Archive for the ‘Public Speaking’ Category

Your Mont Blanc Pen Says “Yes”, But Your Eyes Say “Get Me Out Of Here”–How To Recognize A Disinterested Audience

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

We all tend to believe that we are worth listening to. Unfortunately, we are not all correct. There are some business leaders and speakers out there (and they may not know whom they are) that just drone on and on and on.

For some reason, I tend to have lots of meetings with these individuals.

While they are numbing their audience into submission (be it in a small meeting or at a large conference), their listeners are completing their “chores to do” list and trying to draw a doodle that looks like Obama. During a one-on-one meeting or interview these oblivious “babbling brooks” (think 1950’s insurance salesman) have no clue that their prospective client has mentally checked out of the conversation minutes or even hours ago.

So, what are the signs to look for that can give you, future speaker, insight into where your audience’s head and ears are?

Here are some tips:

  • Work on developing great peripheral vision. You need to engage and include all listeners in your speech and notice and account for their reactions as well.
  • Observe their body posture. A slanted or slumped body means disinterest, disrespect or boredom.
  • Focus on the listener’s eyes. It will be hard for them to not look at you while you are looking at them. Their indirect eye contact, even for a few milliseconds, may reflect their desire to find a literal and figurative “exit.”
  • A listener’s lips can also unconsciously reveal anger, interest or faked neutrality. People show teeth and subtle smile lines when they are engaged.
  • If you are close enough, listen to their exhalations. Slow exhaling through their nose or more audible releases through their mouth can demonstrate a lack of patience with the speaker or the topic.
  • Excessive self-caressing (rubbing hair or arms) by the listener signals uncomfortability.
  • Numerous leg crosses reveals nervousness or a desire to change the topic.
  • Arms folded is a conspicuousious gesture that screams “keep your distance, buddy!”
  • Audience members looking at their wrist watch are not hoping that you will talk longer.
  • Attendees spending most of their time looking at their Blackberry instead of you are not thinking about giving you a standing ovation.
  • Ok. So your audience is about to fall asleep. What can you do?

  • Vary your voice volume, inflection, speed and pentameter. If your voice bounces, so will your audience.
  • Move around while you speak. If the audience has to follow you, they won’t zone out.
  • Don’t make it a one-way communication. Engage the listener. Ask personal questions and opinions. People love to talk about themselves.
  • In the middle of your spiel, clap your hands or purposely drop something on the table. The noise will jolt them out of submission.
  • Have chocolate or coffee nearby. Caffeine always helps.
  • Have a humorous anecdote or joke at the ready. Laughter improves blood flow and keeps the audience on your side.
  • Give the audience an exercise to complete or participate in. Physical and mental stimulation can keep their juices flowing.
  • Have something interesting to say, with great transitions.

  • Today’s Tip: Don’t just talk in a vacuum. Pay really close attention to your audience and their eyes, body language and gestures. They are giving you instantaneous feedback on how you are doing. Sure, they can fake it here and there, but not during your entire speech. If and when you see that you are losing them, shake things up with your voice, body and, of course, really good content.

    A Chicken In Every Pot and A Presidential Bon Mot: How To Speak & Act Like The Ultimate Chief Executive

    Monday, November 3rd, 2008

    As tomorrow is Election day, I thought that it would be good to write about something “Presidential.”

    As you are well aware by now, McCain and Obama have very different speaking styles. One tries to be “Joe the Plumber” folksie, my friend while the other likes to be the grand orator and agent of change.

    Both styles have their place (irrespective of your personal politics).

    The key is to pick a style that works well with your personality and position.

    So, in the rare event that you ever seek the highest public office (and with tongue firmly in cheek), here’s how even you can sound and act Presidential:

  • Always carry a podium with you. You never know when someone will ask you about the state of the union.
  • Even when ordering from a fast food drive-through, use a tele-prompter. One missed word and that cheeseburger could become a baked potato with broccoli.
  • Blame all mistakes on your Vice President–that’s what they are in office for.
  • Prior to being sworn in, you can consider your oven, dishwasher and toaster to be your kitchen “cabinet.
  • When your spouse yells at you for sleeping late on Saturday, you can inform them that you are exercising your “Executive Privilege.”
  • Always encourage your female interns to bring their dresses to the dry cleaner.
  • Fire any translator that suggests that the Ambassador to Lichtenstein just delivered a UN address wherein he declared war on all sweat socks and under-garments.
  • Always begin any international negotiation with a high five, some silly string and 3 uses of the word “dude.”
  • Prior to spending Thanksgiving with your in-laws, send in “peace-keepers” to survey the surroundings and terrain.
  • Whenever defrosting anything in your microwave, avoid shouting “I just nuked it.”
  • Don’t ever review your family’s budget in a chinese restaurant. They will resent you when you try to cut out the “pork.”

