Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: Becoming a Connector is a Process

In the fifth chapter of his book Everyone Communicates, Few Connect, John Maxwell describes his fifth principle for connecting, namely, that connecting is more a learned skill than a natural talent.

In the final segment of the chapter, John Maxwell has some final reflections on this principle in the section he calls “Becoming a Connecting Communicator is a Process”.

John Maxwell opens up with an anecdote about his early days when he was studying for the ministry in college, and he was NOT a stellar speaker at the time.   In fact, far from it:   his goal for his first sermon was that he wanted to speak for more than three minutes.    He overshot the mark by more than a little bit:   he spoke for fifty-five minutes.    As he said, his audience was not captivated, they were held captive.    He concludes this anecdote by the quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson, “All great speakers were bad speakers first.”

This is true in other art forms as well.    When Chuck Jones, the famous cartoonist, when to art school, his teacher said, “everyone has at least 10,000 bad drawings in them first.    Practice drawing every day so you can these bad drawings out of the way and go onto the good stuff!”    Chuck Jones practiced diligently, and did just that.   By the time he was hired by a cartoonist for Warner Brothers, he had done so many drawings that the bad ones had “gone out of his system.”

Even if you are not studying communications formally in school, you should become a student of communications anyway.    Don’t study just theory, but listen to a number of speakers, and see which ones you feel are effective and which are not so effective.   Start evaluating what is was that made the effective speakers effective and copy their techniques.   However, you need to make them your own so that you are borrowing only that which fits within your own communication style and your personality.    And remember the old joke about the guy who asked someone in New York how to get to Carnegie Hall.    The answer:   PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!

This chapter’s principle is in effect a combination of good news and bad news.   The good news is that anyone can become better at communications.   The bad news is you have to be willing to work for it.   But if you have the right attitude, you can turn that bad news into good news.    If you are passionate about your subject and you have the burning desire to improve, then as Noel Coward once said, “work is more fun than fun”!


Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: Connecting in an E-mail

In the fifth chapter of his book Everyone Communicates, Few Connect, John Maxwell discusses his fifth principle of connecting, namely, that connecting is learnable skill rather than a natural talent that only the few possess.

In the previous sections of the chapter, John Maxwell’s friend Charlie Wetzel discusses five ways in which John Maxwell connects well with an audience, and four ways in which he connects well when he is networking on an individual basis.   In the final section of his comments, Charlie Wetzel discusses the principle behind how John Maxwell connects when he using the written word.

1.   The Main Point

Charlie Wetzel says that when he captures John Maxwell’s ideas in writing, he tries to “create the same response in a reader that John would get it if he were conveying it personally.    What does this imply?    You try to convey the personal touch of a face-to-face meeting without the physical content of a person being present.   How is this done, with the understanding that the person cannot respond to you in real time?

a.  Understand Others

Here you cannot reach out and ask questions and draw the person out.    If you are conveying information, however, invite the person to ask questions.    You can understand others by trying to understand what you would want to read if you were receiving the information.

If you give too many details, it can make the correspondence to lengthy.   I always fear there being confusion about what I am saying, so I tend to do this and write too much detail.    Yes, if I shorten the communication, it CAN lead to a possibility of heightened confusion, but that possibility already exists, and you will make your reader grateful if you keep you communications short and to the point.

b.  Help Others

If you giving someone a task to accomplish, let them know you are cutting them adrift with the responsibility, but no authority or worse, no resources with which to carry out the task.   Let them know what resources you are willing to lend them in terms of your time of advice.    They are not alone!

If you are imparting information, make sure you write it in such a way as to be useful to the reader, while keeping to the “short and to the point” rule mentioned above.

c.   Include Others

You can tell people that when you read this information, you thought of them because you thought it might be useful to them.   That personalizes it rather than just being a datum you are passing along.

d.  Add Value to Others

Don’t just impart information, impart confidence.   Mention past triumphs that the reader has accomplished, extol their virtues, and give them a vision to reach out for.    Their lives will be improved by your having send them the information, not just because the information is worthwhile, but because the way you sent it to them.

And going beyond the word of e-mail, make sure you take the time out to send out good old-fashioned “thank you” cards to people who have done a good job.   They may not mean much to the Millennial generation, but people in their 30s or over will appreciate it as an example of manners that they probably have not seen for a long while.

2.   Tear Down This Wall

The wall in this case is the reserve that people normally have, which is a wall they build around themselves to protect their ego.   It also prevents hurtful things from coming out, in that it prevents you from saying things which may be hurtful to others, albeit truthful.

When I write to a person, I tend to hide behind my reserve and use more formal language.    You should try to write the same words as if you are sitting in the room with the person to whom you are sending the communication.    In a letter, “Dear …” is an acceptable formula.   In an e-mail communication, would you say “Dear …” to the person you are writing to?   No, unless it is a term of endearment, which in this context, is probably not the case.   You would say, “hello” or “hi”.   In an e-mail that is acceptable, because that is an informal means of written communication.

