Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The ABC's of Public Speaking - I is for Intention

I is for Intention

Any time you speak to an audience you must do so with intention. Know your purpose for being on stage. Are you there to educate? To inform? To entertain? To tell a story? To motivate? To influence or encourage those listening? To deliver good or bad news? Is your presentation designed as a call to action for others? What is your personal motivation for being the person speaking?

Be determined to deliver your talk so that you intentionally stay true to purpose.

Regardless of why you are there, you should have a desire to impact your audience for the better. Many people enjoy being the center of attention, and thus shine on the adoration they get from the audience. However, the best speakers bounce the spotlight off themselves and re-focus it on the others in the room.

When you are clear to the reason you are presenting, you will be more powerful. Being intentional bends your mind toward your objective. All speakers should want to be viewed as meaningful and significant to their audiences. Have a clear idea of how you can influence and make sure that you continue to stay true to that objective.

Your intention is the aim that will guide you to being more effective. Very often business professionals try to rely on technical data or well designed PowerPoint slides, and thus lose track of the deeper meaning of their presentation. A speech is not a Broadway Play. While it is a performance, it is not as much about the staging, props, and prose as it is about the connection that the speaker makes with those in the crowd.

Know why you are there and be intentional in everything you do with regards to your presentation.

Have A Great Day.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Bullshit Meter

What should you do when the "Bullshit Meter" goes off in your mind?

You meet someone at a dinner party, or you listen to a speaker / guru at a conference, and everyone around you is deeply enamored with every word that comes out of the person's mouth, but you get that gut feeling that the person is a fraud. How should you react?

Do you tell others how you feel? Or just politely smile and listen, excusing yourself before the love-fest gets out of control?

Worthy of some time to ponder. I am not sure of the correct answer. After all, it is just a gut feeling, I am not sure that this gives you the right to speak against someone or try to undermine them. Maybe they are legit? To be critical would make you look bad if the other person has the integrity you missed.

Yet on the other hand, if you are correct and the person is nasty, shouldn't you warn others?

You input is welcome.

Have A Great Day.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The ABC's of Public Speaking - H is for Hand-Outs

H is for Hand-Outs

When delivering a business presentation there is a lot of discussion as to if it is recommended to provide handouts of your PowerPoint slides in advance to the audience. People often like to get copies of your slide deck to take notes and to have them for future reference. If you are speaking at a conference it is the common practice for the organizers to place your presentation in the binder that is provided to all participants.

While there is not a "right" answer, my recommendation is that you do not provide hand-outs that are the exact replica of your slides in advance.

There two reason for this perspective:

1). Your slides themselves are NOT your presentation. There should not be enough detail in your PowerPoint that it alone provides the informative parts of your discussion. Your PowerPoint is a tool for you to remember what stories you wish to tell, not a piece of reference material for the audience. I will touch on this in more detail when we get to "P is for PowerPoint" in this series of blog posts.

2). If people have copies of your presentation they will undoubtedly scan ahead while you are delivering your speech, and thus not be actively engaged in what you are talking about in the moment. It is human nature to want to know what is coming next, and if you have provided them with the map of your presentation you have eliminated any control you should possess in guiding your audience along the path of the information exchange.

Much like watching a movie when you have already read the book, having the slides for a speech in advance will take away the joy of discovery for the person listening. Storytelling has forever been the major form of human educational communications, and your audience is more apt to learn from you if they are not preconditioned to know every subject you will be covering.

However, people like hand-outs, and providing them with a place to take notes (that also has your name and contact information printed on it for future reference!) is an important step to ensure that they remember you and your pontifications.

A one page "key points" sheet, or a list of important websites, blog, books, and other points of information on the topic area is a great way to provide hand-outs without using your PowerPoint.

Always make sure that you have your name and contact information printed on the materials that you provide to the audience. You want to make it easy for them to reach out to you following your presentation.

