Friday, July 31, 2009

The Secret Ingredient

This post is inspired by one of my brothers. Today is his birthday.

Last fall he accomplished something that astonished me, and probably not a few of his buddies.

After 22 years of smoking, he quit.

It's remarkable not because he quit, it's remarkable because of the years of trying some tool to quit, not experiencing success, he would again pick himself up, and try again.

Among the things he tried are patches, gum, other pharmaceutical products, hypnosis. It was the hypnosis that allowed him to see and really believe that he could quit. But in the end, he just stopped smoking.

You can call it persistence. You can call it commitment.

Either way, it's the secret ingredient to achievement.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Medium Really Is the Message

In case you've forgotten, it was Canadian Marshall McLuhan who coined the apt phrase, The medium is the message. He published the book with that title in 1967, or 1968, and it's still a valid statement.

What I want you to realize today is that you have so many media from which to choose to communicate your message: text, email, phone call, face-to-face meeting, teleseminar, book, blog post, billboard, messenger pigeon, etc. So, which one works the best?

Depends on your message. How important it is. Who is receiving this message. Budget and time constraints.

When in doubt, investigate your audience. See is she has any preferences. I know some people who almost always prefer to talk to you in person. And some prefer short messages through Twitter or Face book.

When in doubt, ask.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

37 Paths to Being A Better Speaker

1. Join a civic group or community service organization.

2. Practice with your family and ask for feedback. (You'll get blunt honesty from your kids.)

3. Go to TED and listen to one talk every day or so.

4. Join Toastmasters.

5. Write down your purpose first.

6. Create hunger for your topic.

7. Write an outline.

8. Give a talk in a non-threatening (for you) environment.

9. Tell your audience why your topic is important to you.

10. Don't apologize, unless you REALLY mess up.

11. Hire a coach. ;-)

12. Speak about topics you care about.

13. Focus on your audience.

14. Make it shorter.

15. Learn a new word every day.

16. Watch movies and pay attention to how stories are told.

17. Eavesdrop.

18. Use short sentences.

19. Stand up straight.

20. Visit a museum for inspiration.

21. Listen to what people are complaining about.

22. Stand up straight.

23. Breathe deeply.

24. Keep yer hands out of yer pockets.

25. Write your ideas for future talks in your journal.

26. Have someone record your presentation and watch it afterwards.

27. Do the research.

28. Put the quantitative stuff on a hand out.

29. Think of a better example.

30. Make a list of 10 new metaphors.

31. Appreciate your audience.

32. Relax.

33. Ask speakers you enjoy for their suggestions.

34. Challenge yourself to be more creative with your visual support.

35. Get a makeover.

36. Take notes.

37. Have fun with it. It's your show.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Asking For and Receiving Help in Your Tribe

Similar to how you can sometimes think of receiving as something for weaker people, it can be even more challenging to ask for help on your projects. I mean, you know that everyone is so dadgum busy with their stuff, what an imposition to ask for anyone's help, right?

Asking for help is actually a phenomenal strategy to get more of what you want, whether it's a better job, more sales, your paintings in more galleries, or party invitations.

The truth is people love to help you. It makes them feel important.

In Jill Lublin's book, Get Noticed, Get Referrals, she suggests a specific tool for getting other people involved in your business; she credits the idea to Mark LeBlanc. Both Jill Lublin and Mark LeBlanc recommend this practice for getting referrals.

It's called an Advocate List.

Write down the names of the 25 most important people in your life who are in a position to affect your business. These are your top advocates. Your strategy is to develop a way to contact each one each month, just to remind them of you and what you can do. This is not the time to ask for referrals. These are extremely busy people and you're just making a friendly connection.

Each month send them something tiny: a postcard, a newsletter, a cartoon, an article, a chocolate bar, a personal note. The idea is to keep in touch in a way that reminds people of your business.

You could also phone, fax, mail or e-mail your advocates. It's nice to catch up with people.

Lublin advises to keep your list strong and not to expand beyond 25 people. She also maintains a larger alliance list made up of friends, associates, and business contacts whom she contacts less frequently, on a quarterly basis.

If you're new in business, review your list every quarter, otherwise go over it each year to add and subtract names.

People want to help you; make it easier for them.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Are You A Good Receiver?

