Years ago, my roommate Deana was a hospitality major who got to take the most popular course on campus at the time: Beverage 101. She was required to sample different beers in one class, wines in another, and spirits in the others as part of the training about the role of liquor in restaurants and bars. Of course, my friends and I were jealous that she got credit for these tastings!
Every time Deana came back to the apartment after class, she was brimming with a different story about the brewing, production, ingredients and history of these popular drinks. It was from her that I learned the phrase, “cocktail conversation.”
When you’ve put the right story into your message or self-introduction, especially during the holiday events ahead, it’s going to be repeated to others informally as cocktail conversation as well as in business settings, helping to establish your expertise and name in the influential circles in which you travel. Think of a few people who impressed you recently at a networker. What did they say that motivated you to continue talking with them?
Here are my challenges to you, as we go into the holiday season: What story or stories can you prepare to make your interactions at the holiday events coming up more memorable and rewarding? How can you become a better listener, so you can maximize the potential from each new contact you make? And how can you strengthen the relationships you already have built?
Speaking of the holidays, for a fun set of gift ideas, including my own E-workbook, Say It! Own It! Please click here.
Here are a few networking pointers:
- Keep the anecdotes as short but lively as possible, maybe 1-2 minutes maximum for each.
- Be sure there are no underlying, unintentional digs or attacks.
- Include a dramatic twist or high point that is easy to remember.
- Focus on some truly positive outcome that doesn’t appear to be bragging. Ideally, it’s either humorous or helpful to the listener, or both.
- Always bring the conversation back to the person with whom you’re speaking by asking a relevant question about their experience or familiarity with what you’ve shared.
- If they have no response, be ready with another question about that person’s interests to keep the conversation gong!
Anne B. Freedman.
Getting people to attend an event, join your group, or contribute to your favorite cause is actually a form of public speaking that looks “natural” and deceptively easy. The reality is that many of the people who are effective in persuading others to come to an event, become a member, or fork over money have usually received some kind of training.
Here are a few pointers to help you come across as inviting and influential, drawn from the world of public speaking, selling and fundraising, whether you’re doing an informal invite, trying to land a new member, or a more formal “ask:”
- Think about what’s in it for the person you’re approaching, not just for you and your organization. What are the primary benefits for them to do what you’re asking and how can you clearly and quickly convey them? Remember, they won’t care about what you’re talking about until you make your words relevant to their own interests and needs.
- Consider using either direct or indirect benefit words to support your request. Identify two or three from the lists below and weave them into your conversation. Some direct benefits include improvement, less work, money saved, problem solved, safety, satisfaction, comfort, convenience, enjoyment, less stress, increase odds of success, conquer fears, entertainment, and health. Indirect benefits you can cite are popularity, affection, appreciation, approval, belonging, friendship, prestige, promotion, recognition, and respect.
- Ask for help! I recommend that your nonprofit organization board of directors and other experienced leaders create action word models that newcomers can follow to increase the odds of success in their outreach efforts.
I invite you to share the benefit words and how you’ve used them, along with what you’ve found the most rewarding in your own community endeavors. Please include the name of your nonprofit organization. Send them to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet them @AnneMiami. In future blogs, I’ll post your shares to help spread the wealth of ideas and successes you’ve achieved, and in turn, help others obtain the results they’re seeking, too.
After more than a few harrowing moments on what I called a “river roller coaster ride,” what I realized in my first ever white water rafting afternoon was a reminder that when you prepare for the unknown, it does help you conquer fear.
How can you get ready for the unknown in leadership and communication?
Let’s take some cues from white water rafting for the first time.
- Make sure you’re dressed for the occasion or can quickly “suit up” as needed! While I thought I would be fine – I was wearing a bathing suit, shorts, boat shoes and a light jacket — overcast skies and intermittent hard raining spells prompted the Rolling Thunder Rafting Company to hand out insulated jackets to each of us, along with the standard red life vest. They turned out to be a real blessing, given the freezing waters! While many offices and conferences have relaxed dress codes these days, sloppy is still not universally accepted. I recommend you keep an ironed dress shirt or other professional-looking outfit in your office or even your car for those last-minute “call to action” times.
- Clarify the situation before jumping in to solve a problem! Before heading out into the river, the guide had my group try out rowing in unison, following his directions. He also told us it may be necessary for us to lean together to the right or left on his command, to help avoid the rocks. We practiced both moves a few times. A rapid response when he shouted an order was essential for everyone’s well-being and to prevent us from taking an unwanted dunk into the 59-degree water. When a conflict arises – your team or the conversation is headed towards the rocks – a natural tendency is to immediately respond with bold, in-your-face statements to counteract what’s happening. Other than in life-threatening situations, however, this approach usually doesn’t work. A good leader, instead, acknowledges the discord, the fear and anxiety that are present, and then guides the conversation into safer, more productive arenas. How do you approach a challenge in your workplace? Within your nonprofit organization?
