Don’t hesitate……….Don’t hesitate. Did I mention not hesitating? And, another thing…
The BBC’s long running radio parlour game on Radio 4, “Just a Minute” asks charismatic celebrities to entertain the studio and radio audience by talking for 60 seconds on a topic that is spontaneously chosen and allocated to them.
They are asked to talk non-stop with out hesitation, deviation or repetition.
But, are they right? Is this what great presenters do? And, is it what aspiring presenters should be aiming for?
NO! And, here’s why;
The pause is a critical part of spoken communication. There are 3 basic forms of silence in conversation and its opposite, interruption or overlapping chatter. Let us look at them and what they signify. A) The Northern European way – one person speaks at time, interruptions are rare and over-talking can be viewed as disrespectful. Gaps are dangerous and tend to be avoided – This is one reason why we get so many uhms and arghs in speech. The brain is desperate to fill any space that could cause a delay in delivered conversation. B) The Latin overlap – multiple players compete, collaborate and finish each other’s sentences in a display of empathy and contextual comfort. Here passion drives speech. The interruption is perceived as sympatico assistance, moving the emotion and dialogue along. Finally, C) The respectful silence of Japan or Finland, where silence is a valid unit of conversation – signifying reflection, respect and that the listener is taking the content of the other speaker seriously.
Silence is Authority
More evidence – I remember the opening of a large conference in Sophia, Bulgaria when a disparate group of academics, trainers and coaches came together having not seen each other for a couple of years. Add to this volatile mix, a vast spread of inviting food and good Bulgarian wine at the back of the room, and, we had the perfect cocktail for naughty schoolboy and schoolgirl behaviour and a room about to get seriously out of hand.
The courageous conference leader stood on the stage at the front and used a trick that worked. She just stood there, centred, still and silent. The naughty children (conference delegates) noticed, reacted reflexively and, row after row, sat down, shut up and paid attention.
How do we translate the words on the page into representative spoken form? What does a comma, full stop or paragraph sound like? They sound like a silent pause.
Have more faith in silence and use it to boost your authority with the audience, give them time to absorb your wisdom, and, show that you are a confident presenter in charge of your body, your topic and the room.
Whilst we are with the BBC, Do you remember Ronnie Corbett’s rambling stories, sat in that scruffy old chair every Saturday night? Appearing spontaneous, this rehearsed and masterful performance took the audience down many side roads, twists and turns – so many, you thought he would never get to the destination. What was, in fact, being delivered was a layering of content, a weaving of related references and the painting of a larger, textured story canvas. This was a mini-novel that allowed you to participate, experience and suspend your cynical perspective, as a critical and logical observer, and, to immerse yourself in the sights, sounds and smells of Ronnie’s constructed world.
Great speakers are deviants!
When you lace your speech with local landmarks and historic event or call out the last presenter’s content, you are branding yourself as a confident, present and aware performer at the top of your game, and, at ease with your core material. So, it is the drift from your script that is human, charming and impressive, not just sticking to the oft-repeated script of a keynote.
Be prepared to inject a reference or two about the venue, the audience or the preceding entertainer, in order to elevate yourself to the level of super speaker.
We are told not to repeat ourselves. The irony is that repetition, and, repetition of the thing we just repeated, works. It reinforces the message, makes it stand out and breaks the listener’s ineffective patterns of remembering. Location Location Location. Education Education Education – You remember what those phrases refer to. “You turn if you want to, but the lady’s not for turning.” (No judgement.)
When we speak to international audiences, it is an act of kindness to repeat key words. In a noisy environment, it is advisable to repeat key messages, and, in the army, the instructors are giving the following instructions, “Tell ‘um what you are going to tell ‘um, tell ‘um it, and, then, tell ‘um what you just told ‘um.” – Words to live by.
Load up your call to action sentence with repetition and see what added response you get. You may be surprised at the benefit of repetition to your outcome.
So the skill of the BBC parlour game was, in fact, to go against what is wise, when speaking in public. Ironic me thinks.
About to present? Take action now!
Call Matthew Hill on 07540 65 9995 for a no c ost, no obligation coaching chat to boost your performance on the big day.