Use Nonverbal Communication Effectively

As a speaker learning how to use your body language effectively will help you to connect with your audience. Body language, gestures, facial expressions and eye contact are commonly referred to as nonverbal language. Even before you open your mouth, your body language conveys how you feel. It is important that before you present, you get into as much as possible a positive frame of mind. Since our bodies are the vehicle through which we communicate and express ourselves, it should come as no surprise that our body will through our nonverbal language ‘’leak” what we feel. As much as possible, you want to convey positive emotions in order to connect with your audience.

Congruency
When it comes to body language, one of the most important aspects to remember is the notion of congruency. Congruency means that your nonverbal language matches your verbal message. If you say that you are happy to be speaking at a function, your nonverbal language should match and express that sentiment. Have a smile on your face and use your eye contact to look at audience members and build rapport with them.

Congruent body language demonstrates that you are confident in delivering your message to an audience. On the other hand, if your body language does not demonstrate congruence, the audience will not believe your message. There will be a major disconnect. One of the tips that will allow you to master confident body language is to ensure that you are prepared. Being prepared and knowing the content of your speech well in advance will help you to project confidence.

How often have you seen a speaker who says that I’m so happy to be here speaking in front of an audience yet the nonverbal language does not convey that message. For example, people who are not confident when they speak, tend to mumble, not project their voice, avoid eye contact with the audience, slouch and are generally nervous and edgy. Confident speakers on the other hand tend to speak in a clear voice, build rapport by looking and smiling at the audience and their carriage (body posture and stance) projects confidence.

Facial Expressions and Eye Contact
As a speaker, your facial expressions and eye contact help get your message across to your audience. Smiling and effective eye contact are critical when you’re building rapport with audience members. It’s important that you learn to “soften” your facial expressions. When we’re nervous, whether it’s related to public speaking or another endeavor, the tendency is to tighten or tense our facial expressions. The facial expressions that are conveyed, therefore are not as welcoming as they could be. Learning to relax can help us with demonstrating positive facial expressions.

When delivering a presentation, focus your eye contact on specific areas of the room rather than all over the room. You don’t want your eye contact to be like an oscillating fan. Be laser focused, don’t sweep the room back and forth with your eye contact. The strategic way to use eye contact is the following. When you’re speaking, make eye contact with a few people on each side of the room. For example, look to the left, the middle and then to the right and back again with a pointed focus. If you have the opportunity to meet some of the attendees before you begin your speech, try and make eye contact with people you know to put yourself at ease.

Open and Closed Gestures
There are many different types of gestures and broadly speaking they can fall into two main categories. They are: open or closed gestures. Make sure that when you use your gestures, they are punctuated with purpose. A certain points in your speech, using simple gestures can really help you to connect with your audience. You need to ensure that your gestures are enhancing your message and not detracting from it. Closed body gestures have the appearance of making you seem less relatable. An example of a closed gesture would be, having your arms crossed for the duration of your speech. This gesture would make you appear closed off, unapproachable and not connected to your audience. Of course this is purely perception. Open gestures on the other hand, are gestures that are more relaxed or expansive. An example, would be having your arms rest at your sides with open palms. If you want to be seen as someone who is warm, open, and relatable aiming for more expansive gestures when you speak will leave the audience with the impression that you are more approachable. In turn, using open gestures will in many instances make your audience more receptive to your message.

Learning to use your body language effectively when you speak will help you build greater rapport with your audience and deliver a successful speech.

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7 Tips to Prepare Before You Deliver Your Speech

Before you present before an audience, there are several things that you can do to ensure that you have a successful speech  or presentation. They are:

1. Be Knowledgeable about Your Subject Matter

When you present at a meeting or before an audience that is not the time to “wing it.” Be sure that you know your content inside and out so that you can appear competent and professional.

2. Know Your  Audience

Before you present, conduct some research on your audience’s demographics and their interests. If you are presenting at work that will be easier as you will know all or the majority of the people. If you are presenting before an unknown audience, attempt to do some research on the people who will be there in terms of  their gender, age, interests, professions etc. This will assist you in crafting your speech to connect with the audience.

