Archive for the ‘Delivery Strategies’ Category

No Eye Contact No Connection

No eye contact no connection picThe next time you go down to your neighborhood supermarket take a stroll down the cereal aisle and  you’ll find something quite interesting. 

You’ll notice that  the characters  on some of our favorite cereal boxes  that many of us have  grown up with such as  Fred Flintstone’s  Fruity pebbles, Tony the Tiger (Kelloggs Frosted Flakes) and the Trix Rabbit all have one thing in common.  They’re all looking straight at us.

You’ll also find this common phenomenon  with other popular products like  Aunt Jemima’s maple syrup , Quaker oats and the Sun-maid raisin girl.   And there’s a very good reason for this, which may have more do with our subconscious craving for eye contact than with the actual taste of the products themselves. Corporate America knows this and that’s why they’ve put a lot of money behind their packaging because they know that  great eye contact is also great for big business.

In fact, in April of  2014,  a study called “Eyes in the Aisles” was published in the Journal of Environment and Behavior, where researchers at Cornell University manipulated the gaze of the cartoon rabbit on Trix cereal boxes and found that adult subjects were more likely to choose Trix over competing brands If the rabbit was looking at them rather than away. 

The study went even further,  and this may even shock  you – especially if you’re a parent. Trix  Cereal Box From  their research, they found that the eyes of characters on boxes of cereal marketed to kids were directed downward, and can meet the upward gaze of children walking through the grocery store aisles.

This  study conducted in 2014 by the researchers at Cornell University was actually preceded by another study done by noted  biopsychologist Eckhard Hess back in the 70’s at the University of Chicago. Hess was quoted as saying “The pupil is the body’s natural lie detector and a type of window to the brain.”  

Studies that Hess had conducted back then proved that the power of the eyes is undeniable and all emotional states are filtered through them – there are sad eyes, happy eyes, angry eyes, piercing eyes, and even bedroom eyes. Hess also claimed that the pupils work independently of our conscious control.

Hess said that our emotional states come across in our eyes and can be picked up by those we interact with. The pupil size is affected by one’s emotion – if you are excited, your pupils can dilate up to four times.  if you are experiencing anger or another negative emotions, your pupils shrink in size.

Dialated pupil of makeup modelThese discoveries made by Hess in the seventies were successfully applied by corporations as an effective way of increasing sales of products, such as cosmetics, clothing and hair. This was achieved by altering photos of models to make the pupil area larger which, in turn, produced more sales.

As you can see, corporate America will go quite far to get our  attention!  And whether you agree with their marketing tactics or not, the bottom line is that corporate America knows that eye contact is critical when connecting and selling to their audience and so should we.  And when it comes to speaking and presenting we need to take a cue from “big business,” because  connecting and selling is exactly what we do  when we  take the stage.

When you are in speaking your are in sales

Whether  we want our audience to buy into an idea, a vision, a product,  or a service,  we are selling them on something.  And eye contact  is a big part of that process.  If you want to come off as authentic and trustworthy with your audience you need to make solid eye contact with them. And the  lack thereof, will make you be perceived by your audience as inattentive and untrustworthy.

Even in the world of business where a lot of selling is done over the phone, most business deals of significant value still  have to happen person-to-person, eye-to-eye, and sealed with a handshake.  Why is this?  Because eye contact conveys trust, confidence, and connection.

When we tell  the significant people in our lives that we love and care about them, we do it not only by the tone of our voice, but we do it by looking them in the eye because our eyes don’t lie and our emotions are filtered through them.

Eye contact is so powerful that it can even cut through a crowded room  of people where two strangers on opposite sides meet each other’s gaze and become magnetized with laser focused connection, and without even  uttering  a single word they know that “love is in the air.”  Nothing needs to be said, because their eyes do all the talking.

Taking it to the Stage

Most of us already know how to make eye contact with people that we interact with in our daily lives. Whether it’s with our kids, our co-workers,  our friends, or our lovers, we make eye contact and we do it well.  It’s because our “humanness”  has made us that way  and we’ve become experts at it.  We crave connection and we do it with our eyes.

