communication

Guest Blog Post: 5 Ways to Create an Exciting Learning Experience to Keep Your learners Engaged

Eager to keep your students engaged? Rest assured that with the utilization of the latest learning tools, you are going to be able to achieve this target. Guest Blogger, Kamy Anderson is an ed-tech enthusiast with a passion for writing on emerging technologies in the areas of corporate training and education.

Press Release: DiResta Speaks to Military Women Veterans at Operation Reinvent

Diane DiResta, CSP, author of Knockout Presentations: How to Deliver Your Message with Power, Punch and Pizzazz, and Founder and CEO of DiResta Communications, a New York City consultancy, was invited to speak to military women veterans at the Operation Reinvent event. The event was a live webcast from NYC to Fort Bragg, North Carolina and Fort Hood, Texas.
The mission of Operation Reinvent is to prepare military women for transition to civilian life.

15 Tips to Master Video Presentations

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video-presentationWhat do today's business presenters have in common with television anchors? They both have broadcasting skills. With youtube being the number two search engine and companies demanding online learning, public speaking has gone digital. According to Business Insider 2014, “About 50 million people in the U.S. now watch video on their mobile phone."  Public speakers who shun the camera will be left behind. The first step to being a master presenter is to understand the difference between in- person speaking versus video presentations. Here are a few tips for speaking in a digital media world:

  1. A video recorded presentation is one way communication. That means you can’t read the audience and pivot in the moment to meet their needs. So it takes a lot of preparation to deliver a compelling message and provide value to your target audience.
  2. In the case of teleconferencing, appoint a facilitator at each site to manage the technology and to facilitate the meeting. Be aware of delay time and plan for it by practicing longer pauses. Pause and silently count to four. That will allow enough time for the speaker to finish and for the listeners to hear the last word.
  3. Know the time zone of your audience. It may be 8:00 a.m. in New York, but if it’s 2:00 p.m. in Amsterdam you don’t want to start the meeting with “Good morning”.
  4. Display a visual agenda. People need a roadmap and it will keep the meeting or presentation focused.
  5. Have a back-up plan. Be able to continue by telephone if the video fails. It’s a good idea to do a test drive of the technology 15 minutes before the presentation. As a hedge, send the PowerPoint deck in advance.
  6. Make love to the lens. People don’t know where to look when speaking on skype. When you look directly at the caller, they see you looking down and you lose that eye connection. Try this instead: When speaking to them, look directly at the webcam. When you are listening, look at the caller.It’s uncomfortable speaking to a camera; yet that’s exactly what the presenter needs to do during webcasts and media interviews. In live presentations the presenter feeds off the audience reaction. With video, the presenter imagines the lens is a person. It’s important to maintain a steady gaze. If your eyes are darting you’ll be perceived as nervous or untrustworthy. And practice smiling and talking. Broadcasters do this easily. A serious delivery will weaken the likability factor.
  7. Video is an energy drain. There is an exchange of energy between a speaker and an audience. When that energy is strong, it’s palpable. That’s not the case with video. As a result, you won’t convey energy the way you do in a live performance. For that reason, you need to pump up your performance on video. In a video the presenter can easily come across as flat. Push your energy higher than normal to have the same intensity level when you’re live and in person.
  8. Minimize gestures. Wide, sweeping hand movements are distracting on video. Use fewer and smaller gestures. If seated, sit with both feet on the floor and lean forward at a 15 degree angle. Place both hands on the table. This is a confident speaking and listening position. You’ll be perceived as confident and it will stabilize you. Avoid excessive head nodding and jerky movements.
  9. You are always on stage. If someone else is speaking, chances are you are still in view. Be careful about sloppy behaviors such as slouching, looking at your phone, side talking or looking bored. The presentation isn’t over until the camera is off.
  10. You’ll look heavier on video. Video is two dimensional which flattens the presenter. I once was videotaping a client for a presentation. It was amazing that when I looked at her directly she appeared slim. When I looked through the camera lens she looked heavier.To manage the widening effect, dress for the camera.Remember that light colors enhance and dark colors diminish. A client of mine was unhappy with her video because she thought she looked heavy. She was wearing a boxy white jacket which gave her a wide appearance. We did a make-over. This time she wore a tapered navy blue jacket which had a slimming effect.Another way to look thinner on video is to stand at a ¾ angle with your hips back. If you’re in a close-up, drop your forehead slightly to avoid a double chin.
  11. Wear the right colors. White and black are not good colors for video. White creates glare. It’s better to wear off-white or pearl grey. Icy pastel colors look washed out on camera and are not a good choice. Red can bleed or look muddy. A better choice is burgundy. Avoid stripes and large bold patterns. You’ll look like a TV test pattern. When in doubt, blue is a good choice for video. It films well and psychologically blue means trustworthy, conservative, stable.
  12. Lighting is key. While lighting is important in a live performance, harsh lighting won’t be as damaging. On video, fluorescent lightening will highlight lines and shadows in the face and can also hurt the eyes. Use soft lighting that flatters your face.
  13. Choose the backdrop carefully. When doing a video presentation always ask about the backdrop. If you’re filming from home, make sure you don’t have messy papers stacked up behind you. If you’re filming off-site, choose clothing that will work with the backdrop. Early in my career I was being filmed for a speaker showcase.  I asked the producer if my fuchsia suit would televise well. He said yes. Unfortunately. I asked the wrong question. I should have asked “What color is the backdrop?” When I arrived I found myself in front of an orange curtain. The fuchsia suit bled into the orange and looked terrible on film. This wouldn’t have been an issue in a live presentation.
  14. You cannot be boring. Engagement is crucial.You have 5-10 seconds to grab attention in a video presentation. The key to success in video presentations is good storytelling and a highly targeted audience who will appreciate the value. Being boring is deadly in any venue. A live audience will show more tolerance by listening longer. If your video presentation is boring the viewer will click off instantly. A video presentation needs to have greater engagement. A measure of engagement, is how many people watch the entire video. According to Industry standards, a 15-20% complete viewing of a 2 minute video is considered a good engagement rate. That means most viewers are not watching the complete video.
  15. The day of the talking head is over.To increase engagement, keep a fast pace. You need to keep the video moving. Add slides and images while you are speaking. Fly in bullet points as you speak. Keep the presentation brief. If it’s a formal speech aim for no more than 18-20 minutes. Sales presentations need to be crisp, engaging, fast moving, and brief.In my own experiment, I noticed that every time I reached for the fast forward knob, the picture would change. This happened continually as if the videographer was reading my mind. Intrigued, I started to look at the time. The frames were changing every four seconds-the same time I wanted to fast forward.

