Public Speaking is Being Infected by a Vocal Virus


hands-589475_640Anthrax isn't the only bacteria we need to worry about. There's a vocal virus that is sweeping the nation. In the last few days, I've been getting more responses to a video on my youtube channel about Uptalk. It seems to be hitting a nerve. Watch here, then keep reading below:

To many listeners, Uptalk sounds like nails on a chalkboard. I've had employers contact me to work with young women who have this speech pattern. Uptalk does not serve anyone in the workplace. It kills your credibility, destroys your presentations, makes you sound younger and less confident, and can prevent you from being promoted or working on high profile projects.

Here are a couple of recent comments on youtube:

This video should be shown once a week in schools here in the U.S. Males do this too now as well. It is terrible, and makes males look/appear incredibly effeminate.  You are doing God's work, Diane."

Scarey - Every woman in my office under the age of 40 uptalks, more than men but men are doing it as well.  One person literally uptalks on every sentence.  I even now hear older people starting to do this.  It is taking over.

Do you think it's too late? Is Uptalk already embedded in the culture? Should the schools and workplace intervene or should we let Uptalk continue to evolve? Your thoughts?

It's World Voice Day - Do You Have a Voice?

Woman Yelling In MegaphoneDo you have a voice? Voice matters. Everyone has a right to express their voice. But you can't do that if you've lost your voice.  It's World Voice Day, a day dedicated to the care of the voice. You use your voice everyday and vocal misuse and abuse are not uncommon. Follow these tips for  a healthy voice.

Vocal Hygiene Tips

Avoid Vocal Fry

Vocal fry is a phenomenon that is taking off around the nation. Watch my interview with Nancy Redd on HuffPost Live to hear what it sounds like:

Even NPR broadcasters have fallen victim to vocal fry. Recently, they reported that they have received a fair amount of hate mail about the young women on their staff using vocal fry. Ira Glass investigates: If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say, SAY IT IN ALL CAPS

Don't Use Uptalk

Uptalk is another vocal phenomenon that robs the speaker of his power. What is uptalk? It's when the speaker uses a rising inflection at the end of their sentence so it sounds like a question. Watch my video to hear it and to learn why it's spreading.

Women Need To Speak Up

World Voice Day is a perfect time to revisit the importance of women speaking up so they are heard. Some women speak in a breathy voice, and are too soft spoken. Uptalk and vocal fry get in the way of effective self expression.

Are you guilty of hindering your own communication? Ask a buddy to listen to you speak. Are you using uptalk, vocal fry, or a breathy, soft voice? Have your friend tell you when you do it so you can learn to stop it. Just make sure it's someone who will be honest with you!


Vocal Fry Can Hurt Your Presentation and Job Interview


huffpost live with nancy redd diane diresta 10 30 14Does your voice crackle like bacon? You may have vocal fry. Vocal fry is sweeping the nation. This creaky vocal pattern, also known as croaking, is a low vocal pitch that's often heard at the end of a sentence. It's prevalent among women and this pattern of public speaking is becoming a form of peer identity for the millennial generation. Kim Kardashian, Brittney Spears, and other young celebrities have popularized this form of speaking. In one study, vocal fry was noted in two thirds of college students. However popular, vocal fry communicates a negative impression and doesn't serve professionals who want to be taken seriously in the workplace. Not only is vocal fry an irritating sound for a public speaker; it can also be deadly in a job interview.

Women job applicants who presented themselves with vocal fry were perceived as less competent, less educated, and less trustworthy. To learn more, watch my interview with Nancy Redd on Huffington Post Live:

You Talk Too Much: 4 Ways to Get Boring People to Stop Talking

We've all experienced it. You're at a networking meeting or a social event and there's that person who dominates the conversation and can't stop talking. You wish they would direct the conversation toward you but it's like a traffic jam of words. How do you get them to stop? Their verbal barrage is a red light signalling you to stop and listen. If only they would give you the green light by taking a breath. You patiently wait but your turn never comes. It's one thing to give a speech from the platform. But conversations should be a dialogue. A person who dominates the conversation soon becomes a bore.

What gives? Is it nervousness? Sometimes excessive talking can be a symptom of nervousness. For some people, verbal diarrhea stems from a lack of social skills. They just don't know how to stop and they don't pick up on non-verbal cues. As long as you maintain eye contact, they keep talking. To get them to stop, try these three techniques:

Ask a question of someone else. Bring someone into the conversation by asking their opinion of the topic that's being discussed as a monologue. This will stop the speaker because you have just disrupted the pattern of them speaking and you listening.

