TorchMetrics’ surveys have shown that more than 50% of presenters do not absolutely suggest next steps or provide a call to action.

The ramifications of this are profound.

Audiences feel lost and may think, “So what am I sitting here for?” They are frustrated having wasted their time and do not have a positive impression of the presenter.

The Executives do not like their time wasted. They want to move forward with suggestions and solutions. They now do not imagine this person as “executive” material.

Presenters have wasted time creating a presentation that ends in a whisper. And now they have to spend time after the meeting getting agreement on the next steps. Plus their career advancement becomes limited as they are not “seen” as getting things done.

Next Steps and/or a Call to Action are critical to a presentation. Always have a slide prepared that outlines the next steps to be taken. You may choose to show it either at the beginning or at the end of a presentation. In most communications you want a call to action be it a webex, email or presentation.




Alignment Can I get alignment on this? Tomorrow I will start contacting each function to gather the information needed for this project. Please say now if this is not acceptable to you.
Marketing Piece What do you think of this marketing flyer? We have two colors of the flyer. I suggest we go with the purple as it fits our theme and is more eye-catching. Any comments or questions before we can agree on the purple?
Focus I suggest we focus on our top 10 accounts. I suggest on Friday we send a memo to the sales force telling them that for the next four weeks to only focus on their top 10 accounts. Is there any reason why you believe we should not do this?

Know Your Inner Dialogue

You have practiced out loud. You feel confident. You know the subject. You have answered the questions you may be asked. But you are still uneasy. Often you feel good before a presentation but part way through, you lose confidence and just want to get it over with and sit down.

Sometimes I see this phenomenon with the people I coach. I watch them closely and then ask, “Do you have a voice that is critiquing everything you are saying and telling you that what you just said is not exactly correct?” The presenter looks surprised and responds, “Yes.” Then I say, “This is what I like to call the overworked helper.”

I go on to explain that this voice feels it is helping. But, when you are in front of a group of people, it is only making it more difficult for you to relax and connect to your audience. The voice was essential during your practice, but when you are doing the talk for real, it must take a back-row seat and stop talking. You need a different voice that says, “Yes, you are doing wonderful. Yes, that was a good point you made.” Or more ideally, you need to still all inner voices and just have quiet inside.

Voices in your head? What is she talking about? Many of you reading this will know exactly what I mean. In a wonderful book called Introduction to the Internal Family Systems Model, author Robert Swartz explains, “The point is that we have ongoing, complex relationships with many different inner voices, thought patterns, and emotions that are similar to relationships we have with people.” I see these voices in action as I watch people present.

Start to pay attention to your inner voices when you talk in front of a group of people. Are you hearing from the “overworked helper” or the “constant judge”? Neither one is good to have activated when you are speaking. Amazingly enough, when I have suggested to presenters that they simply ask their disruptive inner voice to pipe down, to stop judging and making sarcastic comments, the voice does calm down.

Let me add one caveat. If you have not practiced out loud and if you are unprepared, I doubt this voice will calm down. It knows you have not done the necessary preparation and is actually trying to help you. But during the actual talk is not the time for it to start coaching you with incessant criticism.

So do yourself and your nerves a favor. Check in with this voice several days before a talk and find out what it has to say. Just ask, “Are you satisfied? Have I prepared well enough? What else should I do?” You may be amazed that it will answer you. Do what it suggests and you will discover that you can be calm, energized, and confident when speaking. You owe that to yourself – and to your inner critic.

Change the Pace–Keep Your Audience Awake and Engaged

There is a belief floating around out there about presenting that goes something like this: “We’ve got to be consistent. Act consistent. Look consistent. Talk in the same consistent voice. Show the same slides. This will brand our company.”

Yes, that will certainly brand your company with your audience. They’ll think of you as the company that makes boring presentations. We will talk about the slides another time. Today let’s talk about the presenter.

Misconception 1: I have to keep the same pace during my whole talk. “I should start talking and stop when my presentation is finished.”

Reality: Anything done the same way over a period of time is boring. To talk with the same speed and voice inflection is boring. To not change the speed of your delivery is boring. You must also change the tone of your voice. If you don’t, you will hypnotize your audience into a trance. They’ll just sit there, not really listening nor engaging in what you are saying.

