Just 20 minutes into my Speak For Yourself® Workshop in New Jersey…
… an attendee shuffles into the room. It’s not a big room. Everyone stops, as do I, to let him walk in front of me, and the group, to find a seat.
You know the beginning of your presentation is crucial. That’s when you build credibility with your audience, gain their attention, set out your goals, get their buy-in.
This guy misses that train. I stop him – right in the middle of the room – and say, “Hey – I’m going to sit down and let you teach this class!” And I find a seat, leaving this guy center stage.
Note: This maneuver can get you into trouble. It’s edgy. But I was NOT going to leave him up there for more than a few seconds. Reasons FOR doing this: everyone is distracted and you, the speaker, need to address the distraction. At this moment, no one is listening to you anyway.
From my seated position I ask, “What’s your name?” He replies, standing in the middle of the room, “Bill Cutler.”
I pause and respond, “Bill, thank you for founding this company in 1977. You are the reason we are here today. It’s your genius and your tenacity that got your business to its international status during this past 40 years!”
How do you really screw up as a communicator?
Not doing your pre-intel on your audience.
If the ship misses the harbor, it’s rarely the harbor’s fault. Whether you are speaking to your investors, your team, chatting at a cocktail reception, or sending an email – do your homework. Find out who they are, what they do, what matters to them. You won’t hit any icebergs and you will reduce your speaker anxiety.
Speaking of ships, when this tardy attendee says his name my credibility and trust in that room could have hit an iceberg. By doing some homework ahead of time I avoid a Titanic Moment. He looked different than his website photo, but (thank you Lord) I did know his story.
Picture you are dining in a hip new restaurant and you order a $23 fancy hamburger.
The waiter asks, “How do you want your hamburger prepared?” You answer, “Medium.”
Your meal arrives and due to the Spoiler Alert Blog Title you know that this top sirloin hamburger arrives bordering on red to raw.
Clarity = mutually shared comprehension of … your legal brief, your financial projections, your Board of Directors presentation, or your critical email.
Lack of clarity = time sucking confusion, the quick click of your favorite computer key … DELETE, a potential negative outcome on that legal brief, AND a slightly raw hamburger patty.
Three ways to communicate with clarity
#1 🎤 Use a universally understood set of metrics, and define unfamiliar words.
❌ Don’t say “medium rare”.
✅ Say “pink”.
#2 🎤 Be aware of Fuzzy Words like soon, young, tall or good. There is no single quantitative value that defines these words.
One time a friend of mine, while recuperating from a surgery, encountered some complications. Her significant other replied by phone, “I’ll come over soon.” She understood this as, “He will get in his car now and will speed but will not run red lights.” He arrived after finishing his work about two hours later. Not good. NOT a shared comprehension of the concept “soon”.
#3 🎤 Communicate in an accurate and timely manner. Do your homework. Get the facts right and provide your info when needed.
Clarity means making your content easy to understand. Your listeners — at your presentation, or reading your email, or in your meeting — are dealing with their own pressures, piles and people. When you communicate with clarity you will save time, headaches and money.
Then you’ll have time to eat that perfectly prepared hamburger.
Not to sound too dramatic – without a planned way to introduce yourself, you leave yourself open to the whim of the meeting organizer.
Maybe there are things you DON’T want the audience to know.
Maybe you want the audience to laugh even before you’ve opened your mouth.
Maybe you want to add some speaker credibility from another source.
Maybe you want to lower your speaker anxiety index!
Your template for a clever, fun and engaging introduction
Open with WHY the audience wants to hear about your subject. That’s right… your subject. NOT YOU! How is your info relevant to them? What will they gain from listening to you?
Next – Share some credibility facts about you – why you are the perfect person to discuss the subject matter. Keep this to four sentences max.
Following short paragraph: Share some personal stuff (if that works for you). Audiences like to know about you, the person, as well as you, the expert.
Last paragraph: Share your name and title of your speech – “Let’s welcome from Dallas, Texas – Karen Cortell Reisman, who will tell us how to Speak For Yourself!”
Rules for a great introduction
Fits on one page at 18-font type (sometimes your introducer needs reading glasses but isn’t wearing them…)
Print out your intro and bring to the event, even though you emailed it in advance.
Provide a phonetic spelling of your name: “Karen Core-tell Rice-men”
Keep the whole thing short. We stop listening after your third accolade.
Include something funny – here’s what I use: “Our speaker has one masters degree, one bachelors degree, one cow named Bliss, one daughter, one son and one husband, not exactly in that order. When our speaker is not working with decision makers on how to communicate, she can be found on that farm with her cow trying to find cell phone reception to talk to her city slicker friends.”
