Category “Confident Behaviors”

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.

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 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!

13 Most Convincing Actions that Get Senior Management to Sit Up and Listen to You

Here is your goal! You want to come across as totally knowledgeable about the content, confident and credible. You are presenting to upper management, investors, the Board or key customers. Here’s what your audience is looking, and not looking, for.

  1. Don’t waste their time. Be sure you talk to two people in the audience ahead of time. Make sure that the information you are discussing is exactly the information they believe your audience will need and want.
  2. Don‘t bore them by reading the agenda. An executive once told me, “I don’t need to listen to someone going through an agenda. He just wasted a minute of the ten minutes he has.” Instead, spend time telling them things they do not know. Look at your content and cut what your audience already knows. Finally, don’t tell them everything you know or everything you have done. Once again, they don’t want or need to hear or respond to it. What they do want to know is just enough in order to decide on the decision you are recommending.
  3. Provide an executive summary. Start by sharing the key messages of your presentation right up front. They don’t want to listen for ten minutes until you get to the punch line. Here are two examples of executive summaries.
    Download a “Change Executive Format” here:

    Download an Influence Executive Format here:

  4. Don’t show many slides—if any. If you do show slides, create images that capture your messages. If you read the slides, you’re done for.
  5. Make time for your listeners to ask questions. Don’t talk so fast and plan to share so much data that your listeners cannot ask questions. Give them time during the talk as well as at the end.
  6. If you are explaining a product or an idea, show or demo it if you can. Seeing it is better than only hearing about it. That’s why companies give out samples.
  7. Keep the jargon out of the talk – unless they use it themselves. It’s your job to translate the jargon into everyday language, so that everyone in your audience understands.
  8. Pause between your sentences. Speak calmly, yet energetically. Don’t bore your audience with your voice. Don’t create a 15-minute talk and try to fit it into a 10-minute slot. Talking fast is not the solution.
  9. Look at each person. It’s supposed to be a conversation. End each sentence looking at someone, not at the paper or the slide. If it’s part of the culture and appropriate in the setting, before you begin your talk and you are meeting people, shake hands firmly and look at the person when you shake hands.
  10. Answer questions truthfully and concisely If you don’t know, don’t try to fake it! One strategy is to say, “That number is not on the tip of my tongue; let me get the figure to you later on today.
  11. If someone disagrees, get curious. Ask a question. Request more information. “Will you say some more about how you see this situation?” Or, “I did not consider this perspective. Let’s talk about it.” Be careful not to put someone down when he or she disagrees with you. Do a practice run. Find a colleague to be really argumentative and practice how to handle the situation.
  12. Be shorter than the time allotted, rather than longer. Save time for comments and questions. For a 20-minute slot, only talk 10-15 minutes.
  13. Be yourself. Film yourself and look at your behaviors. Then get rid of the bad habits such as holding your hands in front of you or saying “um.” Keep the good habits, such as pausing between sentences and speaking only about the details your audience needs to know.

These are not difficult behaviors to learn. You just have to practice them before you get up in front of an audience of executives. There are two pieces to a presentation: content and delivery. Prepare the content early enough that you have time to practice delivery; then rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. To add the frosting on the cake of your presentation rehearsal, find someone to ask you all the tough questions. The more you rehearse to sound confident and credible with your presentation, the more you will get your audience to sit up and listen. I challenge you to rehearse 3-4 times for the next important presentation.

Seize the Opportunity

I almost did not seize this opportunity. Several years ago I received a request for a proposal from a Fortune 100 company. In my mind I heard the advice, “You can’t respond to this. You are a sole proprietor. You don’t have consultants all around the country to teach your Get to the Message workshop.”

I called a colleague who had a bigger company and we discussed working together…BUT she told she wanted 1) to bill the company through her business; 2) to have me train her people for free; 3) to see my materials as she did not know what they were like; and 4) to take half the profits. By the time she finished giving me her requirements, I was livid. I hung up and in anger decided to respond on my own. I told myself, “If I am selected, it will be because of my company.”

I was motivated to seize the opportunity by someone talking to me in a very condescending manner. This was a gigantic blessing I realized much later. After the written proposal and the 2 hour presentation, my company Wilder Presentations was selected as their vendor of choice. Now we teach 15-20 classes every year for them around the country using consultants I have trained. In this situation I confess I only seized the opportunity after being put down and feeling very angry.

