I recently attended a seminar held by Alan Hoffler, Executive Director and Principal Trainer with MillsWyck Communications in my local networking area called “Becoming a Better Speaker – Quickly! Getting Rid of Um’s and Ah’s the Easy Way!” What an exciting, invigorating, informative and FUN two hours.
The class overall was an enjoyable experience, therefore, I thought it was worth sharing my story. Hopefully I can pass along some tips that Alan shared with us that you will find helpful for your business. Or perhaps, inspire you to attend one of Alan’s upcoming workshops.
Alan needed two volunteers to participate in his workshop. Fortunately, or unfortunately, to my surprise, another gentlemen named Steve Hong and I became “the” major players in the class. Yes, I was extremely nervous. Alan asked me to speak for 90 seconds on why I became an entrepreneur to an audience of approximately 30 people. In those 90 seconds, I was then going to be tested on how many times I used the words Um and Ah in my speech.
5 – I only used a total of five Um’s and Ah’s in my entire speech. Not too shabby! I was very, very proud of myself and Alan thought I did a remarkable job. And then it hit… I didn’t know I was also going to be tested on the other non-words that are just as bad as Um’s and Ah’s. It appears my favorite non-word is SO!!! Some other non-words are: Well, ya know, I mean, and right.
Alan began to share with the class how we can effectively remove these so called non-words from our speech. To my amazement, the solution is relatively simple, which I will share with you in just a few more minutes.
After learning some of these techniques, Alan then invited Steve and I back up in front of the class. I looked at Alan with a curious eye and said…“You are not going to make me do this again are you?” Well everyone in the class including myself started laughing. That’s exactly what he was going to have us do.
This time up at the plate, I had to implement the techniques Alan taught us, and I was not allowed to use any non-words in the exercise. These are some of the guidelines I had to follow:
- Stand with my feet together
- Keep my hands by my side
- Know exactly what I was going to say before I spoke
- Only speak when I made eye contact with someone in the class
- Do not remove eye-contact with that classmate until I was finished with that one sentence before moving to the next person/sentence
- And of course, do not use ANY non-words.
The new task at hand began. What did I do the first thing out of the gate? I started my sentence using the word SO!!! The entire class, including myself, cracked up laughing.
Alan then buzzed me for using a non-word. I failed the exercise right off the bat! My hands automatically went up in the air. Alan then asked me to look at where my hands were. I immediately whipped my arms down by my side. Once again, we all started laughing hysterically.
Who would have thought this exercise would have been so difficult. Well, it was! It instantly became challenging for me, and it clearly showed how often I started my sentences using the word SO. It took several attempts to complete this task, but Alan made me push through the exercise. The support I received from the group made my willingness and desire to learn worth the effort I put into action. It was a lot of FUN!
At the end of the workshop, Alan and the class compared my first 90 second speech with the second time I was asked to speak. Although I felt I did much better in my first attempt, the overall feedback was I did real well the first time, but I came across more credible and professional after implementing Alan’s techniques the second go around!
We all use non-words in our speeches and in our daily conversations. We may not think these words really matter, but if you want people to take your business seriously, eliminating these non-words (especially in a public speaking platform) significantly increases your credibility as a business professional.
When I arrived home that evening, I shared my workshop experience with my husband. I asked him to lightly tap me on the arm every time I used the word SO! In one day, my arms are now black and blue! Although this is going to be an on-going challenge with LOTS OF PRACTICE, I will persevere and conquer!
For my participation in the class, I was blessed with an extra treat. Behind the scenes, Alan provided me with an additional evaluation sheet that highlighted other important factors in my speech that are just as critical as eliminating the non-words are. Alan evaluated my posture, movement, gestures, facial animation, voice quality, inflection, volume and pauses in my speech. What A Bonus!!! I can now share these techniques with my clients who are seeking to do an online video presentation promoting their product and services.
People who possess communication skills have a distinct competitive advantage over those who don’t. Your speaking skills can make or break your success.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to sit in on one of Alan’s presentations … you’ve been missing out! Here’s your opportunity! Click link to view up-coming events. http://millswyck-2011-eorg.eventbrite.com/. Two day workshops to make you STAND OUT when you speak up!
Thank you Alan Hoffler for sharing your knowledge and giving us the right tools to become a more confident, influential speaker.