Monday, August 31, 2009

The 2 Secret Ingredients of Top Speakers

Audiences connect to speakers whom they know, trust, and like. But, wait, that's three things, not two....what is Her Smartness up to now?

Well, for your audience to know/trust/like you, you need to have 2 secret ingredients.

They are credibility and vulnerability.

At there are so many great talks it's hard to pick the best ones. However, Dan Pink's talk about the failed use of incentives at work, is top notch.

He begins his talk by telling us he studied law. But, to cast that decision in a positive light, he tells us he graduated in the part of the class that makes the top 90% possible. He never practiced law. We see he is not Mr. Perfect, and we feel like we can relate to him. But what could a C law student have to say to us?

Dan Pink is the author of several top-selling business books. He was also a speech writer for Al Gore. But that's not where his credibility comes from in this talk, although it surely was critical in his getting an invitation to speak at TED.

Mr. Pink does the intelligent thing. He borrows credibility from scientific studies done by people with lots of letters after their last names. Easy as pie.

He takes studies, which were not recent, btw, and simplifies what happened in those studies (like he doesn't mention which statistical tests were used), made cute illustrations for his slides, and make the studies relevant to the audience.

One of his points was that business often ignores scientific resources. His primary argument was that financial rewards/incentives do not result in better results when the task is complicated and requires creativity, they only work for simple jobs.

Fear not telling your audience that you never read newspapers, that you're a recovering people pleaser or that you really like Tabasco sauce on your scrambled eggs. Your credibility is only enhanced with sincere vulnerability. Nobody relates to Ms. Perfect.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

De- Clutter and Enjoy Peace at Home

By Christina Rodriguez, age 11.

Have you looked at your house recently? Do you see it cluttered with gifts (junk) from family, friends, and,well, things you bought because you thought they were pretty?

If you want to De-clutter your house, you have to ask your self the following questions:

Do I really need this?

Have I ever used this?

You're going to find yourself saying: "Well, Susie (anybody) gave this to me for my birthday 2 years ago....I should keep it."

NO! You shouldn't keep it! If it's not an absolute yes, then it's a no.

Say your best friend gave you some nice china plates last Christmas. Have you used it by now, or are you still saying: "I'll save it for a special occasion"? Use it while you can because it's not going with you to heaven.

Now, I know that somethings are going to have to stay, but try to make it as few things as possible.

Here are the three main rules to De-clutter your house:

1. Be strong. Being able to throw away things that were given to you isn't easy but you're going to have to throw them away sometime.

2. Don't be hesitant. If you can't choose between throwing something away or keeping it then its a no-no. Like I said before, if its not an absolute yes then it's a no.

3. Don't keep something just because you are afraid you might hurt some body's feelings. I am 99.999% sure that they won't notice it's gone.

Laura's note: De-cluttering is a hot issue for those of us who have spent countless hours packing and unpacking.....and still don't know where to put the stuff. Remember that our storage business generates multibillions of dollars annually.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Things that Cost More but Are Definitely Worth It

Some things in life are free....and fantastic. Like public libraries. In fact, here in Charleston, I've gotten my new library card before getting my S.C. driver's license. Something about priorities.

Other things cost more than their equivalents, but are totally worth it. The fun is finding which products are really worth the higher price, and which are not. Take, for example, pulp-free orange juice.

I'm not really sure my palate is sufficiently sophisticated to notice whether my OJ has pulp in it or not. But that's the first thing Christina asks me about her juice, "Is it pulp-free?" (Ah...the power of marketing!)

Well, I found a trick. Juice made from concentrate really doesn't have any pulp. At least eagle-eyed Christina hasn't been able to find it yet. But, there is inspiration for us: which of your products or services can you offer "pulp free"?

I'm starting this list Things That Cost More But Are Definitely Worth It with just a few items. I'm expecting my dear readers to chip in by sending me more items for the list via email.

Things that Cost More but Are Definitely Worth It:

Puffins cereal. It's $5.00 a box, and for us, that's maximum 5 servings. But it's delicious and healthy and wheat-free.

Cutco knives. I can't believe how good these knives are. I was able to split open some chicken breasts so easily the other day. This line of products truly makes a difference in your joy of cooking.

