Have you met the Aerobic Penguin? Do you speak like an AK-47? Do you dance the Cha Cha Cha on stage? PlusPlus offers you more than a hundred ideas for better communication. In three blocks - content, delivery, slides - you will learn about boosters and brakes for powerful, persuasive public speaking and communication in general.
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PATTERNS FOR BETTER COMMUNICATIONFLORIAN MUECK
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Only dead fish swim with the flow.
PLUSPLUS is not only a book. It’s also an attitude. With their positive and constructive attitude, the people below continuously help me climb closer to that unreachable peak of the mountain of public speaking.
Special thanks to all my awesome clients.
Special thanks once again to Arthur Waters for his brilliance and patience on the editing side.
Special thanks to Conor Neill and IESE Business School — both are role models of personal and professional growth.
Special thanks to my Rhetoric-game partner and friend John Zimmer.
Special thanks to Olivia Schofield and her Spectacular Speakers for her neverending inspiration.
Special thanks to Michael Kalkowski for his priceless trust from the very beginning.
And, of course, very special thanks to my very special Rose.
For Prestigious Speakers
Her name is Sonia, and she’s from Mexico City. When I met her, I was about to give a seminar for the Foundation of Emotional Education in Barcelona. Everyone was chatting and chaffering over their coffee before the training started — except Sonia, who was sitting alone at a table, hunched forward, poring over some notes.
I went over to her table and sat down. Instead of introducing myself, I just looked at her. Then I said:You don’t talk very much, do you?
Sonia was an introverted, timid, pensive person when I met her. She was insecure, reluctant to share even her ideas, much less her feelings, or her passions. It was as if she’d built a wall around herself, and was hiding behind it from everyone.
Two days later she had changed completely. Enthusiasm possessed her when she expressed her passion for archaeological museums. She modulated her voice to outstanding effect. She was poised; her selfconfidence had soared. Now she positively radiated charisma. It was like magic.
What had happened to Sonia?
I lead seminars on public speaking. That is my profession. I’ve worked all across Europe, usually for major corporations. I’ve listened to and evaluated thousands of speeches — in three languages — and these thousands of evaluations have taught me one thing: the power of feedback!
I use only positive, constructive feedback: that is the secret magic of PLUSPLUS.
PLUS: Sonia, what I liked in your speech was....
PLUSPLUS: Sonia, what you could have done even better was..
Who likes negative feedback? Who accepts MINUS feedback?
In my seminars, MINUS feedback is not allowed.
I always turn MINUS feedback into PLUSPLUS comments, so the people receiving it, like Sonia, don’t begin to think in terms of what they did wrong; instead, they think about how they can do it better next time.
Examples of MINUS versus PLUSPLUS feedback:
You spoke too fast.
You could’ve spoken more deliberately.
MINUS: I missed some pauses.
You could’ve used a few more pauses.
MINUS: I didn’t like your hectic movements.
PLUSPLUS: If you exercise more control over your movements on stage, you’ll project more authority.
MINUS: You use too many filler sounds, like “um” and “ah”.
PLUSPLUS: You could convert those filler sounds you use, like “um” and “ah”, into very effective pauses instead.
MINUS: You are an emotional refrigerator.
PLUSPLUS: If you’d open up more and share your emotions, you’d connect much more with your audience.
It was the magic of PLUSPLUS, the approach that emphasizes “What you can do even better!” that turned Sonia into an outgoing, confident, passionate and persuasive communicator in just two days.
In this book you’ll learn about more than a hundred PLUSPLUS patterns I’ve detected over the years — patterns for better communication.
You can use this book in a variety of ways:
As a business presenter, you can enhance your content, your delivery, and your slides.
As a salesperson, you can optimize your sales pitch.
As a Toastmaster, you can improve your evaluations.
This book discusses public speaking. And consider: it’salwayspublic speaking, whether you’re speaking to a single person or in front of an audience of a thousand people.
Many of the PLUSPLUS patterns in this book also apply to your everyday communication, one-on-one, both in business and in your personal life.
