Monday, August 30, 2010

A simple view of voice in facilitation

A little something different today... I was asked how, in this age of internet (webinars, teleconferences, podcasts, etc.), to use one's voice more effectively in presentation.

Today at work I'm giving a 15 minute 'quick view' on voice for Learning & Development facilitators. Below is the text of my presentation. I know - it should be a podcast :-) ...

Voice & Facilitation

Man cannot learn by voice alone... but if you're on a teleconference, it'll have to do!

A few statistics:
"One study at UCLA indicated that up to 93% of communication effectiveness is determined by nonverbal cues. Another study indicated that the impact of a performance was determined 7% by the words used, 38% by voice quality, and 55% by nonverbal communication."

So voice alone isn't ideal. But some days, that's all we've got.

I'm not going to discuss the gaps in using voice alone (the visual cues, the non-verbal message assistance etc.) or how the material needs to be sharp and well-organized (or you can have a voice like hot dark chocolate on caramel rocks and it won't help).

If you really couldn't communicate with voice, radio - from news to talk shows - would never have become popular. Today we've got podcasts and webinars in the aural repertoire.

Why does radio work?
1 - Folks on radio know how to work their voice.
2 - Radio does not mean one-way communication. From call-in to interview, the means of sharing information is as varied as the topics you can cover.

Let's focus first on voice and how you can improve it. Remember, 38% of your impact is voice quality!
* Pitch
* Tone
* Pace
* Clarity/articulation

While I could spend a lesson on each of these items, we've only got 15 minutes today so let's pick some quick hits.

Have you heard a recent recording of how you sound? Like many folks, you probably thought "Oh goodness, what shoddy recording equipment". LOL Nope, that's really you.

Record yourself talking with a friend for approx. 20 minutes (long enough to almost forget you're recording). Try to listen as though it's the voice of a stranger. Is it high? Wavery? Low? Varied?

At very least, you can work on some pitch basics. The most common for women is trending the ends of sentences 'up' even if you're not asking a question.

Tone is the emotional range of your voice. Tone plays an integral role in helping folks understand how they could feel about the information you're sharing. As a facilitator, you should be very deliberate with your tone. On the phone, keep it open and inviting like a conversation between friends instead of lapsing into 'lecture' voice like a professor.

You know how one can 'hear' the smile of the person talking? We know to actually smile if we wish to convey this kind of warmth. Another trick is to actually do the gestures you would make if you were talking face to face. Point, pace, use your hands, nod your head... all this will not only come through in your voice but help you vary your tone and pace.

Simply put, it's speed - or lack thereof. I will probably mostly talk too quickly when I'm excited or passionate about my topic. And yes, it is possible to go too slowly.

But there's one much maligned and overlooked part of speed and that's the pause. You know that asking a question and saying nothing until someone can't stand the silence and answers is a very effective technique. (I've never seen a pause go past a count of 7) You can also deliberately insert pauses to cue a listener that a major point is coming up. (pause) Pauses used deliberately and thoughtfully can help a listener identify new information.

Tie pitch, tone and pace together and just sharpen clarity. That's not simply making sure your lesson is well-organized! That's enunciating clearly and using all facets of your voice to frame segments of your presentation.

As in every new habit to form, pick one thing to change this week. Don't try to change everything overnight.

Remember - you do not have to be "pitch perfect". Your voice has its own quality which reflects your personality and makes you unique and interesting as a presenter. Just make sure you're using your voice deliberately and to its best advantage.

A few easy references:
Clarity and articulation
Patsy Rodenburg - The Right to Speak = best vocal book for any kind of voice work

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A shared cape and tiara

I answered the question "What would you do with a tiara and a cape?" as posted by the Red Tent Sisters.

What a marvellous question - for two reasons...

1 - Because every woman has the right to decide what 'power' means to her. As does every child. As does every man.

2 - Because the question doesn't imply one must share but simply offers an idea. How often do we get an idea for rumination offered with no strings? (sometimes, but not often enough)

3 - Because the very posting of the question has started a dialogue online between busy folks who have left total strangers a few words of encouragement.