You probably have mixed feeling about receiving things. A company that is in "receivership" is not doing well. We're usually much more focused on getting things and making things happen.

I invite you to think about your own ability to receive in a fresh way.

Napoleon Hill wrote, Wanting something is not the same thing as being ready to receive it.

The first time I read that, I thought it was stupid. Now, I understand more fully. I also am a better receiver.

I think sometimes we let our smartness and independent spirit get in the way of our receiving. Or we think it's a sign of weakness to receive. In any case, I suggest you decide to be a better receiver in your life, and see what happens.

Things I've received this summer (like in the last 6 weeks):

- free groceries

- $25 gas card

- subscriptions to 3 magazines

- 30,000 frequent flyer miles

- $26 Barnes and Noble gift card

- 2 bottles of good wine

- $30 reduction in phone bill (per month for the next 12 months)

- totally unexpected and significant income

I've been working on this ever since I was first introduced to the concept in April, 2008. So, you may not receive the winnings of the lottery today, especially if you haven't bought a ticket.

You begin by realizing that there is so much abundance out there, and that there's more than one way to receive stuff. Your wealth can come from more than just a paycheck. Just be on the lookout, and you'll begin to notice unexpected gains. Don't forget to notice them, give thanks, and look for more to come. And share them with others.

Especially in this wonky economic environment, it behooves us to live more creatively and communicate more clearly. Setting up ourselves to receive more openly is one good way to start this process.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Selling When You're Not the Type

If you're like most Mixonian readers, you're really not sure what cold calling is, and you'd be hard pressed to name any known closing techniques. The traditional sales argot, shall we say, leaves you, well, not engaged.

Yet, whether or not we're self-employed, we really want to grow our business.

Sooner rather than later.

The good news is that the old-fashioned high-pressure approach doesn't work well any more. People simply have access to too much information. In a TMI world, what grows businesses is relationships.

Building relationships doesn't mean you have to become BFF with everyone you meet.

It does mean you are present and fully confident in how your business helps people. You are able to articulate the benefits you offer quickly.

The more people know/trust/like you, the more they want to do business with you.

Here are just a few things you can go out and do today that will help build those relationships:

- Call someone just to say "hi." You can keep it brief, if you want.

- Organize your own Creative Women in Business Network. My local CWBN group is having its first lunch next week.

- Give some product/service away.

- Write a note expressing your appreciation for someone.

- Make a donation.

- Try something new. Go for bodacious.

- Pray for your clients. (I got this one from Mei.)

The point is to do something from a place of abundance, not from neediness. Have fun while you're at it.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

What Powerful Communicators Normally Do

Well, Woody Allen did say that 80% of life was simply showing up.

By being present, though, I don't mean being there physically - only. I mean when you are with someone you are truly there with that person, or that audience, not thinking or worrying about other things. Certainly a powerful communicator isn't thinking about what people think of her, she is focused on her audience.

A powerful communicator thinks about why her audience should care about her topic. Actually if you are crystal clear about the why, everything else related to your message with flow naturally. This aspect also keeps you from talking about things that really aren't relevant for your audience.

Powerful communicators don't always use slideware (like Power Point) just because everyone else does.

Powerful communicators value their time and energy, and yours. Realizing, even though you've always known this, but really getting the fact that your energy is not infinite and that your management of your energy determines how much you'll have.

One way I've responded to realizing how important it is for me to manage my own energy is choosing not to shop a W--mart. I have nothing against that store and for many years I did most of my shopping there. Today I find I use less energy on shopping (low priority) by shopping in stores that are smaller and closer to my home.

Powerful communicators invest in themselves for two reasons. 1) Investing in yourself ALWAYS pays off and 2) It's the fastest way to get better.

Powerful communicators commit to excellence. That's why they are also excellent communicators.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Manage Your Own Renewable Energy

You know that watching a two-year-old child in action is quite a sight to behold. The energy level is amazing. Small children don't see the point of walking, when they can run, jump, skip, all while screaming and clapping their hands with delight. They are little fireballs of energy.

It takes a lot of energy to be an effective leader in your life.


I can't promise you'll have this energy level again, like you did when you were two, but I do know there are ways of increasing your energy level and leveraging your energy so you get more of what you want to do, done.

Dealing with energy management is something my clients are usually surprised to deal with. After all, what does that have to do with presentation skills, or leadership? It has everything to do with both.

