This article was based on episode 036 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, and Stitcher.
Stage actors do something pretty incredible. They perform in room with dozens if not hundreds of people staring at them from the dark, pretend the audience doesn't exist while reciting lines that someone else wrote, and try to convey the audience as if these words are their own and they’re being said for the first time...despite giving this performance night after night. Plus, before microphones, actors had to project so that every seat in the house could hear clearly.
When it comes to communication skills, there is a lot to learn from the world of theater acting. Great speaking skills aren’t reserved for public speakers giving a keynote in front of a thousand person audience. We all communicate every day. We each would benefit from enhancing our communication skills.
This week, I spoke with Jackie Miller, CEO and President of Bespoken, a communication coaching firm utilizing practical theatre techniques to help individuals and teams own their voice and speak with purpose.
OWNING YOUR VOICE IS A LEARNED SKILL
Owning your own voice does not look or feel the same for every person. In broad strokes,
“Owning your voice means feeling confident in the moment of communication because you know how to move through nerves and anxiety to say what you need to say so that it will resonate with your audience.“
Start by reflecting on areas you feel are your weak spots. Ask a friend or trusted colleague how you might improve. For example, perhaps you identify as an introvert and speaking in large group meeting produces anxiety. There are techniques to enable you to tap into your breath, diaphragm and vocal projection in order to combat that fear.
Or, maybe you don’t have any problems speaking in front of an audience but you disdain having pre-written notes to stick to. In this case, the room may find your message is muddled and not succinct. There are specific techniques to help you stay on message and hold your audience’s attention.
Regardless of what you want to improve, communication is a muscle that needs to be trained over and over again.
PREPARE YOUR MIND AND BODY FOR A DIFFICULT CONVERSATION
In Episode 24, I spoke with Kris Plachy about how to address a person’s disruptive behaviors. She explained how to prepare for the conversation, a process to follow when speaking with the individual, and how to follow-up after. However, we didn’t talk about the emotional and physical readiness that can help you ready yourself for a difficult conversation. So I asked Jackie to share how to prepare your body to be more confident and less nervous when having a difficult conversation.
She outlined two approaches: Working outside in and working inside out.
Working from the outside in
Take a moment to note your body language, your physical presence, and how it will likely to translate to the person you’re speaking to.
Are you sitting in an open position, not crossing your legs or arms? Are your knees directed at the person so your full energy and attention are directed towards them? Are you utilizing eye contact in a way that makes the person feel seen, heard and connected to?
When you find yourself tense during the conversation, try putting your mind's eye or your mental focus on a different part of your body. Concentrate on your feet, if that helps you feel grounded, or the top of your head, if that helps you feel more in control. Continue to listen to the other person and maintain eye contact. Use the focusing to calm your body and tap into other sensations.
Working from the inside out
Actors try to understand the life of their character, the circumstances surrounding them, their motivations and values. In the workplace, we can try to understand the person we’re speaking with.
Imagine if you were in their shoes, about to hear what you’re prepared to say. How would you want that message delivered? What language or tone would you want the messenger to use?
GENDER ALSO PLAYS A ROLE IN OWNING YOUR VOICE
There is no way around it. Numerous studies have shown how women’s voices are perceived differently from men’s in the workplace. Male voices are perceived exponentially more authoritative and persuasive than the woman's, even under controlled conditions where they are literally saying the same words.
We all need to recognize this gender dynamic and take steps to counteract it.
Find an ally in the workplace to back you up. When you share ideas in a meeting, have your ally specifically reiterate them and give you credit. If it’s another woman, reciprocate when she shares her ideas.
Stop using fillers (ums and likes), qualifiers (I was just thinking or maybe we could consider) and apologies (I just wanted to add or sorry if this isn’t a good idea). Say what you mean directly and with confidence.
FOCUS ON HOW YOU MAKE THE PERSON FEEL
Maya Angelou said, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
When preparing to have any exchange–a conversation, an interview, a networking opportunity, a meeting with your team–if you can, take an extra moment to think about the total impression you want to make. Go beyond the content and and imagine how people will feel after having experienced you in the conversation.
Learn more from Jackie in her online course Own Your Voice on GenConnectU. Join the Modern Manager community on Patreon and get 18% off when you purchase my and Jackie's courses together, along with other guest bonuses and resources to support your journey to rockstar manager.
This article was based on episode 036 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.
You can also listen to every episode here.
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