    Today’s Tip: To be Presidential, you have to sound and act Presidential: Use grandiose phrases, catchy slogans and always check the mirror to see that you have no hanging chads.

  • Summary Of All Tips: The Best In Verbal Dexterity (So Far)…

    Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

    To get your full dose of Verbal Dexterity,
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    The Art Of The Business Handshake: Yes. In business, you will have to “Shake” your moneymaker. Like a tie, pin or pair of shoes, how one shakes reinforces or reveals a little more about you or your counterpart. Use it as an opportunity to radiate confidence, control and deliberation. If done right, you will leave the other person in a state best described as a “James Bond Martini.”
    That’s right. “Shaken, not stirred.” (from Blog Article dated 9-2-08: “You Must Be Made Of Jelly Because Jam Don’t Shake That Way”)

    How To Get Rid Of An Annoying Caller: Telephone salespersons are people too. Treat them with respect and politeness. However, if they are not willing to stop when you say so, it’s time to be a little more aggressive. Turn the tables on them and watch how fast they run. Respect deserves respect, but abuse deserves your clever on-the-phone reaction. (from Blog Article dated 8-19-08: “Sorry Wrong Number”).

    How To Take Criticism From Your Boss: It’s hard to believe that there are others that might not recognize or appreciate the perfection that is you…but it can happen. If the Boss calls you in and criticizes you: listen, focus, react intelligently and deliberately and maintain a professional composure. How you react to criticism may leave more of an impression on your Supervisor than your screw-up. Exhale, react and move-on…and try not to let the air out of his tires tonight. (from Blog Article dated 8-12-08: “Sticks & Stones & My Performance Bonus”).

    The Small Stuff That Makes You Credible : Before you have even opened your mouth, we have all formed an impression of you. Make it a good one. Crappy, dirty and cheap accessories (as well as childish behavior) will persuade us that that’s who you really are. Dazzle us, impress us, wow us. We will pay that much more attention to you when you speak. (from Blog Article dated 8-5-08: “Matching Socks, Combed Hair & Pens that Don’t Leak”).

    Knowing How To Make A Good Mistake: NO MISTAKE ABOUT IT: The worst mistake that you can make is to make the “wrong” kind of mistake. Take a shot and go face this week’s challenge on your own: just be thoughtful, flexible and responsible. Remember, a baseball team can still win the game with a couple of errors.
    Just make the right kind of errors. (from Blog Article dated 7-29-08: “The Error Of Your Ways”).

    The Office Romance: Let’s be careful out there. At the end of the day, co-workers should share a vision, not a bed. Don’t dip your pen where the Company keeps its ink. It’s messy, unpredictable and really hard to get out the stains. (from Blog Article dated 7-20-08: “Love On The Photocopier”).

    How To Deal With The Pain-In-The-Ass Client: You can’t turn an Asshole into a Princess…but you can avoid making things worse. Understand your P-I-T-A’s personality, hobbies, preferences and never let them see you sweat. In the long run, preparation, stoicism and successful execution can tame and impress that difficult client. (from Blog Article dated 7-8-08: “If You Weren’t Paying Us I’d Kill You”).

    How To Pitch An Idea To Your Supervisor: Don’t just blurt out ideas to your Boss. Prepare and strategize. Treat it like a negotiation. Know their concerns and their next question…and be ready to persuade them. You have a great idea, so go for it and share it with your Supervisor. Clearly, you should Speak Up! (from Blog Article dated 7-1-08: “Speaking Upwards”).

