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7 Habits You Should Take Up To Be A Successful Speaker

7 Habits You Should Take Up To Be A Successful Speaker

Imagine speaking without notes and keeping your audience spellbound! Most of us dream of being such a successful speaker, but this will only come about if we work at it. Let’s get back to reality because, if you are like me, you may well have to master this skill, as very few people are born natural speakers. Here are seven habits that you should be concentrating on, so that you can get better and better.

1. Forget about interacting with your audience.

Apart from some questions at the end, interaction with the audience should be extremely limited. Lots of speakers ask for the audience to indicate with a show of hands what they think about a certain issue. The risk here is that they will get bored and may even resent having to take part in a circus act. Remember, it is your job to speak and they want to learn or to be entertained by you.

2. You are like an actor on the stage.

Ever watched a brilliant actor on the stage or in a film? He or she will act with great enthusiasm, commitment and will be entirely convincing. Public speaking is not so different. You command the stage and the audience are expecting their money’s worth. Give it all you have got.

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“It’s much easier to be convincing if you care about your topic. Figure out what’s important to you about your message and speak from the heart.” – Nicholas Bootman

3. Keep it brief.

“A good speech should be like a woman’s skirt; long enough to cover the subject and short enough to create interest.” – Winston Churchill

Think of the last time you heard a really boring and ineffectual speaker. I bet you noticed the following:

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  • The speech lacked structure – it was not clear what the speaker was trying to achieve.
  • You were bored.
  • The speaker went over time.
  • He or she did not make eye contact.
  • The speaker used other people’s ideas and statistics.

Try to avoid these awful mistakes and you will be well on the way to success.

4. How to start your speech.

Forget the introductions and the thank-yous. It is much better to jump straight in and get your audience’s attention by using one or more of the following:

  • Ask a question to stimulate interest.
  • Tell an anecdote that illustrates the problem/aims/objectives/results.
  • Tell a joke if it is relevant. It is great to get the audience laughing. They will be much more receptive to what you have to say.
  • Use a quotation by a famous person.
  • Tell them what your end goal is. Say, “By the end of my speech, you will have a better understanding of X.” Or, “I hope you will be able to take away five action points to deal with Y.”  Or, “I want to outline the pitfalls when dealing with Z.”

5. You know your defects and you have worked to improve them.

Let us imagine that you are hesitant. When you were practicing, you noticed from the recording or from a friend’s feedback, that you use ‘uhm’ or ‘er’ far too much. These can get very annoying if they are too frequent. Practice until you get these down to a bearable minimum.

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If you know from school that your teacher told you that you are inclined to mumble and speak indistinctly, then practice breathing and also breaking up sentences into more manageable chunks.

If you are so shy that eye contact is always a challenge, practice looking for a sympathetic face in the audience, maybe somebody you know. You will need to make regular eye contact with all the attendees, not forgetting those at the back.

6. Forget about ‘I’ and ‘me.’

Many speakers talk a lot about themselves, their experiences, their successes and maybe their failures. The only problem is that if you don’t also mention ‘you’ and speak directly to the audience and involve them, you may lose their attention.  Instead of a long, boring personal anecdote, ask a question with ‘you’ in it. Works every time!

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7. Don’t flood your speech with statistics.

The temptation is to impress people with data and figures. Some speakers go to enormous lengths to provide lots of pie charts, graphs and the dreaded PowerPoint slides. It is no accident that people now joke about ‘death by PowerPoint.’ Less is better in this case. People just cannot take in all that information.

“The audience are likely to remember only three things from your presentation or speech.” – Stephen Keague

Gaining confidence in public speaking takes time. If you find that you cannot change everything overnight, start by choosing the habit that you think is most important in your situation.

“Too many people spend too much time trying to perfect something before they actually do it. Instead of waiting for perfection, run with what you’ve got, and fix it along the way…” – Paul Arden

Featured photo credit: Tech Cocktail Sessions DC/ Tech Cocktail via Flickr

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The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

“You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

What is the productivity paradox?

There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

He wrote in his conclusion:

“Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

How do we measure productivity anyway?

And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

Possible causes of the productivity paradox

Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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  • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
  • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
  • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
  • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

The paradox and the recession

The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

“Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

Looking forward

A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

“Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

“Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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