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 analyse 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 has 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 intent 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

21 Apr The Hold Button Is Not a Weapon!

Don’t use the hold button to explode an obnoxious, annoying, or irritating caller into the never-never land of hold.  In fact, if you can avoid putting people on hold, that’s even better.  Do you like being put on hold?  How long are you willing to wait?  What does it feel like to be on hold?  Most likely, very unpleasant and unproductive.  No one likes to be kept waiting on hold.  Many businesses try to soften the experience of being on hold.  The most popular device has been music.  Some companies tune into a local radio station.  Have you called an airline or a movie theater lately?  They play commercials for their products or services.  One company uses Jokes on Hold.  Great idea?  Wrong.  People would pick up the phone before the punch line and upset the holding caller.

An intriguing idea was suggested by a well-meaning but overworked receptionist with as many as 10 callers on hold who said, “While you’re waiting, would you care to speak with someone else who’s on hold?”

There is a better way!  When you put people on hold:

  • Tell them that you’re going to put them on hold.
  • Tell them why.
  • Estimate the time they’ll be on hold.
  • Offer them the option of calling back.
  • Thank them before you place them on hold.

 

When you return to holding callers:

  • Thank them for waiting.
  • If the person they want to speak to still isn’t available, and you have to put them on hold for a little while longer, say that you know how difficult it is to be on hold.
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Dennis Becker
Dennis Becker
dennis@speechimprovement.com

19 Apr 8 Steps to Exceptional Customer Service

Much has been written about the recent situation where United Airlines forcibly removed a passenger (David Dao, a 69 year-old doctor born in Vietnam and living in the U.S.) because they overbooked the flight. It raised questions about everything from passenger rights and the small print on your ticket, to outright discrimination against people of Asian descent.

There was a lively discussion here at The Speech Improvement Company about service-oriented corporate culture, the attitudes of front-line employees, and if misaligned, how to fix it.

Clearly, United Airlines needs to fix it. “Fly the friendly skies” stands in stark contrast with the image of a bloodied Dr. Dao.

I recall one trip home from Japan on United Airlines in first-class. I was hanging out with a flight attendant, and she was complaining about other passengers to me. She said, “These passengers think they are so special. They expect everything, don’t they know this is no different than taking the subway?”

I was astounded that she just compared a $15,000 plane ticket with a $1.25 subway fare. Here was a clear disconnect between the employee on the front lines and the marketing and sales departments who sell premium first-class tickets based on how great the service will be. Wow.

Here are 8 things all companies, not just United, need to do in order to turn poor attitudes into exceptional customer service.

(more…)

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Dr. Ethan Becker
Dr. Ethan Becker
ethan@speechimprovement.com

16 Apr Happy World Voice Day!

My observance today included hydrating, and singing classic rock in the car during a long drive.

World Voice Day is an annual, now-international event created to recognize and honor the importance of the human voice – “to share the excitement of voice science, pedagogy and the vocal arts”[1]. We use our voices to communicate from the very beginning of life, crying, laughing, and babbling before we can hold a crayon or even know a word of language. Voices carry emotion and information, speech and song. Voice is central to human identity and interaction throughout our lives, and especially important in my life and work. (more…)

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Jordan Piel
Jordan Piel
jordan@speechimprovement.com

15 Apr Impressing Investors: Rules for the Roadshow

Congratulations on bringing your innovative idea to the investor presentation stage.

Now comes your next challenge–creating a winning presentation.

Here are 8 key ideas for success:

  1. Develop the mindset of a ‘professional presenter’.

In addition to innovator, entrepreneur, CEO, CFO, or executive, your skills as a professional presenter/communicator are also being judged. Professional presenters know their words and delivery are being scrutinized. A $10,000,000 decision could rest on the right rhetoric!

You are prepared, vigilant, and self-aware with your business acumen. Apply the same rigor to getting your presentation ready.

  1. Think theme.

What do you want investors, analysts, and interested listeners to remember about your firm? Tell them in fifteen words or less. A good idea is to focus on what sets you apart. Ex: ”Powerline meets the growing need for networked, efficient and easy-to-use audio conference systems.”

  1. Get Organized.

We’re not talking about spring cleaning your office here. Devote time to packaging your message efficiently, prioritizing the points you want to make and developing a catchy and comfortable opening and closing.

Importantly, troubleshoot the top ten questions you’re likely to be asked and outline how you’ll respond. The two biggest organizational mistakes: trying to include too much information and not spending enough time on what makes you viable and valuable in the marketplace.

(more…)

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Laurie Schloff
laurie@speechimprovement.com

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
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
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
Monica Murphy
monica@speechimprovement.com