    How To Change Your Speech in Mid-Stream: The shortest distance between a speaker and his audience may not be a straight line. Don’t leave home without a knapsack of options, alternatives and tap shoes…and always be prepared to make a sharp left turn! (from Blog Article dated 6-25-08: “Making A Sharp Left Turn”).

    Who Can Put The Point In Power Point : Slides should be a thoughtful supplement to an already stimulating presentation. Use them sparingly and don’t make them the center of your speech. You’re too good a speaker to share applause with a screen. (from Blog Article dated 6-18-08: “Hiding Behind The Slides”).

    Incentives & Discipline In The Workplace: Only the enlightened Employer can properly decide how to serve the “carrots” or throw the “sticks.” Just make sure that each is serving its purpose (it’s hard to throw a carrot and no one likes to eat a stick). (from Blog Article dated 6-11-08: “Don’t Like Carrots, Not Afraid Of Sticks”).

    Using Your Hands While You Speak: Your hands can help or hinder your oral effectiveness. Words and gestures should complement, not conflict with, one another. Clever use of your hands will get you the handshake that you are looking for. (from Blog Article dated 6-3-08: “These Hands Were Made For Talking”).

    Returning To Work After A Vacation: Vacation Get-Aways are for getting away. Make the most of your down time and relax. However, easing your transition back requires foresight, planning and a pink umbrella. (from Blog Article dated 5-27-08: “Where Did My Drink With The Pink Umbrella Go”).

    The Over-prioritization Of Work In Your Life: You need to be focused and driven to succeed in today’s business world. The pace is relentless…but can come at a real cost: to your spouse, your kids and your health. Just remember that if you actually win the “rat race,” you are nothing more than the best rat. (from Blog Article dated 5-14-08: “Praying To The Work Deity”).

    Humor In The Workplace: Everyone wants to make their colleagues laugh. The real question is: What is the cost of a workplace guffaw? People love when others are made fun of (it eases tension and keeps attention away from them) but always remember when they were the butt of the joke. So, be funny, respectful and make sure that your next “punch-line” doesn’t knock you out. (from Blog Article dated 5-6-08: “Your Boss Slips On A Banana, Crashes Into A Stack of Dishes and Gets His Tie Stuck in The Shredder”).

    Differentiation: Kermit the Frog was wrong. It IS fun being green! Recognize your competitive difference (size, location, volume, flair, service, uniqueness, background, language, etc.) and shout it to the marketplace. Differentiation is the spice of life and utilizing it is the key to success! (from Blog Article dated 4-28-08; “Viva La Difference!! -Differentiation In The Market Place”).

    Bargaining For Everything: Consider all purchases to be subject to negotiation. Sellers want to sell and buyers want a bargain. Try to find the secret middle ground (4-23-08: “Bargaining For Bread, CDs and Carpet”).

    Feeling Sick At Work: Getting sick on the Big Day is a prescription for disaster if not handled properly. Don’t let your ego get in the way of the correct remedy. Take two minutes to assess…and call me in the morning (4-18-08; “Getting Sick On The Big Day”).

    Being On Time: Lateness does not reflect well on you or your troops. “Watch” the clock, manage your calendar, take control of meetings and try to beat deadlines. Anything less is going to “tick” someone off (4-10-08; “Johnny Come Lately -Timely Advice To Beat The Clock”).

    How To Pitch A Prospective Client: If you want to throw the right business pitch: get a firm grip on the ball, measure your strike zone, size up the batter and always be prepared to throw the curve. Further, a client (or prospect) will always respect the high heat or an inside pitch (4-7-08; “How To Pitch Business Like A Pro”).

    Real Teamwork: A Team needs to be nurtured, trimmed, fed and cared for. Don’t just bring strangers together and hope. Help create the proper “chemistry” and watch the Team flourish (3-26-08; “There Is No Jerk In “T E A M” ).

    Trade Show Success: Trade shows can be wonderful opportunities to meet fellow specialists, network, to learn or to drive new business. Be polite, aware, aggressive, strategic and always be ready to put on your Spock ears (3-24-08; “Who Put The Swag in Swagger-Trade Show Strategies”).

    Good E-Mailing: Write your business e-mails in a pithy, spare manner and think about who really needs to be a (cc: or bcc:) recipient. Before sending out an enraged diatribe, take a couple of hours to cool down and assess. You can never delete a bad impression (3-17-08; “Mail Pattern Boldness -The Secrets to Good Business E-Mailing”).

