a uniquely human gift, and if you want to become the best speaker possible, work with an experienced coach. If you’re comfortable, enlist your colleagues, manager, team and trusted others to provide positive feedback and suggestions.

And adding technology your toolbox just might add to the APPlause! Click here to check it out.

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Laurie Schloff
laurie@speechimprovement.com

01 Mar Why Doesn’t Bill Belichick Smile?

In his TED talk, The Hidden Power of Smiling, Ron Gutman provides some insights into the proven value of smiling.

We are born smiling. Using 3D ultrasound, we can see developing babies smile in the womb. When born, they continue to smile. A smile is one of the most basic expressions of all humans and it is the fastest way to build trust and rapport during face-to-face interactions.

OK, so why doesn’t Bill Belichick smile? What would he be revealing? Especially with the Media, he knows how to be brief, be good, be gone. Yet he almost never seems happy. I believe this is his strategy. In fact, one study tracked him smiling only 7 times in 114 minutes of media footage!

“Even the simulation of an emotion tends to arouse it in our minds.”
– Charles Darwin, 1872

 

But taking a closer look, what does he project? Stability, authority, knowledge, strategy. He has mastered the art of using non-smiling as his brand. And it works.

Click the image to see rare footage of Bill Belichick smiling.

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Monica Murphy
monica@speechimprovement.com

16 Feb The New MacBook Pro Really Helps Presenters

For those who present with slides, you will want to look closely at the new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar. Apple’s Keynote presentation software has added a simple, yet powerful feature to its software that will have a profound impact on public speakers. Hopefully PowerPoint will have it too.

Some background: We know through research at The Speech Improvement Company that the most effective speakers are able to synchronize their visual aid support so your listeners won’t see the slides until you say it.

In 2001, Apple released Keynote with a feature whereby the speaker could see the upcoming slide before advancing to it and thereby putting in on the big screen for all to see. This was huge. At the time, PowerPoint had a similar feature, but it would only work if you had a desktop computer with 2 monitor cards and a projector, all connected to each other in a specific way.

Keynote was way ahead of its time. Apple reached out to The Speech Improvement Company and asked if we would endorse the software. We don’t normally do endorsements, but this particular feature was very significant. We had not seen anything like it since the invention of the teleprompter. Today, PowerPoint for both Mac and Windows has this functionality.

(more…)

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Dr. Ethan Becker
ethan@speechimprovement.com

15 Feb The Owl in the Oak

There has been a plethora of communication about President Trump’s communication.  We are , indeed, experiencing a new kind of communication from the office and the person who holds the Presidency of the United States.  In recent days, the attention and commentary has shifted from everyone’s ability to LISTEN, in addition to the ability to talk.  It stirred in me a bit of wisdom that I would like to share with you in hopes that it will help the overall communication that must take place between and among the citizenry and POTUS.  Think about this:

                                         There was an old owl that lived in an oak,
                                         The more he listened, the less he spoke.
                                         The less he spoke the more he heard.
                                         We can all learn from that old bird.
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Dennis Becker
dennis@speechimprovement.com

08 Feb Do I Need to Tell a Joke in a Presentation?

Yes, go ahead and tell a joke if all of the following apply:

  • Your joke makes sense for the topic and the environment.
  • You can immediately tie in the joke with the larger theme for the presentation.
  • Your joke is simple and short – audiences can’t remember more than three types of guys meeting Saint Peter at Heaven’s gate.
  • Your jokes won’t offend women, Caucasians, Afro-Americans; Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Seventh-Day Adventists; Republicans, Democrats, Independents; cat, dog, fish, or bird lovers; people who don’t like jokes; and so forth.
  • You like telling jokes and not just for speeches.
  • Not only that, you’re good at telling jokes, especially for speeches.

Otherwise, don’t tell a joke.

If you flunked the above checklist, remember that there are other forms of humor besides jokes.  Here are some suggestions for being jocular without telling a joke.

  1. Use exaggeration.  One presenter who had the misfortune of following an extraordinary speaker at a conference began by saying, “That was a superb talk, Carl.  I’m reminded of the time I tried out for the opera, and the fellow before me was either Pavarotti or his twin.”
  2. Use real-life examples with a silly slant or a bizarre bent.  A woman in my speaking-under-stress class shared this with the group: “I always thought my talks went pretty well, but my boss disagrees.  He says I begin well and end well.  But in the middle he says, I always faint, and he’s getting a little tired of reviving me.”
  3. Use a touch of self-deprecation.  Audiences respond well to a speaker who is able to laugh at herself.  Be careful, however, that you put yourself down only when you have the group’s confidence.  Otherwise, they may perceive you as a loser, not as humorously humble.  A professor who received utter silence when he asked his graduate class a question did get a laugh when he asked, “Now I know my questions are extremely thought-provoking, but don’t all jump to answer at once.”
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Laurie Schloff
laurie@speechimprovement.com

07 Feb Lessons on better speaking from the Super Bowl

I love it when after a major game, people who have little to no experience with the NFL or professional athletes, do the Monday morning quarterbacking and proclaim the connections to business.

Certainly, professional sports can serve as a cool way to learn about leadership and teamwork, but you’ve got to take it in context plus remember that many people are not sports fans. Some may wear the hats and jerseys, nod their heads, smile and cheer, but if you ask them how many innings there are in the quarter, they will answer a basket is worth 2 points.

So, what are some meaningful lessons and how can sports fans and non-sports fans alike learn them?

As professional speech coaches, we’ve worked with pro-athletes, their coaches, and senior team executives in several major leagues. From that perspective, looking through the lens of communication, we do get to hear firsthand how these executives, coaches, and professional athletes think. (more…)

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Dr. Ethan Becker
ethan@speechimprovement.com

05 Feb How do you help someone who suffers from fear of speaking?

Nervousness associated with public speaking is extremely debilitating for so many people.  It is a real fear and needs to be addressed.  It’s easy for colleagues, friends and family to say, “You’ll be great. Stop worrying.”  or “You need to get over it.”  But many times these well-intentioned words of encouragement do more harm than good.  Someone who is suffering from this hears these words, wonders why they can’t get over it and doesn’t believe they will be great.  Often, this individual may have had a bad experience and that is what they remember.  He or she may be afraid of repeating it.  Your words are no guarantee that fear won’t control them.  The only voice they listen to is their own.  The best advice I can give to someone who is looking to be helpful is to encourage your friend, colleague, or family member to seek out assistance.  To let them know that conducting a presentation is, for many people, their number one fear.  It’s common and they are not alone.  They need to know they can learn to control their nervousness and that there are many available resources to help them achieve it.
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Kristen Curran-Faller
kristen@speechimprovement.com

17 Jan Warren Buffett Says This Will Raise Your Value by 50 Percent

Speaking to a group of Columbia University business students, Warren Buffett once said “Now, you can improve your value by 50 percent just by learning,”

Drum roll please…

“…communication skills–public speaking.”

That, of course, is music to our ears. We never said it quite that way, but Warren really nailed it. We couldn’t agree more.

Check out this article in Inc.

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Jeff Turner
jturner@speechimprovement.com