Why don’t people listen to you?

January 29, 2012

Let me begin by wishing all a very happy and successful 2012. As I wish you to do well, I recall what a learned lady told me years ago. She said, “If you have a positive attitude and good communications skills, you will do very well in life”. Years down the line, I realize how true the statement is. When I see successful people around me, I always find these two qualities in them. They have a positive outlook and they are good communicators. I have written a number of posts on attitude. I like to begin 2012 by writing on communication skills.

Listening is a key skill in communication. Many of us are accused of not being a good listener and this often leads to problems. When I conduct workshops on communication skills, I often begin with a question. I ask the group, “Have you ever wondered why people don’t listen properly”. The answers that come can be grouped into three categories:

– People don’t listen if they are not interested in the subject matter.
– People don’t listen if they don’t like the speaker.
– People don’t listen when the timing of communication does not suit   them.

When we see all reasons together, it basically tells us that the onus of making people listen is more on the speaker. It is actually a challenge for the speaker to make people listen.

When you plan your speech, first ask yourself how can you make the topic interesting to the audience. Second, think how the audience perceives you, your personality, your body language and your attitude. And finally, think about the timing of your communication. Is it going to be convenient to the audience? How much can the audience absorb at the given point of time?

A good public speaker is the one who can command the attention of the audience, keeps them engaged and makes them listen.

Building confidence in public speaking

December 20, 2008

One of the most common questions asked by people regarding public speaking is about measures to build confidence.  

Low self-esteem is the most important cause for low confidence in public speaking. Setbacks/failures faced in life, doubts about physical apprearance, voice quality, lack of adequate command over language – lead to a low self esteem and pull our confidence down.  It is important to work on self- esteem.  As self-esteem is what we feel about ourselves, we only can change it. Please refer to the earlier post steps for building a high self- esteem.  

In addition to working on self-esteem, the following will help in building confidence in public speaking:

  • Take initiaitve to speak in small and informal gatherings initially.  Speak on subjects of your interest, hobbies, films/TV shows, current affairs, etc. This will give you practice of putting your ideas in a perspective, and be able to share with people  in your circle. Speaking in small groups in informal settings is an excellent strategy. You will gradually learn the art of putting your ideas in a more effective manner.  Make it a habit. We all can do it on a  regular basis.  
  • Accept speaking assignments such as giving a short welcome speech, a vote of thanks, a farewell speech etc. These are easy to prepare and give confidence to speak in public. 
  • Preparation gives confidence. So, prepare as well as you can. Updated knowledge on the topic of your speech is a must. Think how best you can present your thoughts.  You are prepared well if you have successfully answered the key question: why should the audience listen to me? 
  • Find a mentor. It is always useful to get some help from a person you trust can guide you well, and with whom you can share your inhibitions as well. Bounce off your ideas to your mentor, and seek his/her advice.    
  • Practice public speaking. You are the first audience of your speech. Read it to yourself, and see how does it sound. You can record it and listen it to make necessary corrections in the tone, clarity, speed of delivery, lengths of sentences, emotional appeal etc. You can then do mock sessions with a smaller group: friends, colleagues etc.  Speaking in smaller groups does a lot of good. You overcome fear and build your confidence gradually. 

Finally, just remember every thing is difficult before it is easy.  How did we learn driving or swimming? Initially we praciticed under a trainer for a few weeks regularly and then it became easy. Those who gave up after a few attempts could never learn. Same is the case with public speaking.  Don’t give up, practice regularly and see the difference. Your confidence will grow everytime you speak.

Public Speaking

November 29, 2008

Public speaking is an important communication skill. The thought of speaking in public gives shivers to many. However, we need not worry. Most of the well-known public speakers have been through this phobia and conquered it. Like any skill, public speaking can be mastered with a consistent effort. The essential thing is to follow the basics of communication.


The 4 W’s and 1 H of Public Speaking

WHO is this speech for?

Gather information about your audience. Who will be present to hear your speech, their socio-economic profile, interests etc. It is critical to find out their perceptions on the issue/topic you are going to speak on. This helps in deciding the contents of the speech.


WHAT am I going to tell the audience?

Keeping in mind the profile/interest/perceptions of the audience, you can decide the content of the speech. It is important to do the ground work properly, gather latest information on the subject, check your facts with the right sources, brainstorm for ideas that would appeal to your audience and then organize your contents. It is important to remember that communciaotn is art of simplification. So, present the technical facts in as simple a way as possible unless the audience includes all technical people.

It is also important not to keep too many ideas. If we try to include every thing, the main message is lost. Audience can never absorb/remember all the ideas. So, key is to prioritize and be focused


WHAT is the occasion/event where you are to speak?

A good sense of occasion is critical. The historical significance, if captured in an interesting way makes your speech different. In addition to knowing the audience, it is also equally important to know about the organizers. What is the event they have invited you to speak you in. Who are other speakers, if any and what are their topics. What is the agenda and what is your turn to speak? Nothing can be more boring for the audience to listen to different speakers on the same topic. It is useful to know the arrangements in the venue like the availability of audio-visual aids, public address system etc. on the venue.


HOW long is the speech expected to be?

Sense of timing is the key. Find out from the organizer about the time that is available for your speech. It is never a good idea to overshoot your time, and it is very embarrassing for someone to remind you to cut-it-short while you are speaking. Practice your speech and see if you can finish it in the allotted time. It is also important to be flexible and make last minute changes in your speech to adjust to the time available particularly if other spears have overshot their time.


… you are now ready to finalize your speech, but hang on. Do the last filter. Ask yourself.


WHY should the audience listen to me?

Is there something new/different/interesting in my speech that will catch the attention of the audience and they will remember me for. No speech should be finalized without this final filter.  A bit of humour, an anecdote, a relevant example, a good beginning and a good end are the elements that are essential.


…Now you have the speech ready. The next, and most critical step is to practice public speaking. More follows.