The institute of public speaking is a Boston based international public speaking training organization. We live and breath educating others on the skills of public speaking, leadership and communication.
Beginning public speakers often exhibit the bad habit of utilizing filler words (um, ah, like, so, you know, etc.) while speaking. Herein, we’ll explore why these non-words rarely serve your message and should be minimized (if not removed entirely.) In our public speaking and leadership training classes and coaching we get lots of questions regarding filler words. Our public speaking students ask: Should we never use them and consider it a catastrophic failure if we accidently do? Should we simply be less formal and use filler words as we might in regular speech? Fact is, speakers should learn to minimize filler words because it does affect the reception and effectivity of your message. A habit of overusing these insignificant words will have a definitively negative affect your speaking outcomes. Let’s explore why we should eliminate these meaningless, distracting words from our communications.
Words Without Meaning
Filler words do not have any additive power in our communications. They might as well be considered non-words or gibberish. If they add no meaning, value or weight to our communication they should not be a part of it. When speaking or in a leadership situation, we should be focused on the efficiency and efficacy of our communication. Filler words do nothing positive and are best left out of our communications.
We Distract Our Listeners
Overuse and abuse of filler words leaves our audience unable to focus on our message. Anything that keeps us from our singular focus of successfully delivering our message should be left by the wayside. Acknowledging that audiences have rather short attention spans and less than optimal listening patterns it makes sense to be focused in our word choice.
Other’s Judge Us
Others judge us far too frequently. As a result, we should make every effort to minimize any use of filler words. Unfortunately, our audience make assumptions based upon external factors such as our facial expression, body language, voice, the words we use and many other attributes. All happens in a blink of eye or a misplace “um or ah” and these new friends (or sometimes unfortunate foes) assume they have ‘sized us up’.
Perfection should be no one’s goal because it doesn’t exist and isn’t realistic. Rather, we should aim to minimize if not eliminate these filler words from our communications repertoire. We hope you now understand why filler words are non-words and don’t deserve any prevalence in our speech delivery. Have you got um, ahh-itus? We can help. Removing these meaningless words from your communications will only make you a better speaker and leader. Feel free to leave a question or comment below and continue the conversation.
Storytelling can be a powerful & compelling tool for today’s leaders and public speakers. Stories can help you entertain, influence and inspire an audience much more effectively than facts or figures. A well delivered story can leave a positive lifelong impression, get you the sale or venture capital you’ve been seeking or even change the world. Whether you are a seasoned leader, a speaker or fledgling startup — stories can breathe life into your communications. Here we’ll explore some of the fundamental characteristics of what makes storytelling so powerful for speakers, leaders and anyone under the sun.
Emotions Move Your Audience
Emotions are always an essential ingredient to successful story telling. We connect with the humanness of another’s experience, we relate to it. Ask yourself, if what you deliver in your speech or presentation will rise the emotions you’d like to see the audience to experience. This emotional experience (or experiences) should build audience anticipation and have them hanging on your every word.
Our stories should build anticipation in the audience from the very beginning. Like our favorite TV shows always go for commercial break just before a cliffhanger. So too, our stories should edge our audience toward an intended call to action or key point. They should lead the audience along our intended storyline while keeping them on the edge of their seat. Our stories don’t have to be exactly chronological, they can instead be told in any order to help build anticipation of our fundamental call to action or fundamental message.
Call to Action
Our call to action is our fundamental takeaway we’d like an audience to remember delivered through the lens of our story. It’s what do we want them to do, say or think as a result of our speech or presentation Our call to action is our takeaway, or message they should remember. Our call to action should be evident and bring our audience to the desired conclusion through our authentic, relatable, impactful story.
Stories should be about people, their experience or something the audience can relate to. You should be able to answer the questions:
Can the audience see, feel and experience the story from their own perspective?
Do you understand your audience demographic?
What are the needs, wants and desires of your audience
If you can answer these questions you’ll be able to construct stories that we relatable and effective no matter the aim of your speech or presentation. In the end we want the audience to feel we are speaking directly to them as if an intimate one on one conversation. If we are relatable and have a well-developed story, this will be evident in audience reaction. If you’re using a story correctly you’ll see smiling faces, eye contact and engaged facial expressions. If not, you’ll experience downward gazes, smartphone activity and lethargic sleepy body language.
We can only create a proper connection with the audience if we are truly authentic. This cannot be faked. Authenticity means we show ourselves as who we are — not our idealized selves. Being the unique authentic person, you are as a speaker/leader will let your story shine. Bearing your soul will breed trust and respect all around you. Others will see you as perfectly imperfect and respect you for having the bravery to express yourself with honesty. This will build rapport and relationship with any audience and mean a positive reception of your message. You are perfectly imperfect, realistically show it and your stories will have compelling resonance with your audience.
