Setting a simple intention and coming prepared can help you — and those around you — win big.
- Setting an intention doesn't have to be complicated, and it can make a great difference when you're hoping for a specific outcome.
- When comedian Pete Holmes is preparing to record an episode of his podcast, "You Made it Weird with Pete Holmes," he takes 15 seconds to check in with himself. This way, he's primed with his own material and can help guests feel safe and comfortable to share theirs, as well.
- Taking time to visualize your goal for whatever you've set out to do can help you, your colleagues, and your projects succeed.
If the only advice you've heard on public speaking is to imagine the audience in their underwear, this article's for you.
- Whether it's at school, a funeral, a wedding, or work, most of us have to make a speech at some point in our lives.
- However, public speaking can be anxiety inducing, and giving a bad speech can make it difficult for your audience to understand your message.
- By using these 7 speechcraft tactics, you can improve your public speaking skills, feel more confident, and become a more competent orator.
There's acrophobia, or a fear of heights — this one makes sense since falling from a great height can genuinely hurt you. Thalassophobia, or fear of the sea, also makes sense. Swimming is difficult, and drowning is a real risk. But glossophobia? What possible advantage could there be to a fear of public speaking? Why does delivering a presentation to a large crowd produce the same effect as being charged by a bear?
Fortunately, speechcraft is a skill that can be improved with practical, concrete advice, and confidence in your abilities will hopefully cure your glossophobia. Here's 7 tips to become a master in speechcraft.
1. Turn your anxiety into excitement
If you've ever had the jitters prior to giving a speech, you may also be familiar with how frustrating it is to hear a well-intentioned friend tell you to "just calm down." As it turns out, calming down might be the exact opposite of what you should do prior to a speech.
Instead, you should try what researchers refer to as "anxiety reappraisal." Anxiety is a holdover from our past when we needed to get amped up and ready to fight or flee from the jaguar stalking you through the jungle. Anxiety is just an unpleasant form of arousal, so it's far easier and more effective to channel that energy into a more positive form of arousal: excitement.
Numerous studies have confirmed this effect. When study participants said "I am excited" rather than "I am nervous," for instance, they performed karaoke better and felt better about their performance; they were seen as more persuasive, confident, and persistent when giving a speech; and they performed better on a math test.
2. Be concise
There's a reason why the Oscars play music when an actor's speech drags on a little too long. Some people don't seem to suffer from a fear of speaking, but rather an excessive love of it. If you focus too much on the act of speaking itself rather than the message, how can you expect your audience to hear your message? When asked what makes for a great speech, John F. Kennedy's famous speechwriter, Ted Sorenson, gave much the same answer:
Speaking from the heart, to the heart, directly, not too complicated, relatively brief sentences, words that are clear to everyone. I've always said a model of a statement by a leader were the seven words uttered by Winston Churchill on the fall of France — 'The news from France is very bad.' That's how he opened his speech to the country. Very direct, honest, no confusing what he's saying, but very moving at the same time.
3. Follow Aristotle's advice
Aristotle formulated what are known as the modes of persuasion, or three ways to convince your audience of your point: ethos, pathos, and logos.
Ethos refers to one's character, or credibility. If you're an established figure in a field or an expert, your audience is more likely to listen to you. If you or somebody else introduces your credentials, then you're appealing to ethos to convince your audience.
Speeches relying on pathos make the audience feel something, whether that's hope, love, or fear. It's a powerful rhetorical tool, but relying solely on pathos to convince your audience can be seen as manipulative.
Appealing to logos is the practice of supplying facts and logical argument in your speech. Although logos can be used in a misleading way, it's usually the strongest and most direct method of persuading an audience.
Though some speeches feature one of these three modes more heavily than others, most speeches tend to be composed of a mixture of the three.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Presidential speechwriter James Humes describes this as "strategic delay" in his book Speak like Churchill, Stand like Lincoln. Not only does pausing during a speech give you time to collect your thoughts, it also adds weight to your words. "Before you speak," writes Humes, "lock your eyes on each of your soon-to-be listeners. Every second you wait will strengthen the impact of your words. Stand, stare, and command your audience, and they will bend their ears to listen."
