As We Speak: How to Make Your Point and Have It Stick

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9781439153086: As We Speak: How to Make Your Point and Have It Stick

A practical and empowering guide to public speaking and becoming a more effective, persuasive communicator in all areas of life.

The world is full of brilliant people whose ideas are never heard. This book is designed to make sure that you’re not one of them.

Even for the most self-confident among us, public speaking can be a nerve-racking ordeal. Whether you are speaking to a large audience, within a group, or in a oneon- one conversation, the way in which you communicate ideas, as much as the ideas themselves, can determine success or failure.

In this invaluable guide from two of today’s most sought-after communication experts, you’ll learn to master three core principles that you can apply in a wide variety of situations:

Content: Construct a clear and lucid architecture of ideas that will lead your listener through a memorable emotional experience.

Delivery: Use your voice and body in ways that engage your audience and naturally support your message.

State: Bring yourself into peak performance condition. The way you feel when you perform is the most frequently overlooked component of communication.

Accessible, inspiring, and laden with useful tips, As We Speak will help you discover your authentic voice and learn to convey your ideas in the most powerful and unforgettable way possible.

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About the Author:

Peter Meyers is the founder of Stand & Deliver Consulting Group. An award-winning actor, he currently teaches performance and leadership skills at Stanford University, Esalen Institute, and IMD-International Institute for Management Development, Lausanne Switzerland.
Shann Nix is an award-winning journalist, novelist, playwright, and radio talk show host.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

INTRODUCTION

YOU’RE WAITING IN the dark, about to go onstage to give your big presentation. Your palms are wet. You’re pacing back and forth, thumbing through your notecards. You should have numbered them. You dropped them coming up the stairs, and now they’re completely out of order. What does the first slide say? You can’t remember. You should have stayed up longer last night. You should have spent more time preparing. Did you choose the right tie? Is the knot straight? You check it again. The suit that looked fine this morning suddenly feels crumpled and too tight.

Your face feels red and hot. What if you forget what you’re going to say? What if they don’t like you? What if they ask you tough questions? What if they find out that you’re not as smart as they think you are? There are people in that audience who know more about this topic than you do, you’re sure of it . . .

You peek out from behind the heavy red velvet curtain again. There are still people coming in and finding their seats. The people who are seated look bored already, and you haven’t said a word yet. You spot your boss in the second row, looking worried. He’s got high hopes for you. Just this morning, he told you how much is riding on this presentation. Sitting next to your boss is Brad—the guy in the office who’s after your job. Brad is leaning back in his chair, arms folded, smirking. He’s got a clipboard and a red pen on his lap, ready to take notes and find the holes in your data. He’s looking forward to this, you can tell.

You can see nearly all of your colleagues in the audience. If only it were just a customer meeting, where the worst that could happen was that you would lose the account. But these people know you. You will have to face them tomorrow in the elevator, and every morning after that. Whatever you say out there on that stage, you will have to live with for the next few years. It will be talked about, written about, gossiped about. They’re already looking at their watches, pulling out their smartphones, poised to text and tweet the results of your efforts around the globe before you leave the stage.

You can feel your heart thumping against your ribs. All you can do is pray that your boss won’t recognize the look of terror on your face. You can feel the sweat on your upper lip, and you wipe it off. You notice that your hands are trembling. You shove them in your pockets, then pull them out again.

A sympathetic gray-haired lady introduces you. There is a smattering of applause. You raise your chin, take a deep breath, and walk out onstage. The bright lights hit you like a wall. As you look into the audience, you can feel five hundred sets of eyeballs staring at you. Everything feels surreal, as if you’re in a dream. Every nerve in your body is screaming at you to run. Your legs are moving on their own, like some macabre dance step. Why are you here? Why did you ever agree to this? Your hands, despite your best intentions, seem to have wound up in your pockets again. With an effort you pull them out, and grab the podium with white knuckles. Your mouth has gone dry, and you notice, too late, that there is no water glass at the podium. You quickly check the computer screen, and then look up. Your brain is completely blank. You cannot remember your name, much less the first line of your presentation. The silent seconds stretch out like hours. The people in the front row are watching you with an expression that you realize, after a moment, is pity.

Does this sound like your worst nightmare? If you’re terrified by the thought of standing up and speaking in front of a group of people, you’re not alone. And there’s nothing wrong with you. The problem is that as human beings, we are hardwired to fail in a situation like this.

Why is that? Well, it’s because of two tiny, almond-shaped structures in your brain called the amygdalae. Lodged in the oldest part of the brain, the amygdalae have only one job, and it’s not to think—it’s to keep you alive. The amygdalae never sleep; they are part of an early-warning system that constantly scans for danger and sends an alert to your body anytime you’re under threat. And at the moment, standing on that stage, your DNA tells you that you are in serious trouble. Your mammalian brain, sharpened by millions of years of evolution, knows exactly what it means to feel hundreds of eyes staring at you from out of the darkness. It means you’re about to be lunch.

