15 Feb The Owl in the Oak

There has been a plethora of communication about President Trump’s communication.  We are , indeed, experiencing a new kind of communication from the office and the person who holds the Presidency of the United States.  In recent days, the attention and commentary has shifted from everyone’s ability to LISTEN, in addition to the ability to talk.  It stirred in me a bit of wisdom that I would like to share with you in hopes that it will help the overall communication that must take place between and among the citizenry and POTUS.  Think about this:

                                         There was an old owl that lived in an oak,
                                         The more he listened, the less he spoke.
                                         The less he spoke the more he heard.
                                         We can all learn from that old bird.
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Dennis Becker
Dr. Dennis Becker
dennis@speechimprovement.com

08 Feb Do I Need to Tell a Joke in a Presentation?

Yes, go ahead and tell a joke if all of the following apply:

  • You can immediately tie in the joke with the larger theme for the presentation.
  • Your joke is simple and short – audiences can’t remember more than three types of guys meeting Saint Peter at Heaven’s gate.
  • Your jokes won’t offend men, women, children, Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Seventh-Day Adventists; Republicans, Democrats, Independents; cat, dog, fish, or bird lovers; people who don’t like jokes; and so forth.
  • You like telling jokes and not just for speeches.
  • Not only that, you’re good at telling jokes, especially for speeches.

Otherwise, don’t tell a joke.

If you flunked the above checklist, remember that there are other forms of humor besides jokes.  Here are some suggestions for being jocular without telling a joke.

  1. Use exaggeration.  One presenter who had the misfortune of following an extraordinary speaker at a conference began by saying, “That was a superb talk, Carl.  I’m reminded of the time I tried out for the opera, and the fellow before me was either Pavarotti or his twin.”
  2. Use real-life examples with a silly slant or a bizarre bent.  A woman in my speaking-under-stress class shared this with the group: “I always thought my talks went pretty well, but my boss disagrees.  He says I begin well and end well.  But in the middle he says, I always faint, and he’s getting a little tired of reviving me.”
  3. Use a touch of self-deprecation.  Audiences respond well to a speaker who is able to laugh at herself.  Be careful, however, that you put yourself down only when you have the group’s confidence.  Otherwise, they may perceive you as a loser, not as humorously humble.  A professor who received utter silence when he asked his graduate class a question did get a laugh when he asked, “Now I know my questions are extremely thought-provoking, but don’t all jump to answer at once.”
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Laurie Schloff
laurie@speechimprovement.com

07 Feb Lessons on better speaking from the Super Bowl

I love it when after a major game, people who have little to no experience with the NFL or professional athletes, do the Monday morning quarterbacking and proclaim the connections to business.

Certainly, professional sports can serve as a cool way to learn about leadership and teamwork, but you’ve got to take it in context plus remember that many people are not sports fans. Some may wear the hats and jerseys, nod their heads, smile and cheer, but if you ask them how many innings there are in the quarter, they will answer a basket is worth 2 points.

So, what are some meaningful lessons and how can sports fans and non-sports fans alike learn them?

As professional speech coaches, we’ve worked with pro-athletes, their coaches, and senior team executives in several major leagues. From that perspective, looking through the lens of communication, we do get to hear firsthand how these executives, coaches, and professional athletes think. (more…)

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

05 Feb How do you help someone who suffers from fear of speaking?

Nervousness associated with public speaking is extremely debilitating for so many people.  It is a real fear and needs to be addressed.  It’s easy for colleagues, friends and family to say, “You’ll be great. Stop worrying.”  or “You need to get over it.”  But many times these well-intentioned words of encouragement do more harm than good.  Someone who is suffering from this hears these words, wonders why they can’t get over it and doesn’t believe they will be great.  Often, this individual may have had a bad experience and that is what they remember.  He or she may be afraid of repeating it.  Your words are no guarantee that fear won’t control them.  The only voice they listen to is their own.  The best advice I can give to someone who is looking to be helpful is to encourage your friend, colleague, or family member to seek out assistance.  To let them know that conducting a presentation is, for many people, their number one fear.  It’s common and they are not alone.  They need to know they can learn to control their nervousness and that there are many available resources to help them achieve it.
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Kristen Curran-Faller
Kristen Curran-Faller
kristen@speechimprovement.com

17 Jan Warren Buffett Says This Will Raise Your Value by 50 Percent

Speaking to a group of Columbia University business students, Warren Buffett once said “Now, you can improve your value by 50 percent just by learning,”

Drum roll please…

“…communication skills–public speaking.”

That, of course, is music to our ears. We never said it quite that way, but Warren really nailed it. We couldn’t agree more.

Check out this article in Inc.

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Jeff Turner
Jeff Turner
jturner@speechimprovement.com

16 Jan MLK Day: King’s Speech

“Let us turn our thoughts today to Martin Luther King”
–James Taylor, “Shed A Little Light”

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would have turned 88 this weekend. A pivotal figure in American history, he is revered as an exceptional public speaker whose ideas and language helped effect real change in the world.