5. Speak with a natural rhythm
Widely regarded as one of the best orators of all time, Winston Churchill understood the importance of rhythm when giving a speech. In his article, The Scaffolding of Rhetoric, Churchill writes:
The great influence of sound on the human brain is well known. The sentences of the orator when he appeals to his art become long, rolling and sonorous. The peculiar balance of the phrases produces a cadence which resembles blank verse rather than prose.
It's difficult to listen to somebody who speaks in a monotone; not only is it boring, but it's also lacking crucial information. Natural speech contains a variety of notes, paces, and rhythms that tell the audience what's important, what's not important, when a new topic has begun, when one thought is coming to an end, and so on.
Image source: Evening Standard / Getty Images
6. Compare what is with what could be
In her TED Talk, author and CEO Nancy Duarte described a hidden pattern she found in history's greatest speeches. Great speeches repeatedly describe the current reality and contrast it with a desired outcome, and then end with a call to action:
At the beginning of any presentation, you need to establish what is. You know, here's the status quo, here's what's going on. And then you need to compare that to what could be. You need to make that gap as big as possible, because there is this commonplace of the status quo, and you need to contrast that with the loftiness of your idea. So, it's like, you know, here's the past, here's the present, but look at our future.
7. Follow the rule of three
People like to hear things in groups of threes. In Max Atkinson's book on oratory, Our Masters' Voices, Atkison says that three-part lists have "an air of unity or completeness about them," while lists with two items "tend to appear inadequate or incomplete." Winston Churchill (who is going to be all over any list that has to do with great speaking) once said, "If you have an important point to make, don't try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time — a tremendous whack."
In an interview with Big Think, Alan Alda — who became well-known for his gift for public speaking in addition to his acting career — also expressed how his public speaking approach revolves around the number three.
Public speaking can be a daunting task, but these seven tactics can improve your public speaking skill, thereby improving your confidence. After all, feeling confident in your abilities is a far better way to feel comfortable when in front of a microphone than imagining the audience in their underwear.
A new study finds even simple, easy, appearance alterations fool people
- We're not as good at facial recognition as you might think.
- Who needs Mission Impossible latex masks?
- You can change your hair or make up and pass for someone else.
Maybe Lois Lane wasn't so stupid after all. A brilliant reporter, yes, but of all the implausibilities of the Superman story, her inability to tell that Clark Kent and Superman were the same person thanks to a pair of glasses strained credulity. Now, though, a study's been published in APA PsycNET that shows it's amazingly easy to hide one's identity with even the simplest of disguises.
Cognitive psychologist Eilidh Noyes of University of Huddersfield in the U.K. co-authored the study with Rob Jenkins of the University of York. They recruited 26 models who were photographed three times:
- As themselves
- In a self-designed disguise meant to change their appearance — the study referred to the goal of these disguises as "evasion."
- Posing as another one of the volunteers, these were "impersonation" disguises.
The means participants were provided to change their appearances were hardly very clever: They could change their hairstyle and/or makeup, or add or remove facial hair. They were not allowed to change their look with articles of clothing likes hats, scarves, or any other garb that wouldn't be allowed in a passport picture.
Noyes tells University of Huddersfield News, "Our models used inexpensive simple disguises and there were no make-up artists involved. If people want to, it's very easy to change their appearance."
Other study participants were then asked to identify the person in each photo. For the evasion images, 30 percent of them got it wrong, even when they knew they were looking at people who might be in disguise. The impersonation pix weren't as successful at fooling people.
At the conclusion of the study, all of the images were collected into a database called "FAÇADE" that's being offered to programmers and researchers developing facial recognition software.
“You look familiar.”
(ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images)
Apparently, the researchers have documented something criminals already know. Alleged murderer Cesare Battisti successfully evaded capture for 37 years
Using simple disguises and hiding often in plain sight. He was finally captured this year. Brazilian police published a rogue's gallery of his likely appearance prior to his arrest. (The third one in the top row was closest to his appearance at the time of arrest.)
