F is for Focus

We continue with our alphabet of terms for great speaking.

Focus. When we speak in a focused way, all our energy works toward the same end–getting our message across. Our thoughts, our words, and our bodies all work together to send a unified, cohesive message. When we are in this particular state, words tend to come more easily, we gesture more dramatically, and it is almost as if we forget about ourselves. We speak fluently, with fewer fillers like “um” and much more dynamic expression. So how do you get to focus? Sometimes it is by directing our attention on the audience and what we bring to them. Sometimes it is being clear and passionate about our subject matter. Very rarely does it happen by thinking about our own selves or how well we are doing.

Friendly. Once again, when we focus on ourselves, or on the words themselves, we tend to get very serious. Our faces tense up, and often our bodies do too. We are there, but not there. We are all in our heads, not present in the moment. We often don’t even see the audience in front of us. Next time you speak, before you begin, make a conscious effort to connect with the audience. Look at the faces before you. Extend your gaze. Soften your eyes. Put on a welcoming smile. Breathe. Now you are ready to begin. Allow yourself to be present, to give of yourself to your audience. Don’t worry so much about what words you use, but about the thoughts and messages you wish to share.

Fresh. Are your ideas, your words, your very phrases stale and outdated? Or do you bring fresh perspective every time you speak? Sometimes we give the same presentations over and over until we get bored with them. We go on autopilot, mouthing the words without really connecting with them. Guess what? The audience can tell! If you have ever gone on autopilot, consider it an opportunity. Once you know the content well enough to go on autopilot, you have the opportunity to play with it. Change the sequence. Change the stories and illustrations you use. Instead of telling, use dialog to get everyone discussing the information. One well-known consultant in our area says he changes one third of his content every year, so he is constantly adding fresh content, and every three years it is completely revamped. This seems healthy to me. If your presentations seem stale, do something different each time you speak. Trust me, it will wake you up and keep you on your toes. It will make you a better speaker.

Are you a focused, friendly and fresh speaker? How did you get that way? How do you stay that way?

If you think of great words for upcoming letters, please add a comment.

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