Building community doesn't have to be on the grand gesture scale. You build community simply by offering an idea and letting it grow as it will.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Wine, women and song

What's your definition of a great event? Whether an intimate dinner or a large function, you've possibly thought of the 3 key ingredients above. (some events I prefer gin but that's another post...)

Wine because it suits most occasions, is a key to unlocking conversation (in moderation of course), and because it gives your hands something to do. The last is often the most overlooked since folks tend to feel less awkward if their hands are occupied.

Women because we suit most occasions, are key to unlocking conversations (moderators) and keep the room flowing. We're excellent at hosting as well as participating and making folks comfortable.

Natalie MacLean's marvellous reviews and posts always intrigue me. They're personal, informative, often humourous and inclusive. In June, she blogged about how women are more likely to try "new things. They're also far more likely to think of wine-food pairings and other social factors."

Song because music can create a sense of intimacy, filling gaps in conversation and making folks feel less awkward.

Ok - so I'm being a little silly and irreverent. But there's something lovely about taking a stereotype (wine, wimmin 'n song) and showing how fabulous we really are.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The “L” list

Exploring the different kinds of mentors there are... We either do these things for others or we seek them for ourselves.

Continuing with "L":
Lament-or: When the world just seems too much, they hold your hand
Ligament-or: Points out the connections
Liniment-or: Preps you for the next round of negotiations

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Social Media Mgrs vs. IT mgrs

We’re all on the same team. We’re all trying to enable interaction, engagement and knowledge transfer.

But why, in the arena of social media, are folks wearing either an IT sticker or a Social Media Guru sticker (read: PR, Marketing, Communications, etc.). Why can’t we be both?

Here’s what we have in common:

1 - We’re solving a problem, not picking a tool.

We are trying to move the focus from the tool-of-day /recent hot trend to creating a behavioral response in our audience. The technology of today will be old by the time it’s implemented; we all should be focusing on the end result we’re hoping to achieve and moving in/out various tech tools to get there.

We’re trying to build infrastructures and governance that will allow us to be current without being trendy; cost effective without being staid or outdated.

2 – We’re trying to see the trends and pick the long-term winners.

Being swayed by what’s ‘hot’ or in the media, isn’t a solution. See #1. By attempting to find the methods and tools by which the majority can interact (simply, effectively), we stand a greater chance of folks continuing to use the method/tool beyond it’s initial ‘cool’ factor. That’s engagement.

3 – We’re trying to make it about the user/audience.

No project, product or tool will be effective if it just lies there. If there is no demand or gap, then we ask why choose this/do this?

We’re also not trying to showcase how cool and knowledgeable we are. We’re hoping to allow our audience to interact and showcase how capable they are.

4 – We test.

We keep each stage defined and we validate each stage at completion.

5 – We believe that knowledge transfer is the greatest result, enabling everything else.

We may not always agree on what knowledge should be transferred (lol) but that’s another story.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Why do you get out of bed?

I'm curious - why do you get out of bed every morning? Ok, maybe some mornings you spring up a little faster than others... but still, when you open your eyes, what excites you about your day?

We look at life in clumps of days (sometimes known as a week) and take views that span a month or even years. Certainly there are events and people that stand out in those views. Moments that shine brightly and became a highlight.

Yet, every day, you get out of bed... why?

Part of this question is to ask yourself if you're living each day rather than looking back or forward only. Part is to remember the small things that make each sun rotation different.

If you aren't springing up each morn, you can ask "what would help me wake up with a smile?" And then I'd have to ask what you're doing to achieve it...

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tired of all the fuss around new?

I just had a long conversation with a few folks about how distracted we can get with the concept of 'new' before we've actually fully exploited the existing/old.

So while technology, social media and marketing is often about the new... sometimes rather than debate the best text messaging platforms, remember there is still a phone. The warmth (or lack thereof) in a human voice can never be matched by an emoticon.