The distinction between informal and formal is not ironclad, because many Millennial students studying for the PMP exam in the workshop we put on honestly thought that e-mail is formal communication, with informal communication being texting.    Well, relatively speaking, it is more formal, but compared to a written letter, it is still informal.

However, even in a letter you can, if you are writing to someone with whom you have an already-established relationship, write in a style that is more conversational and less “organizational speak”.    This closes the distance between you and the reader, whereas the “organizational speak” deliberately creates distance and induces an inequality into the relationship.

The fact that John Maxwell, as a famous person, goes out of his way to connect with people as just another person is a testament to the fact that he, unlike many famous speakers I have heard, is not in need of what I call an “ego-bypass operation.”    He bypasses it all the time itself, and that is why is such a beloved speaker and leader!

Tomorrow’s post wraps up the chapter with John Maxwell’s challenge to the reader–on the one hand, the fact that connecting is a learnable skill means that there is hope for everyone!    On the other hand, it means that no one is off the hook for being a bad connector–you can always do something to improve, you should always do something to improve, and if you are going to be an effective leader, you must always do something to improve!

Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: 4 Ways of Connecting One-on-One

In this fifth chapter of his book Everyone Communicates, Few Connect, John Maxwell explores his fifth principle of connecting, namely, that connecting is more a matter of an acquired skill than of natural talent.

In the last section, Charlie Wetzel, a friend of John Maxwell’s, described John’s five methods for connecting with a live audience.   In this section, he describes how John connects in the exact opposite situation from a mass audience:   how he connects well with individuals.   Here are four methods that John uses to connect on a one-to-one basis.

1.  Understand Others

One story that John Maxwell related in a different book was that of a nineteenth century American heiress who married and moved to Britain after her marriage to an English gentleman.    She had a chance to meet Prime Minister William Gladstone at a formal party one week, and then by happenstance she was invited to a formal party where the former Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli was in attendance.    She had a chance to compare the way the two men connected.   She said Gladstone made you feel like he was the most interesting person in the room, but Disraeli, on the other hand, made you feel like you were the most interesting person in the room.    He listened to what she had to say, asked questions and drew her out, commenting amiably on what she had to say.    Oscar Wilde was also a famous conversationalist from that period.    He was the most celebrated comic playwright of his era, and those whom he met at dinner parties were often shy of saying anything in front of this witty genius.   However, he found wit and delight in what they had to say, and that is why he was so highly regarded (before a homosexual scandal destroyed his life).

2.  Help Others

If you are at a networking event looking for connections to a person who may help you find a new position, try turning the tables and helping others whom you meet.    In the course of helping them, they will naturally ask what it is that you are looking for.   And when they come across a helpful piece of information, they will naturally want to help you, because they have fond memories of you for having helped them when they needed it.

3.  Include Others

When you see someone in the corner at a networking event who is standing by him or herself, then go over and introduce yourself.   Take away the nervousness and social awkwardness they feel by including them.    Ask what they do and what they are interested in.   If you know someone at the event that is in their same field or who could help them find something they are looking for, introduce them.   Or if you know someone who is not there at the event who can help them, get them in touch with the new person by exchanging that person’s e-mail.

4.  Add Value to Others

Try to give something to the other person before they leave:   a piece of information, a piece of advice, an encouragement, something that will make the person glad they came to the event, and glad they talked to you.

These are excellent ways of getting to connect with people in a networking system.

The next post will deal with how to connect with the written word.

Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: 5 Ways of Connecting to a Live Audience

John Maxwell’s fifth chapter of his book Everyone Communicates, Few Connect is devoted to the principle that “Connecting is More Skill than Natural Talent.”    One of the surprises in the chapter is that he has friends of his describe his ability to connect to a live audience.    In this piece by Charlie Wetzel, called “The Art of Connecting,” he shares 5 ways in which John Maxwell has learned how to connect well to a live audience.

1.   Possess Great Confidence

You know the saying, “lead, follow, or get out of the way”?    One of the people you should get out of the way of is yourself, or that is, the negative voice in yourself which says “I can’t”.   If you listen to this voice and give in to it, it is not a triumph of the will, but a triumph of the won’t.   Your ego likes to have boundaries, and it likes to create categories such as “things I am capable of” and “things I am not capable of.”   You need to stop drawing those boundaries, go into the presentation with a positive attitude, and then, suddenly, when it is over, you may have found that you enlarged the boundary without even trying.