Similar to way each day gives us 24 hours to manage, each day we have a certain amount of energy to use. Some things, people, events, and places actually raise our energy level, while others do the opposite.

Cultivate awareness of the energy of everything. Notice when you come away from an encounter drained, or energized. See how the mess on your desk energizes you, or not. (Bravo to everyone who has a neat desk!)

I like to keep in mind that while money is replaceable, time is not. Energy is the currency with which we spend our days, and while you can't get back yesterday's energy, you can live now with more energy.

- Get enough sleep.

- Exercise.

- De-clutter (or would that be "de-clut?) your space.

- Shorten the time spent with energy-draining people.

- Notice how any music you listen to affects you.

- Monitor your media intake.

- Take time to do nothing.

- Take more control over your schedule.

Your energy determines how you feel and how others feel around you. It's one of those critical but invisible factors in the communication process.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Leadership for Bigger Impact

The capacity to develop close and enduring relationships is the mark of a leader. Unfortunately, many leaders of major companies believe their job is to create the strategy, organization structure and organizational processes -- then they just delegate the work to be done, remaining aloof from the people doing the work.
--Bill George, Authentic Leadership.

Here are some questions you can work with to enhance your leadership ability:

  • How can I help _________ (insert name of subordinate/prospect/client) be more successful?
  • Who are 10 people with whom I'd like to build closer relationships?
  • How can I create more "wow" experiences for my people at work?
  • What can I do for myself to rekindle my enthusiasm/joy?
  • Which tasks and meetings can we eliminate, or have less frequently?
  • How can I increase my production of optimism?

Good leadership is a process and a habit. It's something you build every day. Here's some spirit nourishment for the journey.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Take Time to OverCommunicate

Can you remember life before email?

It's an amazing thing how interconnected we have become -- sending and receiving messages instantaneously from people all over the planet.

The problem with email is that we think that in hitting the "send" button we have communicated our message, when in fact, many times, if not most of the time, we have not.

Like George Bernard Shaw said, The greatest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.

It's not your job to state your case so much as it is your job to make sure your audience understands your message. Without the nonverbal cues face-to-face communication provides, it's more challenging to know whether or not you're getting your message across with email. And probably most of your messages rely on this medium.

What you want to do is overcommunicate. Students who get good grades know this; they overstudy to make sure they do well on the assignments.

Seth Godin helps my case in his blog post of today:

This makes it really difficult to vilify the recalcitrant consumer. It's not that they're stupid, it's that you didn't explain it very well.

In your activities today, remember to overcommunicate. It will save you time, money, frustration, effort down the road.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Second Step in Finding Hidden Opportunity

This is a continuation of Friday's post, an answer to a reader's question about how to find opportunity when it seems there is none.

The first step, remember, is to acknowledge that clouds really do have silver linings. Economic corrections always bring opportunities to shift wealth. In my July newsletter, I shared a brief story about my violinist/lutier/entrepreneur friend, Chris. He's a total Renaissance man Di Medici style.

What most people don't know about Chris, is that he made money before he migrated to the U.S., while he was a young man in communist Poland. He was part of a popular band which travelled throughout the then-Soviet bloc. And yes he made good money, cash. After a while he decided that he wanted to chuck it all and try making his fortune in a place where you could speak your mind freely (unless you work at a public university, that is.)

So, first you gotta get clear that opportunity is out there.

The second step is to listen carefully to what people are complaining about. This tip I heard from Joe Vitale, who heard it while on Donny Deutch's television show. If you listen carefully to what people are complaining about, and think about it, you can come up with solutions to those complaints. (Don't worry the supply of human complaining is an infinite resource.)

So, if people are complaining that they don't know where to invest their money, you can suggest an investment alternative - maybe your start-up company.

If people are complaining about how unnatural our food is, start an organic garden.

If people are complaining about lousy service, make your service spectacular.

If people are complaining about how badly their children treat them, give a workshop on raising delightful children.

Get it?

It's not an overnight process, but it is a great way to live - looking for hidden opportunities.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The First Step to Find the Hidden Opportunity

Today's post is my response to a reader's question, "How exactly do you find the positive spin when things look so negative?" I'm delighted to answer.

(Feel free to email me a question anytime, and I will fashion my answer into a blog post.)

