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!

Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: Connecting Requires Initiative

This fourth chapter of the book “Everyone Communicates, Few Connect” by John Maxwell covers the fourth principle of connection, namely, “Connecting Always Requires Energy.”    John Maxwell explains that interaction with others is not the same as connection.    You can interact with others in a way that is totally self-centered which does not connect with others; you need to keep your focus on your audience in order to connect with them.

In the last post, John Maxwell talked about the four unpardonable sins of a communicator, being

  • Unprepared
  • Uncommitted
  • Uninteresting
  • Uncomfortable

He also relayed 10 tips on how to successfully connect with people from communication coach Susan RoAne, author of the book How to Work a Room.     In this next series of five sections from this chapter, John Maxwell discusses five proactive ways to use energy for connecting.    Proactive means not reacting to, but doing something first which then elicits a reaction from the audience.

The first of these five proactive ways of using energy for connecting is … Connecting Requires Initiative … So Go First!

1.  Engage the Audience

Rather than just getting up in front of an audience and greeting them with something bland like, “it is a pleasure (or honor) to speak in front of you today”, or by stating the purpose of your speech, and seeing whether the audience warms to or not, why not try an opening to speech which engages them right from the start?   Here are some examples from Patricia Fripp, an award-winning speech coach …

  • I wish you could have been there … (transports the audience into a different time and place)
  • I’ll never forget the first time … (lets the audience know that you used to be in the place they are now)
  • Have you ever … (relates the experience of the speaker with the experiences of the audience)

For more instructive and instructional videos on improving your public speaking ability, you can go to her website at http://www.fripp.com.

2.  In a Small Group

If you are not talking to a large audience, but to a small group or team, then you need to offer help to others.   You can initiate conversation, but then DO NOT take it over … let the other person speak, and follow their interests and comments.   Too many times I have listened to a radio interview where the person being interviewed answers a question, and then the interviewer says “great” in a lackluster tone, and then goes onto the next question.   It is clear that the interviewer did not really process the information given, because they are not reacting to it with a follow-up question or a statement that relates it to their own experience.   They are just saying “great” or whatever as a filler word, before they go on to the next line in their script, which just happens to be the next question.

Have you had the experience where a person is obviously waiting for you to finish your statement, and then pounces on it like a jaguar going in for the kill to a helpless gazelle?    During the time they are talking, they are rehearsing what they are going to say, rather than listening to what you are really saying.    The problem is, their comment may be reacting you said before, but you may have changed the topic, so their response is disconnecting with what you are talking about right now.

My brother studied acting in college and I asked him how actors keep saying the same lines of a play over and over without getting bored.    He says it takes the skill of active listening so that, although they know their next line, rather than rehearsing it in their head, they allow themselves to listen to the words, and observe the facial movements and hand gestures of the other person so that they react to them as if they are hearing or seeing them for the first time.  Then their reaction to the line is a natural reaction based, naturally, on the words they have to say next in the play, but they are fueled by the emotional reaction to those lines which occurs when they are present in the moment of the play.

Ideally we should listen to each other in that way as well.    However, although you follow up with active listening, you can start by actively initiating the conversation.

3.  Getting Rid of Awkwardness through Empathy

Most people in a new social situation have some concern about making a mistake.   In fact, that’s the basis for the fear of public speaking, because it is the same social awkwardness people have when speaking to individuals writ large by the fact that you are speaking to an entire group of people at once.   But just remember, that the audience member has some concern as well.   Are they going to enjoy this speech, or will they have to be bored for 5-7 minutes and then clap politely afterwards?     Whether they paid money to attend your speech or not, they did spend at least their time when they could be doing something else listening to you instead.   So you deserve to give them your best effort.

If you are nervous meeting a group of strangers at a networking function, just remember … everyone else is probably nervous but they may not visibly show it.    The only person’s nervousness you will probably be intimately aware of is your own.   But because you are feeling that way, so are the others in all likelihood, so you owe it to them to help dispel some of that nervousness by taking the first step.   They will be grateful to you, and you will begin to develop that mysterious attractive essence called “charisma.”