Exercise: When talking, practice slowing down your speed. Say the words and points that are most important to your audience much more slowly.

Misconception 2: I should keep the same voice volume. “I can’t change my voice volume. That’s just me being quiet.”

Reality: Your speaking in a quiet voice all the time will also hypnotize your audience. You must vary the volume. Not everything you say is of the same importance. When you are delivering your key points, make your voice louder at the beginning of each one. This signals to your audience that you are about to make an important point.

Exercise: When talking, practice speaking softer and louder. Listen to how you signal to your audience that you have something very important to tell them.

Use Dialogue to Enhance Your Story

I have been encouraging my clients to use examples or stories. They frequently just describe what happened in a given situation. This does not have the same power as creating a dialogue.

For example, Sarah is trying to convince department managers to stop using roaming plans. To give her discussion of cell phone charges more impact, here is what she can say:

You’ve said to me about these roaming charges, “But I’m traveling. It’s just a business cost.”  “Yes,that’s true, but you can change your phone plan so you don’t have to pay a roaming fee.”  Then some of you responded, “Listen, you may be right, but I don’t have time to figure out another plan.”  Here’s my response, “I totally agree with you. You don’t have time. Here’s a small chart. All you have to do is look at the chart and tell me the plan you want. I’ll do the rest. Just think of me as your drive through phone plan.”

Another comment I hear a lot is, “I’m not going to carry two phones when I go overseas. That is ridiculous and too much trouble.”   “You are right, I agree with you. You don’t have to. I have made a deal with our phone company so all you need is one phone for all your business, at home and overseas.”

I will be coming by your office to take five minutes of your time to figure out what works best for you. I guarantee in two months you will be saying to me, “Hey, you were right. This is not a big deal. And I see we are saving money.”

The dialogue makes a boring topic more interesting and fun to give and also hits home with your audience,

Next time you want to convince your audience, use dialogue. You will be happily surprised with the results.

Answer the Question Asked

What happens to presenters who are nervous when it’s time for questions? Often the presenter is simply too nervous to listen to the query, and just starts talking without providing a specific response. Or the presenter may not address the question at all, instead speaking about something else that is a “hot topic” and defending a particular position. Now the presenter is really in trouble: the questioner did not get an answer and a topic has been brought up that many people were hoping would not have to be discussed.

How do you stop this behavior? First, you must learn to ignore the chatter in your head that is saying:

  • What if I don’t know the answer?
  • That’s not a very good question.
  • The person asking me that question is out to put me down.
  • How dare she ask me that? I know what I’m doing!

This self-defeating internal dialogue prevents you from answering a question concisely and to the point. Instead, you should be saying to yourself:

  • Calm down. You know the subject.
  • People are curious and it’s their job to ask questions. Relax.
  • Answer the question and stop talking. Then ask, Do you need more information about this now?

Here are some other techniques that work, depending on the situation:

  • Sometimes you can rephrase the question a bit and inquire, “Is this what you are asking?” You can also say, “I’m not exactly sure what you are asking. Can you rephrase your question?”
  • Use a lead-in phrase to relax yourself. Try: “Yes, I know that has been a concern of yours.” Or “Yes, we are considering how to handle this particular problem if it occurs. Here is one idea.” Or “Your question deserves two different responses. The first response has to do with how we are working given the state of the project now. The second response has to do with how we will work when we get three new people.”

Finally, to be concise, to-the-point, and brief, you need to practice being asked questions and answering them, out loud.

12 Most Focused Ways for Introverts to Make Their Mark

I’m rereading the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. If you’re an introvert, make this the book you read this year! The author spent five years researching this topic, and the stories she tells are fascinating. I want to give you a taste of the book, but you MUST read it. It really will change how you think about yourself and others. I know after you read this book you will be able to choose the directions you go with more clarity and ease, plus you’ll create more consciously the life you desire.
Here are some tips Susan Cain offers that I’ve been sharing in my workshops. My introverted clients report more successes. And extroverts, please read this to understand how one-third to one-half of the world operates.

