This is the second in a series of Pet Peeves. While the title includes "#2", the numbering is NOT to be interpreted as any sort of ranking. We'll aggregate my Pet Peeves into a ranked list. I feel fairly confident this will be the first of many and a Top 10 List will not be hard to compile. (Aarrgghh!!)
Here's #2: "sort of" and "kind of"
I listen to NPR a lot while I am in the car. Few things will make me change the station faster than a person who's speech is littered with 'sort of' and 'kind of'.
It reeks of equivocation as if the person would love to grow a backbone but can't quite take on the responsibility of having an actual point of view. It's as if you are saying, "I kind of have a strong opinion about this but I will kind of hedge my bets." Perhaps this is a natural outcome of living in a culture of political correctness where expressing any strong opinion may stir up some (Gasp!) CONTROVERSY.
If you are using these phrases, STOP RIGHT NOW. You are destroying your credibility.
Happily, I am not the only one who feels this way. Andrea Kay of Gannett newspapers has written a piece titled, "At Work: Put your discourse on a diet; remove fillers"
The subtitle of the piece is great: "'Kind of,' 'sort of' have no place in a workplace where precision is valued."
"It's sort of become the new normal. And well, we can sort of concoct different scenarios."
"He is sort of, like a sort of version of himself."
"This is the sort of, like a thing, we used to do. … And I felt like it was sort of my life at that moment."
"I sort of, I kind of want to tell them that it's OK. … I felt we would always sort of be ahead of them."
"That was kind of, sort of a goal. We're going to kind of see."
"They haven't done much to kind of, sort of repair their reputation."
"I thought it was sort of true."
"They tend to be sort of in the age group."
Recently my team and I were preparing to deliver a series of keynote presentations on a big stage, under a cascade of lights, on a screen that dwarfs most movie theatre screens and in front of an audience that included hundreds of our colleagues and coworkers. Frankly, I love presenting in settings like this. I feel at home, safe and secure. However, I know that's unusual, so as my team prepared for this set of high-profile presentations I shared this with them.
Before we get to the practices I shared with my team, you should know this: though a stage is one of my favorite places to be, the counter-intuitive reality is that I'm an introvert. Yes, I am an introvert that loves public speaking. Really? How does that work? My take is that when you get it right, speaking in front of a large audience is a very comfortable, personal, and even safe place to be. However, to get to that point I believe in two things: First, public speaking is not natural. It's not something you're born with. And second, the best speakers who make it look natural, like public speaking is part of their DNA, continually practice communicating with zen-like focus. There are all sorts of best practices, courses, advice and suggestions to master. The Henderson Group shares some of the most powerful ones here, SpeakFearlessly.
Out of all of the lessons, articles and training, and years delivering a mix of both good and bad presentations, here is a list of the five most important practices I always come back to.
1. Audience. Know your audience. That's easy to say, but challenging to do – and it's especially challenging when presenting to a diverse crowd. Going back to the example I mentioned earlier, my team was presenting to our sales team (which included tenured reps, newbies, technical sales engineers, inside telesales teams), plus all of marketing, members from finance and legal teams, and our entire executive team. How do you target your presentation in a case like that? To answer that question, paint a picture of the most important kind of audience member you need to reach in order to make the biggest impact. Back to my example, I targeted my presentation to a brand new sales rep. Someone who needed a simple, clear and impactful message that would be easy to remember. After you know who you are talking to, now you can focus on what you'll say.
2. Story arc and talk track. I write out my talk track verbatim. I don't deliver it that way, but writing it out word-for-word makes the first few sentences, the last moments, and every transition crisp, clear and intentional. Once written out, I practice it about 40 times that way. I read it out loud, standing as if I'm presenting at least 10 times. Then I try it without the script. The first 10 times without the script are painful. I usually begin sweating after I struggle through my second sentence. I get nervous because I can barely remember a thing and to make matters worse, when I try to improvise it's a nightmare. So I get the script again and focus on nailing the first sentence of each topic/slide. By the time I get to going through it the 25th time or so, I'm not nervous and I finally get it. By the time I get to the 30th time, I start to get excited that I'm starting to master it. Then I practice the transitions that give me the most difficulty and are most important to nail. By the 40th time or so, I start to forget the verbatim script and deliver the presentation "naturally".
Is your presence filling the room? The next two points help you command the room. Even at 6'4" and 175 lbs, I have a lot of trouble “filling the room” – especially when it’s a huge auditorium – so I gave up on that, and I suggest you do the same. Don't try to fill the room. Instead, make the room smaller. Making the room smaller works for anyone, regardless how big, little, loud or soft you are. Here's how I do it.