So don’t wait for the audience to come around to your way of looking at things–go to them first and help them to really see what it is that you are saying.    Start where you are, but go to where they are–that’s the secret of connection.

The next post will cover the next proactive way of connecting namely, Connecting Requires Clarity, so … prepare!



Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: Connecting Requires Energy

This fourth chapter of the book “Everyone Communicates, Few Connect” by John Maxwell covers the fourth principle of connection, namely, “Connecting Always Requires Energy.”    The reason why this particular chapter is important to me is because I am, by nature, an introvert.    This means that the process of going and interacting with people is something which requires energy.    Extroverts gain energy by going and interacting with people, and so I thought that they had the natural advantage when it came to connection.    However, John Maxwell shows that interaction with others is not the same as connection.    You can interact with others in a way that is totally self-centered which does not connect with others.

In this first post, John Maxwell specifies what the phrase “connecting requires energy” really means.

1.  Four Unpardonable Sins of a Communicator

John Maxwell’s professor in college once presented a list of the “Four Unpardonable Sins of a Communicator”, which were being

  • Unprepared
  • Uncommitted
  • Uninteresting
  • Uncomfortable

Overcoming the first three require advance preparation, and thus require effort or energy.

2.  10 Tips for Minglers

Another list that John Maxwell presents is that of communication coach Susan RoAne, author of the book “How to Work a Room,” who lists the following 10 tips for those who want to learn to mingle in a crowd and connect with others.

  1. Possess the ability to make others feel comfortable.
  2. Appear to be confident and at ease.
  3. Have an ability to laugh at themselves (not at others).
  4. Show interest in others; they maintain eye contact, self-disclose, ask questions, and actively learn
  5. Extend themselves to others; they lean into a greeting with a firm handshake and a smile
  6. Convey a sense of energy and enthusiasm–a joie de vivre
  7. Are well-rounded, well-informed, and well-mannered
  8. Prepare vignettes or stories of actual occurrences that are interesting, humorous, and appropriate
  9. Introduce people to each other with an infectious enthusiasm (there is no other kind) that motivates conversation between the introducees
  10. Convey respect and genuinely like people–the core of communicating

Seven out of these 10 tips require energy, which requires focused attention.

In the next post, John Maxwell presents the first of five proactive ways to use energy for connecting.   Connecting requires initiative, so you need to go first.

10 Reasons to Like the New Toastmasters Educational Program

On Thursday, I listened to a webinar sponsored by Toastmasters International regarding the upcoming rollover of their new educational program, which will replace the current educational program in the course of the next few years.

The purpose of this post is to list 10 features of the new program that I like, and why I hope to be an enthusiastic ambassador for the new program as the upcoming Area Governor for my area.

1.   The New Educational Program is Comprehensive

The current educational program consists of two tracks, an educational and a leadership track.   The educational track consists of four levels starting from Competent Communicator going up to Advanced Communicator Gold, and the leadership track consists of three levels starting from Competent Leader going up to Advanced Leader Silver.    You become a Distinguished Toastmaster by completing both tracks.    Each of these components was developed at a different time, so the entire program was built like a series of building blocks

The new program, with its new tracks and levels, was designed together in an integrated way.    This means that more thought was put into how they all fit together to improve the member’s competence in the various areas they cover.

2.  The New Educational Program is Modular

One thing to note about the current educational program is that everyone goes through the exact same pathway to become a Distinguished Toastmaster.    The only variation comes in what advanced manuals you use to complete the Advanced Communicator levels of Bronze, Silver, and Gold.   The new program is tailored more to individual needs and will offer not two tracks, but five, including:

1.  Public speaking

2.  Interpersonal Communication

3.  Managing a Project

4.  Facilitating Meetings

5.  Leading Strategically

These are the categories as I remember then in the notes from the webinar; the exact wording may differ.   The first two cover communication, and the last three cover leadership, but each track covers a different aspect of that over-arching theme.    To get a DTM, you will choose two out of the five possible tracks to pursue.

