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Feb 24, 2023  |  Edition #2
Think Fast Talk Smart The Newsletter

Welcome to our second Think Fast Talk Smart newsletter! We are thrilled that so many of you enjoyed and found value in our first effort covering persuasion. Our goal here is to continue the conversation and learning we start on Think Fast Talk Smart, The Podcast.

Topics covered in this newsletter:

While what you say is critically important in many cases, how you say it potentially matters more. Your delivery, tone, and approach can dramatically affect how your audience perceives you and your message.

pre·sence: A confident demeanor and poise when interacting with others.

The goal of any work on presence is not to communicate like everyone else. Rather, it is to identify key principles that you should consider as you identify your own personal style. Think of it like learning how to swing a baseball bat or golf club. If you ask people to show you their swing, you’d see commonalities based on fundamental principles – foot position, shoulder rotation, arm angles. However, everyone has their own unique style and way of swinging that’s based on their experience, age, injuries, etc.

The Three V’s of Presence:

  • Visual: What your audience sees
    • Speaking
      • Posture
      • Gestures
      • Eye contact
      • Clothing
    • Writing
      • Font
      • Slide layout and design
      • Legibility of handwriting
  • Vocal: What your audience hears
    • Speaking
      • Variation in volume and rate
      • Pausing
    • Writing
      • Active vs passive tense (e.g., “I made a mistake” vs “Mistakes were made”)
  • Verbal: Fluency and word choice
    • Speaking
      • Filler words
      • Words of hesitation (e.g., “kind of,” “sort of,” “a little bit”)  
    • Written
      • Superfluous words or complex vocabulary (e.g., “instantiate” vs “made”)  

Podcast Episode

                   –Deb Gruenfeld at Stanford GSB

Listen to this episode where Matt talks to Deb Gruenfeld about best practices for portraying the presence you desire when communicating. Listen for the specific examples shared on how to use your body, voice, and environment to influence others’ perceptions of your status and power.

Watch & Learn

In this video, Matt shares nonverbal actions you can take to be perceived as a more confident and competent communicator. Details such as body posture, gestures, and eye contact may seem small, but can make a huge difference in not only how you’re seen by others, but how you feel about yourself.

View video here:

Matt shares on Medium: Getting Rid of…um…Verbal Graffiti

One of the questions that I am most frequently asked about speaking anxiety is "How can a presenter reduce the number of 'uh's' and 'um's'?” These disfluencies, sometimes referred to as "verbal graffiti" or "vocal tics," appear to be universal — academics have found that every culture has them and that they can make up to 20% of the words spoken in everyday conversation. What people say when they fill their pauses vary, though. North Americans tend to say "um" and "uh," while those from Asia are more likely to say "ah" and "oh."

Regardless of what you say or where you are in the world, the fact of the matter is that you don’t plan to use disfluencies when presenting. They are the unconscious byproduct of thinking while speaking, and they happen much more frequently if that thinking occurs when you are speaking in more formal presentation situations. While "um's" and "uh's" occur in casual conversation, they are far more frequent when public speaking. Unlike conversation, where we share the speaking duties with others, the pressure of having everyone listening to us seems to invite us to fill our thinking pauses.

However, not all disfluencies are experienced in the same way by your audience. "Um's" and "uh's" within sentences are not perceived as frequently, nor are they as bothersome as those that occur between thoughts. Your audience often skips over mid-sentence disfluencies because they are focused on your content and not your verbal delivery. But, disfluencies as you move from one point to the other stand out because your audience is no longer "distracted" by what you are saying. In essence, you are violating your audience's expectation of a silent pause by filling the silence.

Verbal graffiti littering your presentations leads your audience at a minimum to perceive you as nervous. However, many disfluencies also lead to perceptions of deceit or being unprepared. Additionally, disfluencies can be very distracting for your audience. They begin to count your disfluencies, rather than focus on what counts — namely your content. So, you need to reduce disfluencies to be seen as a more confident, credible communicator and to help your audience focus on your message.

The following two techniques will assist you in eliminating disfluencies:

First, gain conscious control over using disfluencies. To do this, you need someone to notify you every time you say "um" or "uh" while presenting. This notification can come in the form of a raised hand, a clap, or in my case, a request for service bell like those found in hotels. By notifying you of your disfluencies immediately after you speak them, you begin to become consciously aware of your saying them. Once aware, and over time, you can begin to reduce the frequency of your disfluencies because they are more under your control.

Second, when ending your sentences, especially your major points, do so on an exhale. By doing this, you must necessarily start your next thought with an inhalation. It is impossible to say "um" while inhaling. In addition to eliminating between thought disfluencies, your inhalation brings a pause with it, which has the added benefit of giving your audience a break to process your ideas, while fulfilling their expectation that you will briefly stop speaking prior to moving on.

As a speaker, you want your audience to be compelled by your message and not distracted by your delivery. You want them to see you as confident, not nervous or deceitful. By addressing disfluenices, you achieve both of these goals.

Recipe Card from Andrew Huberman

If you're a fan of Huberman Lab, you know that host Andrew Huberman is an expert when it comes to how the brain influences the body. At the end of the Think Fast, Talk Smart podcast episode, Matt asked Andrew, "What are three ingredients in a successful communication recipe?" His simple, precise response drives home many themes reflected in the work he does.

Recipe Card from Andrew Huberman
Copyright © 2023 Matt Abrahams, All rights reserved.

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