18 Aug Man vs Beast

What a tragedy in Charlottesville.  From a speech coaching perspective, this is yet he recent another indication that our species has not entirely evolved to the point where we can talk and listen to one another.

It was Aristotle who first pointed out that the human ability to talk and listen is what differentiates us from the forest animals.  Yet, we still see the presence of physical violence as a means of communication between members of our species.

Perhaps, Darwin had the most realistic view.  His survival of the fittest seems to have taken on an exclusively physical meaning.  It behooves all of us as members of this human species to investigate our own mindset to decide whether we are going to continue to evolve as a species that capitalizes on its ability to think, talk and listen.

Or, how much of that same mindset is still a captive of the more primitive capability of the forest animals who depend on violence as a means of communication.

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Dennis Becker
Dr. Dennis Becker
dennis@speechimprovement.com

24 Jul How you can add real value to your business

One of the biggest challenges in business is how to create ‘value’.  Boyd Stough of Espy Revenue recently interviewed me about this issue for a new installment of his business podcasts.  In our conversation, we talked extensively about the fact that value for a business comes from all levels: Leadership, teams, client facing, and internal facing.  The problem for many people is that the true meaning of value is a mystery and the ways to create it are elusive.  I explain to Boyd that value is a combination of knowledge, communication strategy, and execution.  During the conversation we talk about The Speech Improvement Company’s perspective and coaching experience and how revenue growth is directly linked to a company’s investment in communication. You can listen to the podcast here.

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Dr. Ian Turnipseed
Dr. Ian Turnipseed
ian@speechimprovement.com

19 Jul Screen Calls Appropriately

When screening calls, you take an incoming call and try to find out who is calling and what the caller wants.  Screening is most commonly done by a receptionist who needs to direct calls, and by secretaries and assistants who need to protect their supervisors’ time.

Screening calls can be tricky.  Callers usually don’t like to be screened.  It feels like they are being evaluated or judged.  Some callers go as far as to say that they don’t like being evaluated or judged by someone who isn’t qualified enough, smart enough, or important enough to appreciate the worthiness of the call.  It is quite irritating to callers to be screened.  If you must screen calls, be careful.  Here are a few pointers:

  • Sound concerned about the caller’s wishes.
  • Ask for clarification to be certain that you understand the caller’s wishes.
  • Explain why the party who was called is not available.
  • Volunteer to be helpful yourself.
  • Take an accurate message.
  • Thank the caller for patience and understanding and give assurance that the message will be delivered.
  • Do what you said – deliver an accurate message.
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Dennis Becker
Dr. Dennis Becker
dennis@speechimprovement.com

10 Jul Why are you so fearful of public speaking?

I spend a lot of time reading articles from magazines, newspapers, and blogs whose authors proclaim they have the solutions for the fear of public speaking. The reality is there is no solution to that fear. As a person who has spoken for 25 years as well as coached others for the last ten, there will never come a time when you are cured. The fact is fear is a part of public speaking. You can be anxious because it is a new topic that you are speaking on, you didn’t prepare as well as you would have liked, or you really want the speech to go well, the reasons are endless.

One of the root causes of this fear is always the same. We are not always afraid of giving the speech or really even what comes out of our mouths. For the most part, we are always concerned with what are listeners are thinking about us and the message. The underlying and all-pervasive reality is listeners contribute to our fear, and since speaking by ourselves is never going to get anyone anywhere it will always be with us. The question then becomes how do I deal with managing my fear of my listeners?

Now don’t get me wrong. I do not think we are afraid of our listeners because they exist. I doubt many of us look at the people in a board room or in an audience or even a client and think “Goodness, I am afraid of these human beings!” No, we are afraid of the judgement they will pass. Do they like us, our voice, the speech, and will they take the actions we are suggesting? So when dealing with the fear of public speaking, one must come to terms with not being able to control the listeners or what they are thinking. Using my extensive experience as well as research into listener psychology, I offer the following tips to help with that:

  1. People are more predictable than you think!

When we think of groups of people, whether our managers, listeners, or customers, they all share commonalities. All groups of people share common attributes we can consider as we prepare a speech. We share age ranges, gender, socioeconomic backgrounds, family make-up, race, sociopolitical background, etc. The more you know about who you are presenting to, the better. As you uncover this information, people become more (more…)

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Dr. Ian Turnipseed
Dr. Ian Turnipseed
ian@speechimprovement.com

02 Jul How To Be Heard In Meetings

Ever notice that sometimes in meetings or conversation other professionals do not seem to take you seriously? You are trying to make a point but your listeners roll their eyes, look bored, or act fidgety. Do they wish they were someplace else or just want you to get on with it or…

For whatever reason, they are not giving your words and thoughts the weight they deserve. This can be very frustrating because you frequently have no idea why it is happening or what you can or should do about it.