3. Delivery. Do this when you practice your script, and more importantly, do it when you deliver it: use plenty of space, time and pauses. On stage a few seconds of silence feel like a long uncomfortable eternity. Learn to insert these un-natural feeling pauses until you are comfortable with the cadence. When you use them with an audience they open up the air, they make your points easier to understand, they make the room hang on your next word. You'll start to love what used to be uncomfortable, but you have to practice it this way … and then avoid the urge to omit the pauses and "just do it normal" when you present.
4. More on delivery. This is a very minor detail, but I find it tremendously powerful. Most speakers either look over (i.e. on top of the heads of the) audience. Or they glance at certain people for a brief second at a time, then look at someone else, then somewhere else, then shift their glance again. Instead, try focusing on a single person for a full thought, phrase or idea, just like you are talking to him in person. Then, when you take a pause (the pause you practiced in point 3), shift your view, focus and attention to another person in the audience and continue the next idea, phrase or thought. This is something you also need to practice, or at least I do. I practice it with your pauses by looking at various objects in the room where I practice. What happens when you do this is that the person you talk to feels engaged, you are engaged, and the rest of the audience tries to listen in on what looks like a personal conversation to make sure they catch it all. You just made the room very small. This is a tricky one to learn since it's also pretty un-natural at first. But practice it and when you do it on stage you'll feel how it works.
5. Organized rehearsals. When you prepare to present at a big organized event, what the event organizers call rehearsals are rarely that. They usually are logistics sessions: you get up on stage, click through your slides, maybe do a quick voice check, discuss the transitions on/off stage. However, even if it seems casual, use the time. It's valuable. I use it to mentally prepare for the view I'll have when I present. Use that time to get in the moment and think about what the audience will look like and how you want to stand, pivot and wisely use the real estate of the stage. In most cases it is not a time to actually review your content (so be sure to practice before and outside this time). That said, always be ready to review your materials and actually "do the show". It's important to be ready for this because if you get asked to go through your presentation there is usually at least one important person and co-presenter in the rehearsal audience (your boss, the CEO, an industry luminary). The last thing you want is to talk through it casually and risk any other presenters thinking you are not prepared, when in fact you were just being casual. So though it's rare, be ready to present as if it's the real deal.
As I go through these practices the common thread is that a great presentation, and a great presenter is not natural. It's crafted. Focus on the process, enjoy it, and have a blast when you take the stage.
by Terry Gault
I was working with a client recently and he said something that really made me think.
James, a 45 year old director in his company, was venting about how frustrated he was. "Terry, I'm tired and I feel stuck. I've been at three different companies and haven't reached VP level yet…
James thought that moving to a new company would break him free of his 'position stuckness' AND hopefully get him promoted to the next level. But it didn't happen.
"I want to be a Senior VP." James said in a very tired voice. He then went on to say, "It's not my intelligence. It's not my experience or expertise. I know because I am just as smart as my boss and my bosses boss. And I'm tired of working harder. My wife is already complaining about how hard I am working and nothing has changed."
I realized that many of my clients use different words to describe their situation but the underlying message is the same: their skills, experience, and expertise cannot help them any more then they already have.
So, what do higher earners with the same skills, expertise and experience do differently from you?
They represent themselves in a very specific way that has the world increase their income, sales, and revenue.
Back to James …
I started working with James. We worked on how he was representing himself in his meetings with management, partners, peers, and customers.
And then the opportunity presented itself: he was slated to speak to a large group of people in Austin. I worked with James on how he would represent himself to that group. He (and I) got clear about what he wanted from that engagement. James practiced the techniques I showed him, preparing his new way of representing himself.
About 90 minutes after James finished his talk, his senior vice president approached him, "James, We're going to be forming a new team. Would you consider taking on the role of team lead as the new VP?"
So what changed? Did James get smarter? No. Did James express radical new insights? No. Did James come up with a brilliant new idea? No.
What changed was how James represented himself to himself, to the group and to his senior vice president.
If you are serious about increasing your income, sales or revenue for yourself, your team, or your division, then it's this one difference that makes all the difference.
If you are serious about changing this area of your life, then we are willing to help you.
Give us a call and we can see if we might be a fit.
One of my clients turned me on to this TEDx talk by Sam Burns, who was the subject of a HBO documentary.