You could say that my rafting journey with my dear sister, brother-in-law and cousin in the Nantahala Forest in Tennessee was a mirror of everyday life: A few blissful moments of peace, quiet and nature where we drifted along in bliss, followed by fast-flowing, potentially treacherous rocks for a few minutes that made us catch our breath more than once. Before reaching our final destination, we braved the most ferocious rocks and rhythms of the river. That’s the picture you see with me, on the right, with my mouth wide open, hanging on for dear life!
If you haven’t yet downloaded my new E-book, Get the Yes Start-Up Kit, I encourage you to click here and get yours free while this offer lasts! Also, my new E-course, Your Success Kit for Public Speaking, with the 240-page Workbook and nine videos is now available on our website for an introductory price. Now’s the time to get your presentations ready for the busy Fall season ahead! http://bit.ly/29uh6k0
“The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”
You may not appreciate being called “squeaky” as a speaker, but the adage points out that you get what you want by being heard. In a world increasingly filled with noise of all kinds—digital, traffic, industrial, music, and more—having your voice recognized above the din is increasingly difficult.
If you watched any of the election debates, or the countless political ads, you may have concluded that frank, open dialogue about important issues was secondary to accusations and attacks. Yet, candidates speak well before the cameras and also on stage to their live audiences definitely continue to hold an edge.
As clients I’ve worked with over the years and news stories consistently demonstrate, the power of the spoken word remains a major factor in today’s business and community endeavors.
Some people don’t believe it, but I was a shy teenager who was also curious. In high school, I started out playing clarinet in the band, and later found my true passion, writing for the school paper, the Nova Vue. Having to interview teachers and fellow students to write stories, as well as work with the other student journalists, helped bring me out of my shell.
To this day I don’t remember how I pulled it off, but at age seventeen, just after high school graduation in the summer before going off to college, I got an appointment with the managing editor of The Miami Herald. Larry Jinks was a kind man who patiently listened as I tried to convince him that the Herald needed a teen section. In hindsight, I see this was really my first ever formal presentation. Flush with my recent success as editor of my high school paper, I had come ready to persuade. What I showed Larry were two sample teen pages on which I pasted stories and the types of ads I thought would support such a section.
Well, Larry did not hire me but he did send me to the editor of a local, respected suburban newspaper group, The Coral Gables Times and The Guide, where I was brought on to create pages for teens, at twenty dollars a week, a twenty-hour a week commitment. The other 20 hours I spent at the Burger Castle, making shakes and French fries. That summer began a process of forcing me out of familiar behind-the-scene zones and into more face-to-face encounters with strangers than I had ever experienced before.
What can you commit to doing this summer to help you advance your own speaking expertise? To help you onto your path to success, I invite you to download a free copy of my new e-book, Get the ‘Yes’ Start-Up Kit for Convincing Presentations, a $6.95 value (limited time). And visit www.speakoutinc.com/shop for other easy-to-use self-help e-courses and e-books.
(This blog is excerpted from Public Speaking for the Genius, my book that is due out in September.)
It’s sad to say but generally true, winning or losing in elections is not related to the candidates’ experience, resume, or grasp of the issues. A win is due to a combination of how well they speak before groups, how they appear on camera, and their fundraising power. The latter also depends on public speaking and networking capabilities.
I contend that everyone is in the same position as political candidates in their professional and community roles. We are running for office even when we are not running for elected office. Aren’t you and I frequently trying to get people to do things we want or feel are important? While we’re not necessarily going after a vote in a booth, we are seeking approval, support or some other kind of action.
The gift of gab, or a lack of it, determines if a candidate gets elected or re-elected. Most candidates and those now serving in elected positions rely on so-called “talking points” to carry on their public conversations, their speeches to audiences, and their presentations to prospective donors. These talking points —usually thoroughly critiqued and reviewed by staff and close supporters—are what they intend to say on any given topic, including potentially disruptive or negative questions.
One of the most unusual aspects of the current election cycle is the apparent lack of pre-determined talking points that one particular candidate has consistently demonstrated. I’m not going to get into the politics here! I’m just observing that some folks seem to be able to speak in a more unscripted way than others. It doesn’t necessarily make them better; they just appear more verbally nimble.
Recently I got a call to help the incoming president of an industry group who wanted to serve but who was miserable at the thought of having to speak before the entire association. He was at home in the board meetings but had never addressed the large gatherings throughout the year, nor had he participated in any of the lobbying the position was going to require.
