Really good speakers are wonderful to listen to. However, being intimidated by their ability can make it very difficult to interact with them. You begin by comparing your voice to theirs and to the voices of other people in the room. You notice and begin to admire the confidence with which everybody else seems to communicate. You deem your thoughts and your perspective to be less important. You tell yourself that you really don’t need to contribute. When your obligation to speak is inevitable, you feel that you don’t deserve the sudden shift of attention toward you.

On the other hand, you might be thinking that you want to avoid the deflated feeling that occurs when the energy of attention moves away from you and back to the lead speaker. You have the feeling that you need to do more to keep people’s attention.You may even mistakenly believe that this is the time to start adding new words to your vocabulary before you’re even comfortable articulating them and using them in context. You realize that speaking too little and speaking too much can both send a negative perception. Comparing yourself to a really good speaker can make it nearly impossible to achieve the elusive vocal balance that you need to succeed. 

Learn From a Good Speaker

Instead of worrying about keeping up, pay attention to the things they are doing well. Watch where they take their breaths. This may be difficult to detect as their breathing is so completely integrated into their communication style that it seems relaxed and effortless. They may use a combination of fast breaths that quicken the pace and more deliberate breaths that indicate thoughtfulness or gravitas to the things they say. Either way, the breathing is there and they are using it.

Watch this: Amy Cuddy – Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are

Take Notice of a Speaker’s Hand Gestures

They are definitive, supportive and fluid. The seamless integration of gesturing requires holding one gesture until the impulse for the next gesture comes along. Supportive gestures are an indication that a speaker is connected to their body, their breathing, and their thoughts.

Watch this: Guy Winch – We All Need To Practice Emotional First Aid

Become Aware of the Importance of Eye Contact

Good speakers follow the 80/50 rule. They look at you only 50% of the time when speaking but 80% of the time when listening. In larger groups, they move their gaze around the room in an act of attention and inclusion.

Watch this: Reshma Saujani – Teach Girls Bravery, Not Perfection

Speakers You Admire are Masters of the Pause and Therefore Masters of Pacing

They know, either intuitively or by practice, that saying nothing can also send a message. People pay attention to what comes right after a well-timed pause.

Watch this: Tim Ferriss – Why You Should Define Your Fears Instead of Your Goals

Once you Become Aware of What a Good Speaker is Really Doing, Try to Emulate Them

  • Integrate deliberate breathing into your communication style and feel the sensation of forward momentum.
  • Tap into the impulses that lead to supportive gesturing.
  • Use the proper amount of eye contact when speaking and listening with confidence.
  • Understand the energy of attention that you will feel when speaking to a group or even one individual.
  • Always include your perspective in all of your preparation.
  • Maintain your curiosity about what others are saying and how you relate to it.
  • Begin to trust your speech technique more and more as you recognize subtle improvements in your vocal balance.

When engaging with a good speaker, acknowledge the speaker’s ability to convey a clear message and then suggest your additional perspective. People with good speech technique understand the importance of connecting with you. They tend to be very gracious because they are comfortable and confident in their ability to convey a clear and concise message.

A good speaker will welcome your perspective like a tennis player welcomes another onto the court. They know that the joy is in the shared experience, not the winning.

Anything else is doing it for the wrong reasons.


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