Stories make your message stick long after you’ve revealed your product benefits, shared your company’s new strategy or even emceed an event.
I had the honor of emceeing my National Speakers Association – North TX Chapter meeting recently. While introducing the featured speaker I shared a personal story highlighting the speaker.
“A while back, for another convention, I had the chance to drive our featured speaker from our airport to the venue. We got lost. Twice. At the same place. Underneath a pile of highway intersections in a restaurant parking lot with dumpsters to our left and the back of the restaurant to our right. Now, granted, we did not have sophisticated GPS systems nor cockpit panel screens in our cars yet, but I was one second away from crying/laughing with hysteria when we landed next to the dumpsters the second time. She grabbed my phone … and guided me out of this spot.”
“Why am I telling you this story?” I asked this current audience. “Because 2 weeks later she sent me a hand-written thank you note and never mentioned that this was the ride from hell. As speakers we talk about ‘walking our talk’ – being the same off the stage as on the stage. Our speaker did just that – she is a really nice person, even when no one is looking.”
The audience grasped the depth of her business credibility from the prepared introduction. The personalized story showed her kindness.
The story worked.
What I did NOT say in that driving story
Before picking her up at the airport I had an oncology doctor visit discussing my breast cancer diagnosis. I’m fine now (thankfully) but I was not fine that day. I’m sure that added to my driving duress.
What NOT to say in your stories
Don’t add extra info that sidetracks your story or does not move your story forward.
The story, as stated, is funny due to using self-deprecating humor. I expose my crummy driving. No one needs to know the real reason I kept getting lost.
Don’t overshare unnecessary info about yourself.
You may feel compelled to share ALL the details, but don’t do it IF it takes away from your story’s relevance.
Even CEOs and veteran presenters commit these presentation skills’ crimes!
COMMUNICATION MISTAKE #1: Misunderstanding audience expectations.
Don’t be the team that works only on presenting your solutions to the client or prospect. Be the group that gathers this intel first:
Where is prospect pain? What makes them tick? What are they good at? Who competes with them? Where can they improve? What defines success for them? How knowledgeable are they about your topic? Experience range?
COMMUNICATION MISTAKE #2: Memorizing your speech.
Don’t commit your speech to memory. Just know how you will start and how you will end.
What should you get yourself in order to speak with confidence?
We @ Speak For Yourself® have curated the best gifts, by category, to help you check this quest off your gift-buying list.
A smile, good posture, and effective eye contact cost nothing.
Have you heard the phrase, “Fake it till you make it?” You may feel uncomfortable but you can appear as if you own Manhattan by your facial expression, stance and eyeball connection.
Clothing & Accessories
Buy clothes you love that fit the group and venue you’re speaking at.
Buy shoes that you can stand in, for hours, that look great. (Good luck.) For women – I’ve seen some fabulous post-pandemic glittery sneakers that have rocked the stage.
Buy yourself a Story Journal. Write down the funny stuff that happens. Keep a story log of events inside and outside your professional world. Then find ways to make these stories relevant when you run your company town halls / strategic retreats / quarterly zoom meetings. You will resonate more with your various audiences, which in turn will increase your confidence.
Besides the obvious – your computer, auxiliary cords, and remote wireless clicker if you use visuals, also purchase back up batteries, a decent pen, old fashioned note pad, and a thumb drive with your material (even if everything is in the cloud). Having your tech arsenal ready and available will add to your comfort level.
Food & Drink
Some of my clients beg me to agree that a shot of vodka will boost confident communication. No. That won’t work, and your holiday gift list to yourself does not include a trip to your wine store. Here are foods and a great drink that will boost your energy:
Some type of protein or a protein shake.
Easy food that will not drip onto your clothes like a piece of fruit or nuts.
(I always take a protein bar, a banana and some nuts to my speaking venues to snack on.)
Your best drink: room temp water to hydrate your vocal cords.
OK – chocolates are always a good thing to have on hand.
Can you think of other items to add to our holiday Communicate With Confidence gift list?
A client bought a new mattress and decided to take part in the mattress company’s focus group about the experience.
“Why did you buy this mattress?”, they asked. Reasonable question! My client answered, “I moved.” What she did not say was that she moved due to a relationship break up.
“How did you feel about the price of the mattress?”, they asked. Reasonable question! My client answered, “It was a fair price.” What she did not say was that she knew someone at the mattress company that extended an employee discount.
You never hear the whole truth.
The unsaid answers that my client did not share would have given more accurate information.
How can you glean more transparent data at exit interviews, strategic meetings, and annual reviews? OR… any day/time of the week?!
Listen between the lines.
The most effective communicators know how to use every tool at their disposal.
Ask questions and go three deep. Explore beyond the first answer given.
Observe nonverbal behavior. Look at gestures, stance, tone of voice.
Have an approachable attitude. Be present and focused on the other.
Smile. Always a good idea (but you don’t need to grin like the village idiot).
Use good eye contact. Be inclusive and look at everyone if there is more than one person involved.
You may still not hear the whole truth; but you’ll net a more transparent interaction.
This post is in memoriam to my courageous, strong, smart, feisty and fabulous friend & colleague, Linda Lakin. She has a lot to teach us.
Here’s an excerpt of a conversation she shared with me during one of her many chemo infusions:
“How are you?”, asks Derrick, the hospital tech, on auto pilot.
Linda answers, “Do you really want to know”?
He stops short and replies, “Tell me how you really are and I’ll tell you what’s going on with me.”
“Fair enough. I don’t feel well and it sucks to be back in treatment getting more chemo. Your turn.” She’s wondering … what could be so challenging for this healthy 22-year old guy?
“I work at this hospital full time and I’m going to nursing school full time and I’m drained, tired and burned out.”
Their conversation goes on. Linda listens and gives some great advice. Derrick listens and sees how he might manage his load without crashing. Linda’s load is lightened by this exchange.
You’ve just witnessed an honest conversation.
Sometimes you want to get to this deeper Linda/Derrick level – but sometimes you don’t… for all kinds of valid reasons.
As leaders in your various industries you have to figure out when to do a deep dive and when to remain in “Gracious Superficial Mode”.
IF you do delve – here are your ground rules: ◼︎ Listen more than you talk. ◼︎ Empathize. ◼︎ Be present. ◼︎ Ask questions. ◼︎ Be nonjudgmental. ◼︎ Don’t be wedded to a specific outcome. ◼︎ Make observational suggestions if asked.
Authentic conversations take time. Hard to do in your crazy busy world, but well worth the effort.
Linda always went for the authentic conversations. And we all learned from her.