3.   The New Educational Program is Individualized

How do you choose which of the tracks you want to pursue?   You will take a interest survey online when you first become a member, or if you are already a member and want to enter the new program.    This will determine what your preference is in terms of what strengths you perceive you already have and what weaknesses you want to eliminate.    So rather than “one size fits all”, the educational pathway you pursue is the one that is right for you.

4.   The New Educational Program is Relevant Technologically

The new educational program will be introduced with an online survey, as mentioned above, but once you determine what tracks you want to pursue, the materials to help you pursue those tracks will be found online, rather than in paper manuals as they are today.    This is not only economically and environmentally sound, but is pedagogically sound as well.    Some people learn better with words, some with pictures, some with stories, and all of these are better accommodated in an online format where a concept can be introduced with text, illustrations, and video examples.    Rather than three or four levels, each track will have 5 levels, so that the leap from one level to the next is not so great–this encourages people to keep progressing through the tracks so that they complete the program.

5.  The New Educational Program is Relevant Socially

The projects that you now use to complete the Competent Leader award are those having to do with club events; in the future educational program, the projects will be more relevant to real-world situations, having to do with the workplace, with community outreach, etc.    Therefore the experience you gain in Toastmasters will gain even more currency with employers of corporations and even non-profit organizations.

The points above have to do with the contents of the new program.    Of course, the fact that the new program has great content makes me excited about participating in it.   But as an Area Governor, I will have to be the liaison between the Educational Ambassadors, who are officially assigned to spread the word about the programr, and the club in my Area.   The way that the rollout or introduction of the new program is being executed was of concern to me, because that is going to affect the acceptance of the new program by the rank-and-file members.

6.  The Rollout was Initiated Properly

As a project manager, I was amazed to learn that all the right notes were hit when the project was being initiated.   There was an identification of the stakeholders of the project, if you consider the project the development and introduction of this new educational program.    Of course, the members of Toastmasters International would be considered primary stakeholders of the project, because they, after all, will be the users of it.   However, “stakeholders” in a project are not necessarily just the end users of the end product of the project, but also any individual or organization that would be impacted by the project.    This would include companies that not only have Toastmasters clubs on their premises, but also companies that consider Toastmasters experience as a positive attribute for potential employees.   It would include the academic community in the communications field.   All of these, and more, were consulted during the initiating process.

The result was a program with the features outlined above.    One of the problems whenever you make a change within an organization, however, is the fact that many people are allergic to change because they are comfortable with the current program.    It is ironic because being a Toastmaster is all about getting out of your comfort zone with respect to public speaking; nonetheless, many people find a program which challenges them, but only to a limited extent, and this becomes their new comfort zone.   The new program will be more challenging, because it offers more choices of tracks, and more levels within each track, so many people will be resistant.    That is why it is important to have the Educational Ambassadors coordinate closely with the District, Division, and Area leadership.   To that end, Toastmasters International wisely invited BOTH of these groups to the webinar, because the more widely the information is disseminated, the more quickly these groups can influence the members that the new program will be even BETTER for them than the current one.

7.  The Rollout was Planned Properly

The initiation phase took about 2 years, from 2010 to 2012, and the planning phase took about 2 additional years, from 2012 to now.    Here is where the rollout plan was developed, with various important milestones along the way.  Here are the milestones as currently understood.

  • July 2014-December 2014:  Educational Outreach regarding New Program
  • January 2015-June 2015:      Beta Testing of New Program
  • July 2015-June 2017:             Introduction of New Program

If certain criteria for success for each phase of the project are not met, then it is possible that the schedule listed above may slip.    In some projects, of the three constraints of time, scope, and quality, time is sometimes of the essence, and quality may have to be sacrificed in order to complete the project by a deadline.   However, it is a wise decision by Toastmasters International that the quality of the new program is the operative constraint, and so if the deadlines above have to get moved to assure that quality, then so be it.    So, the above is the current deadline according to the plan.