Personal Coaching. As most of you know, Christine Kane is my coach. Did you know that Jim Carrey has an acting coach? That Winston Churchill had a speech coach? Well, there's a reason. Getting a coach to help you make decisions is what people who want to fast-track to the next step do.

MAC lipstick. Yesterday it lasted through 3 hours of teaching. That's remarkable. And the color selection is unreal. They even have black lipstick, in case you're interested. It's not even that expensive, I think $14.

Greek yogurt. Nancy of Taste and Savor taught me about this in one of her cooking classes. It's creamy and either low-fat or no fat, but has a rich flavor and texture.

Well, let's see what you can think of. Products and services that cost more but are totally worth it. Shoot it to me in an email.

Carrie send these:

Good coffee!! Craig bought 8 o'clock coffee (cheap stuff) and I tried it for 3 mornings before I had to intercede with some French Roast from Whole Foods. Divorce was considered.

Organic milk. It tastes better and lasts longer.

Good haircut/color.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Content Vs. Delivery

Quick, what's more important, content or delivery?

Is it what you say, or how you say it?

Let me put it this way, the more you focus on preparing your content, by making it relevant and brief, the better your delivery will be.

The first rule about writing is to have something to say. The same thing goes for making a presentation.

What do you really want to say? Why?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

End It with A Bang, Not a Whimper

Yesterday I got to hear several presentations at the college's Convocation for the new freshman class. The speakers came from quite an assortment of backgrounds, each giving good advice to the new students.

While all gave truly interesting content, only one of the speakers ended with some excitement. Only one gave some form of call to action. And his ending made his presentation stand out from the rest. (Incidentally, I think he was the only non-academic speaker.)

The speaker with the best ending gave a brief talk about what it was like to be a student 50 years ago. His examples were entertaining and showed clearly how different student life is today. He also emphasized that change over the last 50 years has been much more pronounced than it was between 1905 and 1955.

At the very end, he encouraged his audience to "fasten their seat belts and get ready for an amazing ride." (Or something to that effect.)

In any case, he ended with a surge of energy. You could feel the excitement in that one little sentence.

Take the time to revisit the ending of your presentation. That's a golden opportunity to move your audience in the direction you want them to go. Don't miss out!

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Only Presentation That Really Works

I've been working with clients and students for a long time to improve the way they get their message out to their audiences. But most of what I teach you can find in books about public speaking and visual support. Except for two things.

The books don't tell you what's missing from your own talk. They give you general information about speakers in general.

Books don't tell you what's even more important than all the technique in the world.

What makes your talk work is something else.

It's how much you trust yourself.

As long as your life depends on getting approval from others, it doesn't matter how well you speak and how great your visuals are.

How much do you trust your own message? That's the only presentation that really works.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Upgrade Your Apreciator Factor

Mother Teresa was noted for saying that people have a much greater hunger for love and appreciation than for bread. And that's with over half the world's population living on less than $2.00 a day.

Countless studies show that employees thrive when they feel appreciated at work. That means higher productivity and lower turn-over. And showing appreciation is mostly free.

Lucky for me, my new boss is a good appreciator. He called to check in on my move several times during the past two crazy weeks. (And for part of that time he was on vacation!) When I showed up at my office a few days ago, there was a nice box of office supplies waiting for me. Of course they're there so I can WORK better, but I didn't have to ask someone or go get them myself.

The thing about showing appreciation is that not all gestures are equal in value.

Hand-written notes always trump emails, even if the note is shorter.

Specific comments are better than the generalized "Great job, Helga!"

Specific praise for someone in front of others is better than private praise.

If you praise someone for every step she takes, like they do with stickers and young children sometimes, you inflate the compliment and it loses value.

If you're good at showing appreciation, it's easier for those around you to receive your valuable suggestions for improvement. People are more likely to listen more closely to what you say.

Best of all, showing and feeling appreciation makes you feel better automatically.

I appreciate your reading Mixonian. ;-)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Winning the U.S. Lottery

It's not July 4th but lately I've been reminded of how lucky those of us who live in the U.S. are....just to be living in this flawed-but-full-of-possibilities country.

