Skillset New Zealand Blog

Ideas to help your team develop personally and professionally.

Always? Whatever your message? Whatever the audience?

Yes.  It's simple and it makes people listen. In fact it's compelling. No-one goes to sleep.

Always show your desire for the audience to get your message. Not in your words but in your way of speaking.

Show.  It's not enough to just want your audience to get the message. They have to see that you want that. Here's how to make it happen: 

  • As you speak, your eyes seek out individuals in the audience - hold just a second or two on one, then move to the next. Switch contact quickly between individuals - switch and hold, switch and hold. A sense of urgency or importance.
  • Make your whole body work with your eyes. Turn your body, not just your head. Your torso should incline (at least slightly) towards each individual. Your hands should move (at least slightly) towards each individual. The audience should see your eyebrows rise, indicating your sense of the importance of your message. Sometimes you'll nod at individuals (a small movement).

This is not about enthusiasm for your own message. It is about connecting the audience to the message.

But will this way of speaking work for you? 

You may need to try it out in safety first. Ask at least two people (whose opinion you trust) to be guinea pigs and give you feedback.  Deliver them just two or three sentences from your topic.  The first time, just speak in your normal way. The second time, make a small change to the method above. If your friends like the change, do it again but more so.  Get their feedback.  How well does it work?  How much is too much?

Also, ask yourself which is more important - your message, or what your audience thinks of you?  I hope the answer is obvious.  It's an old saying but so very true for speakers - get over yourself. But the best part is this: if you put the importance of your message ahead of your worries about yourself, you'll get more respect anyway. Neat.

Kia kaha
Michael

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You want your audiences to respect you?  Of course. You strongly disagree with the attitudes of some individuals in your audience? Of course - it happens to all speakers, at presentations and just speaking up at meetings. 

But do those attitudes make you feel 'unsafe'?

Here's the bad news.

You cannot feel 'unsafe' and have personal authority at the same time.

You're serious about speaking with personal authority?  Then make every effort to abandon the damaging psychological condition of I feel unsafe when confronted with disagreeable words and ideas. The condition will seriously limit your ability to make your own ideas heard. In fact it is doubly dangerous.

Strike one. You will be perceived by your audience - even by those sympathetic to your thinking - as weak.  
Strike two. Even when you don't use the word 'unsafe' directly, your audience will intuit that you see yourself as a victim.

How ironic that the real danger is not in being unsafe, but in adopting the 'I feel unsafe' mentality. And yet no one can make you feel like a victim without your permission.

Am I overdoing how you interpret the word 'unsafe'? Unsafe means that you feel threatened - the original meaning implies physical danger. But maybe those disagreeable attitudes just make you feel uncomfortable and you've adopted the word 'unsafe' to describe it. But either way - unsafe or just uncomfortable - you're not doing yourself any favours by allowing that state-of-mind. Instead...

Choose to be comfortable with the natural diversity of ideas and beliefs in your audience. 

Choose to be comfortable when a member of your audience expresses ideas utterly opposed to your own. Those ideas are an inevitable outcome of that person's background. You are above feeling threatened. You are a leader.

That does not mean you should ignore such individuals, or write them off as just 'politically correct', or reply with dismissive aggression.

It does mean this...

Respond passionately and respectfully with your own opinion. Verbally disagree with the individual with a manner and body language that accepts the person. That person gets the same warmth as anyone else. No to the ideas, yes to the person - simultaneously. It takes the steam out of them.

Kia kaha
Michael

 

About Michael Brown

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Michael is a senior trainer with Skillset, based in Christchurch.

He is a leading authority on training in presentation and news media skills in New Zealand. He has special expertise in how to present emotionally charged topics to challenging audiences. Michael has trained thousands of New Zealanders and worked with people who speak on behalf of some of the country's largest organisations.

Michael is a prolific author and his books on speaking and working with the media are in their fourth editions.

Speaking Easy: how to speak to your audiences with confidence and authority

Media Easy: how to handle the news media with confidence and authority

One of Michael's books is about his family's adventures sailing in the Pacific.

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