A year ago I received another request for a proposal from a Fortune 500 company. In my mind I heard, “Are you crazy? You don’t have consultants around the world. You can’t meet their requirements.” This time I decided that I would put in a proposal even if the odds did not seem in my favor. I was asked to come and give a presentation. My company Wilder Presentations was selected as one of their communication and presentation executive coaches. In this situation I seized the opportunity, even when the odds seemed very much against me. I did not have to get angry. I had moved to the next stage of “Going For It!” The saying, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained” gave me the courage to put myself in the selection process.

Now I coach myself every week: “What dreams do you have and are you seizing the opportunities that will help you manifest them?” Take some actions today. Don’t prejudge a person or a company that can help you. Don’t wait until you feel irritated about not taking any actions. Make your plan and go for it.

So I wonder with you. What helps you seize the opportunities that may be around the corner or perhaps right in front of you? How can you grab them and immerse yourself in the possibilities?

PS: For those of you who need more presentation practice…what presentation opportunities can you seize?

It’s Not Necessary to Get a Laugh

Robert very seriously asked me, “Can you give me a joke to start my presentation?”
I replied, “Are you a good joke teller?”
“No,” he responded, “but I think I’m supposed to start a presentation with a joke.”
“Well, yes,” I explained, “you could do that if you are really good at telling appropriate jokes, but since you say you are not that good, I wouldn’t do it.” Then I added, “Do you like and want to keep your job?”

Should you start with a joke? Almost never in a business presentation, I believe. You may object, “But I want to get my audience to laugh.” A joke is only one form of humor—one that comedians study and practice for years to be good at their craft. If you really want to tell jokes, then take a workshop. Practice in the workshop, not in front of your colleagues or customers. Here are some ideas for being funny if you really don’t have the personality of a nightclub humorist.

  1. Stories: There are true, funny stories appropriate to different situations. Those are usually easier to tell than jokes. Stories I’ve heard from my clients include: got on the wrong plane and realized it too late or showing up for a Board presentation and having the wrong set of financial numbers but presenting them anyway. Cartoon: Show a humorous cartoon. I saw one that has a funny-looking character advertising “Ark Building 101” with the caption, “Plan Ahead: It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark.” This could be a way to start a project update, report on disaster recovery or pitch a new process. At the start of another meeting, the leader wanted to discuss how to cut down on meeting time. On the screen, as people walked in, she had: “Meeting: that’s where people keep minutes but waste hours.”
  2. Make fun of yourself: Another way to relax the audience and perhaps get a laugh is to make fun of your own behavior. For many people this is easier than trying to tell a joke, and it often comes naturally when you are having a dialogue with the audience and something pops into your mind. For example, when I’m talking about communication techniques, I frequently throw in some of my experiences of floating down a river in Alaska for 14 days with my brother and his friend—both fighter pilots. Examples I act out include the dialogue of my brother yelling at me on how to throw myself head long in the raft so he does not float away without me or when he tells me to walk five minutes to the raft by myself through bear country and I tell him he is crazy that even if I had a gun I would probably shoot myself with it. The dialogue people hear either gets them laughing or shaking their heads in disbelief.

There is a payoff when using humor and getting the audience to chuckle—people think you are more human. That makes them relax and be more receptive to your recommendations. You will also create an atmosphere where people are more likely to ask questions and really get at the heart of the issue under discussion.
One thing you should not do with humor: never do or say anything that risks offending someone. Know your audience—you can make fun of yourself, but not of them. So when in doubt, cut it out.
And one last piece of advice: if you are planning to say or do something that you think is funny, ask several colleagues for their opinions first. Do a practice rehearsal with your humor, then ask, “Would you do or say this?” Their answer will guide you.

Use Your Will Power, Recuperate: Don’t Give Up

Recuperate and keep moving towards your goals and dreams, do not let obstacles stop you In a presentation when something unexpected occurs you can’t look at your audience and say, “Sorry, I’m having trouble as this is not what I planned. I just want to stop.” You must use your will power and go on like Nike’s motto, “Just do it.” Isn’t that what life is all about?

This came to me last night. I was on my way to a BUILD event in Boston. BUILD’s mission is to use entrepreneurship to excite and propel disengaged low-income students through high school to college success. All the 100 students in California went on to college!! They now have 100 youth in Boston who will create a product, build a business and sell the product—for real!! I printed the evite with the address as well as Google directions. My GPS did not have the address but I told myself, “No problem you have printed directions.” Well, one hour later (should have taken me 20 minutes) I am still driving around the street. So far I’ve asked directions from a porter at a hotel, a taxi driver, two policemen and three pedestrians. I was about ready to quit. This was not the evening I planned. Then I asked a bus driver. He says, “Follow me.” I do. Finally he stops the bus, gets out, points to the building and smiles. Best bus ride I ever had!!

