Many people fear public speaking more than death. Most wish they could do it better, or at least avoid the sweating, stuttering jitters that plague them before any presentation or speech.
Vikas Jhingran has been there. He was so poor at speaking in public that his supervisor wouldn't let him make presentations to clientseven when he had done all the work.
Surprisingly, few professional speakers and presenters understand speeches or presentations at a fundamental level. Their overly prescriptive approach actually ends up confusing the speech and the tools that are used to deliver it, instead of connecting with the essential part of speakingthat which engages listeners with the message and the emotions that go with it.
By focusing on the most important aspect of communicationthe transfer of emotionEmote:
In Emote, Vikas presents an emotion-based approach that will change the way you think about verbal communications. Emote will help you gain the confidence you need to stand in the spotlight and "wow" clients or executives, create connections, and get your message across to anyone.
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About the Author
Vikas Gopal Jhingran is an MIT-trained engineer and researcher who used to suffer from poor speaking skills, due in large part to being both an introvert and an immigrant. He studied public speaking to improve in this area and eventually won the Toastmasters 2007 World Championship of Public Speaking, the first East Indian and only the second Asian to do so in the 80-year history of the competition.
Vikas is an engineer with Shell Oil Company and uses his leadership and communication skills to manage multi-million-dollar projects. He also delivers keynotes and conducts workshops to help others become better speakers. He lives with his wife and two sons in Houston, Texas.
Read an Excerpt
The Importance of Effective Verbal Communication
When you talk, you give yourself away. You reveal your true character in a picture which is more true and realistic than anything an artist can do.
— Dr. Ralph Smedley, founder, Toastmasters International
"Every once in a while, a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything." So began the late Steve Jobs as he introduced the iPhone at the Macworld Expo in January 2007. Wearing his trademark black turtleneck and washed-out blue jeans, Jobs went on to deliver another amazing keynote speech. The energized audience punctuated his keynote with applause, knowing that they wre witnessing the introduction of yet another revolutionary Apple product.
"In a career of dazzling product presentations, this [the iPhone launch] may have been his best," writes Walter Isaacson in his biography of Steve Jobs. Many agree with Isaacson, calling Jobs's 2007 Macworld Pro speech one of the greatest product launch presentations of all time. Like other presentations by Jobs, known as Stevenotes, the iPhone launch presentation was exquisitely planned and executed, resulting in unprecedented product hype and unparalleled advertising. His presentation slides were simple, conveying key ideas that created excitement in the audience. As in his other launch presentations, he did a live demonstration of the iPhone on stage, exuding the enthusiasm that he expected to see in his customers. Simply put, Steve Jobs enhanced the value of the iPhone through his product launch presentation. Today, in spite of immense competition and razor-thin profit margins in the consumer electronics sector, Apple products command a premium like no other electronic gadget manufacturer. At least part of the credit goes to the excellent communications strategy of Steve Jobs and his team.
The ability to communicate effectively is becoming an important differentiator in the corporate environment, particularly since corporations like Apple are going to all parts of the world in search of talent and lower costs. Our global, interconnected world requires people to communicate effectively in spite of differing backgrounds, cultures, and languages. Recent research published in January 2012 on the Harvard Business Review blog shows strong communication skills to be one of the nine traits exhibited by successful global leaders. Corporate recruiters consistently highlight the importance of communication skills in candidates.
In an online Harris Interactive survey of the 4,125 MBA recruiters, the results of which were reported in the September 20, 2006 issue of the Wall Street Journal, 89 percent identified interpersonal and communication skills as an important leadership trait that they seek in good candidates. The ability of corporate management to verbalize company goals and visions in diverse settings, something that the late Steve Jobs did so effectively for Apple, will be a key determining factor between companies that succeed and those that do not.
Despite this, I am amazed how little time and effort are invested by corporations in helping employees become effective communicators. Elaborate training programs exist to enable technical growth and business leadership development, but few programs, if any, target the oratory skills of employees. The training programs that are communication-focused typically teach a few tricks or tools to make messages stick. Employees do not develop a deeper understanding of verbal communication. There is no permanent learning.
Importance of Communication: A Business Example
Some time ago, I had the opportunity to manage the fabrication of some large structures for a schedule-driven project. Previous experience on similar projects had shown that the schedule I was being asked to meet was at best "aggressive" and most likely "improbable." To make matters worse, there was a large commercial consequence for delayed completion.
Very early in the project, I determined that the fabricator could meet schedule if I effectively managed communication to and from the fabricator. There were many stakeholders, each with valid concerns. The tight schedule and enormous consequences of failure ensured that I would have their full attention throughout the project. It became evident to me that to meet the deadline, I would have to manage the stakeholders so that they let the fabricators do their job. If the stakeholders communicated directly with the fabricator, it would lead to confusion and relationship disagreements with direct impact on the schedule.