You can rent housing and even move in before signing the lease, because the level of trust is so high.

You can get a credit card in one day, in about 10 minutes, and buy thousands of dollars of stuff with 6 months of interest-free financing. Of course it was the abuse and misuse of cheap and easy credit that got us in our current financial situation, it's still better to have financing options than not to, which is the case in most places in the world.

While our minimum wage is quite low, more than half the people in the world live on less than $2.00 a day.

Our health-care system is incredibly complex and expensive-- yet we have more options for care than exist anywhere else on the planet.

So, no matter what is going on in your life today, give a quick thank-you for living in a country full of options and possibilities. Where do you think blogging began?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Stay Out of Complaining and Out of Denial

This move to Charleston has been an amazing experience. Letting go of the familiar is a bit scary, but my commitment to living the best life possible has been driving this move.

Our new home has a lot of great features, but I miss the charm of our old cottage. While complaining is a huge misuse and abuse of our personal energy, at the same time, denying things that are not acceptable, or delightful, is not the way to happiness.

So, I'm writing some examples of turn-around statements. This type of statement allows you to express displeasure, without getting wrapped up in negativity. (Plus you get to see a bit of what we're going through right now.)

Examples of turn-around statements:

Moving is a royal pain in the derriere and Two Men And A Truck was a great moving company to work with.

I am reluctant to live with wall-to-wall carpeting, and built-in closets are quite handy. The new tile in our kitchen and bathrooms is lovely.

I miss my huge attic and I know not having one is a great incentive to pare down (or declutter), again.

I miss my excellent friends in other places, and I look forward to making new awesome friends and connecting them to my current buddies.

I would prefer that Comcast install my internet service before Sunday, and I am sure that not having internet service at home will be an enriching experience.

The thing about turn-around statements is that you get to express your true feelings, and you get a reminder that it's not that bad.

As I heard someone say today, if you are alive and reading this blog, you've already won the life lottery. Not because of my blog, but because you're living, literate, and connected to the biggest database in the history of the world.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Overcoming Your Audience's ADD

Those of us who teach public speaking are often asked how we deal with, and teach others how to speak with the ever-shortening attention spans that characterize modern audiences. It's also something that comes up with my coaching clients; sometimes a client comes to me with really deep concern about boring her ADD audience.

Some things to think about in preparing your next presentation or talk:

1. First of all, get clear in your mind that what you have to say is beneficial to your audience. Or...if you're just the messenger of a truly boring company policy, then find the benefit (it's gotta be in there somewhere!), and deliver the points as concisely as possible.

2. See if you can break it up into smaller, self-contained units. For example, and introduction, a preview of your 3 benefits, each benefit, and a conclusion. You've now got 6 units to present. Make each one short, to the point, and heavy on audience orientation.

3. Keep 'em busy. That has always been my favorite strategy for keeping my children and my students engaged. Think of exercises they can do, lists they can write, questions they can answer during your presentation.

4. Get creative with your visual support. Forget boring Power Points with mind-numbing bullet points. Maybe you can bring props, a costume, a box of surprises, or a poster. Connect your benefits to your visual. I once brought some hand-made pewter measuring spoons (they're very decorative) to show the board of an art museum how aesthetics can enhance our everyday life.

Make up your mind to be a powerful communicator and make it happen, one presentation at a time.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Julie, Julia, and Your Life Project

If you haven't seen Julie & Julia, you're missing a treat. Among the movie's themes is the matter of finding a meaningful project, sometimes called a "mission" or your "passion."

Making a living at something meaningful is something to which many of us aspire. Personally, I've never been able to do much work that wasn't meaningful to me -- I just could never stand it (e.g. in my case, administrative work) and never lasted long in those kinds of jobs.

The essence of finding work that moves you is largely a matter of knowing your preferences, and trying things. Just like Julia Child tried hat making, bridge, and then tried French cooking.

Very few people know what they're destined to do on this planet as children. The sad thing is that so many people never discover that work that excite them.

Most of us have this idea that you have two choices: a) you can become a doctor/lawyer/accountant and make lots of money or b) enjoy your work and the poverty that goes with it.

I don't think your choices are that limiting, but finding cool work that pays well is a more intricate and organic journey.

