How to Be a More Engaging Speaker
Learning to Connect With Others One-on-One
Maria has just bumped into her organization's CEO, Arnav. She has an idea that could improve the company's image, and this is a great chance to make her proposal.
She asks politely for a few minutes of his time, then presents her pitch. Her eyes sparkle, her gestures demonstrate her enthusiasm and excitement, and she sells her idea with a compelling story. When she's finished, she gives him her full attention, listens to his questions intently, and provides short, thoughtful answers.
Their brief conversation impresses Arnav. Maria's idea is good but, more than that, the way that she communicates her excitement grabs his attention. He gives her positive feedback, and asks her to set up a meeting, so that they can discuss her idea further.
This scenario illustrates what can happen when you know how to engage people one-on-one. In this article, we'll look at several strategies you can use to become a more compelling speaker in face-to-face situations.
Why Is Engagement So Important?
Stop and think about the individuals you've spoken to in the past who grabbed your attention. Chances are, the conversation was dynamic and informative.
When you engage people, you spark their interest, connect with their hearts and minds, and immerse them in what you have to say. What's more, when it's their turn to speak, you give them your full attention. Showing people that you want to listen to them is a powerful way to build trust.
The ability to engage someone has many benefits. It allows you to communicate more effectively during meetings, negotiations or job interviews, and it can also make it easier to persuade someone to see your point of view. Finally, it can enhance your reputation and open doors in your career.
How to Be a More Engaging Speaker
You can use the techniques below to become a more engaging speaker:
1. Use Positive Body Language
Imagine listening to someone who rarely looks you in the eye. His shoulders are slumped, his face is blank, and his voice is monotone. Even if his topic interests him, he appears not to care about what he has to say!
Your body language communicates much more than words can alone. That's why it's so important to appear confident, interested and passionate when you speak with others. Your posture, gestures, facial expressions, and vocal tone are the first things that engage your listener.
Show your listener that you're confident by standing up straight. Look him in the eye, smile and use deliberate, purposeful hand gestures. (Listen to our Expert Interview on "Winning Body Language" to discover how you can use non-verbal communication to your advantage.)
2. Use Storytelling
Think back to the last time a compelling story captivated you. It might have been an intriguing book, a movie or an anecdote that someone told you.
Telling stories is an extremely effective way to capture someone's imagination, and to engage and connect with her. You can tell stories to explain who you are and why you're here, and you can use them to teach, motivate, communicate a vision, or show empathy.
Start your story by providing a context that resonates with the other person. Next, make sure that there's action, such as a conflict or struggle. Finally, it needs a good ending, with a clear result.
When you tell your story, focus on creating an experience for your listener. Include details that appeal to all five senses, and use gestures and body language to engage her.
You can also use metaphors to reinforce your message and make a connection. These liven up your narrative, and allow her to interpret what you've said. They are especially useful when you need to explain complex concepts that might be hard for her to relate to.
3. Enunciate Clearly
It's important to speak and enunciate clearly when you communicate. Your listener might become irritated quickly if he can't understand you. Slurring your words, or talking too quickly or quietly, also inhibits the connection that you want to make with others.
One way to improve your enunciation is to practice in front of a mirror. As you do this, watch your face carefully. When you speak clearly, your lips, jaw and tongue should all move.
It can help to read aloud from a book or to repeat challenging phrases for five minutes every day. For example, try reciting the following:
- "The tip of the tongue, the teeth and the lips."
- "We'll weather the weather whatever the weather whether we like it or not."
- "Can I cook a proper cup of coffee in a copper coffee pot?"
4. Use Silence to Your Advantage
Silence can be a powerful tool when you communicate with others. It relays many different messages, depending on the timing, context and body language that you use.
Stop and think about how you feel when you listen to people who fill every moment with words. Even when they are unsure about what to say next, they add filler words such as "you know," "um" or "like." This can often indicate a disorganized train of thought, or a lack of depth.
Create an impact by using focused pauses to make your point. Silence gives your listeners a chance to digest what you've just said, it allows them to form their own opinions, and it controls the pace of the conversation.
Practice incorporating silence by reading aloud from a book. Focus on breathing slowly, and speak in short phrases. So, instead of reading one long sentence, pause in the middle, where it seems to make sense.
5. Control Nerves
Most of the time, nervousness shows. Your voice may be weak or shaky, your hands might tremble, you could appear flustered, and perhaps you speak faster than normal because you're tense or out of breath. These obvious signs of nerves affect how you communicate and can have an impact on your ability to connect with others.
Another way to relax is to smile and look the other person in the eye. Regardless of whether you plan to speak to a new colleague, a potential client or an interviewer, remember that this person is just like you. Focus on making a genuine connection, and don't let what you want to say next distract you.
6. Develop Charisma
Charismatic people are engaging, assertive, inspiring, and warm, and others tend to listen to what they have to say.
To develop charisma, start by paying attention to others: this is what gives you "presence." Remember, communication is a two-way street, and hearing what others have to say is important, so practice active listening to improve this skill.
Next, work on developing self-awareness and emotional intelligence. These two traits will help you tune in to your own emotions, and understand how they affect the people around you. You can then respond appropriately during conversations.
Last, use empathy when you communicate. This enables you to see a situation from a different point of view. While listening is an important part of this, it's also critical that you try to understand the other person's perspective. Show a genuine personal interest in her, and in her life or experience.
7. Communicate Reliable Information
Reliable data is part of the foundation of good communication. If you want others to pay attention when you speak, they have to be able to believe in what you say. This means that you need to use good information-gathering strategies, so that the facts you use to back up your points are solid and trustworthy.
Where possible, use appropriate, honest, checked statistics to add weight to your message. These strengthen your argument and help to build trust with the person you're speaking to.
8. Get Heard
Imagine that you're in a meeting where people are talking over one another, yet there's something you need to say. How do you get them to listen?
First, try standing up if everyone is seated. This physical act will let people know that you have a point to make.
Another way to join in is to summarize what another person has said. This "gets your foot in the door" of the conversation, it shows the other person that you've listened, and it provides you with an opening to communicate your ideas.
Others will also notice you if you say what needs to be said. For example, if everyone else has avoided a topic that you need to discuss, bring it up yourself. This shows courage, assertiveness and interest.
Engaging speakers know how to pull their listeners in to what they have to say. They captivate people's hearts and minds, and keep their interest throughout the conversation. The ability to engage others can often enhance your reputation and open doors in your career.
To be more engaging, use the following eight strategies:
- Use positive body language.
- Use storytelling.
- Enunciate clearly.
- Use silence to your advantage.
- Control nerves.
- Develop charisma.
- Communicate reliable information.
- Get heard.