Presenting? Take A Pause For The Cause

Logical pauses serve our brains, psychological pauses serve our feelings."--Stanislavski

Watch a really good stand-up comedian. You see pauses between jokes. Sometimes even a pause between syllables.

SpeakerSometimes they do it to allow the audience a chance to catch a breath or to create interest about what's coming next.

Why?

Because good comedians are masters of change.

Night after night they move a new group of people from one intellectual and psychological state of being to another.They knew the flow of human dynamics.

The Importance of The Pause

Psychological pauses build tension and heighten curiosity.

Logical pauses between words and sentences give an audience the time needed to piece together the key elements of the joke or series of rapid one-liners. When it all comes together, you've got a room filled with laughter.

Make "The Pause" an intentional part of your presentation, meeting, or change initiative.

Psychological: When you pause to create a "curious" state of mind, the tension makes people want to listen. That gives you the opening to help them learn.

Logical: Change initiatives mean new information and new experiences. Periodic, intentional pauses allow everyone time to make sense of what's happening and create new context.

Where can you insert intentional pauses in order to become a really good "Stand-Up" leader and speaker?

photo source: Wikipedia 

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It's About the "So What?" Factor

You'll either be giving, or listening to, a presentation or pitch of some sort this week. 

When we speak, our audience has a set of mental scanners with blinking lights waiting for the "So What?" question to finally be answered. Those blinking lights pick up nuggets of wisdom until they add up to,  "This is how I can apply that to my life or my work." Make it easy. Tell them the answer to "So what?"

  So WhatWhen you do, the scanning stops and  they tune in to hear even more. 

Note: Don't assume that your well-researched facts will automatically add up to the same conclusion you reached. Tell them the conclusion and the application as you see it. The mind abhors a vaccuum. If you leave one, the vaccuum will be filled--be not necessarily with the same "So What?"

Lessson: Orchestrate your presentation outcome by stating it. If you start getting a lot of questions, you've done a good job. Questions mean people are engaged, not upset with your riff. 

So here's your mantra for the week: "So what?" When you become the person who answers that, you also become the person who turns theory into practical application. That's adding real value.

Note: My thanks to Barbara from Halliburton in the Great Republic of Texas for picking up a typo in the original second paragraph.  

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Presentation? 3 Quick Tips

One of the benefits of delivering a lot of speeches is the chance to watch others, and learn from them as well.

Here are three things that I've learned and used along the way. I hope they serve you well:

StatisticsGraphic  1. Don't Let "The Facts" Speak for Themselves

People can make facts and numbers mean almost anything. I think it was Mark Twain who noted, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." 

Facts need interpretation, so interpret yours. And, be prepared to cite the source and how those facts were determined. 

2. Use Two Kinds of Numbers

Exact numbers sound very credible: "The number of survey participants who said the company is communicating "very well" is 61.7 percent." The human mind processes that as "sounding exact" and, therefore, accurate.

Rounded numbers offer the appearance of an estimation. "Almost two-thirds" is easier to remember than "61.7 percent".

Which to use if you want the numbers to be credible and memorable?

Both. Use the exact number first and round it off later when you refer to it in examples.

3. Capitalize on the Legitimacy of the Printed Word.

For many people--actually about 75%--having something on paper makes it official and "real." It can be touched and felt.

Think about this: Even small business owners (smart ones) print fees, prices, terms, and conditions on their official stationery. When you quote something verbally it somehow makes it more subject to negotiation. Whether you're selling a concept, a motorcycle, or a holiday cruise, put it in a written form--even if it's a picture--that someone can see, touch, and hold. 

Make it real.

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Presentations: Information or Relationship?

“You can speak well if your tongue can deliver the message of your heart.” 
-John Ford  

When most of us go to work, we live in two places at the same time. One is the brick and mortar building where we find offices, information, and work processes. The other is the realm of people, relationships, and conversation. One is a structure; the other is social.

This is a really helpful way to think about presentations. For that matter, it's a pretty good way to think about all of your interactions. If you want your information to be absorbed and accepted, you have to develop a relationship with the people who are with you.

Presentations
 

People listening need to know:

 1. Who you are. Not just your title and credentials, but how you are like them--especially in relation to the data that you're discussing. What did you struggle with or discover when you developed the presentation? Tell them. It will increase your humanity factor and your credibility.

2. How the data could have meaning for them and their situation. Are you connecting the dots for your audience or just showing data points? If you don't add your take on the meaning, others will create their own. And it may not be accurate or what you intended.

3. That they're part of the conversation. The best presentations aren't presentations, they're conversations. The sooner you invite comments, questions, and discussions, the more chance you have of connecting with the group.

Bonus: When you start a conversation, the pressure moves away from you. Ownership for the topic becomes shared. Shared ownership breeds new ways of looking at your topic,increases participation, and increases the chances of acceptance.

Information or Relationship? Yes.

Photo attribution: www.auburn.edu


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Presentation? Do This

Tell the people in the room what you expect from them.

There are at least 3 common reasons why you give a presentation:

1. To educate in order for people to make a decision

2. To prompt action or implementation

3. To educate for the sake of knowledge

Emerson-2

You need to tell them at the beginning what you're doing and what they have to do. Without giving them a "mental assignment," people don't have a context in which to process the information. If they don't know what's expected of them, human nature  leads the audience into a passive mode. The burden of the presentation is entirely on you.

Do this:

1. "At the end of the meeting we'll decide on the best supply chain software for our organization. You'll  be expected to offer your rationale for the risks and benefits of each. So I expect that we'll have a lot of questions and discussion during the next hour."

2. "I'm going to lay out the steps of the product launch. Each of you will play a role in its execution. At the end of the meeting I'll ask for a commitment to a timetable from each of the managers here. As I lay out the information, be sure to speak up and discuss the pros and cons from your perspective. The deadline for the launch is 60 days from now."

3. "We've discovered a possible new opportunity as a result of R&D. My purpose is to show you what led to this so that you can understand what is evolving with the technology."

Make your audience mentally active

  • Tell them at the beginning what their role is and how to play it. 

 

  • They'll appreciate the direction.

 

  • You'll get more participation.

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Presentation Tip To Make You A Star

We've all had to give, and sit through, "presentations." I'm convinced that once a conversation is called a "presentation," evil gremlins take over the process. People who are normally conversant and affable can morph into PowerPoint Bots. That's just the stylistic part. 

What really bugs us about meetings and presentations is the value of our time. If you're presenting, you've got a room of people who also have other things on their minds and their to-do lists. So, what you offer up better be valuable.

Bigstock-Business-presentation--IS---17510393

Here's a simple way to make that happen:

Talk with the participants in advance.

Tell them your topic. Ask them what they want to know. Ask them what they don't care about. They'll give you the important content from their perspectives (which is the whole idea, isn't it?). And your prep time will be reduced because you'll know exaclty how to focus on "the right stuff."

The other benefits?

1. You will have established a relationship before they walk into the room. You'll feel more comfortable. They will, too.

2. If your presentation is intended to lead to a decision, you'll have the pulse of the group in advance.

3. You'll know who else to bring into the meeting if other support or technical/financial information is important.

4. They'll tend to be on your side. When was the last time a speaker called you and said "What do you really need from this topic?"

5. As a result of #4, participants will know you took time to prepare. Your credibility goes up. So does their willingness to "be there."

Try it. 

image source: bigstockphoto.com

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Presenting? Master The Segue

Help People Follow You: Create Transitions 

"We'll be back after this message from..."  There's a reason why TV and radio announcers use that line. It's designed to help you understand what's about to happen and how it's connected to the programming. In broadcasting it's called a "segue." How often have you watched a speaker end a sentence, click the next slide, speak, click the next slide, speak, click the next slide... and you're wondering,"How is this related to what I just saw?" That's what happens when presenters see their role as giving out information instead of telling a meaningful story.

Bridge1

Connect the Dots

This is what it sounds like when you're taking the audience along with you:

  • "We just saw the results of last month's marketing activity. Now let's look at what that means for this month's forecast."  Click.
  • "If we decide on Alternative D, how will that impact staffing levels? Here's what we found..." Click.
  • "You asked how we're going to start up the Asian operation. Let's look at the first 3 steps." Click.

So the next time you have a presentation to design, think segue. Build a bridge from one thought or fact to the next and take your listeners with you. They'll appreciate it and you're stock as a communicator will skyrocket.

 

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Presenting? Three Quick Tips

One of the benefits of delivering a lot of speeches is the chance to watch others, and learn from them as well.

Here are three things that I've learned and used along the way. I hope they serve you well:

1. Don't Let "The Facts" Speak for Themselves

People can make facts and numbers mean almost anything. I think it was Mark Twain who noted, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." 

Facts need interpretation, so interpret yours. And, be prepared to cite the source and how those facts were determined. 

Boring-presentation-1

2. Use Two Kinds of Numbers

Exact numbers sound very credible: "The number of survey participants who said the company is communicating "very well" is 61.7 percent." The human mind processes that as "sounding exact" and, therefore, accurate.

Rounded numbers offer the appearance of an estimation. "Almost two-thirds" is easier to remember than 61.7 percent.

Which to use if you want the numbers to be credible and memorable?