Cell phones may not always be smart phones but sometimes that's all your kid needs. The iPad still needs you to have a home computer. The eReader does't mean the paperback is dead. New and old can co-exist. And sometimes new is simply new and not better.

Remember too that the last person to cross your path is not necessarily smarter/better/cuter than the person you see every day.

New isn't always better. Old isn't always irrelevant.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Have confidence - keep your own style

There are lots of articles out there telling you how to be better at just about everything. Books that promise you the easy 10 steps to success in any endeavour. Gurus and experts who will share their secrets...

(Ok - I know - this is a blog filled with advice on how to be 'better'... I'm not exempt; I just hope I'm a little different! LOL)

Recently, I've been reading articles on how to be taken more seriously. Collectively, the advice has been to speak up/listen more; speak evenly/have passion; take up space/be contained; work towards consensus/take no prisoners... You get the idea.

The only thing I believe you can do wrong when trying to have your ideas heard is (drum roll) to lack confidence.

If it's your style to be soft-spoken and kind - then by all means, do so. If you use humour and wear bright colours - go ahead! etc. etc. etc. Yes, sometimes you have to shift about to get your audience to come along with you - but never at the expense of who you are and how, ultimately, you express yourself. If you're a leopard, mute a few spots but don't change them all!

People buy you as much as they buy the idea you're offering. It's ultimately not about following the right 'rules' of how to present yourself. It's about being confident, capable and consistently you.

Which reminds me, I think the next streak in my hair should be purple...

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Toad and the Shoe

In my creative writing, I often get asked "Where do you get your ideas?" Well, honestly, I just use real life; there are no stories more outrageous. This blog is a true story.

I have a dear friend in a terrible work situation. Her boss e'd her a naked picture of himself.
In Canada.
In this century.

In case you're wondering, the photo is an awful picture of a toad-like man, posed artfully behind a ship's wheel. It has been passed around with great hilarity. Unfortunately, it reflects a situation that is not as uncommon in Canada as one might think.

When I asked if she could go to HR, I found out they already had a copy! Seems jobs in this industry/province are scarce and folks are too scared to make a "big deal" about this. I have advised my friend to start looking for a new job ASAP. She has been actively searching. She also had strong words with her boss who promised to be better behaved.

Till she wore The Shoes and with A Pedicure.

She was sitting on a call in her office this week with her shoes kicked off. He wandered into her office, proceeded to stroke her foot and... as she leap from her chair in horror... he picked up a discarded shoe, stuck in his nose and breathed deeply.

I understand the entire company could hear her tear a strip off him. Having heard her tear strips before, I'm surprised I couldn't hear it all the way to my office too.

She's now embarrassed to go into work. He continues as a big cheese at the company. She feels shamed. Goodness knows what he feels but I bet he's sleeping soundly regardless.

Trying to see the lighter side of the situation, we chatted about such options as wearing gum boots to work or fuzzy slippers. We decided the poor shoes were ok to keep as we both love them (good shoes being hard to find) and we'd forgive them this one transgression.

But really I sit here enraged. While we understand the legal and ethical obligations of this situation and are working to solve it... It Should Not Happen. To Anyone. Anywhere.

The details of my friend's story are a reflection of all the stories I've heard this year. I know men are reading this posting and cringing - I know many men would never Dream of such evil and abuse of power. This is not about bad men/good women.

This is about Everyone being vigilant and speaking up when they see bad behaviour that subjugates others and compromises their ability in the community.

We need to keep dialogue going; we need to make sure folks understand the workplace is still not an equal place for all members; we need to support those who find themselves in compromised situations.

It's not happening to folks you don't know. It's not a fairy tale. Don't let the toad control the story.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

It's relative so make your own choices

Why is 'artist' a less respected way to earn a living than 'engineer'? Why is 'emotion' a female weakness and 'logic' a male strength?

Who is to say which way is right and which is just today's norm (and therefore possibly not tomorrow's...)?

There is a difference between a lack of confidence and personal style / personal choice.
By lead by choice and make no excuses.