Public Speaking: Secrets To Being A Powerful Public Speaker and Conscious Listener
Speaking and listening are critical skills for anyone who wants to make a difference, as a leader, a parent, a spouse, a friend or a colleague. These skills profoundly affect our outcomes at home and at work, so it seems strange that we teach and test reading and writing at school, but not speaking and listening. We are expected to pick up and master these complex capabilities with little or no formal training or structure. So… how much thought, time and energy have you put into actively developing your speaking and listening? If the answer is not much, then allow sound and communication expert and author Julian Treasure to teach you the nine secrets of powerful speaking and conscious listening.
1. Speaking and listening are interrelated
Most people think it’s a linear relationship: I speak, you listen. Actually, it’s a circle, because the way you listen affects how I speak and the way I speak affects the way you listen. If you want to be listened to, the first step is to listen well yourself.
2. The human voice is the instrument we all play…
And yet very few people train or practise. If you use your voice to achieve important results – maybe teaching, selling, leadership or public speaking – then get professional support. Look up local voice coaches (acting or singing) and try a few until you find one you like. Work with them and over a few weeks your voice will transform into a powerful tool and one you understand how to use. The coach will help you to understand your vocal toolbox: breathing, posture, pace, pitch, register, rhythm, projection and use of silence.
3. When in conversation, remember ‘RASA’
R is receive: look at the person speaking, use attentive body language and give them your full, undivided attention. You can’t truly listen to someone and do anything else at the same time. A is appreciate: make little noises, expressions and movements to oil the conversation and show that you are taking in what’s being said. S is summarise: use the word “so” to gather up what’s been said, gain agreement and then move on to the next chunk of the conversation. The last A is ask: use questions throughout and at the end to show interest and engagement.
4. Remember that everybody’s listening is unique
We each have a set of filters through which we listen: our language, culture, values, attitudes, beliefs, expectations, intentions, emotions and assumptions all shape what we listen to and what we make it mean. It is a mistake to assume that everyone listens like you do: your listening is as unique as your fingerprints and so is everyone else’s.
According to GQ “Most people do not practise and feel nervous due to unfamiliarity and the fear they are going to mess up, look foolish or forget their lines”
5. If you have to speak in public, practise public speaking
That sounds obvious, but most people do not practise and feel nervous due to unfamiliarity and the fear they are going to mess up, look foolish or forget their lines. Organisations like Toastmasters allow you to practise the skill of public speaking – or you can get together with some like-minded friends and critique each other, or just video yourself. Either way, practise until it comes naturally. When you actually do walk onto that stage, think “BESS”. Breathe: a deep in-breath will counteract nerves and give you the fuel for your voice, which is, after all, only breath. Expand: try to take in the whole room at once with your peripheral vision, rather than focusing on one spot or person. Stand: develop a strong neutral stance, with feet roughly shoulder-width apart (slightly narrower for females), everything stacked vertically, feeling as though there’s a string attached to the top of your head from which you are dangling and at the same time that your feet have roots going deep down into the earth. Make every movement from that base intentional, not random or repetitive. Smile: audiences respond to this and it always looks good to be pleased to be there.
6. Listening is the best way to calm a heated argument
There’s an inverse relationship between listening and upset: the more upset you are, the less you listen; the more someone listens to you, the less upset you feel.
7. Persuasion involves empathy, rapport and the word ‘yes’
You probably do a lot of this unconsciously already, mirroring the other person’s speech patterns, tone, pace and body language and tuning in to their way of being to establish empathy. If you want to enrol someone in a project or dream, or sell something, make sure to start with lots of questions that demand the answer “yes”. It becomes a habit.
8. Watch out for the seven deadly sins – habits that will rob you of power in your speaking
They’re not wrong per se, but if they become ingrained and repetitive, you will be harder to listen to. They are: gossip (speaking ill of someone not present); condemning others; blanket negativity; complaining (about things you can’t affect, which is just viral misery); excuses (instead, say sorry and explain how you are making sure it won’t happen again); exaggeration (“This pizza is awesome!” Really?), which can morph into outright lying; and dogmatism (my way or the highway; try to remember that opinions are not facts!)
9. For the foundations of powerful speaking, remember ‘HAIL’
H is honesty: being clear and straight. A is authenticity: being yourself. I is integrity: being your word – if what you say always happens then your words will carry weight. L is love: wish people well and your words will land softly and be welcomed.
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