Transcript of The Secrets to Impactful Speaking
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John Jantsch: Hello and welcome to another episode of the duct tape marketing podcast. This is John Jantsch, and my guest today is Allison Shapira. She’s the CEO, and founder of Global Public Speaking, Communication Training Farm, and she’s also the author of Speak With Impact, How to Command The Room, and Influence Others. So Allison, thanks for joining me.
Allison Shapira: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.
John Jantsch: So, I’m going to ask you a seemingly silly question, but I’d like to hear you frame this. Who needs to speak with Impact?
Allison Shapira: Everyone, in one word. My idea in the book is that every single day you have an opportunity to speak with Impact, whether you’re at a parent teacher conference, or whether you are sitting next to someone on an airplane who might potentially fund your next venture. We never know who we’re talking to, and every day we have this opportunity to make an impact.
John Jantsch: So, I’m sure in some of your work, particularly when it comes around to say working with you, and that’s going to cost somebody a fee, and there’s trying to judge the ROI on this. I mean, how do you first get somebody to realize maybe what not speaking with Impact is costing them?
Allison Shapira: Usually someone comes to me, because something has happened that is not good. Let’s say they [inaudible] presentation, or they didn’t win business that they were hoping to win, and they realize that it’s their communication that’s the problem. Or perhaps that because of their communication skills, the real value of what they do is not coming through. And so, usually by the time they get to me, they’ve already realized there’s a problem, and they’re taking steps to fix that problem.
John Jantsch: Yeah. I guess that’s usually the case, right? We have to admit there’s a problem for wherever we’re going to seek a solution to it, isn’t it? Because, I suspect there’re a heck of a lot of people out there that have risen to CEO ranks, or leadership ranks in big companies, and they are really holding themselves back, or holding the impact back, because they either assume they don’t need this help, or they just don’t bother to get it.
Allison Shapira: Right. And, my business model is based on finding the people who already realized they have a problem as opposed to going up to someone, and trying to convince them there’s a problem that they don’t see. That’s a much harder sell. And luckily, there are plenty of people who recognize they need help. And that’s kind of inward looking leader that I want to work with.
John Jantsch: Yeah. So one of the challenges I’m sure for a lot of folks that are… They’d realize that, and they’re coming for help is public speaking makes people nervous. And frankly, I do a fair amount of public speaking, and I can’t say I certainly suffer from getting nervous the same way I used to. But I think one of the real tricks is probably getting over looking nervous when you’re trying to have impact. How do you help people through that whole fear component?
Allison Shapira: Everybody feels nervous before they speak in public, and this could be having an important job interview with one or two other people, or it could be standing on stage addressing a huge crowd. Regardless, everyone gets some degree of nervousness, or feel some degree of nervousness. The goal is not to completely eradicate that fear. That’s nearly impossible, and unproductive. The goal is to help you overcome that fear, and harness it to create a positive energy that you have when you give the speech, or go in for that interview, or for that presentation or pitch. So, the techniques that I use start with trying to find the source of that nervousness.
Allison Shapira: What are the variables that you can control? Are you’re nervous, because you don’t know who’s going to be in the room? Walk to the room early, and start to meet people. Are you nervous you’re going to forget what you’re going to say? Well, prepare a particular type of bullet points that you can bring with you, and easily use if you lose your place. So, the more you can control the variables, the more comfortable you feel. And then, when you add to that reading techniques, relaxation techniques that I learned as an opera singer, then you can start to use those to calm the nerves to some extent. And then again, harness that energy in a positive way.
John Jantsch: You know, I’ve done this show for almost 15 years now, and you’re only the second former opera singer I’ve had on the show.
Allison Shapira: I’m not the first?
John Jantsch: Oh, maybe you are actually. I’d have to rack my brain, but I think you may indeed be the first former opera singer that I’ve had in my show. So, I know the quality of our connection, even though it is pretty good. It’s still analog, and digital, and whatnot all right? I’d have you sing something.
