Communication is an essential part of being productive in work and life. We talk about communication quite a bit here at Lifehack and think that you should be ready to communicate effectively and efficiently in the upcoming year. Here are a few new tools that you may need to add to your arsenal in 2012.
Skype isn’t a “new” tool by any means, but if you still aren’t using Skype to get things done during your workday as well as communicating with friends and family, we highly recommend installing it, getting a decent webcam, and using it in 2012. Most of my communication online is done through Skype by IM-ing, voice, or even video. It allows me to quickly have a conversation with someone or be able to see someone across the country in a matter of seconds.
Something that people don’t realize is that talking over Skype is a highly effective way to communicate complicated ideas or to make sure that your message isn’t taken the wrong way. Text messaging and IM is great for sending concrete information or just chatting, but if you want to get serious about your message, talking to someone voice-to-voice or face-to-face can’t be beat.
What else is awesome about Skype is that it can be used on any Android or iOS device. That means if you have a nice 3G or WiFi connection you can communicate with another Skype user from anywhere for free.
In the last couple of years Twitter has increased in popularity so much that it’s hard to find any “brand” or celebrity that doesn’t have an account or doesn’t want you to use some hashtag. But, just because Twitter has changed from it’s original incantation, to allow users to send 140 character messages to a group of followers, doesn’t mean that you can’t use it for that.
Twitter is great for sending one off messages to friends and colleagues as well as fostering a “community” feel with “at-replies.” Lately, I’ve heard it refered to as a type of digital “water-cooler.” It is a little hard to reduce the noise of Twitter as well as keep track of conversations in an ordered fashion, but for back and forth conversations it does pretty well. One of the best ways to communicate with Twitter is by direct message. It’s fast, simple, and private. Mike and I both use it quite a bit to get stuff done here at Lifehack.
I’ve found to get the best use out of Twitter you need to use a seperate client to do it. Some of the best are:
This allows you the control you want without the annoyingness of Twitter forcing things on you like recommendations of people you should follow or the inevitable inclusion of sponsored tweets and hashtags.
I guess Path is more of a social networking type of application than a communication one, but it just feels a little different (and beautiful, to boot). Path is an app that allows you to follow and be followed by only 150 people (based on Professor Robin Dunbar’s research regarding the number of trusted relationships somone can maintain) making it more of an intimate type of sharing and communication application. With Path you can share your location, thoughts, what you are listening to, images and video, when you are asleep and when you awake.
I consider Path a communication app because as long as I update things that I am doing, places that I am going and my friends see it, they don’t really need to ask, “hey, where are you at?” You can let them know through Path. It may sound a little cold and inhuman to reduce some of this type of conversation in our lives, especially with our friends, but it really could end up saving a bunch of time for you, your co-workers, and friends.
The only serious downfall that I see about Path right now is that there is no user interface for being able to export your data. You can contact Path via the their support site, but to do this everyday or week (depending what you deem as acceptable for a backup schedule) will get annoying for you and them.
We can’t recommend email as a great communication tool for the new year, but what we can recommend are a few services that keep you out of the mound of email that you probably receive on a daily (or hourly) basis.
One of our favorites that we took a look at a few months ago is AwayFind which allows you to filter all of your incoming email and create alerts for the ones that you deem important. AwayFind’s interface is awesome and you can come up with some pretty unique rules for qualifying email. You can be notified via SMS, IM, or even the dedicated iPhone or Android app.
If you are a Gmail user, another tool you may want to check out is Boomerang for Gmail. Boomerang is an addon for Gmail that allows you send email at a later time or set up reminders of emails that need replied to by a certain time and aren’t. It’s another great way to keep up with your email while keeping you out of your inbox as much as possible.
Boomerang’s creators, Baydin Inc., also offer Boomerang as a plugin for Outlook as well as The Email Game, which challenges you to deal with as much of your overflowing inbox as you can in 15 minutes or less.
Communicating effectively is vital for being productive so it is important that you find the best tools to enable you to keep in touch while keeping you sane. Hopefully, with the use of these tools this new year you can get more done both efficiently and effectively while communicating with co-workers, friends, and family.
You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.
Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.
Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:
1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically
According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.
“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor
Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:
If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.
If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.
Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:
Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.
Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.
To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.
Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.
Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.
Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.
Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.
Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:
2. Focus on your goal
One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.
Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’
Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.
Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.
If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.
3. Convert negativity to positivity
There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?
‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’
It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.
Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”
Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.
Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:
4. Understand your content
Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.
However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.
“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor
Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.
Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.
One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.
5. Practice makes perfect
Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.
In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.
Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!
6. Be authentic
There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.
Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.
Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.
To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.
With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.
Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:
7. Post speech evaluation
Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.
Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation
We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.
You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.
Improve your next speech
As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:
How did I do?
Are there any areas for improvement?
Did I sound or look stressed?
Did I stumble on my words? Why?
Was I saying “um” too often?
How was the flow of the speech?
Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.
If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too: