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.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail
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…)

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail
Read More
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.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail
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”?
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail
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.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail
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

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail
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.
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail
Dennis Becker
Dr. 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…)

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail
Read More
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…)

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail
Read More
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…)

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail
Read More
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!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail
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.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail
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.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail
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.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail
Monica
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…)

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail
Read More
Dr. Ethan Becker
Dr. Ethan Becker
ethan@speechimprovement.com