If you’re not producing video presentations you’re leaving money on the table. Your digital footprint is now an important part of your personal brand. Interviewers are asking for videos. LinkedIn now allows videos to be added to profiles. Video is the ultimate selling tool. It addresses the know, like, trust factor.

Video is not going away. To be current, you need to master video presentations.

What Hillary Clinton Can Teach Us About Using Your Voice

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Hillary ClintonThere’s been talk about Hillary Clinton’s coughing and whether she’s damaging her voice. It made me think of how speakers unknowingly abuse their voices. Often public speakers yell in order to project. Yelling is not only irritating to listen to, but will cause eventual hoarseness. It causes strain on the vocal folds. Presenters should request a microphone, project from the diaphragm, and not from the neck muscles. And incessant coughing can also cause damage. Coughing causes the vocal folds to forcefully slam together.

One of the bigger problems for professional and public speakers is laryngopharyngeal reflux, an inflammation near the back part of the larynx due to acid rising to that point. Thirty-five million people in the United States have acid reflux.

“This inflammatory condition causes the vocal folds to function less efficiently leading to vocal fatigue and poor projection,” states Dr. Thomas Murry, clinical director, professor of speech pathology in otolaryngology at the Voice and Swallowing Center of Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, Columbia University. Reflux is most common among speakers because so many speakers are on the go, stressed and may have poor diets. Being aware of the symptoms of reflux can help speakers take preventative steps to take care of the problem.

The big five symptoms are:

  • Vocal fatigue
  • Lack of projection
  • Hoarseness as the day wears on
  • Throat clearing
  • Increased phlegm in the throat

Preserving the Voice

To preserve the voice, don’t constantly clear your throat or talk over noise.  Instead, Murry recommends the silent cough technique.

The silent cough technique is a way to clear the throat without violently banging the vocal folds together. The silent cough is done by breathing in air and blowing the air out fast through your throat and mouth without making a sound. Immediately after the silent cough, you should tuck your chin down toward your chest and make a strong swallow. The silent cough often clears mucous that clings to the vocal folds or near them. The silent cough is an important element of vocal hygiene and helps to prevent unnecessary trauma to the vocal folds. It is especially important to use the silent cough after surgery to the vocal folds.

If the symptoms of reflux continue, go to the doctor before the problem becomes severe.

Another common physical voice problem is vocal paresis, a weakness in one or both vocal muscles manifesting in breathiness or fatigue. Both folds must come together symmetrically to produce a clear, resonant voice. Vocal paresis can be caused by a flu or viral infection. When the nerve is inflamed, the condition can last for six months to a year, causing the speaker to change habits to adjust to the inflammation. A monotone may be an indicator of a minor defect or partial paralysis. Also, public speakers who have difficulty projecting could have some vocal fold asymmetry. Tape yourself and listen to how you sound. Also, be aware if you find people asking you to talk louder. This may be an indication that you are suffering from vocal paresis.

Breathiness and Hoarseness

Women are more inclined to get polyps or nodules, which are growths that prevent complete closure of the vocal folds and create breathiness. “In females, the back part of the vocal folds never completely closes due to the way they are formed. So the female voice is always going to be a little bit more breathy than the male’s because of anatomy,” states Murry.