Vulnerability builds rapport and relatability. Introducing our own vulnerability does not make us weak, in fact it shows quite the opposite. Let the audience know about your challenges, mistakes and even failures. This is very powerful because it is a raw and relatable human experience. Most people struggle with self-confidence, imposter syndrome and even deeply challenging failures. Those that claim they have not known struggle, pain or failure are not interesting to most. Truth be told, being vulnerable shows, you are human, fallible, and most importantly — relatable.
Bring it to Life
Use as much of the 5 senses (sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch) as possible — they need to experience it as if they LIVED it. Effective storytelling makes the audience experience what you describe in your story. This means we need to deliver with effective body language powerful, dynamic vocal delivery and palpable charisma. Our word choice matters significantly as it will often bring vitality to our story and its intended outcome.
Think from the perspective of creating a movie in the audiences’ mind by conveying the 5 senses to them while you deliver the story itself. Set the scene in the audience in vivid detail and your audience will vest in your message. Bring it to life with as many of the senses as you can and you’ll be impressed at how well your audience connects with your story, speech or presentation.
If we effectively use the powerful tool of storytelling we build an emotional connection and rapport with our audience which can dramatically improve our speaking/leadership outcomes. So, take these simple steps to bring storytelling into your speaking or leadership communication repertoire and you’ll see how powerful they can be.
What’s your story? How will you use these storytelling techniques to improve your communication outcomes? As always, please do leave questions or comments below. We’d love to hear from you.
How would you describe your boss? Does he help you succeed and grow or hold you back? Do you look forward to going into work every day or only look forward to days your manager is on vacation? As you undoubtedly know, we spend the majority of our day at work. Having an awful boss can make your work life pretty unbearable. If you aren’t sure if your fearless leader fits the horrible boss category, check out these seven signs. Upon reading this post, you’ll be able to identify and understand the signs of a horrible boss.
Your Boss is a Bully
Think bullies only exist on the school playground? Unfortunately that is not the case. Bullies are definitely in the workplace as well. If a bully is in a manager or leadership role, they often abuse their power and make their direct reports miserable. A study of 3,066 U.S. workers by the Rand Corp., Harvard Medical School and the University of California, Los Angeles puts the number of employees in situations described as hostile at nearly one in five workers.
While every one of these aren’t citing bosses as bullies, they are certainly part of the issue. Bullies don’t belong anywhere, and certainly not in the workplace. Not sure if your boss is a bully? There are several characteristics that bullying bosses have in common. They tend to manage through intimidation, verbal abuse, and backstabbing. If you think your boss is a bully, you can stick up for yourself by those issues with specific examples of how you feel unfairly treated. Know that you can only control your responses and not others. The behavior may not change, so you need to be prepared to make a change if they don’t.
Your Boss is Lies Frequently
Great bosses are open and honest with their employees, they building trust and effective communication, horrible bosses are not. They tend to fudge the truth or outright lie to their team. Not only is this unethical, it makes it pretty hard to maintain relationships with the people on their teams.
A horrible boss will not deal honestly with issues that need resolution. Instead, they will blame, castigate and punish others while holding to half truths. The boss that makes lying a habit probably does so when it makes sense and benefits their agenda. These behaviors and characteristics are toxic to you as an employee and the success of your firm.
Your Boss is a Horrible Communicator
Do you consider your boss an effective communicator? Does it seem like no matter what you do, you and your boss are never on the same wavelength? Perhaps you have made every effort to improve your communication outcome with them, only to still have issues in the end.
You rely on your boss to communicate their expectations to you so that you can meet and surpass them. If your boss has a problem communicating, it becomes nearly impossible to be successful. Successful communication is essential between you and your boss in order for you to perform at your best and be the most effective you can be for the company.
Your Boss Doesn’t Listen
Employees want to be heard and a boss that doesn’t listen is destructive to employee morale & real world business outcomes. A manager not listening to his or her employees’ ideas sends a message that they don’t respect or value them. Perhaps they think they know best or feel threatened by your ideas. Whatever the reason there is no excuse for poor communication skills. Good managers value input and regularly ask for input from their team. They engage in active listening and spend twice as much time listening than they do speaking. The lost art of listening is an absolutely critical skill for leaders or management at any level.
