One of the most powerful things you can ever do to take control of a situation and command attention is simply to ... pause. Say hello at the beginning of a presentation, and then stop. For a little longer - but only a little longer - than is comfortable. Watch how everyone focuses on you and waits for you to speak again, Make eye contact with one or many of your audience while you do it. Then - use the word 'you', in your opening statement. 'You' is the most personal word in spoken language - because it's about the person, or the people, you're speaking to. Ask a rhetorical question, like 'is everyone here?'. Pause, smile and then carry on. This works because you interrupt the pattern of behaviour they're expecting. They think you'll say hello and then plough on - but when you don't, it focuses their mind. Incidentally this also works when you're getting off a train onto a crowded platform, Allow the doors to open and then pause, just for a second. The crowd, similarly thrown a little by you just standing there, will almost always stop in their tracks so you can walk off the train before they rush on,
Constructing your Story
It's true that the best storytellers do it from the heart, in free form conversation or narrative, and without a script. But that doesn't mean you completely wing it. Effective preparation is crucial - including how to break your messages down into simple parts, signposting clearly so that your audience knows what to expect at key points during your story and employing powerful devices to get your audience thinking in pictures, sounds and feelings when you speak. This is part of what you do when you prepare - so you can speak freely and conversationally within this structure when you get up and speak. Plus - you need to know the four 'building blocks' of compelling stories, so you can pack your presentation full of them for maximum engagement.
Everyone wants to be more persuasive - especially at work, don't they. It's a fascinating subject, isn't it. And when you know how to do it, life becomes a lot easier, doesn't it. Have a look at the language I used in the previous sentences. At the end of each one, there's what's called a 'tag question'. Tag questions come in the form of 'isn't it', 'don't they', 'aren't they', 'isn't there' - and so on. You get the gist. Tag questions presuppose that not only what you're saying is correct, but that what you're saying is common knowledge. They lodge what you're saying deep in the mind of whoever you're talking to and persuade them at a subconscious level that what you're saying is a truth and a given. That's just one of many devices you can use when you want to be more persuasive than usual.
Ever been in a meeting where you can't get a word in edgeways? Too many people? Or one or two very dominant characters? Here's a tip: get there early and make sure you sit near the chair - or the person who called the meeting, They are usually the most powerful people in the meeting because everyone attending knows - deep down - that they have a higher status at the meeting than anyone else. That means - rather than making the mistake that lots of people make, when they try to interrupt whoever is speaking at the time - you now know the secret of a powerful intervention. Just catch the eye of the chair - or the meeting's 'owner', raise your eyebrows to make it clear you want to speak - and wait to be invited. Most people will feel compelled to invite you to contribute either immediately or once the person speaking has stopped. With power comes responsibility, you see ...
Non-Verbal Techniques & Body Language
Has anyone ever told you that crossing your arms means you're defensive? Or crossing your legs towards somebody means you're receptive to them, whereas crossing them away from that person means you're not? Well, it's not as simple as that - and it's often wrong. One of the main principles of body language - and other forms of non-verbal communication - is to watch what someone does with their body in a normal conversation. If that changes suddenly - as a result of something that is said, or a change in tone, that person's non-verbal communication will usually change. By observing this for as long as you can, you can start to build a pattern in your mind which informs you when a particular person is feeling relaxed, or keyed up, or attentive - or defensive. Everyone is different, you see. So beware of one-size-fits-all body language 'tips'.
Reading their Eyes
How can you tell when someone - or an audience you're talking to is engaged with what you're saying? You can see it in their eyes. Engaging conversation or speech will provoke people to experience pictures, sounds and feelings in their minds. It's what the best radio broadcasters do when talking to their listeners. You can see when someone is doing this when their eyes start to go up, down and across. And each time the eyes go in a particular direction, it tells you specifically what sort of experience they're having in their 'mind's eye' or 'mind's ear'. When they go round and round before settling in a particular position, that tells you even more. Watch what happens when you ask someone a question - and they search for an answer. For example, when the eyes move upwards - it means they're visualising something. When you observe this, you get key information on how to communicate with them to engage them even further in what you're saying.
'Let's have something to eat before we go for a drink'. This sounds like a suggestion, but it's in fact a command. By saying 'let's', you soften the command so it sounds like it's a conversation. By presupposing the drink will happen after you eat, you're embedding a command to go to for a drink to maximise the chances that both happen. Now that you know that - have a look at what I'm doing here when I say that you should observe how people respond THE NEXT time you try that out. That would be another embedded command which leads you to accept that you will try it out, won't you ...