    Attaining A Verbal Return-On-Investment: Businesses that truly invest in their associates’ verbal skills (speaking, presenting and persuading) will see a significant and dramatic ROI (3-11-08; “Does Your Business Have A Favorable Verbal ROI?”).

    Improved Sales: Sales don’t improve because they need to. They improve because the pitch, the execution and the follow-up are thoughtful, honest and energized. Clients (new and old) are magnetically drawn to superior fundamentals (3-4-08; “How To Triple Your Sales In 5 Minutes”).

    Tele-communications & You: Always keep all of your business contact info (telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, etc.) in at least two separate databases/locations. Otherwise, you will be only one computer meltdown away from a personal meltdown 2-28-08; “Giving Good Phone”).

    Summarizing You & Your Business: Don’t watch the elevator doors close. Always be ready to explain your business to others in a concise, clever and alluring manner (2-25-08; “Your Elevator Speech: Is The Elevator Going Up or Down?”).

    Corporate Jargon: Don’t fall into the corp-speak trap. Use clear, concise language to direct others or ask your leader to clarify. Nodding your head to phrases that are meaningless WILL come back to haunt you. You can bet your evolving paradigm on it! (2-21-08; “Drilling Down To The Synergies Of Leveraged Empowerment Opportunities…or Does Anyone Speak Plain English In Corporate America Anymore?”).

    Complaining: Before you go into a stream of consciousness rage, think before you complain. Use logic, past relationships and respect to score points with the listener.
    Your goal is to get what you expected, not a pound of flesh(2-14-08; “The Sweetest Whine Of All”).

    Networking: Your business card is a reflection of you.
    High quality, dependable and memorable individuals have cards of similar construction (2-11-08; “A Font Of Information”).

    Meetings: Schedule some unscheduled time into your workday to cover extended meetings and unexpected developments, emergencies and delays.
    It will help you finish the day “on time” (2-6-08; “Minutes To Go Before I Meet”).

    The Business Meal: A business meal is not a relaxing event. You need to be “on” from beginning to end and very aware of your manners.
    Others may judge your credibility and competence by your table behavior (2-4-08; “Some Things Are Hard To Swallow”).

    Conducting An Interview: An interview is like a first date. Your candidate will never look, sound or act better.
    Develop your interviewing X-ray vision and figure out exactly who the person across from you really is (1-31-08; “How To Interview Applicants With X-ray Vision”).

    Standing In Front Of A Room: Don’t let an upcoming speech stress you out. Forget the imaginary naked people in the audience
    Believe in yourself, ooze self-confidence and never let them see you sweat (1-28-08; “The Naked Truth”).

    Eye Contact: In any business context, eye contact can make or break you (1-25-08; “The Eyes Are The Window To The Goal”).

    Public Speaking: If you shake it up by changing your speaking location, voice and presentation, your audience will follow (from Article dated 1-23-08; “Is This Mike On”).

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    Making A Sharp Left Turn (How To Change Your Speech In Mid-Stream)

    Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

    You did the prep.
    You wrote out your entire presentation.
    You have practiced in the shower.
    Your shampoo and conditioner were paying rapt attention.
    Even your dog seemed intrigued by your transitions.

    You are ready to go.
    The big day is here.
    The audience is primed and anticipating.

    As you finish your first 15 minutes, you notice something slightly different about your listeners.

    It’s a nuance.
    A subtlety.
    What is it?

    Oh yes.


    …and you still have 45 minutes to go.

    You have 3 choices:
    1) Punt immediately and run out of the room in shame. If they are really that bored, they may not notice that you have left until after you have driven away in a disguise.
    2) Be stubborn and naive and keep plodding ahead. Obviously, it’s their fault, not yours.
    3) Show some Verbal Dexterity and get this presentation kicking!