Laurie Schloff, senior consultant at Boston’s The Speech Improvement Company, suggests that sometimes you may have verbal and nonverbal behaviors that undermine your credibility and authority. They make you sound unsure, tentative, and lacking in power.  This tends to  be  a  communication  problem  that  affects women more than men. Therefore, women lawyers need to be particularly aware of this habit in their casual conversations.

One such habit is “Qualifying.” This is where you add phrases like “sort of,” “kind of,” “maybe,” and “just” to what you say. This takes away from the strength and directness of your communication. For example: “I kind of wish you’d call when you’re going to be late,” instead of “Please call when you are going to be late.”

A second is “Hedging or Apologizing.” This is where you say something then take it back at the same time. It suggests that you are reluctant to express yourself and fear being evaluated. For example: “I don’t know if you’re going to like this but I thought I ought to comment, if that’s okay with you, about the room color,” instead of “I have a comment about the room color.”

A third is “Rising Inflection at the End of Sentence.” This is where you make a statement sound like a question. For example: “If you’re not sure what I mean, I could show you?” instead of “If you are not sure what I mean, I could show you.”

A fourth is “Tag Lines.” This is where you tack a question onto the end of a statement that asks for reassurance. For example: “So you liked the presentation, didn’t you?” instead of “So you liked the presentation.”

These are speech habits that have become automatic. But simply being aware of them, listening for them, and logging them in a small notebook every time you utter them, you can eliminate them over time. Direct, affirmative, unequivocal statements are always stronger than equivocations and questions.

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Jeff Turner
Jeff Turner
jturner@speechimprovement.com

22 Jun Homonyms, Homophones, and Other Similar Words

We had a lot of fun compiling this list of commonly misunderstood, misused, and misspelled English words. You may find some that are interesting, some surprising, and hopefully, some that are educational. Enjoy!

– a –

abjure                       To renounce
adjure                       To command, as under oath

accept                       To receive with consent
except                       To exclude; to object (take exception to)

acclamation            Loud expression of approval, praise, or assent
acclimation             Acclimatization, especially under controlled (as laboratory) conditions

adherence               Act of adhering
adherents                Followers

affect                         To have an influence on
effect                         To make; to bring about

aid                              Help
aide                            Assistant

all ready                   Set to go
already                     Previously

(more…)

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Jeff Turner
Jeff Turner
jturner@speechimprovement.com

01 Jun I Hate the Way I Sound on Recordings

In my work with hundreds of clients, including professional speakers such as actors and radio announcers, I have met only a handful who like the sound of their own voice on a recording. Some people even refuse to leave a voice mail message, knowing there would be a permanent record of their “awful voice floating around in the world.” Many speakers are certain that recordings distort their voice.

I don’t want to ruin your day, but the voice you hear on playback is probably the closest to the real you that you’ll ever hear. That is because the recording ‘hears’ you as others do, through sound waves projecting into the air. When you listen to your own voice while speaking, you hear vibrations within your skull along with the vibrations in the air. That’s why the voice you hear on recordings is never like the one you’re used to. A good goal for developing a pleasant and influential sound is to stop cringing every time you hear yourself and make peace with your unique voice.

So the next time you hear yourself on a recording:

  1. Step back and ask: Do I sound bad or just different from the way I thought I would?
  2. Notice at least one good point about the way you sound (e.g. It is loud enough; the pronunciation is clear ; I sound easy going).
  3. Pick a specific way you would like to improve (I would like my voice to be softer, less whiny, deeper).

Tip: Try to describe (“I was a little too soft”) rather than judge what you hear (“I sound like Minnie Mouse.”)

If you are truly adventurous, you can improve your speaking voice and perhaps even like how you sound, by bugging yourself ten minutes a day. Record yourself speaking on the telephone or bring a record/playback app with you to important speaking events.

Play back the ten-minute segments, listening to and evaluating how you sound and noting changes that occur with different people and situations. When I play back recordings for my clients, I hear my own voice as well, so I now know exactly what to do to sound good when recorded – and in real life.

After fifteen to thirty recording sessions, you’ll develop a neutral attitude toward the sound of your voice and be able to be more analytical about its positive and negative aspects. And from then on you’ll see an audio recorder simply is a tool, not as torture.

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Laurie Schloff
laurie@speechimprovement.com

31 May Where did that attitude come from?

A big part of communication is your ‘attitude’ which the dictionary defines as “a settled way of thinking or feeling about someone or something, typically one that is reflected in a person’s behavior.

Attitudes are developed in five major ways.  Understanding all five contributing factors may help you understand your own attitude toward experiences and other people.