If you are suffering from breathiness, take action and get checked out. It is always better to be safe than sorry. The definition of the term “frustrated and feeling sorry for yourself" is to wake up to find that you’re hoarse when you have a big speaking engagement.

When hoarseness is the problem, first determine that there is no hemorrhage. Then start a process of hydration and steam. Public speakers should travel with a facial steamer. When staying in a dry hotel room, opera singers use them every hour for five minutes. Alternatively, you can make boiling water in your coffee pot, pour it into the ice bucket, and throw a towel over your head to reap the benefits of steam.

To avoid becoming hoarse, avoid alcohol, chocolate and caffeine before a speech. They will dehydrate the mucous membranes, causing hoarseness. Finally, after an all-day motivational program, get plenty of rest and drink lots of water. Before you climb into bed, toss out those mint chocolates on your pillow; they are a double whammy because the mint relaxes the lower esophagus and allows acid to come up.

Making a difference in the lives of your audience is done with your instrument—your voice. With proper breathing, voice training and vocal hygiene, your voice will be strong, healthy and you’ll master true vocal power.

How to Give a Eulogy When You're Not a Public Speaker

Linda BaileyWhat do you do when a loved one dies and you're the person to give the eulogy? Last weekend I attended the memorial service of my friend, Linda who lost her battle to lung cancer at the age of 63. Memorial services are usually bittersweet. The service was beautifully inspiring and sad at the same time. The tributes from her sorority sisters gave an insight into her personality and the reader of her legacy left a powerful impression of Linda's contribution of the world. The soloist sang Linda's favorite song with feeling and his voice filled up the room with love.

The preacher read a passage from the Bible and eloquently spoke about Job, He told us that we had not lost anything. That Linda had been given to us as a gift and we shared that gift for 63 years. His sermon and his delivery were inspiring, uplifting, and impassioned.

While the preacher was a trained public speaker, the day may come when you are tapped to give the eulogy. You don't have to be experienced in public speaking to be effective. Here are six tips to remember when memorializing a loved one's life:

Develop a Time Line. If you don;t know where to begin, draw a horizontal line on your paper and mark down significant events or memories. It can be in 5 or 10 year intervals or any time frame that works.

Discover a Theme. Once you look at the timeline, you may see trends or stories that can be folded into a them. Ex. You always did it your way. You always went the extra mile.

Sequence your Ideas.Next, organize the most important and meaningful events and stories in a sequence that flows and is easy to follow. Don't give a biography of the person's entire life. Keep it brief.

Keep it Positive. Don't dwell on the failings or negative times unless it culminates in a story of the hero's journey. Interjecting humor can help lighten the atmosphere.Talk about the deceased in a positive light but do be genuine. What contributions did the departed make? How did the loved one make people feel? How would that person want to be remembered?

Speak from the Heart. It's fine to use a script or notes, however; tell stories. Don't sound like you're reading a text. If you knew the person, share your experience. Relive the moments and events and give people a sense of the person. And it's okay to cry. Have people nearby and take a minute to compose yourself and continue. The audience will understand.

Bury your Fear. Put your focus on telling the person's story and not on your nervousness.Jerry Seinfeld said it best when he quipped, "Most people would rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy." Remember it's not about you.It's about them.

What a Cashier Taught Me about Presentations

shield-728532__180I went to the supermarket to pick up a few items. Not wanting to wait in line, I found a cashier who was without customers. She had her back turned as she was shuffling a deck of coupons. I approached her and stood there expecting her to stop what she was doing to serve me. She did not. She continued to organize the coupons and never said a word to me or attempted to make eye contact. She placed a rubber band around the coupons, put them in the drawer and without saying a word, started to ring up the two items.

It was like I wasn't there.

Viewing this as an experiment in communication, I said nothing. Neither did she. After ringing up the groceries she spoke for the first time. "$6.07, " she said. As I was digging for change she turned and talked to the other cashiers. I paid the bill and left. Talk about feeling invisible.

Yes, she was a young person being paid minimum wage but that's not an excuse for being rude. (Although I doubt that was her perception). I've had friendlier and more helpful service from others in her position. It made me think about what was being communicated by this cashier. By not acknowledging that I was standing in front of her I felt ignored and not valued as a customer. She had no idea of the impact of her silence and lack of friendliness. By not greeting a customer and avoiding eye contact, she tarnished the brand of the store. There was little difference between doing business with her and scanning my own groceries in the self service line. I left with a negative feeling about the supermarket although I've shopped there many times.

My husband reminded me that he doesn't like going to our local Thai restaurant even though the food is good and inexpensive. He dislikes the waitress who doesn't smile and looks annoyed all the time. He calls her "a pill". Think about it. He doesn't want to eat where the food is good because he doesn't like her attitude. She non-verbally communicates that the customers are an annoyance to her. She's creating a negative feeling.

