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28 Dec Don’t Sound Boring Use “Vocal Variety”

Despite the twenty hours Luanne spent preparing for each lecture to her nursing class, her students consistently rated her as dull. Jacob, a mechanical engineer with innovative ideas and brilliant designs, could not keep any audience interested in his presentations. Luanne and Jacob suffered from the bane of being boring, perhaps the worst curse that can afflict a speaker.

Though you might think people like Luanne and Jacob were born boring, the truth is they just never learned certain speech habits that most of us pick up naturally. In working with hundreds of tiresome talkers, I have found that training in simple techniques of vocal variety usually does the trick.

Vocal variety is the skill of emphasizing certain words to convey meaning and emotions so that those words “jump out” at the listener. It is the vocal equivalent of a colorful gesture. The following tips will pull you – and the audience – out of the dull-drums.

Pitch change. Change your pitch (usually upward) on an important word or syllable. Practice these sentences with a higher pitch on the word indicated, noticing that you have the power to change the meaning as you change the pitch.

 1. “She’s wearing a RED dress.” (Not green)

 2. “SHE’S wearing a red dress.” (That woman is)

 3. “She’s WEARING a red dress.” (As opposed to carrying or eating it)

Grab your phone or tablet and record yourself. Listen to make sure that the meaning really does stand out.

(more…)

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Laurie Schloff
laurie@speechimprovement.com

18 Dec Why do I have such anxiety with public speaking?

This is a question, I have been asked by almost every client that I have assisted in gaining control over their anxiety. In my past 25 years as communications coach, I have found that this anxiety stems from a few places. Now that is not to say that every person has had a uniquely unpleasant situation that helped to create the anxiety. What I am suggesting is that while situations are unique to that person, I find that the three places that the anxiety stems from are:

1. Having little to no experience with speaking publicly. You may be someone who has been creating the magic behind the scenes and have grown accustomed to that but now you are asked to be in the spotlight sharing what you know.

2. You may have had a not so great public speaking experience somewhere in your past. Negative experiences seem to linger quite a while. We seem to forget all the good experiences but those not so great ones remain forever. It’s not uncommon for an adult to remember a situation from 20-30 years ago. Clearly the individual has moved on from the negative experience, it is not forgotten and has let a mark.

3. You might be a person who has managed the nervousness and learned how to control it but something happened and a presentation did not go well. Some folks rely on their public speaking ability vs actually preparing and practicing. These folks thought they could “wing it” and they didn’t put a whole lot into preparing or practicing their presentation. Well, somewhere along the way, usually during the presentation, they realize that they aren’t prepared and what they thought would sound great, doesn’t sound so great.

All three of these situations boil down to being evaluated. No one loves being judged or evaluated.  We didn’t like it as children and we really dislike it as adults. As adults, we logically know that we cannot control what our listeners think or feel about us but that doesn’t stop us from worrying and stressing about it.

No matter what the cause of your public speaking anxiety, you need to gain control over it. The longer you wait to exert your control, the harder it becomes. I did not say impossible, just harder.  If you suffer from presentation anxiety, seek out assistance now.  You have the ability to control your presentation anxiety.

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Kristen Curran-Faller
Kristen Curran-Faller
kristen@speechimprovement.com

28 Nov Sales Management Tips

 

This interview with Laurie Schloff originally appeared on Sales Management Services website and was written by Suzanne Pailing

 

More Listening Tips

To succeed in a sales position of any type, you must be a proficient listener. This comes more easily to some reps than others. To help salespeople continue to develop this ability, sales leaders should run listening exercises during staff meetings, recommend books and articles on the subject, monitor sales calls and offer targeted coaching.

Becoming a better listener takes practice, practice, practice.

For more tips on this all important skill, I turned to Laurie Schloff, a career communication coach and author of “Smart Speaking,” who works for the Speech Improvement Company in Brookline, Massachusetts. Laurie’s clients include Fidelity Investments, The TJX Companies, and Vertex Pharmaceuticals. Laurie generously shared her advice about listening.

Talking / Listening Ratio

Laurie often gets asks how much reps should talk on a sales call? She says, “Every customer is different. Some prospects talk your head off, while others speak less. During the first meeting it should be no more than 50/50 (rep/customer), ideally 25/75. In subsequent meetings the ratio may shift, but always be aware of attending to your customers needs and reactions.”

(more…)

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Laurie Schloff
laurie@speechimprovement.com

17 Nov How to Deal With FEAR in 4 Steps

1. Fear ignites an immediate flight or freeze response in your body.

First you need to calm down both your nervous system and body response in order to think clearly.

Here’s a focused deep breathing exer

cise that is extremely helpful. Research has shown it instantly moves the brain’s reaction to calmness even in highly stressful situations. This creates the space you need to make decisions and take proper actions. It is recommended to train with this simple exercise during times when you’re not stressed so you remember it in difficult ones. Your body’s response will come much faster when it is ingrained in your habits.

