How to Feel More Confident in Two Minutes Flat

Woman with arms upPeople often ask me if I still get nervous before I speak, even after over twenty years as a speaker and college teacher.

The answer: Heck yea, I do!

I have always had speaking anxiety. In fact, I get anxious in most new social situations period. I’m an introvert, after all, and many of us feel this way. (By the way, I know extroverts who feel this way, too.) And this hasn’t in any way hampered my success as a speaker, trainer or teacher. In fact, I would argue that it has enhanced my presentation skills. But only because I learned how to manage and harness the energy behind that anxiety.

The anxiety has evolved over the years. I have developed a sort of ritual that helps me shift that extra energy in my body into fuel for a high-energy, engaging presentation. After hundreds of progressively more successful presentations, I have a great deal of confidence in my speaking. The cool thing about this (aside from easing the discomfort of too much anxiety), is that this kind of confidence leads to even better presentations.

I’d love to offer you more confidence, too – even if you don’t have twenty years of standing in front of audiences behind you. Good news – I can! (hooray!)

I’m going to keep these tips simple because I want you to use them. I don’t want you to get overwhelmed by too much detail or explanation because they really are this simple. (I’ll give you references at the end of this article so you can learn more about why they work.)

Just do these few things in your next talk (or really any social situation) and you will feel what I mean. Your body will relax and your energy will shift into peaceful power mode. You will be clearer and more ready for action. You will feel more confident. (There is research to back this up, by the way. But your body will show you real time most powerfully of all.)

Here are your simple immediate confidence-building tips:

  1. Prep with a Power Pose. Before your next talk (or potential client meeting or interview), take yourself somewhere where you will have privacy for two minutes. Then, stand with your legs at least 8 inches apart and put your arms above your head in the biggest “V” you can create. Basically, make yourself as large as possible with your body. Back straight, head and neck long and chin forward just a bit. Add a smile to your face. Stand like that for two minutes. Then, drop your hands and head out the door. Congratulations, you just literally changed the chemistry in your body closer to that of a high-powered, confident leader.
  2. Stop, Look & Smile. As you walk to the front of the room for your next talk, stop for a full 10-15 seconds and make eye contact with people in every section of the room. You don’t have to be intense about it – just eye contact for a 2-3 seconds each person with a small smile. After this confident, highly engaged connection, say a simple “Hello” to your audience. Then launch into your talk. Research shows that eye contact increases others’ perception of your confidence. My own experience has shown me that this small, simple ritual results in warm smiles and stronger attention from my audience, which always increases my confidence as I begin speaking.
  3. Take Belly Breaths. I know – if you read my blog at all, you’ve heard me talk about this over and over again. But that’s only because this is the most magical immediate strategy ever for dealing with all kinds of anxiety and stuckness. And the thing is, when we minimize our anxiety, we increase our confidence. So, take a deep belly breath before you stand to walk to the front of the room and one along the way. You don’t have to be dramatic about it. Just breath in through your nose, take that breath past your chest (this takes training for many of us who are chest breathers) and lead it all the way into your belly. Make your belly distend a bit as you take that breath in. Then, let it all out slowly through your nose. Toss a tiny smile onto the edges of your mouth as you exhale. (Smiling has its own stress-reducing magic – which is why I add it on to each of these items. More on that in a future article.)

I use every single one of these strategies to some degree every single time I speak. I walk all of my speaking clients through them as well. Now you have them! I know they will serve you beautifully as you get out there and share your brilliance in front of audiences wherever you are. Let me know how it goes!

(If you’d like to see the very cool research on power poses, go here to see Amy Cuddy’s excellent TED talk and here to read her research study.)

What it really takes to get people to listen to you

fedorahatbydaviddClad in a tan felt fedora hat and a black leather bolo tie, he bounded to the front of the class. He was short-ish, maybe 5′ 5″ tall, but he owned the front of the room immediately. I was shocked at first, intensely curious about who this man was and what he might say.

“Welcome to Intro to Anthropology!”, he hollered jovially.

I felt the corners of my lips turn up in a tiny smile. Now this was going to be an interesting class.

That was 24 years ago – my first year of college – but I still remember it vividly. I also remember way more than I would ever have dreamed about Charles Darwin, peyote and brachiating. (Incidentally, you might be surprised how often I’ve gotten to use that information, too.)

Why do I remember what my first anthropology professor taught me so well? Because he used so many captivation and engagement techniques in his teaching that I could not help but listen.