To begin to answer today's question, you have to accept that there IS an opportunity in a situation, whether or not you see it. I love what Napoleon Hill wrote on this topic:

Inside every diversity lies the seed of an equal or greater benefit.

But before you find the benefit, or the opportunity, you have to really think it's there.

To help you accept this truth, recall an unfortunate event from your past. It can be personal or business. See if you can see that some good came out of that situation, even though it looked like a total failure at one point.

Here is one my favorite examples, even though it's not from my own life.

In March, my brother, the one who lives in Houston, stopped by for a visit on his way to training at UNC-CH. This brother of mine is the top technology person at several billion dollar company. This company is in the funeral home business. So, right away I made some comment about his industry being recession-proof. I mean, how can you stop the death rate, right?

Imagine my surprise when he told me that things were so bad he was expecting an across-the-board pay cut. It turns out that not only are people spending less on funerals these days, but that PEOPLE ARE ACTUALLY LIVING LONGER.

One way people are reacting to our economic adjustment is by engaging in fewer riskier behaviors. We're eating out less, staying home more. And living longer. Who knew?

If you accept that whatever ickiness you're facing contains an opportunity for good, you will find it.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

What It Means to Be Crystal Clear

Confidence is a magnet in the best sense of the word -- it will draw people to you and make your daily life --and theirs -- a lot more pleasant. Donald Trump

Being clear is a huge confidence booster.

Being clear is essential for effective and productive communication.

So, what does it really mean to be clear? I know we all have an idea of what we want: less work, more pay, robust health, good relationships.

Having a generalized concept of what you want is life is the beginning of clarity, but it is not the whole enchilada. You need to think at a more micro level - about specifically what you are willing to do to achieve your goals, and what you are willing to put up with from others in the process.

If you think about these things in advance, then when the inevitable issues and problems appear, you're in a much better place to deal with them and move foreward.

If you are absolutely certain what your objective is in any speaking situation, you are much closer to hitting a home run.

Here are some questions to get you started thinking about how clear you really are:

- Do you have some time each week to think about what is working well and what isn't"

- Are you aware of things that habitually seem to trigger situations that bring you down, or bring out your worst?

- Are you getting enough rest?

- Can you describe in detail your ideal client?

- While everything in your life may not unfold each day exactly as planned, are you certain that you're on the right road and making definite progress?

The challenge with answering these questions is that you realize that you may have to do something uncomfortable, or something that you know people you love will not understand or support.

But that's what it is to be a confident person. You think things through, and make decisions and accept the fallout. That's why most people are afraid of getting too clear about things. That comfort zone may be tiny and restrictive, but it is comfortable!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Habits that Make You Powerful

Aristotle noted that excellence was not a one-time big event, but rather a series of decisions and commitments that added up to a lifetime of excellence. Note that a life of excellence is not synonymous with a life of being perfect.

One of the many things I've learned from Jack Canfield also relates to habits. He suggests making 4 new habits each year. I'm not that systemic about it yet but I keep making some small-but-powerful adjustments to my habits that are paying off. Adjusting your current set of habits is easier than starting new ones, but I'm not saying not to invite a new habit into your life.

Habit of Exercise

I've always been an exerciser. It helps me in so many ways. Over the last three years or so, swimming has been my "big" exercise, while walking is my "small" exercise. I used to do one or the other on most evenings.

About a month ago, I switched to the morning. Small change, big impact.

I hesitated to do this for a long time because I'm a morning person, not a night owl. I thought it was best to use my prime morning hours for my important tasks of writing and teaching.

These are some of the benefits of exercising in the morning, rather than in the evening.

1. You get to feel superior all day long.

2. My energy actually lasts longer in the day, I'm able to get more work done.

3. I exercise on more days because it's over with so early, the unexpected events have less chance of derailing me.

4. The gym is not so crowded; the morning air is cool. (Not sure how I'll like this in the winter.)

5. You're in really good company when you exercise in the morning. That's when most high-impact people get in their workouts. Donald Trump, fyi, gets up every morning at 5 AM.

Based on my work with clients, here are some areas in which you may want to rethink your own daily habits:
  • Blocking out your week in advance.
  • Committing to better presentations.
  • Downloading professional photos for your visual support.
  • Time for fun.
  • Saying "no."
  • Healthier food substitutions.
  • Setting aside money to work for you.
If you're not sure which habits you want to refine right now, revisit your list of goals. You'll know what to do.

