Speak for Success!

May 8th, 2017
by MrG

Four Easy Ways to Be a More Exciting Speaker with Charisma

Think charisma is a mysterious quality you just don’t have as a speaker? Learn these four simple approaches for more memorable and exciting public speaking.

Interested in engaging, motivating, and inspiring audiences? Want to be thought of highly in your industry and be recognized as a memorable speaker? If so, you need to go far beyond informing or even persuading audiences.

You need to speak with charisma. 

That level of success means you need to speak as a leader. Leaders compel an audience’s attention while speaking with stage presence and confidence. To do that requires absolute focus and control. Discover my theater-inspired techniques for commanding a stage! Download my essential cheat sheet10 Ways to Stay Fully Focused when Speaking.

Connecting with an audience and accomplishing this level of memorability as a speaker is easier than you think. One way to begin is by removing yourself from the equation. In other words, start making listeners the center of your universe.

You might be amazed at how much direction that point of view will lend you in meeting your audience’s needs and engaging their full attention. From that mindset, you can use the following four equally simple approaches to making your presentations enjoyable for audiences.

They work for informative speeches, motivational speaking, persuasive speaking, pep talks, inspirational addresses, and any other form of public speaking. Equally important, they’ll help you shine in your audience’s eyes:

1. Make eye contact to gain trust in your listeners.

Simply put, no behavior is as fundamental to persuasion as looking at the person you’re talking to. When was the last time you trusted somebody who wouldn’t look you in the eye?

So actively look at and relate to your audience when you speak. When I say actively, I mean let your gaze linger for a half-a-second to a second on each individual or section of a larger audience. Don’t “flick” your eyes at your listeners, thinking that constitutes actual eye contact. When you look at listeners while saying something you want them to believe, they’ll trust in your honesty. And that means they’ll be more willing to be influenced by you.

Avoid their gaze just because you’re nervous—or weakest of excuses, because you’re busy reading your manuscript out loud—and you’ll have virtually no chance of changing their thinking or behavior for the better. After all, eye contact is called that because it involves actually connecting with others when you speak. Here’s a technique you can use to dramatically improve your eye contact.

2. Smile to increase everyone’s enjoyment.

As public speakers we don’t smile enough, period. Smiling is another prerequisite to establishing trust with audiences (though it’s not as critical as eye contact). At the very least, it’s visual evidence of the speaker’s enjoyment in the current activity.

In speaking situations where you feel a smile is inappropriate, take one of two alternate paths: (a) “open” your countenance by assuming a pleasant expression; or (b) raise your cheekbones, i.e., visualize your facial physiology in your cheek areas “rising” slightly, which, while that may not actually happen physicially, will positively affect your expression.

To explain what I mean by that last point, look at Grant Wood’s famous painting American Gothic. That’s the one of the grim-faced farmer and his wife, complete with pitchfork. Now compare it to the Mona Lisa. There’s a lady with some raised cheekbones . . . and look how successful she’s been!

 

3. Energize your voice so you reach every listener.

Have you ever had to strain to hear what a speaker is saying? Soft-talkers and under-energized presenters make us work too hard just to hear them. Worse, these speakers seem distant, as though we’ve been left out of the communication loop.

Instead, be sure to generate enough vocal power and energy to reach every listener in the room. That includes not only people in the back, but those who are hard of hearing (always assume there is someone in this category in your audience). Remember also that your vocal energy must change in different spaces: the larger the speaking venue, the more you must project your voice. In auditoriums and lecture halls that echo, you’ll also have to speak slowly enough for the echo to reach your listeners before you go on.

When you project sufficient energy in a presentation, you make everything easier for listeners. Now they feel they can relax, instead of working overtime to do part of your job for you. The other benefit is that a strong vocal performance is an influencer in its own right. Here are 4 ways to achieve vocal power when you speak.

4. Enjoy yourself when you’re speaking in public!

Now there’s a novel concept! Our culture has somehow invested public speaking with an aura of inconvenience, horror, and even torture—as if the entire experience belongs in an Edgar Allan Poe story.

But think about your own experiences as an audience member. Are you comfortable listening to a speaker who is hesitant, self-conscious, or fearful? A speaker who instead presents with verve broadcasts a completely different message. Audiences instinctively feel that this is a person who has something valuable to say.

It must be good stuff, they think—look at how much he or she is enjoying talking about it! Pretty soon, they’ll be enjoying themselves as well. And that’s a guarantee that they’ll remember the experience with positive emotions.

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The Top 10 Public Speaking Blogs

May 10th, 2016
by MrG

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Speak for Success!

October 22nd, 2014
by MrG

5 Acting Techniques to Speak with Presence and Charisma

Oct 5th, 2014 by Gary Genard

You’re about to give an important presentation. You want to be good—really good.