Use a bridge statement. If you're in a one-to-one situation, use a statement to turn the conversation back to you. "That's an interesting point and it reminds me of when I..." "Your business is interesting and I've experienced a similar situation..." Have these bridge statements handy so that you can use them effortlessly.

Be direct. Take control and ask, "Would you like to hear about what I do?" If they don't seem interested, use technique number four.

Disengage. When you've tried to replace a monologue with a dialogue, but nothing is working, end the conversation. "It's been nice chatting. I'm going to get a refill."  "My friend just walked in. It was nice to talk to you."

7 Platform Tips to Punch Up Your Performance

Performing is not about juggling balls in the air or acting on the big stage. Every presentation you give is a performance - even a meeting update! Whether your platform is a convention hall, a boardroom, or the kitchen table, good presentation skills can determine the quality of your performance and result in a successful outcome. Here are 7 platform tips to punch up your performance: Pause strategically. The first pause you take is when you walk on the platform. Look at two people and silently connect. Allow for the silence and then make your opening remarks. Come to a full stop at the end of a sentence. Count 2 beats to yourself before moving on. For greater impact and to evoke emotions, hold the pause even longer. Pause to signal that a point is significant. If you fail to pause, your message will sound like one run-on sentence and the message won't land. Speed talking translates as nervousness. Remember: power is never rushed.

Engage the group. Are you a talking head? Most audiences don't like to be lectured. Savvy public speakers employ engagement techniques to draw attention and maintain interest. You can ask rhetorical questions, flash a photograph on the screen, tell a story, share a case study, create a discussion, or use polling software. Try getting the audience on their feet. Whatever technique you choose, be sure the audience is involved in your message.

Rehearse in the room. The best public speakers rehearse out loud and time themselves. But there is something about practicing in the actual meeting room that makes a difference. I can't tell you why this works. I do know that every time I practice my speech or presentation in an empty room, I always feel more confident.

Find a friendly face. Maybe it's the person who is smiling. Make an eye connection and deliver your opening line to that one person. Don't try to convert the scowling face. That will shatter your confidence. Look at the receptive person and then move on to someone else. Keep looking at friendly faces.

Offer a challenge. Audiences have come to expect to be spoon fed. They lean back in their chairs and wait for you to enlighten them. It's easy for them to expect the presenter to do all the work. After all, you're the expert. You can turn the tables on them and challenge them. Begin your presentation with a challenge to shake them up. And end with a call to action and challenge them to keep their commitment.

Remember the rule of three. A well known principle of effective public speaking is the use of repetition. Martin Luther King used repetition in his I Have a Dream Speech. The speech originally had a different title but because he said "I have a dream" repetitively, it became known by that refrain. The advertising world employs repetition using the rule of three in commercials and jingles. Think of fairy tales - Three Little Pigs, nursery rhymes - Three Blind Mice, and  movie titles - Three Men and a Baby. Craft your message with three agenda items, 3 main points, and three benefits, and you'll be clear and memorable.

Mirror the audience. Have you ever hit it off with somebody right away? They were probably just like you. It's the same with audiences. So how can you increase your likability? Mirror them. Notice their body position. How is their energy? Is it fast or slow? What kinds of words or expressions do they use? In one-to-one communication, mirroring is much easier but you can also mirror a large audience. If they are an extroverted sales team, you'll want to raise your energy and volume. If they're more scientific you'll want to tone it down and provide more data.

I recently trained a group of economists in the U.K. and I was in full presentation mode, as I projected my voice and increased my energy. This group was more soft-spoken. During a break, the leader explained that the energy level was quieter in this U.K. company. "So I would be considered loud?" I asked. "Yes!" he answered. What a surprise! In the U.S. I'm considered more soft spoken than some of my peers. I returned to the meeting and toned it down. The meeting was a success.

To punch up your presentations remember to P.E.R.F.O.R.M.

The Hidden Message In Policy

I had a run-in today with Microsoft. My laptop needed an update to Windows 8. I put in my credit card for the download and an email arrived saying that it would take 4-6 hours to process the transaction. WHAT?! #%@$^%!

My assistant is leaving early, and I'm in and out seeing clients all day. It's Friday, and I need this done before the weekend. Every single time I've made an online purchase, downloads have always been immediate. Something was not right. I called up Microsoft, and they told me it was a problem with the credit card I used - it was that company's policy. He said it took time for the funds to be released. I asked him if I would have the delay with another credit card and he said, "No."

While speaking to the credit card company, they blamed Microsoft. They said that they got notification of the transaction and approved it.

