Blarney Stone

Have you ever been to Ireland? One of the touristy things they try to get you to do is kiss the Blarney Stone. The Blarney Stone is a historical stone, or actually part of the Blarney Castle in Ireland, where it is believed that kissing the stone can grant you the gift of gab. Yes, it seems strange in this day and age that people still crawl into that tiny space to kiss the bottom of the stone, but who are we to question tradition?

There is so much information about conversation and communication that most people never take the time to explore. Even though it’s your mouth that seems to be doing all the work, your brain is working twice as hard to churn out the information. So what better way to start learning about becoming a more effective communicator than by getting to know yourself better?

1. What you already know. Education is all about learning the basics. But, to be an effective communicator you must practice what you’ve learned. I have recently read that the best way to become a better speaker is by…speaking. Never stop learning; never stop practicing. If you have an opportunity go to a Toastmaster’s or other activity where they focus on speaking, take it.

2. Listening. Listening is an even more important skill than learning to ask the right questions. Listening to the sound of your own voice, as you practice, can teach you a little about being more confident about what you think, and improve your ability to speak the things you believe with conviction.

3. Humility. We all make mistakes and sometimes we tend to slur our word, stutter and probably mispronounce a few words even though we know what they mean. So if you find yourself in a group, don’t be afraid to ask if you’re pronouncing the right word correctly. And, if they’re unsure as well, you can always make a joke out of it. I promise you it will make everyone else laugh and you can get away with not being 100% sure.

4. Eye contact. There’s a lot to be said about directing your attention to your audience members with an eye catching gaze. It is very important that you keep your focus when talking to a large group in a meeting or gathering. So, don’t focus on a single individual. Shift your gaze periodically.

5. Making light. A little bit of humor can do wonders to ease the tension or worse ease the boredom when making your speech. That way you’ll get the attention of the majority of the crowd and they’ll feel that you’re much more approachable.

6. Interact. Be like the rest of them. Be human. Interaction is all about mingling with other people. You’ll get a lot of fresh ideas.

7. Me, myself and I. Admit it, there are times that you sing to yourself in the shower. I know I do. Listening to the sound of your own voice as you practice your speech in front of a mirror can help you correct the stress areas of your pitch and tone. You can also hear when a sentence doesn’t flow correctly, feel quite right or doesn’t make sense. So, while you’re at it, you can also use that as an opportunity to spruce up your speech as well.

8. Smile. Your smile says as much as your eye contact. There is no point in grimacing or frowning in a meeting or gathering, unless it’s a wake. You can better express what you’re saying with a smile; and you are more likely to be listened to.

9. A role model. There must be at least one or two people in your life who you have listened to carefully when they are at a public gathering. Sure, most of the time they are reading their lines, but you should make a mental note how they emphasize what is important in their speech. This can be a tremendous help to you when you take center stage yourself.

10. Preparation. Make the best use of your preparation time. Don’t just scribble some notes and act like you’re in a hurried panic. Some people like to write things down on index cards, while others may resort to being a little sillier as they look at the notes written on their hand. Just find a system that is comfortable for you and share what you already know.

These suggestions are rather simplistic. You can learn to empower yourself when it comes to public or private speaking. The most important thing is to keep listening to other people and taking every opportunity to learn from others. This will help improve your skills and move you to a new level of being a better communicator.

Thoughts?

photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/graham_alton/6092346185/sizes/z/in/photostream/