How quickly does an audience judge a speaker?

I have just finished reading Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell. Simplistically speaking, the book is about how we make snap judgments and decisions in the blink of an eye. The book itself is very interesting, and well worth reading, however it raised an interesting question.

How quickly does an audience judge a speaker?

My suspicion is that the audience have decided whether to listen to you or to switch off within the first 30 seconds of your presentation. So, the challenge is how are you going to grab their attention in those first few seconds? Here are three ideas:

  1. Start with a powerful question (have you ever?.?)
  2. Start with a powerful statement (in 5 years time, 1/5 of this audience will have been laid off?).
  3. Let them know what is in it for them (today you will learn three ways to increase sales?)

Here?s what not to say:

  1. I am so happy be here (clich?)
  2. I am going to tell you (rather use ?you will learn? ? speak to the audience)
  3. When I wrote my speech this morning (shows a lack of preparation)

The trick is to keep your introductions sharp, and to grap the attention of your audience as soon as you can.

Enjoy the book.

Do you leave effective voicemail messages?

This week I received two voicemails which I were unable to answer. One was because there was too much background noise for me to make out the message, and the other was because I had no idea who had left the message, it sounded like:

“Hi Craig, this is Carwfhsa, and my number is 08dkasldkasd, bye”

This got me to thinking about how voicemail can often be a barrier to effective communication, and not an aid. This is because of the poor quality of messages that we leave.

There are two types of really annoying messages. The first is the long and convoluted message, and the second is the short and garbled message.

So, here is the BCD to leave an effective voicemail, and to get away from those annoying messages.

  1. Be brief. A simple headline as to the purpose of the call is enough. When the call is returned, you can discuss the details. With a long message, I have probably forgotten most of the message by the time you get to the end anyway!
  2. Be clear. Speak slowly and clearly. Telephone quality is not that great, so make it easy. Please don?t leave a message when you are in a noisy place ? understanding the message is just that much more difficult.
  3. Leave your details. Unless you are leaving a message for a personal friend or family member that you are certain has your number, please leave your number. Repeat it if necessary.

For example, this is fine (some people prefer to leave the date & time as well ? also not a bad idea):

?Hi this is Craig, I would like to discuss the proposal you sent me, please call me on 082 xxx xxxx?

Finally, please don’t wait until the beep to start leaving a message until you hang up – blank messages are really annoying.

So remember, be brief, clear & leave your details.

3 Tips for venue setup

When you are giving a presentation, whether it is a keynote speech or seminar, the venue and facilities can have a huge impact on the success or failure of your presentation, so here are three tips to make your presentation successful.

Small is more

A few years ago, my band was offered a headline gig in one of the live music venues in Cape Town. The problem is that while our band could draw a crown of about 50-100 people, the venue held over 700 people We reluctantly turned down the gig and instead asked to play in their smaller venue downstairs that only held 80 people. The downstairs gig was great – it was full, crowded and had a great vibe – we would have needed at least 500 people upstairs to get the energy we had downstairs.

The same happens when we speak. Sometimes we think "let’s rather book a bigger room – just in case," but in general, the small yet full room has far more energy than the large and empty room. Resist the temptation to book the larger room. You can always bring in extra chairs at the last minute if necessary.

Arrive Early

What has been promised by the venue, and what they actually provide are not always the same thing. If you arrive early you have plenty of time to make last minute changes to the room setup. If possible, check it out a day or two before so that you have time to see the room and make adjustments adhead of time.

Get to know the AV Guy

The AV (audio-visual) guy (or girl) is the person that is responsible for all of the audio visual equipment. He is the person who know where the hidden button is that lowers the projector screen, or where to get an extra extension cable at the last minute etc. If you are speaking at a large conference, you might have a dedicated AV guy in your room, but if it is a smaller function, the venue might have one person responsible for the entire conference setup.

This person can make or break your presentation. Befriend him and he will be willing to assist. Antagonize him, and he might not be able to find that extra adapter that you left at home!

I hope the tips help – good luck with you next presentation!

Debunking the 55/38/7 speaking rule

There is a so-called rule in public speaking, which is that

  • 55% of what you say comes from your body language.
  • 38% comes from your tone of voice.
  • And only 7% are the actual words you use.

I have seen this rule in many books, and spoken about by many speakers. Well, in fact the rule actually does not exist at all. The “rule” is the result of research done by Albert Mehrabian in the 1960’s, and it was never meant to be generalized.

He was simply trying to draw a correlation between facial expressions, spoken word and interpretation, and he never intended his results to be applied to normal conversation.