Where do you turn to find the best techniques for engaging, entertaining, and moving your audience?

As an actor my choice is biased, but I still think it’s the right one: the world of acting.

When I founded The Genard Method of performance-based public speaking training, I was delighted to see how many people understood the connection between theater and effective public speaking performances. In fact, public speaking and acting are the closest of cousins. And so it stands to reason that learning the techniques of the theater are among the fastest and most powerful tools for becoming a more dynamic speaker.

(To discover the theater-based techniques that can make you a more exciting speaker, gohere.)

Below are five ways you can use the skills of an actor to improve the impact and influence of your own speaking:

1. Learn the Art of Speaking with Presence. This means developing “audience sense”—an awareness of how your audience is responding. Naturally, actors cultivate this attribute until it’s a finely-tuned instrument. But you can benefit from awakening this awareness in yourself.

How can you do so? Practice the ability to present information while sensing how that information is received. You may find this challenging at first, since as speakers we’re used to conveying content to the exclusion of almost all else. When the receipt of what you’re saying becomes your primary aim, you’ll find that you’ll be far more present for your audience. The other way to say this is, you’ll have presence. Only then will you accomplish the true purpose of a speaker: to add something to the occasion that the material can’t contribute on its own.

2. Learn How to Use Body Language in Performance. You already know that body language is a powerful tool of communication. But how can you use it productively in public speaking, going beyond gestures to truly have an impact on an audience? Here are 6 skills building exercises for effective body language you can use, as well as these suggestions:

First, learn how to use space. Try to decrease the distance between you and your listeners, for instance. And think about how your position in your “performance space” can be linked to your content. — Can your stage position be tied to the item you’re talking about at the moment? Something as simple as moving to one place for each talking point can help. Most important, ask yourself this question: “How can I find physical expression of what I’m saying?” It’s at this point that you will truly begin to use body language effectively.

3. Learn How to Use Your Voice. Is your voice fully expressive? It needs to be, if you’re going to convey the subtle meanings of the points you’re making. If you don’t know the 5 key tools of vocal expressiveness, you can find them here.

To practice vocal improvement, record your presentations in audio only. That way, you’ll be 100% mindful of your voice and nothing else. Work on one vocal tool at a time, isolating each until you hear improvement. Then go on to the next, and so on. Finally, practice your selections using all of the tools, since that’s how we speak when we’re invested in what we’re saying. And don’t stay in the world of business—fiction and poetry offer the best material for stretching your vocal apparatus until it’s fully at your command.

4. Learn How to Lead Your Audience’s Response. Wrap yourself too much in the cocoon of your content and you may as well be speaking to an empty room. Think of it this way: Your content is actually one of the two engines of an audience’s response. (The other is you.) So you should be constructing your message not only so that the audience can follow it, but in a way that allows them to respond in the right way, at the right time.

Here’s an example: I recently coached a client who had to tell his team about a directive that had just “come down from corporate.” New accounting procedures were being implemented that his team had to follow. He was ready to dive right into details. But I pointed out that he really needed to land hard on the “we-have-to-do-this-guys” aspect of his message at the start.Then the details could follow, because his team’s response had to be: “Oh, I guess we’d better pay attention to this.” It was the audience response he needed at just that point in his remarks.

5. Discover the Spotlight for Speaking with Charisma. Every actor knows the expression “Find your light.” It means that if you’re in the dark on stage, step into the light source so you can be seen. Audiences find it hard to pay attention to actors they can’t see!

Let’s tweak that idea slightly, and say this: When you present, you need to become comfortable being squarely in the spotlight. It means accepting your central role—and the exposure that comes with it—as a speaker. Some presenters are uncomfortable with that level of scrutiny, and it shows. But public speaking is performance. If you don’t like it—if you don’t learn to love it—you’ll never achieve the influence you’re capable of. So go out there and shine.

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Rock Your Talk! — Performance Tips for Speaking to Large Audiences

September 29th, 2014
by MrG

(Sep 28th, 2014 by Gary Genard)

Imagine speaking to 500 people. Or 1,000. Or 10,000. Or ten million.

You can’t, so don’t even try.

Can you speak to one person whose opinion you value, for whom you want to do right in their eyes, someone who will say to you after your presentation: “That’s the kind of speech I know you’re capable of. Well done.”

Of course you can. In fact, that’s the only person you can speak to when addressing the filled-up seats of a large auditorium, or thousands listening to you on the radio, or millions watching you on TV. (Got an important speech coming up? Find out about The Genard Method’s short-term and powerful Presentation Coaching.)

For Effective Public Speaking, You Need to Personalize Your Listeners

For most people, large audiences bring on self-consciousness, anxiety and nervousness where none existed before. Like every speech coach, I’ve heard this sentence hundreds or even thousands of times: “I’m fine in front of a small group, but getting in front of a large audience terrifies me.”

