Speaking persuasively is important in nearly ever aspect of your life. Whether you’re trying to convince your boss to give you a raise, making a whole room feel a powerful emotion, or simply getting your partner to do the dishes, you’ll spend time speaking persuasively. Being able to convince people to see things your way will make your life easier in many aspects.
There are a few things that people who have mastered the art of speaking persuasively know how to do.
1. Speak with confidence
No matter what you’re saying, make sure that you say it confidently. Avoid using any fillers such as “like,” “uh,” or “uhm,” when you’re trying to persuade someone. If you’re not confident and strong, your audience won’t be able to take you seriously. Check our video on eliminating word fillers.
2. Pay attention to body language
Piggybacking off of speaking confidently, you also need to present yourself strongly. If you’re giving a speech or presentation, practice doing some power stances before you start. Remember...your posture will tell the audience how you feel. You should also wear something in which you feel comfortable, yet professional. Check out our video on posture
3. Make eye contact
This can be really nerve wracking if you’re uncomfortable talking in front of people or have social anxiety. However, with a couple of tricks, you can give the appearance of eye contact. When speaking to an audience, you don’t have to make eye contact with anyone for more than a few seconds; look at sections of the audience, but make sure not to dart your eyes back and forth. If you’re talking one-on- one, try to match your eye contact to theirs. If you are still uncomfortable, look at the bridge of their nose. Check out our video on eye contact
4. Speak conversationally
One of the hardest things to master when you’re speaking in front of a group is simply acting like you’re carrying on a conversation. This encompasses a few things: First, you need to anticipate the questions that your audience will have so you can answer them. Second, you’ll need to use the same types of speech patterns that you’d use when talking to someone with whom you're comfortable. This may include using contractions to sound less formal, e.g., can't, didn't, I've.
5. Put some emotion into it
Making your audience feel an emotion can be difficult. Adding a statistic or talking about why something should be emotional is a good start, but it isn’t enough. You’ll need to incorporate some emotion into your delivery. Speak powerfully and put feeling behind your words to persuade your audience. No one wants to listen to monotone. Storytelling can be compelling to the audience and make your speech more memorable. Check our video to see how pausing and stress can change the delivery.
Convincing someone to do something or to believe you can be difficult. These tips will help you get your point across. However, if you’re still uncomfortable or would like to learn more about speaking persuasively, give us a call at 410.356.5666 and we can help! Visit www.successfully-speaking.com or schedule a free 15-minute consultation.
Communicating in the workplace is obviously an important key to success in that space. People communicate in a variety of ways in different contexts. I was interviewed by my colleague, Elliot Lasson from Elliot@Work,
Elliot@Work: Much has been said about Millennials today, not always with a complimentary perspective. Are there any positive aspects of communication which other generations can learn from Millennials?
LKW: Many Millennials value transparency, authenticity, and communication efficiency. There is great value to these attributes. Millennials have grown up with more technology than other generations. Many tend to use texting and email rather than the telephone to communicate. I’ve heard Millennials say that calling someone directly without scheduling a call is interrupting the recipient’s daily schedule. The abundance of apps for scheduling appointments, (e.g., www.calendly.com), can be a direct result of this issue. I personally have learned to become more efficient when scheduling calls and appointments this way, rather than the back and forth of emails to schedule a mutually convenient time. Texting and tweeting have also forced people to be more succinct and to the point. However, with these conveniences come drawbacks; abruptness, miscommunication, grammatical and spelling differences.
Elliot@Work: OK, now that we are playing fair, what positive aspects of communication can Millennials learn from other generations?
LKW: Speaking on the telephone is still important. We have a chance to have immediate responses and hear the person’s tone of voice which minimizes any miscommunication. We should not be relying on technology for all of our communication! Let’s just pick up the phone.
Elliot@Work: Lynda, what strategies would you suggest when preparing for difficult conversations at work?
LKW: Know ahead of time what your objective is and write it down, so it is clear in your own mind. Write out a few examples to support your objectives. When speaking to the other person, most importantly, be a good listener, avoid interrupting, and ask questions. Make sure your body language is open and inviting to the other person. For example, make eye contact, lean forward, minimize any distractions, and avoid fidgeting with your hands or legs.