However, the problem for many speakers begins as soon as they take the stage, and the  great  eye contact  that they were able to convey just minutes before getting up to the podium gets thrown out the window along with the connection with their audience.  For most, this happens because when they take the stage their confidence  suddenly shifts and they begin to lose their “sense of self” – and their personality isn’t the same anymore.

A number of years ago, I had created a term for this phenomenon, and  I called it   “Stage Personality  Disorder.”  This happens when your offstage personality doesn’t match your on stage personality.

My creation of this term came from years of observing many speaker over the years.  I would see speakers whom had vibrant personalities while socializing  during breakfast, luncheons, or during the cocktail hour just minutes prior to  taking the stage, and  whom suddenly became stiff and  monotonous  as soon as they uttered the first words of their speech.

It was like watching  two different people with two different personalities.  And unfortunately, when ones confidence begins to go downhill  when taking the stage great eye contact is usually one of the first thing to go along with it.

The good news however,  is that there a number of sure-fire ways to quickly increase your confidence as  a speaker which would  result in greater eye contact with your audience with every speech that you give.

1. Know your speech well

This seems like a no-brainer, but from coaching thousands of speakers over the years  one of the pitfalls that I often encounter is the sheer lack of preparation for ones speech.  Many of my clients decide to come to me sometimes with just a week or  two ahead of a  high- stakes presentation.  And luckily with intensive coaching we’re able get the job done.

This issue of  ‘the preparation gap’ is  even common among CEO’s and top executives and often the presentation is the last thing that they work  on  when it should really be their first. In fact, a 2010 survey conducted among executives found this startling fact. Over 86 percent of those surveyed said that communicating clearly impacts their career and incomes, but yet, only 25 percent put more than 2 hours into a very high-stakes presentation.  Clearly there is a “preparation gap” here.  

As you can see there’s a  reason why I listed “know your speech well” as first on the list. It’s  because this is the  number one issue that I believe that speakers  face  with  not being able to speak confidently.  They simply do not know their speech well.

And when you do not know your speech well,  you are not yourself.  You become nervous and tense, and when you’re nervous, your mental focus goes inward instead of  outward to your audience.  When that happens, your confidence drops along with great eye contact with your audience.

2. Speak to one but look to all

Craig Valentine the 1999 World Champion of Public Speaking coined the phrase “speak to one but look to all.”  Too many speakers feel like when they are  up on  stage delivering  a speech, that they are “speaking to all,” but instead they should be thinking that they are just having a  one-on-one conversation with each individual in their audience.

Feeling like you are “speaking to all” not only puts that extra pressure on you, but also takes away that sense of one-to-one communication with your audience.  When you start to gravitate towards the mindset of “speak to one but look to all,”  then your  eye contact on stage with your audience will become much more easy and natural  for you and you will meet the gaze of your audience  as if you’re just having individual conversations.

3. Get more time on stage

One of my Improv teachers said it best when one of our classmates asked, “How do you get good at improv? ”  and everyone thought he would say  ‘Well  you have to read these books, learn those techniques, take these classes etc..’  But what he  instead said was, ‘reading the books, taking the classes are great, but it won’t make you a great  improviser’.”

He went on to say, “that being a great improviser really boils down to the hundreds  and hundreds of hours of repetitions of scenes that  you do. The more repetitions you do, the better you will be at improv.” And he was right. Because the biggest challenge that improvisers face is this; being stuck in your head “thinking” about doing the scene instead of “doing the scene.”

And this is exactly the same problem that speakers face.  The more  time and repetition you get in front of all kinds of audience the less you will be stuck in your head  focusing your attention inwardly thinking about yourself and how you’re being perceived.

The more stage time you get, the more comfortable you will be on stage . And when you are more comfortable  on stage, the more  in tune you will be with your audience and as a result you will  have more confidence as a speaker and make greater eye contact with your audience.

4. Acquire the tools of speaking

The reason why  developing the art of speaking  is listed last, is simply because the other three  that had preceded this are not about learning new techniques, but are instead about  your ‘psychological process’ which can easily be  implemented by just changing you perception and actions when it comes to speaking.

Picking up the Art of Speaking is a process and  takes more time to acquire. It isn’t a ‘quick fix’   as the other three listed here are.  This is why I had developed my 52 Presentation Tips  audio program around the idea of ‘incremental development.’