Both. Use the exact number first and round it off later when you refer to it in examples.

3. Capitalize on the Legitimacy of the Printed Word.

For some--actually about 75%--having something on paper makes it official and "real." 

Think about this: Even small business owners (smart ones) print fees, prices, terms, and conditions on their official stationery. When you quote something verbally it makes it subject to negotiation. Whether you're selling a concept, a motorcycle, or a holiday cruise, put it in a written form--even if it's a picture--that someone can see, touch, and hold. 

Make it real.

 

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Presenters: Just Have A Conversation

Presentation Tip #5

Think about it. One of the reasons you get nervous about presentations is because you give a presentation. That implies that the responsibility is completely on the presenter to make everything successful.

Yet we all have conversations every day. Long ones, short ones, animated ones, serious ones. Have you ever heard someone say, "Gee, I need to go to conversation training. I don't know how to talk to people."

Thank JFK (and Richard Nixon)

I've always believed that there was a single defining moment that showed the new direction in how  to approach presentations and "public speaking."  I believe it was the Kennedy-Nixon debates for U.S. President in 1960. Until then, we were inundated (for the most part) with talking heads behind podiums* (see comments) or desks on film clips. We seldom knew what speakers looked like from the neck down. They talked at us.

As TV grew, so did our expectations. We became used to seeing real people with real personalities talk with us on TV. They even put a hand in a pocket now and then, just like regular people. We probably weren't conscious of the change taking place---until the Kennedy-Nixon debates. The issue of conversation vs. presentation and casual vs. formal jumped out of the TV screen and into our hearts and minds. To this day, most analysts and observers agree that Nixon brought much more of a specific plan and substance to the exchange. But John Kennedy brought relationship. Viewers and voters decided that conversation and casual was what they preferred--it felt real.

041008_presidential_debate

JFK with a casual hand-in-pocket "I'm a real person" moment.

Kennedycasual

A little "casual" vs. "schoolboy" body language.

Nixoncasual

The off-camera Nixon looking relaxed and amiable.

Let's be honest: presentations can drive up our stress level and make us all look more rigid than normal. My suggestion here is the same as my suggestion to clients: Practice having a conversation, not a presentation. 

If you missed them, here are the first four "quick tips" in the series:

#1: Presentation Success: Start With a Call

#2: More Presentation Success: Who Requested It?

#3: Be A Presentation Pro: Do This

#4: Presentation Polish: The Art of the Segue

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Presentation Polish: The Art of the Segue

Presentation Tip #4

Help People Follow You: Create Transitions

"We'll be back after this message from..."  There's a reason why TV and radio announcers use that line. It's designed to help you understand what's about to happen and how it's connected to the programming. In broadcasting it's called a "segue."

Segway_beattles How often have you watched a speaker end a sentence, click the next slide, speak, click the next slide, speak, click the next slide... and you're wondering "How is this related to what I just saw?" That's what happens when presenters see their role as giving out information instead of telling a meaningful story.

Connect the Dots

This is what it sounds like when you're taking the audience with you: 

  • "We just saw the results of last month's marketing activity. Now let's look at what that means for this month's forecast."  Click.
  • "If we decide on Alternative D, how will that impact staffing levels? Here's what we found..." Click.
  • "You asked how we're going to start up the Asian operation. Let's look at the first 3 steps." Click.

So the next time you have a presentation to design, think segue. Build a bridge from one thought or fact to the next--and take your listeners with you. They'll appreciate it.

________________________________________

Looking to "bump up your game" when it comes to presenting? Here are the first three articles in the series:

#1: Presentation Success: Start With a Call

#2: More Presentation Success: Who Requested It?

#3: Be A Presentation Pro: Do This

 

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Be A Presentation Pro: Do This

Presentation Tip#3:

Tell the people in the room what you expect from them.

There are at least 3 common reasons why you give a presentation:Meeting1

1. To educate in order for people to make a decision

2. To prompt action or implementation

3. To educate for the sake of knowledge

You need to tell folks staight away what you're doing and what they have to do, too. Without giving them a "mental assignment," people don't have a context in which to process the information. If they don't know what's expected of them, human nature  leads the audience into a passive mode. The burden of the presentation is entirely on you.

Do This:

1. "At the end of the meeting we'll decide on the best supply chain software for our organization. You'll  be expected to offer your rationale for the risks and benefits of each. So I expect that we'll have a lot of questions and discussion during the next hour."

2. "I'm going to lay out the steps of the product launch. Each of you will play a role in its execution. At the end of the meeting I'll ask for a commitment to a timetable from each of the managers here. As I lay out the information, be sure to speak up and discuss the pros and cons from your perspective. The deadline for the launch is 60 days from now."

3. "We've discovered a possible new opportunity as a result of R&D. My purpose is to show you what led to this so that you can understand what is evolving with the technology."

Make your audience mentally active

  • Tell them at the beginning what their role is and how to play it. 
  • They'll appreciate the direction.
  • You'll get more participation.

________________________________________________

For more presentation tips, you might want to visit: 

Presentation Tip #2: Always Go To The Source

Presentation Tip #1: Start With A Call

Photo source: meetings.org

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More Presentation Success: Who Requested It?

When you were a kid you might have played "whispering down the lane." That's the game where someone starts a brief message, whispers it to someone else, and so on down the line. By the time the last person is asked to repeat the message, it only vaguely resembles the original.

Whisper The same can be true for presentation requests. Your boss or a colleague asks you to present "something on the techno-widget account." You dutifully organize a multi-media, techno-widget extravaganza. About 20 minutes into your show the VP of Sales interrupts with "Uh, I just wanted to know how the contract talks are going and what the next steps will be." The room becomes silent. You give him what he wants in about 90 seconds. VP is now happy. You are embarrassed.

Presentation Tip #2: Always go to the source

Only the person who issued the request knows what he or she wants. You won't know the real scope of your presentation without confirming their expectations. It will save you preparation time. It will keep you focused. It will make you successful.

I was conducting a Presentations workshop for a corporate group in Pennsylvania. One of the participants mentioned that he was there specifically to work on a presentation for the company president. His immediate boss, a VP, had given him the directive and told him that the presentation topic was to be 45 minutes long. (I'll deal with the "you have ____minutes" issue in another post).

I knew the president very well. I also knew that he didn't want more than 20 minutes on anything. So I turned on the speaker phone in the conference room, called the prez, and explained what we were doing. When we asked him directly what his expectations were, he quickly responded, " I want no more than 10 minutes on the market research that we're doing for the Scandinavian venture."

Regardless of who asks you to speak, find out who actually requested youThat's who to talk with about expectations. And that's who will help make you successful.

In case you missed it, click here for  Presentation Tip #1

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Presentation Success? Start With A Call

I’ve been working with clients recently on putting together presentations with some powerful implications. Two are customer-oriented, one is financial, and one is highly technical. So, I thought it would be timely to share some tips in this area.

Ninety per cent of your success is all about what you do before the presentation, so:

Tip #1: Call the participants before the presentation.

Old-phone-call Tell them your topic. Ask them what they want to know. Ask them what they don't care about.

They'll give you the important content from their perspectives (which is the whole idea, isn't it?). Your prep time will be reduced and focused on "the right stuff."

The other benefits?

1. You will have established a relationship before they walk into the room. You'll feel more comfortable. They will, too.

2. If your presentation is intended to lead to a decision, you'll have the pulse of the group in advance.

3. You'll know who else to bring into the meeting if other support or technical/financial information is important.

4. They'll tend to be on your side. When was the last time a speaker called you and said "What do you really need from this topic?"

5. As a result of #4, participants will know you took time to prepare. Your credibility goes up. So does their willingness to "be there."

Think about it. How would you feel if someone called you and said, “Hey, I’ve been asked to speak to your group about topic x. What’s really important to you?”

 

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Speaking? Three Things Your Audience Wants

Audiences--whether 6 or 600--really want three things from you. These apply to meetings, wedding toasts, or keynote speeches:

Three fingers(1) 1. Connection. They want to feel connected to you. They've already endured too many distant, aloof presentations in their lifetimes. Give them you, not a veiled voice in the corner reciting PowerPoint bullets. In fact, to be the "real deal" and "authentic", be even more of you. Wear your enthusiasm for your topic on your sleeve, look into the eyes of participants, and have a bold, honest conversation with them.

2. We all love a bit of entertainment. No one expects you--or even wants you--to be Jimmy Kimmel or Jay Leno. You can do a quick activity that energizes people and gets them thinking more about the topic. It also gives you a break and a chance to relax. Keep it light. Stay serious about your topic but not about yourself. A funny personal story, especially if the joke was on you, can loosen people up and increase the connection. ("Wow, I thought that only happened to me.!) I watched my wife listen to a very well-known speaker/writer from Harvard. My wife has a dual Ph.D. She thought his presentation was so serious and ponderous that he came across as  self-important. He lost her, even though his information was accurate.

Note: Did you know that speakers who also sell product actually sell measurably more product when there is humor in their talk?

3. Create meaning. How does what you are saying fit into their business or organizational life?  Make the connection for them (don't assume they'll automatically do it themselves). Explain specifically how you or your idea will personally increase their satisfaction or reduce their pain. When you can synthesize the meaning of your topic to that point, you've really got something worth saying.