About our intrepid Daily Planet reporter, however: Apparently participants who knew the subjects were less likely to be fooled, so she's not quite off the hook.
A new study suggests that we all underestimate how much people like us after a first meeting.
- A new study finds that people consistently underestimate how much a new conversation partner liked them.
- The likability gap exists for almost everybody, but is more pronounced for the shy. It can also last for months despite regular meetings with the same person.
- The findings suggest we all try to play it safe with our appraisals of how much we're liked, and point the way to better conversational habits for everybody.
Have you ever had a conversation with somebody and left not knowing if they liked you or not? Have you ever thought of the perfect thing to say long after the conversation ended? Has the ideal follow-up question that would have clinched the interview occurred to you long after it would have been useful? If you said yes to any of these, you're in good company.
A study published in Psychological Science in September examined the difference between how well two people thought an initial conversation between them went. The scientists focused on the discrepancy between how much people thought their partner liked them and how much they were actually liked. The difference was often substantial.
The researchers found that this difference, which they dubbed the "liking gap," was almost always present. People tended to underestimate how well a conversation went and supposed that their new acquaintance didn't care for them. Test subjects who admitted to being shy, even slightly shy, had the worst go of it; with a liking gap larger than anybody else's.
How did they do it?
The researchers carried out several experiments revolving around two people meeting for the first time and then answering questions on how it went.
In the first study, participants had a short conversation consisting of icebreakers and then filled out a questionnaire about it. They were asked questions about how much they liked the person they spoke to, how the conversation went, and how much they thought their partner liked them. It was found that most people liked the person they talked to while also thinking that person didn't like them.
In a follow-up experiment, test subjects were placed in longer conversations and then asked questions similar to those of the previous test. It was found that the length of the discussion didn't do much to reduce the liking gap. Another experiment involving actual college roommates showed that the gap remains after several conversations, slowly fading away only after numerous interactions that can span over months.
Part of the study had participants explain what drove their impression of their partner and what they thought had influenced the other person. Most people presumed they had revealed much more anxiety and behaved more awkwardly than their partner's answers suggested. This implies that we miss more behavioral cues than we think and that our body language might not give away as much as we fear it does.
Why do we do this?
The authors suggest that we are too worried about our own answers and behaviors during a conversation to fully understand the cues others are giving us. Dr. Margret Clark, a co-author who works at the Yale department of psychology, said that the test subjects "seem to be too wrapped up in their own worries about what they should say or did say to see signals of others' liking for them, which observers of the conversations see right away."
It also makes sense that we would be cautious about how we think other people view us. While people tend to believe that they do things, like driving, better than everybody else, being more critical about how other people perceive us can serve as a shield against the risk of making ourselves too emotionally vulnerable too quickly.
Clark again explains, "We're self-protectively pessimistic and do not want to assume the other likes us before we find out if that's really true."
How can I use this?
The obvious and undoubtedly most useful takeaway is that now you know that conversation you had with the cutie you like probably went better than you thought it did. While this is reassuring, there are ways to make this effect work for you.
If you are speaking to somebody form a position of power, interviewing them for example, you might be able to reduce their inevitable concerns by asking follow-up questions or positively commenting on their statements. If you are being interviewed, know that your words matter more than your behavioral clues in helping people form their opinion of you.
The study also reminds us that everybody might benefit from being more direct. Telling somebody that you enjoyed spending time with them removes any doubt the other person might have. Following up on a conversation later is also a sure way to demonstrate that the other person didn't repulse you during your first meeting. Think of all the relationships you could have had, if only the other person knew you liked them.
You never get a second chance at a first impression, but this study suggests we may be doing better than we think — especially since we put in the effort. That said, this research also reminds us that going the extra step in a conversation can make a great deal of difference and that everybody has some anxiety when it comes to how other people perceive them. So go ahead, have a chat with somebody you don't know; it'll go better than you think.