With developing the art of speaking,  you will also have an overall  greater sense of confidence which in-turn will also help translate into better eye contact with your audience. In addition, there are  also speaking techniques that you can pickup which are also specifically targeted towards eye contact.  In fact,  there are  techniques, do’s, don’ts and processes related to  making eye contact with your audience when you are using notes, when you are using power point, and even when you are on a big stage in front of thousands of people. 

Final Thoughts

As you can see, eye contact is “big business” and is a critical component  to authentically building likability, trust, and selling your message to your audience.

When you combine all these processes; Knowing your speech well,  increased stage time, seeing you audience as individuals, as well as  acquiring the tools of speaking, you will develop greater confidence as a speaker and eye contact will be something that will become so natural  for you.

You will notice that the great eye contact that you had  done your entire life with those around you in your daily interactions, you will seamlessly be able to take with you to the stage. You will never have to think about whether you are doing it right or wrong. Eye contact with your audience  will become such a natural part of your speaking experience  that you won’t ever have to  “bat an eye” over it!

Remember “Three” When You Speak

The Magic of Three

The number three is a magical number in the English language. We see it in movie titles as in “The Three Stooges, The Three Musketeers and The Three Amigos,” we see it as far back as being the most famous phrase in the Unites States declaration of independence – “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, and we see it  by speakers and comedians all across America.

I don’t know why this is so. We can theorize the reason for this phenomenon from today till tomorrow, and in fact some people have, but my philosophy is, “if something works – just go with it!”  Why spend your energy trying to figure out the “why” of it when you can just be in the “now” and just go with it. If it is good for our founding forefathers, if it is good for Hollywood, then it is good for me – You see, there is the rule of three in action!

So how does “the rule of three” work to create humor?  When comedians create their humor, they use what is called the “set up – punch”.  Comedians use this set up-punch formula to get every one of their laughs. Comedians don’t always need to use the rule of three, they are so good at creating humor that they don’t always need to rely it, but for the rest of us speakers, using the rule of three is a technique that we should always use, and that if done right, can almost guarantee a laugh from the audience.

The psychology of the Set up-Punch Formula

What is the comedian’s secret to getting a laugh from the audience? Comedians are not psychologists, but they know how the human minds works  – at least when it comes to getting a laugh.  Comedians know three things about the human mind very well when it comes to humor.     

1. That a “Spontaneous shift” is the key.

2. That proper timing is crucial

3. That the content must be appropriate for the audience

Spontaneous shift

So what is a spontaneous shift? A spontaneous shift is when the speaker puts the audience on one track. The speaker fills up the mind of their audience with a vivid picture of one particular thought or idea and just at the point when the audience is expecting to continue on that track, the speaker suddenly puts them on a totally different track and Walla a laugh occurs!

The key here is spontaneous. From the speakers perspective, it may not seem spontaneous, because the speakers is prepared and knows what he or she is planning to say. However, from the perspective of the audience it definitely comes across as spontaneous. How many times have you had conversations with friends or family and laugh seemed to easily flow. If you think about it, you will probably realize that the instant the laugh occurred, someone said something spontaneous and which also put everyone else’s thoughts on another track.

Proper Timing

Putting your audience on another thought track is not enough. You also need to have your timing down in order to make an impact and receive a laugh. Your punch line needs to come immediately after the set up. If you wait too long, you will lose the impact potential of your punch line.

When using the rule of three, you are essentially doing the same thing as what comedians do with their set-punch in their comedy routines, but your set up will be a bit longer.

The rule of Three in Action

A friend of mine and fellow speaker, Marry Cheyne, had used the rule of three extremely well when she delivered her speech “Nelly”  at the  Toastmasters 2009 international convention. She gave some background about how challenging and uncomfortable it was for her to come to Australia as a 7 year old Chinese. She then said, “I was so uncomfortable that I felt like a fish out of water, like a bird out of its nest, like a guest (pause) at a toastmasters meeting.” The last line, “like a guest at a toastmasters meeting” was the punch line. The other two lines were the set up for her punch line.