Here’s the breathing exercise: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/simple-priceless-tool-st-wilkinson?trk=mp-reader-card

2. Fear is a lifesaver and signals that things are off.

Consciously remind yourself: It is extremely rare to be in a potentially lethal situation as long as you breathe, are safe and not threatened. You will be ok in that very moment of fear – you’ll get it sorted out!

3. Fear is an important signal that things need to be taken care of asap.

Take massive action – learn and grow as you face and tackle your situation STEP BY STEP – remember that you only have to make it through the next five minutes, and then the next…. and so on.

You might not always be able to change the external situations you fear at that very moment, but you can change how you react to them. Then plan further action and change your thinking from victim to victor.

4. Take charge of your own situation and rise above the challenge.

Seek help, knowledge, and support where needed – asking for help is a strength, not a weakness.

“Everything you want is on the other side of fear.”  -Jack Canfield

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

14 Nov What to do when your mind goes blank on stage

This article by Laurie Schloff originally appeared on SpeakerHub

 

What will happen if you go blank on stage?

Obviously, you will be struck by a lightning bolt and no one will ever talk to you again.

Seriously, even experienced speakers have moments when they look at the audience with a frozen stare and wonder:

Who are these people?

What am I doing here?

And what on earth am I supposed to be talking about?

The trick is to accept these uncomfortable moments and launch into “Blank-out Recovery”.

(more…)

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Laurie Schloff
laurie@speechimprovement.com

27 Oct Beta Testing

An article this week on StatNews.com, a sister site of BostonGlobe.com, reported on a California startup’s plan to broadly market the medication propranolol as a quality-of-life aid, including to reduce nervousness associated with public speaking.

Companies looking to innovate and disrupt will continue to explore new solutions to old problems, and vice versa. But this particular idea causes me concern as a speech professional. (more…)

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admin
mrussell@ottodetroit.com

26 Oct Podcast: The Only 3 Ways to Convince Anybody of Anything

Being persuasive is the topic most often requested by our clients. We train people all over the world – Fortune 500 executives, managers in companies of all sizes, entrepreneurs, politicians, athletes, and educators – who tell us again and again: they want to be more convincing.

In this 24-minute podcast, our founder, Dr. Dennis Becker, explores the three “modes for persuading”. And while it’s hard to believe, there are indeed only three. Originally taught centuries ago by Aristotle, they have stood the test of time and are as relevant and important today as they were back then.

Listen, learn, and you too can master these timeless techniques to be more persuasive on the job, at home, or anywhere.

Listen to the podcast here.

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Dennis Becker
Dr. Dennis Becker
dennis@speechimprovement.com

23 Oct I Hate Small Talk

Is small talk really so small? Chitchat about unimportant matters provides warm-up time for more meaningful interaction. During small talk, shifts in several dimensions of interaction can occur-from discomfort to comfort, mistrust to trust, im­personal topics to personal ones. Then talkers turn to their real business.

Jay, an intense engineer who wanted to meet his soulmate, refused to make small talk. He insisted, “I like to walk up to a woman and say, ‘I’ve been divorced three times, and I finally know myself well enough to sustain a close relationship.'” Unfortunately, he turned off more women than he turned on with his direct approach.

How to Make Your Peace With Small Talk

  1. Appreciate small talk as a normal, necessary stage before a more meaningful exchange. Without small talk your style of interaction will seem rude or cold.
  2. Use small talk time to convey warmth and interest in your conversational partner. The content of what you are saying matters little. If someone makes an inane remark, it’s fine to make an equally insipid comment to get the dance of conversa­tion going. Make eye contact, wear a warm, involved expres­sion, and nod your head to show interest.
  3. After introductions, think about what you have in com­mon with the other person to decide what to say. You will even have certain things in common with strangers. At a beach party, for example, there are the physical surroundings, the host and guests, the food, the music, and yes, the weather. Try a simple comment:

“Incredible day!”

“Have some avocado dip-it’s scrumptious.”

or  a question:

“Who’s winning in volleyball?”

“Are you another longtime friend of Patsy’s?”

4.  The small-talk phase is usually short. In business there should be a maximum of five minutes before getting to your real purpose. Allow the same amount of time in social situa­tions before turning to the really interesting stuff. Whenever you’re feeling frustrated with the degree of small talk, use a transition such as:

“So what exactly is your role at ZYX?”

“I’m really glad you invited me here to discuss your marketing plan.”

(You wouldn’t normally make such comments first thing.)

Remember: Don’t worry about being clever. Just enter into the game of conversation, starting with the little moves necessary to get the game rolling smoothly.

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Laurie Schloff
laurie@speechimprovement.com

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