04 Oct Overcoming 5 Hurdles That Prevent Success

In my experience, there are 5 hurdles that stand to prevent you from being successful. I’ve delved into each below.

  1. Fear

ISSUE: Fear of failure, of not living up to expectations – your own and those of others, the fear of not being good enough, the fear of being ridiculed or singled out in your community, having to go the way alone, the fear of failing, of losing everything, and there are so many more.

Fear is a nagging, physical, nervous sensation that eats you up, doesn’t let you sleep, keeps you up at night or greets you first thing in the morning, inhibiting clear thinking.

SOLUTION: First thing in the morning, jolt your body into action when you wake up: do 10 push-ups coming straight out of bed. Not 5, not 50, just 10. This will set you up for a great day ahead as your body gets all the right triggers to get going.

In your morning routine, take 5 minutes to focus on what you DO want, not what you don’t want as so many do. 

Write it physically down on a piece of paper every single day – and keep that paper with you during the day as a reminder (not on your phone, computer, tablet etc – on a piece of paper in your handwriting). Your mind and body will shift gears from fear to determination.

Do this every single day. For how long? Every.Single.Day. This is your personal GPS keeping you on track. Try it, it works. (more…)

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

26 Sep Tradeshow Voice

Have you ever lost your voice at a tradeshow?

We’ve all been there. It’s day 3 of the show, your staff is complaining of aching feet and backs, overall body energy is down, yet there are still 2 more days left to go in the show. Their voices are starting to crack, coughing more often, clearing thoughts, or worse – voices become horse! How do you keep your staff from getting that trade show voice?

Your voice is your tool, and as with any tool, you need to maintain it if you want it to function well. When you are at a tradeshow, the people you meet and speak with have an average of 2 minutes to judge you and your company. They look at a few things, such as what your booth looks like, how you are dressed, what are you selling, what you are saying and most importantly how you are saying it?

There are 3 tips you should follow to ensure that you and your staff maintain a strong, clear, and confident tradeshow voice.

(more…)

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

19 Sep People Complain That I’m Too Loud

Most of us instinctively do a good job of setting our volume so that it takes into account the distance between ourselves and listeners, the amount of background noise, and the degree to which we want to broadcast our message.

One client who was known as “The Megaphone” in his office, didn’t do so well at this. Ernie came to see me when he realized that col­leagues were requesting the cubicle farthest from his. One pal complained that he could hear Ernie’s  conversations  better than his own. Ernie got the message “loud and clear” that his excessive volume was an office nuisance. He was receptive to working on his problem, though he was a little bit puzzled. He considered himself the quietest one in his family of five brothers.

To Adjust Your Volume Control

  1. Test it out. Since poor ability to monitor and control volume could be an effect of hearing loss, rule out this possibility first via an audiological screening. Consult your family doctor, an ear, nose, and throat specialist, or an audiologist to schedule a hearing test.
  2. Tune in. If your hearing is normal, ask a colleague or friend to help you discover your best conversational volume by signaling when your decibel level becomes deafening. Bring a tape recorder to a meeting and note how your volume com­ pares to that of others.
  3. Try it on. Contrast different volumes by saying words and phrases at various settings: softer than average, average, loud, and very loud. Single words: “Why, now, go, bye.” Phrases: “Is this loud? I can control my volume.” Remember that your “soft” may be everyone else’s “normal,” and so on. Your goal is to begin to develop a sensitivity to the range of volumes and an internal sense that lets you know when it’s time  to  tone down.
  4. Take it around. Use your new, softer volume in routine situations, such as answering the telephone, greeting people, making a request. Notice people’s reactions. If your listeners used to cringe and now you get no reaction, that’s an excellent sign.

 

For advanced volume control, choose one five-minute situa­tion a day in which to monitor your volume. You’ll then be ready to use volume monitoring in the most stressful situations: when you’re angry, emotional, or caught off guard.

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Laurie Schloff
laurie@speechimprovement.com

06 Sep Mastering Self–Communication

One of the most important skills to master in our life is self-communication.

What thoughts are swirling around in your head on a daily basis? Are you aware of them? These thoughts inhibit our life force and energy, especially in times of uncertainty and worry.

