TED talks have raised the bar on public speaking.
Its rules of success are four: Have something to say, make the audience care about the subject, use common language, and leverage stories. A successful TED talk can create big brandnames, raise funds, sell books, and create a market for products and services.
But, how we talk in everyday life can be equally powerful in our professional lives. Maybe even more so.
As soon as we open our mouths, those listening make myriad assessments about us. The conclusions range from this professional is useful to me to I better watch out for this shark. That's exactly why part of socialization is getting down cold what to say and not say, the body language, the facial expressions, the voice volume and pace.
How to be totally strategic without presenting ourselves as coached? Here are 5 tips:
Don't be spontaneous. It only takes a moment to think before we speak. The pressure is internal, not external to put something out there fast. Listen to investigative reporter, Bob Woodward, in interviews. His words are measured. He doesn't seem to mind having the world wait for him to respond.
Focus on the other person. Genius in public relations, Dale Carnegie, framed this as taking a sincere interest in other people. Ironically, we indicate that interest by listening. That's the most important part of the conversation. We show that we are listening actively by asking questions.
The best training for this is an introductory Carnegie course. That's because the training is hands-on. Every week we have to have to get up there and talk. I still seek guidance from my Carnegie instructor Michael Francouer, who also provides one-on-one coaching (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Help people feel better, not worse. That entails embracing a mindset that the glass is half full. Not half empty. Everyone will want to talk with us!
The meme in the office is fear of layoffs. Not that we are pollyanna. However, we position and package that crisis as an opportunity for all to re-think our careers.
Our mother dies. At the wake we direct the conversation to having the mourners know how generous they were to "donate" their time to honoring the dead and comforting us. They will leave the funeral home feeling like a million bucks.
Lay low when having a bad day or hard times. We are not always on the top of our daily game. Both the professional and personal parts. What we have to learn is how to navigate conversations smoothly when we are off.
A proven tactic is to re-direct the conversation to others. They will welcome the opportunity to talk. Another is finding excuses not to engage. For example, we explain we are mentally preoccupied with a project or are on deadline.
Get in and get out fast. This is the era of low attention spans. We have to develop our own best practice of being brief.
In addition to Carnegie, sociologist Erving Goffman hammered the importance of how we put ourselves out there on a regular basis. In his book, now a classic, "The Presentation of Self in Every Day Life," he explained that even in provincial villages, the residents are aware to adopt the right persona for the right situation. The town butcher speaks differently with his customers than with the mayor and neighbors.
No, we just can't be ourselves out there.