It doesn’t matter that this isn’t logical—after all, these are the very same individuals you feel perfectly comfortable around chatting in a café or sharing comments with in a meeting. But something about the aggregate of a large grouping of these same people makes speakers break out in hives.

Solving this problem is relatively simple, since it means going in the opposite direction from where your fear is taking you. Leave the many behind, so you end up with the one. Literally. No one can stare into a television camera or even 2,000 people in their seats and come up with a way of talking to all of them!

So select that one person whose opinion you cherish and speak to him or her. Personalize your talk. You’re at your best when you’re talking to another person about something that matters to both of you (a good definition of speaker and audience!). Call up that feeling, and just . . . talk. You’ll come across as your authentic best, and you’ll be whittling down that AUDIENCE MONSTER to a manageable and even enjoyable size.

Four More Tips to Speak with Presence to Large Audiences

Get close to them. If your audience is set up to be too far away from you, find ways to close the distance. Once, at a conference, I scouted the venue the night before and discovered I was expected to speak in a cavernous auditorium (to 75 people at this breakout) with a nearly postage-stamped-size stage at one end. Enough of that! I thought. I delivered my entire talk in the aisles and never got up on the stage once. If handlers are present, politely but firmly point out that you’re the speaker, and you’d like to improve the set up. It’s painful for me as an actor to say this, but traditional theater seating with row upon row of seats is a terrible configuration for a speech. Find ways around that if you can!
Make your greeting longer. Your greeting is an essential part of your speech because it opens the channel of communication between you and your listeners. Too many speakers rush into their Introduction and leave any kind of greeting behind. Here’s how to start a speech powerfully instead—with twelve foolproof ways to grab your audience! Remember: audiences need a relationship with you! At a medical conference, a video was shown that was heartbreaking. The next speaker told the audience that he wanted everyone present to absorb for a moment what they had all just watched. Then he asked their permission to start his speech. He understand that everyone needed that moment to share the experience.
Meet people beforehand. Will there be opportunities for you to meet some audience members before you’ll speak? If there are, take advantage of them. Introduce yourself, say that you hope they’ll enjoy your talk, and tell them you welcome the opportunity to chat afterwards. It’s a great way to “lower the “stranger quotient.” More than once, I’ve done this and have heard a comment I was able to use in the opening of my talk. It’s amazing how your audience can seem smaller if it’s sprinkled with familiar faces!
“Touch them.” The big reason we feel anxious in front of a large audience is because we feel isolated from them. Often that’s physically true; but it’s that psychological distance that’s worse. It can feel like a lonely monologue. So work to create a dialogue instead. Here are two ways you can do that: (1) Ask questions—actual questions if your audience is small, rhetorical questions if it’s large. People who are asked questions respond mentally. And (2) Find ways to phrase what you’re saying in terms of their world, not yours. In other words, always bring them into the conversation. “Touching” an audience this way will dissipate the feeling of isolation, replacing it with a sense of community.

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Five Key Tools of Vocal Dynamics

September 19th, 2014
by MrG

To speak effectively, you must use vocal expressiveness or “vocal dynamics.” These speaking techniques keep your audience attentive, engaged, and thoroughly informed and persuaded. Here are the “5 Key Tools of Vocal Dynamics” that you should know about and practice:

1. Energy and Emphasis. Emphasis is the stress you place on important ideas,
which should come naturally. But you also need enough energy so that your voice “encompasses” your audience. Nothing turns off listeners more than a speaker who makes them work too hard, reminding everyone of the distance between that presenter and his or her audience.

2. Pitch Inflection. Varying or inflecting your pitch adds color and excitement to what you say. A pitch without any variation is a “mono-tone,” which is where we get the word monotonous. A speaker who uses pitch inflection, however, is much easier to listen to. That speaker also helps listeners grasp important points, since these become “peaks” of inflection that stand out from the rest of the “plateau.”

3. Rhythm and Pace. Have you ever listened to a speaker who seemed to be racing in the Indy 500 without a car? How about someone with a speaking rhythm like a metronome? Audiences need a varied pace to stay interested. If you’re completely invested in what you’re saying, your rate and rhythm will vary naturally, since ideas and emotions change constantly throughout a speech.

4. The Power of Silence. “She was the most . . .” If a speaker paused right there before going on, wouldn’t you be interested in what was coming next? Pauses work wonderfully to create suspense, emphasis, to bridge ideas, and to transition between points. And silence, by itself, is one of the most powerful tools in your speaking arsenal.

5. Vocal Quality. Vocal quality includes all the elements of tone, richness, pleasantness, and emotional connection that create the subtleties of human speech. Think about someone whose voice you love listening to, versus the grating speaker who gets on your nerves. Your audience too wants a voice that not only informs them but makes listening to you enjoyable and, dare we say, memorable?

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