8.   The Rollout of the New Program is coordinated with the Phaseout of the Old Program

It turns out by happy accident that I will be finishing the DTM program by June 2015, which is just right before the new program starts in July 2015.    That will mean I can start in July 2015 with the new program and work on getting a new DTM under that program.    However, what if you’re halfway done with the old program in July 2015.   Toastmasters International has thought of that, and is going to allow people to continue for the two-year period of the introduction of the new program to complete any of the levels under the two tracks of the old program if they desire.    Also, just like getting credit at a university for academic work done at a community college, those who have completed certain educational awards under the old program will be able to convert that experience into credit under the new program.   The details of this have yet to be worked out.

9.   The Rollout Uses Progressive Elaboration

One of the things you realize about progressing as a Toastmaster is that you learn to be an imperfectionist, meaning that you don’t wait to try a challenge until you feel you are 100% ready.    Why?   Because it is a safe environment to fail, meaning that if you try something and it doesn’t work out, you still win because you learn something from it, and your fellow club members do too.    In a similar way, Toastmasters is deciding to go ahead and let people know about the program although all the details have not yet been worked out.    Imperfect knowledge is better than pure speculation.    People should be reassured that the large outline, meaning the soundness of the educational program as a whole, has been thoroughly investigated.    Filling in the details is important, but it was important to get the outline of the forest right before planting all the trees.   So the planning is going through progressive elaboration, meaning the project is going forward without 100% of the details being worked out beforehand.    This can seem unnervingly to beginners like someone trying to lay down the train tracks while the train is barreling down the tracks towards you, but it is not uncommon in today’s busy world to do this, and TI is taking advantage of this project planning methodology and moving forward with the project.   Again, there are fail-safes built into the system to stop if the key milestones are not being reached to the satisfaction of the project planners.

10.   The Rollout is Engaging the Membership

Rather than keeping the details of the project secret, Toastmasters International is taking the chance of releasing the partial details of the program with the understanding that some of them have not yet been worked out.   This has the risk of creating confusion.   However, the opportunity gained by doing this is that resistance against the new program will be worn down by the leadership explaining that the changes are being made literally with the end users, i.e., the Toastmasters International Club members, in mind.   That’s how the program was designed, and that’s why the rollout is being done over a two-year period, to get the organization’s leadership engaged, like was done at the webinar last Thursday, and then to have the leadership engage the membership.

This is not “my way or the highway”, or a top-down leadership mentality.    Rather, it is a recognition that if you are on a journey of self-improvement, and the end seems to keep stretching out in front of you, at some point you realize that the end is the journey.    The purpose of the new educational program is to make the journey to self-improvement and the resulting increase in self-confidence an even more enjoyable experience than it was before.

To that end, I look forward to the introduction of the new Toastmasters Educational Program!

Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: Connecting Beyond Words (6)

In this third chapter of his book “Everyone Communicates, Few Connect”, John Maxwell discusses the various components that go into connecting with others.

1.  Summary of Sections 1-5

In the first part of his chapter, which I covered in the last past, he stated that words, whether written or spoken, only represent a part of what is communicated, and a small part at that.   It turns out that the visual and non-verbal (gestural) components not only represent the other parts of what is communicated, but they represent the MAJOR parts of communication.   These three parts of non-verbal communication connect with people through thought, emotion, and a call to action.

In the second section, John Maxwell presents his Connection Checklist, which I relate to the three categories of thought, emotion and action-related communication styles presented in the previous section.    There is a fourth category of communication style which John Maxwell does not mention, and that is the process-related style.

INTEGRITY–Did I do my best?

EXPECTATION–Did I please my sponsor or my audience?

RELEVANCE–Did I understand and relate to the audience?

VALUE–Did I add value to the people?

APPLICATION–Did I give people a game plan?

CHANGE–Did I make a difference?

In the third section of the chapter, John Maxwell gave tips on how to increase your ability to connect with people visually.

1.  Eliminate Personal Distractions

2.  Expand Your Range of Expression

3.  Move with a Sense of Purpose

4.  Maintain an Open Posture

5.  Pay Attention to Your Surroundings

In the fourth section of the chapter, John Maxwell gave tips on how to increase your ability connect with people intellectually and this requires you to know both your subject and yourself, in particular, what your preferred communication style is.   Once you know what your preference, you have to learn how to use all of the other communication styles as well, so that you can cover the preferences of everyone in your audience.