You too can improve the same way Sonia did. After two days of receiving PLUSPLUS feedback and applying PLUSPLUS patterns, she said:
On Friday I was on the other side of the river. You brought me over to this side.
This book focuses on three areas for improving your speeches and presentations — content, delivery, and slides. You’ll learn about “boosters” and “brakes” in all three areas.
“Boosters” are PLUSPLUS patterns that will improve the quality of your communication if you use them more often.
“Brakes” are also PLUSPLUS patterns, but it will improve the quality of your communication if youavoidthem.
Here are a few examples:
Speak and Click
PLUSPLUS PATTERNS THAT WILL IMPROVE YOUR SPEECHES AND PRESENTATIONS EVERY TIME YOU APPLY THEM
Once I attended an MBA class given by my friend Professor Conor Neill from the renowned IESE Business School in Barcelona. With gravity in his voice he addressed his class:
Ladies and gentlemen, please pay good attention. You will now hear the eight words that are most important to any public speaker.
The serious tone of Conor’s voice immediately had the students grabbing their pens. Conor continued:
The eight most important words, for any public speaker, are: After listening to my speech, the audience will ___________!
Will what? What will they do? What action will they take? What action, real or symbolic, will people perform after they’ve listened to me?
Conor calls it “Point X”, that one symbolic action that turns a passive listener into a committed follower.
Knowing more about my topic is not an action. Feeling more passionate about my cause is not an action. Signing my petition to save the orangutans in Borneo — that is an action.
I was sitting in a street café in Barcelona one afternoon, when suddenly a kindly looking lady in her late 50s approached me with a petition to save the famous orangutans of Borneo. Frankly, I’m not the number one petition-signer in the world, but this particular cause meant something to me. Rose, my beloved, my special rose, comes from Sabah, in Borneo, home of the orangutan. So I signed.
Two weeks later I received a phone call:
Mr. Mueck, you have signed a petition here to help save the orangutan....
Now — what were the chances that I’d have just put the phone down? Normally, they’re about 99½%, like when a telephone solicitor calls me to sell me a better wireless connection.
But I couldn’t do that, because I’d already committed myself. That tiny little symbolic action of signing that petition had an amazing amount of persuasive power. It made me feel a sense of personal obligation.
Most of the speakers I’ve ever heard haven’t included a concrete call to action. There hasn’t been a “Point X” — which means that significant opportunities have been missed!
The first content-boosting action to take in the future is to write down these eight words, then to come up with a concrete action for your audience to take once they’ve listened to your speech or presentation.
It’s the very first step. Once you’ve defined your Point X, you’re ready to move on.
Boost your content even more by demanding a symbolic action from your audience.
Our company is a great adventure.
A speech that starts with such a metaphorical theme can only be good. It’s always great to use a theme throughout your speech. Good themes are those that everyone in the audience can easily relate to: a journey, a rollercoaster ride, marriage, a building, a thunderstorm, the gym, football, a marathon.
A metaphorical theme is more memorable than an abstract concept. Staying with the example above — what makes an adventure an adventure?
In an adventure you have heroes: the sales guys in the company, the management, the IT team.
In an adventure you encounter obstacles: competition, regulation, recession.
In an adventure you take risks: a new product launch, a new market entry, a joint venture.
Your audience will appreciate such a theme. They can identify with it; they can visualize it; they can feel it.
Make sure you don’t mix themes in a speech. Mixed metaphors are too confusing for your audience. Stick to one theme.
Boost your content even more by using a single metaphorical theme throughout your speech.
Imagine you’re sitting in an audience listening to a speech. Why would it be important for you that the speech have a good structure?
Now — imagine you are giving a speech in front of an audience. Why would it be important for you as a speaker to have a good structure?
Good structure is crucial for both the speaker and the audience. The speaker wants to stay on track, avoid forgetting important parts, keep the logical flow moving. The listener wants to follow the speaker’s points — and the easier that is, the better.
Good structure boosts the quality of your content.
A simple and powerful model for structuring your speeches is the Speech Structure Building™ model, as I explained inThe Seven Minute Star.