Some business professionals fear providing contact information, as they imagine they will be over-run with people wanting to email or call them for trivial reasons. But few people are going to bother you unless they want to reach you to learn more about your company's products and services, provide you with a referral, praise your presentation, or maybe ask you to speak at another event. It is in your best interest to make it easy for them to find you.

If people are interested in having a copy of your PowerPoint, and you are willing to provide it to them, you can always email them the electronic version after the event. Additionally you can have printed versions available after the conclusion of your remarks.

It is a good idea to get something into the hands of your audience, as it is a direct connection point to you, but it does not need to be your slide deck.

Have A Great Day.


Monday, June 15, 2009

NetworkInAustin.com "Netstorming Events"

Today was another "Netstorming Event", hosted by Scott Ingram of NetworkInAustin.com.

Each month Scott hosts a consistently enthusiastic and eclectic group of Austin business professionals for an interesting mix of a motivating and informative speaker, coupled with "Netstorming".

The June event speaker was local businessman Peter Strople, founder of Zero 2. Peter's challenging message to the eager audience was one of excelling in your career. Peter is a student of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's Theory of Flow, and the repetitively reminded the crowd that when you are doing what you were meant to do, it just become natural. It is not work when you know who you are and how you are making a positive impact on the rest of the world.

Netstorming allows for tables of eight to explore ways for people to provide valuable advice to others who are looking for creative ways to expand their business. Each person has five minutes, in which time the savvy ones spend 90 seconds giving an overview of what they do, coupled with half a minute of describing a challenge. The remaining three minutes are used for those at the table to shout out ideas that can inspire the person to discover a new way of approaching their business.

The table I sat out had a delightfully diverse group of professionals. The advantage to participating in the NetworkInAustin.com events is that you have the opportunity to meet an exciting cross section of people whom you may not otherwise encounter. The best part is the ideas you hear pour out of people from different backgrounds. It is easy to see the world through the windows from which you and your peer group look from.... but true perspective comes from alternative vantage points.

Networking is an important element in success and any gathering where good people congregate can bring opportunities.

Have A Great Day.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

The ABC's of Public Speaking - G is for Gestures

G is for Gestures

Those who are relatively new to speaking in front of an audience often are concerned about how to move about on the stage. It is very natural for speakers to be self-conscious about how the motions of their arms, hands, feet and face can emphasize the key points in their presentation.

Specific and well planned movements will express a powerful thought and help you make a lasting connection with the audience. However, stiff and awkward gestures distract from your expertise and make you appear nervous, uncomfortable and novice. When you are the center of attention, it is the whole package that is being viewed. It is not just your words, clothes, or slides that make up your presentation, it is everything that the audience can see and hear. Each movement matters.

Using your body in conjunction with your words is a learned skill. This comes easily for some people, while others need to be dedicated to becoming comfortable with their bodies while delivering a speech. Do not ignore mastering gestures, as this is a skill that will set you apart from the average speaker.

Keep your head high. Let your eyes and mouth (smile) shine through. The movement of your arms should be from the shoulders, not the wrists or elbows. Allow your hands to be open, not clinched at the fists. Even the placement of your feet and how you hold your body posture makes an impression. While all of this sounds like a lot to remember while simultaneously speaking, it becomes second nature over time.

Nothing is more important than experience when looking to master your abilities to use gestures in your presentations. When you first concentrate on how you move your body on stage you might feel as if it is forced and phony. You must realize that there are times for both small understated gestures and larger exaggerated movements. Knowing what type of meaningful gesture to use comes from practice (trial and error).

Video taping your presentation and having friends and co-workers in the audience who have been asked to watch for, and constructively critique, your gestures will help you be aware of what is working and not working in your movements.

The most important thing to remember is to be yourself. Allow your body move naturally in ways that are comfortable and fit your personality. Do not over think or force your gestures to the point that you are "in character" when giving a speech. You are a speaker, not an actor. However, be careful not to let nervousness hold yourself back from fluid natural movements.

Have A Great Day.


Friday, June 12, 2009

NETSTORMING Event - June 15, 2009

Last chance to sign up for the NetworkInAustin.com monthly NETSTORMING event.