Your Boss the Plays Blame Game
If you have experienced your boss not owning up to mistakes and even blaming other people, it’s not a good sign. Exceptional bosses know that everyone makes mistakes. A manager not taking responsibility for their errors shows that they will do anything to protect their reputation and will happily throw others under the bus. Knowing your manager blames others makes it likely they are blaming you for things too.
Successful leaders don’t play the blame game. They own failures as opportunities to improve and help navigate your organization to success.
Your Boss Micromanages
Bosses that micromanage tend to believe they know best. In order for things to be done properly they feel the need to hover and double check everything to make sure they don’t look bad. This undermines any opportunities for the employee to succeed and breaks down any potential trust that could develop between the employee and manager/leader. This is disastrous on an interpersonal level and organizational level.
Micromanaging bosses cause individual employees to fail to perform and the outcomes effect the larger organization.
Your team has a LOT of turnover
High turnover can be a red flag to managerial & leadership issues. People get fed up with bad managers and tend to move on. Did you know that a bad manager is the top reason people leave their jobs? A high turnover signals that many people are likely leaving due to an ineffective manager.
Are you dealing with a horrible boss? I hope not, but if you are you definitely now know the signs & consequences. Having lived through nearly every type of horrible boss – I entirely empathize & understand. The good news is that you can do several things to improve the situation. First you can be the effective communicator who is assertive and willing to address the issues you experience with him/her. You can be the employee who empowers and respects others, exhibits emotional intelligence and communicates effectively. Remember that leadership doesn’t need a title or position of power, rather it comes from everyone at every level of a successful organization. You can be a persuasive and successful leader that others will look up to. If you find even after showing the best of yourself that things don’t change it may be time to look for a new role. Remember that change is largely positive and opportunities abound. If not, you will enjoy the positive outgrowths of addressing these issues and the ensuing positive growth for you and your organization.
So you have made it through the application and phone screening phases and landed an interview? Congrats! Now you can meet face to face and secure the position. Feeling anxious yet? It can be a bit unnerving to prepare for your interview. After all, it is pretty important to your career.
Don’t worry though, most people get pretty nervous beforehand, but there are a few steps you can take to make your interview successful. We’ve received so many questions about the topic in our public speaking and leadership training courses that we developed this post to explain more in detail. Take a look at these five steps to help you show your best professional self and ace that job interview!
Know the Company/Industry
Companies will want you to be familiar with their company & its industry. You can impress them by providing details on the current marketplace and where they fit in it. Do your homework on the company and marketplace. Not only will this help you answer questions from the interviewer, it will help you determine if the company is a good fit for you. Interviews aren’t just a method for employers to find the best talent for their role, it is also an opportunity for candidates to determine if this is the right organization for them.
Check out sites like Glassdoor & Salary.com to review information like salary estimates and reviews from current and former employees. Review the company’s website to read their values and beliefs to get a feel for their company culture. Scan Google & other social media sites for recent news stories on the company to see why they are making headlines. You can also use this information to ask questions at the end that show you did your research.
Dress the Part
First impressions are unavoidable, particularly in an interview setting. A recent scientific study from New York University revealed that in less than a blink of an eye people make unconscious assessments of others. Hiring managers are often just as quick to judge our skills, capacities and personality. While most interviewers will be a bit more lenient, the truth is most managers/leaders hold to those first impressions whether it is conscious or not. If you are inappropriately dressed in your interview the interviewer will form an impression that you aren’t an appropriate fit for the role.
Generally, it’s better to be more formal than the job requires. Remember if you dress the part, you’ll feel more confident.
Body language is the non-verbal side of human communication which we deliver along side the spoken word. Body language comprises upward of 60% of our total human communication and the interviewer will certainly be watching how you connect with them on a non-verbal level. Remember to exude confidence through your body language. Make sure your posture is good, with no slouching or slumped shoulder. A firm, friendly handshake conveys confidence and never should be overbearing or domineering. While you are talking, make sure to smile and connect with your interviewer. Make eye contact and have a positive resting face to show you are confident and engaged. Relax and let your interviewer see that you are open to the conversation. Treat the interview like a conversation where you are explaining what you do now and what you have done in the past. Practice active listening and show the interviewer that you are a skilled communicator. Remember that these soft skills are as important as any other skill or capacity you bring to the job role.
Mind Your Voice
One of the key things for interviewers to assess from the interview are your communication skills. Avoid mumbling and make sure to enunciate your words so that the interviewer can clearly understand the answers you are providing.
Also be sure to avoid using poor vocal habits like filler words or vocal fry. Speak in a normal conversational but professional tone and avoid using slang. This will help the interviewer understand what you are saying and will make them unable to make negative judgments based on how you speak.
