Paraphrasing Justin Timberlake, you have your suit and tie ready to go. Somehow, it didn’t work. Your date fled the table early before the main course. Or, your prospective employer treated you, a man or woman with higher education, like you were stupid.
What’s wrong? You didn’t train your vocals.
“Me? I’m not on The X Factor!” you say.
We’re talking about your speaking, sir, and it does matter.
Caroline Goyder, a vocal coach whose advice you’ve probably read frequently in UK media, says the most important part of the job or date application – and yes, going on a date is interviewing to be someone’s boyfriend or girlfriend – is perception based on your voice.
How to Make The Best Impression When Speaking…as told by Caroline Goyder
How do you feel about discussing the top three or top five things men and women do wrong with speaking that may harm them at the workplace or even for their dating lives? These things can be really obvious to you but probably aren’t to many people.
The Five Biggest Mistakes People Make When They Speak at Work (or on dates!)
In an internet age your confidence, authority and influence matter more than ever to the success of your business. When you speak, it’s essential that you inspire trust and positivity in your audiences. You must sound as calm, confident and in control as the pilot of a plane on take-off, if others are to believe in you, trust you and listen to you – whether you’re at work or on a date with the person of your dreams. That’s why I wrote my new book, Gravitas.
The Problem: At work most people dread the pressure of presentations, tele-conferences, filming and meetings so much that they simply put off preparing. It’s a vicious circle destined to knock your confidence, because without practise you get nervous, and when you get nervous you perform badly, so you dread rehearsing. It’s a vicious circle, unless you take control.
The Solution: Don’t make preparation about you. Make the audience the hero. Ask yourself how can I help? What’s my audience’s problem, their fear, their pain? When you take time to see their perspective and make sure that give them what they need, you take the focus off your own anxiety and you access the resourceful, empathetic and charismatic part of you. Then preparation starts to feel more enjoyable and you set yourself up for the kind of performance that wins you business.
Be Concise: Hone your “elevator pitch”
The problem: In situtations where we are nervous most of us say too much. At work when we feel nervous we put in too much content – too many points, too many powerpoint slides. We don’t distil our ideas. It means that we have to rush and so we lose our audience It doesn’t work – too much detail makes you tedious and forgettable.
The solution: Don’t drown your audience in detail, drill down to your “elevator pitch” – what you’d say to pitch your business as your travel between floors in a lift. Distil down to the essence of the message; an introduction, three key points and a summary to wrap up at the end. You’ll find that with the ideas you want to communicate clear in your mind, you can have a relaxed conversation with your audience, rather than giving them a lecture.
Persuade Your Audience
The problem: Many people are successful partly because they are reasoned and strategic. They sometimes forget is that analysis isn’t enough when it comes to persuasion – it’s just as important to make people feel good if you are to persuade them.
The solution: When you’re persuading remember Aristotle’s observation that pathos – or making your audience feel something, is essential to great communication. Telling stories is a great way to make you engage with your emotions, and your audience become infected by your enthusiasm. Bring your ideas alive in the way that only you can. And learn from Cicero who said if you want to persuade me you must first think my thoughts, feel my feelings and speak my words. Persuasive speaking is so much about empathy for your audience – a sense that you have really thought about them. Everyone wants that. It works for work situations and it also works brilliantly in dating and relationships.
Know when to be Credible and when to be Approachable
The Problem: In relaxed situations we naturally synchronise our style to make others comfortable. When you’re nervous it’s easy to start off on the wrong foot. You need to consciously adjust your style if you’re going to make a good impression.
The Solution: When walking through the door of a high-stakes pressure meeting, ask yourself do I need to sound formal or informal? Pilot of the Plane, or Air Steward? Are you talking to a harassed financier who wants you to exude credibility and focus on the task, or are you talking to your team, for whom relationship and approachability matter most? Crisp and formal, focused on task? Or smiling and conversational, focused on relationship? The art is to recognise what your audience needs from you, and to change gear when required. Notice their pace, tone, and energy levels and find a way to get yourself in step with them. Then you minimize the ‘noise’ of communication and allow for a productive conversation. It’s really key to adjust your style as you move between home and work too. Getting stuck in one gear and being inflexible is one of the key communication problems. Learn to flex your style and you become much more engaging to others.
Manage Your Fear
The Problem: Fear. Pure and simple. It can sabotage your success if you don’t know how to deal with the anxiety and adrenalin of a difficult meeting or big presentation. Under the pressure of any kind of ‘performance’ the oldest part of the brain, your inner chimp, takes over. The anxiety takes over, your mind goes blank, your hands and voice shake, and you speak at a million miles an hour – making your audience feel exhausted and disinterested. Finding your calm matters, because when you are relaxed, your audience are able to relax and listen.
The Solution: Nerves are normal, but you must know how to get your butterflies flying in formation. Make the nervous energy work for you by turn the adrenalin into excitement. Notice the butterflies, then breathe down into them, relaxing your shoulders. Tell yourself that nerves show you care, and enhance your focus and performance as long as you keep breathing diaphragmatically. Make sure that you stand firm and plant your feet in shoes that allow you to feel strong. Send your voice from the stomach to the back of the room and commit to every word you speak. If in doubt take John Wayne’s advice to “Talk low, talk slow, don’t say too much.”
Talking slow means that you control the pace with well placed pauses. Put the brakes on especially when fear causes you to speed up, if this happens to you in a meeting put the brakes on. Poised speakers know that the art is to speak in short sentences, with a full-stop between each one. One thought, one sentence. You will lose and confuse your audience if you gabble away at high speed. Above all, relax, take your time and really LISTEN.
And finally…Great communicators are conversational.
The best rule for staying open and conversational is this, 1.Turn Up 2. Listen 3. Speak your truth 4. Don’t be too attached to an outcome. If you’d like to know more do go to gravitasmethod.com where you’ll find my new book, free videos and audios to make you a more confident and engaging speaker.
About Caroline Goyder
Caroline Goyder is the founder of The Gravitas Method, short audio MP3 downloads for Ipods, smartphones, laptops and tablets. Packed with essential skills for authority, influence and gravitas under pressure, this is a success toolkit developed for pitches, presentations and teleconferences.
Caroline has distilled her expertise as her a coach, author, speaker and trainer into a highly effective digital product available to business people whenever and wherever they need it, to prepare themselves quickly and effectively for presentations, pitches and teleconferences.
Simple to download, gravitasmethod.com, gives entrepreneurs access to the gold-standard gravitas and influence training that Caroline’s corporate clients such as Mars, Unilever and BT have benefited from over the years
Caroline’s work has been featured on CNN, BBC News, and in the FT. Her first book, The Star Qualities (Macmillan) is available on Amazon, and her new book, Gravitas: How to Communicate with Confidence, Influence and Authority (Random House) will be published on March 6th 2013 – see www.gravitasmethod.com for more details
Linkedin: Caroline Goyder