How often do we minimize soft skills in the business world? Something as seemingly basic as greeting a person or making eye contact can have a big impact. It's part of your presentation. In graduate school, I waited tables at a  New York City fast food restaurant in the middle of Times Square. (That's another story). I quickly learned the ROI of interpersonal skills. A greeting, friendly tone, and a smile could yield a better tip.

There's a barista at my local Starbucks named Gus. He remembers everyone's name. When I walk in the store, he starts making my green tea because he knows my order. Gus makes customers feel special and I always ask for him.

So the point is this. We are always presenting ourselves and the organization we represent. McDonald's understands this. Every entry level worker greets each customer by looking at them and saying "Welcome to McDonalds". They are well trained because the company recognizes that communication impacts their brand. It's the intangibles that drive the tangible. The next time you have a meeting or presentation, be fully present, acknowledge the other person and whatever your topic, serve it up with a smile.

7 Mistakes to Avoid When Speaking to Sell

Most small businesses are overlooking the  most powerful and cost effective marketing strategy to increase sales. Creating and delivering a 20 to 45 minute seminar, can go a long way in positioning entrepreneurs to capture more leads and increase sales. Unlike more traditional cold calling, the benefits of seminar selling keep on giving.

Boring to Brilliant Public Speaking: Make Dry Topics Dynamic

actor-666499__180There are no boring topics-only boring speakers. Just about every audience and coaching client has heard me make that statement about public speaking. Recently, a client proved my theory at a corporate conference. He and his team were charged with creating a panel presentation to introduce the new compliance directives and expectations. Are you falling asleep yet? If you were a public speaker would you be panicking about how to keep people's attention? Unless the topic of compliance is your passion, or you're a trained actor, you'd be wondering how on earth you could possibly make this subject dynamic and interesting. But they did! Here's how:

The presenters wrapped a Star Wars theme around compliance. The presentation began with a Star Wars- like graphic slide complete with music and scrolling text.They substituted compliance terms into the text about the challenges of the galaxy.

After the slide faded to dark, the presenters walked on stage. When the lights went up the audience saw the panelists standing with lasers. The moderator walked center stage and spoke his opening line directly to the audience. But wait. There was more.

As the panelists were seated, the moderator looked around in surprise One of the panelists was missing. After much curiosity, the last panelist entered as Princess Leia dressed in white. She appeared as an imaginary hologram portending the future and then left the stage. She returned as herself and took her seat. By this time the audience was laughing, engaged, and revved up.

The panel discussion continued smoothly as the audience was truly primed to listen. Midway during the panel, to avoid any monotony, the panel called  R2D2, complete with sound effects in one of the slides. The moderator then announced a Question and Answer session.

And.just when you thought it was safe to be boring, the first questioner turned out to be Darth Vader in costume. He caused a commotion with his comments and his laser and was quickly escorted out by "security". The panel ended on a high note I'm sure it will be talked about for some time to come.

So what can we learn from this creative approach to a dry topic?

Wrap a dry topic in a dynamic, familiar theme. Movie and book titles are good sources for ideas.

Use music and sound effects to create excitement and emotion. This is especially potent when the audience recognizes a theme song. It can be as brief as a chorus or refrain.

Create visual interest. Props, graphics, and costumes are an alternative to slides. A prop can be a dollar bill or it can be people from the audience. The idea is to stimulate all the senses.

Trigger the element of surprise. The audience was not expecting Princess Leia and Darth Vader to appear in the audience. A simple magic trick or quick poll can be the source of the unexpected or unknown.

Leverage technology. Presenters don't have to rely exclusively on PowerPoint. Videotape an interview or talk to a remote site using live streaming.

Have fun. What made a boring topic exciting is that the presenters were having fun. Nothing engages an audience like laughter. When you're having fun, you abandon fear and become fully present in the moment and with the audience.

And that means never being boring again.

10 Steps to Confidence

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Why do we spend years on developing competence when research proves that CONFIDENCE trumps COMPETENCE? Because we falsely believe that it's our smarts and not our hearts that get us to the top. So how do you learn confidence?  Here are 10 steps to confidence.

  1. Clear. Get clear about who you are as a person and get clear about your presentation outcome. Clarity is the first step to confidence. Focus on your message and establish a benchmark for achieving your presentation outcome.
     
  2. Other-Centered. Nervousness is self-centeredness. Turn your attention away from you and toward your audience. Ask, "How can I serve them?" "How can I make them comfortable." Do a deep dive into the minds of your listeners. When you profile your audience, you'll speak their language, create rapport, and you'll feel more prepared.
     
  3. Natural. There is only one you. You have your own unique style. Don't set out to give a presentation. Be conversational and be yourself. If you're not funny, don't tell a joke. Share something personal and the audience will relate to you.
     