June 15th
4:00 - 5:30 PM
Norris Conference Center

Scott Ingram, the founder of NetworkInAustin.com has been hosting these events since early this year. They are an interesting way to meet new people and make connections with dedicated business professionals who can, and will, help you discover new ways of attacking challenging business issues.

Sign up NOW

See you there!!!


Steve Harper's 8 Minute Ripple Event - June 25, 2009

June 25th will be the next "8 Minute Ripple Event" in Austin, Texas. Local author, Steve Harper, has been hosting these events for years.

Sign up NOW for this unique mixer and chance to make new connections.

Have A Great Day


Thursday, June 11, 2009

I Don't Carry Business Cards (Because I Am Way Cooler Than You Are)

There has been a lot of buzz lately about the demise of the business card. It has become trendy to announce to people that you do not carry business cards, as they are "so yesterday" or that you are doing this to save the environment.

The thing is that if you are doing away with business cards for a legitimate business reason, that is great (not sure of what that would be???). If you are doing it because it seems trendy and cool, that is lame.

Many people seem to be taking the "anti-business card" stance to send a message that they have evolved beyond traditional business norms. In reality they just like to be "contrarian". I am a huge fan of finding ways to be unique, but I am not sure that avoiding business cards really helps you in the long run.

When networking, you want to make it easy for the other person to remember you at a later date. If you don't carry cards it might make it harder for them to remember your name or company a few days later. They knew they liked you, but now have no idea how to reach you. Alas, this might lead to a missed opportunity.

If it takes an effort to locate you, they will simply turn to your competition if they already know them.

If a young professional sees some famous and cool tech exec say "I don't carry business cards" they will think that is acceptable. Sure, for the seasoned person whose name is known it might work just fine, but not for everyone.

Some people claim they forgo the cards for environmental reasons (I believe them if they drive a Prius and buy carbon credits). However, there are lots of companies who make recycled paper for business cards, so this does not seem to stand up by itself. (I am not sure that the woes of the planet are caused by the number of business cards in circulation, but if someone has the statistics of how many trees a year are cut down for business cards, please enlighten me!)

The idea in networking is to make connections that can lead to mutually beneficial relationships. Meeting someone one time does NOT make them part of your network. Meeting them once makes them a stranger who you once met. If you really care about developing a connection, you want to make it easy for the other person whenever possible.

I do know people who don't carry cards because they just keep forgetting to put them in their wallet or purse. Of course, they don't want to admit this, as it sends a message to others that they are not very prepared (not a good message to those you might wish to do business) -- so they make up a story about not being in favor of having business cards.

If you have a great system to always follow up and get your info to the other person, great - do it all day long. The problem I see is that people are lousy with follow up. They say "give me your card and I will send you my information", but they never take the action to do that. This means they fail to connect and they lie to the people they meet.

I by no means think that business cards the only way. But they do serve a purpose of getting both parties the necessary contact information to follow up. If one person does not have a card, it might work for you to follow up with an email, but if neither person has a card, how will you do it?

Not having a card could lead to a missed opportunity. While it is fun to be trendy,... actually doing things that lead to mutually beneficial opportunities (by which I mean: business, jobs, deals, money, etc...) is better.

I think people who don't carry business cards are just trying to be cooler than I am. Or, maybe I am an old fart and they ARE way cooler than I am!!! (Heck, I have been wrong before!)

Have A Great Day.


The ABC's of Public Speaking - F is for Feedback

F is for Feedback

Improving your abilities as a speaker requires you to examine your skills. Review your strengths and weaknesses after every talk. Take advantage of each presentation as an opportunity to advance your talents. Every time you are in front of an audience is part of your journey, not a stand alone event.

It is important for a speaker to look closely at their performance, but you cannot properly ascertain the best perspective with self-appraisal. You need to enlist the feedback of others to best appreciate your skills as a speaker.