The Speech Structure Building™ is a model of a Greek temple: it has a foundation (the speech’s opening), three pillars (the body: points A, B, C), and a rooftop (the closing). What makes this model special is the “drainpipe” which connects the roof with the foundation.
Example: a speech about “The future of Europe”
It was the best year of my life. One year of freedom, one year of friendship, one year of Europe - it was my Erasmus exchange year in Barcelona, 1997-98. Ever since then, I’ve been a passionate European, and I’ll give you three powerful reasons why Europe has a great future ahead.
First, our infrastructure. Look at the ports of Rotterdam, Hamburg, Barcelona. Look at the airports of Frankfurt, Paris, Madrid. Look at the highways in Poland or Hungary. We have top-notch infrastructure in Europe - a prerequisite for successful global business operations.
Second, our culture. Europe is a superbly attractive place to work and live for global-quality people. Our art, our cuisine, our fashion, our films, our music, our sports — Europe offers culture and lifestyle at its best.
The third, and from my perspective the most powerful reason for a bright European future, is our political system. It’s a system based on freedom, equal rights, and democracy. This is the system I want for my son Álvaro, when he grows up. This system guarantees stability and growth for the coming generations.
Today I’m back in Barcelona, a convinced European, back in the city of my Erasmus year. I’ve lived my personal European dream for the last decade; I live my European dream today, and I’ll live it tomorrow as well. Europe is our future.
Opening — A - B - C — closing, with a connection back to the opening. Leonardo Da Vinci said that simplicity is the ultimate sophistication; follow his advice, and let your public speeches follow this simple structure. Be sophisticated and use the Greek temple: foundation, three pillars, roof, and the drainpipe.
Boost your content even more by using the Speech Structure Building™.
In my seminars I usually ask a female participant about the amount of time she would grant to a guy who’s obviously launching a flirtation attack. Most times — after the laughter, the red cheeks, and the jokes have died down — she’ll say that she’d give a guy about 30 seconds.
If you are a male reader — well, I don’t know about your experience, but mine doesn’t even come close to 30 seconds.
Hello, my name is Flor... — Oh — well — ok — bye!
I don’t even have time to get out my whole name. I’ve never experienced anything else but an average of 1.3 to 1.7 seconds.
For me, the same thing applies to public speaking. When you speak in public, when you present your product, when you give a eulogy, when you make a pitch for funding for your start-up company, when you give a best man’s speech — always think about how you have 1.3 to 1.7 seconds to capture the attention of your audience.
With this in mind, here are five ways to start your next speech or presentation:
A quotation from an admired personality is a safe way to start a speech.
I recommend quotations that express the central, key message of your speech. Imagine a speech to a group of employees:perseverancemight be the key to your message. Use Google, search for “quotation” and “perseverance”, and you’ll find a vast variety of useful quotations.
You could start a speech by saying,
Albert Einstein once said...
Pause! Let them picture the guy with the crazy white hair-do.
“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer." — I want us to stay with our problems longer than any competitor, I want us to stay with our problems longer than any analyst expects from us, I want us to stay with our problems longer than any solution would ever require.
A neat side effect of starting with a quotation is that it awards you borrowed credibility and intellect right from the start.
Our sector will drown...
This is a miserable situation...
Starting your speech with a polemic has an immediate impact, and will grab an audience’s attention. I call it theWHAT?effect.
Hello, my name is Florian...— That lady in the back thinks,Yeah, whatever!
Our sector will drown...— Your audience thinks,WHAT?
Polemic openings are great; however, it’s important to make sure you resolve them in a positive way — but only after a long, dramatic pause.
Our sector will drown... Pause! ...in a sea of success!
This is a miserable situation... Pause! ...for pessimists. Again we outpaced our competition!
Polemics are great attention-getters.
Does your speech have a message? It had better. Without a message you have no speech; you have nothing to present. Now — you can reduce any message in the world to one word.
Take the Albert Einstein example from above: Perseverance.
Personally, I love the one-word start because of its radical simplicity. Once expressed with dignity and intonation, your portentous word hums in the room, and everyone in your audience knows, after just 1.3 seconds, what your presentation will be about.