  4. Free from Judgment. Eliminate your need for perfection and stop" shoulding" on yourself. Monitor your self-talk. When you begin the presentation, imagine success. When you finish the presentation, give yourself credit for the things you did well. Confidence develops over time and in a positive atmosphere. Mohammed Ali said "I am the greatest," before he was ever a champion
     
  5. Improvise. Public speakers who are wedded to their scripts can be easily caught off guard if they lose their place or if there is a technical glitch. Learning to improvise will boost your confidence. When disaster strikes  embrace it instead of freezing in place. Prepare your recovery strategy with ad-lib lines.
     
  6. Design. Confident delivery sits on well-designed structure. Confidence begins before you ever open your mouth. It starts with good organization. Good structure will keep you focused and on message, And your audience will be able to follow your points.
     
  7. Enthusiastic Enthusiasm sells. When you're excited, you forget your nervousness. Speak from your passion and you'll find your energy increases. Raise your energy by doing something physical. Move around the room. Get louder. Use more gestures.Enthusiasm is contagious and your audience will be excited along with you.
     
  8. Network. Do you feel like the naked speaker up there all alone? To gain confidence network before you speak. Get to the room early and practice. As people enter, greet each person with a smile and a handshake. By the time it's your turn to speak you'll be in the company of friends.
     
  9. Concise. A speech can quickly unravel if the speaker gets stuck in the weeds of details. To feel confident, get to the point. Create crisp message points and build examples around each point. Instead of rolling their eyes, the audience will hang on your every word.
     
  10. Engaging. It's hard to feel confident when you're a talking head. Give fewer facts and tell more stories. Why are stories so powerful? Stories draw the audience in,  break down resistance and entice them open to your message. Stories make your message memorable. And here's the bonus point.. A story has a natural sequence so you don't have to worry about losing your train of thought. Simply tell the story. Be in the story and your audience will be engaged.

Is Amy Cuddy's Wonder Woman Pose A Fraud?

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ellevate presentationMy colleague TJ Walker challenged the validity of Harvard professor, Amy Cuddy's power pose. Amy Cuddy has one of the most popular youtube videos on body language. She advises people to adopt the Wonder Woman pose (hands on hips) to feel powerful when speaking in public. In TJ's twitter post today, he disputes this claim and calls it a fraud. Here's my opinion. The power pose was recommended to assuage public speaking fear. It's based on neuroscience research and when this pose is held for 2 minutes, there is an increase in testosterone. Higher levels of the hormone, testosterone, are found in those who are risk takers.

What was novel was that there was Harvard research backing up her claims. Do I think she's a fraud? No. Unless the research is flawed, it's helpful to have a technique to increase confidence. And there is a body language of confidence. The mind-body connection is widely accepted.

However, as an executive speech coach who works with women leaders and male executives, I don't claim that this one pose is a panacea for public speaking fear, nor does it make you a knockout presenter. TJ makes several good points. Amy Cuddy had a compelling story, a strong structure to her speech, and good visuals. I always tell my clients that great delivery sits on great structure. Your presentation delivery is only as good as your organization. Public speaking success is 90% preparation and 10% delivery.

A client recently hired me for four hours to work on a 15 minute high stakes presentation. That did not include the time she spent with the graphic designer.

So to feel confident, the first step is preparation, planning, and a good, strong message. Presenters need to master their minds as well as their skill set. Does it help to use the power pose? Probably. I teach it to audiences. It makes them feel powerful. But it's not the whole story. There are other physical skills I give them. But I do believe that the mind affects the body and the body affects the mind.

So as long as presenters prepare and practice their message, why not strike a pose and feel powerful?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ks-_Mh1QhMc

Stay on Message Without Being Scripted

manuscript-547042_640In a Republican debate, Senator Marco Rubio had emerged as a great orator and touted his third place standing as a win. There was a lot of buzz about Rubio and he was riding high despite being number three. So it was no surprise that he walked into the next debate confident and expecting more of the same. And then it happened. Governor Chris Christie hammered him. Christie came down hard on Rubio for reciting his message point for a third time and accused him of being scripted. It didn't go well for Rubio and Christie won that round.

How can the skill of staying focused and on message be to the detriment of a public speaker? As a speaking strategist and media trainer, I advise my clients to know their message and to stay on message. This is especially important in a media interview. A skilled media guest will lead with key messages and weave them throughout the interview.

The red flag is when the presenter doesn't answer the question and defaults to a message that doesn't follow the line of questioning. What should Rubio have done? Answer the question to the best of his ability without repeating the same message point again.

Most of us won't be running for office or even presenting in a formal debate. But we will need to persuade, convince, and inform our stakeholders. I advise audiences and clients to familiarize, don't memorize. When a public speaker repeats the same points too close together and uses the exact same words, that's when authenticity is lost. That sounds scripted.