3. Have a Good Introduction

Many speakers ignore this important step before they present. It is essential that you have your host introduce you with a proper introduction that states your credentials. It does not have to be long. There should be sufficient information presented about you so that the audience can see why you are the credible authority to speak on that particular topic.

4. Know the Image that you Want to Convey

Before you present before an audience, it’s important to know the image that you want to convey. The way that you look, especially in terms of your attire can act as a detraction from your message if it disconnects you from the audience. You want to convey an image that is consistent with your personal brand and in alignment with the core message you want to communicate.

5. Make Contact with Your Host in Advance

If you have been invited to speak to staff at a company or organization, conducting research on the demographics  of your audience is a good idea.  After you receive the invitation to speak at an event, contacting your host well in advance ensures that you know the expectations for the speaking engagement. Contacting the host in advance ensures that you can communicate your needs also such as for example, your audio-visual requirements ahead of time.

6. Know Your Practical Strategies for Success

Before your presentation, know what are some of the practical strategies that you can use to ensure a successful speech. For example, for the event where you will be speaking, will you have the directions printed out in advance so that you are not late? How many days in advance will your handouts be prepared, so you are not left scrambling at the last minute. Before your speech think of and make a list of practical things that you can do to ensure success.

7. Visualize Your Success

Learning to master your content before you present in front of an audience is a major component of being an effective speaker. While knowing your content is important, visualizing your success before you speak is also important. Too many speakers  make themselves nervous by rehearsing scenarios where things don’t go according to plan. Before you present, visualize yourself delivering a successful speech.  Rehearse mentally the feeling of being confident and building rapport with the audience. See and hear the audience applauding your wonderful speech. Visualizing success can help you deliver an engaging and effective speech.

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Three Tips To Develop Great Content for Your Speeches

By Deborah Austin

Becoming an effective speaker involves learning how to develop good content.  Before you can even work on the performance aspects of your speech you have to figure out what to say. You want to provide valuable content to your audience so that they can benefit and use the information in their lives. How then do you develop good content? There are many different ways that you can develop content. Here are three effective ways. They are:

1. Keep a story or interesting article file

People love stories. Stories can be very powerful teaching tools. When you use stories in your presentations you connect with both the heart and the intellect. It is good to have facts and figures in your presentation to show evidence of something you’re trying to prove. If you really want to connect with your audience using stories will help you build rapport.  Start keeping a story or interesting article file that you reference when you write your speeches. This file can be paper based or be kept electronically on your computer. Find the the best system that works for you. Start collecting interesting stories, articles and websites that you hear about and add them to the file. This file will function as a resource for you  when you develop content for your speeches and presentations. Business leaders often use stories to get their message across. By using stories you can engage your audience more effectively.

2. Do the Required Research

While stories are great to use in your speeches, facts and statistics are important also. If you want to emphasize certain parts of your speech or outline a theory using supporting material, facts and statistics can help you. You can learn to incorporate facts and statistics by acquainting yourself with research procedures. Arrange to visit your local library and ask a librarian to assist you in learning how to research a subject effectively. Of course using credible sources on the internet is another way to find good research material. You may be surprised at how developing good research skills will serve you various areas of your life.

3. Keep a Journal

A journal is wonderful way to chronicle the richness of your life. For many of you reading this blog post, you’ve been keeping a journal for a long time. I’ve kept a journal since I was 11 years old! Journalling is a wonderful process that can help you develop great insight into your life by recording you life’s events both mundane and significant. Keeping a journal helps you remember events and stories that you might want to share in speech. Even carrying with you a small notebook when you go out in public can help you chronicle interesting things that may occur in the course of a day, week, or month.

Part of becoming a great speaker involves learning how to develop great content.  You can start developing material for your presentations by: keeping a story/interesting article file, learning how to do research and keeping a journal. By being an astute observer and participant of life you will have many fascinating stories to tell in your speeches.

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Active Listening

If you truly want to connect with someone, build rapport and have a lasting personal or professional relationship with someone, the ability to listen effectively will serve you well. In today’s era, especially with technology buzzing and beeping in the background, active listening can seem to be a lost art.

I’m sure most of you have had an experience where someone who was supposed to be listening to you was inattentive and actually NOT listening to what you had to say. You knew they were inattentive because the person was not looking at you directly, was perhaps checking email on their phone or was mumbling absent mindedly in response to your questions. You knew they were not fully present with you and engaged in active listening.

