Are You Seen But Not Heard?

Karen was newly appointed to her position in finance, where she was responsible for managing and keeping the department on budget. Soft-spoken and petite, Karen had a hard time making herself heard during meetings, as her aggressive team shouted over her and challenged her when she questioned their figures...

Public Speaking: Entice Your Audience to Come to You

A coaching client called me because she was about to have a performance discussion with her boss. She wanted to be promoted and knew she had to be a clear, confident, and convincing communicator. But there was one presentation obstacle that she wasn't sure she could overcome. Her boss liked to watch financial news on TV when people were in the office. She wondered how she could command his attention, gain his respect, and make herself heard. In keeping with my philosophy, (if you can't beat 'em, join 'em), we decided to make a three minute video. That's right! Showing a video would get his attention. My client would speak into the video camera as if she were speaking directly to her boss. She would talk about her credentials and her accomplishments and then add a couple of quick video testimonials from her biggest supporters in the company.  Thinking creatively would get his attention,   position herself as an innovative, outside -the box -thinker, and certainly make her more memorable than any of her colleagues.

Last month, I wrote about Public Speaking: When Science Meets Art, which is a great example of using creativity when presenting. In 2012 the stakes will be higher.  Greater creativity and innovation will be needed for communicators and public speakers to get noticed, stand out, and be heard. And video marketing will play an important role.

Even Kids Can Speak to Influence

Actress Emma Stone had a goal to move to Hollywood and decided to convince her parents to move there. Listen to her in her own words: "When I was 14 -years-old, I made this PowerPoint presentation, and I invited my parents into my room and gave them popcorn. It was called 'Project Hollywood 2004' and it worked. I moved to L.A. in January of 2004," Stone remembers. While the idea of a child convincing her parents to move to LA, to achieve her dreams through  a PowerPoint presentation is far fetched, it actually worked. At age 15, Emma Stone left her home and  and flew out to L.A. with her mother for pilot season. After being rejected for eight  months, she finally won the role of Laurie Partridge on the VH1 remake of The Partridge Family. It was then that her parents were convinced they made the right decision.

Sounds incredible doesn't it? It goes to show you what a strong intention and a good presentation can accomplish. I think we wait too long to train people in presentation skills. Young people enter the job market not being adequately trained to interview or to present themselves and their ideas in the workplace. Yet, people who can demonstrate good presentation skills will have more job offers, more promotions, and make more money. Public speaking is not a luxury anymore for people who join debate teams or toastmasters. This is a critical skill for success.

In 2004, at the urging of a mother in my community, I started a confidence class for junior high girls. The mother was concerned that her daughter was very nervous when she had to speak in class. After she completed my class, she was able to put the skills to work.

Here's what her mother wrote: "My daughter was chosen to do a reading at a Mass before her entire school. They said she spoke beautifully-she was articulate and took her time. I know she was nervous but before your speech classes she would have bailed out of speaking but because of your speech classes she stepped up to the plate."

Another mother wrote: "My daughter was valedictorian and delivered a spectacular speech to an audience of 700.  So many people asked me where she learned the art of public speaking. I know that her foundation in public speaking can be attributed to you. It is because you taught her the skills and  gave her the confidence that she was able to go on to do great things."

So, influence comes with confidence and learning the skills of public speaking. It's never too early to start. And that's why I'll be starting another class in November for 8th grade girls. If every student learned this skill imagine the influence and impact they could have on the world.

Casey Anthony: Persuasive Presentations and Getting Away with Murder

Watching a national murder trial is a lesson in the power of persuasive public speaking.The verdict for Casey Anthony was NOT GUILTY. I was shocked. I didn't see that coming. Eighty per cent of people who were polled thought the mother had killed her child and that she got away with murder. Yet, she walked away a free woman. How was the defense team able to win the case? Let's look at this from the perspective of persuasive speaking. In every trial, both the prosecution and defense need to establish a relationship with the jury. And every public speaker must have a relationship with the audience. But that's not enough.

To win the case, the defense must cast doubt in the minds of the jury. The prosecution must be able to build a convincing case. In the Casey Anthony case, the dense attorney failed to paint Casey Anthony as a sympathetic figure but he was successful at casting doubt. The prosecution had a good case but why didn't they win? There was enough circumstantial evidence. Was it that the jury needed DNA evidence to convict her? Was the single hair in the trunk of the car not good enough?

The failure to persuade came down to strategy. There was enough circumstantial evidence to connect the dots. What was not clear was whether the death was planned or an accident that was covered up. Clearly, the mother was involved. So why didn't the jury convict? Because the prosecution aimed too high. They wanted the death penalty for first degree murder. And because of this the jury couldn't convict the defendant. They didn't feel there was enough evidence. Had the prosecution aimed for manslaughter without a death penalty they would have had a greater chance of winning.

Here's the lesson for public speakers. When it comes to persuasion, the higher the stakes, the stronger your evidence must be. But it goes beyond building a strong logical case. You must take into account the emotions of and consequences on the audience you want to persuade. In business, you may try to persuade employees to take a pay cut. But if they believe it's a step that will lead to layoffs, you'll never persuade them. The consequences are too great. The speaker would need an airtight case and flawless evidence in order to get agreement. How often do people try to get buy-in thinking they have all the right reasons and evidence only to be shot down? Without considering the emotional impact, responsibility and consequences to the audience, chances are they'll push back.

To influence and persuade, public speakers must go beyond the evidence and adopt the right strategy. The Casey Anthony jury didn't want the death of the defendant on their conscience as long as there was a "reasonable doubt". The lesson for persuasive speakers is consider the stakes-and then plan your strategy. What do you think?

Five Myths Marketers Believe About Presentations

Yesterday, I wrote a guest post on Randall Beard's blog.  I've copied the article here for my readers.

Having coached a number of marketers on their presentations, it’s come to my attention that when delivering presentations even the most creative marketing professionals may be sabotaging their success. The reason many marketing ideas are rejected by management is not because of the quality of the idea. It’s more often because of the way the idea is presented.

Five Myths Marketers Believe About Presentations

Here are five presentation myths that marketers need to dispel:

1. It’s about the numbers. I’ve seen marketing clients who believe that if the numbers back up their idea, it will sell. Nothing could be further from the truth. Marketers fall in love with the numbers and make this the focal point of the presentation. Then they’re shocked when senior management isn’t excited about their new product launch.

Reality: It’s passion that sells. I had one client who was shot down after presenting a new product. The reason was not because it wasn’t a good product. It was because it wasn’t a compelling presentation. The feedback her manager gave me was that she presented the facts but there was no enthusiasm. Tell the story behind the numbers. Senior management needs to be sold in the same way the consumer needs to be sold.

Marketers, Take Note: Passion Sells

2. Defend your position. One client got into hot water because of a need to defend his idea. When you’re wedded to your way of thinking you can alienate your boss and your supporters.

Reality:  Defending a position may actually backfire on you. Some marketers believe if it isn’t invented here, it doesn’t count. Being flexible and open to other ideas will up the ante on your presentation. Listening and questioning are the keys to success in selling your idea. If you don’t know the answer admit it and offer to get back to the questioner.  “Fake it til you make it