  1. Ask for time to consider the options. Often the person who talks the most and is the most enthusiastic, declaring “Let’s make the decision now,” seems to be forcing everyone to go in a certain direction. BUT you can say, “I suggest we take a day [or a week] to think this over, gather some more data, consider the options and then come back and use our critical thinking to objectively see what makes sense.”
    In your own experience, when can you encourage others not to make a decision right then and there?
  2. Set up guidelines for how much, and when, everyone may speak. City Year has a rule in meetings: no one can speak twice until everyone speaks once. This gives each person a real chance to be heard. It sends the message that no one deserves to monopolize the conversation, giving the introverts their opportunity and forcing the extroverts to be quiet and listen.
    What guidelines do you have in your meetings about how much people may speak?
  3. Embrace your “soft power.” Chances are you are quieter, humbler and more sensitive to others than are your extroverted counterparts. You also like to ask questions and sincerely listen to the responses — mulling over how the answer helps you think about a situation. You have a quiet persistence that keeps going when others have given up. Consider how you are applying these talents to your advantage.
  4. What talents do you have that can be used as assets? Find a coach. Professor Preston Ni teaches a seminar called “Communication Success for Foreign-Born Professionals” at Foothill College near Cupertino, CA. Go to his web site to learn more:
    Do you need a coach? How will you find one?
  5. Engage in a certain level of “pretend-extroversion.” I am always surprised how most people label me an extrovert, but in reality I like my time alone. I can’t imagine having a party with 200 people and, when left to my own devices, I might not call anyone ever. I tell others that I have the social skills of an extrovert and I know how to network — BUT not as long and hard as an extrovert can. I can go to a networking event and do well for about an hour; then I run out of energy.
    Where do you practice “pretend-extroversion”? How is that working?
  6. Find other ways to connect with people. You don’t have to attend big networking events. You can volunteer for a non-profit and meet people with the same focus. I have made many wonderful friends and forged new business relationships doing pro-bono work for several non-profits. This is more satisfying for me as I love helping others.
    What are ways you would enjoy connecting with others?
  7. Create “restorative niches” for yourself. A restorative niche is a place to go when you need time to be your true self. I tell my clients to hide in the restroom if they need a break. Some clients tell me they go outside for a walk, book a conference room and stay there all day, work from home, put on their headset in the airplane and listen to music. Sometimes after a workshop I will walk in a park or, if one is not available, walk around a mall where I know no one.
    What are your restorative niches?
  8. Set your expectations for yourself. I’m an Argentine Tango dancer and used to think I should try to meet and talk to many new people at a dance. I was always exhausted from the process. Now I tell myself that if I meet one new person and have one dance with someone I’ve never danced with before, that is enough. And since I can lead a dance, when I feel tired of socializing, I lead someone around the floor. I’m much happier dancing than socializing.
    What are some expectations of yourself you can change?
  9. Mange your time. Some people can go out every night and feel fantastic. They love all the stimulation. Others need time to be alone, read, exercise and think about life. Monitor yourself so you don’t get so drained that you’re no longer excited about going to the company conference or out to dinner with dear friends. You need more down time than the extroverts you know—don’t book something all the time.
    Do you overbook yourself with extroverted events?
  10. Look like an extrovert. You really do have to stand up straight, smile and look at people when speaking. Use expressions like, “I’m excited about this project,” or “This project is a great success, saving the company millions of dollars.” Use such emotional statements in your presentations.
    Look at your presentations – where can you look like an extrovert?
  11. Identify your “core personal projects.” I love to coach in small, intimate, two-day workshops for ten people. I do give speeches to audiences of 100 – 300, but they aren’t my favorite things to do. I also like special presentation projects and am involved in one right now. This type of activity interests me more than preparing a speech and selling it around the country.
    What are your special projects that you love, and how can you do more of them?
  12. Enjoy your quality relationships. Here’s my confession. I’m about to have an important birthday, and my husband offered to throw me a big party. I have tried to imagine having a bash with 100 people and just feel uneasy inside. I can see a party with maybe 30 people. That feels cozy and fun, so I’m opting for the smaller gathering.
    How can you maximize the quality of your relationships over their quantity?

