The following guest post has been contributed by Commanding Presence.
What are your career opportunities right now? What are your goals? You probably have the professional qualifications, experience and determination to take on that next big role. But how can you set yourself apart from your colleagues? What are the secrets to success? One key opportunity is to enhance your speaking ability. Improving how you communicate can be an enjoyable and fulfilling process – one that helps you make a quantum leap forward.
Seven secrets for success during your next meeting:
- Speak less – speak better
Remember, you are speaking, not writing. Your listeners can only retain a limited amount of information at once. If you say more than your listeners can retain, they will feel confused. Keep it simple, keep it short – and make sure that you repeat important information at least once, preferably twice.
- Use inclusive language
Many people find it irritating if they feel as though speakers are “lecturing” them or underestimating their knowledge. To ensure that everyone feels comfortable, here a few phrases that you can use throughout your presentation to make people feel included. Try:
“As you may know…” – this lets your listeners know that you appreciate their knowledge and their skills. You can also use, “as most of you know” or, “as you may already know.”
This way, you ensure that everyone understands what you’re saying, without upsetting the experts.
- Start with “your point”
The fastest way to lose an audience is to speak in general terms with the intention of gradually working towards “your point.” If your listeners do not hear something engaging as soon as you start to speak, you risk losing their concentration.
Don’t run the risk of someone angrily interrupting you to say, “What’s your point?” Start every part of your presentation with something simple and familiar.
- Use questions to engage your listeners
Some of your listeners may “tune-out” when they are listening to long, detailed reports. Psychologists tell us that whenever we are presented with a choice, an option or a question, it immediately engages our thinking process. Use this to keep your listeners attentive.
For example, instead of simply providing basic facts to accompany financial results, you can say “how will we achieve these results?” and then deliver the information. Or, when outlining certain risks, you might say, “so what are the potential risks?” Think of an obvious question that your information answers and start with that question.
- Use stories and examples
Most people hate presentations, but almost everyone loves stories. Your technical information is important and will never be boring, provided that you can give interesting examples and stories that relate to it.
Tell us a “story” about how the project or organization will benefit when your changes are made. And most of all, tell us stories about the bad things that could happen if problems are not corrected.
Stories are an excellent way to engage your audience and get their support.
- Don’t bury your nose in your notes.
Remember, this is a presentation. The more it resembles a real conversation, the sincerer you sound. A speaker who simply recites their information will always lack authority.
Most of us can read up to 300 words per minute, so if someone is reciting information at 150 words per minute without paying any attention to us, it feels boring and artificial. Start by looking at everyone in the meeting – don’t just “scan.” Eye contact is the most powerful way to convey confidence and hold everyone’s attention.
- Prepare in advance for the tough questions
Don’t panic about dealing with tough questions. You are the expert; chances are, you know as much or more about what you’re saying than anyone in the room. Most times, you can think of even tougher questions than your listeners can!
Make a list of the 10 toughest questions you could be asked and prepare simple and powerful responses to each one. For each question, make sure you have a short, strong opening response. Think of it as a strong “headline” which perfectly sums up your point. Then simply prepare three brief pieces of evidence to support your point. You will conclude by repeating your headlines and referring briefly to each of your three points. By doing this in advance, you will probably anticipate at least 80% of the questions that you might be asked. This will make a huge difference in your feelings of self-confidence.
Interested in improving your presentation skills?
To help you elevate your speaking and presentation ability, Commanding Presence offers two-day workshops on Advanced Communication and Presentation Skills in Toronto. Learn how to use the Focus Method™ to easily communicate complex ideas, connect with your audience and mange any feelings of presentation anxiety. The Focus Method™ helps introverts and extroverts to “say less, and say it better”. It is a way to take complex thoughts and ideas and quickly and effectively deliver them in a manner that is designed to be heard, remembered, and persuasive. Participants will get a chance to create their own presentations on current topics or issues, and practice delivering them to other participants.
Our training is of tremendous value for engineers who are in the early stages of their careers, as well as those who are already successful speakers and leaders. You’ll walk away with effective methods for thinking on your feet and responding persuasively and eloquently in one-on-one situations, meetings, interviews and to large audiences.
How does it work?
Participants are recorded four times, receiving both feedback from fellow participants and personal coaching from the workshop leader. Each participant receives a USB of their video clips, along with a letter of analysis from the workshop coach. No secrets – just practical strategies that work!
Upcoming Two-Day Workshop Dates in Toronto
OSPE members are invited to register for our upcoming Small Group Workshops. Limited to 10 participants per session. Plus, OSPE members receive a $100 discount from the public price!