Saturday, August 29, 2009

Less is More

Yesterday I had a fascinating conversation with a conductor who spent the summer working with an orchestra in Salzburg. She spoke of the challenge of communicating with the musicians in German, when she barely speaks the language.

The conductor was forced to say less and rely even more on nonverbal communication and say only what was absolutely necessary. She realized that she was able to get across the same information just as effectively - and much more efficiently - than when she was speaking in English.

From the Green Room: Next time you prepare a presentation, imagine that you will be speaking to a group of people for whom English is a second language. Eliminate filler words. Speak as simply and clearly as possible. Focus on the essence of what you are trying to communicate. Then try practicing your speech focusing solely on nonverbal communication (gestures, facial expressions, movement, etc).

You will see that by using fewer words, you will actually say much more.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Emotional Power of Variety

In the June 2009 issue of Oprah magazine, Tim Jarvis discusses a psychology study conducted by Dr. Emily Pronin at Stanford on the power of speed reading to raise spirits. Pronin discovered that fast-thinking activities such as speed-reading actually induce a positive mood.

At the same time, she also found that in certain situations, such as times of stress, slowing down makes us happier. Pronin concludes:

"We found that varied thoughts tend to be more uplifting, whereas repetitive thinking tends to be mood downer."

The same is true for a listening audience.

A presentation with vocal variety - in volume, pace, pitch and emotion - is not only more interesting to listen to, but makes your audience feel better listening to you so that they want to hear more.

From the Green Room: Vary your voice. You will lift your audience's spirits so they have more energy to listen to you.

Begin With the Unexpected

While visiting my husband's family in Santa Barbara this week, I had the pleasure of listening to a performance of the Canadian Brass at the Lobero Theater.

As we took our seats, I noticed that the stage was set up predicably - with black chairs arranged in a semi-circle, music stands, and brass instruments ready.

When the lights went down, we heard horns playing from the back of the concert hall and turned around to see the quintet slowly walking down the aisles, playing what sounded like a graceful processional. By the time they reached the stage, they had us.

What was so brilliant about this entrance, was that the stage set-up had led us to believe that the musicians would enter from the wings. The simple twist of entering from the back - and thus physically being with the audience - enabled the musicians to both surprise and connect to us. The effect was both captivating and endearing. You could feel the warmth and affection coming from the audience for the rest of the performance.

From the Green Room: Try beginning your presentation with something unexpected that also brings you closer to the audience. They will love you for it.

Friday, August 7, 2009

To Gain More Confidence Public Speaking, Jump Up and Laugh!

Recently, I ran a training for a group of young professionals. I asked them to stand up, muster as much energy as they could, and say "Good morning everyone."

Not bad, I told them afterwards.

Next, I asked them to jump and laugh at the same time for about five seconds before again saying together, "Good morning everyone."

This time, the energy in the room increased tremendously.

Jump and laugh is a simple exercise used by actors before an audition. It is almost impossible not to sound energized and enthusiastic after doing it - and it's a wonderful way to channel nervous energy and gain more confidence public speaking.

Someone in the group asked the obvious question, "What's the point of this exercise if you can't actually do it in public, right before you speak."

Ah, so here's the secret:

If you practice jumping and laughing each time before you rehearse your presentation, you will train your mind to return to that same of state of high energy right before your actual speech - even without the exercise.

From the Green Room: Each time you practice, jump and laugh right beforehand. The dual motions give you a burst of energy and launch you straight into the present moment - exactly where you should be. Being fully present will give you more confidence public speaking.