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Take Charge of Your Meetings!

Meetings are essential for any business. They give everyone an opportunity to share ideas and be kept up-to-date on important information. However, all too often, poor communication can turn a meeting into a drawn-out, ineffective waste of time. There are several techniques that you can master to transform your communication skills and conduct your meetings like the effective business leader you are. Here are five tips to help you transform your meetings from a waste of time to an effective meeting of the minds:

  1. Speech skills matter! It doesn’t matter how intelligent or innovative your ideas are if no one can understand you. Many people speak more quickly when they’re excited or nervous, which decreases the clarity of their speech. Keep tabs on your rate of speech and make sure you’re not running your words together. Also, enunciate all of the letters in each word, especially the sounds at the ends of words. Missing the final sound of a word can change the meaning entirely and cause confusion.
  2. Speak up: One of the biggest issues in a group setting is miscommunication. If you don’t fully understand someone’s point or miss part of what has been said, speak up and ask questions. Even if it doesn’t seem critical at the time, misunderstandings can be a big waste of time and energy in the long run, and odds are if you are confused, so is someone else. Asking questions and requesting clarification can go a long way towards avoiding long-term misunderstandings.
  3. Remember the two ‘C’s: When speaking in a business meeting, don’t forget to be clear and concise. Remember that the main point of a meeting is communicating information, not trying to impress your colleagues with your oratory skills or large vocabulary. Before you speak, think about what you are going to say and make sure you’re making your point in the shortest, most direct way possible.
  4. Make sure no one dominates the conversation: Everyone has different communication styles and different levels of comfort about talking in a meeting environment. Unfortunately, this can often lead to one or two outspoken individuals dominating the meeting, causing an imbalance in the conversation. While you don’t want to discourage open speech, it’s important to maintain some balance for an effective flow of communication and ideas. If you feel someone has dominated a topic, politely move the conversation along by saying something like, “It sounds like you have some great ideas, and I’d love to chat about them later, but unfortunately we’re a bit short on time right now so we need to move on.”
  5. Be a good listener: Often people are so focused on how they can contribute to the conversation and sound intelligent, they spend their time internally planning what they want to say instead of listening to the person who is actually speaking. This can result in missing key information and misunderstandings. Not only is it essential to really listen, but also to visually communicate to the speaker that you’re listening. Sit up straight, look directly at the speaker, and maintain eye contact. Never fiddle with your phone or check your e-mail or messages; this is not only rude, but gives the impression you’re mentally checked out of the meeting. Now and then, nod to show that you understand. These are all ways to let the speaker know that you are really listening. Remember, you listen with your whole body, not just your ears!

About the Author

Jayne LatzJayne Latz is an expert in communication and CEO of Corporate Speech Solutions, LLC. She has worked as a speech trainer, coach, professional speaker, and has co-authored two books titled, Talking Business: A Guide to Professional Communication and Talking Business: When English is Your Second Language. She was recently featured in The Wall Street Journal and on The TODAY Show.

If you are interested in learning more ways to improve your business communication skills, contact Jayne at [email protected] or visit www.corporatespeechsolutions.com.

Jayne Latz

Confident Communication

In a professional setting, projecting confidence can make or break an interaction and have a significant impact on how others perceive your character and professional abilities. Those who appear confident are often assumed to be more capable in their jobs and more worthy of trust and respect.

Your communication style can play a significant role in projecting confidence. Changing the way you speak is one of the first and most important steps in achieving an air of confidence and success. Your tone of voice, rate of speech, and other non-verbal cues often say more about your message than your words themselves. Subtle changes in your voice and presentation create a significant difference in how your message is received.

One key aspect of speech that can be modified to project confidence is how quickly you speak. Many people, when nervous or excited, tend to speak too quickly. Rushing through your words not only makes it difficult for others to understand you, but also makes it seem as though you are nervous and trying to get speaking over with as quickly as possible. Be aware of this pitfall, and concentrate on using a controlled, even rate of speech. This will help you to appear confident and knowledgeable about the topic on which you’re speaking and give your listener the impression that what you have to say is worth taking the time to listen to.