The first mistake is reading a manuscript word-for-word. It takes a special skill and much practice to deliver the words so it doesn't sound like you're reading text. Some scientific lecturers stand and read their research. I told them, "I can read as well as you." Why would anybody want to listen to the reading of a research paper?

The second mistake is memorizing word-for-word. Even though the presenter is not reading, it's obvious the message is not natural.

When I first started out in the speaking business, I worked for a seminar company. At the end of every seminar my manager and I would read the reviews. To my surprise, someone wrote, "Diane, though, helpful, sounded canned."  Yikes! Put a stake in my heart. But I realized that I had memorized the script they gave me and I sounded like a talking head. With practice, I learned how to sound conversational and make the content natural.

Audiences are more sophisticated than ever. They want to hear a subject matter expert and not a presenter giving a book report. They want to know you're authentic. You achieve that by preparing your message, practicing your message, and listening for when to divert from the message. It's in listening that we become truly authentic.

And the Best Speaker Is....

speakers-129535__180Speaking is a leadership skill. Period. It's difficult to lead if you can't convey a clear, compelling message that inspires and moves people to action. Last night the candidates eagerly awaited the results of the Iowa Caucus. It was a tight race with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders almost tied. But the real winner was the orator of the night-Marco Rubio.

While Ted Cruz came in first, his victory speech was too long, too analytical, and not inspiring. I kept changing the station in search of commentator's reviews. Each time I toggled back, there was Ted, still droning on. This was a lost opportunity to inspire and build excitement for the next race. I didn't remember much of his speech.

Donald Trump came in a close second. The usually pompous, bombastic Trump took it down a notch and gave a gracious concession speech. He thanked and acknowledged the people of Iowa and congratulated Ted Cruz. This was a different Donald Trump and he won points in building trust with his followers. He kept his remarks brief and didn't make excuses. This was a model for losing gracefully and yet not giving up. In keeping with his entrepreneurial personality, he cut his losses quickly and moved on to the next phase.

The real stand-out was Marco Rubio who was neck-in-neck with Mr. Trump. While his speech was well-prepared, his words and delivery were passionate and heartfelt. He stayed on message with his immigrant story, his family values, and the need to conquer the competing party. We could relate to his classic hero's journey. " This is the moment they said would never happen. For months they told us we had no chance. They said I had to wait my  turn". . Although his speech was criticized for sounding much like Obama's speech back in 2012, he left his constituents inspired, exhilarated, and confident in his leadership. Rubio turned a third place result into a victory speech.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton was at her best. Her fire was not only in her belly but on display in her eyes. She also gave a victory speech even though the results were too close to call. Mrs. Clinton connected with her audience and carried her enthusiasm with her as she exited the stage.

Bernie Sanders, although older than Clinton, communicates energy. He, too, was impassioned in his delivery. The young people not only fed off his message of free college and taxing Wall Street, but his energy and strong conviction connected with this audience. He regarded the evening as a tie with Clinton and expressed confidence in winning New Hampshire. Energy sells.

Will the best speaker win? Not necessarily.There's more to winning a political race than public speaking. But excellent presentation skills will elevate a candidate's leadership, enhance the brand, inspire trust and confidence. Words well written and delivered with absolute conviction and passion will always linger in the hearts and minds of the listeners.

 

When the Previous Speaker Steps on your Lines

hand-977641__180It's a public speaker's worst nightmare. You spent hours crafting and preparing your message. You targeted the message to the right audience. You're  waiting in the wings as you listen to the speaker right before you. And then it happens. The presenter says in the opening what you were going to say. And that's followed up with a similar statistic that you planned to cite. What's a presenter supposed to do?

This happened to a friend of mine a few years ago. He was speaking at a conference. His presentation was scheduled for day two. He arrived the day before and decided in sit in and listen to some of the presentations. It was a good thing he did! To his amazement, one of the early speakers started speaking about the same sports hero that my friend planned to talk about. And the quotes and statistics were similar. He  panicked as he felt all his hard work going down the drain.

Fortunately,time was on his side. He left the meeting, rushed back to his room and started rewriting his speech. The presentation was a success but not without a lot of angst. He learned two important lessons:

Arrive at the conference early and listen to the other speeches. Tell your own stories. Nobody can duplicate what is unique to you.

A similar experience happened to me. I was invited along with two other women to give a 5 minute presentation for a fundraiser. The first woman was the founder of the charity and her talk clearly didn't compete with mine. The second speaker was from the medical field so I didn't expect there would be any overlap. Was I wrong!

As she started talking about her topic, she mentioned the same fact I had planned to cite. And then she followed up with a statistic that was similar to mine. I kept a poker face but inside my jaw was dropping. My mind was racing. It was too late to change my opening so instead of resisting it I included it. I stepped up to the platform and led with my original opening line. Then I said, "As the first speaker said, it's important to ...." It worked. An audience needs to hear a message more than once so I reiterated the value of what she said as I transitioned to my prepared tips.