Create an evaluation form that inquires of your audience suggestions on how to improve. Ask a series of questions and allows them to both rate you on numerical scale as well as giving them space for written ideas. While it might not be appropriate to use such forms at every presentation, when you can view immediate impressions from a group, you will begin to notice trends. Awareness is the first step to expanding your talents.

In addition to written evaluation forms you should also solicit direct feedback from people you know and trust. Ask co-workers or other trusted advisers to attend your speeches and take notes on what you do well and areas where you can improve. Be sure to let them know that their observations are important to your goal of becoming a better speaker, and that you are not requesting them to only tell you about positive aspects of your speaking.

If you request another person to assess your speaking, accept their input with a positive attitude. Leave your ego at the door. Even the best professional speakers know that they have quirks. Ignoring these flaws will not allow you to excel.

Don't shoot the messenger when they point out your mistakes. If they tell you that you said "Um" or "Ahh" too often or that you kept your hands in your pockets, realize that this is important information. Knowing that you are doing these things will allow you to be conscious of bad habits the next time you are on stage.

All feedback is good feedback, but because someone did not appreciate something in your talk does not mean you necessarily need to change. How one person perceives your presentation is subjective. You need to have several sources over time giving your their reviews to best understand the areas to focus your improvement.

Always thank those who give you feedback (both those you asked and those who volunteer information), as people who critique your performance are doing you a favor that can be the catalyst that leads you to greater success.

Have A Great Day.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

All Boards Happy Hour

Eric Hennenhoefer, founder of Obsidian Software and the former president of the Austin Chapter for the Entrepreneur's Organization, had an idea several years ago (at least I think it was his idea???) to create the All Boards Happy Hour. This event brings together the boards of directors of all the areas business non-profit organizations for an evening of networking.

Think about this for a minute.... the people who serve on boards for business organizations (think Chambers of Commerce, industry groups, networking organizations, educational clubs, etc...) are all leaders in the community, but often do not know those who serve with different organizations. When you bring together the leaders in any community, new relationships are formed and big things can grow from that in the future.

This event has been reoccurring in Austin for several years. Every time it is an impressive gathering of amazing people. Tonight's event, held at the Acton School of Business campus, was not exception.

Sponsored by EO and the Winstead Law Firm, over 100 people came together and made connections.

If you live in the Austin area and volunteer for a business group, make sure that you show up next time. Tonight I talked with people from the following organizations: The Austin Chamber of Commerce, TEXCHANGE, Entrepreneurs Organization, NetworkInAustin.com, Austin Technology Council, Rice Alliance, Austin Women in Technology, Association for Corporate Growth, Bootstrap Austin, Leadership Austin, Financial Executives International, the Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, The Acton Foundation, and many others.

If you live outside of Austin, Texas.... this is a GREAT IDEA to recreate in your community.

Have A Great Day.


2009 ACG Outstanding Corporate Growth & Emerging Company Awards

The Central Texas Chapter of the Association for Corporate Growth (ACG) today hosted their annual Awards Luncheon at the Four Seasons Hotel in Austin, Texas.

Nine great local companies were finalists in three categories:

Emerging Companies - Revenues up to $25 Million

Angel Staffing
Rules Based Medicine (WINNER)
Zebra Imaging

Outstanding Corporate Growth - Revenues Between $25 - $100 Million

All Web Leads
LifeSize Communications
SolarWinds (WINNER)

Outstanding Corporate Growth - Revenues Greater than $100 Million

Harden Healthcare (WINNER)
Silicon Laboratories

These companies are proof that success happens in all economic climates!!!

Bob Boldt from Perella Weinberg Partners (formerly the President and CEO of UTIMCO) was the keynote speaker and delivered a great overview of the economy and private equity.

The Association of Corporate Growth continues to host some of the highest quality programs in the Austin Business Community.

Have A Great Day.


Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The ABC's of Public Speaking - E is for Energy

Many people desire to improve their speaking skills. When I write or speak about this topic I hear from people from all levels the career ladder. From the entry level employees, to CEOs, to entrepreneurs -- if you fine tune your speaking skills you will uncover more opportunities.