I arrive just as the last the student presentation concludes. Frustration mounted and I felt like turning around and leaving. I’d already expended enough energy trying to get there. BUT I stayed and met some wonderful people with great ideas for a product I’m creating as well as learning more about BUILD. It was one of the best networking experiences I’ve had.

Remember, whatever situation you are in, you always have time to use your will power, recuperate and make it positive. Don’t let your unmet expectations that did not happen stop you from recuperating and finding ways to make the experience positive for you and for whoever is around you.

I’d love to hear an experience, where you used your will power, recuperated and made the experience a success.

“To assert your willpower is simply to make up your mind that you want something, and then refuse to be put off.” – Phillip Cooper

Stop 6 Boring PowerPoint Habits in 2012

Make yourself six New Year’s Resolutions to stop pulling the power out of PowerPoint. Yes, there is so much talk about how boring and overdone PowerPoint presentations have become. But many of you still have to give them! I suggest you stop these six bad habits. You’ll engage your audience and save days of your life – and no one will ever call your presentations boring or overdone again.

  1. Stop making twice as many slides as you need for the just-in-case scenario. I have never seen even one client who did not have too many slides when we started working together. “But,” you say, “what if someone asks me a question and I can’t find the answer in my ten backup slides?” I suggest you tell the person you will get back to him or her in the next six hours. That should be sufficient. Spend the time working on your key business objectives, which I guarantee have almost nothing to do with creating ten extra PowerPoint slides.
  2. Stop organizing 40 minutes of data for a 20-minute talk. That means plan for 10-15 minutes of talking with time for discussion. Do not create 20 slides and then decide which ones to keep or cut. That is a total waste of time. Instead, set up your presentation’s structure and then fill in the details. Tell your audience, “I know you have come to a 20-minute talk. I will be speaking 10-15 minutes, and then we can discuss.” They’ll love you, especially when they find out that you’re not overloading them with unnecessary and inappropriate details. Of course, I know this suggestion will not work for every situation. For example, a TED talk is supposed to be a certain length.
  3. Stop writing those “perfect” long sentences on your slides. First of all, you are not supposed to put sentences on your slides. You are going to argue, “But sometimes people are not there and they need my slides.” Believe me; no one wants to look through a slide deck that has sentence after sentence. It’s boring and usually doesn’t make sense. Keep your audience from going nuts trying to read the words and listen to you at the same moment. Make yourself a rule of how many words to put on a slide and stick to it. For sure, don’t have the same word on a slide more than one time.
  4. Stop telling yourself you don’t have time to rehearse out loud. Here’s the ratio of preparation to rehearsal time for most people who are talking for twenty minutes.2011: 8 hrs to create slides + 10 minutes to think about the delivery with no rehearsal = boring and overdone

    Change the ratio:

    2012: 6 hrs to create slides + 1 hour to rehearse = a confident presentation and audience engagement

    People generally look and sound more confident when they have practiced out loud. Do it and you’ll be impressed with yourself!!

  5. Stop thinking you are a graphic designer. Do not spend hours creating weird shapes just to make a simple point. Save yourself hours, even days, of time. Graphic design is an art, like sewing your own clothes. Trained graphic designers do know what they are doing. Most of us never went to school for this and should not attempt anything too fancy. What a graphic designer can do in 15 minutes will take you 2 hours and it won’t even look that good, no matter how many times you put shadows around the shapes.
  6. Stop giving a presentation that is only about showing slides. Consider having some slides if you must, but then blanking out the screen and telling a story, showing a product or if you are brave, having a group dance your presentation. Check this out.

More importantly spend time asking your audience for their feedback and comments.

I am sure you would like more hours in your days. So go cold turkey and make a resolution to stop these bad behaviors in 2012. I dare you to try these ideas and let me know what happens. Happy New Year!

Prepare for Your Presentation Like a Tango Dancer

Prepare for Your Presentation Like a Tango Dancer

Presenting is like dancing tango: prepare so you’ll be asked to perform again!

Whether leading or following, the dancer should not depend on the partner for balance. The same is true for presenters. We should not depend on our audience to motivate us, spark our enthusiasm and keep us energized.

How does an Argentine tango dancer prepare? Well, surprisingly, after going through the basic steps, many famous dancers have told me that the most important exercise is to practice without a partner! In other words, the dancer needs to be able to do the moves by him or herself without relying on another person. Read the rest of this entry »

Alexander Technique for Sitting

Here’s an idea for sitting. Leland has these wonderful images that really show you the different ways people sit. Remember, people watch you all the time. You want to look attentive and in charge. I also find the Alexander Technique has taught me how to relax more of my body more of the time. This helps me “think” clearer.