Your amygdalae swing into action. They wrest control away from your evolved higher brain, and pass it back to the primitive part of your brain that specializes in survival. The adrenal glands, sitting just over your kidneys, start to pump adrenaline into your system. You breathe more rapidly, oxygenating the blood. Your heartbeat speeds up, preparing you for exertion. You start to sweat, becoming slippery and harder to grab. Your vision sharpens in preparation for battle or escape. Blood flow is redirected toward the large muscle groups in your arms and legs, to help you fight or run. All noncritical functions shut down. Blood is robbed from any organ not immediately necessary for survival.

Unfortunately for you right now, one of these nonessentials is your frontal cortex, where language is processed. The words of your carefully prepared presentation leave your head as the blood drains away from your forebrain. You blank your opening. You feel stupid because, at that moment, your IQ has actually dropped. You are in the middle of what is called an amygdala hijack.

Being smart, successful, beautiful, or talented doesn’t protect you from falling prey to an amygdala hijack. In fact, lots of Fortune 500 CEOs, global leaders, diplomats, ambassadors, and political candidates experience the same problem. And when they do, many of them call us.

Who are we? We’re two people who come from the front lines of high-performance communication. Peter Meyers is the founder and director of Stand & Deliver, a company that travels the world to coach CEOs and top executives in the United States, Western Europe, Scandinavia, Russia, Japan, Latin America, and the Middle East. Shann Nix is an award-winning journalist, novelist, playwright, and former radio talk show host on a number one–rated radio station, speaking to nearly one million listeners a night. Together we have a combined fifty years of experience working in theater, radio, film, television, fiction, and journalism.

And what do we do? Well, when a leader steps into the spotlight, all eyes are on him. Whether it’s the president of the United States or the president of the local library fund, the expectations when he opens his mouth are daunting. He’s supposed to automatically exhibit certain qualities of insight, clarity, and confidence.

The problem is that being smart doesn’t necessarily make someone a good communicator. In fact, the tragedy of many smart people is that their ability to think exceeds their ability to speak. And that’s where we come in.

We are often called into a high-stakes situation twenty-four or forty-eight hours before the event, to avert a potential communication crisis. We’ve coached leaders in greenrooms just before they step out onstage, and rewritten speeches through the night before the morning of the presentation. We develop the language and content, put them on their feet, rehearse them, and give them the tools they need to rise to the occasion.

Sometimes we come in when the leaders of an organization need to win the hearts and minds of their people, to influence a team to step up to a new challenge or align disparate groups so that they’re working more collaboratively.

We are often asked to work with a high-level executive who is intelligent and experienced, but who is undermining her own authority with old habits. We help her translate her ideas into action, and to speak with a level of authority and confidence so that she will finally get the attention she deserves. We might coach the senior vice president who is brilliant at his job, but falls apart when asked to report to the board. We help speakers provide clarity where there is confusion, credibility where there is doubt, and excitement where there is monotony.

We’re brought in to make sure that the thinking gets the expression it deserves: that the quality of the ideas is matched by the vitality of the speaker’s presence. We work with smart midlevel people who are getting passed over because they are unable to speak up. We help people who want to communicate better in meetings, who are asking questions like: “How do I jump in?” “How do I fight against the extroverts?” “How do I hold my own in the room if I’m more of a reflective thinker, or a numbers guy?” We’re often called in to work with financial or analytical people who need to know how to translate data into memorable, compelling narratives. Often we are asked to work with CEOs who are intelligent but emotionally cold, struggling to connect with their people.

People generally call us for one of two reasons. Either they’ve already had some success in communication and, having had a taste of it, want more; or they’ve had a painful experience like the one we described in the opening, and don’t ever want to suffer like that again. A lot of the people who call us are “getting through” their presentations, but the process of preparation is filled with dread. They want to stop the panic, and start to enjoy the process and get better results. There are a lot of people out there who are already pretty good communicators. But in the words of Jim Collins, “good is the enemy of great.” We work with people who are committed to raising their standards.

If you’re reading this book, congratulations. You’ve clearly understood that if you want to get things done, you need to communicate well. Regardless of the technology available out there, you know that you still motivate people one presentation or one conversation at a time.

You now have access to the same information and practical techniques as the CEOs and organizational leaders who call us in to work with them, or fly around the world to take our trainings. It’s here in your hands. This book and the accompanying Web-based links will provide you with a virtual learning experience that’s designed to dramatically raise your impact when speaking.

You don’t get confidence. It’s not something you go out and acquire. And nobody can give you confidence. Confidence comes from challenging yourself to do difficult things, and coming out the other side. It comes from accumulating a series of victories, both large and small. Having the right knowledge and the right skills, at the right time, is absolutely essential. But your fears can only be conquered by doing the thing you fear the most, getting it right, and demonstrating to yourself that you can overcome it. This book is designed so that when you do face the fear, you will be victorious—time after time.

We will help you demystify the daunting experience of facing a crowd. Our intention is to move you through the fear, into a position of strength and generosity, so that you can offer your knowledge as a gift to others.

Why bother to think of speaking as an opportunity to give a gift?