Allison Shapira: Yeah, like the credit, the sound is not optimal for an operatic performance right now. Nor have I warmed up for such a performance. So, maybe we can provide a link to a video of me performing.
John Jantsch: We will, I promise listeners, go to our show notes, and you’re going to find a link to that, among other things that we discuss today. So in your work, I’m curious how you fall down on this. Obviously in creating a speech, or speaking with Impact. There certainly is the content, and there is delivery. So how much of it is that? How much is the content, how much is the delivery?
Allison Shapira: There is no specific breakdown in terms of which is more important than the other. There are figures that are often cited. Those figures are usually wrong. And so, it really depends on who the audience is that you’re speaking to. And are they going to resonate more with the content, or the delivery of that content. As a general rule, we need both. The lack of one cannot be made up for by an abundance of the other. So, if you have really powerful content that you’ve crafted in a way that’s clear, concise and compelling, and you deliver it in a way that’s engaging, and authentic and confident, that’s when you have an impact, a positive impact on others, and you can’t compromise on either one. You need both.
John Jantsch: Okay, so let me ask that a different way. In your experience, what do people generally need more help with? Content or delivery?
Allison Shapira: Both. It’s really both. There are people who need help with the messaging. They ramble, they can’t get to the point. They are unable to clearly articulate what they do, or the value of what they do. And then there are others who have a clear value proposition, but they mumble it to the floor instead of looking in the eyes of their audience, or their voice is so scratchy because they don’t know how to project, and they don’t know how to protect their faults that it sounds like their words are falling into the back of their throat. And so, we don’t get the full power of those words. At people need both. Some people need more than, more than… one than the other, but it’s such a solid breakdown of both.
John Jantsch: All right. So, if I’m trying to create this clear and concise speech, is there a roadmap? Is there a template for what needs to be in it, or what boxes need to be checked? If I’m trying to figure out, “Okay, how do I do this?”
Allison Shapira: Yes. And in the book I outline a particular roadmap that you can use in a short amount of time. That starts with asking yourself a series of three questions. Who’s your audience? What’s your goal? And most fundamentally, why you? And by why you, I don’t mean why are you qualified? Where did you go to school? What PhD do you have? By why you? I mean, why do you care? What gives you a sense of purpose in your work? What are you proud of in your work? And when you can respond to that question, and answer into your speech, or presentation, or into the introduction of your pitch, then all of a sudden you connect with people on a much more personal, much more authentic level. And no matter how professional the situation we’re in, we’re human beings connecting with other human beings, and we have to bring our authentic self to that relationship.
John Jantsch: And, I think you just went a long way towards answering the fear question too, because I find that a lot of speakers just getting started. The fear is based in, they’re looking at me, you know? I have to perform. And, I think that where you really get over that is when you… Just what you mentioned there is, how am I here to serve? What do they need to hear that’s going to help them? And so, when you turn the focus on kind of serving the audience, whoever the audience is, or how big it is, I think that, I think a lot of individuals that really kind of takes away the fear because it changes the dynamic completely.
Allison Shapira: Exactly. It reduces the fear because it reminds you that you’re not just getting up to look good, or show off or show how many, how much you know. You’re getting up in the service of others, in the service of a mission that has others in mind, and not trust yourself. And, we may not like to be the center of attention, or we’re not. Our idea is the center of attention. Our audience is the center of attention. And once we reframe the purpose of speaking as not to show off but to serve others, then all of a sudden that sense of mission overrides our fear, and makes us stand tall, and animates our body and our language in a way that engages the audience. So, what we find is the right content, and the right mindset drive the right delivery.
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John Jantsch: So when it comes to the performance, or delivery aspects of it, what are some of the really common things that you see so many people do that they need to clean up?