Connect with the people, connect with a little light humor, and connect the dots.

 

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How To Avoid the Business Proposal Question Trap

Whether you're in front of a group or across the desk, you want the best possible chance for your proposal to succeed. 

Cornered-20kitten1   Don't let other people design your  multiple-choice exam. More often than not,  you'll get a question designed to force you into two options--and either/or doesn't  offer good odds for success.


What to do

Take control and expand your options. Here's an example:

Question: "Do you think we can get the contract if we come in under $100,000?"

Answer: "I don't believe the decision will be based solely on price. I believe the client's impression of our credentials, experience, and client list will be equally important."

Other responses to get out of a binary question:

"The situation is complex and requires more than a yes or no answer."

"Since you are asking me, I think we have more options than either Greenville or Compton. We might even consider putting the next office in the midwest. Let's review the criteria."

On-the-job application: Stay in control. Don't allow others to force you into a limited response if it won't do justice to the situation. Either/or locks you into two choices. When was the last time a major issue only had two possible solutions? 

 

 

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3 Persuasive Ideas

If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, 
I'd spend six sharpening my axe.
--Abraham Lincoln

We never outgrow our need to be persuasive. Managers have to persuade employees to "get on board" with a new idea or change; salespeople get paid to persuade customers to buy; and potential customers persuade salespeople that a change in the "deal" just might make them a paying customer.

We're all faced with the challenge of persuasion and influencing. Here are three ideas to help meet your next challenge:

Cheating_golfer

Create the Right Atmosphere

Did you know that participants rate educational seminars higher when they are held at a resort location? That factoid comes from the meeting planners who have to schedule them. Diners linger a bit longer in comfortable restaurants, and are prone to ultimately have a more expensive after-dinner refreshment and a dessert. Shoppers spend more time shopping if there is background music. Job applicants sign on the dotted line more often if they are interviewed in plush surroundings vs. the loading dock.

The next time you have a meeting, with one or one hundred, what's the best atmosphere to put your listeners in the most receptive mood?

Get At The End of a Parade

If you find that you are one of a number of presenters at a meeting, ask to go last. We've all had different experiences with this but here's what I've realized happens more often than not:

1. By the time the others trot out their list of pie charts, statistics, and million-dollar ideas, the listeners are growing tired as well as forgetful. Your presentation will at least be the last one on their minds. 

2. If you are last, you stand a chance of being bumped completely and then end up getting a courtesy re-schedule. This now puts you in the position of being the only thing on people's minds at your new presentation. (There's also something of a sympathy factor for being bumped. Bask in it).

Stand Up

When I work with a small group--6-8 people--I start off seated at the table with them. When it comes time to make a serious point or convey urgency, I stand up and draw on a flipchart or whiteboard. It changes the dynamic, adds to the point trying to be made, and lets people know I believe the issue or idea merits special consideration.

How will you be a bit more persuasive today?

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Know When To Sit and When To Stand

You can dramatically impact participation in any meeting or presentation. 

Do You Want A Lot of "Give and Take?"

Offer up your idea while your seated and stay seated. 

MeetingTableDiscussion_iStock  Sure, your big idea contains a lot of forethought and preparation. But if you genuinely want spontaneous discussion, kick back and let things flow. Sitting down puts you on equal footing with the rest of the group. As a result, you're a lot more likely to hear the pros and cons, agreement and disagreement, refinements, and spin-off ideas.

Do You Want to Emphasize Importance?

Not you...your idea.

Think about this: when someone "rises to the occasion," the rest of the room settles back and concedes the floor. The dynamics shift from an informal discussion to something more critical that says:

"I have an opinion on this." 

"I'm prepared to support it."

"The issue is bigger than the normal agenda items."

You can have it both ways

 If you want to put your stake in the ground with a stand-up mini-presentation, go ahead; then, take a seat and ask for discussion. 

Shifting your physical presence can go a long way to learning how to be influential in the right ways at the right time.

 

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About To Speak? First Impressions

The opening of your speech has always been deemed über-important because that's when you have everyone's attention. Audiences also use those first few seconds to decide whether or not to even listen any further.

Now, some researchers are telling us that that the decision is being made even earlier.

It turns out that your "audience" starts deciding all about you as you get up and start moving toward your starting point or podium. People create a first impression about you as their minds place you into the role of "speaker." Then, that impression impacts how they interpret everything  you do thereafter.

It's not fair; it just is.

Not everyone agrees with this conclusion. Some claim that the first impression is not as strong as many believe. Others think that we get a chance to form a "second first impression" after a first meeting. Even if this is true, why take the chance?

Speakers and sales reps would be well-served to err on the side of a good first impression.

More importantly: your mom told you years ago it was the right thing to do. She's watching.

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Presenters: Do The Diagnostic

"In our scan and skip world, in a world where technology makes it obvious that we can treat different people differently, how can we possibly justify teaching via a speech?  Speech is both linear and unpaceable. You can’t skip around and you can’t speed it up. When the speaker covers something you know, you are bored. When he quickly covers something you don’t understand, you are lost."--Seth Godin

I get what he's saying, and I think that one of the real issues is the fact that speakers need to do their homework. When we automatically  believe that what we have to say is actually what our audience needs to hear, we get into trouble.

Most of the success of a presentation happens before the speaker ever stands up.

Stethoscope
 

Do the diagnostic

  • Is a presentation really the best way to communicate?
  • If so, what does my "audience" want and need to hear? (call some of them on the phone and ask them. They'll give you your content).
  • How can I connect the dots instead of provide facts alone?
  • Do I still need a presentation?
  • If I do, is it better to sit around a table and connect rather than stand up and create a classroom/teacher atmosphere?
  • If it's a stand-up, what media can I use to keep people engaged? (Bullet points probably aren't the right answer).
  • If it's a stand-up, why use media at all? If my message is crafted with word images and created to incite action, then I should be able to do that in 20 minutes or less. That's about the attention span before people start squirming in their seats.

Remember this: You are the presentation. It's your passion, knowledge, credibility, and language that will engage the group. And how 'real' you are will determine the depth of your connection.


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What's Your Big Idea?

"In the modern world of business, it is useless to be a creative, original thinker
 unless you can also sell what you create."  --David Ogilvy.

Ogilvy's groundbreaking work on how to convey messages to huge audiences still resonates sixty years after he began turning his clients into household names.

OgilvyHis central principle for successful advertising is what he called the “Big Idea.” It applies to presentations as well:

1. Go through your data and ideas for a subject. Then, whittle everything down to an idea that can be expressed in less  than 10 words.

2. Mold your message around those 10 words.

3. When your audience hears your presentation, what do you want them to remember above all else? Stop thinking that you are giving a presentation about a topic. You are there to achieve an objective.

That’s the Big Idea.

It creates  the core of your presentation and keeps you focused on the punch line, not the supporting data.

Really effective presentations focus only on what your audience needs to see and hear in order to be influenced. 

What's your Big Idea?

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Three Ways To Improve Your Next Presentation

One of the benefits of delivering a lot of speeches is the chance to watch others, and learn from them as well.

Here are three things that I've learned and used along the way. I hope they serve you well:

StatisticsGraphic  1. Don't Let "The Facts" Speak for Themselves

People can make facts and numbers mean almost anything. I think it was Mark Twain who noted, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." 

Facts need interpretation, so interpret yours. And, be prepared to cite the source and how those facts were determined. 

2. Use Two Kinds of Numbers

Exact numbers sound very credible: "The number of survey participants who said the company is communicating "very well" is 61.7 percent." The human mind processes that as "sounding exact" and, therefore, accurate.

Rounded numbers offer the appearance of an estimation. "Almost two-thirds" is easier to remember than 61.7 percent.

Which to use if you want the numbers to be credible and memorable?

Both. Use the exact number first and round it off later when you refer to it in examples.

3. Capitalize on the Legitimacy of the Printed Word.

For some--actually about 75%--having something on paper makes it official and "real." 

Think about this: Even small business owners (smart ones) print fees, prices, terms, and conditions on their official stationery. When you quote something verbally it makes it subject to negotiation. Whether you're selling a concept, a motorcycle, or a holiday cruise, put it in a written form--even if it's a picture--that someone can see, touch, and hold. 

Make it real.

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How To Get Your Good Ideas Heard

After spending the last week or more in meetings, I heard a lot of ideas. Most of them were pretty good. But they didn't all get the same amount of air time.

Why not?

 Adapt Your Thoughts and Ideas

The senior people in each meeting wanted to hear "new stuff." They also have "bigger picture" responsibilities, more demands on their time, and a long-term view of their respective companies. That makes their mental filters subject to some very specific criteria.

As I watched the thumbs up/(silent) thumbs down process, I thought: "What am I learning from this that could be universally transferable?"

Here are four questions to ask yourself before offering the next big idea:Ideas

1. Will this idea make other people successful?

Really. If it's not going to do that, you've got what might be a good idea for you or you and your immediate work group.

2. Is my presentation as brief as possible because I have thoroughly edited my thoughts?

Figure out what is important to those in the room and what isn't. Everything isn't important to them. And if they do start asking questions it means they care enough to engage you. That's an indicator of interest, even if the questions sound critical They are evaluating. And they aren't worried about the time because you've given them something worthwhile to ponder.