So folks, please stop using the rule – what you say is as important as how you say it!

There is a very interesting article about the whole story here . (from the Jan 2006 Toastmasters mag).

No time to prepare – how to speak off the cuff

Why do I need to practice speaking off the cuff. The answer is simple, because we do it all the time. Impromptu Speaking is one of the most important yet least practiced skill of verbal communicating. A few situations in which we speak in an impromptu manner are:

  • Speaking in a meeting at work
  • Speaking on the telephone
  • Introducing yourself to a new acquaintance
  • Being asked for your opinion on a topic
  • Unexpectedly being asked to say a few words at a dinner

Here are a few simple strategies that can be used to help you to speak off the cuff in an intelligent and informative manner. These strategies (or variations of them) can be used in most impromptu situations.

Past, present and future

In past, present and future, you tell it how it was, how it is now, and how it will be in the future. Not only does it give you three main points to speak about, but it helps you to structure what you are saying into a coherent and logical manner. Eg: When speaking at a wedding:

  • I first met John and Sue about 10 years ago.. (the past)
  • Today, they look great together. (the present)
  • I am sure they are going to have many good years ahead (the future)

Express an opinion

State an opinion and then justify with supporting facts. Eg:

  • Sugar is bad for you because the rise in obesity correlates with increased sugar consumption

Address cause and effect

State the situation; discuss the causes and the eventual consequences. This is a strategy that politicians are extremely good at using. Eg:

  • The lack of ability of the opposition to perform is delaying the decision making process…

Break the Topic into components

Break the topic into a few simple components and discuss them individually. This approach can be a combination of the above approaches. So you could speak about something that happened in the past, discuss the implications for the present, and express an opinion as to the best strategy in the future.

A few tips when speaking off the cuff:

  • Listen to what the other person said. If you are unsure, ask them to repeat.
  • Pause before answering. This gives your time to formulate and structure your answer.
  • Say what you want to say, and nothing else.
  • Stop talking when you are finished. You dont need to ramble on and on.

During the table topics session at a Toastmasters meeting, members of the club are called to the lectern by the topics master, and are asked to speak for between 1-2 minutes on an unprepared topic. This is a wonderful opportunity to practice impromptu meetings, and to listen to how others do it.

The best way to improve your impromptu speaking is to practice. Seize every opportunity to do so, practice. and listen to yourself become a more effective communicator.

Anyone Can Learn to Be Funnier!

Here is a very interesting article by Dave Firzgerald, who was Darren LaCroix’s comedy mentor. Darren won the World Champion of Public Speaking in 2001. You can contact Darren on his website. He has loads of great books, tapes and CD’s available there.

Thanks to Darren for reprint permission!

Anyone Can Learn to Be Funnier!By Dave Fitzgerald (Darren’s comedy mentor)

Most people watching a good professional comedian on stage are truly impressed and usually a little bit envious… and rightfully so!  Who doesn’t want to be funnier, if not all the time, at least some of the time?

What makes the comedian so funny? Some of it is “natural talent” to be sure, a certain twisted outlook or a peculiar way of speaking that just grips us from the first minute. But if you ask any real pro how he manages to look so smooth and confident “up there,” the honest answer will be “STAGE TIME.”  It is “STAGE TIME” that helps the comic develop his  on stage persona and, equally as important, (maybe more so) his material!

By the time you see a “comedy routine ” performed on national television, it has been done in front of live audiences several hundreds, if not thousands of times. This is a daunting task and few people are willing and able to do what it takes to get to that level of success in Stand Up Comedy. The point is nobody is getting up there and just spewing out incredibly funny ideas – one right after the other!  It takes hard work which means practice-practice- practice!  Jay Leno still goes to comedy clubs to work out his material for the upcoming week’s monologues!  When I made my first national television appearance on  “EVENING AT THE IMPROV,” I had been doing the bulk of the material for at least two years and had worked on that exact 7 minute set every night for two weeks!

But what about the professional business person who doesn’t need to be funny all the time, but knows that humor is an incredibly powerful and attractive asset?  Whether you use humor in a presentation to a large audience or at a one-on-one lunch date…people remember who made them laugh… and why wouldn’t they!   Nothing else in life feels so good that is free, legal and can be done anywhere with your clothes on!…. and what about with clothes off?…  For most of us that’s an even bigger laugh!!

The main point here is that anyone can learn to be funnier!  It is  NOT one of those things that “you either have it or you don’t.”   Just how funny can you become?  Everyone is different and some people will have to work harder than others but everyone can be funnier than they are right now!

Hope you enjoyed it!-Darren