At the time, I didn’t really think a lot about the choices he was making in his teaching. I just knew that he was one of the most fun and interesting teachers I had ever met – and the class session flew by every time.

Now, after spending the last twenty years studying what it takes to get and keep people’s attention when communicating, I see what a genius he was. He had a gift for vivid descriptions (ones that create exciting pictures in your mind), he told stories that made you fall in love with neanderthals and apes you’d never meet, and he built connection with us college students in a way that felt natural and meaningful.

I can (and will) write full articles about each of those captivation and engagement techniques listed above. Today, though, I just want to talk with you about the last one – the power of connection for getting the attention of others.

Let’s talk about three strategies my anthropology professor used – and you can use, too – for creating meaningful connection with people in the audience.

I’m a lot like you (but I get it that I’m not you)

He was at least 20 years older than most of us in class, but somehow that was never at the forefront of my mind when I was talking with and listening to my Anthropology professor. I felt like we had a lot in common, actually. He loved life, liked to have fun. He shared stories about when he was first in college and the mix of emotions he experienced. He didn’t act like he was in college, but his stories and memories shared made me feel connected to him. I trusted him to give me information that I would enjoy because I had the sense (though I didn’t know it at the time) that he knew how to “filter” and choose information just for me (for us college students).

This “I’m a lot like you” way of communicating makes listening easy and natural. We open up to the speaker when they communicate appropriately this way.

What about you: How can you choose stories and examples that show a direct connection between you and your audience?

I get where you are (but I won’t pretend to know exactly how you feel)

While seeing how we were alike helped me listen and engage, it would not have worked if my professor acted like a college student. It was important that he not tell me about the wild party he went to over the weekend (even though I never once went to a wild party in college). When he told me about his challenges in college – or as a young adult overall – I listened keenly. I wanted to know how it worked out for him – what I could glean from his experience. He made analogies about oh, say, procreation… evolution and even early tribal life that showed me that he understood my own relationships, family dynamics and juggling of work and school.

His examples showed me that he “got it” about my experiences. The way her made unexpected connections between my experience and the material he was teaching kept me easily engaged.

What about you: What examples can you share with your audience that will clearly show that you get it about what they are likely experiencing?

I’m not perfect (but I am definitely good enough to be really helpful to you)

We talked a lot about well known leaders in the anthropology field – researchers and famous experts – in that college class. My professor was pretty self-deprecating and there were more than a few times when he talked about how much he didn’t know about specific areas of anthropology. He had high confidence in his Native American history expertise but was less expert at the intricacies of evolution and recessive genes and the like. The important thing was that he didn’t pretend to know everything. If he didn’t know the answer to a question, he’d offer to find out – or, often, invite us to research for ourselves and report back.

This honesty and humanity made me trust him. I knew that if he gave me a direct answer, he was certain it was accurate. This kind of trust is so peaceful to the people in your audience. They want to know that they can open up to your information and use it with great confidence themselves.

What about you: How can you confidently express the edges of your expertise? Are you willing to commit to owning what you know and peacefully and confidently saying, “I don’t know” (in whatever words are best for the circumstance) when you are outside of your expertise?

And a bonus one on this one: Where can you share a vulnerability in service of connection? Maybe a story that will help your audience really get it that you understand where they are because you, too, aren’t perfect? (After all, human = not perfect.)

The fact is, if you don’t have rapport – a warm connection – with your audience (whether that audience is live or virtual) you will have a very difficult time getting and keeping their attention. The way to establish that connection is to get to know who they are, understand their experience of life and work and learn what they need and want. Then, from the center of your genuine caring, be of service to them from your area of expertise.

That’s exactly what my Intro to Anthropology professor did and his influence has stayed with me for 24 years – and, in fact, rippled out through lessons I share with my daughters even today.

Making meaningful connection isn’t difficult but it can be hard to “fit in” in our overstimulated world now. That’s why I am thrilled to be a conbloom_your_audience_generaltributor in a brilliant 30-Day Bloom Your Online Relationships Challenge, which invites each of us (I’ll be doing the challenge, too!) to focus on deepening our relationships instead of growing “massive lists” as we are so often told we must do to survive in business. Given the list of leaders contributing their expertise and experience in this challenge, I just know we are all going to get some truly relationship deepening tips we will use for the rest of time. With Téa Godfrey of storybistro.com spearheading this challenge, we can all rest assured that the whole experience will be full of ease and richness.

