Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Get Rid of Your STUFF!!

“Don't just read the easy stuff. You may be entertained by it, but you will never grow from it.” ~ Jim Rohn

If you are noticing a disconnect with people, or simply that you are not as effective of a communicator lately, take a look at your “baggage” (we all have it!), and get rid of your STUFF! STUFF is what keeps us from making a connection, fully engaging, and therefore developing a real rapport. How are you doing with:

S – Saying crutch words (such as “Like”, “You know what I mean”, and “Does that make sense?” are just filler, they focus on you and don’t convey intelligence, communication or leadership)

T – Talking over time or people (rambling and disrespecting people is a surefire way to make it about you and not about them)

U – Un-approachable presence (seeming aloof, looking elsewhere, and using your smart phone or iPad while in their presence makes you not only seem unapproachable, it makes you seem like you want to be doing something else or be with someone else)

F – Fumbling with things (fidgeting or looking disorganized is not only distracting for you, it makes the other person uncomfortable, too)

F – Faking sincerity (a smile and sincerity are your best assets in most cases, but phoniness and false like-ability are not only going to turn others off, those other people will avoid you in the future…and likely suggest others do the same)

If your STUFF getting in the way, then clear out the “baggage”, fully engage, and get back to effective communication, professional behaviors and thriving relationships!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Presentation Mistakes to Avoid

"Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new."
~ Albert Einstein
(German-born Theoretical Physicist, 1879 -1955)

Things happen during presentations. Nothing's perfect. By being prepared, you will not avoid oddities and flukes, but you will hopefully avoid the top 10 presentation mistakes that most everyone (admittedly, myself included) has made:

1. Being uncomfortable, not being prepared, or not being well-versed in your topic. You are to be the expert, or at least expert in the portions of the topic you are discussing! You may not know absolutely everything about a general topic, but know the few points you are covering, the angle you are taking, and/or the approach you are pitching.

2. Alienating your audience and/or not reading our audience. This can happen in many ways such as attempting to cover too much information. Pick 2-4 points, messages, highlights to cover, and stick with them consistently. Additionally, watch the attitude, the information, and your role as the presenter. If you come off as though you are "untouchable" or "above" the audience with too many points or a speed and depth that cannot be followed comfortably, you will lose the audience. Another way to lose your audience, and therefore, not recommended, is misreading or not attempting to read your audience. While you are presenting, the presentation (believe it or not) is about the audience, and not about you. Yes, stick with the plan and your preparation, but keep a pulse on the audience. For example, men, typically like statistics and graphs, brief stories and short presentations, where women often enjoy stories and images, few studies, and will give you quite a bit of attention/time. If you have a mixed age and gender, level and education, keep that in mind and use an appropriate mix of approaches to your audience's interests.

3. Complaining or repeatedly apologizing for anything. Apologizing or anything more than once...being late (do not do it!), the room, technology, the food, the service, the handouts, your voice, "not being an expert"...anything is too much! If something is not your forte, then do not present on it before getting where you are the expert in the room. Have you ever been somewhere and heard "Well, I'm no expert", or "These slides are not the best, but..."? Any of those comments discount you, and discount your respect for the audience. If you have something happen that is not as you wanted it, either move on (if the audience doesn't know, there is no need to bring negative attention to it), or apologize once, and only once, and move on!

4. Using technology and/or slides as your presentation instead of presenting with tools and support from technology. You are the presenter, you may use tools to support and enhance your presentation, but the slides or videos, games, etc. are not the presentation. Bury people in the audience in flash and "the latest and greatest", and you will likely bury your message as well.

5. Speaking to the screen, or too low for the audience to hear. Speak to the audience, with eye contact, and not to the screen. Use a tone and volume that is welcoming, commanding and at a level that can be heard in the back of the room.