There are two kinds of speaking. Sometimes we speak purely for our own benefit, to get something off our chests, or to think through something out loud. We may talk simply in reaction to something that has just happened. We usually talk based on what we want to say.

But there’s another kind of speaking, in which you speak with the intention of having an impact on another human being. You are giving something, whether it is knowledge, insight, information, inspiration, an experience, or a feeling.

When someone speaks with the intention to impart something that will change the listener, it becomes an act of leadership. She constructs language designed to create something that doesn’t exist yet. She asks the question “How do I make this a better situation?” and then uses her words and ideas to bring this about.

Of course it’s good for the listener when the speaker has the intention of giving a gift. But it’s good for the speaker as well. The fear and the monotony that are the bane of public speaking disappear in the face of a generous spirit. It’s a mysterious principle of human communication: when you are giving, you tend to be more interesting, and fear is held at bay. Because you’re engaged in a purpose that is larger than yourself, a magical effect occurs. You find the compelling reason to do what you’re doing, and it draws you forward. The desire to make a difference is more exciting than being scared. The hope of something greater is stronger than the fear. It’s the only thing that takes us through terror.

Well, you might say, that sounds great for people who get to make inspiring speeches. But what about me? All I do is present data for quarterly updates. Will this work for me?

Yes!

Even if what you’re doing is sitting in a toll booth and saying thank you after every interaction, it’s the intention that informs your communication. Performing the most basic routine, including saying “Good morning,” with the intention to give a gift will elevate what you’re doing. The intention transforms the action.

PETER

I once sat in a five-star restaurant in Paris, and watched a waiter working. He moved as if he were on skates, gliding so smoothly, with such balance, that it was a pleasure to watch him. As he put the food down on each table, he said something to the people sitting there. Each diner’s face would light up as the waiter spoke. I watched the other waiters, and no one seemed to be having the same impact on the people they were serving. I caught this waiter’s eye, and he came over to my table at once.

“May I help you, m’sieur?”

“I know this sounds like a strange question,” I said, “but I’ve been watching you, and you seem to be having a huge impact on the people in this room. What are you saying to them?”

He smiled. “As a young man, when I first came to work in a fine restaurant, I was instructed by the headwaiter to say ‘Bon appétit’ after I served each table. Because I was in such a rush, I would usually just put the plates down, repeat, ‘Bon appétit,’ and leave quickly. One day I noticed that there was one second, after I put the plate down, when the diners would look up at me. I found that in that moment, I could look into their eyes, say, ‘Bon appétit,’ and mean it. I could tell them without words, ‘I wish that you have a good meal. I want you to be happy.’ Through this simplest gesture, I could make them feel wonderful. It took only a moment to do this, to put the plate down in front of them as if I had cooked it myself. I went from serving food to serving a sacrament. I am the most fortunate of men, m’sieur. What an honor it is to host a meal, to bring nourishment to people, to offer things that brought them joy and delight!”

That’s where I learned that with the right intention, you can transform anything into the opportunity to give a gift.

This is good news for you as a s...

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Descripción SIMON SCHUSTER, United States, 2012. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. A practical and empowering guide to public speaking and becoming a more effective, persuasive communicator in all areas of life. The world is full of brilliant people whose ideas are never heard. This book is designed to make sure that you re not one of them. Even for the most self-confident among us, public speaking can be a nerve-racking ordeal. Whether you are speaking to a large audience, within a group, or in a oneon- one conversation, the way in which you communicate ideas, as much as the ideas themselves, can determine success or failure. In this invaluable guide from two of today s most sought-after communication experts, you ll learn to master three core principles that you can apply in a wide variety of situations: Content: Construct a clear and lucid architecture of ideas that will lead your listener through a memorable emotional experience. Delivery: Use your voice and body in ways that engage your audience and naturally support your message. State: Bring yourself into peak performance condition. The way you feel when you perform is the most frequently overlooked component of communication. Accessible, inspiring, and laden with useful tips, As We Speak will help you discover your authentic voice and learn to convey your ideas in the most powerful and unforgettable way possible. Nº de ref. de la librería ABZ9781439153086

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Descripción SIMON SCHUSTER, United States, 2012. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. A practical and empowering guide to public speaking and becoming a more effective, persuasive communicator in all areas of life. The world is full of brilliant people whose ideas are never heard. This book is designed to make sure that you re not one of them. Even for the most self-confident among us, public speaking can be a nerve-racking ordeal. Whether you are speaking to a large audience, within a group, or in a oneon- one conversation, the way in which you communicate ideas, as much as the ideas themselves, can determine success or failure. In this invaluable guide from two of today s most sought-after communication experts, you ll learn to master three core principles that you can apply in a wide variety of situations: Content: Construct a clear and lucid architecture of ideas that will lead your listener through a memorable emotional experience. Delivery: Use your voice and body in ways that engage your audience and naturally support your message. State: Bring yourself into peak performance condition. The way you feel when you perform is the most frequently overlooked component of communication. Accessible, inspiring, and laden with useful tips, As We Speak will help you discover your authentic voice and learn to convey your ideas in the most powerful and unforgettable way possible. Nº de ref. de la librería ABZ9781439153086

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