Whether you're presenting to a crowd or speaking one-on-one to a customer/client, mastering the art of communication is essential to successfully deliver your message!
As a motivational speaker, I've learned that I previously measured the success of a presentation all WRONG. (Gulp!) Because I'm Southern, I loved to see head nods and seemingly engaged body language to affirm my message was being received. However, I began to notice a trend of questions at the end of my talks, which suggested a gap in the recipients' understanding. No no no... It wasn't their fault, but I attributed this subtle hint to mean that I, in fact, had not done a good job in relating my words into meaning for the audience. Sometimes hours of research and writing had been wasted, simply because I had not mastered the art of communication! Or even worse, I missed an opportunity to connect with others, because of this common fallacy.
So, what do I look for now? Blank stares!!! Hang on... before you exit this article, let me explain. Blank stares are neutral and do not attempt to convey positive (I agree) or negative (I disagree) feedback, but signify authenticity. No, I'm not insinuating smiles are fake, but they are done intentionally... unless you're a stand-up comedian... just as frowns are intentional expressions. Nonetheless, blank stars are an outward sign that mental stimulation and processing is occurring, and the perfect opportunity to convey your thoughts!
So how do you get listeners to chew your words and smoothly digest? Here are my 5 steps to master any audience!
1) Disregard hierarchy. There's nothing worse than getting the lineup wrong and/or omitting the head honcho(s). I cannot tell you how many times I've seen this happen! And not only that, it's inappropriate to make any audience member feel "less than" just because they aren't the person who signs the check. Unbeknownst to YOU, many check signers make their decisions based on guidance from the people you may be ignoring.
2) Engage as many people as possible. Since personal touch has tremendously diminished (i.e. face-to face interactions, telephone calls, handwritten letters, and etc.) there is a subconscious impression that mass messages are not intended for the individual if their name isn't called or if they don't receive eye contact. To mitigate, I'm always interactive. I ask questions, I ask for a show of hand (call and response), and other techniques to increase engagement. By engaging your audience, you appear more personable and it intentionally invites listeners to the discussion.
3) Choose impression over impressing. Using words the audience has never heard may make you feel smart, but it may also make audience members feel disconnected. Using technical jargon that people don't understand simply inserts a wall and gives them permission to play Candy Crush versus listening to you. The audience can read your accomplishments and accolades on the program or on your website, so aim toward your message leaving an impression on their heart or mind, versus impressing them with content that doesn't resonate.
4) Say more with less words. Because the average adult attention span is 5 minutes (assuming you pass the "within the first 10 seconds" test), be succinct in your delivery. I personally cannot rehearse speeches, because I'll try to remember every, single word. Instead, I use a bulleted list and ensure I am well informed on each point. When you're reaching for understanding during your talk, you have to improvise and eventually get tangled in your words... then you use more words to attempt to untangle yourself. Big no-no! Also, choose words and phrases that are impactful to lessen the need to over-explain.
5) Make a connection. Connections are deeper than a handshake and last longer than a business card. Ignite a connection by exposing commonalities and by ensuring relativity to the particular audience. I establish connections by putting myself in the shoes of the recipients and also by using quotes, statistics, and personal stories. Lastly, exude confidence! No one wants to connect with someone who appears unsure.
The next time you're talking/speaking/presenting to someone (or many), try these steps and let me know if they help you achieve your desired results! Any other tips? I'd love to hear your feedback!
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