I therefore posed the following question: if I am a stakeholder on this project, how should I feel during the fabrication process to not have the urge to communicate directly with the fabricator? I determined that:
a. If the stakeholders feel that the fabrication is on schedule and under control, they will not have the urge to communicate frequently with the fabricator.
b. If the stakeholders do need to communicate with the fabricator, they will likely follow a communication protocol if a clear communication protocol exists.
Thus, I established a clear communication protocol for the fabrication team. The stakeholders were not to talk directly with the fabricator, but only through me. On the fabricator's side, communication was to only go through their project manager. This allowed for an hourglass approach to communications, where all communication from the stakeholders was funneled through me to the project manager for the fabricator, who then distributed the communication to the appropriate people on the fabricator's team. The project manager and I could sift through the issues that the stakeholders had brought up and only communicate the necessary issues to the fabrication team. This approach greatly reduced confusion and increased focus and productivity.
Second, I established a process of continually updating the stakeholders on the progress of the fabrication. This included providing them with a status update, highlighting key achievements, arranging site visits, and addressing potential challenges ahead of time. In addition, pictures of the fabrication work and key milestones were sent to the stakeholders in a timely manner. These efforts kept the stakeholders from going into a crisis mode and the fabricators were left alone to finish their work. The project was finished on schedule.
The project was technical in nature, but the key reason for success was a good communication strategy.
Recently, I attended a four-day workshop on influencing corporate decisions. The attendees came from all parts of the world and, though not by design, represented many different personality types. I also noticed that the participants, both male and female, had different levels of comfort in verbal communication. One full day of this dynamic and high-energy workshop was dedicated to communication strategies, with an emphasis on verbal communication. Though the material on communication strategies was useful (it provided a list of tricks), it did not build a deeper understanding of communication. The workshop did not discuss how different personality types would use each communication tool or even discuss the idea that certain tricks suited certain personalities and ethnic backgrounds. Every individual was given all the tools without the background information to understand which tool would be right for him or her.
The corporate bottom line is not the only area where verbal communication skills can make a difference for a company. Most companies provide mentoring avenues where experienced communicators can develop young and emerging talent by encouraging them and sharing ideas. Similarly, there are many occasions, such as retirement speeches, diversity events, successful project recognition celebrations, and safety-related discussions, where a few words, spoken in a coherent and eloquent manner, can positively influence the lives of coworkers.
Robert Patterson, a vice president at Shell Oil Company, understands the importance of personal stories in influencing behavior. Patterson has more than 600 people in his organization and is constantly seeking out colleagues with good work-associated stories — particularly relating to improving work safety — which can help personalize the behaviors he is encouraging in his group. In town hall meetings conducted every few months and attended by his entire team, he has colleagues share their stories before the entire group. This approach has proved effective in making concepts about work safety become personal and memorable.
Effective verbal communication is also critical in the social context. There is general agreement on the importance of effective communication within the household between spouses and between children and parents. Consider, also, the various opportunities you have to speak within your social circle: chatting at a gathering of friends, offering a toast at a wedding, and sometimes, unfortunately, eulogizing a loved one at a funeral. We are literally communicating with others every day of our lives.
The Retirement Speech
A few years ago, a manager (who was also one of my mentors) was retiring. This individual was liked and well respected, and his retirement celebration was attended by many of his colleagues. Interestingly, apart from his colleagues in management who were obligated to speak at the ceremony, I was one of only two others who stepped up to say a few words in his honor. My background in public speaking gave me courage to "roast" my mentor on his retirement. It was my way of thanking him for his time and efforts in helping my professional development. I am sure that there were many others who had a lot to say and many who wanted to thank him for his friendship and guidance. They just did not have the courage to stand up in front of the large crowd and say a few words. They likely expressed their appreciation and gratitude to him in a one-on-one conversation or by e-mail.
Today's technology has further broadened our communication reach, enabling us to be connected to people in ways that were not possible even a decade ago. Social media Websites like LinkedIn and Facebook allow us to be "friends" with hundreds of people all over the world, many of whom we have never met or talked to in person. Add to that the ability to upload video and audio files on these and other Websites like YouTube, and it is now possible for speeches and talks to be shared with complete strangers, increasing our verbal communication footprint to cover the entire world. Few of us, however, realize that using videos and audio files to influence our Facebook "friends," with their varied backgrounds and sensitivities, requires great skill and a deep understanding of the fundamentals of verbal communication.
The late Randy Pausch, a former professor at Carnegie Mellon University, experienced the power of this influence when he became an overnight worldwide phenomenon. In 2007, Randy was asked to participate in a speaking series called the "The Last Lecture." The premise of such a lecture is interesting. It invites speakers to deliver a life-changing speech while assuming that this is their last speech on earth. The organizers hope that this role play will require speakers to introspect and share their life lessons with their audience. In the case of Randy Pausch, the scenario of impending death was not fictitious. Randy had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The day that he sent the title of his speech to the event organizers was also the day he found out that his treatment had not worked.
He had a few months to live.
