If you don’t believe in the messenger, you won’t believe the message. Here are seven public speaking tools that can help lawyers project confidence in meetings.
Your career will largely be defined by how well you listen, speak and present yourself and your ideas in important meetings. Every impression you leave with an audience may shape future opportunities. A study published in 1993 by Harvard University professor Nalini Ambady and University of California professor Robert Rosenthal found students watching a silent video clip of a lecturer needed just two seconds to form lasting impressions of the lecturer.
Below are seven practical listening and speaking techniques you can use to command a room and leave a lasting impression. These can be applied whether you are speaking to a boardroom, to a conference audience of 300, or even to empathise with clients one-on-one.
Some of these techniques may seem basic or foolish when you first read them – but withhold judgment until you have tried them. Feedback from my clients is that they can be powerful tools when well executed. In addition, always first practice a technique in safe interactions until you become fluent and confident using it.
The SODA technique
The Stop, Observe, Decide, Act technique is a great tool to use when entering a room. As you enter, be sure to stop for a second or two. Observe the room. Decide where to sit. Then act – move with purpose to a seat or to the speaking floor. The SODA technique projects surety and self-possession.
Make your face-time matter
Your facial expression has a big impact on an audience’s first impression of you. To make a positive first impression, fully face the person, smile, hold eye contact, and note the colour of their eyes. This will help you make a stronger connection.
Engage (really engage)
To help my clients improve their listening focus, I’ve developed the DBAE (Don’t Be Anywhere Else) and “engagement nod” techniques. It might apply when a superior asks you an unexpected question in a boardroom, for example. Use the techniques as follows: as the superior asks the questions, nod one or two times to indicate engagement – this nod counters the frozen face that can occur when a question occurs suddenly.
Next, picture the letters DBAE on the person’s forehead, which will help you stay in the moment versus you thinking ahead in time.
Audiences often determine a person’s confidence (or lack thereof) through subtle body language cues, by the speed of speaking, and by how a message is structured. A way to project certainty with your body is to always stand letting your arms hang by your side. Though this posture may feel awkward, an audience will perceive the posture as confident. Always sit by feeling the back of the chair with your arms uncrossed on the table.
For standing and sitting, imagine that the back of your neck is “long”. Stand tall by picturing that a string is connected to the top of your head and a puppeteer is pulling the string towards the ceiling.
While standing or sitting, gesture in front of your body, keeping these movements contained within an imaginary, semi-circular container extending from your waist to your shoulders. (No wild swinging arms – you want to remain poised and in control.)
A powerful hand gesture to pair with a strong point/message, is to touch your index finger to your thumb with the other fingers tucked in. You will see media executive and actress Oprah Winfrey using this when she speaks in public.
To project conviction, deliver your thoughts in measured groups of varying lengths, with definite pauses between the groups. This will help your delivery to be unrushed, consistent with the behaviour of a senior.
Structure your sentences
Aim to speak with an open-middle-close structure. When asked a question, your response might be, open: “Let me respond in this way”. Middle: briefly flesh out the point. Close: “and that’s my view”.