Elliot@Work: College students are often apprehensive when making a presentation to peers in class. What would you advise to students to help them overcome their “stage fright”?
LKW: First, you must be prepared! Your positive self-talk can help you harness your nervousness. Don’t focus on your fears; understand that your peers don’t want you to fail. Do some form of exercise beforehand to get rid of the jitters (even walk a flight of stairs). Focus on breathing to calm yourself down. Check out this video. Don’t rush to get started. Stand in your space with confidence, take a breath, look at your audience, smile, and then begin. See Stand Like a Tree
Elliot@Work: In the workplace, there are various channels through which one can communicate. These include phone, email, texting, and face-to-face. What guidelines would you advise in selecting the most appropriate medium?
LKW: Situations dictate the preferred means of communication. While in a meeting, a text will be more efficient than a phone call. However, face-to-face is the ideal means of communication since we can use our verbal and non-verbal communication such as body language and tone of voice. If that is not possible, Skype, GoToMeeting, or any other video platform is the next best means for the same reasons and the telephone would come in third. Texting and emailing, leaves room for miscommunication since the receiver cannot hear the tone of the message. Before sending out any emails or texts, read them aloud for accuracy of spelling, grammar, and content. For emotionally laden topics, don’t rush to send it out.
Elliot@Work: How much of public speaking success is “nature” and how much can be trained by a professional like you?
LKW: Some people may be naturals and enjoy getting up in front of an audience. For the rest of us, it is a skill that can be learned. I help my clients use techniques to control nervousness. See Nervousness, improve their voice quality, and speak in an organized fashion. See Ties
Elliot@Work: When making a presentation, what would be the best source of notes–paper, tablet, or teleprompter?
LKW: If you use notes, on paper or on a tablet, make sure to look at the notes briefly, but always look up when speaking. A teleprompter would be appropriate when video-recording your talk. If you use speaker notes in PowerPoint, make sure it sounds natural and does not sound as if you are reading a script! Do not read your notes or memorize them! Use an outline and speak spontaneously to your audience.
Elliot@Work: If you were evaluating a professional presentation, what characteristics would you look for in considering it to be of high quality?
LKW: The presentation should be succinct with a clear message and geared to the specific audience. The speaker must use the allotted time accordingly. The audience won’t mind if the speaker ends early, but going over the allotted time is not respectful of the audience’s schedule. The speaker should engage with the audience by maintaining appropriate eye contact, observing their nonverbal communication, and checking in with them to see if they have questions.
LKW: Learn more about balancing your visual, vocal, and verbal communication to present yourself professionally here. You can learn more about professional speaking tips from Lynda. See here.
One of the most common complaints that older generations have about Millennial women is their use of vocal fry or glottal fry. Put simply, vocal fry is when you use the lowest register of your voice and minimal air flows past your vocal cords. It creates a creaky sound, like "frying bacon." Linguists call this "creaky voice." The use of vocal fry seems to be becoming a Millennial phenomenon, and no one is 100 percent sure why. A popular explanation is the imitation of celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Britney Spears. Some women adopt this pattern whether consciously or unconsciously, perhaps believing that this is a trending vocal pattern. Another possibility is women's desire to lower their voice to sound more authoritative or professional. Many complain of their high-pitched voices. However, in the process of lowering their pitch, they drop to the bottom of their pitch range.
Whatever the reason, many people agree that speaking in this register makes individuals sound less professional and competent. There has been a lot of controversy about this vocal pattern. Naomi Wolf, a feminist author, wrote an article in the Guardian stating that this pattern is undermining women's image in the workplace. Vocal fry is not just limited to women, but it is interesting that males using this pattern do not receive the same criticism.
It can be difficult to know how you sound to others. If you’re worried that you may be using vocal fry, record yourself speaking. Once you’ve done that, listen back and ask yourself if your voice projects well or is it "crackly." Does your voice trail off and fade away at the ends of sentences? Compare it to some videos with Kim Kardashian, although this is an exaggerated pattern. If you’re still unsure, ask someone you trust to listen and give you honest feedback.
Eliminating Vocal Fry
If you find that you are using the vocal fry register, there are a few strategies you can use to begin eliminating it from your speech pattern.
Use your breath. This is a fairly universal tip for good public speaking, but supporting your voice with proper breath will help your voice sound more resonant and full-bodied.