Active listening means that you are fully present with another person and you have suspended at least momentarily your own words and judgement about what is being said. Your focus is solely on that individual and the person speaking has your undivided attention. It means that you are not checking your email on your phone, looking out of a window or reading anything while the other person speaks, none of which would be conducive to active listening.

Active listening also involves giving the other person cues or signs that you are indeed listening. Some cues include appropriate eye contact, nodding and from time to time paraphrasing what the other person has said after you have a chance to speak. Paraphrasing what the other person has said can be a powerful tool as it makes the other person realize that you have been paying close attention all along.

Listening is a skill that all of us can improve on to deepen our personal and professional relationships. It is skill worthy of investing your time in to enhance. Active listening can help to improve your relationships by strengthening the bonds between people. Share your stories of how you deeply connected with someone through the power of listening.

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Tip: Arrive Early When You Are a Presenter

When you are scheduled to deliver a speech or presentation arrive as early as possible to the venue where you are presenting. This ensures that you can set up your audio-visual equipment (i.e. computer and projector), be in a relaxed state to present and where possible greet your attendees for your event or meeting.

Giving Effective Feedback

As a speaker and a leader, if you want to elevate your skills, learning to accept feedback is paramount. There are aspects of our behaviour where there are “blind spots,” where we are unconscious or unaware. Feedback helps us to improve our skills when it comes to these blind spots.

There is a difference though between delivering effective feedback and criticism. When you deliver feedback to a recipient and it’s done appropriately, it’s a gift to the recipient as it helps them to improve. Criticism that is posited as feedback is not really feedback if you’re just listing the negative aspects about someone without delivering points of value to help the person improve. The way that feedback is delivered is so important because it can enhance or damage a relationship. The suggestions below will help you deliver effective feedback.

1. Intent
I know the old adage that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, your intent; however, in delivering feedback is important. When delivering feedback to another individual, your feedback should be designed to be positive, motivational and encouraging. Your feedback will be more effective if it’s designed to highlight the strengths of the individual as well as the areas that require improvement.

2. Be Sincere
When you assist another person with their personal growth through your feedback, it requires honesty and sincerity. When delivering feedback highlight the receipient’s strengths and be sincere if there are genuine areas of improvement. You want to be honest about their strengths without glossing over or sugarcoating your feedback.

3. Immediate
Feedback is most effective and has the greatest impact when it’s delivered after a behaviour has occurred. When feedback is not immediately given, it may lose its potency. The recipient of the feedback also may not directly link the feedback with the behaviour that requires improvement if it’s not given immediately, for example, an aspect of an employee’s work performance. When you give immediate feedback, the recipient is able to correlate or link your feedback with a specific behaviour. They are then able to start implementing your suggestions for improvement.

4. Specific

For feedback to be effective and have an impact it should be specific. Giving specific feedback with examples will enable the recipient to take action to improve because they have specific information that they can implement. They will not be working with vague generalities.

5. Method
When you deliver feedback make sure that you have a method you can use. One effective method is called,”the sandwich technique” or approach. With this technique, you start by delivering the feedback on a positive note. In the middle of your feedback, the constructive part i.e. the areas of improvement are delivered. Lastly, you end the feedback again on a positive note. The reason that this technique is so effective is because the “constructive criticism” is “sandwiched” between two positive pieces of feedback. The sandwich approach is very effective technique to use as it “softens” the feedback somewhat, so that is does not come across strictly as criticism or in an accusatory tone to the recipient.

6. Use I Language
When you’re delivering feedback, remember to use personalized language or “I” language, such as I felt, I suggest, my recommendation is etc. The reason being is that when you speak from the 1st person when you deliver feedback, the tone of the feedback appears to be less harsh. Using “I” language also reflects that it’s your opinion and not facts written in stone. When you don’t use I language when delivering feedback and instead use the word “you” all the time i.e. you did this, you must do this etc. the language appears to be more accusatory in nature rather than collaborative.

By following these suggestions, you’ll be able to deliver effective feedback. What’s your experience with feedback? For you, what differentiates good from bad feedback? Let’s hear your thoughts.

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