E it for Energy

If you are not excited and enthusiastic to address an audience, you should not take the stage. Do not accept an invitation to speak unless you really want to be there. If you do not like public speaking, or you have a reason not to want to address a certain group, then let somebody else be selected to make the presentation.

There is nothing worse than watching a speaker who is just going through the motions and steadily clicks though his or her slide deck. Any audience member who has seen such a monotone presentation knows the feeling of wishing they had sat on the isle near the exit.

When you speak, your energy level is very important. There is an unseen force that flows out of the person talking and makes a deep connection with those watching. Energy is the currency that is exchanged between the speaker and those listening. When you fail to put a spark of vigor into your delivery, then your audience quickly goes broke and has no energy to send back toward you.

An experienced speaker will draw power from the reactions of the crowd, and thus they will create a back and forth exchange of liveliness that will energize all. It is a continuous loop that will engage everyone and leave your audience with a more satisfying experience.

There are five steps to ensure that you are bringing energy to your presentation:

1. Be prepared. Those who claim they can "wing it" when speaking are usually flat on injecting real energy into their presentations. Preparation allows you to be on top of your game.

2. Accept the responsibility. It is an honor to be asked to speak to an audience. Feel the pride of being selected to make the presentation and couple that with an understanding of the responsibility you owe the audience to deliver a quality discussion.

3. Get enough rest. In today's busy world many people allow themselves to get run down. Make sure that you have had enough sleep and exercise in the days leading up to your presentation. This is especially important when you are speaking out of town. If you are exhausted your energy tank will be on empty.

4. Know the audience. Before you speak make sure that you know the make up of those in the seats. Ask questions in advance of the person who asked you to speak about the demographics of the audience. Additionally, arrive early and meet several of the people and learn about them. This will allow you to have personal connections which will help you relate to the crowd.

5. Have fun. It is exciting for everyone to watch others have fun. No matter what you are doing, if you are having fun, those watching will enjoy the experience more. This is true with speaking. If the audience gets the impression you are nervous or loathe speaking, they will feel your pain. Enjoy yourself while delivering your presentation and you will emote higher levels of positive energy.

Have A Great Day.


Monday, June 08, 2009

The "41 Things" Blog Post

Three years ago yesterday, on the eve of my 40th birthday, I wrote a blog post that has stood out as one of the most powerful things that I have shared on this blog. The title of the post is 41 Things I've learned By 40.

Today is my 43rd birthday, and I was thinking of adding three things to the original post. The problem is that I have learned more than three things in the last three years. The other issue is that the original post still is powerful.

CLICK HERE to read the post and let me know what you would add.

Have A Great Day.


Sunday, June 07, 2009

The ABC's of Public Speaking - D is for Dress Code

As a professional speaker I get asked for advice, tips or tricks from business executives and others. The most rewarding part is that it is the little things that make a big difference when you make a presentation, thus I am devoting my blog posts this month to sharing some small but powerful ideas that will help everyone.

D is for Dress Code

When you are speaking it is not just the words that come from your mouth that make an impact on how the audience perceives the experience. Many a speaker has taken the stage with a powerfully crafted script and dazzling PowerPoint slides, only to leave the audience with nothing memorable.

While the message is important, everything about your voice, your gestures, your grammar, your movements, your mannerisms, your clothes, and your style will add up to the impression you make on the audience.

How you are dressed is a very important part of this equation. While the movement over the last decade has certainly been toward a more casual atmosphere for business clothing, this does not mean that you can ignore your wardrobe if you are scheduled to deliver a presentation.

Many younger executives and creative types are accustomed to wearing jeans or dockers to work, and pride themselves on not having to wear the "uniform" of a suit that their parents were subscribed. This pride in "casual" leads many to forget that you are judged by first impressions, especially when you are on the stage as the speaker.

When addressing a large group the visual part of a first impression is more important, as the one-on-one interpersonal connection is divided by the distance.