If you have personal issues related to past failures, then make sure you use them as a springboard or a launching pad, and not as a prison cell.    You do this by listing lessons learned, and, with a sense of humor, being able to laugh at your mistakes.   I now have a humorous speech I am preparing in Toastmasters where I in essence make fun of what I used to do in my first speeches.    Why?   Well, I sure am not going to make fun of somebody else who is just starting, because I don’t want to hurt their confidence.    But with a little bit of time and distance from the event, you can develop enough perspective to laugh about it.   Another way of getting confidence is to prepare well, and even have checklist of all the preparations needed to be done so that you don’t have part of your mind thinking, “did I forget to do such-and-such?”

And if something unexpected DOES happen, deal with it the best you can, because if you have the audience in the first minute of your speech, most of them will be on your side and will forgive you for a mistake you make or if something happens that you didn’t plan for.

2.  Exhibit Authenticity

Groucho Marx once said, “Hollywood is all about sincerity–if you can fake that, then you’ve got it made there.”   That may be fine for Hollywood, but in the world of presentations, you cannot fake sincerity, or at least not consistently or for very long.   Admitting weaknesses as well as strengths gives you enough perspective that, if someone says something flattering, you won’t let it go to your head.

One of the reasons why we practice evaluations in Toastmasters is that, no matter how good the person is who spoke, you need to give them something concrete that they can improve on.   Just telling them “oh, that was just WONDERFUL!” may massage their ego, but it doesn’t help them improve their message.

3.  Prepare Thoroughly

When you start writing speeches, you may write a script, but then you go from a script to an outline, where each point of the outline represents a certain communication unit:   an idea, a quote, a story, a statistic.    One way to give good output in a speech is to always have good input from various sources like books, magazines, and articles from the Internet.    One tip that John Maxwell uses is that he does his outline with a four-color pen to differentiate the body of the story from the illustrations or examples of it.

Besides working on the presentation at hand, a person should start carrying around a notebook to jot down ideas that come while the mind is wandering in what is commonly called a “daydream”.    These can be the seeds of future presentations, or they may, on the spot, give you the idea for a presentation right then and there.   Always be incubating your next speech!

4.  Utilize Humor

You need to find your style, which for me always involves leavening whatever message I have to give with a little humor, even if it is supposedly a serious topic.    Serious people, according to John Cleese of Monty Python fame, are able to look at a problem seriously but yet have enough perspective with relationship to the problem that they can always see it from a humorous light.   This often gives them additional insights with which they can solve the problem.   Solemn people, who do not have a sense of humor, on the other hand, are incapable of taking a serious subject and laughing at it.   This gives them a sense of righteous indignation towards those that do, but it doesn’t help them gain any more perspective, or indeed give them any additional insight into the problem that they purport to want to solve.

5.  Focus on Others

You are not there to say the message in order to get the audience to focus on the MESSENGER, you are there to say the message in order to get the audience to pay attention to the MESSAGE.    I have a saying that goes, “there are three stages to being a Toastmaster:   the first is when you find it difficult to get on stage, the second is when you find difficult to get off stage, and the third is when you know when it is time to get on and to get off stage.”

The first stage is when you have fear of public speaking, and this diminishes, but never truly goes away.    When people notice how well you are starting to speak, there is a tendency to let it get to your head and think it is all about you, when it isn’t.    That is the second stage when you like being up there on stage because of all the attention you are getting.   But it is still feeding the ego, and so you need to get to the point where you realize that you are unique, and you have been sent here on a mission to give your message about what you care about to the world, starting with the audience sitting right in front of you.   You get on stage to give the message, but once you have given it, you can relinquish the stage because you have done what you came to do.    You can rest assured that you did your best, and you can leave the stage–and your performance, to rest.

Now there are other ways of connecting rather than to a live audience, namely, to people on a one-on-one basis and through the written word.   The next post gives some advice on that subject from John Maxwell.


Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: Connecting is More Skill than Talent

In this fifth chapter of the book Everyone Communicates, Few Connect, John Maxwell discusses the fifth principle of connecting, namely, that connecting is more a matter of skill than natural talent.

People who draw others to them are called charismatic, and people like to listen to them.    Charisma is something that many people associate with a personality trait, or personal chemistry, or something that a person is born with.   Well, John Maxwell has good news for the rest of us:   it is not an innate talent, but a way of looking, talking, and acting which influences others and causes them to listen to you.

This post covers some of the factors that make people want to listen to you.

1.   Relationships–Who You Know

One way to gain credibility with the audience is to associate your statements with a) somebody who already has credibility with the audience, or b) somebody whom the audience knows and likes.

In the first case, I am talking about using quotations from famous people, especially those people who are in the same field as your audience members.    If I am talking to some Toastmasters in District 30, I can say “Pres Vasilev once said such-and-such” and I will have everybody’s attention, because he is the Toastmaster from the Chicagoland area who won the World Champion of Public Speaking, so everybody in District 30 recognizes his name.   If I were going to some other group, I probably wouldn’t mention him because he may not be known outside those Toastmasters circles.

