Speaking: How to Tell Stories Without Memorizing Words

One of the secrets of effective speaking is to be able to tell stories that make your point. Stories are much easier to follow, they have greater impact and they are more memorable to the audience. Ask someone in the audience later which parts of your talk they remember and it will always be the stories.

But stories can be undermined by clumsy delivery, so they are weakened if you fumble for words or -- eqully bad -- recite from a memorized script. By far the best way to tell any story is to tell it from the heart, remembering just the story and not the exact words. It might look like this comes naturally to some speakers but it is always the result of years of practice and a deliberate effort to master the art.

Anyone can learn to tell stories compellingly. Part of the problem is simply having enough speaking experience, and if you feel that you don't have enough the answer is to speak more often. There really is no alternative. You can't learn to speak by reading a book or …

Five Ways to Get More LinkedIn Connection Requests Accepted

Though I try to keep up with incoming LinkedIn connection requests there is still a backlog in my pending list. Some are probably spammers and some are just people who have no idea who I am, but there are probably some genuine requests in the list. Looking through the pending requests I realize that many of them would have been accepted immediately if the sender had made it clearer who they were or how our paths crossed. There are, in fact, five handy techniques anyone -- me included -- can use to make it more likely that connection requests are accepted immediately;

Personalize the connection message. By far the best way to get a connection request accepted is to personalize the message, clarifying why you want to connect and how you thought of the person. LinkedIn changes the interface regularly but at present the only place you have this option is when you send a connection request from the person's profile, not from search results. You should in any case always look at someone…

Speaking: Three Reasons to Use a Microphone

Watch behind the scenes at any event long enough and sooner or later you'll hear a speaker refuse the microphone, saying "That's ok, I can manage without it."  Perhaps they can 'manage', but they should still use the microphone for reasons that might not be so obvious.

People can't hear you. Maybe you could manage to make yourself heard at the back of the room, but this is in fairly ideal circumstances where everyone is quiet, the acoustics are good and you are using full power all the time. Reality is different. Even people standing still in silence still make noise. There are other noise sources, too, like air conditioner fans and equipment cooling fans -- maybe also traffic noise from the street outside. You might also start with a bold clear voice, but most likely you will not sustain it for the entire speech. And don't try asking people if they can hear you. Nobody ever says that they can't hear you. They might even say that they can, but the…

Three Best Practices from TEDx for Everyday Presentations

In real life I am one of the speaker coaches at TEDxStockholm. People often ask how they can learn to speak TED style, but to do it just like a TED or TEDx talk they would need more time than they would normally budget for even an important presentation. TEDx speakers often work on their talks months before an event and then invest many hours in preparation and rehearsals.

But there are some best practices that we can learn from the TED(x) format that will help in any presentation or talk, including the routine business pitches where you don't have the luxury of having plenty of time and the help of professional coaches. There are many of these practices but there are three which are especially important.

Keep it Short. In the TED format all talks are limited to an inflexible maximum of 18 minutes, and many talks are actually much shorter -- some in single digits. This is one of the key elements of the TED success story. Almost all speaking -- and writing -- can be improved by mak…

De-escalating Message Conflicts in the Workplace

Most conflicts and tensions in the workplace start with a misunderstood or poorly conceived written message. At one time they were mostly emails but today they can also be text messages sent through sms or messaging apps.

Written messages have the massive disadvantage that they convey only the words, without the tone of voice, body language, gestures and other signals that usually complete the message with context. Added to that there is also another layer of cultural uncertainty when the message is sent to someone who does not share the same context.

People who receive a message tend to read it in their mind with the most hostile possible tone, seeing conflict, criticism and provocation where none was intended. Perhaps the person writing "What do you mean...?" is not actually annoyed but is simply asking for information. Maybe the person from another country who addresses you in what you believe to be a disrespectful way is not aware of the subtle distinctions in your lang…

Speaking from a Big Stage

Speaking in large venues isn't the same as speaking in a smaller space and you have to adapt your technique to achieve the best results. Most people are simply concerned about the size of the audience and worry that they will be intimidated. In my experience this is much less of a problem than you might expect because the audience is also further away. There are some other areas where you might find problems that you had not expected but there are some simple best practices to overcome them.

Allow time to get into position.  In a larger venue you might need to walk across the stage to reach the place you will be speaking from. Sometimes nervous speakers start too early, while they are still walking. Before the event starts or during rehearsal practice this entrance, making sure that you wait until you are standing where you plan to start speaking before saying anything. Better still, turn to face the audience and count to three before starting. This helps focus attention and makes…

Why You Should Introduce Your Connections

You might have noticed that some people introduce you to their other friends while others seem to prefer keeping their friendships separate. Partly this is culturally determined -- in some cultures people are more inclined to try to bring different friends together -- and partly it depends on personality. It's exactly the same in networking. Some people try to connect you to their contacts, while others seem to avoid it, either through inactivity or perhaps deliberate intent.

But should you introduce professional connections who don't know each other? Some people fear that by introducing connections to each other they are taking themselves out of the loop and losing power. If connections are separate, the logic seems to be, then both connections have to go through them. This is actually a very bad idea and in normal real-world scenarios you are always better off introducing connections, at least where it makes sense. There are several reasons for this:

Being a connector makes …