3. Do I have objective criteria for success?

Even if your idea is a creative one, take time to link it to something that can be measured. If not, it will appear fuzzy to many. The more concrete you can be, the clearer the picture you are able to paint.

4. How do I feel about the idea?

Yeah, I know it's yours. But make sure that you feel confident about it as well as committing to the work that would ensue. Ideas are sold on confidence and emotion supported up by reasonable facts. Pay attention to your gut.

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Presenting? Master The Art of the Segue

Help People Follow You: Create Transitions

"We'll be back after this message from..."  There's a reason why TV and radio announcers use that line. It's designed to help you understand what's about to happen and how it's connected to the programming. In broadcasting it's called a "segue." How often have you watched a speaker end a sentence, click the next slide, speak, click the next slide, speak, click the next slide... and you're wondering "How is this related to what I just saw?" That's what happens when presenters see their role as giving out information instead of telling a meaningful story.

Bridge1 Connect the Dots

This is what it sounds like when you're taking the audience with you:

  • "We just saw the results of last month's marketing activity. Now let's look at what that means for this month's forecast."  Click.
  • "If we decide on Alternative D, how will that impact staffing levels? Here's what we found..." Click.
  • "You asked how we're going to start up the Asian operation. Let's look at the first 3 steps." Click.

So the next time you have a presentation to design, think segue. Build a bridge from one thought or fact to the next and take your listeners with you. They'll appreciate it. 

________________________________

Photo source attribution: www.viroqua-wisconsin.com/attractions

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Trainers: Six Questions To Ask Before The Session

Anyone who has followed All Things Workplace knows my motto: "Prognosis Without Diagnosis Is Malpractice."

That holds true for training design & delivery, too. 

One of our readers, recently charged with putting together a training program, sent an email asking how to make sure her training program really hit the mark. Here were some suggestions:

Checklist 1. Start by asking the sponsor/manager why the training is important and what participants are supposed to do differently as a result. Then, call or email the upcoming participants with these questions:

2. What kinds of training have you already had related to this topic?

3. What, specifically, do you need to learn to make this worthwhile?

4. How much experience have you had in this (topical) area?

5. What kinds of changes are happening in the workplace that effect your ability to do what you will learn?

6. What follow-up support do you think you might need to make this work over the long-run?There are a number of other questions that come to mind but these were intended to get her started. (Please toss in yours in the Comments section; it will help her and others who are getting started with training responsibilities).

Emphasis: I don't trust asking those questions only to the sponsor of the training. It's not because they are deceptive, but unknowingly self-deceptive. The sponsor often has a singular viewpoint; talk to as many of the participants as possible.

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Real Leaders Can Tell You About It

"Most people who want to get ahead do it backward. They think, 'I'll get a bigger job, then I'll learn how to be a leader.' But showing leadership skill is how you get the bigger job in the first place. Leadership isn't a position, it's a process."
    - John C. Maxwell


Last week I was blogging--actually, tweeting non-stop--from the World Business Forum 2009 organized by HSM Global. The roster and quality of speakers ranged from former Medtronic CEO Bill George to Kraft's Irene Rosenfeld, from movie magnate George Lucas to Nobel Economist Paul Krugman, billionaire entrepreneur T. Boone Pickens and former U.S. President Bill Clinton. Sprinkled in the mix to add a touch of leadership education were Patrick Lencioni on teamwork, Gary Hamel's strategic innovation, and Saatchi & Saatchi's Kevin Roberts talking about marketing and "lovemarks" (Google that one). Hats off to HSM Global and the speakers--everything was on time, ran just the right amount of time, and was in tune with the times.

Follow_the_leader I was aware of some consistent personal feelings throughout:

a. If a speaker had accomplished something by leading, I gave more credibility to what was said. Makes sense, no?

b. No matter how good a speaker/presenter guru you are, if you talk about leadership but have no hands-on credentials, I may agree with what you say but you really don't add much except intellectual entertainment (if you are good). I also learned that, sandwiched between some heavy duty achievers, that's not a bad thing. But I didn't learn anything "about" leading that I didn't already know.

c. Speakers who use the term "transparency" and "authenticity" in every third sentence don't convey either of those characteristics. Because:

d. Transparency and authenticity are conveyed by relating specific, personal stories that form the foundation for what the speaker has learned through success and failure. The most credible speakers (for me) were the ones who never used the buzzwords. They didn't need to.

Do you have any genuine leadership stories to tell based on failures, successes, and what you learned? If so, there are people who can learn from you.

______________________________

Big "thank you" to HSM's Kelsey Woods for a first-class job organizing the Bloggers' Hub and making sure everyone was informed all along the way.

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Non Verbals Across Cultures: Start Teaching It

It's easy to misunderstand someone from a culture different than your own--especially when it comes to non-verbals. 

Despite this, there's not much intentional training on nonverbal behavior in global corporations. Perhaps there should be. I recall my initiation into this special "world" as a new  management trainer in Saudi Arabia in 1979. Since then, the whole idea of cross-cultural teams and travel has become the norm. I'm not so sure that the same is true with purposeful understanding. Here's my Day One experience; perhaps you've had a similar one:

Nonverbal Real Life

Our support staff was made up entirely of Indian, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, and Thai folks. When addressing the group about an administrative problem, the silent responses ranged from a head shake (Indian) to downward stares (Pakistani and Bangladeshi) to a bright smile from our Thai guy. I took this to mean lack of concern or a misunderstanding--perhaps I wasn't speaking clearly. I finally left the discussion puzzled by what appeared to be a collective lack of concern.

By the end of the day the situation was, without fanfare, totally resolved. Huh?

It was only later that another native English-speaking manager with considerably more experience sat me down and gave me a million-dollar lesson in cultural non-verbals. He shared that the Thai smile signaled an apology; the Indian head-shake wasn't a "No" (a U.S non-verbal) but in fact a "Yes, I understand." The other two fellows were from cultures that didn't value constant eye contact while being engaged--but they were listening carefully and clearly engaged.

Teaching and Learning, Explicit or Implicit?

So: is non-verbal behavior something that can accurately be picked up by informal exposure to other people or does it need to be specifically taught?

A study by  Damnet & Borland (2007) (don't seem to be able to access this any longer) suggests it may be better to teach nonverbal behavior explicitly.

This study examined Thai university students learning English as a foreign language.

One group saw videos of native English speakers along with being taught the meaning of the words. While they were not explicitly taught the nonverbal communication, they were implicitly exposed to it.

A second group was purposefully taught about nonverbal communication in addition to learning the grammar and vocabulary. It was this second group that showed the best understanding of nonverbal communication.

In Organizations, It Matters

It can be tough enough during meetings and normal interactions to interpret the nonverbal cues from our own culture . Add the global nature of doing business and one would have to ask: Wouldn't it make sense to simply put this out there as a training program? It could be a lot of fun as well as highly educational in a way that would reduce unnecessary misunderstandings.

Add your own examples to the comments. It would be a big help to readers everywhere.

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5 Powerful Ways for Managers to Open Discussions

Just imagine how disappointed you’d be after setting up a meeting or performance discussion, only to lose your listener(s) with an opening that didn't create momentum. Anticipation of a good meeting--followed by a weak opening-- is like inviting someone for a hot air balloon ride only to find the helium tank is empty.


Starting Gate Here are  5 openers  that will capture your listeners' imaginations and pull them deeper into the heart of your issue.

1. Ask a Question

Opening with a question is a rhetorical device. It creates curiosity and starts the listener thinking. Thinking means active engagement with your topic, and that’s just what both of you want.

2. Share a Quote or Maybe an Anecdote

Anecdotes are brief stories that can make people laugh or quickly establish the main point at hand. A  related quote from a professional authority or well-known person can magnetically hold attention in those opening seconds.

3. Involve the Mind’s Eye

A mental image in the listener's mind is one of the most powerful things you can create, so engaging the imagination is a powerful opening technique. Use words like “imagine,” “picture this,” “do you remember when,” etc.

4. Note a Shocking Statistic

I love starting off with a fascinating fact. Why?  People enjoy fascinating data if it is unique, startling, shocking, or counter-intuitive. Be sure it is directly relevant to your point as well.


5. Use a Metaphor, Analogy, or Simile

These are some of the most powerful devices available when it comes to telling a story in a single sentence. It's a great way to capture attention and also sparks the mental imagery that allows people to tell a story to themselves.

Whether you are sitting down one-on-one or kicking off a meeting, one or more of these will create the kind of engagement that will make you "listenable" and draw others into the discussion.

Wouldn't it be great to become known as the person people want to be with, regardless of the topic?



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Recognize the Seven Universal Emotions

This is useful to everyone, especially in a career world that is so overwhelmingly global.

You'll find "experts" on body language and rants about the meaning of this gesture or that one. Much of this is true, with one huge caveat: you have to be patient and carefully synthesize the totality of the gestures and mannerisms in order to develop some degree of accuracy.

If you are making a presentation, running a meeting, or in a management discussion, it may be more helpful to know what emotions are universal. This gives you a better chance at narrowing the possibilities of what kinds of responses you are really seeing. So, here goes.