    Here are some things that you can do to re-invigorate that corpse of a speech:

  • Immediately stop talking. Let the silence be noticed. Then change your voice quality dramatically (volume, tone, inflection, pentameter)
  • Be self-deprecating: acknowledge that even you were bored by what you just said (and follow this with something exciting)
  • Change you location. For example, sit down in the middle of the audience and conduct your presentation from there
  • Shut off the projector and talk personally and candidly to your audience
  • Start talking about something personal that all will find interesting
  • Have an interactive “game” ready to go
  • Ask the audience to move around (change seats, clap their hands, repeat phrases after you (increased blood flow always helps)
  • Always have 2 back-up topics/points ready to go just in case
  • Ask the audience what is their top priority and address in a casual/free exchange manner
  • Today’s Tip: The shortest distance between a speaker and his audience may not be a straight line. Don’t leave home without a knapsack of options, alternatives and tap shoes…and always be prepared to make a sharp left turn!

    Hiding Behind The Slides: Who Can Put the Point In Powerpoint?

    Wednesday, June 18th, 2008

    I like Powerpoint. It’s intuitive, manageable and impressive.

    I don’t like how people use slides, and abuse them, during meetings and pitches.

    Honestly, have you ever sat through an elongated business slide show and felt your eyes go droopy as your senses were dulled into a near comatose state?

    Yes, we’ve all been there, done that.

    OK. So now you need to be the presenter and have some slides you want to use.
    What do you need to be aware of?

  • Try not to use more than 10 slides. The audience will usually not pay attention after that.
  • Obviously, get to the room early and do a quick run through.
  • Make sure that your computer’s “desktop” that gets projected onto the screen before the first slide does not depict anything embarrassing (e.g. photo of you in a compromising position or a folder marked “Porn Collection).
  • Look at and review each slide in advance-does the visual really support and enhance your message?
  • Animation and squiggles are cute–but are they distracting?
  • Avoid turning the lights all the way down during your presentation. It will allow people to close their eyes or focus on things other than you.
  • Don’t turn your back to the audience while you present-it’s rude and directs the audience to merely read the bare words on the screen.
  • Try to say something different than what’s written in the slide. Regurgitation is a big bore.
  • Have lengthier materials available after the presentation.
  • Be fully prepared to deliver your full presentation without slides (in the rare event that the equipment breaks down).
  • Recognize that giving all members of your audience copies of your slides, as a handout, in advance, is also a distractor (your listeners will be looking down, jumping ahead to your upcoming “surprise” slides and now have a nice canvass upon which to doodle).

  • Today’s Tip: Slides should be a thoughtful supplement to an already stimulating presentation. Use them sparingly and don’t make them the center of your speech. You’re too good a speaker to share applause with a screen.

    These Hands Were Made For Talking (Using your hands while you speak)

    Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

    When it comes to speaking and one’s hands, most people fall into one of two categories: 1) they use them too much when they talk or 2) they don’t use them enough.

    There is rarely any middle ground.

    A presentation or speech can be made so much more effective when your body language supports rather than distracts. Putting your hands in your pockets may appear to be a safe option, but it is not (when you do that, we want to know if you are looking for change, are about to draw your pistol or have some other surprise down there).

    Remember Mae West’s classic line?
    “Is that a toothbrush in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

    So, what should you do with your hands when you are speaking?

    Let’s put our finger on some handy tips:

  • At the outset, make sure that your hands are well groomed and clean (yes, your listener does notice)
  • Try to avoiding pointing directly at someone’s face (it is usually interpreted as confrontational and rude)
  • Use your hands to support and complement phrase inflection (a smooth and soft-pitched delivery should be reflected in similar hand movements)
  • Practice your gestures before you use them. Abrupt and awkward movements will distract the audience
  • Do not use your hands and arms to accent every word or syllable of your comments (you are not John Bonham playing a double bass drum for Led Zeppelin)
  • When in doubt, fold your hands on the table (remember that old policeman’s line, “Put your hands where I can see them.”)
  • Be cognizant of the jewelry that you have on (bright colors, gaudy rings and loud bracelets can be far more interesting than your content)
  • Avoid cracking your knuckles (you’re way beyond 7th grade)
  • Avoid hugging the podium (it really looks like you are using it as a security blanket)
  • If using a microphone, your free hand will need to work twice as hard
  • Pay close attention to other speakers and their movements. Note which hand gestures enhanced and which distracted. Add the effective ones to your repertoire.

  • Today’s Tip: Your hands can help or hinder your oral effectiveness. Words and gestures should complement, not conflict with, one another. Clever use of your hands will get you the handshake that you are looking for.