Your power comes from realizing that you decide, you commit, you achieve.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

10 Things I Hate About Your Presentation

1. You seem to know, or care, nothing about me. It's all about you. So, I text away, waiting for you to finish and go home.

2. You talk too much. It takes you forever to get your thought across. It seems like it never occurred to you to try to get to the point and save us both some time.

3. You seem fake.

4. You have way too much text on your Power Points. Do you think I can't read? Why don't you just send me an email with all this data dump on it, instead of wasting my time and energy?

5. You're trying too hard. If you're product or service is so remarkable, why can't you relax about it?

6. You use stupid clip art in your visual support. Give me a break! Either take the trouble to find some great visual image, or leave it out. Power Point is not the only way to visually support your message, btw.

7. You talk too fast. You're giving me a lot of data, but I don't get what's in it for me. I'm kinda confused. Confused people don't usually buy.

8. You're playing with coins in your pocket. Unreal!

9. You're pushing me too hard. I love to buy, I hate to be sold. If your stuff is so great, why are you pressuring me to sign today?

10. You're boring. Wake me up when it's over. Don't let the door hit on the way out.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Leverage the Magic of Metaphors

A metaphor is worth 1,000 pictures. Daniel Pink

The greatest thing by far is to be a master of metaphor. It is the one thing that cannot be learned from others; and it is also a sign of genius, since a good metaphor implies intuitive perception of the similarity in dissimilars. Aristotle

And you thought you were done with metaphors when you graduated from college. Nope. Not really.

Metaphors help you do things like:

- generate innovative ideas.

- communicate the unknown in terms of the known.

- make a deeper connection with your audience.

Creativity expert Roger Von Oech, author of A whack on the Side of the Head, states:

There is always a connection between the random thing you select and your problem -- and your job is to find it. We humans are quite good at finding patterns and meaning int he world around us -- even if none were intended. Whatever you find will add insight into your problem.

So, how do you do this?

Take this concept that you want to communicate, for example, a benefit of your brand. Use it to complete this sentence 10 or 2o times, until you come up with something you like.

This brand benefit is like _________________________.

(Yes, I know that using the words "like" or "as" technically makes it a simile. Same principle.)

Here's an example I developed to answer questions about the benefits of working with the coaching model. Actually it was in explaining to one of my brothers what I do that this metaphor emerged.

If you want to know why you would hire a coach, imagine that you would like to improve your tennis playing ability.

One way would be to join an inexpensive group class at your local Park and Rec. My town has a good tennis program; my kids and I have all participated. But if I really wanted to beef up my tennis playing ability significantly and fast, I would hire a local tennis pro. It's that simple.

Joining Toastmasters is a great way to hone your public speaking skills. But you can upgrade this key leadership skill much faster and more significantly by hiring a coach.

How can you use a metaphor in your presentation?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Some Words from Coach Trump

I've been reading Trump Never Give Up: How I Turned My Biggest Challenges into Success by the eponymous author. I still don't get his hairdo, but apparently it's a sensitive topic with him.

In case you've forgotten what "eponymous" means, it's $25 word that means "having the same name as." For example, Calvin Klein is president of the eponymous design company.

I like the book more than I thought I would; he and I have more in common than I thought. His co-author, Meredith Melver is good. Just thought I'd share some of my favorite quotes:

It takes brainpower and energy to think positively and creatively -- and to see creatively and positively. Going negative is the easy way, the lazy way. Use your brainpower to focus on positives and solutions, and your own mindset will help create your own luck.

Take blips in stride -- instead of trying to deflect problems or obstacles and send them off in another direction, try to embrace them. Turn them into something positive. You can often disarm people this way and get them on your side.

Business is about knowing the world.

My focus is always on the solution to whatever the problem -- or challenge -- might be. In constrast, I have met so many people who waste a lot of their time (and mine) talking about their problems. It becomes very clear to me that they are avoiding looking for a solution. They either like the drama of their situation, or are too lazy to make the effort of using their brains to look at solutions.

His main message is Be positive and Be brief. Couldn't agree with him more. Happy Friday!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

How Web Sites Are Not Like Presentations

Steve Krug has written an excellent book on designing effective Web sites. If you're interested in getting out on the Web in a bigger way, I strongly suggest you read Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability.