I’d love to have you join me. You can join here: http://storybistro.com/bloom-audience-30-day-challenge/

 

Special thanks to Davidd on Flickr for the mysteriously framed fedora hat.

How to Captivate: Our Brains Love a Puzzle

our_brains_love_puzzleIt’s true – our brains get all lit up and engaged when there is a mystery to solve (source here).

Do you watch the tv show Scandal? I do. It’s terrible, really, because by that time of night my eyes are scratchy and my body really wants to sleep. But my brain – it is so excited. It is excited because it knows we will be taken on an adventure of epic proportions. Unexpected things will happen, clues will be dropped, dead ends will shock us. People we like will do things that absolutely blow our minds – things we didn’t think they were capable of (if you watch the show, you know exactly who I mean.) My brain loves to guess and theorize and looks for signs as the episode evolves. In short – it loves trying to solve the mystery set before us in the show.

Downton Abbey does this, too – just in a completely different time era and with a very different feel (the rest of it is shockingly similar if you think about it).

Television writers and producers create these exciting mysteries because they know they captivate us. And we can look at the wild success of these shows and confidently use these same strategies in our own communicating to have a similar effect.

So, let’s do that. I’ll show you some ways you can use the “our brain loves a puzzle” in your own communication, even if you aren’t “dating” the president or the sudden and unexpected heiress of a huge estate.

In service of our goal to use a “puzzle” to captivate, I’ll cover three things:

  1. What is a puzzle for communication purposes?
  2. When do I use a puzzle to captivate?
  3. How do I resolve the puzzle in a way that helps me reach my communication goal? (Such as convince my boss, land the client, etc.)

Sound good? Alright.

What is a puzzle for communication purposes?

A puzzle is when you offer up part of the information – enough to get their attention and peak their interest – but then leave out the conclusion and wrap up. Essentially, you leave them guessing for a while.

When do I use a puzzle to captivate?

Use this mystery-building, puzzle strategy when you want to get and keep the attention of your audience for a sustained period of time. It is not ideal to create a puzzle when your audience is there to get a simple “how to” from you – this could frustrate them terribly. There are exceptions, but this is a generally good rule to follow. Other captivation strategies are better for these kinds of communication – like using compelling visuals and storytelling.

How do I resolve the puzzle in a way that helps me reach my communication goal?

This is the most exciting part of the puzzle strategy! The resolution of the puzzle can be a super fun way to lead your listener straight to your desired outcome. For example, the story you tell in the beginning gets resolved at the end by the main characters using your product to solve their problem – but in a completely unexpected way! A special note here: don’t hype up a story at the beginning that has a boring, obvious ending. So, in this example I’m sharing, if the main character simply used your product and their problem got solved, your audience will roll their eyes and feel like they just attended a bad infomercial. If you are going to use this kind of story, be sure the ending really is exciting and unexpected – even if it does lead right back to your product or service.

Here – let me give you some examples of how you can use puzzles and mystery to captivate your listeners:

  • Tell an engaging story to begin your speech, one that they are excited to hear resolve… then, before telling the end, say, “I’ll tell you what happened for our lovely friends in this story at the end of our talk today. I think you will be very surprised by how this all ended up.” (Intrigue, right?!)
  • In your next company meeting, hand out a slip of paper that has something written on it then tell them to listen for the answer in your talk: For example, write “You are the wool spinner.” Tell everyone that they will learn what this means if they pay really good attention during the meeting. (Maybe they win a prize if they are the first to figure it out?)
  • During a meeting or speech, prompt your listeners early on with a challenge: Like this: “There are three ways I can think of that we can go with this. At the end of our talk today, I’d love to hear what you think those are. Bonus points if you think of one I haven’t thought of yet! You all have a piece of paper in front of you so you can take notes.”

All of these are mysteries that engage attention. Can you see how they would activate a part of the brains of your listeners that we simply don’t think to activate in our communication most of the time?

Can you also see just how easy it can be to implement on these? All it takes is some thinking ahead and intention to captivate. From there, it’s just a fun few minutes of creative thinking and implementation.

Go try them out. Let us know how it goes. Share in the comments any ideas you have or things you’ve tried in the past. I’d LOVE to add more captivating puzzle works to my own communication and I know our whole community would love to learn from you, too.

Now – here’s a puzzle for you.