It’s normal to get nervous before or even during an interview. There is no doubt you are being judged, it’s kind of the point! Don’t sweat it, accept your feelings, understand them and take a positive action that is alignment with your goal of attaining the role. Before the interview, simply prepare with deep breathing, positive visualization and relaxation techniques that science shows improve your interview outcomes. These techniques help leaders and public speakers deal with these very same types of stressors and difficult situations. Remember, you can only be your best professional self and being in that positive state will help it shine through. While you can’t control the outcome, you can control how you react to your situation.
The bottom line: Keep yourself in a positive state of mind and do your best. If this job is the one meant for you, an offer will come. If not, you will get another opportunity. Thinking this way will also help you relax and help you have a good interview experience.
So if you’d like to ace your next job interview don’t forget these skills. They will serve you well and help you show the best of who you are. Dressing the part, show through body language, your voice and your positive mindset that you are the right one for the position. When you exhibit these skills employers will see your enthusiasm, your communication skills and emotional intelligence. These ‘soft skills’ will often be the largest determining factor in your success in any role. Be the best of who you are let it shine by practicing these job interview skills. If you do, I’m confident of the fact you’ll be receiving an offer letter in short order.
Got questions or comments? Please leave them below, we love to hear from you. If you found this post helpful please do join our monthly newsletter with expert tips on public speaking and leadership.
Far too often, students in our public speaking and leadership courses recall their ‘failures’ as challenges that define their present & future outcomes — rather than a bump in the road to their success. They often recall these experiences of ‘failures’ in vivid detail and explain that they truly feel they will never overcome the shadow of past. In a larger sense they suffer from what cognitive distortions or thought patterns that cause them to perceive these experiences inaccurately. Often these cognitive distortions reinforce negative thoughts or emotions and leave a person feeling helpless and hopeless. Nothing can be further from the truth. Failure is reality of life, but it is less a desperate dismal end than a hopeful beginning. Here in we will explore some ways one learn from failure and approach the future with brimming optimism.
Failure is a fact of life. In high stakes roles that public speakers and leadership hold failure is unavoidable. Rather than assume the failure defines our future potential we should accept it as it is. Our failure as speakers may come in the form of a speech that fell on deaf ears or a scathing negative review from our peers. Whatever it is — no matter. We have to learn to accept our own experiences, learn from them and positively move forward.
Our failures are not things to cower and hide from. We should own our failures by gaining a deeper understanding of them and their place in our learning journey. Owning our failure means now deflecting responsibility for its existence in our past. Instead, this involved bravely accepting and embracing our failure. If for example, we as leaders in an organization have failed help guide our team to an agreed upon goal, it is critical we own that failure. Not to hold it over our heads for eternity but to learn from it and improve future leadership outcomes.
Every failure is a learning opportunity in disguise. Rather than see failure as an insurmountable obstacle we should see the lessons it yields. If our startup pitch didn’t attain our funding goals, we can learn from the experience for next time. Rather than feel demoralized, we should seek to understand what we can learn to improve our next pitch. The lessons of failure are the precious but only to those that explore its fundamental purpose.
Life is always a series of challenges, but of them staying positive in the face of adversity is often the biggest. The challenge of a ‘failure’ calls us to bring forward the most positive within our selves to see beyond its dark and hazy shadow it often casts. Our past define us or negatively color our potential future. If our outlook is negative it is hard to see things as they really are. We have to see outside our current challenges and hold fast to the potential learning that comes by staying positive.
Will you learn from failure or live in its shadow? The choice is yours. Choose to redefine your future and the yield will be many fold. What is your experience with dealing with failures. Leave us a comment below and let us know. As always we wish you endless success.
Our resting face is the facial expression we make most often. It is our facial expression default, a non-verbal communication conveyed via one of our most powerful body language delivery mechanisms – the face. Speakers and leaders need to be mindful and aware of how they are using the face to their advantage or lack there of. If we want to engage our audience, lead our peers or persuade our superiors – we need to master our resting face. Before we explore this at greater length lets look at the science behind its importance.
When we first meet people, they form a near instantaneous impression of us. They make assumptions based upon external factors such as our facial expression, body language, voice and many other attributes. All happens in a blink of eye and these new friends (or sometimes unfortunate foes) assume they have ‘sized us up’. A recent scientific study from New York University details this phenomena perfectly. This study revealed that in less than a blink of an eye, people make unconscious assessments of others. Researchers in this study monitored the amygdala (emotional center of the brain) of participants who were presented with pictures of a variety of human faces. In a mere 33 milliseconds, participants in the study indicated whether they trusted the face (and the person behind it) – a period so short it excluded conscious insight. The study details a variety of factors such as facial structure, expression, eyes, etc. that influence our assessment of them. Now that we understand why our resting face is important, let’s explore how to optimize it.