A participant in one of my seminars once started his speech by saying,
An uncanny silence blanketed the room; we all felt smothered by a blanket of negativity. It didn’t even take him 1.3 seconds to capture our fullest attention.
Rhetorical or not, questions are always a great tool for getting your audience to listen to what you are about to say.
Have any of you guys ever been to Barcelona?
What would you picture in your mind if you heard this question? Isn’t it hard not to picture the Sagrada Familia, F.C. Barcelona, or the beautiful sandy beaches? Even those who have never been will search their memories for anything they might have heard about Barcelona — Gaudí, perhaps, or the 1992 Olympics.
Whether we verbalize an answer or not, we will always be alert to questions. Questions make us think. Always remember, a thinking audience is a good audience — unless you’re a politician!
Sharing a personal anecdote at the beginning of your speech that shows why you’re passionate about your cause will automatically increase the level of your ethos, the credibility you convey as a speaker.
Imagine you want to persuade your audience to become entrepreneurs. You could start your speech by saying:
The room was always full. I remember that our classrooms at university were always overcrowded — but not because of me! I would be sitting at home, in the students’ residence, launching my first entrepreneurial adventures, together with my friend Dennis.
I may not be Michael Dell; I’m certainly not Bill Gates. But I tried; therefore, I do have the credibility to talk about entrepreneurship.
When you start your speech or presentation with a story or anecdote that boosts the level of your personal ethos, step by step you wade more deeply into the waters of persuasiveness.
Boost your content by taking an unbreakable hold upon your audience’s attention; begin your speech with a quotation, a polemic, a single portentous word, a question, or a personal anecdote.
But I can’t start my speech with one of those five patterns. I have to welcome the dignitaries and authorities and thank the organizers first.
I hear this all the time. Yes, some events and occasions require a welcome, and thanking certain people and institutions. But my question is:
Have you ever tried to do it differently?
Only dead fish swim with the flow.I don’t want to be a dead fish. I want to capture the full attention of every last seat in my audience in the first 1.3 to 1.7 seconds.
Imagine these opening words:
Dear Mr. President, dear Madam President, honored Dean and Professors, honored guests and friends of this institution....
Would words like these ever capture an audience’s full attention?Ever?
Instead, by this time the last three rows have already fallen asleep.
You can do better. You can change the order of things. You can welcome the dignitaries and thank the organizersafteryour opening lines.
Example: a “Commencement address”
It was a rainy November evening 18 years ago.Anew chapter of my life was about to begin. 1,000 anxious eyes gathered in this very same room; mine were among them. Doubt and anticipation met and mingled. What would my future bring? What would it look like? Would I become the CEO of Siemens? Would I start my own venture? My future was draped in fog, but now my present is clearly in my sight. What made the fog disappear?
Dear Mr. President, dear Madam President, honored Dean and Professors, honored guests and friends of this institution.
There are no rules in public speaking. You make the rules. You can change the expected order of things to increase the impact of your speech. No one is going to come up to you at the cocktail party later and say,
You didn’t follow protocol!
(And if someone does, just smile, chuckle indulgently, and turn away.)
Boost your content even more by grabbing the audience’s attention straightaway, and then doing the welcoming and thanking.
Have you ever attended a talk by a speaker who just talks and talks and talks, but you haven’t a clue about where the whole thing is going?
It’s important that your audience know the main point of your speech or presentation very early on. If they haven’t learned it after about a minute, they’ll rapidly start getting uneasy.
My recommendation for you is to mention your key message, the point of your talk, at the end of your introduction.
Example: a speech about “Friendship”
Have you ever missed your friends when you needed them most? Have you ever let a good friend down? Have you ever cried for a friend you lost?
Friends are one of the most valuable treasures we have in life. Today I want to encourage you to invest more time into this treasure.
From that point onward you present your arguments and reasons, stories and anecdotes. But your audience will know right from the start what your speech is all about.
Boost your content even more — cement your key message in the audience’s mind by mentioning it by the end of your introduction.
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