My learning? If two speakers are presenting on the same topic but from different disciplines, it's important to talk to each other. If a scientist and artist are talking about communication, their perspectives may be different. But it doesn't mean they won't come up with a similar quote, anecdote, or metaphor.

At some point, a presenter may unintentionally step on your lines It could be a co-worker at a meeting, or during a major presentation. To prevent someone from stepping on your lines,

  • Arrive early to the meeting and listen to the presenters on the agenda.
  • Tell your own stories.Nobody has your personal experience.
  • When speaking on the same topic, call the other presenters to ensure there is little overlap.
  • If somebody does use your line, either delete it or include it by crediting the other speaker.

Use these tips and you'll be able to step up instead of being stepped on.

 

What's Your Presentation Worth?

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It doesn't matter whether it's a raise, a promotion, or a large capital expenditure. Public speaking pays. Are you losing money every time you speak? Do you know why? You can be dressed to the nines, but a Brooks Brothers suit won't help if your presentation doesn't match your million dollar look. I remember the first time I met Cathy (not her real name). Her manager, a Vice-President, called me in to coach her. Cathy was having difficulty getting promoted.

When I met Cathy, I was surprised. She could have been on the cover of Forbes magazine. Cathy exuded executive presence visually. The challenge was when she presented her ideas to senior management, she immediately lost credibility. By not presenting a strong recommendation, and using uptalk and wimpy words, Cathy's value was diminished. As a result of my coaching, she learned to speak powerfully and was promoted to VP. Now that's a return on investment.

Another client of mine was a CEO of a multi national healthcare company. His challenge was to convince management to invest in a  $300 million facility in Europe. It would take 5 years from beginning construction to licensed facility. Clinical trials for a vaccine were 3 years away. This was an investment with high risk. He didn't even know if the vaccine would work. The CEO's presentation had to be clear, understandable, and effective in persuading management that the risk was worth it. The CEO got the funding. The facility was built. The product sold over $1 billion per year.

He said, “Without that presentation and convincing the executive committee to invest, we wouldn’t have the product.” That's MAJOR ROI!

Speaking leads to influence and influence leads to success. It's about how you articulate your value. How much money is left on the table due to a weak presentation?  A family member worked for a doctor's office handling insurance claims. She wanted a raise but wasn't having success. She realized the claims were being denied because they contained the wrong codes.

So she diligently nudged the doctors to apply the correct codes and helped them to do just that. The result was that fewer claims were being rejected. I howled, "You mean to tell me they are collecting on more claims because of you? You're directly impacting their bottom line! You're increasing their cash flow! Tell them that." She did, and she got her raise. Again, there is an ROI from effective presentations.

It doesn't matter whether you seek a raise, a promotion, or approval on a large capital expenditure: public speaking pays. The payoffs for you, the speaker, are increasing sales, earning a raise, getting a promotion, receiving investor capital, and more. And when you have excellent presentation skills you may even be paid to speak. Ka Ching Ka Ching.

Are you in the middle of a merger? Are you launching a new product? Do you have to give a presentation to your sales force?  You won't have a second chance. When your presentation is make or break, contact DiResta Communications, Inc.

Success Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry

sorry-229978__180Love Story was a popular move in 1970. It starred Ryan O'Neill and Ali McGraw. In one scene they have a fight and go their separate ways. O'Neill finds McGraw after he cools off and apologizes for the fight. She stops him and says through her tears, "Love means never having to say you're sorry." I don't know if most people in conflict would agree with that. What people may agree with is the overuse of the word "Sorry" in the workplace. This is especially prevalent among women. When I speak to organizations about executive presence and confidence, I advise women to avoid weak speak or what I call wimpy words. Certain modifiers such as "only," or "just" weaken conviction. That is, the speaker negates everything that follows the words "only" or "just". For example, "This is just an idea," is less powerful than saying "This is an idea."

Related to these two modifiers is the word "sorry". To use the word "sorry" in emails and spoken language is to the detriment of women. An apologetic communication style sabotages leadership and authority. Leaders are perceived as decisive and willing to take a risk. Saying "sorry' too frequently is a way to avoid taking a stand and not be taken seriously.

The word "sorry" is also used as a substitute for "excuse me". Instead of asking the speaker to clarify or repeat, some women will say "Sorry?" rather than use the more effective phrase, "Excuse me?".

There's an app for that

How can women rid this undermining word from their vocabulary? The first step is awareness. Technology to the rescue! Now there is an app that identifies wimpy words when they are used in emails.

The Just Not Sorry extension for Chrome is downloadable at the Chrome app store. The app identifies wimpy words in Gmail by underlining them in red and providing explanations of how the word weakens the message in the email. Whether the reason for using wimpy words is a subconscious lack of confidence or simply a bad habit, this tool can create conscious awareness for women so that they can become more successful leaders and communicators.