King was human and imperfect. He shot pool and was a fan of Star Trek. Concerns raised about plagiarism and his private life may have merit. He faced criticism from fellow activists and many others. I mention this to underscore that the power of words that he harnessed is not reserved just for perfect, mythical figures, but available to all of us mortals with hopes and fears.

As a child in school I was conscious of MLK for a few reasons. His work in the struggle for civil rights was a point of emphasis in the curriculum. And, our adjacent mid-January birthdays meant I often enjoyed a long birthday weekend. Only later did I learn of King’s connections to Boston, or begin to grasp his significance as a communicator. (more…)

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Jordan Piel
Jordan Piel
jordan@speechimprovement.com

12 Jan Powering Up with the TEDx Speakers

Congrats to our TEDx Chandigarh, India clients and all who value spreading ideas to change the world, one talk at a time.

We are delighted to add to the brilliance and talents of TEDx Chandigarh.  Chandigarh is known as the Silicon Valley of India, and the conference theme on January 15th is Dream, Ideate, Create!

How do we help seasoned speakers?  We take them to the next level—developing a high impact talk, timing and pacing and best practices in oral and nonverbal delivery.

All this while helping each speaker be as authentic as possible.

Back here in the U.S., many of our clients are creating TED talks. Congrats to all of you!  It takes courage to put yourself and your ideas out there!

Laurie Schloff is an Executive Communication Coach at The Speech Improvement Company
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Laurie Schloff
laurie@speechimprovement.com

11 Jan “We Waste A Lot of Time at Our Meetings”

You have plenty of company.  According to numerous surveys, most businesspeople view meetings as boring, un-productive, and a waste of time.  (In one poll, 43 percent of executives admitted to having dozed off at a meeting at least once.)  Some view meetings as downright unbearable.  Is it possible to leave a meeting feeling refreshed, with a heightened sense of teamwork, and ready to take constructive action?  Use this diagnostic test and follow up with the necessary cure.  There can be more to look forward to than danish and coffee.

Your meetings are out of control if:

  • People show up late or not at all.
  • Instead of an agenda, anything and everything comes up.
  • 10 percent of the participants do 90 percent of the talking.
  • Most of the topics discussed have no relevance to most of the participants.
  • Things are discussed and discussed and disgust meeting after meeting.
  • There’s no procedure for reaching a decision.
  • People use the time for getting paperwork done or for daydreaming about a world without meetings.
  • People wake up only for the name-calling and confrontation.

 

You can end meeting madness if you:

  • Cancel any meeting you don’t really need.
  • Call a meeting only when the input of the group is necessary for discussion and constructive action.
  • Use other communication methods (text, telephone, email) for routine announcements.
  • Create and distribute an agenda several days in advance.
  • Include participants’ concerns by inviting all beforehand to suggest topics for discussion.
  • Break down the agenda by the time allotted for each topic of discussion.
  • Consider having certain participants attend only relevant parts of the meeting.
  • Include introductory and concluding statements for each agenda item.
  • Let participants know how and when a decision will be made:  “Let’s hear your ideas for our fund-raising project.  Next Tuesday, the executive board will vote on them.”
  • Keep meetings as short as possible.
  • Take frequent breaks, about once every hour and a half during a long meeting.
  • Brush up on listening and group leadership skills.
  • Don’t forget the goodies—try juice and fruit for a change from coffee and doughnuts.

 

WARNING! Exposure to too many meetings can be dangerous to your company’s health.  Stick to a moderate meeting dosage.

Laurie Schloff is an Executive Communication Coach at The Speech Improvement Company

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Laurie Schloff
laurie@speechimprovement.com

09 Jan Developing Practical American English Skills

An article by Sacha Pfeiffer in The Boston Globe entitled “For more firms, teaching English is in business plan” discusses an innovative benefit that at least 35 Massachusetts companies are providing their employees who are non-native English speakers – free classes to develop their English communication skills.

This caught my attention as an educator, coach, and clinician dedicated to the development of people’s communication potential. As a student of linguistics at Northeastern University years ago, I had the privilege to volunteer with S.H.A.R.E., a program provided for service workers on campus to develop practical American English skills. Besides a chance to make use of some high school Spanish, it was a rewarding opportunity to bridge differences, develop my coaching skills, and serve my school community.

Today, whether you’re a businessperson, academic, or merely a conscious global citizen, the ability to connect, understand, and collaborate with people and groups of different language and cultural backgrounds is as important as ever to your success.

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Jordan Piel
Jordan Piel
jordan@speechimprovement.com

03 Jan A Performance Gone Wrong

I am sure you have either seen or heard about Mariah Carey’s disasterous New Year’s Eve performance on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Eve with Ryan Seacrest.  Moments after it happened, social media had labeled it a train wreck, an end of her career, a lip syncing gone horribly wrong, etc.