Allison Shapira: I see a lot of people who don’t recognize the power of their voice, and this is something I’m particularly sensitive to as a singer. And by voice, I mean the physical voice. They don’t take care of their voice, they’re at a loud networking event the night before, they their voice, and then they wake up early on chug coffee, and the caffeine is drying out their throat. So, I don’t see enough people recognize the power of their voice, and the fact that their voice is an instrument that needs care, and nurturing. And a lot of… What I write about in the book, and a lot of what I teach is about how to care for that voice. And then how to use breathing, and breath support to project your voice so that it reaches every single person in the audience. And it’s not about creating a false performers voice that’s different than your day to day speaking voice. It’s about finding your most powerful natural voice, and making sure it’s the natural voice that goes on stage, not the nervous second guessing voice, which is what we hear instead.
John Jantsch: When I network with a lot of professional speakers, and professional speakers that are getting paid 10, 15, $25,000 for a performance. Quite often, we’ll actually hire and employ a vocal coach, just for many of the reasons you’re talking about.
Allison Shapira: Exactly, but it’s not only professional speakers who need this. When we think of the fact that every single day we have an opportunity to have an impact through our voice, whether on a conference call, a phone call, a pitch, a difficult conversation, because of that, because we use our voice every day, then we have to care for it every day. And, more and more of us regardless of what industry we’re in, are flying on airplanes, we’re taking the train, we are always on the road, and that takes a toll on our physical body, which takes a toll on our abilities than to speak, and to have an impact. And so, we all need to recognize it, whether or not we get paid for speaking, we all need to take care of our voice.
John Jantsch: How much, and I know that this is sort of reliant on how high the stakes are, but for a presentation that you’ve got a lot riding on it, let’s say, how much is rehearsal a part of that?
Allison Shapira: Rehearsal is a significant part of it, and there are different ways of rehearsing. In fact, I talk about six different ways of rehearsing in the book. It’s not simply about reading the speech over, and over, and over again, and memorizing it. That’s not what I want people to do. There’s the process of reading it out loud to make sure it sounds good to your ear, and you can pronounce it comfortably. And then, there’s reducing it to bullet points so that you don’t have a script in front of you. You have bullet points that you can clearly refer to if you need to. There’s practicing in front of other people to make sure it has the intended effect, and you see other people’s reactions.
Allison Shapira: And then, there are unique methods that I recommend such as mental rehearsal where you sit down, close your eyes, focus on your breathing, and then visualize the presentation word for word in your mind, and visualize it going well. And that’s such a powerful way of practicing, because it tricks your mind into feeling like you’ve already given the speech successfully. So you’re building up repetition, which builds your confidence. So there are different ways of rehearsal, and I recommend people choose at least three methods of rehearsing according to the speech, and the audience.
John Jantsch: So, you are in the DC area, so I’m guessing you work with maybe more politicians than some speech coaches. Am I wrong on that?
Allison Shapira: You’re wrong. I actually don’t work [crosstalk 00:15:30].
John Jantsch: You don’t. Oh, okay. I thought you just might because of your-
Allison Shapira: It’s a fair assumption, but actually I’m not passionate about politics, more passionate about individual businesses having an ability to make impact in their own way. And so, I love working with business, and with the nonprofit sector, and all different sectors, but I don’t work as much in politics unless, I know people running for office, and they ask for my counsel.
John Jantsch: Well, the point of my starting down that track was, I was going to just get your opinion. Is there something that really good polished politician who speaks a lot, typically can have a lot of impact, and a lot of influence? Is there anything that you see that the business owner could learn from sort of the eye that’s on politicians so often? That was the point of my question, but you may not have an opinion on that.
Allison Shapira: I do actually based on why I do, or don’t work in politics. What politicians do really well is, they focus in on core messages, and they repeat those messages, and they stay on message. And that’s something that a business owner of any size business needs to keep in mind. What are the three main messages that I want to keep repeating? Because, whatever I say becomes the talking points of my company that my employees will use, that will determine what our clients say. So this idea of having clear, concise messaging, and staying on point is very important for business owners. Where I don’t want them to sound like your stereotypical politician is in this sense of overly polished, inauthentic delivery style, which is something that politicians are challenged by.
