Communicate Effectively in Any Situation – Tips from Body Language Expert Ann Washburn

Hi from Speak More Clearly! 

How to walk into any room and get your message across confidently – with our special guest, Ann Washburn. 

Ann and I are going to have a discussion about how to walk into any room and get your message across effectively and confidently. 

Highlights (see our timestamps below to jump to this section of the video):

Information About Esther Bruhl and Ann Washburn

About Esther; I’m a speech and language pathologist who helps adults improve their accent in English and speak fluently. I used to have a whole lot of people walking to my clinic saying “We’re having very great trouble getting our message across, or getting a job because when we get into an interview, our accent is fairly thick. We are not getting the jobs or the promotion that we want. We’re not feeling very confident about how we’re speaking, because our first language is not English and we have an accent.” So, I developed our online courses, where people can learn to speak English fluently and pronounce English more clearly with an American accent, British accent, or Australian accent. We also have one-on-one coaching for people who want to have specialized coaching and improve their speech faster. 

About Ann; Ann Washburn is a body language and behavior expert. She is also a professional speaker, a trainer, a coach, and a mentor. She helps people to become the best version of themselves and improve the relationships in their life. Relationships with people, with our finances and anything that we interact with. She was a mechanical engineer who got into the world of training by accident because, as an engineer, she worked in flight simulation and explosives and she didn’t know how to communicate very well with people. She did not have confidence when communicating with her colleagues and managers. This inspired her to get into the world of body language because she needed to understand what messages she was sending people that weren’t coming out of her mouth. When the messages that are coming out of our mouth don’t match the words and the messages coming from our body language, people will discount what we say. Ann wanted to help people have the skills that helped her completely uplevel every relationship in her life. 

Ann’s Tips for Communicating Effectively (especially when you’re nervous)

  1. Breathe. In the body language world, one of the things we always watch for is when people stop breathing, they don’t even realize they do it, but they’ll hold their breath. You can see this when you give somebody a compliment. Very often when people receive a compliment, they will hold their breath because they’re trying not to let that compliment go inside of them. That was one of the things that I had people at my TED talk do, is I had them notice the compliments because people will, will push it away. They’ll hold their breath or they’ll close their eyes because they’re disconnected, their belief in their programming doesn’t match the compliment. So, make sure to breathe!
  2. Change your body language to feel confident and believe in your message. One of the biggest pieces of the recipe of confidence is belief. And so, if I don’t believe that my message can be communicated effectively, I will show that through my body language. well I want the se I want the brain to believe. Ask yourself, what does belief look like? Well, in body language it looks like shoulders. When we get nervous, we will hunch our shoulders. So it’s bringing the shoulders down to level, it’s bringing the chin up because when we’re not confident, we shrink, we become smaller. So putting our shoulders up, putting our chin up and remembering to breathe, are the first steps to a good first impression and getting your message across effectively.

07:55 Ann’s Tips for Getting Your Message Across Effectively 

Esther’s Tips to Communicate Effectively for Non-Native English Speakers

  1. Breathing & pausing. Breathing is really important because it relaxes all the muscles. If you breathe properly – especially into the lower part of your ribcage, and put your hands there so you feel the breath coming out and in, you actually support all the muscles (see video for demo). You relax as well and then your shoulders relax and everything. Practise that so you can start to learn how to breathe more deeply and learn to pause at the correct places so that your audience can understand what you’re saying in between phrases. Pausing also allows your audience to take things in. That allows you also to be more confident. It gives you time to think as well. 
  2. Practice. We always have to practice bigger than the actual performance. Our brain is wired such that when we think people are watching us, we speed up and we shrink and we play smaller. It’s just how our brain is wired.
  3. Emphasize words. If you’re using your breath properly, you can emphasize words in the sentences that you want people to hear. Make sure that you are getting your message across by stressing the words that carry the main meaning. English listeners, listen for the words that are stressed, not the de-stressed words particularly. In English we also link words together to sound more fluent. So it sounds like very long words going on and if you don’t take enough air, you will run out of air and then won’t be able to keep up your confident posture of chin up, shoulders down. You’ll lose your confident presentation. So breath control is really important. When presenters give a talk or do public speaking, they’re taking a quick breath into the abdomen between everything. They also have a little pause at the end of each phrase, so the listener knows what to pay attention to.

13:55 Esther’s Tips for Getting Your Message Across Effectively

Public Speaking Tip: How Smiling Can Help You Succeed in Your Next Presentation

Smiling is telling your body how you want to feel when you go into that presentation. If we keep smiling, we keep telling our brain, I want to feel happy in this presentation. I want to have a good outcome. Our brain is a computer, so if we wanna feel good in our presentation, we’ve got to start before the presentation – programming ourselves to feel good about ourselves. 

22:22 How Smiling Can Help You

Practice Enunciation to Improve Your Body Language

Another thing that we talk about practicing is the enunciation. Practice your body language, like breathing. So our breathing is unique and we can have conscious control over our breathing, but when we quit thinking about it, we still breathe. Our body won’t let us stop breathing. Your body language is the same way, you can take conscious control of your body language, but when you quit paying attention to it, it’s going to send the messages that match your default programming. If you’re practising to speak on stage, in front of a large audience, or at a presentation. Go through your presentation with no speech, think through it, but don’t have any speech. Practice your body language.

28:49 Practice Enunciation

Can everyone Learn to Communicate Confidently and Speak English Clearly? 

If you study the neuroscience of the brain, we’re actually wired to think negatively. They’ve done studies where they’ve put people in MRI machines and we’re actually wired to pay three times more attention to the negative about ourselves. Researchers are saying it’s partly because historically, we needed to look for all the dangers in our environment. It’s also because we’re wired for sociology. We need social skills to survive. We tend to have this idea that there are certain people who are charismatic and others who are not. But everybody can learn to be confident and communicate clearly. 

We all want to be listened to, and we want to be included, and we want to be influential. We also want to be interesting. So, if those are our goals, communication is the shortcut.

39:04 We Have to Give Ourselves Three Positives for Every Negative

What Do You Do When Something Goes Wrong During an Interview or Presentation? 

One of the things to do is to pause and listen, this is sort of saying, hang on, I’m having a bit of a technical glitch. 

And it’s part of being confident because if you just go silent, people won’t know what’s going on. You’re still not communicating what’s happening for you. People are quite forgiving if they know what’s going on. Say, “I need to think about that for a minute”. It’s okay to say those things because you’re still communicating where you are at and you’re still being confident about the fact that it’s okay to need a moment to think. If you own your mistakes, people connect to you more. 

40:43 What Do You Do When Something Goes Sideways During an Interview? 

What To Do If You Get Nervous and Start to Freeze up During a Presentation, Public Speech, or Job Interview?

Another thing we have to understand is why we fear having people look at us. We have energy that goes between us when we’re talking to people. This is why if there are more people, it’s more scary – it’s more energy being looked at us. So if we get nervous and start to freeze up, one of the things from a body language perspective that can help  is to take a quarter turn. It causes the energy that’s coming at you to pass in front of your body instead of going through you.

This works even if you’re in a confrontation with a single person because what riles us up is that energy going back and forth between us. So if you take a quarter turn, it causes the energy that’s coming at you to bypass you instead of going through you.

42:57 What If We Get Nervous and Start to Freeze up?

Recap: Presentation Tips to Communicate Effectively in Any Situation 

  1. It really comes down to preparation 
  2. Once we’ve done the preparation, go in with belief in ourselves
  3. Know what to do if something doesn’t go to plan and how to recover and get your presentation, job interview etc, back on track

If you can do those three things, you can walk confidently into any room and present your ideas confidently and effectively.

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