How this is not like making a wow presentation?

Because you want your audience to think. And you want them to see things from your point of view, or think like you do on a particular topic.

The trick is, they have to listen to what you have to say, before you can persuade them to think. Most of us would rather not...think too much.

You may be able to convince us to accept you argument without thinking.

But that's not the most delicious way of connecting. Have you helped someone think today?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Why Bother to Wow

In other words, why presenting is so important.

Peggy Noonan says, As more and more businesses become involved in the new media technologies, as we become a nation of fewer widgets and more Web sites, a new premium has been put on the oldest form of communication: the ability to stand out and say what you think in front of others.

Here's what Tom Peter's had to say about it. I've seen several quotes from him about the value and the very critical importance of presentation skills, this one is from his website.

Fact, in "our" more modest worlds: Poor or average or even "okay" presentation skills trip up or hold back an incredible number of very talented people at all levels, including the highest in big orgs—and yet it is rare to see someone launch a martial-arts-training-like, no-bull, I'm-gonna-master-this-or-die-trying offensive on presentation skill improvement.

You've heard people say, and you've probably said it yourself, “It's not what he said, it's how he said it.” Yep, that's the reality. People judge you by your presentations – that's why it's such a feared feat.

Here's an example came from my own life. In March I made a short video clip in which I discussed my research about Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez. Now, I've made hundreds of presentations and have been teaching this stuff for years, but I had never been videotaped doing any sort of formal talk.

Now, how hard can it be? I've just spent years researching this man, so I'm really a world expert on the subject. Still, when the bright lights are in your eyes, you're hooked up to a microphone, you're looking into a camera....well, it feels awkward. And looking at the tape afterward, I spoke well on my topic, yet my sense of humor and fun was totally missing. The video presentation was of me, but it wasn't me. I now knew that for the next one, I had to relax even more and even make an effort to be my witty self.

Guy Kawasaki interviews Nancy Duarte:

Duarte's recent book is called slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations.

In this interview, she shares the secret to great PowerPoint's and tells how to avoid some of the most common presentation pitfalls.

Question: Why do most presentations suck?

Answer: Most presentations suck because:

1.The presenter has not given the audience any idea why they are there or what the content means to them; messages are disorganized and there’s no unifying story line.

2. The presenter uses the slides as a document or TelePrompter and reads their slides with his/her back to the audience. This makes the audience feel like the presenter is slow or not very smart.

3. The presenter is not passionate or inspired and has not connected to the audience in a uniquely human way.

See, it's not just me. Making presentations is important enough to warrant a great deal of thought and practice.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Make Your Message Motivate

I just watched the very funny Onion News Network satire on Information Overload Syndrome. The writers really captured the essence of TMI, and you've still got to give another wow presentation. How do you keep your message from becoming just another TMI scrap?

The answer: Take out unnecessary information and keep your audience's interests in first place.

Assuming you have a clear purpose to your talk (if not see yesterday's post,) now you get to put together the heart of the message. The following questions can help you get it right.

- What is the benefit for your audience?

- Why should they agree with you?

- Which questions of theirs, do you answer?

- Which of their problems do you solve?

The answer to these questions is the meat of your message. The more remarkable you can make your answer(s), the better off you'll be.

Donald Trump really stresses the need for people making presentations to be brief. Former prez Franklin D. Roosevelt did the same with his quip, Be sincere, be brief, be seated.

Trump once limited a man's sales pitch to 3 minutes - and Trump bought the concept and invested with the 3- minute presenter.

Everyone wants more of their time back. Motivate succinctly and then sit down.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Foundation for Your Wow Message

Before you make your presentation, you want to be ultra laser clear about why you are doing this. Like with a lot of things, if you're sure about the why, the how will more easily fall into place.

If what you need to say can be passed around through a memo or email, save yourself and the other's time and trouble and whip out an effective written message. Your audience thanks you for being considerate.

Now, you may have several reasons to talk to a group, but you need to be clear about what those reasons are, and prioritize them, before you actually craft your message. Speakeasy's Sandy Linver refers to communication as a journey, and through your talk, you want to have a destination in mind about where you want to take your audience.

And do they really want to go there with you?