The background story gave the audience the “thought track” of her being uncomfortable, The first two lines went along that  track –  uncomfortable like a fish out of water , uncomfortable like a bird out of its nest and then she throws the twist – Like a guest (she pauses) and then says “at a toastmasters meeting”. The audience was expecting her to stay serious, but she doesn’t. She spontaneously puts their thought on another track and walla she gets a laugh!

The Rule of Three must be Adaptable to Your Audience

When coming up with the right content for the rule of three, make sure your content is applicable to your audience. When Marry came up with her content, she knew who her audience was. It was a room full of fellow toastmasters. So everyone in her audience knew how uncomfortable a guest at a toastmasters club meeting feels, because at one time or another everyone was a guest before they became a member. That is why it was funny to that audience. Her line would not have been funny to a group of people no affiliated with toastmasters and surely she would not have used it. So always make sure that your content is appropriate to your audience. Enjoy tinkering with “the rule of three” for your next speech!

How to Lose Your Audience – Even if You Are Funny

You prepared a great speech, you infused your speech with some great stories. You incorporated a lot  of  good dialogue and you also uncovered some really good  laugh lines. You honed and practiced your speech for hours on end. And then the final day comes. You get up on stage, start your speech with a really solid opening. You get to your first laugh line and receive the laugh you were expecting. Fantastic! You then get to your second laugh line and you get another good laugh from the audience, but then something strange starts to happen. Every next laugh line in your speech now seems to receive less and less audience reaction. You know that this has nothing to do with your lines because they are extremely funny, and some were much funnier than your laugh lines at the start of your speech where you had received great audience reaction.

Why did you lose your audience?
So what happened? Why did you receive diminishing audience reaction as your speech went along? It wasn’t your stories – because they were great. It wasn’t your laugh lines because they were funny. What probably happened to you and which most newbie speakers tend to do is  step on their audience’s laughter. So what does stepping on the audience laughter exactly mean?

Speaking is a two way street

Remember, Speaking is not a monologue. It is a dialogue. Speaking is to way street between you and your audience.  When you speak, you are giving the audience a gift. You give them the gift of uplifting inspiration, humor, and the ability to embrace change. The audience also gives you back a gift. Their gift to you is their involvement and participation, and when you are funny, they will even give you a good hearty laugh!

People want to give back

In his book, “The psychology of persuasion”, Kevin Hogan lays out 12 specific laws of persuasion. The first law he calls “The Law of Reciprocity,” which he defines as, “When someone gives you something of perceived value, you immediately respond with the desire to give something back (p. 24).”

When you give someone a gift, they want to reciprocate that gesture to you. That is why during the holiday season, there is so much back and forth gift giving. How would you feel, if all you did was receive gifts, but you never reciprocated and gave back – probably not  to good. I know I wouldn’t.

When you give the audience the gift of humor, they reciprocate to you with the gift of laughter. Now, what happens when you don’t let the audience have their laugh and you interrupt and move on with your speech without letting your audience take it all in and finish the laugh they started? You know what happens? They just stop laughing. Why should they laugh if they know that you are going to interrupt and not let them savor in the joy of laughter? This is a common mistake that most speakers make.

The Audience gives you a gift

When the audience gives you a laugh, it is a gift to you. Think about it. Weren’t you happy when the audience laughed? As speakers, we work very hard to develop and uncover humor within our stories. So when we receive laughter from the audience, it makes us feel really good deep down inside. We get the feeling of accomplishment – like “we did it”. I know for myself, I always strive very hard to uncover the humor within my stories, because not only do I feel good when my audience laughs at my lines but I also know that through humor, you can get really educate and drive and anchor your points to your audience.

How to Not Step on Your Laugh

So how do you not step on your laugh? The solution is quite simple. Just don’t do it! Not stepping on your laugh is just simply allowing your audience to participate in your humor. Get used to pausing and allowing the audience to enjoy the laugh. There can also be times when some of your humorous lines can illicit what is known as a rolling laughter. This is when sections of your audience react off of each others’ laughter. This can sometimes last for quite some time (depending on the size of your audience). You do not want to interrupt this. This is what the audience wants – let them have it, even at the cost of cutting down your speech. Remember, you connection with your audience is of utmost importance – even at the expense of cutting some of your content out. Let the audience have their laugh. They will love you for it!

Enhanced by Zemanta