In the fifth section, John Maxwell gave tips on how to increase your ability connect with people emotionally.

1.  People Hear Your Attitude

The exact choice of words you use is important, but not as important as the energy, intensity and  conviction with which you use them.

2.  Charisma is Attitude, not Personality

John Maxwell thinks that charisma, the presence people have which cause others to be drawn to them, is not a function of one’s personality, but rather of one’s attitude.   People who have this presence are so comfortable with themselves, and have such a positive, unselfish attitude that they are able to focus all of their energy on others.     This is a very hopeful statement, because people think that charisma is just something people are born with, and if you don’t have it now, well, you’re out of luck.   No!   You just need to develop a positive attitude, which everyone can do.

How do you do this?    This is not in John Maxwell’s book, but what helped me to develop a positive attitude was a 21-day program put together by psychologist Shawn Achor.

Watch his TED talk


and then read my summary which describes his program in more detail


The remaining of the post, the sixth section of the third chapter, will talk about how to increase your ability to connect to people visually.

2.  Connecting Verbally–The Power of Words

Of course, the power of words is an extremely important part of connecting with others.    But the power comes not just from the denotation of the word, or the literal meaning, but the connotations of the word, or the words, ideas, and images which are associated with that word.

Other powerful forms of words are quotations which are sayings which have become famous due to their emotional power and verbal resonance.    “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”   If President Kennedy had just said “Ask what you can do for your country”, the basic idea of service would have been stated, but by using the words as he did, where one half is an inverted, mirror-image of the other, you get a resonance which makes the quotation not just powerful, but memorable.

The other thing that makes a word, phrase, or passage memorable is its originality.   What we think of as classic English, namely the language of Shakespeare, is to a large extent his own invention.  He invented over 1700 of our common words by changing nouns into verbs, changing verbs into adjectives, connecting words never before used together, adding prefixes and suffixes, and devising words wholly original, according to http://www.shakespeare-online.    This is why his work is so rich, because of the 800,000+ words used in all of Shakespeare plays and poems, 43.3% of these words were invented by Shakespeare, and of these about half were only used once!    

3.  Connecting Verbally–The Power beyond Words

Words should convey confidence:   confidence in yourself but also confidence you have in the audience.    Ask them to do the action items you give in your speech–dare them to greatness!

The elements that you can to communicate emotions beyond the actual contents of the words you say are:

  • Tone–tone is the emotional element in one’s speech–it is warm, friendly, inviting?
  • Inflection–this can refer to the raising and lowering of the pitch of one’s voice, which can alter its emotional resonance with the audience
  • Timing–is the opening of the speech slow enough to engage the audience’s attention?  And is the closing of the speech done at a slower pace to signal the end of your speech?
  • Volume–does the loudness of your voice vary depending on the emphasis you are making?   Sometimes saying the most important part of a phrase in a soft as opposed to loud voice actually can create emphasis as well, because it forces the audience to listen in and zoom in to what you are saying.
  • Pacing–do you use PAUSES effectively as ways to signal the transition from one point to another?


You need to develop your own style of speaking which connects beyond words; although you can certainly try out certain styles of others on an experimental basis, you cannot make them your own unless they truly fit your own personality, attitude, and experience.

You need to connect

  • visually
  • intellectually
  • emotionally
  • verbally

if you are to create a presentation that truly resonates with people, that is, that connects with them.

Think of the sitar, the Indian musical instrument, which consists of a set of two sets of strings, one of which is flat against the main board or neck of the instrument, and one of which is strung over that first set.   The person playing the instrument ONLY plays the top set of strings.   The strings underneath vibrate in sympathy with the strings that are played, and that is what creates that sing-song, resonating quality that the instrument has.   In a similar way, you must be like the sitar strings that are played in such a way as to create the corresponding strings of the audience to vibrate in sympathy.    In that case, you truly are connecting, and making music together!