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To speak succinctly is an art. The irony of talking concisely is that people will listen to you longer. Colleagues, employees, bosses and audiences will wait for your next pithy phrase. Radio and TV talk show hosts will give you more air time. Journalists will quote you. Master of pith, Mark Twain, describes a soundbite as, “A minimum of sound to a maximum of sense.” Soundbites consist of fascinating phrases. They can be facts, anecdotes, stories, one-liners, or clever quips. Bottom line, they are sentences memorably packed with meaning. Here is how to create them:
Understand Your Purpose.
Know your intention. Are you trying to entertain, inspire, teach, persuade, or provoke? Your purpose in a job interview, for example, is to explain what you’ve accomplished in previous jobs and how you have successfully resolved difficult situations. You want to give the interviewer a sense of you as an individual and as a team player.
Interviewers are also interested in information that helps them determine how you might fit into the organization and its culture. Your mission is to answer any question-no matter how vague-while bathing yourself in a glowing light of pertinent information. Practice out loud. Then tape yourself. Try to tell your stories in 10, 20, 30 and 60 seconds.
Find your own voice.
Your voice is as personal as your thumbprint. You use phrases and have mannerisms that are like the billboards that holler over city highways. Ask your friends and family what your billboards are. These stories are one way we frame our lives. Observe how you talk about your experiences.
An Internet entrepreneur embarking on a worldwide tour to seek board members for start-up left behind a stack of rejection letters from potential venture capital firms-which was understandable when he explained the premise for his company. He never made a cent of his own and in fact lost $100,000 of his inheritance on a failed business venture. Every other sentence was a negative statement about what his idea was not. What investor would gamble millions of dollars on this man?
To get a VC’s attention you must be able to convey your vision of the future while illuminating your past victories. Practice your patter on people before any important meeting or appearance. Many of our unconscious beliefs surface during spontaneous interactions. Begin to notice yours and discover what you are saying about yourself.
Take the bore out of boardroom meetings by enjoying listening rapturously. To entice your audience to listen rapturously to you, first listen rapturously to them. Connect with people individually by holding their gaze as if they were the only one alive. Be sincere in your desire to connect. A phony stinks like old cheese.
Lee Glickstein, founder of Speaking Circles® says, “Pausing silently to receive the audience’s support before we speak creates a sacred ground for our talk. To keep that field of resonance with our audience-we have to keep listening to them. The more we keep noticing and receiving our audience as we speak, the more they will hear us.” Glickstein advocates honoring rather than trying to dominate your listeners. Slowing down and pausing frequently gives them a chance to absorb your presence, meaning and message. It’s a kindness you graciously extend to them.
Make potent points.
Keeping to your most potent points makes an interview, presentation, meeting, or media appearance move forward smoothly. Jane Swigart Ph.D, wrote her book, “The Myth of the Perfect Mother” to help mothers parent without guilt. To convey the difficulty and complexity of motherhood, she came up with some key phrases like, “Being a mother is like asking half the population to do brain surgery without sending them to medical school.” This line takes less than 10 seconds to say.
Sound bites don’t have to be big, sophisticated ideas. In fact they should be the opposite. A great guest or presenter is someone who is articulate, well-informed, entertaining, and profound. One such guest, Victoria Moran, author of Creating a Charmed Life: Sensible, Spiritual Secrets Every Busy Woman Should Know, explained in an interview, “We usually think of a charmed life as one someone else gets to live. We tend to compare our insides with other people’s outsides.”
Moran understands jazz musician, Dizzy Gillespie’s concept, “It’s not how much you play. It’s how much you leave out.” The process of developing your sound bites is about peeling away the unnecessary to arrive at the essential. We want to see your core unadorned by anything except the truth.