Alter the focus of your voice. Hum and feel the hum in your face, rather than in your throat or larynx. Vocal fry happens at a fairly low register. If you focus on humming before you begin a sentence, you can reduce this creaky sound.
Give attention to your whole sentence. Generally, when you start to taper off at the end of a phrase or sentence, you’re using less of your breath. This can result in vocal fry. Make sure you support the whole sentence with a full breath.
If you employ these tips and find that you’re still having issues with vocal fry, you should seek out a public speaking or vocal coach. At Successfully Speaking, we can help you speak more authoritatively through the elimination of vocal fry. Contact us to set up an appointment or learn more. www.successfullly-speaking.com
What are the challenges of women in the workplace? How can they be perceived as a powerful and successful professional? Their communication style may be impacting their success.
Mike and Michele started working at a new company at the same time. They had comparable work experience and were hired for similar positions. Could there be a difference between their communication styles? Absolutely! With an increased awareness of some of these differences, communication may be becoming more gender neutral. However, there are some inherent patterns that exist and one should be mindful of them.
The workplace and professional environment dictates what communication style is preferred. Power and professionalism may require different skillsets in the corporate or sales setting compared to the non-profit, healthcare, or academic world. We also may “code switch” our style depending on our conversational partner. For example, a public defender in downtown Baltimore may speak differently to her clients than to her colleagues.
Communication is comprised of three V’s-Visual, how you look; Vocal, how you sound; Verbal, what you say.
Visually, women tend to smile more, which can establish rapport, but may undermine authority when used in excess. Women also tend to show more active listening by their smiles, head nods, and vocal encouragement. Look around the room at a boardroom meeting. Women do not always take up as much physical space at the table. Keeping elbows close to the body, or crossing arms and legs makes one smaller and diminishes confidence and power. While standing, crossing ankles and shifting weight compromises your posture. Stand tall, hold your ground, and face your heart outwards!
Vocal patterns may reveal ones’ level of power and confidence. Uptalk and vocal fry are two major vocal features that are often attributed to women, particularly Millennial women; however, men and other generations are guilty of using these patterns as well. Uptalk or upspeak is a term describing a rising pitch at the end of a statement, making the speaker sound less confident and assertive. It also becomes a distraction to the listener. Studies have found that the uptalk speaker is perceived as less credible, especially by Baby Boomers! Vocal fry, glottal fry, or creaky voice is the term for speaking at the bottom of the pitch range with minimal breath support of the voice. This voice is often difficult to hear and lacks energy. Many women lower their pitch to sound more authoritative. This can lead to inappropriate vocal use and possible strain. Embrace the vocal variety that females possess; just avoid the extremes of becoming high-pitched and shrill when upset or nervous, or dropping down to vocal fry. Uptalk and vocal fry may undermine the authority and power of a female (or male) professional. Practice introducing yourself and saying simple sentences and bring your pitch down at the end of your statements. Remember; when there is a period at the end of a sentence, we drop our pitch!
Women tend to use verbal features that might diminish their professional image. Although this is changing, research reports that females do not communicate as directly as their male counterparts. Discounting your own idea (“You may not agree with me, but…..”) or frequent apologies when not required, inform the listener that you do not have the confidence of a successful professional woman. Overuse of qualifiers and adverbs, dilute the message (“I am totally excited about that fantastic conference!) Asking tag questions is inclusive and collaborative with the listener, but may jeopardize the authoritative perception of the speaker (“We’ll finish it this week, won’t we?”, “This is an excellent idea, isn’t it?”). Women also tend to be interrupted more than men. As Madeline Albright has said, you must “learn to interrupt, but only if you know what you’re talking about.” You can even support your female colleagues by confirming and restating their points in a meeting to make sure they are heard.
Both men and women want to speak concisely and have a clear message. How can we do this? I use an acronym, TIES, to give a framework to come across organized: T-State your topic, I-Introduce it, E-Give some examples, and S-Summarize your information. This can be used when speaking for 30 seconds or 3 hours. Try it and you’ll see how it keeps you on track.
Above all, we must be mindful about how our body language and gestures, voice, and words can affect our image. We should balance the three V’s to send a consistent message and express warmth, likeability, authority, and confidence. When all three are balanced, we present ourselves with a powerful and polished professional presence.