Before even writing your thesis statement, think in terms of creating hunger for your topic. In other words, why should they care?

This part of your message is the foundation for everything else. Before you write your thesis statement, before you decide what to wear, and what kind of visual support to use, decide what it is about your message or topic that can motivate them to actually listen.

That motivation may come from the same reason the topic is important to you. That's why I know that relating yourself to your topic usually draws your audience closer to you.

So, before you start with the Powerpoint, get clear about why you're doing this presentation in the first place.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Can You Be Nice AND Authentic?

When your coach asks you to think about becoming more authentic, it's not a warm and fuzzy feeling. You get this uneasy suspicion that you haven't been as honest as you'd like, even though you value complete transparency. It was for me, however, a gentle reminder about how easy it is to play the game of pleasing others, and failing to express yourself with complete transparency.

The downside to this pattern is that you can become fake. Yuck!

I recently read that it takes great courage to always express your preferences while being prepared to let go of some of them if needed. I think one really big key to living authentically is what my dad calls, "disagreeing without being disagreeable."

Or as Isaac Newton put it, "Tact is making a point without making an enemy."

Being kind and authentic is a challenge that truly makes life more interesting. Here are some guidelines that have helped me:

1. Always keep on the lookout for honest positives. You may not like the broccoli casserole, but you can rave about the brussel sprouts (that would certainly impress me!)

2. At times it will be in your best interest to say, go to a dinner when you'd rather stay home and watch a movie. Sometimes the dinner turns out to be much more fun than you thought, and usually it's good to share with people anyway. But, don't try to convince yourself that you don't really want to stay home, admit the truth to yourself, and go to the dinner. There will be times, however, that you must stay home. Only you can make that call.

3. One thing that has really helped me is realizing that I don't have to explain myself. For some reason, I used to always want to explain myself - even telling the Wal-mart cashier why I wanted one brand and not another, or why I wanted to pay with exact change. Who cares?

4. If you need to give some negative feedback, sandwich that comment between two honest positives.

5. Allow others to disagree with you. It's a free country, and no two people are ever going to see every single issue eye-to-eye.

Like so many personal growth issues, awareness is an excellent starting point. It has taken me a long time to see that in trying to please so many people in my life, I let myself get locked into a pattern that caused me to be unreliable, always changing, always seeking that elusive approval.

I'm not as nice as I used to be, but I feel more comfortable with myself. And that has made me a more confident person.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Help You Dread Asking For

I observed this during a lunch with two awesome friends last week: really and truly, so many of us hate asking for help.

I hate to admit it but I don't ask for help nearly as often as I could. I love thinking I am the ultimate super woman completely independent and self-sufficient. It sometimes takes a near-breakdown experience for me to realize I could use some help.

The irony is that we love it when people ask for our help. I am so pleased when friends and clients ask me for help with any issue really, but especially what Christina and I call communication "tissues."

If you ask for some one's help, you automatically show that person that she is valued.

You also give that person the opportunity to give in a way that is unique.

Even if the person you ask feels inadequate to comply with your request, he is still pleased to be asked.

Yet, we can be so reluctant to "bother" people -- mostly because we fear appearing weak, incompetent, or rejected.

It reminds me of a story my grandmother told me last week. She was giving me some of her vintage couture items, and she mentioned that the sleeves would all be too short for me. Years ago, when she shopped at this fancy boutique (she was a regular customer), the expert alterations lady would adjust the sleeves to be too short for her. Did my grandmother ever mention this, or ask that they be fixed, or remind the lady to not keep making that same mistake?

Unfortunately, she did not. She was afraid of "bothering" either the alterations lady or the boutique owner, and over the years paid thousands of dollars on clothes which would be altered to have the sleeves just a bit too short.

Think of three areas or situations in which you could use some help. And go ask for it.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Today is the First Day of the 2nd Half

Well, someone had to say it -- the year is flying by! Just to help keep everyone on track, here are some questions you might want to think about:

- Are you pretty much living the life you want?

- Are you able to be happy now, most of the time?

- Are you making progress, even if it's small, toward achieving your goals?

- Are you having fun?

- Are you helping others? Making a contribution?

- Are you eating better than you did last year?

- Do your loved ones know that you love them?

- Do you still have dreams?

No one's getting out of here alive anyway, might as well assume a bit more risk and see what happens.