Friday, August 1, 2008

Communication Etiquette: Top Ten Telephone Tips

I can't stress it enough - the image you present over the phone is just as important as the image you present when you stand in front of someone. Here are my top ten telephoning tips for clear and considerate communication.

T alk slowly (see my earlier post: Slow Down!)
E nunciate (speak clearly, articulate)
L isten actively to the caller
E mpathize with the caller
P ick up the phone quickly (2-3 rings is appropriate)
H ave a good attitude
O ffer your services or help
N ote down important information
E nd on a positive note
S mile!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

English Language: Subject/Verb Agreement

If you missed this day in English class, here's a quick review. It is absolutely imperative that you memorize this table. I hear so many people make the mistake of saying "He work" or "She have." These are very basic mistakes. Even if you speak rather fluently, if you make these mistakes, your listener will question your level of education, wonder if you lack attention to detail or are just lazy when it comes to language.

Keep things simple. Focus on what's called the 3rd person singular (he/she/it). You'll notice that everything else is the same!

I: am - have - do - work
you: are - have - do - work
he/she/it: is - has - does - works

we: are - have - do - work
they: are - have - do - work
you (plural): are - have - do - work

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Public Speaking: Who's Your Audience?

You will always feel more uncomfortable speaking in front of people you don't know than people you do know - it's just human nature! Strangers can be a lot more intimidating because you just don't know what to expect. So why not learn as much as you can about your audience before you begin?

How many people are you talking to?
First of all, how many people will be in your audience? Visualize the size of the audience, where you will stand and how you will interact with them. What will their seating arrangement be like? Will they be at a boardroom table, in a large auditorium, at numerous circular tables, or in rows? Keep these things in mind when you design your visuals and plan interactive activities.

What are the demographics of your group?
Keep your content relevant to the demographics of your group. How old are the people in your audience? Are they mostly men or women? What are their ethnic backrounds? Your material should be as fine-tuned to this audience as possible so that they find your talk relevant, up-to-date, interesting and educational.

How do you get this information?
Many speakers send a pre-talk questionairre to the event organizer or corporation with all the information they would like to know before the talk. Don't be afraid to do this. Organizers are happy to see that you are customizing your talk to their group. If your speaking at a meeting at work it's a little bit easier to think about audience factors since you probably know your colleagues fairly well.

Related article: The Top 5 Things to Know about Your Audience - Before You Give Your Talk!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Public Speaking: Confident Posture

Did you know that it only takes about 3 seconds for people to pass judgement on you when they meet you? There are tons of different non-verbal factors that come into play here (I'll keep you guessing and save them for future posts). The factor I'd like to look at today is your posture.

Remember that people judge you from the minute they see you, not the minute you step on stage or to the front of the boardroom. Begin preparing yourself for your talk before you enter the room you'll be speaking in.

Push your shoulders back, raise your chin, pull in that belly and stick out that chest. It's amazing how when you look confident you also feel more confident. Enter the room like you own the place. You have every right to be there. Everyone who is there is there because they want to hear what you have to say. Your thoughts and words are important. Your posture should also show that!

In addition, proper posture will help you with your breathing and voice projection during your talk. By standing up straight with your chin slightly higher than horizontal you are actually opening up your airway. This is important for voice projection since your voice travels on your exhaling breath. You need to be able to take a nice deep breath and use your diaphragm to push that air out again.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Speech Training: Slow Down!

It is common sense, really; the faster you speak, the harder it is for your listener to understand. The easiest way to instantly increase the clarity of your speech is to simply slow down.

As you speed up, you make compromises in your articulation. You cut off the ends of words and shove words together. Sentences also run together, making complete thoughts hard for a listener to decipher.

When speaking in public, audiences generally prefer a speaking rate of around 200 words per minute. Casual conversations and meetings with individuals one-on-one are generally much faster. A rule of thumb: the more formal the presentation (and the larger the audience), the slower your speaking rate should be.

A client of mine once said after listening to someone speaking at the proper rate, “But it would just be PAINFUL for me to speak that slowly.” “Good,” I said, “It should be painful at first. Otherwise you’re still speaking too fast!”

That said, be careful your rate doesn’t end up being too slow. You could sound tired, bored or as if you’re speaking in a condescending manner to your audience.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Category Codes - How this system works...

Basically, I'll be sending out a short twitter feed each day (Monday-Friday) with a speaking tip. Follow the twitter feed here: The speaking tip will be preceded by a code for one of 4 categories: ST= Speech Training, EL= English Language CE= Communication Etiquette, and PS= Public Speaking. If the short twitter feed interests you, visit this blog for more information and a longer posting. You can also skip twitter and just subscribe to this blog - it's up to you! I hope you enjoy the tips and can get something out of this site! Please feel free to leave comments and questions too! I'd love to hear your take on these topics!