The Seven "Universal" Emotions

These are common throughout all people and cultures:

  • anger     
  • contempt
  • disgust
  • fear
  • happiness
  • sadness
  • surprise

Gestures Here's where it gets tricky:

There are 10,000 different facial expressions. About 3000 of these facial expressions are relevant to emotion and most people use only 50-60 in normal conversation. Those 50-60 do relate to the seven universal emotions.

These expressions can be "macro" expressions which last 1-3 seconds or even longer. An example would be a smile. The question: "Is the smile real or fake?" If fake, what does that mean? (Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar; people simply want to be polite).

We also make micro expressions that give up our more hidden feelings. These are like reflexes, because it's very difficult to stop them from happening since they are part of our brain's hard-wiring. That's why we get a "feeling" when we watch small discrepancies between someone's words and their expression.

These expressions last only 1/25th of a second. (That is faster than an eye-blink). Most people can't pick up micro expressions consciously. When viewed on film and played as slower speeds, these expressions look just like macro expressions. Many homicide detectives do this. If you don't happen to be looking for a serial killer, it's still a great way to watch what signals you give off when you are speaking or running a meeting.

How to Use This

The seven universal emotions are the ones that are most important to you. You want to know whether someone is angry, happy, etc., with your interaction. Memorize the list (or carry a cheat sheet) and increase your awareness of these.

Do: When you think you have enough visual information to believe that the person--or people--are, say, "surprised", don't make the assumption that you are correct. Instead, matter-of-factly state your observation: "You know, I'm watching the response to this slide and am getting the sense that maybe you are a bit surprised. Is that so?" This will lead to affirmation or will yield other responses that will help you--and them--stay or get on track. 

Don't: Try to be magically clever and tell them  you know how they feel. The last time you did that with your spouse or significant other, how'd that work for you?

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Top Ten Things You Don't Want To Say

Researchers at Oxford University have compiled what they are calling the "Top Ten Most Irritating Phrases."

The researchers who compiled the list monitor the use of phrases in a database called the Oxford University Corpus, which comprises books, papers, magazines, broadcast, the internet and other sources.
The database signals new words and phrases and can also tell them which expressions are disappearing. It also shows how words are being misused.

Irritating-lady If you are reading this while in a meeting, get your paper and pencil ready for the tally. If you are about to speak, here are ten for your mental eraser:

The top ten most irritating phrases

1 - At the end of the day

2 - Fairly unique

3 - I personally

4 - At this moment in time

5 - With all due respect

6 - Absolutely

7 - It's a nightmare

8 - Shouldn't of (it is “shouldn’t have”)

9 - 24/7

10 - It's not rocket science

Confession: I was in the midst of a potential problem analysis some years ago with part of the planet Mars design team in Princeton. They were planning the entire exploration project. In a moment of frustration I actually uttered the words, "Hey, this isn't rocket science." They suggested that I might be better suited for exploring the New Jersey Turnpike.

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Want Better Meetings? Introduce Each Speaker

Business meetings are supposed to produce good information, understanding and decisions.

Way too often (maybe most of the time?) they turn into marathons that are a series of individual "stand up/sit down" presentations where one speaker simply melts into the next. The result is low energy and some unnecessary confusion on the part of participants. Why should I listen to Sarah talk about this? Sometimes it's even, "Who the heck is Sarah?"

You and I need a change in energy and pace to capture our attention and hold our interest. So I'm going to offer managers and meeting leaders an easy way to improve meetings everywhere:

Introduce Each Presenter

Why is this important?

Sure, you may know Ralph from Accounting or Rita the Sales Manager. But do you always know exactly why they are speaking today, what they've done recently, or something captivatingly unique about them? To simply toss a speaker into the mix and push the button for the next slide makes every "speaker" the same. This forces them (if they are aware) to work harder at re-capturing the group.

Speaker Set Them Up for Success

Introductions set the mood for the presenter. The group has a chance to absorb some information that will set up the segment. Most importantly: It establishes  the credibility of the speaker. There is a psychological boost that comes from someone else--especially the boss--endorsing the presenter. What better way to show recognition for specific activity than in a meeting with "the team" or others from the company?

Here's what to include. Any one or all may be useful, depending upon the familiarity of the group with the next presenter.

1. Establish their expertise on the topic.

Tell what they've been working on, how that relates to their work and educational history, and one thing that you value about their efforts.

2. Capture  attention.

I once had to introduce a guy totally well-known to the group. His specialty? IT. But I also knew that his hobby was wine-making and he had literally cultivated a first-class vineyard on his property. So the intro slide was a photo of him (supplied by his wife) tending to the vines on the weekend. It completely shifted the dynamics. Then it was possible to quickly move into #3.

3. Make it relevant to the topic at hand

"Bill has spent the past 3 months at our site in Finland studying the pilot program for added manufacturing efficiency. He has those results for us today and I think you'll be intrigued by them."

Managers and meeting leaders: Think "Expertise, Attention, and Relevancy." Then do the intro for each. The presenters and the audience will appreciate it and you'll shift the energy in a way that will improve the quality of your sessions.

What tips do you have from your own meeting experiences? Inquiring minds want to know!

_______________________________

Meeting Bonus: In case your meeting leads to problem-solving, Art Petty offers 8 Suggestions To Improve Your Team's Problem-Solving Skills.

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Leadership: The Art of Being Brief

I've never heard anyone complain about a meeting or presentation that was too short, have you?

My friend, Marty, and I were just discussing a surgical procedure. He may have to have the same one that I experienced a few years ago. Marty is a very intelligent, thoughtful guy who asks the right kinds of questions. But his most animated question was: "How long does it take?!"

I laughed, given that the Doc could probably make it last for about a week and a half depending upon the anesthesiologist's mood and sense of humor. 

But the real answer was '45 minutes'.

Trimming He looked relieved. And it occurred to me: I had actually asked my doctor the same question. Even though we know we'll be sound asleep we seem to have a sense of, and concern for, time.

 So…have you filtered your meeting-thinking or presentation prep the same way? Could you say and accomplish more with less?

The Leader's Guide to Slide Surgery

1. Do I need so many slides? (You don't).

2. Do I need every slide in this section? (Probably not).

3. Do I need this slide? ( I don't know, but you should be sure).

4. What can I say with fewer words? (You'll feel the love).

Your group will appreciate the brevity. This reflects preparation on your part that translates into respect for them. You'll also create the kind of "meeting white space" that generates the real discussion needed to make something happen.

What will you eliminate?

Bonus Leadership Reading: Check out how you view leaders and the notion of "institutionalizing them" at Managing Leadership. Jim Stroup will give you something to ponder.

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Four Tips Four Presenting at the Meeting Table

When we think of presentations, more often than not the image is one of a person standing up and speaking to a group.

My experience: The most common type of  speaking and presenting occurs across a meeting room table. In fact, this offers a chance at more intimacy, give-and-take, and takes a lot of pressure off of the "presenter" being on "center stage." (I personally like it because it immediately creates the "we're-in-this-together" dynamic instead of "So, convince us that..."

There are some unspoken and unwritten rules that will serve you well in these situations. Here are a few that I've gleaned from speaking over the years. Many were learned because they were initially violated--by me. 

 How To Manage The Room

1. Seating arrangements.  This can be a big deal. Different organizations have different protocols but trust me: there is always a power protocol.

Wait for your host to give you direction or (preferably) ask ahead of time. Some organizations have a very clearly defined hierarchy. I work with one Executive Board whose secretary--the legal counsel--always sits in the samConfroome place, as does the Chairman. In the first case, the arrangement helps him see and hear everyone. In the Chairman's case, it's about being at the head of the table.  Even if the issue isn't about power you may do the equivalent of sitting in The Church Lady's pew on Sunday. (Often more painful than violating corporate protocol).

2. Set-up. Let's say you are using visuals: Power Point, Keynote...

I don't know your experience but I'm still baffled by the fact that meeting rooms continue to be designed as long, skinny areas with a table surrounded by chairs surrounded by little other space--even after we've been using A/V support for 40+ years, spanning Opaque Projectors to laptop-driven slides. 

Arrive a half-hour early to get a feel for the room and:

a. Position the screen and projector (if possible) in a way that everyone can see the slides and aren't blocked by the projector if it's a table top.

b. If you can't move a darned thing, then sit in a seat and get a feel for how best to conduct your talk. Spend time getting used to the reality and how to use it vs. lamenting the fact that the place wasn't designed like a Vegas showroom. You probably don't look great in a feather boa anyway.


3. Know your audience. Yeah, you've heard that a million times before. Can I tell you something?

Thank you for the permission. . .

I will not walk into a speaking situation without having spoken directly to a cross-section of participants before I get there. I mean that. If there are 12 people attending, I'll call at least four first. I introduce myself, the fact that I've been invited, and then ask them what they want to know and how the topic impacts them. The result?

  • I have a good sense of interest, disinterest, hot-buttons, how to tweak the discussion,  and who really has ownership.
  • Four people have heard my voice, I've heard their voices, and I walk into the room having a relationship with a third of the group. In the case of "über-important" meetings I would call all twelve. Even if we only connect by voicemail, they know I tried and they've heard me.