So, I called Microsoft back and got a different support person. He said the delay was the result of the credit card company's policy. I asked him to cancel my order so I could use a different card. After telling him the original credit card company had approved the transaction, he no longer wanted to take a new one. He told me he would work on this himself, but that it would take an hour or two.

The Microsoft representative listened to my tirade about how he should tell marketing and the CEO to alert customers about the delay with this particular credit card. He must have been working while we were on the phone, because by the end of the conversation, my download became available.

So what is the lesson here?

Policy is a form of communication. Policy communicates how you treat your customers, how you treat your support staff, and what you value. Policy demonstrates whether a company is truly connected and engaged with their customers, or whether their decisions are made in ivory towers.

The policies that you set impact perception - are you cutting edge or are you behind the times? When the standard in e-commerce is instantaneous transaction and download, to have to wait 4-6 hours as a matter of course, creates the perception of a dinosaur. A policy communicates who you are really serving. In this case, it was not the customer.

The Power of Hand-to-Hand Contact

What is the equal opportunity communication that favors no gender? In every presentation skills seminar and in each initial executive speech coaching session, I spend time demonstrating the business handshake. Why discuss something so basic that we do every day? Because business can be lost due to an ineffective handshake. Just like two dogs sniffing each other, a handshake is the first point of contact. And many people don't realize the handshake is a presentation. To learn how to shake hands  and use gestures for  maximum impact, watch this TEDx video by Allan Pease.


Don't Dictate - Facilitate: 10 Tips for Effective Facilitation

  With 11 million meetings daily (3 billion yearly), it's not surprising that people feel they attend too many meetings. And most of them are unproductive. That equates to 31 hours of lost productivity per month or four days. The starting point for improving meeting effectiveness begins with the facilitator.

Here are 10 facilitation tips to make you a better facilitator:

Clear Purpose. Facilitation begins before the meeting. Determine the reason for the meeting. Is it to solve a problem, develop innovative ideas, select a theme for an event? Begin with the end in mind. Without a clear purpose, your meeting will go nowhere.

Start on Time. Don't wait for latecomers. You'll set a negative precedent and you'll end late. To get people be on time, try starting the meeting at an odd time like 8:57 a.m. People will notice the odd time and know you mean business.

Encourage Creative Thinking. The facilitator needs to create a safe space to share ideas. Don't evaluate or reject contributions. Allow for off-the-wall thinking without judgment. The best solutions are not always the tried and true.

Clarify, Paraphrase and Probe. These powerful listening skills are essential tools for any facilitator. Clarify by saying, "Tell me more." "Can you be specific?" We may think we're talking about the same thing when we say the word, CAR. But you're seeing a Volvo and someone else is seeing a Bentley. Paraphrase before responding. This is a listening check as well as an acknowledgement that the person was heard. Finally, probing is a skill that allows the facilitator to dig deeper and get to the underlying issue.

Summarize Main Points. Too many meetings and presentations end without a conclusion.  Effective facilitators provide internal summaries before moving on to the next agenda item and at the end of the meeting. Internal summaries can be a check for resistance. Make sure the group understands and is aligned before moving on. The job of a facilitator is to connect the dots.

Use a Flipchart and Post it Notes. A flipchart or whiteboard is a facilitator's best resource. The flipchart allows you to capture information in the moment. It's also a way of controlling the group dynamic. When the discussion is disrupted, ask people to write questions on the post it notes and put them on the parking lot (flipchart). Later, the facilitator can answer them.

Remain Objective. Never drive your own agenda.The role of the facilitator is to access information from the group and to remain neutral.

Keep Moving in the Direction of the Problem.  Write the problem statement for all to see. When the problem is clear, you'll be able to direct the discussion in the right direction while still being impartial.This prevents the group from losing focus.

Control the Discussion. A facilitator is the orchestra leader and the participants are the musicians. Questions are the baton. Just like the conductor knows how to bring up the string section and lower the brass, a skilled facilitator uses questions to guide and direct the discussion.

Keep a List of Action Items. Without action items, things will fall through the cracks. A good facilitator will assign attendees a role, a responsibility, and a deadline. To ensure accountability, it's wise for the facilitator to follow up before the next meeting.

Good facilitation skills will increase meeting productivity, lead to more creative solutions, and are essential for managing group dynamics. The facilitator as leader must remember to check the ego at the door. When it comes to facilitation, it's not about you. It's about them!

What has worked for you as a facilitator? What are your biggest challenges?

