A bi-annual magazine for the Hong Kong Academy community.
Got a minute? opening with impact by Kendall Zoller Educational writer and consultant Kendall Zoller visited HKA in October 2017 to present a workshop on developing effective presentation and communication skills. Over two days, Zoller offered a number of nonverbal skills and strategies that can aid in establishing credibility, building rapport and understanding groups in both formal and informal settings. In the article below, he shares six skills for effectively communicating in the first minute of speaking. These skills can contribute to the creation of a dynamic learning community in the classroom and beyond. Zoller’s visit to HKA is just one example of the sort of professional development that takes place on campus throughout the year and that contributes to HKA’s identity as an educational leader. Hold a group spellbound in the first minute. Six skills, known by some, but not all, will catapult an opening into a first hour of intense intention. In the ten minutes it will take to read this article, you’ll finish with a powerful list of essentials for that first minute. For any group with which you meet, what you bring beyond words is more important than what you say. The six skills listed below have been tested in schools, government agencies, and corporations throughout the world. They are universal. Some can be accomplished in the same moment. 1. Make an impact statement 2. Establish credibility 3. Breathe 4. Pause and hold the gesture still 5. Stand in stillness for 10 seconds 6. Frame it The descriptions that follow will allow you to use each of these with immediate effect. Make an impact statement The first utterance out of the mouth of some presenters is “um” or “hello” or “Thank you.” These are neither good nor bad; they do, however, lack a “fire in the belly.” Great presentations begin with great opening statements. Some of the best are done in two sentences or less. The number of words is not important. What is important is that it lights a fire in the listener. Open the session with statements that intrigue, tap an emotion, give an insight, or shine a light in a dark recess of the audience’s minds. People may not always remember what you said. They will, however, always remember how they felt when you said it. Every session we deliver has an opening impact statement before we even bother to say our names. It is unique for each group, each day, and each topic. The impact statement gives the audience a reason to listen. In the corporate setting, we like to open with a statement that aligns with what people hold in their hearts about their work and goals. Our openings can be as simple and direct as “Imagine saving over 15% of current spending in less than six months without sacrificing your quality of people.” Or, “We have all heard the complaints of change and seen failed implementations. Today we are going to show you a pathway of success in two simple steps.” When working with school administrators, the opening taps into the passion and moral imperative of educating all children. An opening might be: “We all know the research about how high quality teaching impacts the quality of student lives. What is most surprising is that quality of life is not the only gain, so is longevity.” Establish credibility Many of us think it takes a long time to build credibility. The Choreography of Presenting says credibility is created through movements a speaker makes. Moves that convey to the audience they know what they’re talking about and are worth listening to. Nonverbally, credibility is achieved right away by standing still for about 10 seconds in that first 12
minute, using a flatter-toned voice that drops in tone at the end of a phrase (like a newscaster or weather reporter). Between each sentence, you want to pause with a gesture in front of you that is still during that pause (try it). The body is straight and head is not tilted. However crazy that may sound, these patterns influence those in the audience to pay attention. you are worthy of being listened to. To give positive, nonverbal indicators to these questions, stand still. When we stand still the mind of the listener calms, takes in the data, and sees the speaker as non-threatening (that is important). You can move after the 10 seconds. The ten seconds is just so critical as a visual anchor for people to believe you are worth listening to. Breathe Simple as it sounds, breathe low. Breathe from the abdomen. Breathing influences all of our communication patterns. When speakers breathe high in the chest, they speak faster and louder — sometimes coming across as stern or too assertive. Breathing from the abdomen releases chemicals that calm the body and make speakers talk more slowly and clearly. Abdominal breathing contributes to a sense of certainty. Effective speakers also pause more often. Breathing also enhances the flow of oxygen into the brain. More oxygen helps you think more clearly, stay on point, and sustain flexibility. To pause and hold the gesture still like breathing may sound a bit crazy. Yet we all have the experience of listening to a nervous speaker. One who never paused, spoke too quickly, and finished early with virtually no one knowing what he or she said. When a speaker breathes quickly, the audience also breathes more quickly. Quick breathing impedes listening and even understanding. When we pause, we convey to others that more is coming. Holding a gesture still when we pause is also a visual indicator we have more to say. The gesture holds the attention of the group and contributes to the speaker’s credibility. Stand in Stillness for 10 seconds during the first minute. Stand still. Do this for about 10 seconds. Why? It’s about biology. When we are still people pay more attention to us in that moment. As animals we size up the person, are they friend of foe? Now, the people in the audience are not your foes, yet they are sizing you up. They are wondering if the presentation will be interesting. If you know what you are talking about. And lastly, if FRAME IT Frame what is important. Like fine art, the frame focuses and accents what is important in the painting. We want to ask ourselves as we prep — what do we want those in the audience to think, feel, do and say as a result of our session? Thinking and feeling are paramount because when thinking is linked to feelings (emotions) people remember. Doing and saying are also important, since what we do and say is what we remember. So, this frame is all about remembering the moment. Since we can’t always tell them what we want them to think, feel, do and say, we have to talk and act in ways that do it. It all starts with the opening. For instance, if you want your audience to think they contribute to a moral imperative about dignity and life (as noted above), your intent is to leave them feeling morally satisfied. This encourages them to do work that supports dignity and respect. It also acknowledges how they stay true to what is in their hearts when teaching children. So, there you have it, six gifts you can immediately use in your next session. Six gifts that may take you to the next level of client satisfaction and professional respect. Are there more things to do in the first minute? Sure, and do them. We feel that if you do at least these six, you gain three things. First, a greater satisfaction from the audience. Second, a strengthening of the professional relationship. And third, recognition for being a great communicator. Anne Morrow Lindbergh said, “Good communication is just as stimulating as black coffee, and just as hard to sleep after.” Don’t let your participants sleep. If you would like to contact Dr. Kendall Zoller, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 13