Get clear about all the things you enjoy, the activities that are so compelling to you that time seems to stand still while you're doing them. Don't wait for the lightening to strike you with a divine blue print. Try something and see how it works for you.

Watch Julie and Julia, you might get inspired to write a blog. ;-)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Mixonian HQ Moving to Charleston

Today's post is not about communication; it's a brief version of the story of how Mixonian came to move so quickly and so unexpectedly. If you want a great communication tip, randomly select an old Mixonian post and you will find a message you can use.

This is a lesson in brevity and the use of Occam's Razor. According to Occam's Razor, the best decision is the simplest one. While this may not always pan out for you, certainly when you're in a time crunch, it's helpful. Occam, btw, was a monk. I think he lived in the 14th century.

Background facts:

1. I've been affirming, reminding myself that "I am always at the right place, at the right time, with the right information."

2. I live a super comfortable life, next door to my college-student son, on the same block as two awesome friends, able to walk to work and to the short, it's comfy here. But on the other hand, I've had this feeling that I don't want to spend the rest of my life in Greenville, NC. I seriously investigated moving to Savannah or Atlanta over the summer, but somehow, I did not feel that my intuition was on board with either of those moves.

3. I've also set ambitious intentions to make more income. I realize how poor-minded I've been (very common in academic circles) and have committed to living an even more abundant life.

4. I've been building an incredible coaching practice, working with amazing women who show up and make things happen in their own lives.

So, here's what actually happened:

In the late afternoon of July 28, I was cleaning out a seldom-used email box, one where I subscribe to a national communication list serve. As I'm massively deleting these messages, I notice a full-time speech teaching position at College of Charleston. Interesting. After thinking about it a few minutes, I decide to send my stuff. And I do.

In talking to my friend Ruben that evening, I shared with him what had happened. He suggested that I call the next morning to make sure everything had arrived. On the one hand, I think, how can they not receive my stuff by email? On the other hand, I called first thing Wednesday morning, just to make sure. (Commitment indicator in action.) They had not received it. So I re-sent it, and got confirmation of receipt.

Thursday I got email asking for a group interview by phone on Friday.

Friday we had the group interview. I had a hard time hearing some of the committee members. It's a normal interview, nothing extraordinary. Within an hour of that interview, I got a call from the head of the department, inviting me down for an extended interview/visit to Charleston the following Wednesday and Thursday (Aug. 5 & 6 ). It was an appropriate time for a happy dance.

Looking forward to my expense-paid visit to the beautiful city of Charleston, I spend the Monday and Tuesday before doing my writing, and preparing for the Fearless Leadership Workshop scheduled for the evening of Aug. 6.

I drove down Wednesday morning, have a fabulous time, staying at the beautiful Faculty House of the College of Charleston. Then I drove back Thursday, not rushed, but certainly knowing I need to be somewhere in a big way by 6 that evening. It is a 5-hour drive between Charleston and Greenville.

The department big kahuna called me while I'm en route. Being a lousy multi-tasker, I pulled over to be able to concentrate on the call. Both sides think it's a good fit. My daughters and I are happily moving there on Saturday.

From the day of sending the CV and stuff until moving day: 19 days.

Chance favors the prepared mind. Preparing your mind means getting clear about what you would like to experience.

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Most Critical 7 Seconds

I just got back from two lovely days in Charleston, South Carolina. I spent a lot of time talking to a few of the talented and super smart professors at the College of Charleston.

In one conversation, the subject of first impressions came up.

I was reminded of a really important aspect of your presentation. It's a total deal breaker if you don't get it right.

The fact is, your audience takes a whopping 7 seconds to decide if they like you or not. Whether they trust you and want to hear your message.

Getting every detail of your intro is worthy of some serious attention. Starting with your mindset, in 7 seconds your audience takes in what kind of energy you're putting out, how much care you put into your appearance, the tone of your voice, your facial expression and your posture. They may even listen to what you're saying.

7 seconds. What happens in the first 7 seconds of your presentation?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Message Behind the Message

If you know what your message behind your message is, your communication is automatically more powerful. The message behind the message really is the benefit(s) of accepting your message.

