Thursday, July 31, 2008

Speak To Influence Minicourse Part 3 Of 5

Writen by Gary Horsman

In part 3 three of the program we will cover how to:

1. Speak with authority
2. Conquer speaking stress
3. Get your listeners' attention
4. State your case with care


You have control over how you look and sound. If you want to sound authoritative, then make sure you look authoritative and feel authoritative.

When you are getting ready to speak, form a mental image that relates directly to the manner in which you want to deliver your message. If you want to be authoritative, then picture someone from your experience who has delivered a speech in an authoritative manner. You might think of President John F. Kennedy, for example. Emulate this person when you speak.

Also think of a single word or phrase that embodies that person's way of delivering the speech. For an authoritative speech you may think of "strength," "power," or "authority." Repeat that word in your mind until your state of mind matches the meaning of that word.

Last of all, consider your body language. It is hard to sound or to be authoritative when you are hunched over a podium, bent over a table, or slouched in your chair. Whether you are standing or sitting, have proper posture, do not fidget, and do not let your eyes drift. If you are making a voice-narration using a script then stay focused and do not let your mind drift.


Having a bit of speech fright is very common and normal. The feeling of being uncomfortable can occur when the group you are going to address is large or small. You may even feel stress when you speak with just one person. For example you may become nervous when you are going to speak with your boss.

Symptoms of speech fright include a trembling voice, anxious feelings, and a loss of your natural speaking pace. Some people experience a pounding heart and high levels of perspiration. All of these symptoms are primarily caused by high levels of adrenaline. What can you do about them?

First, when you are getting ready to speak, make a point of taking a few deep breaths. Deep breathing helps you to focus and prepares you for breathing at a proper pace.

Early in my speaking career, an older master told me that a few minutes before a speech he often felt the surge of adrenaline. He dealt with it by pretending that he was getting up at that point in time to speak. It was his way of "burning off" some of that adrenaline. He psychologically burned off some of his anxiety by doing this. By combining this mental technique and by taking some deep breaths you may be able to burn off just enough of that extra surge in adrenaline.

I use these techniques as well and find them both helpful.

Second, before you speak, visualize yourself delivering the speech smoothly and with confidence. In the movie "My Dinner with Andre," the main character tells a story about being in a play when he was young. A fellow child-actor told him that it would be hot and stuffy on stage under the lights, and he would be sweaty. The other person was trying to convince him that he would be unsuccessful on stage. It was exactly the wrong mental preparation. Do the opposite and imagine successfully communicating with the audience before you even step in front of it.

When you do begin speaking, never apologize for being nervous. Your nervousness is often not obvious to others. No one can see your pounding heart. Your apology only draws attention to the problem and distracts from your message. Keep in mind that you are usually much more critical of yourself than anyone in the audience will be.

As you gain confidence and speak more often and apply some of these techniques your level of nervousness will diminish.


When making a presentation, consider how you could tell a story to make your point. Everyone loves a good story. By telling a story you put it in context and add a real-life human dimension to it. Imagine being able to tell great a story about your business or your product or service and the benefits of working with you or using your product. This is a very compelling thing to do with a potential customer.

Telling a good joke that relates to your topic can effectively get the listeners' attention, but do not try to be too funny. Some people have a knack with humor and others do not. If the joke is short, and relates somehow to the topic and you feel comfortable telling then I say go for it. If you are uncertain for any reason then it may be best to not use humor.

In a conversation with a small group or one-on-one, you will be perceived as interesting if you show sincere interests in others. Make a point of asking questions, not just talking about your own topics. When you ask a question make it open ended and one that people cannot answer with a simple yes or no. By engaging their participation, you naturally engage their attention.

Remember that the sound of your voice is one of your most valuable attention-grabbing tools. Be crisp in your language and tone. Take the burden off the listener by being interesting and concise.

When creating your message, give your audience incentive to listen. Think of an attention-grabbing "headline" that relates strongly to what's in it for the listener.

"Jim, I just thought of a way to reduce customer turnover by 50%. Can I have a few minutes to tell you about it?"

No matter whom you are speaking to, make your message stand out by injecting energy into it. Be alive and show enthusiasm. Adding enthusiasm engages the listener and thus adds interest to your message.


You may have been hearing lately about your emotional intelligence. Your emotional intelligence, or EQ, is your ability to understand and relate to your feelings and emotions and the feelings and emotions of others. Researchers now believe that when it comes to predicting success your EQ is far more of a factor than your IQ.

High-EQ people do three things that make them effective communicators.

First, they establish empathy that conveys respect and understanding. They ask questions and acknowledge emotions. They check their timing and only proceed if the timing is right. If we are sensitive we will know when a person does not have the time or whether you need to make your point quickly. An idea may have to be presented in small increment rather than all at once. To have empathy means that you have an understanding of the other's problems, feelings, and points of view. The effective speakers of the world do this well. Most people do it poorly.

Second, they then check for the audience's willingness to listen. If the person you want to talk with is not ready and you push ahead anyway, it will be difficult or impossible to make your case.

If the timing is right and you have their attention, make your case.

The third thing that high EQ people do is that they deal well with objections. As you do convey your message, you may come up against objections. This is normal and good. Objections shows interest – welcome and embrace them.

I will illustrate how a lack of objections related to a lack of interest. I once gave a talk to IBM that was organized by our local salesperson. The audience assembled, but the "stage setting" was done by the local sales staff, and a key point was missed. The preparation failed to make sure that the audience was in a position to use the new product we were introducing. The audience was polite but not engaged and no objections were raised either during the talk or during the question-and-answer segment—not even one!

The local sales people seemed happy with the presentation and that there were no objections. I knew that little business would come from this presentation. In the end, it took much longer than expected by the local sales force to develop business at this IBM location with this new product. The point of this story is that an engaged audience does raise objections and you need to deal with them effectively.

If you do encounter an objection or two here is an effective three-step way to work through objections.

1. Repeat the objection. This gives you a moment to think and ensures that you understand the objection. I have seen many an inexperienced salesperson answer an objection that was never asked simply because they did not understand the objection.

Repeating the objection also gives the other person the opportunity to hear what they have just said. You are giving them the chance to clarify themselves or, if the words seem unreasonable, the chance to change their opinion without losing face.

2. Never match the objection with equal force. Instead, ask a question, such as, "Why do you think that way?" or "What do you think are some options that could lead to a solution to this issue?" These questions show your willingness to be open-minded, that you think the objection is important, and that you appreciate the fact that the person raised it.

3. Ensure that you have addressed all the objections by asking some additional questions, such as, "Is there anything that you would like to discuss further?" or "Have I made everything clear?"

If you set the stage properly, make your case, and then handle objections effectively you are well on your way to success.

In part 4 we will be looking at some of the dos and don'ts when using the telephone and how a script is used to create a professional message.

Gary is President of Presentations That Talk ( The core product of Presentations That Talk is the PTT Presenter. The PTT Presenter allows users to easily make voice-narrated streaming media presentations. This allows a company to present their products and services, using the Internet, with presentation marketing which adds impact and helps to influence the viewer.

Gary is also a public speaker, educator, and mentor/coach to others wishing to improve their speaking ability.

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