Press Release: Diane DiResta Invited to Share Powerful Communication Strategies to Reduce Anger and Conflict on Anger 911

For immediate release

DiResta Invited to Share Powerful Communication Strategies to Reduce Anger and Conflict

Diane DiResta, Founder of DiResta Communications, Inc, will be the guest on Anger 911 Radio to share "Powerful Communication Strategies to Reduce Anger and Conflict". Tune in on Wednesday, April 2nd at 9:00 a.m. EST. Visit and click on the purple mic. Anger 911 is syndicated on ClearChannel iHeart Radio - 50 million listeners! Read more ...

The Laughter of Leadership

We've heard about managing by walking around. We've heard about leading by storytelling. But can you laugh your way to leadership? It turns out that laughter is an important leadership and presentation skill. But when it comes to humor in the workplace men are more skilled than women.

Judith Baxter, professor of applied linguistics at Aston University in the U.K, studied how men and women use language. She observed men and women who were leading high level meetings. Baxter found women to be less at ease using humor. 80% failed when attempting to be humorous and sometimes derailed as a result. In contrast, Professor Baxter observed that 90% of men's humor got a laugh. This reminds me of the numerous times women have told me that their ideas aren't taken seriously. Yet, when a man presents the same idea minutes later, it's enthusiastically embraced.

Are men naturally funnier than women? Baxter didn't answer that question, postulating instead, that culture plays a role. We expect men to be funny but don't have the same expectation of women. Teasing and one-upmanship resulted in laughter from men, but it was risky for women to use the same tactics. When I speak to women leaders, it's been my experience that women don't take enough credit for their accomplishments and speak in more self deprecating terms. Motivational speaker Tony Robbins contrasted the male one-upmanship communication style with the female pattern, which he dubbed 'one-downmanship'.

In addition to cultural expectations, Baxter cited minority status as another reason for this difference in effective use of humor. She observed an 80/20 male-to-female ratio in the meetings she attended. Being in the minority made some women defensive and less relaxed. An interesting turn of events occurred in meetings with middle managers. When the meetings were more gender balanced or contained more women, the women got more laughs.

So could lack of female confidence once again be at the core of this gender difference in humor? Is this one of the reasons women get stuck in middle management? Is humor the missing key to leadership advancement? Speaking may be the new competitive advantage but humor may be the leadership edge.

What's been your experience? Should women leaders study stand-up comedy?

Don't Let What Happened to Michael Bay Happen To You

What's a public speaker's worst nightmare? It's what happened to Michael Bay. Going blank and not knowing what to do can cause any speaker to freeze with fear. I saw this happen during the December holidays at a networking party. The event took place in a large store with a winding staircase in the middle of the room. Each speaker climbed a few stairs and then talked to 50 women who were standing around. The third speaker ascended the stairs and began to talk about hair care. He started out fine. But a few minutes into it he said, "I'm sorry " and left the building. We didn't know what hit us.The audience didn't see that coming. But something happened inside to trigger a panic attack. Michael Bey was interrupted by the emcee, lost his place on the teleprompter and couldn't recover. He walked off. It was a painful moment for him, the emcee, the sponsor, and the viewers. What could he have done? What would you do?

The best preparation aside from rehearsing is to know your worst case scenario and plan a recovery strategy.

Have a Backup Script-If you ever speak from a teleprompter, have a back-up script.  Although not ideal, Michael could have taken the script and continued the presentation.

Play it Again Sam-If the technology goes down or the teleprompter malfunctions, call it out and ask them to restart. I once saw a Miss Universe pageant. The contestant began her presentation in English and then got flustered. Instead of dying on the platform, she announced that she was going to continue in French. The audience encouraged her with applause.

Stop and Breathe-Public speaking success is not guaranteed. If you experience brain freeze, take a moment to focus on your breath. This will help you come back and regain your composure. People walk off in a panic because they don't know what to do. Too many public speakers fear silence. So they exit the stage. You don't have to act immediately. Pause and breathe to come back into your body.

Fire an Anchor-This takes preparation. Create a physical anchor, or word that will trigger you back into confidence. Fire it and expect to experience a state of excellence where you have that "can do" attitude. You can give fear the finger.

Let Go and Go with the Flow-When disaster strikes, take a lesson from martial arts. Don't fight against the energy. Use it. Disarm your opponent. In this case, the opponent is fear.

The best public speakers are prepared and then let go. Nobody is better at this than Bill Clinton. During one of his presidential speeches he realized that somebody put the wrong speech in the teleprompter. He was able to wing it until Hillary could notify the person responsible. .If you're wedded to every word you will have a difficult time as a public speaker.

When Michael's speech was out of sync with the teleprompter, the emcee asked him a question about the slides.That was the opportunity to let go of the script and to have a conversation.The presentation could have morphed into an interview and Mr. Bay could have remained on stage.