Let's look at an example.

In case you haven't had the chance to read my dissertation ;-), I'll let you in on a few reasons why Hugo Chavez is able to garner support to continue taking Venezuela away from democracy, and toward dictatorship.

To begin with, Chavez is a master orator. In other words, he tells great stories.

His real message, which comes across as "For fun, let's have a revolution and I'll play the role of master" is really "I promise to take care of you better than you can take care of yourself."

No matter what stories he tells, the message is the same.

He's very clear on the benefits he thinks he can provide a significant number of Venezuelans.

His supporters are likewise clear that they, as their world is currently structured, cannot provide for themselves the lifestyle to which they aspire.

They share that premise. The premise is I, Hugo Chavez, do not believe you can take care of yourselves, but I can do that for you. All you have to do is vote for me no matter what.

So what does this have to do with us?

Think about what your message behind the message really is. AND....what are your assumptions about your audience. Are they capable of taking care of themselves? Are they intelligent enough to accept your argument? Are you strong enough to allow some people to disagree with you?

Whatever it is that you believe about your audience, you reinforce that belief in your presentation. And they respond accordingly.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Teachers And Used-Car Sellers many of us got into teaching to share knowledge that can empower people. Selling, of course, is for other people, right?

I've been trying to discern redeeming qualities in the honorable profession of selling, but it took me a while to find the connection to the "obviously superior" task of teaching. Especially in the rarefied airs of the university setting, selling is just something we'd rather not talk about. And any professors caught in the act of selling something might have to wear a scarlet S for the rest of their lives.

But now I get it. There really is a connection, even if people normally don't talk about it.

Grades are so important to the vast majority of students. In fact, most of them have a strong sense that they deserve the highest grades, just on the value of their wonderful personalities. While no doubt they do all deserve excellent grades, the reality is that the game of going to college is played by different rules.

If you want to get good grades, you need to study.

Everybody knows this. Yet very few students actually spend time outside the classroom with the course material.

W e professors work at selling the idea that studying is indeed a good thing. We sell them by offering bonuses and threatening to fail them. We cajole, we nag, we remind them why they're getting an the end, we try to sell them on the idea that spending their extremely valuable time on the subject we're teaching will render them great benefits.

So, in the end, the job of teaching is not that far away from selling. It's just that our pay isn't tied directly to how successful we are at selling our students on the idea of learning our material.

What is it that you sell, even if you're not on commission?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Exchange Your Normal Confidence for Wow

Usually becoming more confident is the top goal for my clients in their work with me. After all, if you're not confident, the rest of the public speaking and presentation techniques won't really work for you.

As I've written here and constantly remind my clients, "Confidence is worth more than money in the bank."

Here are 5 refresher suggestions for getting to wow. Even if you're normally confident, imagine what you might accomplish if you were even more so.

  • Lighten up. Laugh. Just recently I read: We first need to laugh at our mistakes before we can learn from them. --Sonia Choquette.

  • Remember that anything can happen. And no matter what, you can deal with it. Chances are, the outcome will be great...eventually. ;-)

  • Chance favors the prepared mind. So do your homework.

  • Take some time to focus on your desired outcomes. That brings you closer to them, and so you can relax a bit.

  • Forgive yourself, as you forgive others. Nobody's perfect. Give yourself, and others, a break.
A Wow Tuesday to you!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Is It Really August Already?

What happened to July? It was so nice and cool, I think someone must have accidentally pushed the fast forward button. How could it possibly be August already?

The truth of the matter is that times waits for no man...or anyone else for that matter. That's why I'm always telling people that money is replaceable, time is not.If you're a recovering cheapskate, as I am, you want to protect your time as zealously as you used to clip coupons.

Another dimension to this carpe diem post, relates to your presentations, or really all your communication. If money is replaceable, time is not, energy is not, then not only do you value your own time, but that of others.

In other words, be brief. Get to the point.

In one letter Blaise Pascal wrote, he apologized for being lengthy. He said he had written too much because he hadn't had time to make it shorter, i.e. do some serious editing.

Filling up the time is not your communication goal. Take the time to be clear what that goal is, and determine the best way to get it across to your people.

Gotta run, time marches on.