The Seven Habits of Highly-Effective Verbal Communicators.
Canada is smack-dab in the midst of an entrepreneurial boom.
According to the GoForth Institute based in Calgary, AB, 75% of all businesses in Canada have less than ten employees. More than ever, individuals are required to stand up and represent their personal brand product or service by speaking in front of others.
This article, as the title suggests, offers you seven techniques you can integrate into your daily life – techniques that will dramatically improve your public speaking abilities. Just as a concert pianist needs to practice every day to achieve excellence, forming these habits will seriously raise your public speaking game.
First let’s address what makes for good speech writing. Then we’ll examine how to deliver speeches that resonate with your audience.
HABIT 1: EXPAND YOUR VOCABULARY AND UNDERSTANDING OF STORY STRUCTURE
It stands to reason that the more words you know, the more nuanced your communication will be. How can you do this? Pledge to learn a new word every day. Resources abound for this. Thesaurus.com provides an excellent resource for alternatives to words you use most often. Learn five new words for each word you always use.
Read something every day. When it comes to understanding story structure, reading novels can’t be beaten. Novels take the reader on a journey through story arc and plot development. By reading novels with a critical eye, you can observe how the writer makes ideas “land”. When you come to write your own speech, you will find this understanding invaluable.
HABIT 2: LISTEN
Good listeners develop into good speakers. Find a favourite speaker and listen to him/her. Winston Churchill, Leo Buscaglia, Steve Jobs, Memory Banda, Martin Luther King Jr. count among the greatest. Note their cadence, fluidity, and most of all, passion. Listen to them as if their speeches were pieces of music.
It’s time to set the proverbial pen to paper. When you do, here are things to remember
HABIT 3: THE THREE GOLDEN NUGGETS
First, write down all of your ideas for your chosen topic. Write freely – resist the temptation to edit along the way. Editing comes soon after. By writing freely, you will have a better flow of ideas. Only when you have written everything down should you begin editing.
Remember: less is more! Being effective doesn’t mean saying absolutely everything you know about the topic. Don’t feel you need to prove the scope of your knowledge. Work with the premise that an audience will only retain so much. Aim to leave your audience with three golden nuggets, or key ideas. As the old saying goes: leave them wanting more.
OK, now your speech is finally written. What next?
HABIT 4: BOUNCE!
I recommend against memorization – not just the word, but the practice thereof. When you simply memorize a speech, you risk speaking at your audience, rather than sharing with them.
Impactful delivery means you “embody” your speech.
Now you have to get physical. You have to get on your feet.
Practise saying your speech while preparing dinner, or doing the dishes. Do any physical activity that works for you while practicing out loud. Our bodies move naturally when we speak – so why stand still when you’re giving a public presentation? Even if you feel that you won’t be moving during your presentation (since you’re behind a podium, for example), movement animates speech. Remember: motionless speakers aren’t dynamic speakers.
When rehearsing, ‘bounce’ while you speak. Gently unlock your knees and bob a little; swing your arms, back and forth, so you feel the motion in your muscles. You’ll quickly find yourself losing that strange motionless feeling of being ‘stuck’ in one place. Bouncing loosens you up, and energizes you.
HABIT 5: SPEAK WITH ALL FIVE SENSES.
Use all five senses to describe an idea. If you can visualize, hear, smell, taste, and touch your idea, you can bring it to life. When a topic lives exclusively in the realm of statistics, you can use the five senses to discuss the potential impact of the stats. Even with the driest material, the trick is to make it personal. Weave personal anecdotes into your stats, to help lift the numbers off the page. It’s a form of knowing your material that goes much deeper.
HABIT 6: REHEARSE OUT LOUD
When practicing your speech, do so ‘out loud’. ‘Out loud’ doesn’t mean mumbling to yourself, or quietly running through your speech so that no one can overhear you. ‘Out loud’ means speaking at the volume in which you intend to present your speech (but be careful not to yell). This will help you get used to hearing your speaking voice at a satisfactory level. You have to get the ‘muscle memory’ of your speech in your mouth.
If you feel a little shy, lock yourself in the bathroom, head down to the basement, or drive to the nearest field, and entertain the squirrels!
HABIT 7: INTEGRATE THE PAUSE
Even though you’ve put a lot of time and thought into your speech, ideas exist in a hierarchy. In other words, not every word has the same level of importance. Go through your speech, line by line, and figure out what’s most important – the key content.
Once you’ve done that, practice saying the key content followed by a pause. “We’re going to make $2.7 trillion dollars next year”. Doesn’t that statement need a moment’s pause after it? Take a breath, while the idea sinks into the minds of your audience. You’ll be amazed at how this simple technique allows you to breathe, slow your pace, and accentuate what’s essential.
Keep in mind that your audience is hearing your speech for the very first time. When you let the important parts of your speech land, you maximize your impact.
These are your new habits. Practice them. Make them part of your daily routine. They go along with your newspaper and coffee. Keep integrating these tips, and you will find yourself automatically speaking with substance.