In the second case, I am talking about relating the subject matter to the audience’s own experience, because that will lend credibility to your statements–they can verify it against their own experience.

2.  Insight–What You Know

Benjamin Franklin was an expert in so many areas:   printing and publishing, politics, the natural sciences, and diplomacy.    And yet when he was assigned as a diplomat to go to France as America’s ambassador in order to ask for financial assistance to wage the Revolutionary War against Britain, although he was in his 70s, he learned how to speak French so that he could make an impact to his audience.    And yet rather than dressing as elegantly as the French, he affected very simple dress, so as to make himself approachable to all people.   It was a studied effect, but it worked:    he was the most accomplished American of his age, but he was also the most beloved American next to George Washington.

He always was learning new things:   on his way by boat to France on the diplomatic mission, he leisurely wondered about the reason why the climate east of the Atlantic ocean was so much milder than the climate at the same latitude west of the Atlantic ocean.    But being a scientist, this idle curiosity soon took the form of experimental measurements, as he lowered thermometers in jars to various depths of the water, and thus he discovered the deep-ocean current known as the Gulf Stream, whose northward flowing waters were warmer than the surrounding ocean.

So if you want to relate to others in various fields, be interested in what is happening in those fields.    Even if you are not an expert in a given area, it will be a compliment to the audience in that field if you show in your presentation how fascinating the subject can be.

3.  Success–What You Have Done

One of the reasons why I recommend Toastmasters to those who are looking for a new job is that it doesn’t seem at first that it is related to a new job.   But being able to excel at impromptu speeches will make your interviews go more smoothly.   And if you start having successes in your speeches, to the point that you have a Competent Communicator Award, or in your supporting roles in the meetings, to the point that you have a Competent Leadership Award, those are marks of success that you can take to ANY employer and have them be impressed.

And frankly, if they aren’t impressed, then … (he whispers) go find another employer, because if your employer doesn’t value public speaking and leaderships skills very highly, then it will not be a productive place to further YOUR career.

So elude to your successes, not in a bragging way that points to your own ego, but in a way that lends confidence to your audience.   “I’ve been there, and I have experience in this area, so it is worth your while to listen to what I have to say.”

4.  Ability–What You Can Do

If you get up in front of others and prepare well, it’s amazing how easy it will appear to the audience, although you know that it indeed took a lot of work.    And when talented people do things that SEEM to come effortless, it is interesting to watch.    This is where WHAT you say is not so important as your ability HOW to say it.    I’ve been a MC at a celebration of a wedding anniversary where I had to speak both Japanese and English, and it was something I had never done before, so I practiced the HELL out of my presentation.    When I got the applause from the audience, I had people come up and they didn’t say that I did well, they said they were very moved by what I had said (in both languages).    At one point, there was a delay and I had to “stretch” the presentation out five minutes.   But I had prepared extra material for just that occasion, and I came up with stories about how the couple met, and the woman who organized the event was so grateful to me afterwards.    She said, “when we had to stall, I was hoping that you wouldn’t run out of material, but I was so glad you remembered those stories I told you.”    I told her I had prepared them just in case everything DIDN’T go like clockwork.

The biggest compliment I got was from people who said, “how do you know the couple?”   I had to confess I didn’t, but I told the stories as IF I did.    It took preparation, and the confidence I got from my earlier Toastmasters experience, but later on this year when I apply for a Toastmasters club that trains people to be professional speakers, I can say that I had at least one professional experience so far.    And how I was picked by the woman whose parents she was giving the party for was that I was in her Toastmasters club, and she knew I was a good speaker, AND the only one she knew who was fluent in Japanese (I lived there for five years), so my abilities up to that point GOT me that opportunity.    One success will lead you to furthering your ability, which will lead to further success, and so on, and so on …

5.  Sacrifice–How You Have Lived

For a half hour a day in the morning, I practice five languages with a language app called Duolingo.   For another half hour I practice with a brain training app called Lumosity.   For an hour every day in the evening, I write an article like the one you are reading in my blog.    That makes 2 hours of every day I sacrifice to activities that increase my brain power, that help me communicate in foreign languages, and that further my professional development.

But the dividends these sacrifices give me are what keep me continuing to sacrifice my time to them.   With Lumosity, I have gone from having a brain performance index of 950 or so to something a little more than 1300, which gives me a BPI at the 98.5% percentile for someone my age.    My Duolingo app has me increasing my confidence in five foreign languages, and helps me prepare for certification testing in them.    And this blog has reached 200,000 readers in the past two years!    So they are all have tangible benefits that increase my ability to communicate with people all over the world (this blog has been read by people in over 180 countries).    For that reason, I sacrifice my time willingly.

Let people know what it is you sacrifice your time for, because that will give them an idea of what it is you are passionate about.    Either they will share that passion, or who knows, they make pick up that passion from you!