If the industries in which you work, or the people to whom you are speaking, are going to be casually dressed I am not suggesting you show up in an Armani Tuxedo. But you need to be aware in advance of the dress code for the audience and make sure that you are dressed just a little nicer.

"A little bit nicer" is subjective. You need to take into consideration the audience, their industry style of dress and your own personal style. Wardrobe choices are more varied for women, which gives women a wider variety of options, but both men and women should wear clothes that make them feel comfortable regardless the "level" of dressiness.

A few examples of what to consider when selecting what to wear:
  • Audience in jeans and t-shirts: Speakers wears pants or skirt (think khakis) and a golf shirt or blouse.
  • Audience dressed "business casual": Speaker wears a dress or skirt (for women), or slacks with blazer or other jacket...maybe a tie (for men).
  • Audience wearing business attire (with or without ties for men): Speaker wears a business suit (with a tie) or an appropriate dress.
You do not want to be "over dressed", as it can create an artificial distance between you and the audience. However, consciously selecting your clothes to be just a little nicer than the crowd can make sure that you are viewed as an established expert.

Additionally when you are dressed in a professional manner you send a message to the audience that they matter to you. Your investing the time to select the appropriate wardrobe is a sign of respect to those who are listening to your presentation. The trendy young entrepreneur who shows up wearing shorts and flip flops to address a conference is sending the message his priorities are more focused on himself (and his trendy anti-establishment image).

If you want to get respect, you first must give respect. Your choice of clothes can make a difference in the success of your presentation.

Have A Great Day


Saturday, June 06, 2009

As Seen in the New York Times

I am quoted in the New York Times in an article about helping job seekers.

Click Here to read the article.

Hey, it is my blog, I can boast a little, can't I????

Friday, June 05, 2009

Rock 'n' Restock Charity Concert - June 19th (Austin, TX)

6th Annual Rock 'n' Restock benefit concert back to the intimate Zilker Clubhouse!

Grab your partner, your friends, your co-workers, and your funky dance moves and come out for a night that you will not soon forget. All food, drinks and music are included in your donation ticket price.


Questions? Call 512-420-0300 or e-mail info@goldwasserrealestate.com

Have A Great Day.


Thursday, June 04, 2009

The Lean Startup - Eric Ries Speaks at TEXCHANGE

The June meeting of TEXCHANGE hosted over 220 local entrepreneurs and other business professionals to hear Eric Ries.

Ries became a Venture Advisor at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, after co-founding and serving as Chief Technology Officer of IMVU. He is the co-author of several books including The Black Art of Java Game Programming (Waite Group Press, 1996). While an undergraduate at Yale Unviersity, he co-founded Catalyst Recruiting. Although Catalyst folded with the dot-com crash, Ries continued his entrepreneurial career as a Senior Software Engineer at There.com, leading efforts in agile software development and user-generated content. In 2007, BusinessWeek named Ries one of the Best Young Entrepreneurs of Tech. He serves on the advisory board of a number of technology startups including pbWiki, Bunchball, FooMojo, Causes and KaChing.

His captivating speaking style, boyish charm and self-deprecating stories of his personal failures and successes working inside technology startups educated and inspired all in attendance.

Most startups fail. But Ries does not believe that this needs to always be the fact. We have come to accept a high death rate as part of the startup model, but companies can be built that live up to the creativity, time, details, and enthusiasm that the founders pour into their ventures.

A startup has nothing to do with the size of company, sector of the economy (reminder: NOT all startups are "tech"!), or industry. Instead, according to Ries, a startup is a human institution designed to deliver a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty.

The companies that make it past this early stage go beyond the original ideas of the founders, and instead have a larger and different scope due to the input and ideas from employees, customers, investors and others.

Successful organizations are not bogged down by the "shadow beliefs" of the founders, investors, executives and employees. While not part of the business plan, these beliefs are part of a "Reality Distortion Field" that can take hold in the mind of those in a startup:

1. "We KNOW what customers want".

2. "We CAN accurately predict the future".

3. "Advancing the plan IS progress".

