Sometimes conversations just need to be ended – do you know when? Maybe you feel it in your gut, and haven’t been able to just get the confidence to walk away. Or maybe you feel like you’re just a rude and impatient person – guess what? You aren’t. Some conversations just weren’t meant to be.
We’re thinking about conversations in our video series – when they stall, what do you do? Start here!
By Founder Jen Oleniczak Brown
Meetings often suck. Don’t be confused, I love meeting new people and planning and figuring out action items, but a lot of time we end up rehashing what we did/do and set up plans for things that require more meetings. When I sit in for companies, observing communication styles, I often think the worst part of meetings for other people is that whole speaking part.
Think about it: You sit around and either wait for a chance to speak or you spend a large part of the time working up the nerve to speak. And what happens when you do? You might ramble or trip over words. You’re not completely thinking about everything that’s coming out of your mouth. You finish, and you’re either stressed about what you said or regretting that you didn’t say enough.
If this sounds like you, you probably aren’t doing the one thing that WILL help you speak in a meeting: Warming up.
Think about it — do you run 13.1 miles without warming up? No. Well, why would you speak without warming up the muscles in your mouth? Our mouths contain 10 muscles and it takes up to 100 muscles to speak! *
*I told this to a client I’m working with this afternoon and she literally laughed and said “That’s why I hate it so much.”
So how do you start to fix this? First off, know that no solution is an absolute. This is ONE way to get better at speaking in a meeting, specifically how to trip over words less and pay attention to the words coming out of your mouth. Much like running and getting in shape, it’s a process. Second, admit the amount of time you have before a meeting. In reality, you have minutes.
The quick way to warm up in minutes before a meeting: tongue twisters.
Think about it — people trip over words because they are running their mouths or speaking before they think. You have to concentrate before you say a tongue twister. You have to think about the words to get the correct — you have to PAY ATTENTION to what’s coming out of your mouth. Also, tongue twisters TWIST YOUR TONGUE. They are meant to trip you up, because they flex different areas of your mouth.
These are a few I give clients when they are specifically working on warming up quickly:
Red leather, yellow leather.
The lips, the teeth, the tip of the tongue, the tip of the tongue, the teeth, the lips.
Betty Botter bought a bit of bitter batter. (Say the t’s as t’s — not d’s)
Prior to a meeting, head into the bathroom, outside or sit at your desk. Say them out loud, three times each, slowly, and over-enunciate. Maybe you spit a little when you say these — that’s ok! You don’t run the same way you warm up — all you are doing is activating these areas.
Then head into your meeting and see what happens. Remember, this isn’t a fix-all (nothing is), but chances are, you’ll be a bit more cognizant of the words coming out of your mouth AND trip over your words less. Good luck, and enjoy that next meeting!
By Engager Lawrese Brown
The Blind Leading The Blind. That is literally what happened when I was facilitating a Blind Trust activity for a group of teens. During the activity, each person guides their partner around the room by their fingertips while their partner’s eyes are closed.
At the end of the activity, I asked the pairs “How did it feel to be led? How did it feel to have your eyes closed?” That’s when one of the pairs said, “We both had our eyes closed as we moved around the room.”
I was intrigued. I’d facilitated this activity frequently and never had that happen before. I then had the remaining teens do another round where both people in the pair tried to navigate around the room with their eyes closed. The final round was absolutely comical, but also a critical “aha” moment for us. As one teen said, “You need someone to lead so that you have direction.”
We know that you need leaders and followers, but we don’t often talk about the skill it takes to lead (initiative) and the skill involved in following (flexibility). As an instructor, it was the perfect demonstration of improvisations reliance on both. The final round showed us the importance of being both enterprising and easygoing when focused on achieving a result.
There is a tendency on teams to think in extremes – either you are easy going and go with it or you are being assertive and taking charge. But what would happen if we celebrated teammates that demonstrated both qualities equally?
If you’re too easygoing, you’ll never take action. And if you’re too assertive, you’ll leave no room to adapt. As the activity fundamentally showed us, progress (movement) and success (not bumping into anyone or anything) relies on a balance of both.
Imagine how we would shift our behavior on teams if we knew that every time there was a department project, the team’s ability to reach the desired result was the only metric we were judged on. There wasn’t an opportunity for you to say, “Well I did my part…” or conversely, “Well I did what everyone else was doing…”
Accepting that teamwork requires a balance of initiative and flexibility (or leading and following from all members of the team) is the best way to hold everyone accountable for the times final result. Both improv and teamwork are like having a great conversation, it’s not just what you say that’s great, but it’s also what others said to you. That balance is where the magic happens.
