If you want people to listen to you; you have first to get their attention, and then hold it. Here’s how.
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Speaking so people listen starts before you open your mouth; when people decide whether you are someone who is likely to be worth listening to. So, you need to grab attention in a positive way: a way that predisposes your audience to want to hear what you have to say.
In project management, you must avoid showy displays and aim for a calm, dignified presence that announces you in a way that says you are worth paying attention to.
Here are ten tips, taken from Chapter 4 of my best-selling book, How to Speak so People Listen.
The biggest single effect on your personal impact comes from your confidence level. And people read this from your posture. Adopting an open, expansive, ‘dominant’ postures when you meet your boss, enter a room, or step onto a platform will increase your impact and boost your confidence.
Pauses demonstrate deliberateness, confidence, and control. As you enter a room, step onto a stage or even just engage a colleague or client: pause. Take time to survey the people there and gather your thoughts. This is increasingly so, the more formal the occasion becomes.
So, as you walk on, in front of an audience, move confidently to the central position, then stop. Survey the room, taking in the faces and the mood, as if to say ‘you are mine for the next 30 minutes’. Allow people to notice you are there and finish their conversations. You don’t need to compete with your audience; you want to speak when you have their attention. Now they know you feel in control, they will be ready to listen.
Getting your posture and demeanor right can make all the difference between being perceived as a tense, uptight sort of person, a laid-back, couldn’t care less character, or a relaxed, confident professional. The secret is in balance: being relaxed, but in a positive, energetic way. As you watch this video, notice any tension in your body – neck or shoulders I’d guess – and release it.
As you do, allow your head to feel as if it is rising up, pulling your back and hips a little more upright. Now breathe. Yes, I know you were breathing already, but take a few deep breaths and, with each, let go of a little more tension. Now imagine your energy fills a sphere around you. Imagine that sphere growing outwards.
This is a great three-step technique to practice during your Power Pause. If you are on a stage or at the front of a room, facing an audience, imagine your sphere of energy gradually expanding to encompass the whole room… and then let it push outwards on the walls, for good measure!
Entering a room full of people can be intimidating, but it need not be. In fact, it is one of the best ways to mark yourself out as someone who is worth listening to, and the way to do that is to actively ‘work the room’. There are five skills to working a room, whether it is at a small meeting or a huge conference:
It is wrong, I know, but we all do it: we make judgments of people the minute we see them. And your choice of clothes will influence people’s judgments powerfully.
So why not use your clothes to lead people to the judgment that you are worth listening to? This means choosing the right clothes for the situation and for the audience, and wearing them well.
As a rule of thumb, match the styles and conventions of the people you want to influence, but choose a quality standard one-half of a notch higher than the people whose attention you want. This will say to them, subliminally, that you are just like them, but a little bit higher in status. We trust people like us, and we have confidence in those with more credibility. Clothes are a valuable shorthand.
Good eye contact is one of seven things that make us more likable – and we want to listen to people we like. So, what are the others? I have to save something for readers of the book, so I’ll offer two big ones.
A natural smile says confidence and openness better than anything else. But it needs to be a genuine smile. And here’s a bonus: being genuinely happy can make you healthier, less prone to illness, live longer, and have… a happier life.
Psychologists’ experiments have shown beyond doubt what you already knew to be true – people like people who pay them compliments. As long, that is, as they believe the compliments are sincere. Just as with fake smiling, fake compliments mean less than nothing.
Your first words need to hook your listeners and convince them that it is worth listening for more. The masters of short-attention-span engagement are, of course, advertisers and marketers generally. Their formula, still in vigorous use after many years is AIDA:
Once you have hooked me, hold me by stimulating:
Three things turn off an audience quickly: boredom, confusion, and transparent deceit. So the secret to holding your listeners becomes obvious: make your comments fresh, direct and trustworthy.
Here is another link to How to Speak so People Listen.
Carefully curated video recommendations for you:
I asked Project Managers in a couple of forums what material things you need to have, to do your job as a Project Manager. They responded magnificently. I compiled their answers into a Kit list. I added my own.
Check out the Kit a Project Manager needs
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Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.
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