Thursday, November 19, 2009

How to Speak Up in a Crowd

by Gilda Bonanno LLC http://www.gildabonanno.com/

A class participant recently emailed me with a question: "What if you find yourself in a discussion with quite a few people at a social gathering and you have an important point to make, but feel intimated by those around you? I find I get all tongue twisted and the words do not come out the way I had planned." Here are my suggestions:

· Think about WHY you feel intimidated – it gets back to fear and self-confidence. FIRST, you have to believe that you have something to say that is worth listening to – do you believe it? What do you tell yourself before you open your mouth to speak to them – “wow, they’re so smart/experienced/articulate, they’re never going to listen to me” or “I have something to contribute to this discussion and this group will benefit from listening to me”?

· What is your goal in making your point? Do you want to convince them, or just contribute to the conversation, or speak up for what you believe in even if no one else changes their mind?

· Think about your message. Can you boil it down to one short sentence with a few points to back it up? Getting to the point quickly will help you keep their attention.

· Deliver your message with confidence. Wait for a slight break in the conversation and then jump in. Speak in a voice that is loud enough for everyone to hear, speak confidently and make eye contact with people in the group (smile if appropriate). Be mindful of the message you are sending with your body language; it should match your words and your intention. So, for example, a confident person will stand up straight with shoulders back and head up, while someone who is less confident will slump their shoulders and avoid eye contact.

· Even though you may not be able to practice at home for the exact social situation and conversation, you can practice speaking concisely and confidently about topics that you want to discuss in social situations. For example, if you usually go to events where there are a lot of teachers, you might want to discuss educational reform or how to handle a specific classroom problem. So when you have free time at home, or in the car, you can practice stating your opinion or relating a relevant anecdote. Practice saying the words out loud, so you get used to how they sound and are less likely to get tongue-twisted.

· Take one step at a time. Before you decide to make a very controversial point in front of a group of 15 lawyers, try speaking up about something a little easier to a smaller, less intimidating group. As you experience success one step at a time, you will build your confidence.


Gilda Bonanno's blog www.gildabonanno.blogspot.com

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Speaking at a High School Reunion

Here is an email I received from a friend who was speaking at a high school reunion:

Dear Gilda,
I have to do the welcome speech at the reunion and I'm a horrible public speaker. Do you have any advice for me? Should I be short & sweet or should I try to be funny & long winded?


Here, in part, is my response:

"I’d recommend short and sweet … don’t worry about trying to be funny. Just be yourself and be sincere. And here are some more specific tips:

**Focus on the one message you want to convey (Looking forward to a great event – or – it’s nice to reconnect with everyone after 20 years – or – as the economy tightens, it’s nice to know that we can still rely on our friends… or whatever the message is). And only include details/stories/points that relate to that message and support it. So, for example, if you have a nice story about one of the math teachers, but it doesn’t relate to your message, don’t include it.

**Prep for the logistics of the room – will you have a microphone? When will you speak? Where will the audience be – seated/standing?

**Practice – especially your opening. What will be your first few sentences? And also the closing – how will you end? You want to start and end strongly and with confidence instead of using lots of ums and ahs… Audiotape yourself or even videotape yourself. Public speaking is just a skill and that means you can improve!

**For your delivery, you can harness the power of your voice to communicate effectively. Speak loudly enough and slowly enough (use pauses) so everyone can hear.

**Other delivery tips: make eye contact, be aware of your non-verbal communication, like gestures; movement (no pacing) and your facial expressions (a smile is great). Be sure your non-verbal communications match your words.

The biggest piece of advice I can give - be yourself and have fun!"

These tips can apply not only to speaking at a high school reunion, but also to presenting at an conference, speaking at a deparment meeting or any other occasion you have to communicate your ideas and thoughts to an audience.

Gilda Bonanno's blog www.gildabonanno.blogspot.com

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"How to Write a Rude Q&A" - from Scott Berkun

This post is from the blog of author and speaker Scott Berkun. Even though it's from 2007, it's still a great description of how you should prepare for questions that might come up during your presentation. Berkun used to work at Microsoft, where "a Rude Q&A is a list of questions you don’t want to hear about whatever it is you’re working on."

I wasn't familiar with Scott's work until a friend in India suggested I might be interested in his third book, Confessions of a Public Speaker, which was just published. So I checked out his blog and found this useful post. And I'm looking forward to reading his book.

So the next time you have to deliver a presentation, create a "rude Q&A" so you're ready for those tough questions. Read Scott's post to learn how - How to write a rude Q&A

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Gilda Bonanno's blog www.gildabonanno.blogspot.com

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Jeff Korhan's Book Project Day 4 - Find That Voice

I've been following fellow speaker Jeff Korhan's journey towards writing a book on social media marketing for small business and entrepreneurs.
Check out his daily blog posts here - Book Project Day 4 - Find That Voice

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Gilda Bonanno's blog www.gildabonanno.blogspot.com

Thursday, November 5, 2009

How to Listen & Not Interrupt

by Gilda Bonanno LLC http://www.gildabonanno.com/

A reader emailed me with a question: "You give points on being a good listener. I try, but I find myself at times interrupting because I'm so afraid I'm going to forget what I have to say. I've been told to keep a pen and paper handy to jot down what I want to say once the speaker has finished. However, for simple one on one conversations or small group discussions, this isn't always practical. Any other suggestions??" This is a common issue that many of us face. Here are my suggestions:

First, let it be all about the other person. What is more important - what you have to say or what the other person is saying? I'm tempted to answer, "what I have to say is more important (of course)." But is it really?

What if each of us focused on truly understanding what other people are saying without worrying about having to respond? What if we tuned into their words and non-verbal communications and the feelings behind them? I think we would have a communication revolution.

I can hear the skeptics now – "if I just listen and don't interrupt, then people will go on and on." Yes, that may be true for some people, but for many others, just the respect of being listened to will cause them to talk less. If they know people are really paying attention, they will be more careful about the quality of what they are saying. And remember, listening does not necessarily mean that you agree.

Now there may be times when just listening is not enough; for example, during a job interview or a meeting at work, where you are expected to say something intelligent. In those situations, jotting down quick notes to yourself can be helpful, but that may not be practical because you're standing up, you have your hands full (at a social event, for example) or for some other reason.

In those situations, preparation is important. Think about what topics likely will come up and which questions you'll be asked. Then practice delivering a response. Actually say the words out loud, so you get comfortable saying them in different ways. For example, at a job interview, you know you will most likely be asked, "Tell me about yourself." At a project status meeting, you will have to explain any delays or cost overruns. At a meeting with a potential vendor, you will need to respond to their capabilities presentation. At a social event, the economy and politics are likely topics.

This preparation will help you with 90-95% of the situations you'll find yourself in. Yes, there will always be a random question, statement or topic that you'd like to respond to and in those cases, you'll have to improvise, but that will be the exception rather than the rule. The more you prepare and practice, the less you have to worry about forgetting what you want to say and the more you can focus on listening and not interrupting.

Gilda's blog www.gildabonanno.blogspot.com