It’s interesting to note that in many Asian countries, it is called the ‘monkey mind’ that needs to be tamed.

Why is this so important?

If we pay attention to the voice in our head, we will notice that it is often belittling, negative, and detrimental to reaching our goals and ambitions. We can easily feel anxious and loose our courage before we even try to reach a goal.

The little voice’s whole aim and purpose is to keep us safe and secure for one important reason: whatever we have done in our life so far has been successful as we are still alive! Hence any change, new input, or unfamiliar situation is first of all considered to be a fret and not welcome.

The good news is that we can overcome the power of the little voice by consciously choosing our thoughts.

It’s not an easy task, I agree, but it can be done. The more we practice, the more successful we become in mastering the little voice in our head. Doing this allows us to thrive in life.

When emotions are held in check with our daily focus on the big picture, we become much more resilient towards frustration, anger, fear, disappointment, and our inner turmoil.

One great technique that does work, is to write your goals on a piece of paper without censoring it. It doesn’t take more than five minutes.

Do this every single morning to reset the compass of your self-communication and focus and it will be life-changing. Keep the paper with you during the day and whenever needed, have a glance at it.

Try this for 90 days and you’ll see your life transform.

All it needs is your commitment to the 5-minute daily routine to master your inner self-communication.

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

29 Aug I Never Remember People’s Names After I’m Introduced

People with a good memory for names are not mental wizards, but they do devote more mental energy to remembering them than those of us who suffer temporary amnesia at the sight of Bill-Phil-or-was-it-Will. The cure for name amnesia is a fool­ proof, easy-to-apply memory strategy that you won’t forget to use. Here is one you’ll remember by N-A-M-E.

In the N-A-M-E technique, each letter of the word Name stands for an important step in remembering who you just met.

Name grabber. After you meet, say the person’s name aloud (“Nice to meet you, Sam”) and then to yourself. If you aren’t sure, now is the time to ask for clarification (“Do you go by Sam or Samuel?”).

Attend and associate. The most critical phase! Devote five to ten seconds to focusing internally on the name and associating it with an image that the name reminds you of. For Sam, your association could be:

Same name as Mona’s husband (picture him). Picture your cousin Sam from Portland. Picture America’s Uncle Sam.

Allow the association to be silly, outrageous, insulting, or whatever comes to mind. What matters is that it is meaningful and memorable to you. After the meeting, write down the name and your association.

Memory storage. Concentrate on your image for five seconds, seeing Uncle Sam or whatever you chose paired with the new person’s face. In this way when you see what’s-his-name again at the next holiday party, Uncle Sam and this person’s  name will pop into your mind.

Two stockbrokers who were often stumped when it came to remembering clients’ names used this technique to recall the names of thirty-five strangers’ faces in a yearbook within one hour of learning the technique. Their enormous memory stor­age capacity shocked them because the day before they had a hard time remembering the names of just three clients right in front of them.

Exercise. Don’t be lazy. To practice, try using the N-A-M-E technique in at least one business or social situation a day. For fun, try to memorize the names of characters on TV shows (for example, the first and last names of every character on Game of Thrones) or names in the news (such as all the current cabinet members).

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Laurie Schloff
laurie@speechimprovement.com

25 Aug Perception is Reality…At Least for the Moment


I always remind my clients that “everything communicates”. How you appear in that moment, and sound in that moment to your listener, send a message about you.

The ability to be natural, who you are, and authentic, this is most people’s goal. I believe a great way to reach that goal is to: strengthen your ability to control the impression you make on others.  Perception is reality…. At least for the moment you are communicating it.

So the question is how does one control this in a world where so many things feel beyond our control?

Get ready- because taking your communication effectiveness to its next level is a 3 Level process.

Level one: Self-awareness. What is the current message you are sending? How are you projecting confidence and what may be taking away from that? Often my clients will say, “ I don’t like the sound of my voice” or “I never watch myself on video”. If you don’t hear it or see it, how can you know what is working?  Level one for many is the hardest part. Be brave.  

Try this: Turn your video on your phone and deliver a message to yourself, maybe it’s a quick business update or a voice message you’re about to leave. Watch it back. Grab a piece of paper and draw a line down the center. (more…)

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Monica
Monica Murphy
monica@speechimprovement.com

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