The same day, I was also approached to work with the owner of a pest control company who found himself with less than adequate visuals and uninspiring content to share at the weekly meeting of one of his business leads groups.
In both cases, these business professionals had accomplishments and stature that made others assume they would be good speakers as well. Their own lack of familiarity with key speaking basics, however, was interfering with their ability to take advantage of the exposure their respective leadership opportunities posed.
You don’t need to let your discomfort or unfamiliarity with speaking techniques prevent you from achieving all you are destined to do! To help you get started on your next message, I invite you to download a free copy of my new E-book, “Get the Yes! Start-Up Kit.” Just click here for a limited time only.
And if you’re ready to dig in, please consider my new E-course, Your Success Kit for Public Speaking, with nine videos and a cartoon filled step-by-step workbook. Just click here for yours.
This blog is an excerpt from Public Speaking for the Genius, my new book, due out in September. Want more? You can get a 25% pre-publication discount by ordering here.
While doing a particularly challenging underwater exercise, my swim aerobics instructor, Maria, suddenly shouted: “Don’t leave your body unattended!”
When you’re in the midst of a speech or a presentation, it’s easy to get lost in the moment, to figuratively lose connection with your body. You put all of your mental energy into conveying your ideas and trying to engage the audience.
What can happen if you’re not careful is that you start to look like a talking head instead of a total person. Think of the bobble dolls. Is that the impression you want to make?
Instead, if you follow Maria’s wise words about not leaving “your body unattended,” you can maintain more control over what your heart, hands, and mouth may actually be doing while you’re speaking.
What can you do to stay in charge of your own body? Consider the F-O-C-U-S acronym I have developed for speaker body care:
F – Find a friendly face right away in the audience or board room and selfishly bask in the vibes. Can’t find one? Conjure up the face of your Mother, best friend, or significant other and imagine that person is cheering you on.
O – Open up your lungs by remembering to breathe in with your stomach out and exhale bringing your stomach in, yoga style. Forgetting to breathe when we’re anxious is normal but not especially helpful when you’re a speaker! Your voice will sound breathless and uncertain.
C – Create value for those listening. You will feel better about your speaking experience when you know that you’re providing content that is meaningful and relevant. Don’t skimp on examples, success stories and other ways to help your audience get the most from sharing your expertise with them.
U – Urge participation! Plan specific places where you are asking for a show of hands or otherwise inviting people to stand and respond to your question. Or, build in places where attendees can interact with those near them about the topic you’re presenting. Remember, many people love to be a part of the show, and they’ll love you more when you help make that possible!
S – Smile inside and outside. Even if you don’t feel like smiling, the deliberate raising of the corners of your mouth will hasten a relaxed, good feeling. It’s not logical, but it works!
If you haven’t yet downloaded my new E-book, Get the Yes Start-Up Kit, I encourage you to click here and get yours free while this offer lasts! Also, my new E-course, Your Success Kit for Public Speaking, with the 240-page Workbook and nine videos is now available on our website for an introductory price. Now’s the time to get your presentations ready for the busy Fall season ahead!
News reports about the latest app craze – Pokémon Go – including a quote from two college girls saying that wanting to play the virtual game enticed them to leave their freshman dorm in search of new people – make me wonder: What will connecting through words look like in the future?
At the business level, a prospective client asking about developing team communication tells me a division of her company reports to a senior manager in a distant state – by phone or online viewing. The manager only visits in person once a month. Instead of flying people together for conferences and training, I’m seeing more and more enterprises trying to save costs with online meetings, even presenting awards this way!
To help you get the best possible outcome in your interactions with your team, clients and networking, here are a few techniques that I believe will prove timeless, whether you are virtual or in person.
- If you have not yet downloaded your free copy of my new e-book, “Get the Yes Start-Up Kit for Convincing Presentations,” please click here to get yours! https://www.speakoutinc.com/get-yes-start-kit/
- Use the C-L-E-A-R formula to optimize your conversation when conflict or discomfort seems to be obvious:
C – Call the person by name to personalized the interaction. This human touch can soften a harsh tone that may have come into the dialogue.
L – Listen without interruption. For many of us, this task is excruciating, because our urge to interrupt is strong! By allowing the other person to get everything off his or her chest means you’re assisting in clearing the air.
E – Empathize with whatever was said. Even if you don’t agree, say something like: “I can see you are upset/angry/disappointed with this situation.” Or, “I hear how frustrated you are with this situation.” Avoid the urge to start solving the problem without empathizing first because the purpose of this step is to establish rapport, vital to opening up the channels of communication.
A – Ask questions. Use the journalist 5W’s and H. What happened? Who is involved? When did this occur? Where was the action? Why do you think it’s going on this way? How do you think it can be resolved? How much time or how much money do you think it will take?
