Ideas and tips for increasing audience attention, improving sales presentations, public speaking skills, and sales communication.
According to many scientists, around 70,000 thousand years ago, people began to acquire modern speech. Whether you consider it a gift of God, or an ability that arose from natural selection, no other human development has had such impact on our success. Cresting ever-higher peaks in understanding and knowledge rests entirely on the emergence of a sophisticated, versatile, and adaptable language. Without it, we couldn't even think the thoughts that have led to a seemingly endless list of accomplishments, yet we so easily take speech for granted.
While other skills, such as observing and interpreting unspoken signals, projecting the right body language, asking effective questions and, listening attentively underpin persuasion, we depend on the power of words to communicate an idea or justify an action. Speaking effectively is an indispensable skill in sales communication.
"Speak only when your words will be better than your silence would have been". This was the advice offered on the first sales training course I attended. It is hard maxim to follow unless you are naturally quiet, which is an unusual characteristic for salespeople. If everything you say rings like church bells on a Sunday morning, people will get into the habit of listening when you speak. Winston Churchill, recently voted our greatest Briton, understood this well. His reputation as a great orator rested on the preparation that went into his speeches. When he spoke in public, people listened.
A simple step to improve spoken impact is to eliminate any filler words used in normal conversation. Examples that I have heard recently include frequent repetitions of "err", "you know", and "like" or altogether with "err . . like . . you know . .". Others that spring to mind are "OK" and "actually". I could go on but the stones are rattling off my own windowpanes. It is true that we are usually blissfully unaware of the things we say to bridge our sentences and allow thinking time. In running presentation skills courses, I have the delicate task of drawing attention to them. As you might imagine, first I had to eliminate my own.
Record some of your conversations. Use the audio recorder on your phone. If you have pet filler words, they will stand out when you listen to the playback. Some people manage to cease using them the moment they realise how much they have been using them, and how they weaken the effectiveness of their speech. Don't change how you sound, take advantage of it. Learn to use words well. Keep your accent, providing that it isn't so broad as to make you difficult to understand outside the region of you birth.
If you enunciate poorly, or if your pronunciation could do with improving, try this simple exercise. Hold the blunt end of a pen gently between your teeth, as if it were a pipe. Then read aloud some text for about five minutes. It will sound awful so try to carry out this exercise in private. It will be difficult to say the words properly. Ignore this and persevere. After about a week of daily practise, you will notice a marked improvement in the clarity of your speech. Keep up the exercise as long as you find the continuing improvement worthwhile.
Think of better ways to say things. On average, people speak over a hundred unique sentences every day. To do this, we all must have an innate creative talent.
Try this experiment. Think of an important message that you often need to communicate. Write down twenty ways to say it. Pick your best three then rearrange them until you have created high impact expressions of your intended message.
Practise speaking the phrases you have developed with your audio recorder to be sure that your expression sounds the way you want it to be heard.
Be prepared to wait. Timing is important. If you have invested a lot in preparing a powerful phrase, you will want to use it. Restrain yourself and wait for the right moment. If the opportunity doesn't occur right away save your powerful sentences for a better time.
Avoid using cliches. Using phrases that have become popular with others simply makes you sound like one of the crowd. Instead, quote famous deceased people. Famous live people always have their share of dissenters. Build up your store of expressive sentences. If you invest in developing powerful phrases to get a message across, you will begin to collect more and more of them. As you do so, you will find it easier to come up with them. Eventually you will start inventing them as you speak. People will begin expecting you to have something interesting to say, whenever you open your mouth.
Sophisticated language began emerging around three thousand generations ago. It continuously evolves. Dictionary publishers would soon go out of business if they didn't have a torrent of new words to catalogue each year. The best sale communication gets a message across in the most memorable way, with the greatest clarity, and to the widest audience. Words move hearts and when hearts move, action follows.
Article by Clive Miller
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