Where can you get a truly useful, easy to implement plan for captivating and inspiring anyone? And let’s sweeten this mystery even more. Where can you get this at no cost to you? The answer is somewhere on this very page upon which you rest your eyes. Happy hunting! (Notice how your brain just lit up?)

Puzzle heart photo credit here.

How to Captivate & Inspire Anyone

football_play_by_mikebaird_flickrI am not a sports fan. And when I say that I am not a sports fan, I am being polite. Really, I think something must have happened when I was a kid that traumatized me around sports because my dislike of them runs pretty… well, viscerally deep.

As fate would have it, my husband LOVES sports. I mean, the degree to which I don’t like sports is directly and equally reflected in the amount he loves them. Ask him anything about what’s happening in sports right this minute and I guarantee, he will know about it and be ready to dig in on details with you.

Imagine how frustrating it would be to not be able to share your deep love of something with your wife – like at all – because she simply doesn’t care about it and shuts down at the mere mention of the topic. (I know this sounds mean, but I’m just being honest here.)

My husband is a clever man, though. And he gets me.

So, do you want to know what he does when he is so excited to share some big sports news and I am the only one around he can share it with in that moment?

He tells me a beautiful, personal story about the player. He tells me about the player’s daughter who just got out of the hospital after a life-threatening illness. Or, he tells me the story of how this player proposed to his wife.

I absolutely love human stories. I love stories about love and family and relationships and babies and courage. My clever husband knows this and so he employs this reliable captivation technique to get my attention when he wants to talk sports.

He tells me the human story, which is completely true and beautiful, and then – when tears are running down my face about this amazing player’s personal life – he tells me about this unbelievable play he just made in the game. And as he tells me this story about this player pushing his edges in the game, pummeling the defense as he leaps into the end zone (don’t analyze my sports language here – just go with me on this, ok?), I am rooting for this guy as though I’m wearing a team jersey and cheersing with my team logo beer mug.

What?! Is that me screaming at the TV during the game?!

Yes, yes it is… against all odds.

This right here, is a captivation technique. It’s a fabulous one, too. It works with anyone, as long as you know the essentials:

  • Who are they?
  • What do they care about?
  • What will delight/captivate them?

Weave all of that together into a message just for your intended listener/audience, and captivation is assured.

You see how it works now, right? My husband has answered these question about me long ago:

Who is she: She’s my wife, often the only one nearby when an incredible play is made, she doesn’t like sports (at all)

What does she care about: Love, self-expression, family, wellness, reaching our potential, courage, stories, stories, stories

What will delight/captivate her? Stories about love, self-expression, family, pushing our edges, courage…

And this precise process is what has lead to way more “sports” conversations than I probably even realize. Good conversations – ones I’ve actually enjoyed. (Which still shocks me to realize.)

Want to talk more about how to captivate and inspire others? Of course you do! Join me and Kelly Galea of Power Up Living Radio on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at Noon Eastern as we dig much deeper on this topic. I promise to give you as many of my best captivation and inspiration tools as I can possibly fit into our interview. Click here to set your reminder so you don’t miss the show!

Meantime, tell me your favorite way to captivate someone’s attention in the comments below. Or, has there been a time when you were captivated by something that surprised you? Tell us about it in the comments, please.

Thanks go to Mike Baird on Flickr for this awesome shot of some exciting looking football (now that face is evidence of some personal edge-pushing – I like it!)

How to Answer the Question: So, what do you do?

networkingbyRedHead5147onFlickrI’m a speaker – have been for over 25 years (back then, I was carrying a book of condoms and a banana around teaching my college classmates how to protect themselves from the HIV virus).

Because I’ve been on stages and in front of rooms of people for so long, people often assume that I do not get nervous talking with others.

This is pretty far from the truth, frankly.

They say we teach what we need to learn.

I’m a classic case of that. Part of the reason that I began speaking all of those years ago is because I got so anxious talking with others.  I began speaking largely because I had such anxiety in new social situations (at the time, I didn’t know what an introvert was – and that I was one) and I simply wanted some really effective ways of dealing with that social anxiety.

Networking can be scarier than speaking

I’ll admit that all of these years of speaking have been a powerful teacher. While I get nervous before every presentation in front of a new audience, I have a lot of confidence in my ability to engage and inspire a room full of people when I speak.

But here’s the distinction: giving a presentation and standing in a small group of my peers are very different creatures.

It took me a lot longer to feel comfortable at a networking event, chatting in small groups of people I don’t know, than it did to get comfortable speaking (if comfort is the word you want to use for a love of speaking that still involves significant nerves).