6. Using tools or handouts that are not the right size or readily available. If you have handouts, then decide if you want to distribute (never "pass out", as it implies you are about to faint!) them before or during the presentation. If you decide to distribute them prior to presenting, keep them in order, and consider having them face down until you want people to read them (human nature is to read ahead, which means the audience is not listening to you or seeing what you are presenting at the time). If you are confident enough to distribute materials during the presentation, have them where you can get to them quickly and get them into the hands of the audience efficiently. Also ensure anything you use as a visual aid is legible and clear to everyone in the audience.

7. Using "verbal crutches" such as "um", "you know", "you know what I mean", "like". It is better to say nothing. A pause can be empowering...let it be. Additionally "does that make sense" implies the listener should be able to follow it, and that the onus is on the listener to figure the sense in it. Instead, asking in a humble tone "Does that follow?", "Was I clear?" or "Did I address that fully?" is kind, professional and effective. Other verbal crutches you may have used in the past are: "and so on", "and so forth", and/or "and such". These are quite similar to using etcetera a lot. They do not add fact, form or any additional leverage/credibility to a statement. If there is more to add, just add it quickly and professionally.

8. Mishandling questions. Tell people how long you have if you are in the formal Q & A portion or your presentation. If you are not there, attempt to answer the question(s) without getting too far off topic. Having a "parking lot" (in concept, or literally on a flip chart that is titled "Parking Lot", or on your iPad or laptop) that you introduce at the beginning of your presentation can keep you from rushing or going too in-depth. Whenever you have an inquiry, repeating a question assists the asker and the other audience members in following the flow. Additionally, while it seems supportive and positive to say "that's a great question", it is neither supportive nor positive. How so? Unless you say every question is "great", then it implies that the others are not so great, and may subtly discourage questions. Just leave out the qualifier, and state something before you answer like "thank you for asking", or that is a question I rarely get".

9. Being uncomfortable with a little bit of silence. A thoughtful hesitation, and letting people think in response to a question you have are both signs of confidence in yourself and appreciation for the audience.

10. Using your time poorly. Presenters starting late, going over on time, rushing the Q & A, and/or ignoring the fact that other presenters are going on after that presentation, are all mistakes that happen far too often. The audience's time is nearly as important as respecting their intelligence, position, and choice to be there.

Surely each of us will have other "opportunities to improve" in addition to these common mistakes to avoid. As mentioned, nothing (and nobody) is perfect. Let's go for what I call progress...not perfection while avoiding these "avoidable mistakes" while presenting powerfully!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Keeping Introductions REAL!

“Diligence in employments of less consequence is the most successful introduction to greater enterprises.” ~ Samuel Johnson

While you may not introduce a lot, if you do, it is an important part of the speaker/presenter's message, as a good introduction gets the audience poised for a good talk, and a bad introduction must be overcome by the audience and the speaker. An effective introduction should be REAL, meaning the introducer simply, and only covers the:

Reason for the talk/presentation/training. Welcome people, and let them know what the topic is.

Examples of the importance of the topic. State 2-4 reasons someone will want to listen to the presentation.

Acknowledgement of the speaker’s credentials and name. Share 2-4 relevant facts about the speaker that will enhance the presenter’s credibility and pique the audience’s interest. Clearly and confidently state the name of the speaker/presenter last, with a pause between the last comment and the first name and a quick pause between the presenter’s first and last name.

Leading of the applause.

An example of “keeping it REAL” for an effective introduction is:
Welcome to the Presenting Powerfully workshop (R)! It is important we learn to present confidently and professionally, learn tips and tools for connecting with the audience, and that we get our messages across effectively (E). Our speaker comes to us as a 6-time publishes author, former regional and national leader, and a member of the National Speakers Association. Please welcome your expert on presentation prowess, Debbie Lundberg (A). Applaud immediately (L).

So, if someone is introducing you, ensure it is a REAL introduction or skip it. If you are introducing someone else, keep it REAL, and watch how that introduction is welcomed, admired, and leads to the start of a positive environment and expectation for the speaker and the audience!