Go buy the book Quiet. Just reading it will give you hundreds of ways to think about your childhood, your present life and your future. I do believe you will never be the same again. If you’re introverted, you will empower yourself in new ways. If you’re an extrovert, you will reconsider how much you speak in meetings, how you listen and most importantly, how to appreciate the introverts who solve complex problems, persevering long after you have quit.
I want to close with a quote from the book: “If there is one insight you take away from this book, though, I hope it’s a newfound sense of entitlement to be yourself. I can vouch personally for the life-transforming effects of this outlook.” Thank you, Susan Cain!

12 Most Engaging Presenter Behaviors…to Keep Your Audience Awake

“I want to engage my audience,” is what over half of the presenters I coach tell me. Here’s what I tell them. First, many people in your audience are tired—probably at least a third of them just don’t get enough sleep. They’re sitting there hoping they won’t embarrass themselves by nodding off. Part of your job is to help them stay awake, to actually pay attention and consider what you are saying. Next time you practice a presentation, note how many of the following strategies you actually use. Then add a couple more. You don’t want your audience to look like this.

  1. Start by telling your audience what they will take away from your talk. What are three things worth paying attention to and remembering? One of my talks starts with: “When you leave after two hour workshop, you will know how to (1) organize a talk and save hours of time; (2) use my professionally designed slides to categorize information on your slides and keep your audience engaged; and (3) feel more confident and excited about giving a presentation.
  2. Speak less than the time allotted. When you begin, say, “I know I have 30 minutes. I will only talk for 15, and then let’s discuss what I’ve said.” Your audience will think to themselves, “OK, I can listen for 15 minutes.” Plus, they will be happy not to have to listen as long as they expected.
  3. Use silence effectively. When you are playing catch and you throw the ball to someone, you find yourself waiting—will the other player catch it, and how? You don’t throw ball after ball without looking to see if the person caught one of them. When you make a statement, it’s like playing ball—you have to wait in silence to see how people receive it. Don’t keep throwing more and more words without giving your audience the chance to catch each sentence.
  4. Pause periodically. Silence not only gives your audience a chance to digest your information—it also gives them permission to participate. When you pause, you non-verbally tell your audience that they can interrupt you. Your pause makes people feel comfortable—that you are encouraging them to jump in and speak. If you talk nonstop, you will never engage your audience.
  5. Emphasize key words. If you speak in the same voice tone throughout the entire presentation, no one knows what is really important. Make it obvious to your audience what they really need to pay attention to.
  6. Use numbers, and emphasize them. A person can pay attention better when you say, “There are three strategies to solve this situation. Number 1 is… Number 2 is… Number 3 is…” Every time you say a number, it reengages your audience’s attention and helps their brains to listen.
  7. Remind your audience of the benefits of what you just told them. I frequently say something like, “By using these professionally designed slides you will feel more confident when speaking, and you’ll be able to make eye contact with your audience because you won’t be reading the slides.”
  8. Add some emotion or humor to your talk. People can only sit and listen to someone spouting facts at them for so long. You have to engage the “child” part of your audience by using emotional words. “I’m excited today to be here to tell you some good news.” Or “The TEAM did some hard grueling work and came up with this amazing new way to visualize the product.”
  9. Tell a story that interests your audience. We all love stories—especially ones that have some emotion connected to them. Tell a story within 5 to 8 minutes of starting your talk.
  10. Say these words: “You, Your”. When starting say, “I am delighted to see all of you here.” Later on say, “As you know, we have this situation. First, you will hear some ideas and then please give your opinions about how we can change this situation.”
  11. Do something unexpected. One of my clients stopped talking in the middle of his presentation, blanked out the screen and said, “OK, you’ve heard enough of the possibilities of using this new program, let’s discuss your views so far.” The energy changed in the room. People started talking and came to some understandings before he went on. Another presenter passed out several products and asked people to talk about them.
  12. Give people “brain food”. Literally, give them food, and I don’t mean donuts. Here are some ideas: almonds, walnuts, cashews, small cups of bananas and blueberries, dark chocolate, small turkey sandwiches, yogurt (without the sugar), green tea. These foods will help them concentrate, which means they will be more engaged with you.