The Lesson? In the arena of public speaking, it's not always what you say, it's how you recover. If at all possible, avoid using a teleprompter. Be prepared and know this too,will pass.

What was your worst public speaking moment? What did you do?

10 Presentation Trends for 2014

In 2014 presentation skills will reign supreme. Leaders and entrepreneurs will need to be more visible across different media platforms. Speaking is the new competitive advantage and the bar has been raised. Here are the trends in presentations that I predict for 2014.

  1. Broadcasting skills - Whether you're an entrepreneur or employed by a company, expect to have your 15 minutes of fame.Today's presenters need broadcasting skills. Media training will become a vital success skill even for those who do not speak to the press. I'm currently coaching a client to lead quarterly webcasts. Five years ago this senior executive wasn't doing any broadcasting. This client has since been filmed for executive promotional videos. Video presentations will increase in popularity. I use to send quick video emails. Videos can be very effective or very detrimental if you have weak presentation skills.
  2. Mobile presentations - Mobil technology is exploding and the number of apps is growing. This will require adjustments in the way we communicate. Slide shows and websites must be adjusted for mobile devices.The key word in presentations is portability. On a personal note, I now videotape my coaching clients on the ipad. The quality is as good as a video camera and it's easier to transport.
  3. Increased Need for Speaker Training - The need for excellent presentation skills will increase.due to the competitive nature of the market. Products and services can quickly become commodities and in order to be persuasive, presenters will need to know how to capture and hold the ear of the listeners.
  4. Self marketing presentations - Personal branding will become even more important. In a crowded market place where good jobs are at a premium. Job candidates will have to master marketing and selling. That means understanding what makes them unique and how to position themselves, their message, and their value with clarity and impact. Lack of confidence will be the deal breaker. Speakmarketing will be a growing factor for small business success. Presently, I'm coaching  small businesses to develop webinars to grow their businesses.
  5. Storytelling - Telling stories will no longer be the domain for the talented few. Leaders will be challenged to learn the art of storytelling to develop trust, express their vision and to lead their teams. And storytelling skills will be the differentiater in the job interview.Certain companies such as Pepsico, have a culture of storytelling. The best interviewers will invest in public speaking coaching to learn to tell their story instead of presenting their resume.
  6. Authenticity - Audiences are more sophisticated and less tolerant than ever. They want to know who the speaker is as a person.Do they walk their talk? Audiences will value  presenters who are real versus a just-the-facts approach. I was asked to coach somebody who had a well-crafted PowerPoint deck but delivered it like a talking head. Listeners are thinking "Who are you?"
  7. Increased Audience Interaction - The key word is connection. In a society where there is less time for socializing and more stress, people want to have an experience and participate with the speaker. Watch for increased live polling, tweeting, live streaming,and audience participation. Technology will level the playing field as speakers can now use inexpensive polling software on their mobile devices.There will also be an increase in virtual presentations. I'm coaching more clients remotely due to technology tools.
  8. Less Fluff More Value - Motivational speakers will always be popular as long as the human soul craves uplifting messages. But today's presenters need more than a string of 'feel good" stories. They must be able to provide value, tips, strategies, action steps, a different way of thinking along with those stories. Audiences are more demanding.
  9. Shorter Keynote Speeches - The 18 minute TED-like talk will become more commonplace. This is already happening at conferences. Instead of the one to three hour breakout sessions, event planners and audiences are opting for a series of shorter talks.
  10. Continuity - The old transactional model of giving a one hour presentation and then return to business as usual,  will give way to the idea of continuity.The message will continue after the event or meeting with additional contact and add-on resources. Despite the fact that younger audiences are leaving facebook, social media will continue to be an important communication channel for staying connected. However, people will consider the return on their time and become more focused and narrow in their social media communication.

All of these trends can be summarized in one idea: Public speaking is more important than ever. The need for excellent presentation skills is not going away. It will only increase in 2014 and beyond. Just as with technology upgrades,presenters will upgrade their public speaking skills or risk becoming obsolete.

How to Influence in 19 Seconds

Last week, during my seminar, Meet to Present, my client took me aside and pointed to one of the participants. "Do you know who he is?" she whispered.

"No, but he looks familiar," I said. "Who is he?"

"He played Mikey in the Life Cereal commercial," she revealed.

"I love that commercial!", I squealed. "Mikey was so cute".

If you're a baby boomer who grew up in the U.S., you saw the commercial about Life Cereal. Years later, people remember this commercial even though it's only 19 seconds in length. It first played in 1972 and was one of the longest, continuously running commercials.  In 1999, TV Guide rated it as one of the top 10 commercials and in a survey 70% of adults could identify it.