R – Review what you heard, recommend a solution if appropriate, repeat the process. Sometimes you need to continue and repeat the CLEAR formula because the emotions are too strong for a one-time trip to clarity. In other instances, your insight to a solution may be just what is needed. The key is to be as tuned in to what is being said – or not said – as possible.
Let me know how this formula works for your communication, whether virtual or face-to-face. And don’t forget to download your complimentary copy of “Get the Yes Start-Up Kit for Convincing Presentations” by clicking here: https://www.speakoutinc.com/get-yes-start-kit/ And get your pre-publication discount for my new book, Public Speaking for the Genius, by clicking here.
If you imagine your audience laying on beach towels under umbrellas on a glorious summer day, with your job to capture and keep everyone’s attention, it all starts to make sense, yes?
I’m talking about how challenging trying to connect and stay connected to a group of people can be when you’re the speaker. Over the years, I confess that “not connecting” has happened a few miserable times, despite my best preparation and practice. You sense the energy in the room is not right. More than a few people are fully engaged with their phones- and not you. You feel like a failure yet you’ve got to “go on with the show.”
What can you do?
Think of the image I gave you at the start of this blog – your audience members are each relaxing on a beach towel – and you are expected to engage and entertain them.
Here are two recommendations from my experiences:
1) Begin asking more questions that will inspire their participation and
desire to answer. Your mission is to stir them out of the beach-style zone
and into your conversation.
“What would you say has been the most challenging part of your work in this area?”
“Why do you think you encounter resistance when you try to do something new?”
“What kind of situations do you see as recurring problems and why?”
“When do you find is the best time to introduce new approaches or procedures?”
“Where have you had the most success in your endeavors so far?”
2) Plan an exercise or series of exercises that will require people to work in
small groups together.
- Invite small groups to problem-solve a particular issue or challenge, and then share their results with the entire audience.
- Initiate a “count off” with everybody getting a number from one to five. Then, re-assemble the group by number and give each a specific task to review and a time limit. A report back to the rest of the group follows, with feedback from all participants invited and encouraged.
If you haven’t yet viewed my recent presentation, “How to Avoid the Five Most Common Speaking Mistakes Leaders Make,” you can see it on YouTube by clicking here. Please let me know what you found helpful. I’m available this summer to give your group this presentation as well.
For a limited time, get your complimentary copy of one of my new E-books, Getting the ‘Yes’ Start-Up Kit, by clicking here. In exchange, I would appreciate your sending me a brief review of the book I can post on my website. (Send your review to email@example.com.) You can find the complete collection, including my new do-it-yourself E-course, Your Success Kit for Public Speaking, which includes nine videos and a 240-page step-by-step Workbook, at www.speakoutinc.com/shop.
Enjoy the season! It doesn’t last long enough in my view.
While the signs in public speaking are not as clearly visible as the ones posted when you hike through a natural preserve, they are just as critical to heed.
Here are two examples from my recent trip to Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve in San Diego and their parallel in the world of making presentations.
“Caution. Falling Rocks. Keep back at a distance.” This sign appears as you enter the magnificent beach area, with huge cliffs overlooking the Pacific.
You never know, despite the most careful of planning, when your words and position on a topic are going to elicit angry or stony-faced responses. Or equally awful, when something buzzes through your room over which you have no real control.
What do you do if this happens?
I do not recommend that you ignore the equivalent of falling rocks on your presentation. If you are fully prepared and feel as though you are an authority, ask questions of your audience about their reaction. “I can see some of you were upset about what I just related. What part specifically did you feel strongly about?” Or, “Would you please share what statement or statements you felt were not what you expected or with which you do not agree?
Then, listen without interrupting. That may be tough but it’s vital. Empathize with their responses even if you do not agree. Acknowledge their anger, frustration, fear, or whatever else was expressed. Keep your own emotions in check.
Ask specific questions based on their response. “What if it were this way … or How would you feel if this happened …?” Recap what you heard and if the mood has not shifted, repeat the process until you feel as though you can go on with your message.
Now, what about those “drones” or their equivalent, the loud buzz that blazes through your audience without warning? If you have no idea what’s going on, it’s okay to ask! Reach out to someone in your audience who looks friendly and point blank, inquire about what’s happening. It could be breaking news – like the recent Pulse massacre in Orlando, or something going on overseas or even with a popular entertainer or musician. To continue as if nothing is happening is going to doom you to a failure to connect.
On a more positive note, your comments can also stir laughter you did not anticipate and a round of applause for a statement or declaration that propels your listeners into clapping, hooting or hollering! That result feels wonderful, doesn’t it?
You can respond with confidence and stay on point no matter what happens during your talk, when you are ready to ask key questions, listen carefully, use empathy and stay calm.
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