Don’t miss this opportunity to begin your presentation with pizzaz and predictability.
Source: thanks to Christine Cashen, CSP, Speaker Hall of Fame, for many of the ideas used in this blog. She is the pro on creating fantastic introductions.
You have practiced your delivery and you know what your audience wants/needs to hear.
All critical for your success on the platform.
BUT – What haven’t you done? What often goes missing?
Your introduction. What the meeting organizer says about YOU just before you jump on stage.
Recently I visited the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santé Fe, NM. One entire wall exhibited picture frames that she liked to use for her art.
This wall, in a small museum, was devoted to frames? Not her art?
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Sante Fe, NM
Of course. O’Keeffe understood that the picture frame mattered. It could enhance or detract from the art itself.
The same principle applies to your presentations. The way you get introduced frames the way you are perceived. Why leave this to chance?
🎤 Your homework
Write your own introduction and email it to the meeting planner. Bring an extra copy as well, in case the emcee loses it (happens a lot).
🎤 Your payoff
Less speaker anxiety.
One client who speaks across the country told me, “Karen, having a great introduction sets the stage in such a better way for me. It calms my nerves, and I start off with more power. It’s one of the best takeaways from working with you.”
Stay tuned for tips on how to write clever and fun introductions.
You responded! You agreed with Dr. Silbergleit and you added your own list of grating speech habits.
More bad speech behaviors to avoid
1️⃣ Dr. Steve Spivack: “What about ‘you know what I mean’ and ‘Hum’”?
➜ Note: Both of these are filler clutter.
“You know what I mean” at the end of a thought makes the speaker appear less confident. You are asking for approval for what you just said. Total waste of words.
🎤 Tip: Stop! Don’t ask this type of question.
“Hum” is in the category of verbal clutter. Its cousins are “um”, “you know”, and “uh”.
🎤 Tip: Pause instead of adding clutter.
2️⃣ Barbara Franklin: “Reminds me of kids saying ‘like’ – every second word.”
➜ Note: The ‘like’ epidemic applies to all of us, not just kids.
“Like, when you hear someone, like, say ‘like’, you might want to scream. But, like, listen to yourself and, like, monitor your own use of this word.”
🎤 Tip: Ask a close friend to be your “’like’ accomplice”. Have that person keep a “’like’ tab”. Become aware of how often you use this word and then be a self-monitor.
3️⃣ Harry Hall, a fellow communication consultant, on correcting Upspeak (ending all sentences as if they’re questions): “Playback a recording of them doing it. That fixes it pretty quickly.” Harry added, “Upspeak totally undermines credibility.” Agreed!
You are about to hire your new VP of Sales. Or you are negotiating with the owner of a family-owned business for the rights to franchise. Or you are meeting with your CIO about a possible security breach.
And then the potential VP, the owner, and the CIO use one or all three of these highly annoying speech habits. Outcome: you don’t want to work with any of them.
In a recent conversation with Dr. Alice Silbergleit, the Director of the Speech-Language Sciences and Disorders Department of Neurology at the Henry Ford Health System in Michigan, I asked, “What are your top three bad speech habits?”
“That’s easy,” Dr. Silbergleit replied. “These three bad habits are rampant and they are killers. The first one is: DOING SOMETHING CALLED ‘UPSPEAK’. Second place goes to ‘GLOTTAL FRY’. And the third bad habit is ending sentences with ‘RIGHT?’ All three of these tie for first place!”
UPSPEAK: This phenomenon refers to making all sentences end as if they were questions. Hence, your pitch goes up at the conclusion of the sentence even if you are NOT asking a question. I tell my clients to “land the plane” at the end of each sentence, even if you are asking a question. Lower your pitch. Don’t raise pitch.
GLOTTAL (VOCAL) FRY: The glottal fry register is the lowest vocal register and produces a creaky lower voice. Females, to potentially sound more credible, use this croaking sound more than males. Yet, as Dr. Silbergleit explained, this voice pattern undermines the effectiveness of their communication.
“RIGHT?” It was great seeing you too – RIGHT??? “Right?” is the third annoying speaking habit! Ending every sentence with the word “right” detracts from your overall presence. I concur with Dr. Silbergleit and will add two more words/phrases that become annoying: “Does that make sense?” and “Do you see what I mean?”
Just because these bad habits are rampant does not make them acceptable, right? Listen to yourself and see if you are doing Upspeak or Glottal Fry. Does that make sense?