  1. Observation. As a very young child you observed parents, family, and friends working, speaking, and interacting with others.  As you observed their behavior, you were developing attitudes that would later shape your behavior in similar situations. Example:  You observed your parent’s treatment of the service person that came to fix your refrigerator.  You observed their language, tone of voice, and behavior before, during, and after his or her visit.
  2. Experience. Early in life you experienced service that shaped your attitude. Rather than just observing, you actually participated in the service experience. Example:  You were sent to the store to buy milk and bread.  The service treatment you received had an impact on your delivery of service as an adult.
  3. Teaching. As a child adults taught you what attitudes were appropriate in given situations.  As an adult you still may be learning attitudes from those around you. Example:  Have you heard fellow employees say, “Don’t work so hard, you make the rest of us look bad” or “You can go easy on this part; no one checks up on you”?
  4. Peers. As a child you were strongly influenced by the attitudes and behaviors of other children.  Peer pressure is a well-documented and accepted contributing factor to the development of attitudes.  But peer pressure is not limited to childhood experiences.  The attitudes and behaviors of your peers may also influence adults. Example:  Many adults prefer to eat the same foods, wear the same clothes, drive the same cars, and frequent the same places as others because “It’s the thing to do.
  5. Personality. At some point on your life you must accept responsibility for these attitudes.  You cannot simply attribute them to childhood happenings Example:  Are you still saying, “But; that’s the way I was brought up” or “We’ve always done it that way”?
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Dennis Becker
Dr. Dennis Becker
dennis@speechimprovement.com

16 May Good Communication Begins With Awareness

Successful communication has little to do with simply trying to bring our message across, but it has everything to do in how we assess and adjust our communication to our respective communication partners.

Communication is a two-way process. It needs an equal amount of skill and effort to actually learn how to listen as it takes to draft a speech or give a talk in front of an audience.

Why don’t we feel nervous when we listen? It is usually the perception of being the passive (listening) partner in a communication process as opposed to the active (talking) one. We often take skill in listening as given.

Yet both – talking and listening – are equally active.

Listening means that we observe the person who speaks, with our senses alert and open. The observation goes from body language including gestures to facial expressions, tone, voice and modality, breathing patterns and pauses, up to where the speaker is (not) looking while talking.

We constantly process and analyze if the content of the message is congruent with our observations or if it is not, we are supposed to ask further questions for clarification and to reach a comprehensive understanding of what was said.

This sounds like a lot of work, and it actually is!

If we take this approach in trying to really understand our communication partner, there is not much space left to think about anything else while someone else is talking.

Our whole focus and attention as the listener have hence to be on the speaking person if we don’t want to miss out on cues and content of what is being said.

This is as well the reason why listeners often quickly get a communication overload if we just keep talking without giving sufficient room for pauses, processing and asking questions for clarification.

If even just five or ten minutes seems like little time for a speaker, for a listener, this is a lot to process.

Awareness is key.

If you are a fast talker and can go on and on about a topic, even without any bad intent simply because you are passionate about it, I would like to suggest you record yourself on video with your mobile phone for 10 minutes and rewatch it a few days later in a quiet moment.

Observe the tone, gestures, mimic, body movements, and eye contacts made with your conversation partner or the audience and see if it fits the content and the importance of what you actually wanted to say. Could it be said in a more concise manner? If yes, how?

This exercise serves two outcomes:

  1. You will become much more aware of your own communication style and whether it’s consistent with what you intend to share or say to a certain audience or person.
  2. You are training your listening skills, observing all the details of your own talk, getting practice in it in everyday life situations by observing the people you are listening to.

You will get used to it and the observation will eventually happen without much effort as you have practiced it on a continuous basis whenever you are listening to somebody.

Being clear, concise, and above all, interesting in our communication is an art to be developed,. The same is true for becoming a great listener.

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Sharesz T. Wilkinson
Sharesz T. Wilkinson
shareszt@speechimprovement.com

16 May Coaching Lessons from the NBA

It’s the NBA playoff season and while watching my beloved Boston Celtics tear down another opponent, my attention was drawn to some insightful statements from basketball players on the importance of being ‘well coached.’

Because I’m in the coaching business, a friend had sent me this link to an article entitled “BASKETBALL QUOTES: 4 QUOTES ON THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING COACHABLE.”

It speaks to the “importance of being coachable and how that can affect you not just on the court, but in life as well.” All of us, not just professional athletes can benefit from good coaching. It simply requires self-awareness and a passion for learning and personal growth. That, and a really good coach.

Read the article for some background on each of these wonderful quotes:

“My best skill was that I was coachable. I was a sponge and aggressive to learn.”  Michael Jordan

“As an athlete you have to be coachable. And being coachable is a humbling thing.” Rashad Evans

“You must always be the apprentice. Even when you become the master.” – Christopher Cumby

“To succeed…at anything, you have to prepare yourself. That means you have to be open, be coachable, and willing to learn.” – Tammi Fugitt

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Jeff Turner
Jeff Turner
jturner@speechimprovement.com