Startups cannot continue to keep making the same mistakes that have been made at thousands of other failed companies. Smart startups need to try new ways and create new paradigms for starting, growing, and establishing the business. Realizing that it is customers who know what they want, that nobody can predict the future, and that advancing a failed plain IS failure is just the first steps.

Lean Startups go faster. They stack their progress on lessons learned by others. They use open source and cloud computing. They know that it is easier to spend your day at a white board, but realize that they need customer feedback to truly innovate (beware of features that clients do not want!). While all entrepreneurs feel they are the "exception" from needing to use revenue as a measurement, lean companies have the real goal of revenue. They learn from their mis-steps at a greater speed. It is okay to fail, as long as you do not make the same mistakes twice.

Ries is passionate about his "Lean Startup" concept, and you can hear more of his thoughts at The Lessons Learned Blog. I appreciated his presentation. I enjoyed my brief conversation with him after the evening concluded. He was the real deal in personality. Nice guy who was honestly interested in his topic. Two small gripes: He did not carry business cards (which seems to be the montra of many a young, tech "sage from the stage" these days) and he wore his nametag on his belt (which one person commented caused him to uncomfortably glance a the speaker's crotch throughout the entire presentation). TEXCHANGE once again delivered an outstanding event and Eric Ries is the BEST "engineer" I have ever seen give a speech.

Have A Great Day.


Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The ABC's of Public Speaking - C is for Confidence

Most executives I talk to are confused about the role of public speaking in their career. While they are "Captains of Industry" in the board room, they are sometimes secretly scared of addressing a large audience. Therefore I am covering the topic of speaking this month on the blog.

C is for Confidence

I have heard it said that the number one fear that people have is public speaking. Death is number two. Otherwise powerful business executives harbor fears of standing on the stage in front of a large audience to pontificate. Because of this fear they either avoid the opportunities, or worse, they stand up and deliver substandard presentations while being limited by their trepidations.

Anytime you are asked to speak you should be confident. Meeting planners and others make the request for you to address their audiences because they see you as the expert in your industry. If you were not competent on the topic, you would not be the one they approach to be the speaker or participate on a panel. This should be at the core of your confidence.

If you are not up to speed on the issue to be discussed, you should NEVER accept the speaking gig. Try to fake it in front of a group and you will be seen as a fraud.

If you are knowledgeable on the subject, then you have to get past your performance anxiety in regards to the speech itself. Everyone has butterflies in their stomach when they take center stage. It is normal to want to protect your reputation and your ego desires the approval of others. A little concern is not the opposite of confidence, but can and will co-exist. The only way to get over these natural feelings of doubt is through experience.

If you have not spoken many time in front of an audience, there is no magic pill that will give you the poise that you will get from speaking on multiple occasions. Therefore you should begin early in your career to look for speaking opportunities so that you can fine tune your oratory skills, and thus develop a natural confidence. Only repetition can give you this real assurance.

I have discovered that twenty presentations seems to be the number when fear subsides for most people. Purchase a notebook and record the details of your next 20 talks. Note the organization, locations, size of audience, topic and any other key observations about your delivery and the reactions of the audience. If possible capture yourself on video and review it a few days after it was recorded. By gathering all the details and viewing them afterward, you will begin to see you body of presentations as a whole confidence building tool.

If you are lacking in confidence, take a minute to imagine the worst thing that could happen during a presentation. You could fall off the stage. Your shoe could break (I saw this happen to a woman who was presenting in front of 2000 people). You could be horribly boring or say something embarrassing. etc.... Once you know what is the "worst", make sure you take precautions to not let those things happen.

After the worst things you can imagine is out of the way, nothing else is all that bad. Just go and deliver the presentation that you prepared for (lack of preparation is also a cause of fear, but I am assuming you are going to be prepared!).

If you are feeling alone in developing confidence as a speaker, hire a coach or join a Toastmasters Club. Practicing your speaking is as important as practicing your golf swing or any other learned skill. Once you have developed your abilities, your confidence will expand.

Have A Great Day.