Allison Shapira: How do you come across as genuine and authentic and not overly perfect and polished. And so, for the business owner I want them to know it’s okay to make a few mistakes while you’re speaking to have a few ums, and uhs. It’s okay to lose your place as long as you bring your authentic self to the speech or presentation, which is what the question, why you helps you achieve. And that’s something that we don’t see as much of, but I wish we could in politicians.
John Jantsch: So, you mentioned ums and uhs. There’s an App for that, I understand.
Allison Shapira: There are several. There’s one in particular, there’re a couple actually that I really like. There’s one particular app called Orai, that you can use to practice your fillers, and get feedback, and they have great interactive exercises that will help you reduce the use of ums, and uhs and other fillers like Kinda, and sorta, or minimizers like just, or I think. That’s a great practice tool. There’s another app called Like So, that also helps you connect with your, or identify your fillers and start to remove them. Those are two that I really like, and use personally with my… for myself, and that my clients will use as well.
John Jantsch: Yeah. I really didn’t think that I’d use them that much until I started getting recorded. And then I was like, “Holy Mackerel.” I use those a lot more than I thought I did. And so, I think a lot of people probably suffer from that, watch yourself videoed, and all of a sudden you will maybe be horrified but, I’ve realized that there’s things that you do instinctively.
Allison Shapira: That’s right. And there’s nothing wrong with one or two fillers here or there. They’re genuine, they happen. Nothing wrong with that. The challenge is when you have [inaudible] of them, that they undermine your credibility and your authority. So, if every other word is um or so, it looks like you’re making up your message as you go. The content could be perfectly credible, but too many fillers will make you appear unprepared. And so, that’s why we want to be aware of them. We don’t often hear them when we’re doing… when we’re speaking them, which is why you hearing yourself on a recording is what it takes to prompt your awareness of them.
John Jantsch: So, you mentioned breathing as well. And, a lot of people probably don’t consider that an aspect of speaking, because I mean we all breath, right? But again, going back to my experience, I remember when I first started, that was a serious issue. I’d get about three force the way through making a point and go, “Oh my God, I have to get a breath. Breath in here somehow I’m going to pass out.” And, I think a lot of people underestimate how important that aspect is. How do you start recognizing that and working on that?
Allison Shapira: Breathing is critical. And as you said, it’s something that we all know is important and we do instinctively, which is a good thing. The challenge is, when we get nervous, the first thing that goes is our breathing. We stop breathing, or we constrict our breathing, which means we’re holding ourselves back from getting the nourishment that we need to relax ourselves, and to keep going. So the breathing techniques that I use are [inaudible] to help you use breathing in a very intentional way to relax, to calm down, to center yourself before a speech or presentation. And, the phrase I use with people all the time is called Pause and Breathe.
Allison Shapira: Pause and breathe is what you do before you’ve given a presentation. When you have 40 other things on your mind, and all these unanswered emails, and employees asking you questions that you don’t have the answers to, pause and breathe. And then, that’s what you do in the moment when somebody asks you a question you didn’t anticipate, or you lose your place, pause and breathe, and then keep going. And that’s also what you do before you let all the fillers come out, pause and breathe, and then you’ll reduce the use of fillers.
John Jantsch: Sounds like good life advice anyway.
Allison Shapira: Exactly. It is.
John Jantsch: So, Allison, do you have a great number of resources related to the book on your website, and it is allisonshapiro.com, and we’ll have links to the resources, but do you want to tell people where they can find out more about your coaching work, and obviously about Speak With Impact?
Allison Shapira: Absolutely. The website I’m sharing with people is, speakwithimpactbook.com, and that takes you to a very specific page on the website where people can sign up for a free download of a chapter of the book, watch a video about the book and also learn more about all of the ancillary services.
John Jantsch: Allison thanks for joining us, and hopefully I’ll see you someday out there on the road soon.
Allison Shapira: Thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure talking to you, John.
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