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How Beatboxing Can Help Us Master Successful Business Communication: by Ally Yates

Business and Beatboxing. At face value, they don’t share any obvious similarities, yet there’s commonality to be exploited.

Beatboxing uses the body like a versatile musical instrument, imitating a variety of sounds through the mouth, throat, tongue, lips, and voice. There’s a basic pattern to the art of beatboxing, and the resulting vocal percussion is diverse. What’s more, every element can be heard.


Image: Pixabay

The multi-vocalism of this contemporary musical form has parallels with skilled performers in business. Research in the field of Behaviour Analysis, the study of what you say, has shown that the most effective operators draw upon a range of verbal ‘behaviours’, depending on the context. Like Beatboxing, there are basic behaviors that are useful in almost all business interactions, overlaid by other verbal behaviors for specific settings, such as meetings, sales, presentations, and negotiations.

Lucas, a sourcing manager based in Singapore, says of Behavior Analysis: “Learning about behavior has helped me to improve the way I contribute in meetings – limiting my own unhelpful contributions while developing better facilitation skills through the use of Summarising and Bringing In.”

Summarising is an accurate precis of all or part of the preceding discussions. You can help the entire meeting by summarising key points at regular intervals.  In studies on skillful behaviors across a range of work situations, summarising regularly shows up as a helpful, yet still relatively uncommon, behavior. One of the reasons it’s rare is because to summarise accurately you have to be a good listener.

Bringing In is the active seeking of a contribution from someone who has been out of the discussion for a while. A smart chairperson will notice who is ‘in’ or ‘out’ of the discussion and will manage the involvement of all meeting members. If you’re managing a meeting, like the conductor of the beatboxing orchestra, you need to invite the different sections to participate. Bringing In is one way you can help the airtime to be more evenly distributed across the group and, like the beatboxer, ensure that each of the diverse contributions is heard. The other way is to use Shutting Out, a behavior that stops another’s contribution, most typically by interrupting someone. It’s a useful, percussive device for quelling the more garrulous people who can dominate the airtime if left unchecked.

If you’re reluctant to speak out in meetings your attempts at Shutting Out will likely be ineffective.  A basic and helpful formula for interrupting and claiming the airtime is A + B + C = SO.  A is A non-verbal indication that you want to get into the discussion.  You can lean forward, indicate with your hand, nod with your head and/or make eye contact with the speaker or the chairperson in a way that communicates ‘I have something to say’. B is a Behaviour label. Use a label to prepare the audience that you want their attention. C is the Category of behavior you use next, e.g. asking a question, suggesting an idea.  These three elements combined significantly increase your chances of ‘SO’ – Shutting Out successfully.

“Learning about Behaviour Analysis has given me a powerful framework to improve my effectiveness in meetings and other interactions,” says Lucas. “I’ve found the behavioral insights useful regardless of the meeting’s scope, the organizational hierarchy, and the individual’s culture.”

Lucas is playing percussion with the various behaviors, extending his flexibility and skill. As with learning any new skill, it takes practice. He’s got with the beat. Will you?


Ally Yates is author of Utter Confidence: How what you say and do influences your effectiveness in business and an expert on Behaviour Analysis and the interactions that define us. She combines a deep understanding of people and how to achieve results, based on her many years’ experience working with large corporate clients around the world.

Since 2000 Ally has been working as an independent consultant, facilitator, trainer, and coach. She has collaborated with international business schools and has received national and international training awards.

Ally’s approach is grounded in a sound understanding of theory, trends and practice in learning and development, business development and leadership development. Clients value her insights, pragmatism and influence.

She is passionate about family, rugby union, travel and learning.

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