Know Your Resting Face
Many novice students who come to our public speaking & leadership training sessions and seminars are unaware that they have an issue with non-verbal communication. For example, most novice speakers deal with glossophobia (the fear of public speaking) and therefore their resting face can look stressed and anxious. Their resting face is often stressed or anxious and they rarely smile. The same issue exists for the fledgling leader. Many times the stresses of the day get to him or her and they show it in a fatigued facial expression. Unfortunately, in most cases, these individuals are unaware that they are even showing a less than optimal resting face. They erroneously believe that their facial expression is serving the outcome they intend; when it is not. Now that we understand some of the issues speakers and leaders have with resting face let’s explore how we can optimize it in our communication scenarios.
One of the most critical skills with optimizing our resting face is being able to acknowledge our actual day to day resting face. There are a few ways to do this that we’ll explore them below.
Use a Mirror
Practice ‘checking in’ with how you feel and taking a look in the mirror. What does your resting face say? Is it warm and welcoming or does it depict stress or anxiety.
Record yourself (or have a friend do so) while speaking & leadership situations. Review it and take some notes on your resting face. What does your resting face convey and is it serving your needs or impeding you?
Ask a Friend
A great way to gain an awareness of your resting face habits is to ask a friend. Ask them to observe you over a span of time with a focus on what your most common facial expression is. Ask them to give you honest feedback.
Practice Your Social Smile
If we have less than a second to create a favorable impression, shouldn’t we use this time wisely. What can we do as communicators, speakers and leaders is to enhance our positive impressions and outcomes? There is much research into the powerful effects of smiling. Smiling, even without a reason for doing so, can improve mood, reduce stress and generally make you more likable. The act of smiling changes both your emotional state and that of the other person you are communicating with – both for the better. There is really no downside to the practice of smiling. Am I saying you need to constantly smile to be effective? No. It’s not realistic to assume we can and even should always smile but adding it to your non-verbal communications and resting face is a distinct advantage. Authentically smiling should be a part of your resting face and something you practice. Smiling will make you have a more authentic influence upon others while making you more likable and approachable. So says numerous scientific studies. To this I see no downside. Smile more, and improve your reception while speaking and leading. Now let’s see those pearly whites! =)
Do you have a song that just makes you smile, or one that helps get you motivated for your morning run? If you do – you’re not alone. Music can be a powerful tool to change your state of mind and motivate you to action. Psychologists have long studied the powerful positive effects of music on our brain and mood. As much as music is used effectively in other fields it can be applied to the art and science of public speaking. Music has a capacity to engage a wide variety of our neurobiological systems to change the way we think and feel. The powerful tool of music can be another tool to keep you positive, focused and performing optimally as a speaker.
Listening to the right type of music before a speech (or other types of performance) can have significant positive effects including reducing anxiety and boosting confidence. In this article, we will cover a few ways music can be used to improve your mood and in turn your public speaking performance.
Music and your mood are inherently linked. So playing uplifting and motivating music before you are about to perform is a great way to improve your mood and as a result your confidence and performance. However, music (like most art) is a very personal and emotional experience unique to each of us. So be sure to look for music that gives you a feel good vibe as this is an effective way to find motivating music.
While uplifting and motivational music elevates your mood and encourages you to be confident, it is not the only type of music that is beneficial. Music that is calming and tranquil is also a common choice, especially for people who suffer from stress or anxiety prior to performing. Calming music helps ease your mind and reduces the impact of worrying thoughts, such as fears regarding the impending performance. Listening to a variety of songs and choosing ones that make you feel relaxed and at peace is an excellent way to help you discover the right songs.
Create Your Power Playlist
Once you have taken the time to find the types of music and songs that work for you, we advise you ensure you have a wide selection of suitable music ready to go. Whenever you identify a song that you enjoy and makes you feel better, add it to a playlist so it is ready to go when you need it most. Once you have built your playlist, get into the habit of playing it. Do so while you practice your speech, before you go on stage or anytime at all. Get yourself accustomed to feeling strong, empowered and self-confident feelings you feel while you ‘rock out’ to your power playlist. You deserve to take center stage. Why not have those uplifting tunes in the back of your mind helping you stay motivated for the public speaking success you so deserve.