Intonation can also play a role in projecting confidence. One intonation pattern that can be particularly damaging is upspeak or high-rising intonation. Upspeak, made famous by the 1980s “Valley girl” accent, is characterized by raising your pitch at the end of a sentence so that statements sound like questions. This pattern gives off an air of insecurity and makes it seem that you are unsure of yourself and seeking your listener’s approval. Take care to avoid this pattern, and end each sentence authoritatively.

Another speech habit that can be fatal to projecting confidence is the use of ‘filler’ words. People often pepper their speech with words such as “um”, “uh”, “like” or “you know” which contain no content, add nothing to the message, and interrupt the flow of speech. For example, many people find themselves in the habit of ending sentences with, question words like “okay?” “right?” “see?” or “you know what I mean?” Others use “um” at the beginning of sentences or when transitioning from one thought to another. In order to reduce your reliance on filler words, try identifying where you most commonly use fillers, and briefly pause instead. Many people avoid pauses because they are uncomfortable with silence, but a brief pause will give you a moment to collect your thoughts, allow your listeners to absorb your message, and will sound much more confident and professional than needless fillers.

Finally, take note of your volume when speaking. A strong, well-projected voice makes you sound authoritative and like a natural leader. While you don’t want to shout, speaking with a strong volume gives others the impression that you are saying something worth listening to. Speaking too quietly can make it seem as though you’re not fully sure of what it is you’re saying, or that you don’t feel it’s really important.

Strong professional communication skills are critical to projecting confidence and achieving success in the workplace. By following the strategies above, you can change your communication style to one that tells clients and colleagues that you are a confident leader with a message worth listening too. If you’d like to make more significant changes in your communication style, you may want to enlist the help of a corporate speech-language pathologist who can provide communication training to target your specific needs. Learn to communicate with clarity and confidence, and take your career to the next level!


About the Author

Jayne LatzJayne Latz is an expert in communication and CEO of Corporate Speech Solutions, LLC. She has worked as a speech trainer, coach, professional speaker, and has co-authored two books titled, Talking Business: A Guide to Professional Communication and Talking Business: When English is Your Second Language. She was recently featured in The Wall Street Journal and on The TODAY Show.

If you are interested in learning more ways to improve your business communication skills, contact Jayne at [email protected] or visit www.corporatespeechsolutions.com.

What Does Your Voice Say About You?

Unless there is an obvious problem, most of us don’t give more than an occasional passing thought to how our voice sounds. However, recent research on how vocal quality affects others’ perceptions may make you think twice.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal discusses a study that shows that the quality of your voice has an even stronger impact on how you are perceived than the content of your message. As listeners provided feedback on speakers, it was found that their vocal quality mattered twice as much as the content of the message. The article cites another study as well, which showed that people who heard recordings of rough, weak, strained or breathy voices judged the speakers to be negative, weak, passive or tense. On the other hand, speakers with ‘normal’ voices are seen as successful, sexy, sociable and smart. This difference in perception can be particularly important in a professional environment where the way others perceive you can make the difference between gaining or losing a client or moving up the corporate ladder. A study in Forbes magazine even showed how poor vocal quality can actually cost you money in the long run.

One of the key components to a strong, dynamic voice is breath support. Your breath is the power behind your voice. If you aren’t breathing properly and getting enough air, you will strain your voice trying to be heard. Often people try to compensate for poor breath support by using muscular tension to increase volume. Over time, this will cause your vocal quality to suffer, and may cause physical damage to your vocal cords. Proper breath support begins with breathing from the abdomen, not the chest: your stomach and lower ribcage should expand outwards as you breathe, and your chest should not rise. If you have trouble mastering this technique, lay on your back with your hand on your stomach and take a deep, relaxing breath as though you were about to go to sleep. When in this position, our body naturally reverts to proper breathing. After you’ve gotten used to how this type of breathing feels, stand up and take a few deep breaths, maintaining the technique. Then, practice speaking aloud with this type of breathing.