Monday, June 01, 2009

Third Time Is A Charm (And That Is NOT Always A Good Thing)

Three weeks ago I wrote a blog post called "Respect For Schedules - Don't 'Better Deal' People". The post was inspired when a sales guy in the local office of a business services firm canceled a meeting we had scheduled to have coffee, catch up, and network....TWICE.

Both times he called off our meeting with short notice and claimed to have meetings with "important" prospects. It was clear that he ranked everyone he encounters as to how they could help HIM, and I was clearly not high on his floating scale of who mattered.

It was not that he was busy or impressively doing deals in this economy that stuck with me, it was that he had ZERO respect for my schedule. I could have had other meetings set at this time, but I held to our plan, and put others in different slots on my calendar. I was abandoned when he changed his mind about the get-together, and my time wasted.

Now I am the first person to realize that in any economy, a meeting with a prospect is very important... but one has to know how to manage their calendar. If I don't rank, cool with me... do not schedule the meeting in the first place. To cancel meetings on occasion is unavoidable, but twice sends a message that you are selfish and just don't respect the other person.

Alas, welcome to TODAY. The reschedule of our coffee meeting was on the agenda for three weeks. I even ran into him four days ago and we confirmed the appointment was coming up. But with one hours notice, he called to say that he had an unfinished RFP for a prospect, and thus he needed to bail out.

He wondered if tomorrow was available.

NO. Tomorrow is not available.

I am not the most important person on the planet. Meeting with me and having me as a referral source probably makes no difference in his success.... so I doubt he will lose any sleep on this one. I did not tell him that "when hell freezes over" is my current opinion of when we will get together, but I am sure that he sensed my cool attitude when I failed to calendar another date on the spot.

He said he was sorry. But as I tell my kids, sorry does not erase the things you do.

We all need to remember that our reputations, our personal and professional brands, are built by our actions.... not our words. People all desire to feel respected by others. When you make another person feel small, they hurt. When you hurt them more than once, they don't forget.

Now, I also know that over time I will soften and if he calls in a few months I will set an appointment and try again. That is just the kind of person I am... in the end I want to give everyone the benefit of the doubt.

Have A Great Day


The ABC's of Public Speaking - B is for Backstage

In my consulting with executives on how to improve their presentation skills I have discovered that many people are craving advice on this topic. Thus I am dedicating the blog to this topic for the next several weeks.

B is for Backstage

The most important point of preparation before you deliver a presentation to an audience can often be the one minute before you begin. As you stand backstage or off to the side of the room, take a moment to visualize your key points and your strong closing remarks. See the level of enthusiasm in your mind and the smiles, laughs and applauds from the audience.

Top athletes like Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan and others talk of seeing a successful shot in their head before they ever swing the club or release the ball. The same visualization can help anyone who is about to give a speech.

In his best-selling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Dr. Stephen Covey's second habit is "Begin With the End In Mind". He instructs that you have to create your successes twice, the first time being in your minds-eye. You must clearly know what success looks like if you wish to achieve any goal. Your expectations of delivering a strong presentation that impacts your audience is no different.

While you will have most likely invested hours in preparing your remarks, PowerPoint and handouts, do not neglect taking a private moment to gather your thoughts and give yourself a mental pep-talk. Get centered and focused on the task at hand of delivering the speech. This will leave you 100% engaged with the audience from the moment you start talking.

Too many people jump up and "wing it" in regards to kicking off their presentation. They think that they can rely on their knowledge of the subject and their snazzy slides to wow the audience. But those who take the time imagine the power of their words caressing the ears of those listening are the speakers who are better remembered. A powerful presentation is no different than a Broadway play. You would never see an actor go before the audience without mentally being "in character".

It only takes a minute. Close your eyes. Think of what are your three most important parts of your presentation, and feel the connection that you have with the audience. Know the purpose of your being there and believe you are the expert on your topic. As soon as you are introduced come onto the stage and execute your well prepared remarks, making your vision of a strong impact become the reality.

Have A Great Day.