What a month November was… We are looking forward to a chill December and a rocking New Year! If you missed our November videos, here’s a recap. And don’t forget, you can subscribe to our Youtube channel and watch them as they roll out every Monday!
by Engager Olive Persimmon
I’ve been doing public speaking for ten years and coaching public speaking for four. Throughout this time I’ve given some amazing, rev-up the audience, not-a-dry-eye-in-house speeches.
I’ve also totally bombed. Red-faced, voice-shaking, forget-your-freaking-words bombed.
Luckily that happens far less frequently now because I’ve learned the common mistakes for why speeches don’t go well. Looking back, there are three basic reasons why I failed: 1. I didn’t prepare enough 2. I was overly worried about the audience’s opinion of me, and as a result 3. I got in my head.
So let’s talk about what you can do to avoid these common pitfalls:
1. Prepare and then practice:
Too often I see clients who want to “wing it” so they “sound natural.” This is one of the main reasons why speeches fail. The speaker didn’t prepare enough. It’s probably the single, most important thing you can do to deliver a great speech. Figure out exactly what you want to say and how you want to say it. Write it down and then practice it. Practice your presentation or speech alone. Then practice it again in front of people. If you have a fear of public speaking, it’s critical that you practice in front of other people, and often. The more frequently you do it, the more likely you are to decrease your fear.
2. Practice some more:
When we’re feeling nervous, our body goes into something called fight-or-flight mode. This causes our heart rate to elevate along with spikes in cortisol and adrenaline. This can lead to sweatiness, shaking, redness, and even blackouts. The last thing you want to be dealing with is figuring out what the heck you’re gonna say. I’ve seen this end two ways, the speaker blacks out and stops or the speaker starts to ramble. You want the words to be so engrained in your brain that you can keep going even if you’re having an out-of-body experience. Practice until you sound fake. Then keep practicing until you sound real again. That doesn’t mean you can’t deviate from your prepared talk, it just means that your brain won’t be scrambling for words at the wrong times.
3. Remind yourself that the audience WANTS you to succeed.
There’s a good chance that someone asked you to speak. That someone could be your boss. It could be a group of people interested in a topic. Those people BELIEVE that you will be successful. No one in their right mind would ask you to speak if they thought you were going to fail. The audience is on your side. Truly they are. Yet, for so many of us, we are obsessively worrying about what the audience will think of us. Before you start speaking, take a second to assess your audience. Find a friendly face. Smile at that person (it will release wonderful chemicals into your brain). Remind yourself that someone believes you deserve to be speaking. Take a deep breath and then begin.
4. Get out of your head
It’s impossible to connect with the audience when you’re in the middle of a conversation with yourself in your head. One of the easiest ways to get out of your head, is to make authentic eye contact with people in the audience. A lot of coaches recommend looking above the audience or looking at a lot of people in a short amount of time. Don’t do this. Instead, really look at the people you’re talking to. Not only will this help you connect with them, it will help ground your body and get you out of fight-or-flight mode.
Avoiding these common pitfalls is the first place to start if you’re trying to become an excellent speaker. Hopefully your next speech will be a home run. Follow our blog for more tips on speaking and other communication skills.
OMG, we are FOUR YEARS OLD TODAY!!! Thanks to the Engagers and Staff who took a little time to share something they’ve improved upon during their time with EE, or something they love about their job!