The data for this study is available online here for those of you who want to read it.
A cheat sheet containing what really works.
- 800 hiring managers reveal their preferences in a survey by NetQuote.
- Infographics help unearth the worst words to use in an interview, most important questions, and ideal resume length.
- Figuring out how to present yourself just got easier.
Congratulations. You got the interview. You've already done better than all of the other job applicants whose piles of resumes have lead nowhere. But watch out. A hiring manager holds your future in their hands, so the interview is a do-or-die chance to get where you want to go. NetQuote decided to ask 800 hiring managers what, to them, makes for a successful interview. Or not. Infographics from that data have just been published as Most Important Interview Questions.
All visualizations in this article are by NetQuote.
About your resume
If you've got an interview already, you may be past the resume phase, at least for this job. But what got you there? (And maybe you're still hoping to get an interview.)
Getting your resume's image right
According to NetQuotes' respondents, when racing through a bunch of resumes, your story's visual presentation can prove to be an instant turn-on, or -off.
42% of hiring managers aren't fond of headshots, for example. Ditto for unconventional, flashy resumes—they're not necessarily a good way to stand out, at least not to the 65% of hiring managers who aren't impressed with them.
Still, the reactions vary by industry; head shots are poison for government, legal, and health care jobs, but popular when you're after a tech-oriented position. And not shockingly, non-standard, artistic resume layouts are more likely to be appreciated in industries peopled by non-standard artistic types.
Is a long resume impressive or a problem?
Hiring managers are busy, and don't really care about your life story. If a resume is even just two pages long, 23% of hirers say it's too long. Bump that up by one more page, and it's 51% of them bugged by your verbosity.
Another thing that can be a red flag, depending on the industry, are periods not covered by a job. In IT, for example, an employment gap of 13 months or more means you've probably got a problem.
So, you're in the room—or on Skype or the phone. Someone once said, "I never sound as stupid as when I'm trying to sound smart," and this is definitely an interview hazard. You may think business-speak buzzwords like "synergy," "low-hanging fruit," and "ideation" make you sound cool. Not so much.
Before the show starts...
In an interview, yours isn't the only performance going on, and some hiring managers are sketchy about playing their own roles. They may try to impress you by tweaking the job description or the company's outlook. And only about 60% actually read your resume before talking—which is to say 40% know basically nothing about you as the interview starts. 29% are wasting your time anyway, since they already know they're not hiring you.
Typical questions and how much they actually mean
Of all the questions commonly asked, four stand out as most important. Two reflect on your character in the workplace: How you deal with conflict and how you learn from mistakes. The third inquiry reveals you as either an ambitious forward-looker or a disagreeable malcontent: Why did you leave your last job? Then there's that moment where you're asked to list your strengths—more about this below.
Interestingly, one classic query doesn't seem to matter much at all: What you're into outside of work.
The best personal strengths to mention
Okay, this one's kind of the master cheat sheet. Don't lie in your interview, but here's what you're supposed to say.
Are you being interviewed by a woman or man?
The list above notwithstanding, women and men have slightly different priorities in what qualifies as applicant's most important personal strengths. It seems close to a cliche, but female hiring managers are more concerned with quieter, inner-focused skills while males are interested in outward-going traits. Discuss.
Meeting specific industry needs
Here's a helpful infographic. Different strengths matter to different industries, and this shows the three most important strengths in each type of operation. For government work, discipline's hot; in construction, it's important to manage time well and to be patient. Who'd guess that the industry that most values creativity is the legal industry?
The importance, or not, of follow-up
Hiring managers also have feeling about your actions after the interview. 67% expect to be asked questions, and they consider doing that to be important. Slightly less than half expect any worthwhile applicant to follow up by email or by phone. As far as handwritten followup notes go, while they're important to 17% of hiring managers, more than double that percentage said don't bother.
Forewarned is forearmed
Whether you're heading into the hot seat in the near future, or just hoping to be asked to interviews, you now have some insight as to what the interview process looks like to hiring managers. Now go and get that job!