Our work has to be experienced to truly understand its value. We use these workshops as a way to introduce our work experientially to new prospective clients. With that in mind, we set aside a couple of seats for the right candidates.
Art of Presentation: April 3-4, 2014 in San Francisco
Complete Communicator: May 15-16, 2014 in San Francisco
Super Storytelling: June 12, 2014 in San Francisco
How you represent yourself determines your income, sales, and revenue. Your skills, your experience, and your expertise cannot help you any more than they already have. If you want to increase income, sales or revenue for yourself, your team or your division, then it's this one difference that makes all the difference. If you are serious about changing this area, then we can help. And we're willing to give you some of our time for free. 415-292-7587
We thought this article from Sims Wyeth | Inc. Magazine was well worth sharing – enjoy!
When Steve Jobs got into high gear as a speaker, many people reported that he seemed to have a reality-distortion field around him. No matter how unrealistic his claims at any given moment, people said they couldn't help being mesmerized: his enthusiasm could suspend their disbelief.
In the 1850s, there was another spellbinder not unlike Jobs–a guy named Henry Ward Beecher, a rock star of a preacher whose church in Brooklyn seated 2,800. In the 1850s, he was arguably the most famous man in America.
Here are five ways his contemporaries described his extraordinary appeal. Each of these techniques are timeless. You probably use them in real life already, and you can put them to use to make your presentations surprise and delight an audience.
"He knocked down the stifling solemnity endemic to churches in that era, with a cheerful irreverence that sent shock waves through America. He was like no minister anyone had ever seen. He was bold and funny, a natural actor who made his ideas come alive."
You may not be able to send shock waves through America, but you can bring your good cheer to the front of the room, get relaxed and let you be you, express yourself in your own best way, and make your ideas come alive precisely because you yourself are lively, engaging, and authentic. The pleasure of the listener adds subjective value to the intrinsic value of your message.
"He spoke plainly and with an air of candid personal confession that made him seem at once endearingly sensitive, admirably virile, and completely trustworthy."
So, he used simple language, not Biblical terms or terms of theology. He talked about events in his own life that the audience could relate to. He revealed his minor imperfections, confessing to errors of judgment and personal eccentricities that made him appear vulnerable and made his listeners feel they had an intimate relationship with him.
Let me remind you that it is not selfish or inappropriate to talk about yourself at the start of a talk. Your own story is a large part of your appeal, and if what you say is short, relevant, and helps the audience feel that they know you, tell it.
Be a Story Teller
"He was always natural, always himself, always giving forth his own interior condition, honestly and frankly. His sermons were filled with funny, poignant stories about his personal fortunes and foibles, inviting everyone to identify with him."
Being able to relate your own personal experiences to larger public and corporate issues is a powerful method for generating an intimate connection with an audience. Instead of projecting power and authority using the cold steel of reasoned argument, he projected warmth and intimacy using personal anecdotes, self-effacing humor, and storytelling.
Once he gave a speech in a hot and drowsy town in West Virginia, which was known in lecture circles as "Death Valley." When he rose from his chair, wiping his brow with a large handkerchief, he strode to the front of the platform and said, "It's a God-damned hot day." Then he paused, and raising a finger of solemn reproof, went on, "That's what I heard a man say here this afternoon." He went on to deliver a stirring condemnation of blasphemy.
photo credit: familymwr
It’s all very well to be prepared for a talk or presentation, but if something goes awry (a cell phone rings, the wrong slide pops up, you forget your place, etc), it’s easy to panic. This tends to produce anxiety, and stress = sweaty palms, physical tremors, accelerated heart rate and more. When this happens, we begin to focus on the feeling of anxiety and not what’s happened to interrupt the presentation. This self-misguided focus exacerbates the problem as we berate ourselves inside, then wish we could just disappear completely.
We can spiral downward into deeper and deeper levels of Panic and Paranoia. Or we can follow a simpler six-step process using the acronym ABSORB:
- Aware (You become aware that there is a problem or something has gone 'wrong')
- Breathe (Stop and get your brain the fresh oxygen it needs to function properly)
- Stillness & Silence (Practice stillness and silence to avoid giving away your concern and exerting self-control.)
- Options (Quickly brainstorm things you can do: Bring attention to what is happening? Say nothing? Skip over the offending slide? Check your notes? Turn off your ringing cell phone?)
- React (Choose an option and do it).
- Breathe (Stop again. Did the option you chose work? Evaluate the situation and make sure you are remaining calm. Convey to the audience: “I’ve got this.”)