So what does this commercial teach us about public speaking success and influence?

The message tells a story. There are no statistics, no lecturing. The audience watches two brothers reject the "healthy" cereal they think isn't good enough to eat. The brothers call in Mikey to be the guinea pig. To their surprise he likes it.

The message is simple and clear. This is a tasty cereal that's good for you. Yet nobody ever says that.

The messenger is memorable. The commercial ends with "Hey Mikey." People remember the last thing they hear and that's why to this day the audience remembers Mikey's name.

The message is replayed. It's not enough to speak once or twice. To make the message land, savvy speakers tell their signature stories. They present their message frequently to many audiences through different media.

Like television ads, a speech or presentation must tell a good story. The ad took 19 seconds to tell the story and sell the message.

How long does the average speaker take to give a presentation? What if you had only 19 seconds? How would you tell your story? Would it be memorable?

For a trip down memory lane, here is Mikey's Life cereal commercial:

Do You Feel Like A Turkey When You're Presenting?

2013 TURKEY 2Don't let your head be on the chopping block. Keep abreast of these three public speaking trends and your audience will gobble up your ideas.

  1. Storytelling continues to be a valued and powerful speaking technique. Leaders will feel the need to become storytellers. Sales professionals will have to let go of their PowerPoint decks and tell the customer’s story.
  2. Video presentations are exploding. Youtube is the number 2 search engine after google. Video conferencing and remote coaching are growing in popularity due to the virtual workplace. I find that I'm doing more virtual coaching these days. Technology makes it easy. A job applicant will make a more memorable impression with a video resume.
  3. Audiences care about their own self interests. Attention spans are getting shorter and tolerance for fluff is dwindling. Effective public speakers make the message about the audience. Remember WIIFM: What’s in it for me?

FACT: This Thanksgiving, I'm grateful to have the privilege of the platform and the opportunity to serve my clients.

Change Your Words To Change Your Mind: Public Speaking Affirmations


affirmations cover slide small 2Public speaking is still the number one fear. This was originally publicized by the 1977 Book of Lists. It's 2013 and I don't need another list to prove the case. Fear of speaking tops the list of reasons people hire me. Over the years in my living laboratory, coaching, training and speaking to audiences from 1 to 1,000, it's become very clear that there are two secrets to mastering public speaking: skill set and mindset.

Even when my clients have public speaking skills, it's their thinking that trips them up. I've discovered that fear is about living in the future. Many public speakers envision unsuccessful presentations in their minds and you can hear it in their language.

Successful presenters live in the present. They speak in the moment. They're totally present with the audience. They speak confidently and affirm their success. The two most powerful words are "I Am". By making "I Am" statements, you claim your success in the here and now.

And that's why I was motivated to create this video of public speaking "I Am" affirmations for my clients and the world. We just launched this free YouTube video so that anybody can say these affirmations every morning and right before a presentation. When people are in a habit of saying negative things, they don't really know what to say to themselves to change the message. These words of affirmation are set to relaxing music so that public speakers can program themselves for success and give a knockout presentation.

Click on the video to train your mind for successful speaking.

How You Gonna Keep 'Em Thinking of You After They Go Back Home?

public-speakingThere's a line from a World War I song: "How you gonna keep 'em down on the farm After they've seen Paris?"

When you finish your presentation and your audience goes back to work, do they carry your message with them? Do they still hear your voice?

Recently I received a call from a woman who heard me speak 10 years ago and wanted to hire me to coach her. Neither of us could recall where we met.  She forgot the name of the association. It could have been anywhere. What she did remember was me. She said my message was "...memorable, powerful, and convincing for female leaders."

What made her contact me now and not then? She wasn’t ready. People buy on their own timeline, not ours. What kept my message in her mind was my monthly newsletter, The Science of Speaking. The goal is continual communication. Do you stay in touch with the people who hear you speak? I keep in touch with my audience through email messages, newsletters, phone calls, video messages and greeting cards (<< click the link and send a card for free). You can do the same for your network.

Be memorable, convincing, and powerful in your presentation. And then stay in continual communication. Like the lyric from the 1984 Rockwell song, “Somebody’s watching me,” you never know who’s watching, listening, and reading you.


Six R's of Public Speaking and Presentation Success

6 Rs of Public Speaking and Presenation SuccessSeptember is back to school month. Students first learn the three R's- "Reading, (w)Riting, and 'Rithmetic." But for public speakers and presenters there are actually six R's. Last weekend I attended a workshop on videomarketing - Share the Sizzle. One of the speakers, Mary Agnes Antonopoulos, talked about the six R's for succeeding in social media. I realized that those same six characteristics apply to successful public speaking and presentations. The six R's are Relevance, Recognition, Rapport, Relationships, ROI, and Responsibility.