One last word: If you yourself aren’t engaged, then you might as well forget it. Find some way to motivate yourself to be excited about your talk—you can’t expect your audience to carry you or motivate you. You are the one in front of the group, so it’s up to you to bring the interest and curiosity into the room. You don’t have to be an over-the-top enthused presenter. By using these strategies, you can exude quiet engagement.
Which ones will you start with?
PS: You may think you do these things already, but until you record yourself and watch, or ask someone else to critique you, you may just be fooling yourself.

12 Most Ingenious Ways to Respond to an “Unusual” Idea

Frequently, my clients ask me what to do when someone in the audience brings up an idea that just does not make sense, at least at the moment. They really do not think it is appropriate to say to the person: “I don’t know where you got that idea, but it does not make any sense at all to me….. “ or “I don’t see how anyone in their right mind would think this is a good idea.”
So let’s assume then that the idea does not really sound viable and that you have managed to quell your initial tendencies to summarily dismiss it. How can you use this situation an opportunity to gain support from your audience? Here are some options.

Go for the logic. Stand in the logical way of discussing the idea.

  1. Ask for elaboration: “How do you see that working in this situation?” Let the person give a broader view of how this idea might work. Frequently, you may find the person does not have the view of how it might work in real life. Or the person may really have an idea you just never considered.
  2. Ask for proof: “Where have you seen that working in another situation?” Maybe they know about something you have not yet discovered.
  3. Ask for consequences: “What positive or negative consequences do you see if we go down this path?” You can ask this to the questioner or you can ask this to the audience.
  4. Ask for others to chip in: “How does someone else see this idea—any additions or changes to it that you want to discuss?”
  5. Bring up a goal: “Our goal is x. How do you see this idea getting us to our goal?”
  6. State the “big issue” you see with this idea. “At the moment as I consider this idea, here is one big issue that might occur. Would this be acceptable?”

Go for the “Yes, Maybe” and Feeling

  1. Agree diplomatically: “Yes, that is a possibility. Let’s discuss how we might carry out this idea.” You are sending a positive feeling to the person who brought this up. Most of us like to be agreed with before we are told that our idea may not work.
  2. Agree hesitantly with a feeling reservation: “I’m not sure about this, it doesn’t feel quite right to me but let’s go into more detail and discuss.” Here you are not giving a “yes” right away, but you are sending a message that you want to discuss this more. You are also saying from a feeling standpoint you are not sure about it.
  3. Agree with certain conditions: Add some detail that might make the idea work. For example, you might say: “Well, if you also do x and y, then it might work.” Then discuss whether it makes sense to do x and y.

Go for the opinions

  1. State your opinion: “In my opinion this will not work, but let me suspend that and let’s discuss.”
  2. Ask for person’s opinion: “In your opinion, do you believe we could really do this and make it work?”
  3. Ask the group’s opinion: “Let me ask the group. What are your opinions about this working”?

These responses help you establish an open commutation channel. You don’t want anyone to lose face.You don’t want to come off as dogmatic and not open to ideas. Use the opinion questions to separate the facts from the opinions. Be open because what sounds like a lousy idea can sometimes turn into a really good idea. The way to be open is to encourage a dialogue. Pick several of these ideas and use them next time in a meeting.

Talk and Add Value–Don’t Read the Slide

Talk! Add Value! Reading and Conveying Data is Not a Presentation

A typical boring PowerPoint presentation includes the speaker reading the slide and that’s usually about it. That is backwards. This upside-down pyramid shows how conveying the data itself is one small piece – and perhaps the smallest – of your presentation. Your task as a speaker is to communicate information that is not on the slide. Stop reading the slide. Start adding value and interest as you speak. Let’s start at the bottom of the pyramid.

Convey: First, convey your data, which may mean reading the numbers or text on the slide. You might tell your audience that the purchase of a new production machine will cost $500, 000. Most times you don’t even have to read the numbers; your audience can see them.