# 3 is my million-dollar suggestion. You will be amazed at what you learn, how much more comfortable and prepared you feel, and how much it will be appreciated. How many people have ever called you before a presentation to ask your insights on the topic?

4. Have a brief discussion after each main point.

Look, if you are there you are selling something--even if it's agreement on how to proceed with an initiative. After each key point, stop and ask, "Before I move on, what questions do you have about the _____?" Then shut up and count silently to ten. If nothing is uttered, ask for verbal agreement from everyone. Silence does not mean agreement. It means you don't know what's going on but they do. Not good.

Why do this after each point? Because if you chug along until the very end--and half the group is still silently mulling over Point #1--you have been talking to yourself.

Help yourself by having them help you.

Now, go make a few phone calls before you set up the room.

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Speaking? 3 Ways To Satisfy Your Audience

Audiences--whether 6 or 600--really want three things from you. These apply to meetings, wedding toasts, or keynote speeches:

Speech1 1. Connection. They want to feel connected with you. They've already endured too many distant, aloof presentations in their lifetimes. Give them you, not a veiled voice in the corner reciting PowerPoint bullets. In fact, to be the "real deal" and "authentic", be even more of you. Wear your enthusiasm for your topic on your sleeve, look into the eyes of participants, and have a bold, honest conversation with them.

2. We all love a bit of entertainment. No one expects you--or even wants you--to be Stephen Colbert or David Letterman. You can do a quick activity that energizes people and gets them thinking more about the topic. It also gives you a break and a chance to relax. Keep it light. Stay serious about your topic but not about yourself. A funny personal story, especially if the joke was on you, can will loosen people up and increase the connection. ("Wow, I thought only I ever had that happen to me.!) I watched my wife listen to a very well-known speaker/writer from Harvard. My wife has a dual Ph.D. She thought his presentation was so serious and ponderous that he came across as  self-important. He lost her, even though his information was accurate.

Note: Did you know that speakers who also sell product actually sell measurably more product when there is humor in their talk?

3. Create meaning. How does what you are saying fit into their business or organizational life?  Make the connection for them (don't assume they'll automatically do it themselves). Explain specifically how you or your idea will personally increase their satisfaction or reduce their pain. When you can you synthesize the meaning of your topic to that point, you've really got something worth saying.

Be bold, be convesational, connect and say it.

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Speaker Tip: Take A Pause for The Cause

"Logical pauses serve our brains, psychological pauses serve our feelings."--Stanislavski

Comedian-larry-weaver-770853 Watch a really good stand-up comedian. You see pauses between jokes. Sometimes even a pause between syllables.

Sometimes they do it to allow the audience a chance to catch a breath or to create interest about what's coming next.

Why?

Because good comedians are masters of change.

Night after night they move a new group of people from one intellectual and psychological state of being to another.They knew the flow of human dynamics.

The Importance of The Pause

Psychological pauses build tension and heighten curiosity.

Logical pauses between words and sentences give an audience the time needed to piece together the key elements of the joke or series of rapid one-liners. When it all comes together, you've got a room filled with laughter.

Make "The Pause" an intentional part of your presentation, meeting, or change initiative.

Psychological: When you pause to create a "curious" state of mind, the tension makes people want to listen. That gives you the opening to help them learn.

Logical: Change initiatives mean new information and new experiences. Periodic, intentional pauses allow everyone time to make sense of what's happening and create new context.

Where can you insert intentional pauses in order to become a really good "Stand-Up" leader and speaker?

photo source: Wikipedia

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One More Way to Engage

The biggest learning challenge is not to get people to speak. Often it's getting them to be silent. And, to do it at the right moment.

Organizations can breed a  "you must know everything or else you know nothing" mentality and culture. The result? People show up with reams of data, slides, and the business story equivalent of War and Peace.

Yet engagement, by definition, is a joint activity. Trying to dazzle your audience with everything you know disengages them, makes you the center of attention, and makes you responsible for everything that happens (or doesn't).

ToBeContinued Use the Zeigarnik Effect

The Zeigarnik effect states that people remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than completed ones.

This rather simple principle can help anyone who wants to communicate and engage more effectively. The next time you plan your presentation or speech, lay out the facts and then ask (sometimes rhetorically),

"What would you do next?

Or:

"We're going to take a 5 minute break and I'll show you how we plan to deal with _______."

TV shows do it all the time, which is why "Continued Next Week" drives us to schedule our time differently or double-check the TIVO. They know about the Zeigarnik Effect. And they know it keeps us engaged.

The online equivalent: top sites like Lifehacker, ReadWriteWeb, and The Business Insider. They all start with a provocative sentence or two. Then, you have to click to read the rest of the article.

Bump up engagement and find a way to "Zeigarnik" your training, presentations, or meeting breaks.

____________________

Speaking of Engagement: Join me tomorrow, May 12, at 1 pm Eastern Time and learn more about the link between Employee Engagement and Performance Management. The free webinar sign-up is at HR.COM. Kudos to sponsor Halogen Software.

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Four Tips for Global Presenters

According to the International Labor Organization, 70% of multinational business ventures fail due to cultural differences.

Audience_applauding Even if you aren't traveling and speaking to international groups, you're probably presenting to audiences in your home country that are more multicultural than you may realize. Let's face it: you want your talk to increase  connection and understanding, not add more barriers.

I was thinking about what I've learned from speaking to global groups over the years. Here are four tips that popped into mind:
  1. Speak clearly and enunciate. If English is not the listener's first language, it is easier for them to understand you when your enunciation is close to what they learned during their English instruction.

  2. Adjust your pace. This usually means slow down. A slower pace is also critical if someone is doing simultaneous translation for you.

    I once did a two-day seminar for Pfizer where the audience was entirely Brazilian and Chinese. Each group had a translator. I'm still wondering if the smiles on the audience's faces meant "this is really good" or "I think we'll humor you because we really don't get a word you're saying."

  3. Use examples from the audience’s culture, examples your listeners can relate to. I substitute examples  from the local country or region. This means doing research before the speech. But that's part of good presentations, period, and time well spent. We all know and appreciate when someone has taken the time to find ways to relate to us. Even if you can’t find a local example,  set up your story so people understand the significance and universality of the illustration.

  4. Get extreme about filtering words, expressions or references the audience might not recognize. This may be the most difficult because we use pop-culture expressions and cliches 'til the cows come home. (Uh, see what I mean. I wonder what that really means in Urdu?).
    Suggestion: Sift through your notes and slides and check for product references, people, and places that might have no local meaning. Better yet, have someone local review your notes or do a run-through with you.
These were the first four that came to mind. What else have you found helpful?

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How Clear Are Your Instructions?

When you give direction are you as clear as you can be?

Language matters. In an era of sound bites and time pressure, it's easy to quickly toss out a word or two that makes sense in our own minds. But will it help people do what they need to do--and do it correctly?

This screen shot was sent to me yesterday by a cube dweller in Manhattan. She wondered what action to take.

Warning

Someone in the "Department of User Experience" got paid to create this. I wonder if the boss proceeded to delete employment.

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Announcing Changes and Making Connections

We should take care not to make the intellect our god; it has, of course, powerful muscles but no personality."--Albert Einstein

Completed_circuit  I've watched two different executives at two different corporations make brief speeches about serious, impending changes at their companies. Both were sincere about wanting to connect with their respective organizations.  Here are excerpts from each:

#1:

"I want to let you know of the changes our executive group has designed to make our company more viable going forward. As you know, our profitability has been shrinking over the past four years. We have the ability to turn that around, and our shareholders deserve no less. As a result, here is what I plan to implement beginning immediately": (List of items)

#2

"You are all here today for training and development. But I just found out a little more about what we've expected for some time now--that we need to change the way we approach our business in order to ensure the future of ____________, our work and relationships here, and the critical services that we provide for our 300,000 customers--some of which you know personally. The most drastic changes will involve laying off about 100 of our 5,000 employees.  So I want to use some of this time to tell you how I'm feeing about that; how I feel about the future of this company;  and what I believe we need to do together.

When I'm finished, let's sit down together and simply talk for a while. We've come through a lot together over the years so we'll work through this, too. So let's get started..."

Both executives spoke the truth.

The second one--from observation--generated the more positive (Yep, let's do it!) response in the end.

"Oddly, the more personal something is, the more universal it is as well. When we dig deeper into truthful experiences, that's the work that really touches people and connects us all."--Bill Watterson, creator of the cartoon series Calvin & Hobbs

We're all different, so I'm curious to know which one would have connected, grabbed your commitment, and why?

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Don't Sell Ideas--Let People Try Them Out

"People are usually more convinced by reasons they discovered themselves than by those found out by others."
--Blaise Pascal


Perfume Walk through the cosmetics section of any big department store. You'll come out the other end with free samples and the need to explain to your spouse exactly why you smell like a fragrance not found anywhere at home. 

Do the fragrance folks make you plop down $60 for their new perfume or cologne before you can experience it? 

Heck, no. And you want to do the same with the ideas you present in business meetings. Create ways for people to give your idea a low-risk trial before making a commitment of time, money, and corporate reputation. The lower the risk, the more likely people are to take a baby step in your direction.