Relevance - One reason presentations fail is lack of relevance. I see this all the time in my coaching practice. Too many presenters are speaker-centered and not listener-centered. They talk about what's important to them, instead of addressing the self-interest of the audience. Public speakers may have a relevant topic but if they don't present examples, case studies, or stories that are meaningful to the listeners, the ideas can die a quick death. For example: when pitching an idea to senior management, don't spend time on details. That's irrelevant to them even though details are very relevant to end users. Speak to the interests of the audience for maximum relevance.

Recognition - People do business with people they know, like, and trust. The first step is visibility. Do people know who you are? If not, it will take longer to gain their trust and to sell your ideas. I knew an executive whose department contributed significantly to the company's revenues; however, most people weren't aware of this executive's accomplishments. As a result, the executive did not advance as quickly as expected. The better the audience knows you, the more easily they'll accept your information and ideas. That's why companies hire celebrities to sell their product. Seize opportunities to speak and promote yourself to increase your recognition.

Rapport - Rapport has to do do with likability. How likable are you as a presenter? Do you exude warmth? Or are you a talking head? I've noticed some commonalities between speakers who fail to achieve audience rapport.

First, they don't smile. If you're too serious, you may come across as distant and even intimidating. The public speaking myth is that "serious" means "professional." Actually, the reverse is true. The top leaders and public speakers smile and use humor. When you're relaxed, you appear more confident.

The second mistake I've observed is rushing. When speakers get right down to business and talk AT the audience instead of with them, the audience retreats emotionally. That's why many speakers begin with opening remarks and humor. They share something personal about themselves or the audience. When I was in Tanzania, I memorized my opening remarks. I said, "Good morning. I'm happy to be here!" in Kiswahili. To my surprise, they audience broke out in applause. I was literally speaking their language!

The third reason for failed rapport is that presenters don't pace the audience. They hold on rigidly to their outline or PowerPoint. Successful public speakers are able to let go of the script and move where the audience wants to go. Don't let rigidity be one of your six R's.

Relationships - If rapport is about likability, then relationships are about trust. Once the audience likes you, it means they're engaged at the moment and willing to listen. You may be entertaining but until the audience trusts you, they won't take action.

Let's say you're giving a marketing talk. You have excellent platform skills. You're entertaining. But at the end of the presentation, nobody buys your product. Assuming you're in front of the right people, audience skepticism may mean they don't know you well enough.

The top speakers build a relationship with the audience and that happens before they ever meet. It starts with an email which may be followed up with a postcard or phone call. These public speakers provide third party testimonials and leverage mutual relationships.

In company meetings, you'll have better success in gaining support if you meet people for lunch, stop by their desks to say hello, and get to know them. Chase Manhattan Bank had a slogan that said it best: "The right relationship is everything."

ROI - We often think of ROI as Return on Investment. For presenters, it also means Return on Impact. If you're selling a product or pitching for funding, success can be measured in dollars. Most of the time, presenters are communicating information or selling an idea internally. These presenters won't see increased dollars in their pockets if their idea is accepted. But they will experience return on impact because they'll increase their influence within the organization.

How do you know if you've made impact with an informational presentation? The listeners will be engaged. They'll ask questions. You'll see nodding heads and direct eye contact. Positive feedback will filter through the company grapevine.

Responsibility - Public speakers and presenters have a responsibility and some take it lightly. You have a responsibility first and foremost to deliver what you promise. When a store advertises a sale and then pulls a Bait and Switch act, you automatically feel frustrated, angry and distrustful. Many consumers will walk out of the store.

I've seen speakers do the same thing. I once heard a celebrity speaker announce, "I don't think I'll talk about... [the subject that was published in the schedule]. We can cover that in the second session. What I want to talk about is..." The problem with that decision was that I didn't sign up for the second session and that celebrity speaker lost credibility. I'll read his books, but I won't attend a live presentation again.

Presenters have an obligation to their listeners. There's a contract between a public speaker and an audience. Even if you're giving a meeting update, be sure to honor the time commitment and give them the information in a way they can understand. When you speak to a large audience, be sure to deliver the presentation they signed up to hear.

What You May Not Know About Speaking to Senior Management

board_of_directorsBorn in the U.S.A. I was born in the U.S.A.

Bruce Springsteen

Like the Bruce Springsteen song, you were born in the U.S.A. But just because you're living and employed in the U.S., doesn't mean you're working in the U.S. culture.  A client recently shared her surprising insights with me, as we were discussing my training program, Presenting to Senior Management. This client works for a well known corporation that's headquartered outside the U.S.