After all, success means never having to say you're sorry.

First Impressions (by Kathy McShane) Guest Blogger

McShane book_First Impressions impact all pubic speaking and communication. Read about First Impressions in an Excerpt from The Survivor’s Guide for Female Entrepreneurs, by Guest  Blogger  Kathy McShane We only have one chance to make a first impression. And that first impression can mean everything as you set out to make your mark in the business world. According to mindtools.com, a website providing free career skills and management techniques, it takes just a quick glance – maybe three seconds – for someone to evaluate you when you first meet, and this first impression is unlikely to change. So it’s important to think about the impression you want to leave. After all, as a small business owner, you are the face of your business.

When making that all-important first impression, keep these ideas in mind:

Body language speaks volumes. People you meet for the first time will pay as much attention to your body language as they will to your words. In fact, you’ll be judged by your body language before you even open your mouth. Be sure to uncross your arms and have an easy, ready smile at all times. Straighten your posture and offer a strong handshake.

Dress for the occasion. Find out what the “dress code” is at the location where you’ll be meeting people and plan appropriately. Choose an outfit that will complement your personality, boost your confidence and feel comfortable. Don’t wear a suit if you’re visiting a high-tech company, and don’t wear blue jeans to a bank. One business owner, hoping to seal a $24 million deal, was in competition with two other groups. The potential client told them all to dress in summer casual. The two competitors dressed in pinstriped suits. Guess who got the deal?

Be in the moment. Pay attention to the people you are meeting. Greet them with a firm handshake, look them in the eye and smile. Repeat their names as a way of remembering. Before going into the meeting or event, turn off digital devices.

Be engaged. Become immediately engaged in your discussion with the other person. Make sure to mention his or her name at least once during your conversation. This shows that you are interested and that you’ve paid attention.

Don’t interrupt. Unfortunately, people talk over each other and interrupt all the time. It may have to do with the digital age that we live in, which makes us feel that everything has to be responded to immediately. It’s easy to text or email while the other person is doing the same; in effect, you are engaged with your device and not with the person. When you are meeting someone face to face, however, be sure the other person is finished speaking before you begin to add to the conversation. Allow yourself to take a breath and process the previous comments. The silence may seem like forever, but it’s usually only a few seconds.

Throughout our journey as entrepreneurs, we will meet a lot of people and make many connections. And every connection gives us only one chance to make a great first impression. Be sure to make the most of it!

3 Magic Words that Kill Public Speaking Fear

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magic lampDid you ever wonder if there was an Aladdin's Lamp for public speaking? All you would need to do is ask the Genie for the magic words to eliminate fear of public speaking or performance anxiety. Just like the eternal search for the fountain of youth, people still yearn for that elixir, potion, or formula that will make their nervousness vanish. What I've discovered is that the words you speak have the power to transform how you think. It's not what you say but how you think about your fear. A number of years ago I spoke to a group of company leaders. They, like everyone else, were nervous about public speaking. At one point I looked them straight in the eye and made a statement. After the training seminar, people told me that those words were very powerful and changed how they thought about public speaking.

Fast forward to a coaching client who was afraid to speak up in her class. She even thought about dropping out of law school because she was so nervous about public speaking. I told her the same thing I told every public speaker. And then it happened. She started to think differently after I shared those famous words with her. She graduated from law school and went on to give presentations without fear.

Most recently, a former client called me for a refresher. She told me her manager noticed a big improvement in her presentation and the way she interacted with clients. He offered her the refresher coaching session to prepare for their upcoming high stakes presentation. During the meeting, my client shared with me that the words I said to her truly changed how she thought about presentations and public speaking. Are the words really magical? No! The words themselves contain nothing magical. What the words did was reframe the way people were thinking about their fear. They were viewing public speaking through a negative frame and that triggered anxiety.

Even though I'm a seasoned professional speaker, I found myself getting nervous the day before a presentation. It was a 10 minute spotlight for the National Speakers Association. I confided to my friend that I was a nervous wreck. I couldn't wait for it to be over. My friend grabbed me by the shoulders and said, "Diane, don't do that to yourself. You're not nervous. You're energized." So I went home and recited my new mantra: "I'm energized. I'm energized." The next morning I gave my speech and it was a success. Words do make a difference.

The 3 magic words have made an impact on so many people. I think it is time I share them with you. So what are the 3 Magic Words that help people face their fear?

"It's About Them."

When I speak to audiences of nervous presenters, I tell them, "Get over yourself. It's not about you. It's about them." What they've come to realize is that at the very core of public speaking nervousness is a feeling of being self-centered. That's right. If you focus on the fear, you're thinking about yourself. If you think about what the audience wants and needs, you're coming from a place of service.

Language reflects thought. Change your language and you'll change your thinking. The next time anxiety occupies your mind, change your focus. Tell yourself, "It's about them."

What have you said to yourself to change your thinking?