When people ask,  "What have I got to lose if I give it a go?", you know you've got it right.

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Improve Your Business: Read Copyblogger

Managers tend to read management books. Psychologists pour over research. Sales folks read the latest techniques for presenting their products and services so people will buy them.

What's the problem?

It's this: we can end up hearing re-hashed information whose single-discipline context makes our worldview smaller instead of larger. 

Copyblogger



One of my favorite and most useful online educational sources is Copyblogger. Brian Clark has built his blog into a source of terrific information as well as a platform for teaching others solid methods for making money  with Teaching Sells

Articles like The Three Essentials of Content Marketing by associate Sonia Simone offers a good example of principles that can help business people of all types who want a different way to look at the principles of content (product), marketing, sales, and persuasion. A click on any of the sidebar links will give you an education and leave you thinking differently about the topic. 

Kudos to one of the premiere online examples of how to use the internet to educate, build community, and create a profitable business. Go back into the archives, track Brian's journey, and you'll discover a model--and sound principles--for building your own business, online or off.

Finally: A note of thanks to Mary Jo Erasmus for her helpful and informative guest post, When Silence Can Be Golden At Work. And, after I reach my destination (am traveling out west), I promise to catch up with the comments on Wednesday.


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Speaking Out About Silence At Work

"How many meanings can silence have? Let me count the ways.'
--Arnold Shakespeare, little-known descendant of The Bard

Silence Is Not Golden Unless You Are A New Parent looked at the danger of assuming--or wanting to assume agreement--in a meeting room filled with silence. Then, we rattled off a number of meanings we think are important for workplace dwellers to understand.

Naturally, my list was incomplete. So, the reader community chimed in with other reasons that are important to tuck away in your mental messenger bag. (Hey, we could have said briefcase but we are sooo 2.0).

No_talking Readers Say This About Silence

Chris Witt: "People disagree with what you've said and they don't know how or don't feel safe to voice their disagreement. Some people equate disagreement with conflict, and hate conflict."

Higher ups ask for feedback/questions when they really don't want it. (My paraphrase): People are accused of being disrespectful or not being team players . The crime? They put the boss on the spot by asking (unwanted) questions during a public meeting.

Higher ups blame poor communication on subordinates. One such case was the result of a president complaining about poor presentations. Yet he constantly interrupted the speakers, asked questions they couldn't possibly answer, and was rude and intimidating. Who would want to talk to him?

Dr. Peter Vajda: "Then there are those who feel emotionally lacking, deficient or insufficient as a result of some invidious comparison they are making between themselves and the speaker as a result of what they've heard or what they've seen. They may feel jealous, insecure, angry at themselves (depressed) for being 'stupid'."

Wally Bock: "This is aggravated by the concept taught in many sales training programs that 'silence means consent'." 

Hayli at Transition Concierge: My sales training was similar. . .Essentially, make your proposal and then wait for the silence to force the prospective customer into starting a conversation. We were taught that he who talks first "loses".

HR Jobs: "People may have lost interest and don't want to speak as they think it will look like a sign of interest."

Rodney Johnson: "Too often silence becomes a Silent Problem. When unleashed without warning, it screams."

What To Take Away?

We don't know the meaning of silence at a given moment, because there are as many reasons as there are individuals in the room.

What to do?

I'll repeat the advice from the previous article: Simply ask. Tell the person--or group--that you want to understand correctly rather than make an error in judgment. Then be quiet until someone speaks up. I find it useful to silently count to 10 or even 15. 

Bonus Tomorrow!

Kindred spirit Mary Jo Asmus looks at the flip side of silence with her guest post "When Silence Is Golden". Be sure to stop by.

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How Do You Use Power?

Power can be used in at least two ways: it can be unleashed or it can be harnessed.

Can The energy in a container of ten gallons of gasoline, for example, can be released explosively by dropping a lighted match into the can. On the other hand, it can be channeled through a car engine in a controlled burn and transport you up to 350 miles.

Explosions are spectacular, but controlled burns have staying power.

Sometimes it's important to explode onto the scene. Once there, we're confronted with the issue of how to have a lasting effect.

How can you be intentional about each of these in order to have the impact you desire?

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"Don't" Doesn't Point to the "Do"

A sign on the doorway of a large local restaurant reads: "Do not enter here."

Sign OK.  So, what do you do? Does it mean that you enter through the adjacent door or the big French doors at the corner of the building?

"Do not disconnect manually." How does someone remove the portable drive from the USB hub?

"Don't spend a lot of time on marketing proposals for existing clients unless they request one." Hmm. Does that mean I can prepare one if I think I can do it quickly?

We can all remember those childhood moments in the supermarket when our mom would rattle off a barrage of, "Don't touch that one!", "Don't talk to that stranger!", Don't eat that brand of peanuts!" (Fill in your favorite).

Humans are action-oriented creatures. You can tell them what not to do, but know this: If you don't tell them what to do, they will do something.

Are you willing to live with the results of their best guess?


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Silence Is Not Golden Unless You Are A New Parent

If you make a statement that is met with silence, the last thing you want to believe is that you have agreement.

It's easy to want to assume agreement because it allows us to move on and quickly avoid the potential for dis-agreement, conflict and, unfortunately, the truth about what people are really thinking and feeling.

Silence-is-mountain-lions

Here are just some of the meanings that may lurk behind silence:

  • People are too angry to speak.
  • People are confused but don't want to appear "stupid" by asking a question. Why? Because as they look around, no one else is asking a question and each is assuming that all the rest are silent as a result of understanding.
  • People are reflecting on what you said and haven't yet processed it completely.
  • People who are counterdependent are actually rebuking you and protecting themselves with silence.
  • Those who really weren't listening anyway don't want to do anything that will cause them to be asked a question. They may even nod slightly in the hope that you will "go away".
  • People are, in fact, in total agreement with you and thinking more about your conversation/presentation.

(How many more can you add? Do send in your cards and letters via comments).

Think about this: the person in a relationship who maintains silence grabs the power. It's not healthy but it's a fact.

When you encounter silence, name it and neutralize it by saying something like this: "We just spent 45 minutes discussing Project Q. I gave you my take, but what you are thinking--pro and con--is important. Let's discuss it." Then, sit there and wait for the discomfort of prolonged silence to force the conversation to begin.

It will.

For more about the dynamics of talking and silence, check out Nothing Happens Until People Talk plus Employee Needs, Silent Communication, and What To Do.

BTW: I gave you my take, but what are you thinking?



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Don't Let Your Knowledge Confuse People

I may not know you but I do know this: you know a lot about something.

The Paradox of Know-A-Lot

Sometimes the more we understand something the worse job we do of explaining it. Why? Our familiarity makes us a bit careless in describing it. It's really tough to remember when we didn't know something that has become second nature.

Bike Be honest: When you put your kid on that two-wheel bike for the first time, wasn't it a little harder to explain than you thought it might be? Nothing like trying to make the concept of "balance" a concrete reality to your four year-old who is, by now, actually lying on the concrete.

When we least expect it--in our area of specialty--ambiguity creeps in. Yet "meaning" depends upon personal experience, context, timing, and points of reference for all concerned.

In the 1980's I was working in the Middle East in an office with a group of guys from nine different countries. For a few, this assignment was their very first job and involved doing administrative work. For those who can hearken back that far, the process of photocopying was referred to as "burning" copies.

We handed one of the young guys a document and said, casually, "Go burn this."

He did.

Think carefully about the combination of your expertise, it's related language, and it's various contexts.

Might it be a good idea to put a PCR: Personal Clarity Reminder--on your checklist before your next meeting?

Bonus: To increase both clarity and impact, here are related lessons from the world of copywriting from Brian Clark at Copyblogger.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Lloyd Fox / December 26, 2008) Harry Hochheiser braves the chilly weather to teach his daughter, Elena, 7, how to ride a bike at Lake Montebello.

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Unspoken Rules: Peer Pressure Isn't Just About Teenagers

Many years ago my friend and associate Dr. Bud Bilanich and I worked together at Pfizer headquarters in NYC. One day, we decided that the elevator ride up to the 19th floor was just too quiet. No one spoke to each other even though we all worked for the same company. (Clearly, Bud and I had grown  up in the suburbs). Our foray into the Land of Unspoken Rules is described here.

Rewind even further to a popular TV show: Candid Camera. This was a genuine reality show because those being filmed didn't know it. Without citing lengthy psychological research papers, Candid Camera captured the human condition for all to see and ponder.

Compliance vs. Agreement

How often have you experienced one or more of these:

1. A workshop leader asks the "How Many of You Have. . .?, raises her hand, and the participants arms shoot skyward. The impact: Lots of agreement--the workshop leader must know what she's talking about. Credibility begins to build.

What you don't know is: Even though all these people "have done" the thing, what was their experience with it? Would they do it again? How many didn't want to be seen as not being part of the "in crowd" once the hands started to go up?

2. A senior manager announces a new initiative. He then rattles off a list of executives and department heads who are 100% with him on this. One of those names is your boss. He then asks, "How many of you can I count on?" You watch the hands go up, one by one.