How did Mariah Carey and her folks handle the situation?  Well, I guess it depends on who you ask.

Mariah Carey’s tweet showed us acceptance of what happened and a desire to move on.  A statement from Mariah Carey’ s manager came out two days after the performance explaining exactly what had occurred.  Unfortunately, social media had already made and communicated their assumptions.

Whatever the reasons for Mariah Carey’s disappointing performance, waiting more than 24 hours to give an explanation of her side is way too late.  We would have recommended that a statement of explanation be made immediately.  Ten years ago, two or three days seemed acceptable.  Today with the presences of social media, two days is more like two weeks.  FaceBook, Twitter, Instragram and other forms of social media make news relevant at the exact time the news is occurring.

Remember, “Everything Communicates!”  So not giving an explanation or statement, communicates a message. Don’t let social media decide your fate, get an explanation/statement out as soon as possible.

Kristen Curran-Faller is an Executive Communication Coach and COO for The Speech Improvement Company.

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

02 Jan A Winning Strategy

I came across an interesting Business Insider article entitled, The 10 best retail companies to work for in 2017, according to employees. It cited Glassdoor’s Employees’ Choice Awards. I expected that pay, benefits and advancement opportunities were the tops reasons why these companies were selected. I was happy to see other, key reasons that were common threads between these companies, most notably great management teams; positive and friendly work environments; and holiday and social gatherings. It’s interesting to note three of the reasons involve communication. Communication from management and between co-workers both help create a winning, positive work environment. We tell clients “Everything Communicates!” and we teach how managers need to consistently communicate sincerity with their tone, non-verbals, and word choices.  

While things such as money and benefits will always be important to employees, it is a breath of fresh air to see other reasons why companies such as Apple, Wegman’s Food Markets, Bain, Trader Joe’s and Forrester made the Employees’ Choice Awards.

Kristen Curran-Faller is an Executive Communication Coach and COO for The Speech Improvement Company.

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

28 Dec Conference Confidence – A Valuable Guide for Conference Speakers

People and organizations invest valuable time, money, and effort into producing and attending conferences. But the truth is that all the slides, videos, lighting, staging, and materials are just support tools for the most valuable asset of a conference:  the speakers.

Drawing from our 50-year history as presentation coaches and consultants, we developed a guide that offers important advice to ensure presenters connect with listeners authentically and speak with confidence.

It’s free, and you can download it right now.

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Jeff Turner
Jeff Turner
jturner@speechimprovement.com

27 Dec Helping Kids at Ron Burton’s Training Camp

It was such a joy to be able to give back to the famed NFL player Ron Burton’s training camp!  The kids in this program have amazing spirit and desire to improve. To be able to see kids adopt the same best practices in communication that we teach to leaders of countries and companies is both remarkable and inspiring!

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

26 Dec Bloomberg Ranks Massachusetts #1

A recent article in The Boston Globe entitled Massachusetts Again Beats California as Most Innovative in US is reason for some hometown pride.

We work with a lot of tech companies, both established and startups including many in software and health sciences, so we train and coach some truly innovative people. From this vantage point, we see this creativity first-hand alongside the people who fund, build, and drive our local innovation economy. It’s great to have them collectively recognized by an authoritative source as the best in the nation.

FWIW: We also blow away California for seafood and football. 🙂

Click here to read the article.

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Jeff Turner
Jeff Turner
jturner@speechimprovement.com

19 Dec Are You a Fast Talker?

Have people ever said to you “Hey slow down, you talk too fast!” Wonder what they are referring to?  Being from the Northeast, we hear this comment quite often. When thinking about controlling your communication style, it’s helpful to peel back one more layer and look at what makes up someone’s speed of speaking.

As a Speaker Coach, I break speed into two categories: rate and pace. Rate refers to the speed in which a person puts words together.  It literally refers to the amount of words per minute.  The average rate of speech in a business presentation will range from 150-180 words per minute. Think about listening to a commercial and often, at the end there is a voice quickly giving you all the fine print details at a rate you can hardly follow. They are speaking at approximately 300 words per minute. Much too fast for the average listener!

The second category of speed, pace, refers to the amount of time the speaker pauses between main ideas. It’s a wonderful tool to focus the listener where you want them to reflect. This is controlled by pausing at the end of a thought, giving the listeners time to hear it, process it, put it in a place in their brain and get ready for the next new information. A good speaker will make use of this and strategically pause for effect during their talk to help the listener focus and even reflect on key points. It’s powerful!

So the next time someone tells you to slow down…. ask yourself are they talking about my rate of words or the pacing of ideas? By controlling both of these, you will help your listeners get the most out of your message.

Monica Murphy is a senior coaching partner with The Speech Improvement Company.

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Monica
Monica Murphy
monica@speechimprovement.com