While this may surprise you, think about the difference. When you are the speaker, you are automatically given some level of “prestige.” You are being held up as an expert in your topic area. Assuming you only speak on topics where you have masterful expertise (and I highly recommend this be the case), this feels right and good to you as well.

Why it’s so hard to talk to people at networking events

Networking does not give you this automatic advantage that speaking does (unless you are the speaker for the night as well). Walking into a room full of people, for many introverts (me included) or socially anxious people (me included) can be overwhelming. Heck, you don’t have to be an introvert or socially anxious to feel significant discomfort in this situation. Thoughts fill our heads like:

Where do I go first?

Why does everyone look like they know each other, except me?

I can’t just walk up to these people – they are clearly engaged in private conversations!

And then, of course, the real crux of the matter:

What will I say to them?!

It took me a lot longer, but I decided a few years ago to take this fear of talking with others at networking events head-on, too.

Now, I’ll admit, it’s still not as easy for me to walk up to a group of people I don’t know at an event as it is to be the speaker. And there is much to say about what has worked well in these “networking”* conversations that has nothing to do with what I actually say. As in all relationship building, how we listen and show genuine engagement is far more important than exactly what we say about ourselves.

But that’s all easy stuff because as a people-loving introvert, I love hearing about other people. The hard part was talking about myself in a way that serves my business as well as the new relationship I’m engaging.

That said, I’ve come up with a pretty reliable way to talk about what I do at these events. Just in case you struggle with talking about yourself that way I have, I’ll give you the “formula” so you can plug and play your particular details.

A formula for answering the question: “So, what do you do?”

Here is the formula I use – and I share with all of my clients as well:

What do you solve?

For whom do you solve it?

How will their lives be better after buying your stuff or working with/hiring you?

If you use this formula, you will have covered the essentials of a great Hello Intro. (Since I think “elevator speech” in no way represents this circumstance, Hello Intro is what I call the answer to the question, “So, what do you do?”)

But even with this great formula, your Hello Intro might still be pretty boring. Even if it’s not boring, it might not express powerfully enough just how awesome it would be to work with you. Which is why I recommend adding one more element: a sense of what it feels like to work with you.

Adding in the element of what it feels like to work with you isn’t as difficult as it might sound. You do this by word choice, analogy or even just the tone of your voice. The point is that when people feel inspired to work with you or refer you to a friend, a whole lot of that inspiration comes from the style of your communication, way beyond the words you say.

An example. My answer to the question: “So, what do you do?”

By way of example, let me tell you my answer to the question, “So, what do you do?”

Let’s just play out the whole start of the conversation – just for fun :)

Lovely person at the event I’m attending: “Hello. Are you having a good time here tonight?”

Me: “I am, thank you. How about you?”

Lovely person at the event I’m attending: “I really am, thank you. So, what do you do for work?”

Me: (smiling at the invitation to share about my work) “I help women in business get what they want by stepping into their authentic, powerful voice.” (smiling again)

Lovely person at the event I’m attending: “Huh – interesting. How do you do that?”

Me: “Well… women come to me for three reasons: (tapping on my fingers to count them off) 1. They are frustrated at work because their ideas aren’t getting heard or acted upon in the ways they want, 2. They have a presentation coming up and they want it to be amazing (I’m a speaking coach), or 3. They own their own business and they realize they need way more clarity and confidence when they talk about their business and do presentations to magnetize clients.

Lovely person at the event I’m attending: “Well, that is very cool! I have a friend who is having that exact struggle in her work…” or “… wow, I really need you… ” (see, it works great! :))

Of course, I am quick to turn the conversation around and learn more about them. It is so important that we keep the emphasis on relationship-building, not on sales. Now is not the time to “sell” ourselves – the relationship is not ready for that yet. 

So, what do you think? Does this formula serve you in creating your own Hello Intro? Whether you like my formula or not, let’s hear your Hello Intro in the comments. I want to learn more about you. Plus, we can all benefit from hearing as many Hello Intros as possible to help us refine our own.

 

*I don’t like the term networking. It reminds me of a bunch of wires all connected together at a server in some cold corporate closet. I just haven’t come up with a better way to express this special kind of interaction. If you’ve got a better term, I’d love to hear it!

Thanks to Redhead 5147 on Flickr for this image that makes me think of one too many anxiety-inducing networking events of years past. Happy those years are over.