3. You are at an off-site meeting that started at 7 a.m. It is now 7 p.m. and the announcement has been made that a group dinner will be held at Maison Conformité. You really want to go back to your room and crash. People start mulling around, unenthusiastically. Yet at 7:30 pm all of you are now at the restaurant, tired and superficially cordial.

It's easy to use known techniques that play on the human condition in ways to gain desired behavior. The question becomes, "Are you getting (or giving) compliance or agreement?"

The distinction will be crystal clear when the time comes for commitment and action.

Enjoy the video and join me for a thought at the end: 

In none of the examples I cited above--nor in the video--did anyone ask a question that could change the dynamic.

Are there instances of group pressure where asking a perfectly sensible question is viewed as more dangerous than "going along?" If so, what groups do you belong to whose unspoken norms create obstacles to sensible questions? How's that working for you?

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Can You Pass The Cicero Persuasion Test?

"If you wish to persuade me, you must think my thoughts, feel my feelings, and speak my words."
– Roman Statesman (and attorney) Cicero

A little more than 2,000 years ago, Cicero latched onto the importance of connecting at both the mental and emotional level with an audience. Rather than simply speaking to an audience of 1 or 1,000, he figured out that he had to actually connect with them.

Cicero Thinking Their Thoughts

Are you able to see the world from the perspective of your customer/audience vs. that of a salesperson or manager?  When it comes to being persuasive, think about this:

Communicating with people in a way that embraces their own point of view is the key to winning their hearts and minds. A focus designed solely to change their point of view results in discomfort, suspicion, and even antagonism. We're all fairly willing to make changes; but we prefer to do it as a result of making decisions that are as consistent as possible with who we are--not who the speaker is.

Feeling Their Feelings

What are the deep-seated feelings that drive your listeners? Is it a fear of loss or a hope for gain? Are they driven to play it safe or are they looking to stretch and live on the edge a bit ? Whether you're a speaker, a manager, or a classroom instructor, the answer to those is the pathway to connecting.

Speaking Their Words

This hits at the heart of the issue from a relational standpoint.

Are you talking down or speaking over their heads? Regardless of skill level, are you speaking with clarity or tossing in professional jargon  designed to  make you appear more knowledgeable and sophisticated than you really are?

People need to understand what you have to say in order to care about it--and you. And, they need to care before they'll decide to allocate the energy to act on your ideas.

Do You Really Wanna?

I don't want to dwell on the obvious. I know that you know that you have to relate to people in ways that will make them want to follow your lead, whether it's a management suggestion or a speaking point.

The million dollar question to ask yourself is:  Are you really willing to connect with these people?

If the answer is yes, go for  it.

If the answer is no, move on. Maybe what you think you have to say is better offered in an informational memo or email--or not at all.  You can’t stand before a group and fake your commitment to a decision or a cause.  And even if you can (you weasel), you’ll be "found out" during the implementation when your actions bely your words. 

It just occurred to me that herein lies a good  "go/no go" test for each of us before we attempt to persuade people to accept something new, whether it's a product, a service, or a management idea.

Ask Yourself: Am I willing to spend the time and energy to...

  • Think Their Thoughts?
  • Feel What They Feel?
  • Speak the Way They Speak?
  • Connect With Them Because I am Committed To Them?


Hmm. I like this. What do you think?

_________________________________

I decided that Guy Kawasaki and the gang at Alltop are primo examples of the Cicero Factor. As I began signing up for my own Alltop page of favorites, I realized that Guy had built this by involving himself in all four of the key points above. If you haven't yet checked out and used Alltop, visit the site and follow Guy's tweets at http://twitter.com/guykawasaki; you'll see what I mean. Now, if I could just do an @Cicero I know he'd feel good about all of this.

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5 Ways to Connect With Your Listeners

You've been asked to speak to those folks in Finance. Maybe you've received a request to lead a meeting about that new killer project.

Just imagine how disappointed you’d be if the chosen expert/speaker/meeting leader had an alluring topic but the opening  failed to create interest and momentum. A big build-up followed by a weak opening is like inviting people to your home for a cozy dinner and then, while they watch, rummaging through the refrigerator for leftovers.

No need to agonize any longer for a special "how-to" that will keep you out of The Great Refrigerator of Life.

Here are 5 ways to open your talk or meeting that will capture the imagination and draw people deeper into your topic.

Get_connected 1. Ask a Question

Opening with a question creates curiosity and jump-starts the thought process. Thinking causes  engagement with your topic--exactly what you and the audience are hoping for.

2. Relate a Quote or Anecdote

A meaningful quote from a recognized authority can work magic to capture attention in those critical opening seconds. Anecdotes are brief stories that can give people a laugh or quickly establish the main point of your talk.

3. Open Up The Mind's Eye

Producing a mental image in participants' minds powerfully engages the imagination . You can activate the mind’s eye of your listeners by using words such as “do you remember when,” “imagine,” “picture this,” etc.

4. Refer To a Shocking Statistic

Spend a little prep time researching an interesting fact. People enjoy hearing interesting data, but only if it is startling, unique, and even shocking. (The statistic should be directly related to point you are making-- and accurate).

5. Use an Analogy, Metaphor or Simile

Analogies, metaphors and similes are some of the most powerful devices available when it comes to telling a story in a few sentences. This is a great way to capture attention and also provokes the kind of  mental imagery that allows readers to tell a story to themselves. Here is an example of an effective analogy:

"Pupils are more like oysters than sausages. The job of teaching is not to stuff them and then seal them up, but to help them open and reveal the riches within. There are pearls in each of us, if only we knew how to cultivate them with ardor and persistence."
(Sydney J. Harris, "What True Education Should Do," 1964)

 You know which of the techniques above are most comfortable and reflect your personality. Use the ones that are "you". As time goes on and you become more confident, add some of the others to your repertoire.

What other approaches can you share that have worked well for you?

______________________________________

What if you only had 60 seconds to pitch your value for a job interview? Garr Reynolds shares a unique process along with video examples that reflect how much you can do in a minute--and with some powerful results.

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Why It Is Important To Be Specific

Managers and Influencers everywhere:

Which one of these works best as a call to action?

  • We need 37 new accounts to reach our revenue goal for 2009
  • We need more than 30 new accounts to reach our revenue goal for 2009
  • We need a bunch of new accounts to reach our revenue goal for 2009

Specificity Most of would probably choose #1. But why?

Because of the power of specificity.

The first example is so concrete we know it can be broken down into a measurable, do-able plan. That creates some immediate energy and confidence.

Need credibility to create commitment and action? Of course you do. And precise details show the listeners that you are probably telling the truth. A “guesstimate” doesn't have the same impact because it leaves a little "doubt cloud' hanging out there. Without concrete facts people may think that you are just making the whole thing up--or exaggerating a bit.

Statistics and precise details not only help with authenticity but create curiosity and mental involvement. The human mind latches on to that which is precise but has to wrestle with fuzziness. When people around us have to work extra hard at what we are saying, they begin to tune out.

What can you be more specific about today?

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Your Mother Was Right Because She Said So

Visualize this: If you read this article you will be a more effective HR pro, management coach, and communicator. All because of two very important words and why those words are so powerful.

Both words can be found in the first sentence. Did you identify them?

If not, keep reading, because the answer will unfold below.

Because The Most Important Word: “You”

Did you find the opening sentence engaging? If so, why?

Better yet, who was the first sentence focused on?

Consider this:

HR is seen as a service organization. Forget that the general population may not understand the number-crunching and agonizing decisions related to comp, benefits, and headcount. They only know that you either have--or haven't--done something for them.

You benefit when the rest of the organization knows how you've benefited the general population and long-term well being --even when the decisions and actions are difficult ones. Truth be told, much of HR's time is spent explaining. Think about it.

When it comes to the spoken word, “you” is the most powerful one in the English language. Why? Because people are ultimately interested in fulfilling their own needs.

The same substantive content will be more effective with the focus shifted toward the reader. One of the easiest ways to do that is to maximize the use of “you”, while minimizing or eliminating “I” and “me”.

Every time you enter a discussion, coaching session, or presentation, check your focus. How many times does you and its derivations appear? What about I, me, "the company?"

Adjust accordingly. I know it sounds simple; the results will be profound.

“Because”

One of the most important characteristics of influential conversation  is specificity. The more specific you are, the more credible your position.

There are many ways to be specific. One of the best is simply giving a reason why. And the most effective transition word when giving a reason why is because.

The power of because has been documented by Ellen Langer and related by influence researcher and expert Robert Cialdini. Social psychologist Langer conducted an experiment where she asked to move ahead in a queue to use a copy machine.

She tested three different ways of asking, and noted the results:

Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?

60% said Yes.

Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush?

94% said Yes.

It appears that giving the “reason why” of because I’m in a rush boosted the effectiveness of the request immensely.

But here’s the biggie:

Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make some copies?

93% said Yes.

The triggering word “because” is so powerful that it didn’t seem to matter that the “reason why” was no different than the reason others were in line.

Be specific with your assertions and always offer a reason why: especially when you want people to take action.

Bonus suggestion: Share this with your internal clients because you want them to bump up their game, too.

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Steve Roesler, Principal & Founder
The Steve Roesler Group
Office: 609.654.7376
Mobile: 856.275.4002

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