G is for Gracious

Here are some of the words starting with the letter G that we can use to describe a highly effective speaker. See which ones you resonate with, and then let me know if you can think of others.

Gracious. I know it sounds obvious, but when we are speaking we often become terribly self-focused. Instead of thinking about yourself, imagine what you would do if you had special guests coming to your home. You would clean and tidy your home, put yourself into a receptive mood, and then greet them at the door. You would be welcoming, friendly and kind. In other words, gracious. Somehow we get into the mindset that our special guests (audience members) are boors and we have to be on our guard at all times. Afraid of what questions they might ask. Afraid we might be boring. Or worse, wrong. What if you relaxed, smiled and treated them with warmth and graciousness? Make the people connection. It is far more important–at least at the beginning–than the data.

Greeting. Quick! What is the first thing you should say when you begin a presentation? When you pick up the phone you say “hello” or “good morning,” so why wouldn’t you start with a greeting in a presentation? Without a greeting you can sound cold and set an unfriendly tone. Take time for a smile and a hello. But no need to go overboard with gratuitous “thank you for being here” comments. Especially if people have been told they must attend, or feel they must. Instead, how about a warm and sincere “Good morning! I am so glad you are here. Let’s get started.” Ten seconds. Bam!

Gestures. When we are at ease, we rarely think about our hand gestures. They just happen…naturally. Somehow when we stand up to speak, we are struck with an odd kind of awkwardness and self-consciousness. Suddenly we don’t know how to use these appendages which had been doing just fine without our attention. We clam up and shut down, jamming hands into pockets or clasping them tightly. Not good. Begin to pay attention to what your hands do when you are engrossed in a conversation. Try to allow the same thing to happen when you are presenting or speaking in front of a group. Great gestures are descriptive, varied, and expressive. You can’t “make” yourself gesture, you can only let it happen.

What other words come to mind when you think about highly effective speakers? Next time–the letter H. Any suggestions?