One Size Does Not Fit All Senior Management

Presenting to senior management continues to be a challenge for many in the workplace. I hear managers complain that their staff is excellent at presenting at staff meetings, but once they go before senior management, they unravel.  Managers then feel obligated to attend every meeting. And their employees lose credibility because they defer to their manager, rather than owning their content.

While that scenario is fairly universal, communication becomes more complicated when the parent company is on foreign soil.

It's quite easy to misread the signals across cultures. Even when presenters are well-prepared, they can be perceived as over-confident by non-American senior managers. Americans can be perceived as aggressive without realizing it.

My client shared with me that senior management perceives staff as "not deferential enough". Presenters should refrain from saying "I recommend," advised my client. Presenters should instead substitute the words, "my proposal." The silence of senior management is frequently misinterpreted as acceptance by the U.S. staff, when in fact silence simply means senior management is not on board with the idea.

When this client asks her senior management what they think of a staff member's presentation, they may report that the presenter was "shallow". Upon further probing my client discovered the real meaning - the presenter was not deferential.

The next time you're presenting to senior management, remember it's not about living in the U.S.A. Company cultures are global. If senior management hails from another country, make sure you're familiar with their communication styles and values.

Whether you're company is based in the U.S. or abroad, you can learn how to communicate more effectively with senior management. Click here to learn more.

How to Present Complexity With Clarity

Cartoon: Yeah, but it's a data transfer system I can understand. I recently came across this cartoon and started laughing out loud. It really resonated with me. I relate to that guy who's defaulting to something he knows and something he can understand. It's that old adage: Keep It Simple, Stupid.

Yet, so many presentations are like coming face- to-face with big data. And they make you want to jump out the window. This is especially true with financial, technology, and scientific presentations. I know how it feels when I buy a new piece of technology. I can't bear to look at the user manual. I'll either watch a how-to video or call upon my technical assistant because she speaks 'Geek' and English.

Apparently, there's too much geek being spoken in the workplace.

Wouldn't it be great if you could transfer your data into the minds of your listeners as easily as pushing a button? Recently, the actor Alan Alda was on the morning news promoting a new career. He's coaching scientists how to present to Congress. When scientists present to congressional committees, their audience doesn't understand what they're recommending. Their gobbledygook is as confusing to Congress as legislation is to the rest of us. The impact is they don't get the funding they need.

When I coach executives and leaders who are presenting at high-stakes venues or before the executive committee, the complaint is that they aren't succinct. Here are 5 tips for communicating simply and clearly.

  1. Avoid using acronyms, buzz words, and jargon. Never assume your audience knows the meaning of company or industry jargon. Use the complete word or description initially. Later in the speech, you can use the acronym - after you've defined it.
  2. Use analogies and metaphors from every day life. When speaking about something complex or technical, an analogy or metaphor will boil it down to its simplest essence. Recently a client was presenting about clinical trials. The slide was busy and there were a lot of complex details. I recommended that she refer to the clinical trial timeline as a dashboard. The dashboard metaphor simplified the timeline so the audience could understand the details without getting lost in the weeds.
  3. Less is more: use shorter words and fewer of them. There is a misconception about using a large vocabulary when presenting. While it can make you sound smart, it can also confuse your audience. Simplicity equals clarity. Most marketing copy is aimed at an 8th grade reading level. While this makes the most erudite public speakers bristle, it ensures that the message is heard. The question is this: Do you want to be clever or clear?
  4. Tell stories. A story has a natural sequence. When you have a lot of data and it's wrapped in a story, it has the same effect as using an analogy or metaphor. People can follow it. They get involved.
  5. Start with the big picture. The biggest mistake technical presenters make, is they get lost in the detail. Start with the helicopter view. Listeners need a roadmap. So give them context. Give them the big idea, and then drill down for details. If you ordered a turkey sandwich and it came with the meat on top of the roll, you would send it back. Well that's the experience your listeners have when you start with detail. Save the meat for the middle of your presentation. Use a speech template and plug in your data to keep your presentation organized and simple.

Use these tips to present big data with clarity, and your presentation will become a data transfer system that your listeners understand.

Craft and Deliver Your Presentation With Clarity, Confidence and Impact.

Get Out Of My Face!


What Successful Public Speakers Know About Space

"Get out of my face!" If you've ever heard someone say that, you have experienced pragmatics. Space is a form of communication. The best public speakers know how to use space strategically to communicate a message and influence group dynamics. Watch this video to learn more.