In the next section of the chapter, John Maxwell repeats a trick he did in an earlier chapter and he has someone else describe John Maxwell’s ability to communicate, which should encourage you that you can do the same thing.   Because as John Maxwell will tell you (in many stories from his books) he wasn’t this way from the very beginning.  And if he could learn how to do it, you can too!

5 Ways to Prepare for Being a Club Officer at Toastmasters

For all of those who have been elected as club officers at Toastmasters, congratulations!   I hope whoever approached you for this honor did so in a way that conveyed the sense that they were giving you the verbal equivalent of a Hallmark card that says “Congratulations!” rather than “My Deepest Sympathies…”

I have been a club officer a few times but this is the first time that I have been the President of a club, namely, my home club of Homewood-Flossmoor Toastmasters.   I wanted to give some advice for the new club officers who are going to be serving the next term (July 2014-June 2015) with me.    However, I thought I would put down my thoughts on this blog so this advice would be useful for ALL Toastmasters out there who are going to be club officers, ESPECIALLY for those who are doing this for the first time.    All five of these should be in June, so that July 2014 starts off smoothly…

1.   Download the Club Leadership Handbook

At the Toastmasters International website, there is a handbook you can access and download for free:

http://www.toastmasters.org /CLH

I recommend that you print it out or print out those portions that have to do with your role.   The following sections are particularly helpful:

  • Anatomy of a Club (shows how the various club roles and club officers interact)
  • Club Executive Committee Meetings (shows their importance and how one should be conducted)
  • The Club within District Structure (shows how the club fits into the area, division, and district)
  • Club Timeline (shows the timeline of when certain deadlines and milestones occur within the Toastmaster’s Year)
  • Club Leadership Roles (describes the roles and responsibilities of each of the club officer positions, including a  checklist for the duties pf each position)
  • Distinguished Club Program (describes this program, which should be the core of the club’s goal planning for the year)
  • Toastmasters Educational Program (explains the awards within each of the two tracks, communications and leadership)
  • Club Finance, Public Relations & Marketing (further information for the Club Treasurer, VP-PR and VP-Membership club officers)
  • Club Events (including Club Officer Elections, which have obviously just concluded, and the Club Speech Contests, which will start VERY soon after the new year starts)

2.  Choose Which Toastmasters Leadership Institute to Attend

In June, most districts have two opportunities to attend a Toastmasters Leadership Institute or TLI, which is a requirement for club officers to attend.    You should determine which club officers intend to go to which session, so that at least four officers are trained by the end of June, and at best all seven are trained.    If the location of the training is a bit of a commute, you can make things easier by organizing a car pool.

There IS make-up training that is offered, usually in July, but I would encourage all club officers to make it to the TLI if at all possible.   It is not just club officer training that is offered there, but also training to be a judge in a speech contest, and additional educational opportunities.    For example, in the TLI being held in the first half of June in District 30, there are opportunities to go to educational workshops on speech writing, using improvisational techniques in your speeches, and the session I am hosting, which is obtaining resources for your ESL members of your club to improve their pronunciation.

3.   Plan the First Club Executive Committee Meeting

Each Club Executive Committee Meeting should ideally be held one a month, preferably either before or after one of the chapter meetings.    However, the first meeting should be two hours long, so that you can use it to plan out the Club Success Plan.    Therefore, it most likely will be held on a Saturday or Sunday.    Now since the TLI is already going on in June on Saturdays, I recommend finding a Sunday on which at least the following officers can be present:

  • President
  • Vice President Education
  • Vice President Membership
  • Treasurer

Ideally, all seven officers will be able to be present.    The reason why I specified the above officers is that the President will lead the meeting, and the other three are needed to help create the Club Success Plan, which needs the input of these officers at the very least.

4.  Have the Current Club Officers meet with the New Club Officers

You should have the current club officers meet together with the new club officers sometime in June.    This can even be done by phone call, but after each club officer reads the club leadership handbook BEFORE the club executive committee meeting and BEFORE the TLI, the new club officer may have a lot of questions which are most easily answered by the current club officer.

Rather than having a mass meeting, I suggest a one-on-one meeting which can either be face-to-face (the best option), or by conference call.     This will not only serve the function of answering the new club officer’s questions, but it will also establish the relationship between the two “generations” of club officers as being a mentor-mentee relationship.

In particular, it is necessary for the Vice President Education to get the educational records of the various club members from the previous VPE.    Only if you know how far each member has gotten in the Toastmasters Educational Program can you properly complete the Club Success Plan.   The VPE needs this information BEFORE the club executive committee meeting in June.

5.  Have a Club Officer Ceremony

This ceremony should be held in June, and the contents of the ceremony are listed in the Club Leadership Handbook.  You need to order a set of club officer pins NOW in order to have them arrive before the ceremony either in the first or second meeting of June.