Situate the notes near a glass or bottle of water. If you do go blank, simply:
- Pick up the water, glancing at your notes as you do so.
- Drink the water, as you gather your thoughts and refocus your energy.
- Set down the water, glancing once more at your notes, if needed.
- Carry on as if the entire act of drinking was carefully planned and choreographed from the get go.
This is the first in a series of Pet Peeves. While the title includes "#1", the numbering is NOT to be interpreted as any sort of ranking. Perhaps later, we'll aggregate my Pet Peeves into a ranked list. I feel fairly confident this will be the first of many and a Top 10 List will not be hard to compile. (Aarrgghh!!)
All that said, here's #1: Prefacing verbs with 'do'.
They really like this on United airlines for their safety announcements (which deserve their own Pet Peeve piece to follow). For example: "Please do observe all lighted signs and placards."
Does the work 'do' really need to be part of that sentence? Wouldn't it be even more effective in it's simpler, clearer form: "Please observe all lighted signs and placards"? Of course it would!
I also see this used frequently in 'professional' emails: "Please do reply with your availability."
In this discussion thread on WordReference.com, they address the "use of do/did before verb" phenomena. One senior member makes the point that the 'do' would be apt for a response to someone who expresses skepticism or disbelief.
B) I understand.
A) I'm not sure that you really understand.
B) I do understand!
Adding "do" to the verb in the present tense adds emphasis to the statement.
Imagine for example, if Martin Luther King Jr. felt his "I Have a Dream" speech needed this extra emphasis …
So, in closing, do pay attention and do follow my advice by leaving out this ridiculous and pointless word when crafting talks and emails. Do use language that is direct and lacking in pretension and unneeded emphasis. Do be direct and do keep your language simple. I hope that you do do this.
Great advice from Geoffrey James | Inc. Magazine
Dressing for success may create a good impression, but people judge your intelligence and credibility based upon what comes out of your mouth. Here are eight verbal habits that immediately mark you as somebody who's either foolish or shifty:
Jargon (aka "biz-blab") consists of hijacking normal words and using them in odd ways to make them sound "businessy." Example: "We're reaching out to our customer advocates to leverage a dialogue on…." While others who speak fluent biz-blab might not take notice or care, everyone else cringes and rolls their eyes.
Fix: Use words as they're defined in the dictionary. Example: "We're contacting our customers to discuss…." That way, you'll sound more like a professional and less like a cartoon businessperson.
These are those metaphors that have been used so frequently that all the juice has been leeched from them. Examples: "out-of-the-box thinking" or "hitting one out of the ballpark." Clichés aren't just unoriginal but also reveal a lack of respect for the listener. If you really cared, you wouldn't trot out these creaky phrases.
Fix: Avoid metaphors completely or use original ones. If that's too hard, tweak the wording of clichés to make them less cliché-ish. Example: my use of "leeched" rather than "squeezed" in the paragraph above. Worst case, adding "proverbial" can refresh a cliché with a pinch of irony. Example: "out of the proverbial ballpark."
Using big, impressive sounding words rather than smaller, common ones can leave listeners with the impression that you're pompous and pretentious. Examples: "assess strategic options and tactical approaches" (i.e. "plan") or "implement communications infrastructure" (i.e. "add wireless"). Fancy-schmancy wording adds bulk and extracts clarity.
Fix: The core problem here is the need to feel as if your business and your activities are more important and impressive than they really are. The fix, therefore, is a big dose of humility. Business is neither rocket science nor brain surgery–it is, in fact, a place where plain talk is both valued and appreciated.
This is when, uh…you insert a word or sound into a sentence when, like…you're pausing to think, um…exactly what you're going to say. I once heard a guy say "um" over 100 times in a five minute presentation. By the end, the audience was practically tearing their collective hair out in annoyance.
Fix: This one is easy. Simply eliminate the hiccup word and pause instead. When you simply pause in silence, rather than trying to fill the thinking space with the hiccup, you end up sounding wise and like you're choosing your words carefully. You may need to record yourself a few times to break the habit, though.
photo credit: db Photography
Apparent teleprompter issues saw the 'Transformers' director, Michael Bay, walk off the stage during Samsung's CES 2014 show.
It’s all very well to be prepared for a talk or presentation, but if something goes awry (a cell phone rings, the wrong slide pops up, you forget your place, etc), it’s easy to panic. It can happen to the best of us! See our post on When Things Go Wrong to prepare, and keep an eye out for our upcoming Prezi on the topic!