Pausch's lecture, called "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams," was delivered in a packed auditorium to an audience of 400 students and professors. Randy gave an emotional presentation, but the most telling moment of the speech came right at the end. On the last slide, Randy told his audience that the real purpose of his talk that day was not to motivate them but to leave a permanent recording for his three children who will grow up without him. This was his way of telling them how to live their lives, his way of imparting life lessons to his children. It was a beautiful speech that made a difference in the lives of everyone in the audience.
The amazing thing, which even Pausch did not comprehend at the time, was that the impact was not limited to his audience and his children. Versions of the recorded speech were posted on YouTube and became viral. The speech was seen by more than six million people, and affected them in a positive way. The popularity of the speech led Randy to write a book, appropriately called The Last Lecture. He was invited on various television talk shows. ABC Network named him the person of the year in 2007 and broadcast an hour-long segment on his life. "The Last Lecture" became one of the most watched videos on the Internet in 2007. More than 10 million copies of the lecture have been downloaded to date and more than five million copies of his book have been sold. Though Pausch died in July 2008, he left his wife and children a legacy of hope and inspiration. One speech made that happen.
There are also many indirect benefits of good communication. As you read this book, it will become clear that effective communicators have a strong understanding of emotions. They engage people at a much deeper degree than words or slides; they engage them at an emotional level. Thus, the process of developing effective communication skills leads to a deep understanding of emotions, creating the ability to work with your own emotions and those of others. This ability to work with and understand emotions is called emotional intelligence or EI, a concept made popular by Daniel Goleman in his 1994 bestseller, Emotional Intelligence. Since then, the benefits of high EI have been studied extensively in both business and social environments, and the results are eye-opening. Many of these studies, for example, have shown a strong correlation between a high emotional quotient and success in a corporate environment, indicating good corporate leaders are, among other things, emotionally intelligent people.
The approach to public speaking discussed in this book is particularly suited to develop emotional intelligence in people, leading to benefits far beyond the realm of communications. The ability to understand and convey emotions is the core of this speaking approach and Chapter 13 explores its ramifications in detail.
Effective speakers also relish the opportunity to evaluate situations and provide feedback. Research has indicated that people, both in corporate and social settings, struggle to provide difficult but essential feedback. This could be from something as simple as giving pointers to a child to improve on a recent dance performance to conducting an effective "lessons learned" exercise after a big project to communicating ways of improving vendor performance. Typically, feedback that does not consider the emotional implications for the person receiving it is bound to produce unintended consequences.
Many years ago, I gave some feedback to a speaker who obviously needed a lot of help in the area of public speaking. My critique was in front of a group of about 20 people. I did not shy away from pointing out the areas where the speaker needed to improve, and there were many. At the end of my feedback session, it seemed like I had been very critical, simply because there were many more things that the speaker did wrong than right. The speaker was so mortified by my feedback, however, that he never came back to the forum again. Though my intentions were good, I did not consider the emotional impact of my criticism on the speaker and ended up doing more harm than good. This ability to evaluate situations and provide effective feedback is the hallmark of a good listener.
Leaders who are good listeners develop the ability to "listen to" situations and provide feedback while keeping emotions in mind. In a corporate setting, this ability to listen comes in handy during team dynamics, mentoring opportunities, and problem solving. The impact of this speaking approach on developing listening skills is explored in Chapter 14.
Most verbal communication, even a speech, is not a monologue but a dialogue. In a speech, even though the words and ideas are going only from speaker to audience, there is always a back and forth of emotions. Good verbal communicators are able to evaluate the emotions of their audience and convey the necessary emotions back to them using tools like words, gestures, and voice modulation. These are difficult skills to develop, but the benefits make the effort well worth it. The next few chapters will provide you with the background and understanding to develop these skills and propel you toward becoming a more effective communicator.
How to Read This Book
This book, written with an emphasis on speaking in public, outlines a novel way to verbal communication. Though the basis is public speaking, the method can easily be applied to other forms of verbal communication. Whether it is a one-on-one talk with a senior manager, a group discussion with colleagues, or a town hall meeting with your team, this approach will help in all these communication formats.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Emote"
Copyright © 2014 Vikas Gopal Jhingran.
Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
The Proposition 17
Part I The Fundamentals
Chapter 1 The Importance of Effective Verbal Communication 21
Chapter 2 What Is a Speech? 31
Chapter 3 Working With Emotions 45
Chapter 4 The Emotional Approach to Verbal Communication 67
Chapter 5 Practical Examples of the Emotional Approach to Communication 87
Part II The Mechanics of Speaking
Chapter 6 Why Study the Mechanics of Speaking? 99
Chapter 7 The Words 107
Chapter 8 Using Your Voice 113
Chapter 9 Nonverbal Communication: Gestures, Props, and Stage Use 121
Chapter 10 The Art of Telling a Story 129
Chapter 11 Presenting with PowerPoint 139
Chapter 12 Tools, Culture, and Personality Types 149
Part III Other Benefits of Good Communication Skills
Chapter 13 Emotional Intelligence 159
Chapter 14 Developing Listening Skills 169
Chapter 15 Putting-It All Together 179
Epilogue: The Three Speeches 191
About the Author 223