This is not just a superficial formality.   It emphasizes the fact that the new club officers are not being pushed out on an ice floe, only to drift with the currents.    They are going to be actively supported by the current club officers, and the ceremony itself reflects that.    The pins are badges of respect, authority, and gratitude towards these people for having stepped up and taken a leadership role.

In short, if you engage in these five activities STARTING NOW, you will, by the end of the month, have a series of club officers who do not look like they are deer staring in the headlights of their approaching responsibilities, but rather are leaping at the chance to take on their new roles in the club!





Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: Connecting Requires Stamina

The fourth chapter of John Maxwell’s book Everyone Communicates, Few Connect covers the fourth prinpiple of connecting, namely, that connecting requires energy.    Each of the five sections of this chapter deals with one of the five ways in which this energy is embodied in the process of connecting.    This fifth and final section of the chapter is concerned with the fifth way, mainly that Connecting Requires Stamina … So Recharge!

1.   Combating Fear

The first emotion that you have to overcome when learning how to do public speaking is that of fear.   Fear of failure, fear of embarrassment, fear of making a mistake.   The fear never totally goes away; as the saying goes, you won’t be able to get rid of the butterflies in your stomach, but you can at least get them to fly in formation.   In other words, that fear is an emotion which has energy behind it.   You can channel that energy into constructive channels, and it can fuel your desire to prepare ahead of time in order to at least reduce the chance of your making a mistake.

2.  Introvert/Extrovert

One of the characteristics of an introvert versus an extrovert is that an introvert recharges his or her batteries in solitude, whereas the extrovert recharges his or her batteries through interaction with others.   No matter where your energy is, you will have one, either with the preparation (for extroverts) or the execution (for introverts).   In any case, you will need to recharge your batteries somehow.

3.  Recharging Batteries

How does John Maxwell suggest to do this?   Of course physical exercise is a wonderful way to expend energy in order to get it back in the form of increased metabolism, etc.    Joseph Campbell one time created a formula for what he called the creation of a “sacred space” in your life, where you can incubate creativity.   He said “follow your bliss”, meaning follow the natural direction your thoughts flow in terms of activities, interests, etc., that have you entering a “flow state”, where the passage of time becomes meaningless because you are lost in the moment.

For example, I have a passion for foreign languages.   No matter how busy my day is, I make it a point to use my language learning app called Duolingo and I study one skill in each of five languages–Spanish, French, German, Italian, and Portuguese.   This takes about one half hour in total, and doing a little bit each day keeps me progressing in my language skills at a steady pace that is better than trying to study a lot once every week.   But when I come out of the language learning, my brain is energized, not depleted.

4.  Energy = Intensity, not Volume

In the space itself, you should make sure you use energy to get your point across, but don’t confuse energy with volume.    Energy means intensity, but that can includes silences and pauses, and in fact, the powerful words of your speech will be made even MORE powerful by their being bracketed by silence.    This is a well-known trick in movies that if there is an explosion, sometimes the soundtrack has a moment of silence beforehand that makes the sound of the explosion louder by comparison and has more emotional impact for the audience.

The whole purpose of the energy is so that the audience is engaged, catches the energy, and at the end of the speech, they applaud which is a way of passing the energy back to you.    Accept their gift with gratitude!

Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: Connecting Requires Selflessness

The fourth chapter of John Maxwell’s book Everyone Communicates, Few Connect covers the fourth prinpiple of connecting, namely, that connecting requires energy.    Each of the five sections of this chapter deals with one of the five ways in which this energy is embodied in the process of connecting.    This fourth section of the chapter is concerned with the fourth way, mainly that Connecting Requires Selflessness … So Give!

1.   Giving Requires Faith in Yourself

Being a giver requires energy, and if you concentrate on giving energy to others, where are you going to get the energy in the first place?   Part of that energy comes from passion for your subject, and part of it comes from compassion for those in the audience.   You also have to have compassion for yourself and supply yourself with the resources you need in order to give to others … getting plenty of rest before a presentation, working out the details surrounding the presentation so you don’t have to worry on the day you have to give it, and in general making it as easy on yourself as possible.    Some people when they are outside of their comfort zone try to become comfortable by controlling as many of the variables surrounding the presentation.   This is possible to a certain extent, but you can never prepare for all contingencies :    you may be faced with a situation where you have to “wing it”.    This is where you have to have faith in your own abilities to cope with situations.    But as you begin to develop a “track record” of having done so, you begin to have faith based on the experience of your having dealt with it in the past.