You can also improve your vocal quality by eliminating habits that are damaging to your vocal cords. One common vocal sin is not drinking enough water. Parched vocal cords can be easily damaged and decrease the quality of your voice. Keep a bottle of water with you throughout the workday, especially situations in which you’ll be speaking for a long time or in front of a group of people. Also, be aware of other factors that can be dehydrating. Caffeine and alcohol are both dehydrating substances; if possible, limit your consumption of both prior to speaking in public. Some medications, such as antihistamines, can also have a drying effect.

Another bad habit is raising your voice to speak above noise. While there are certainly situations that call for more vocal power, consistently raising your voice above its natural volume can be damaging. Before shouting, make your first line of defense modifying the environment instead. Step out of a noisy room, shut the door, or walk closer to someone who is standing far away. If you are giving a presentation, use a microphone instead of trying to shout to the back of the room.

A powerful, dynamic voice is critical to professional success in today’s competitive workplace. Luckily you can change the way you sound! Follow the strategies above for a strong commanding voice. If you’d like to make more significant changes in your general vocal quality, you may want to enlist the help of a corporate speech-language pathologist who can provide vocal training to target your specific needs.

Remember: it doesn’t matter how strong your professional skills are if your listener is distracted by your voice or communication style. But with a little time and effort, you can make your communication skills your most powerful professional tool!


About the Author

Jayne LatzJayne Latz is an expert in communication and CEO of Corporate Speech Solutions, LLC. She has worked as a speech trainer, coach, professional speaker, and has co-authored two books titled, Talking Business: A Guide to Professional Communication and Talking Business: When English is Your Second Language. She was recently featured in The Wall Street Journal and on The TODAY Show.

If you are interested in learning more ways to improve your business communication skills, contact Jayne at [email protected] or visit www.corporatespeechsolutions.com.

Present for Success

Does this sound familiar? You have a big presentation and you practice reading your notes for several days. You work on the perfect PowerPoint slides and polish your content, but on the big day it feels like your presentation falls flat. What happened?

If public speaking makes you uncomfortable or gives you anxiety, you’re not alone: public speaking is one of the most common fears in the United States. Unfortunately, that anxiety can interfere with your delivery. It doesn’t matter how strong the content of your presentation is, if you’re unable to speak in a clear, confident manner, your message will suffer. In fact, recent research has shown that how you say something actually matters twice as much as what you say!

Learning to speak with confidence and master the art of public speaking is crucial to professional success. Whether it’s giving a sales presentation, pitching an idea to a committee, or presenting your ideas to a prospect or client, the ability to speak in a clear, engaging and confident manner is a crucial part of advancing your career. In today’s business world it is imperative that we polish our tone, engage the audience and deliver a dynamic presentation; even if it is just to one person.

Ready to take your public speaking skills to the next level? Take a look at these five tips to improve your speaking and presentation skills:

  1. Always keep water on hand when you speak. I am always surprised to see people stand at a podium or deliver a speech of greater than fifteen minutes and not have an accompanying glass or bottle of water. Speaking for a prolonged period can dehydrate your vocal cords, and dry mouth caused by nerves can make the situation worse. Staying well hydrated will help keep your voice strong and clear. In addition, taking a sip of water can be a great way to take a moment to compose yourself and collect your thoughts during your presentation.
  2. Don’t forget to breathe! Closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths before you present is remarkably effective for helping you to calm down and focus on the task at hand. Take a moment and breathe in through your nose and out from your mouth several times before taking the stage or podium. Taking deep breaths from your abdomen as you speak helps you retain this calm, and also gives power to your voice.
  3. Before you begin, take two minutes to do some vocal warm-up exercises. They’ll help to relax you and make your speech more fluid. This is even more important if you are giving a morning presentation and have not yet conversed with colleagues; you literally need to “warm-up” your voice! Lip flutters and humming are two simple and effective ways to warm up, and sliding your voice from its highest to lowest speaking pitch can prepare your vocal cords to use the range you need for a dynamic, engaging speaking voice.
  4. Improve your clarity. When people get nervous they tend to rush the delivery of their message, which subsequently causes mumbling. When people swallow their words or mumble, the importance of the message can be lost. Focus on saying each sound, especially at the ends of words.
  5. Practice! If you’re completely confident in the content of your presentation beforehand, you’ll be much more relaxed, and free to focus on the quality of your speech and your presentation style. Once you’re confident in what you are going to say, put in some additional practice time focusing on your performance style. If you incorporate clear speech and a dynamic voice into your practice, it will come much more naturally on the big day.