    Does Your Business Have A Favorable Verbal ROI?

    Tuesday, March 11th, 2008

    Every Company likes to think that it hires the right people, with the right background and attempts to provide them with the right wages, benefits and training, so that the employee will be motivated and equipped to properly serve the business.

    Unfortunately, the investment made in such individuals is not always reflected in their output or effectiveness.This disconnect is most apparent in an individual’s ability to persuasively articulate the employing organization’s services or products to 3rd parties (e.g. prospective clients, current clients, colleagues, vendors and competitors).

    This vital dynamic can be thought of as a Company’s verbal return on investment or “Verbal ROI.”

    I continue to be amazed at how even the brightest executives, professionals and HR leaders fail to properly recognize that the ability to speak in public, present and persuade are amongst the most crucial skills that any successful employee can have.

    There are basically three (4) types of organizations:

  • “Show Me The Money”- These entities feel comfortable wearing blinders and continue to look solely at raw sales numbers as the measuring stick of competency and success, and do so, in the long run, to their own detriment.
  • “The Diet Starts Tomorrow”- These organizations, with enlightened leaders, recognize the importance of persuasive and articulate employees, but never seem to get around to paying for and providing the right type of training. 
  • “I Bought The Paint Set, Now Why Can’t Anyone Around Here Paint?”- These companies have actually spent the time and money to invest in its workers’ verbal skills, but only focus on the initial purchase and implementation, not the maintenance, monitoring and continual growth and development of its team (kind of like buying the diet book but without actually cutting the calories)
  • “Putting Our Money Where Your Mouth Is”- These businesses recognize that their associates are the face and mouth of their organization…and invest time, training and follow-up in the development of speaking skills.

    Simply stated, Verbal ROI is the actual return an organization gets from the initial and continuing investment in the development of its employees’ verbal skills.

    Think of it as an equation: Verbal ROI = (Human Capital Investment + Individual Education & Experience + Provided Training & Interaction Skills) X (External Productivity) divided by Opportunities For Success.

    Clearly, this isn’t your traditional matrices, but that’s why, in today’s business world, it works so well. Verbally adept employees have better meetings, conduct more effective interviews, and have greater success with sales pitches, conversations and client interactions.

    Today’s Tip: Businesses that truly invest in their associates’ verbal skills (speaking, presenting and persuading) will see a significant and dramatic ROI.

    The Naked Truth

    Monday, January 28th, 2008

    Ever since 7th grade speech class we have been told that the one way to overcome our fear of public speaking is to imagine the audience naked. 


    I don’t know about you, but that never worked for me. As a matter of fact, it made me even more apprehensive about that really fat guy in the 3rd row.

    The amazing truth is that, even in the 21st century, there are few things that rattle the most sophisticated businessperson more than having to speak in public. Normally calm and cool titans of industry feel the onset of heart palpitations, itchy rash and hives at the mere allusion to presenting in front of a group. What is it about public speaking that can induce insomnia, cold sweats and a complete and utter lack of self-confidence?

    Is it:

    -the possibility of looking foolish in front of a crowd?

    -the chance that you will forget everything that you prepared?

    -the fear of not being able to respond to a spontaneous question from the audience?

    -the concern that your credibility will instantly evaporate?

    The list of fears and anxieties can be endless—and it doesn’t have to be.

    Here are 10 things that anyone can do to become a much more comfortable and effective speaker:

    1. Research and prepare your material more than you think you need to.

    2. Try to imagine your audience and where they might get bored.

    3. Write an interesting, attention-getting and witty introduction and closing.

    4. Practice changing your phrasing and inflection.

    5. Familiarize with your material so that, if necessary, you could deliver it without notes.

    6. Practice it in front of a mirror, and if possible, in front of a friend or family member.

    7. Practice delivering the speech while walking around the room.

    8. Understand the need to feel and exude self-confidence (regardless of how you feel inside).

    9. Wear an outfit that you have worn before to the presentation.

    10. Get to site early and note or modify seating, lighting and setting.

     Today’s Tip:  Don’t let an upcoming speech stress you out.  Forget the imaginary naked people in the audience.  Believe in yourself, ooze self-confidence and never let them see you sweat.