2.  Giving Requires an Ego-Bypass Operation

You’ve heard of a “heart-bypass operation”, correct?    Well, in order to give to others, you need to undergo an “ego-bypass” operation.    This is not dangerous, in fact, it is a life-affirming process.   It means displacing your needs, insecurities, immaturities, and other self-centered states of mind, and entering a mental space where you are there to serve the audience to whom you are going to give your presentation.   You are not there to show how clever you are, or how much you know, especially if that requires demonstrating that you know more than the audience.    You don’t need to know more than the audience; that is a given, based on the fact that you are probably an expert in the area.  You, you just need to have the audience know more than they did when they sat down to hear you.

3.  Giving Requires Presence

If people are giving a speech solely for ulterior motives, they are going to be doing it with that selfish end in mind.   As the German psychologist Karlfried Graf-Durkheim once said, “if you are on a journey and the end seems to be getting away from you the closer you get to it, at some point you realize that the end is the journey.”    Your end should be to take the audience on a journey.    If you are giving the speech for the first time or the hundredth time, you can bring a sense of presence to the speech that makes the audience feel that they are experiencing it for the first time, because, of course, they are.    Connection always begins with a commitment to the audience:  actively listen to their reaction, actively engage them with eye contact, actively gesture towards them, and they will enter the moment with you.

The next post deals with the fifth way of using energy to connect, namely, Connecting Requires Stamina, so Recharge!

Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: Connecting Requires Patience

This is the fourth chapter of John Maxwell’s book Everyone Communicates, Few Connect, which contains the principle that Connecting Requires Energy.     In this third part of the chapter, he discusses the third way of using energy to connect to others, namely Connecting Requires Patience … so Slow Down!

1.   The Cognitive Corridor

Everyone has a capacity for receiving and processing information, but that capacity changes with the person and the subject matter under discussion.    There is a “cognitive corridor” people have where if you … are … talking … too … slow, people will be impatient for you to continue, and that impatience will cut off their processing of your message.    If you are speaking too quickly, however, they will get frustrated and that frustration will again cut off their processing of your message.   You want to be in the Goldilocks zone, where you are speaking neither too quickly nor too slowly.

The problem on a practical basis is that, different audiences will have different comfort levels regarding how much information you can throw at them on a given subject.   If I am doing a speech on project management to a “layman’s” audience, most of whom are not project managers, I will be doing it a different way than if I am doing a speech on project management to project managers.

So, as the last post said, you have to know your audience.    Everyone in the audience will have a different capacity, and you can’t really go at the pace that is comfortable for everyone, so you have to choose to give information at a rate which will encompass at least most of the audience.

2.  Err on Slowing Down, not Speeding Up

New Yorkers are not just perceived to be faster talkers than people in the rest of the country, they are faster listeners as well.   There is the old joke about the shortest interval of time for New Yorkers being the difference between the time the light changes and the time the person behind you starts yelling, “hey, waiting for any particular SHADE of green?”    But because they perceive a silence in the conversation more quickly than others in a group made up of people from around the country, they will try to fill in that gap more quickly, and they end up talking over others, contributing to the stereotypical image of New Yorkers being rude.    No, in their mind they are not being rude, they just talk that way.

The problem about a pace of speech for a particular topic is that, since you do know the subject in and out, you can speak very quickly and understand every word of what you are saying.    Not so your listeners:   especially those people who are coming to the subject matter for the first time.   You need to use different methods of “grabbing” the audience.   Don’t just describe abstract ideas, but think of concrete images, words, and stories that will allow anyone in the audience to not just understand, but to experience the meaning of your speech.

3.  Pausing is Your Friend

One of the roles in Toastmasters is that of the “Ah Counter”, which, as the name of the role implies, is a person who counts how many times an “ah”, “us”, or other so-called “filler word”  is used by a speaker.   Why do we use these words?   If you are speaking more rapidly than you can think, when you get to a point where you are know the next idea you are going to express, but haven’t yet formulated the words with which to express it, you use a filler word such as “ah”, or “um” as a stalling device so that you can continue using your mouth BEFORE it has something intelligent to say.    The problem, of course, is that this verbal stammering makes you sound not so intelligent.

One way to stop using these words is to recognize when you are at the end of a thought and want to the turn to the next one.   At this point, pause, say nothing but have your eyes move around the audience to let them know there is a consciousness still functioning there.    This will do two things:   it will allow you the time you need to complete your next thought before you utter it, and it will allow your audience the time they need to absorb your LAST thought, and anticipate your next one.   So it’s a win-win situation.    A symphony is not just a progression of notes, the musical equivalent of Winston Churchill’s humorous description of history as consisting simply of the story of one damned thing after another.   No, there are musical phrases, pauses between the phrases, and then pauses between the major movements.   They all tie together in the same piece, but silence prepares people for the change of mood that accompanies the changes between the movements.

You should learn to pause more, so that people have time to enjoy your presentation not as a quick trip through a fast-food drive through , but as a more leisurely full-course dinner.

Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: Connecting Requires Clarity

In this fourth chapter of his book, John Maxwell discusses five ways that connecting with others can be improved by applying energy before, during and even after a networking event or presentation.

In this post I discuss the second of these five ways : Connecting Requires Clarity.

In order to create clarity of thought that transmits your message faithfully to your audience, you need to know yourself, your audience, and your material.

1.  Know Yourself–Personal Preparation

In order to get the energy into your presentation which passion provides, you have to know yourself well enough to know what you are passionate about.

Being comfortable in your own identity means knowing what your strengths and weaknesses are.    One of the ways to uncover both strengths and weaknesses you may not be aware of is to watch a videotape of your own presentation.    There may be many idiosyncratic gestures, turns of phrase, etc., that you may be using without realizing it.    Once you watch yourself, you can list these and see what distracting things you do or say so that you can work on eliminating them.

When I started at Toastmasters, I came to realize that I was using a little of hand gestures that were essentially meaningless, but conveyed a sense of nervousness to the audience.    This was because, in a sense, they were nervous, or at least they were an embodiment of nervous energy which took the form of moving my hands about.   I asked evaluators to specifically watch out for this, and I made a conscious effort to stop moving my hands.    In one speech, the evaluator says, “your speech was okay, but you looked so stiff with your hands held motionless at your side.”   At first, I thought, “oh, for God’s sake, make up your mind!    First I’m moving them too much and now I’m moving them too little!”   But then I recovered my annoyance, and realized, hey, the only reason why I’m moving my hands too little is because my efforts at becoming conscious aware of my habit and then controlling it were successful.    Maybe a little bit too successful, but at least going in the other direction is going to be easier.    And it was!    In future speeches, I would listen to my speech and then think of gestures that would naturally punctuate several points I made during the speech.   I would write them in the speech script like stage directions in parentheses and italics (like this) and then I would perform my speech a couple of times until they became natural.    Each gesture corresponded with a specific point I was making, and now I was getting comments about how natural my hand gestures were.    But I knew better:   I prepared to the point of having it look natural.

2.  Know your Audience–People Preparation

If you are in a Toastmasters club, the speeches the other people give will serve as clues to what interests they hold.   So you know if you are doing a speech, that mentioning their interest in the course of your speech will automatically draw them to what you are saying.

If you are facing an audience of people you do not know, then the purpose of the meeting, or the association which is hosting your talk, will give you the clues you need to be able to tailor your remarks towards the interests that your audience will most likely have.

John Maxwell uses the following checklist to think about what the audience will want and expect out of your speech:

  • Who are your audience members?
  • What do they care about?
  • Where do they come from?
  • When did they decide to attend?
  • Why are they here?
  • What do I have that I can offer them?
  • How do they want to feel when we conclude?

One thing to remember is that, for ANY audience, there are four communication styles that people fall into, namely

  • Ideas (connecting the speech to what they think)
  • Action (connecting the speech to what they do)
  • People (connecting the speech to what they feel)
  • Process (connecting the speech to itself through structure)

These are preferences, and I know that “ideas” and “process” are my strong points, and “people” and “action” are my relative weak points.    Although I would prefer to communicate with just the first two styles, I always try to incorporate the other two styles into my speech, so that everyone in the audience gets something out of it.

3.  Know Your Subject Matter–Professional Preparation

Yes, you must know your subject matter, and that seems like a given.   But you must present it to the audience at the level at which they are prepared for.    When I started giving speeches out of the “Speaking to Inform” manual, my goal was to try to give speeches on complex topics, like Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, Integral Theory, or a number of other abstract topics.    A Distinguished Toastmaster in our club watched my presentation, and people thought I was intelligent, but they didn’t have a lot of takeaways from my speeches.    I was disappointed that they weren’t getting something out of my efforts.

And then, in a humorous way, the DTM said, “people are thirsty for the knowledge you are bringing, but they want a refreshing drink from a garden hose.   You, on the other hand, have decided to turn on … the FIRE HOSE!   And here they are, sputtering with all of this highly pressurized information coming at them in full force, and they are trying to hold on to their seats before they get loose their grip and they get blasted against the back wall of the room!”

He had seen me do speeches from the other manual I was working on, “Entertaining Speeches”.   In the speeches from that manual, if I said a funny line, people would laugh, and I would instinctively WAIT until the laughter had died down, and then I would make my next point.    Why not use the same attentiveness to the audience in my informational speeches?    Make pauses there, too, to allow the audience some time to digest what it is you are saying.  And always make sure you tell people by the end of the speech 2 or 3 key points they can take away from the presentation.    Give them a souvenir of your speech!

These three methods of preparation are very important, and are key to getting clarity to your message, meaning that what you meant to say is exactly what they end up hearing.

The next post is about the third way of connecting with energy:   Connecting Requires Patience … so Slow Down!