Polishing your public speaking skills will help you to gain confidence and increase your professional credibility. Take the time to focus on your speaking style, and make sure your presentation is doing your message justice. Remember: It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it!


About the Author

Jayne LatzJayne Latz is an expert in communication and CEO of Corporate Speech Solutions, LLC. She has worked as a speech trainer, coach, professional speaker, and has co-authored two books titled, Talking Business: A Guide to Professional Communication and Talking Business: When English is Your Second Language. She was recently featured in The Wall Street Journal and on The TODAY Show.

If you are interested in learning more ways to improve your business communication skills, contact Jayne at [email protected] or visit www.corporatespeechsolutions.com.

Telephone Communication: Make an Impression!

In our global market place we are now conducting business with people we have not and may never meet. That means that now more than ever, being able to communicate in a clear and professional manner on the phone is critical to success in today’s business world. However, strong telephone communication is more complicated than many people realize. Experts say that up to 90% of communication is non-verbal. This means that talking on the telephone can be a particularly challenging communication task, since all of that non-verbal support is removed. However, there are ways you can compensate for the loss of that non-verbal communication and make sure you leave an impression each and every time you speak on the phone.

The most important rule for telephone communication is also the simplest: speak slowly and clearly. Many people are unsure of their telephone communication skills; because of this, they have a tendency to speak rapidly, making their speech difficult to understand. Simply introducing one’s name can be lost in the rapid delivery. During telephone conversations, make an effort to speak a little more slowly than usual, and make sure that you are pronouncing each letter of every word. It is also critical to speak as clearly as possible. Because the other person can’t see your mouth, clear, crisp communication is even more important than usual. Enunciate each syllable and pronounce each letter of every word (especially the consonants at the end of a word).

When you are spelling a name or giving an e-mail address be sure to provide examples for difficult to understand letters. Some letters can be easily mistaken for one another over the phone, for example, P and T, M and N, and T and D. Examples can help avoid misunderstandings and make sure that critical contact information isn’t lost. For instance, “My e-mail address is B- as in boy, O- B- as in boy, R- D- as in dog at gmail dot com.”

Another important way to compensate for the lack of non-verbal communication is with the tone of your voice. Since the listener is unable to see your face , making an impression with your speaking style is crucial. New research shows the sound of a person’s voice strongly influences how he or she is seen. According to Quantifed Impression, an Austin, Texas communications analytics company, the sound of a speaker’s voice matters twice as much as the content of the message. When was the last time you thought about the tone with which you were conveying your message? A strong, smooth voice can enhance your chances of rising to CEO. On the other hand, a nasal whine, a raspy tone or strident volume can drive colleagues to distraction according to an article in the Wall Street Journal published in April, 2013.

Even though the person you’re talking to can’t see you, you should sit up straight or even stand up when speaking on the phone. Posture can affect your breath support and poor posture can result in a weak voice. In addition, your position can have a psychological effect on the way you communicate. If you are in a reclined or slouched position, you may be more likely to sound overly casual and relaxed. Standing up or sitting straight will help you sound more energetic.

There are innumerable times that the telephone sets the tone for future opportunity. Whether conducting a teleconference, interviewing remotely for a position, or reaching out to future clients, a telephone conversation can often make or break an opportunity. By taking the time to improve your telephone communication skills, you can establish your professional credibility, improve the clarity of your message, and create an atmosphere where both parties look forward to reconnecting in the future.

If you are interested in learning more ways to improve your telephone communication skills, contact Jayne at [email protected] to receive our free handout, Sixteen Tips to Excel on the Telephone.

In the meantime visit, www.corporatespeechsolutions.com, to learn more.


About the Author

Jayne LatzJayne Latz is an expert in communication and CEO of Corporate Speech Solutions, LLC. She has worked as a speech trainer, coach, professional speaker, and has co-authored two books titled, Talking Business: A Guide to Professional Communication and Talking Business: When English is Your Second Language. She was recently featured in The Wall Street Journal and on The TODAY Show.