Add to: Second, add information to the data by telling your audience that this machine will allow the company to increase its inventory, which is critical because the manufacturing plant is now running at capacity. If you don’t add to and explain the number you are conveying, your audience does not know how to think or feel about agreeing to purchase a new machine.

Interpret: Third, interpret the data and give it meaning. Help your audience make a decision by telling them why the information is important and what it means to them. For example, your audience may be wondering if this machine really is necessary right now. You can help them make up their minds by stating, “The sales group is about to sign an agreement for an alliance with a vendor who wants to sell our products. We will need more inventory.” Now you are interpreting the data and giving it meaning.

Share your vision: Fourth, if appropriate, share a vision: “I know that this investment will pay off and lead to increased revenue when our partner starts to sell for us. They have already ordered more products than we have on hand.”

When you as the speaker actually “add value” to what you are showing on the slide, your audience stays engaged. The slide has the job to convey, but you have the other “3” jobs on the communication pyramid. To convince your audience, you must add to the data, interpret it, and share your vision. Then they will want to listen.

12 Most Tongue-in-Cheek Reasons Not to Worry About Your Audience

When my clients are nervous about speaking in front of an audience, they tend to exaggerate their own importance to their listeners. Here is a somewhat tongue-in-cheek list to help you realize that, while you are in front of your audience, they each have their own world going on while listening to you.

  1. They need sleep: At least one-quarter of your audience members are sleep deprived. All they hope is that you’ll keep them awake.
    They are saying: Please be interesting enough so I don’t fall asleep and embarrass myself.
  2. They walked into the room already overwhelmed with data: As long as you don’t add to their confusion trying to assimilate and sort too much information, they will be content.
    They are thinking: Please don’t confuse my brain with more data that doesn’t really make sense to me.
  3. They’ve got to use your information: Some people have to do something with your information and they’re hoping you’ll make it easy for them to figure it out.
    They are begging you: Please – just clearly tell me the next steps.
  4. They are relieved they’re not the ones presenting: Many listeners are just glad they’re not up there having to talk. You can do almost anything as long as you don’t call on them.
    They are pleading: Please just leave me alone. Don’t embarrass me in front of these people.
  5. They want you to do well: Some people feel responsible for what goes on around them and are hoping you don’t act so nervous because that will make them very uncomfortable.
    They are anxiously wishing: Please behave so I don’t have to figure out how to rescue you.

  6. They are hungry: Some people are plotting how to get to the other side of the room for a chocolate-chip cookie. This also might keep them awake.
    They are distracted: Please just give us a two-minute stretch so I can bolt to those cookies.
  7. They need to go to the restroom: They are praying for some type of pause in your topic or someone asking a question so they can sneak out.
    They are hoping: Please take questions so I can unobtrusively get out of here.
  8. They want to show off, not listen to you: A couple of people want to impress someone in the room. They are waiting to interrupt you and show how smart they are.
    They are impatiently judging: Is this the right time to make my point?
  9. They’ve got to report on your presentation: Several are seriously listening as they have to report back on your talk’s content. They’re trying to figure out what to say back in the team meeting.
    They are wishing: Please make it easy for me to report in my staff meeting next week.
  10. They are daydreaming: Some are thinking about their new car, the baby at home, the great dinner they had last weekend, or their upcoming vacation.
    They are enjoying themselves: It’s great to have some time to daydream.
  11. They are generating new ideas: Some people’s brains are going overtime with new ideas you have given them.
    They are eagerly waiting to stand up and say: I’ve got a better idea about this situation. Here it is.
  12. Your boss is hoping you are successful: Your boss wants you to come across as smart, on top of the topic and confident.
    The boss is anxiously thinking: Yes, that’s it! Keep making the team look good. Just don’t goof up too badly.

    Given the nature of the fairly typical audience mix I just described, you really don’t have to worry about how much attention they are truly giving you – except, of course, for the people who have to report back or use your information. You may be standing in front of them, but the chances that are you are center stage inside their minds are maybe 50/50. So the next time you start getting anxious about a presentation, remember that your listeners have their own agendas going on. You will be able to relax, which of course will give you more confidence – and then you will capture the attention of more of your audience!