As a new member of the EE team, I’m excited to Inspire others to feel confident in front of a room, whether it’s for work, their hobby, or even just a gathering of old friends and new. Feeling comfortable in your skin is something that I’ve learned is so important when being your most genuine and authentic self! All my love, Jen – Jen Glantz, Engager
Being an engager is a dream job: I get to meet new people and learn, laugh and improv(e)! It is endlessly satisfying to see how improv – and the EE ethos – helps us listen, communicate and make progress on our goals. I feel so lucky to work with such an inspiring, smart and caring staff of women as we grow and expand. Happy Birthday, EE! Let’s all eat cake! – Jill Frutkin, Engager
As an engager, I have learned the enormous potential held in every single person. I have witnessed what is possible when we come together to explore how to share our voice with the world. – Minna Taylor, Engager
I love working with people who are so enthusiastic and passionate about the work they’re doing. I love feeling like it’s okay — encouraged, even! — to be excited about the work we’re doing and the folks we’re doing it with. – Shaelyn Amaio, Social Media and Graphics
I’ve definitely improved on initiative taking and thinking outside the box for creative admin solutions! Working with a team of people who are all creatives, not to mention just awesome people, makes admin work a joy! Plus, I love that our team is all women! – Erin Moncada, Admin Director
What I LOVE most about being an Engager is being a part of a group of bad-ass (can I say that?!) women who bring a varied set of skills, strengths, and accomplishments to the table. I’m inspired every time I co-teach, observe, and speak to the fellow engagers. The Engagers and the professionals that take EE’s classes always challenge me to bring my A-game – and no two classes are ever the same. I’m undoubtedly a better facilitator and educator because of my time with EE, and I’m looking forward to another amazing year. – Lawrese Brown, Engager
I LOVE my job. How many people get to say that? I get to help people get out of their heads and feel good about their communication. Not to mention, it’s fun! Seriously, huge love for EE, the other engagers, and all the wonderful people we’ve had the privilege to teach. – Olive Persimmon, Engager
What I love most about being an Engager is what I learn from students. A lot of people think that teachers are the ones with the answers, but I’m constantly being taught by the people who take my classes. It’s so inspiring to see how bravely people embrace something so foreign to them and it makes me more courageous in my life and work. – Molly Anne Coogan, Engager
Engaging Educator has made me more fearless! I love being part of a team of fearless woman who take risks and ‘yes…and” to success. – Hillary Murrell, Engager
FRIENDS!!!!! We have exciting news: Starting in October, we will be posting a new video each Monday, with improv tips, tricks, and lessons you can take and use in your life!
Here’s the announcement video from our Founder, Jen Brown:
Also… JUST KIDDING!!!! We couldn’t wait until October! Here’s the first one!
By Engager Lawrese Brown.
Many people come to improv classes to improve their communication skills. Communicating is one of those elusive skills we work on the entirety of our careers and ultimately our lives. Whether our motivation is wanting to become better public speakers, quicker on our feet, more creative in our responses, and more direct in our intention – we all want to express ourselves better. Yet, in focusing so heavily on what we say, we easily overlook the power in how we say it.
In 1967, Dr. Mehrabian did a study on how the mind configures meaning and found that the formula for interpreting a message is seven percent verbal, thirty eight percent vocal and fifty five percent visual. Yes, that means most of how we communicate is not with our words. The fact that we convey so much meaning with our bodies is easily overlooked. Yet, when having a conversation with someone who stares at us blankly, asks questions monotonously, and never makes a gesture, we’re quickly reminded that true connection and true conveyance of our message is in the body. Improv is king when it comes to communication courses because it’s grounded in movement, meaning that improv exercises not only strengthen what we say, but actively increase our awareness of what we are doing when we say it.
Whether we’re playing “What Are You Doing?,” Translator or simply scene building, improv challenges us to bring words to life – and with no props, no scripts, no scenery and no judgment — we do that in the most organic way possible – with our selves. So next time you are talking to someone or preparing for a speech don’t just practice your talking points, but take a moment to look at how you move.
Consider the following:
(Tone) How are you saying it?
– Are you irritated? Excited? Uncertain? Anxious?
(Facial Expressions) How we look when we say it:
– How’s your eye contact? Is your mouth open? Are your eyebrows furrowed?
(Gestures) How’s your body?
– What are your hands doing?
– Are you leaning? Swaying? Standing completely still?
– Is your head tilted? Is your chin down? Are your toes curled?
As Amy Cuddy proclaimed in her famous TED Talk, our body language not only shapes others perception of us, but it also shapes how we see ourselves. And that fits in perfectly with the second most important rule of improv (after YES AND of course) – no matter what happens, just keep moving.
I am thrilled to announce that The Engaging Educator has a little sibling, The Engaging Educator Foundation! Born March 17, 2016 in Winston-Salem, NC, and ready to Yes, And a whole new world.
When I started The Engaging Educator, it was meant to be a nod to my solo-career and the improv and presentation skills workshops I was planning to lead for museums. That (very) quickly expanded, and I found myself needing a we, and we found ourselves getting high-profile clients as well as museums and schools.
Because I follow the YES, AND mentality in life, I kept looking for ways to keep our workshops affordable for our original clients. Finally, the option to create a hybrid organization presented itself in my move to Winston-Salem. Under the Foundation, we’re working with our original intended client base, while still providing high-end consulting and customized workshops to our corporate clients through The Engaging Educator. We’re still US, just with more open doors for grants, collaboration and possibilities.
If you are a museum, school, organization or individual that would like more information about these workshops, donations, or information on the Foundation, please email us. Keep an eye on our FOUNDATION PAGE for updates!
Thank you all so much for your support, and we’re oh so excited for this next adventure in Yes, And!