“I do not object to people looking at their watches when I am speaking. But I strongly object when they start shaking them to make certain they are still going!”
William Birkett 1st Baron Ulverston
This is the story of Karen who overcame her dull delivery and started to wow decision makers! Karen isn’t real (client confidentiality, you understand) though she is a composite of several clients of mine. This story is faithful to their experience.
“Well, I thought my razor was dull…..”
Karen had risen from the ranks in her software company to bag the plum post of Technical Manager. She was bright, active and knowledgeable. She knew she had to step up. She was now expected to make presentations to the directors of her company. Just one problem – Karen was a geek. She sounded like one – and she knew it!
Her problem was that she failed to keep people’s attention when she presented. She knew this and was getting worried. She asked her boss privately what was wrong. While her content was interesting, he told her that her voice was boring to listen to. It’s true, she was only using a limited tonal pattern and very little variety of pace. She came across as intense and introspective. I imagine that her audience had difficulty keeping their mind from wandering.
The pressure was on. Much was expected and she had to deliver. She is a ‘can do’ person – positive, constructive and committed. She wanted to tackle the problem head on.
“…..until I heard his speech!”
- Karen needed to develop strategies to relax her intensity. I taught her self hypnosis and worked to improve her posture.
- The sound of her voice tended to go ‘inward’ and disappear towards the end of her sentences. We worked on her breath control to increase her volume and sustain her breath to the end of sentences. This in itself made her feel more confident.
- Karen needed to increase her range so she had more of a tune in her voice. She expanded her range by singing the script for her presentation. Then she spoke it trying to get the same notes into her speaking voice as she had when she sang. She was also taught to pound her solar plexus with her fist whilst rehearsing her speech to inject warmth into her tone.
- She urgently needed to vary her voice to keep people’s interest. She found out how valuable silence can be as a way of commanding attention. She planned pauses to allow her audience to catch up with her. She found out that when she varied the speed of her delivery, slowing down until her audience was with her then speeding up after that, her listeners were much more responsive. She said it felt counter- intuitive (and weird) but it worked!
Karen now paid close attention to the body language of her audience. She discovered that she was having a powerful effect with the new skills she’d picked up. Those who’d crossed their hands across their chests and sat back were now sitting forward with much more open gestures. Sometimes they were critical and intervened in her presentation to challenge her. She recognised this to be a GOOD sign! They were engaging. They were involved. She was flexible enough not to take their comments as criticism of herself and dealt with them calmly. She came across as formidable and persuasive.
The next time she presented to the directors, her boss congratulated her afterwards. He told her that she’d made the CEO sit up and take notice. He was now taking what she’d said seriously and discussing her ideas with the board!