Build Your Leaders

Archive for the ‘selling’ Category

Seek Connection Over Perfection

October 6th, 2013

Great communicators seek connection over perfection. Connection is crucial for communication to take place, and few of us can connect, or identify, with someone who appears perfect. Perfection is rarely reality, and we seek out people who are real.

Most of the executives I coach falsely believe their presentations must be perfect. They put tremendous pressure on themselves to say the right words, the right way, at the right time, all the time. Under this kind of pressure, it's no surprise so many of them would rather eat glass than present in public.

Think back to a recent conversation you had with a friend. You probably can't remember the exact words he or she used but you can remember the point he or she wanted to make. Great communication is far more than the words we use.

Great presenters focus on their audiences and not on a script. Research tells us our words - the actual words we use - account for only seven percent of our credibility as a speaker. Visual and vocal cues make up the remaining 93 percent.

When we strive to be word perfect, we do ourselves a disservice. In the unlikely event that our speech flows like milk and honey, it can also curdle for we appear scripted, stilted and not our natural, authentic selves.

If we stumble and lose our place, we do not have to lose our credibility. We can simply acknowledge we have lost our place and take a few seconds to find it. Most audiences want us to succeed as speaker. They will be patient as we find our place and resume our talk.

If we misquote a figure or statistic, we simply correct ourselves. Most audiences won't think twice about the correction.

If we don't know the answer to a hard question, we say so, but promise to find out the answer and get back to the questioner. Audiences will appreciate our honesty and responsiveness.

Audiences may not expect perfection, but they do demand humanity. They want to connect with the speaker above all else. They want to get to know us; they want to know that we can be trusted. Showing them our vulnerability accomplishes these important tasks.

We can be competent and not perfect. Competence comes from knowing your stuff, and many times we learn our stuff from the mistakes we make.

One of my more effective speeches was entitled, "Confessions of a Reformed Manager." In it, I recounted ten miserable mistakes I had made as a new manager. The audience of new managers was mesmerized during the hour-long presentation for they felt a real affinity with me. By exposing my flaws, I had invited them into my home. By sharing my humanity, we could walk on common ground.

In conclusion, great speakers combine competence with vulnerability. They seek connection over perfection. They know their stuff and are not afraid to show us who they are.

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The Power of the Pause

June 2nd, 2013

Psychologists say a typical group will withstand about fifteen seconds of silence before someone breaks the silence and speaks. There’s tension in silence yet power in the pause.

“The right words may be effective,” said Mark Twain, “but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.”

Great presenters understand the power of the pause and use it appropriately.  Pauses are especially effective when they are used to:

–  Establish authority

–  Emphasize important points

–  Regain lost attention

–  Allow time for key points to soak in

–  Close the sale

There are many different types of pauses, the most important of which are:

SENSE PAUSES: One-half to one second in length, these pauses are like using a comma when we write.

TRANSITIONAL PAUSES: Transitional pauses are one or two seconds in length and separate one thought from another like a period in writing.

REFLECTIVE PAUSES: These pauses last two to four seconds and emphasize points you want listeners to remember.

DRAMATIC PAUSES: Three seconds or longer, dramatic pauses create anticipation for a startling or pivotal point.

When we present, we have a suspended sense of reality. To the audience, a brief pause is only a blimp on the screen but to the presenter it feels like a lifetime.

Quite often I challenge students to experiment with pauses. After making a crucial point, I ask them to pause and count, “one-Mississippi, two-Mississippi, three-Mississippi, four-Mississippi,” before moving on to their next point. After the presentation, I have them check in with their audience to see if the pause was too long. Audiences always say no.

Pausing and pacing can be teamed for more powerful presentations. When I work with more advanced students, we often experiment with this technique. The speaker delivers one thought to one person, then walks three steps in silence, plants, and offers the next point. Their audiences watch and wait in silence, eager for the speaker to resume.

Pausing is also effective for those of us who talk fast when we present. I coach students with rapid-fire delivery to slow down and pause.  By pausing they allow audiences time to consider and digest what is being said as well as refocus their attention.

Like any technique, pauses should be used in moderation. When used appropriately, pauses make us more powerful speakers.

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Secrets of Powerful Presenters

March 2nd, 2013

Students of my presentation training often tell me one of the “pearls of wisdom” they value most is learning how to distinguish between a performance and communication orientation.

Speakers with a performance orientation view audiences as critics who are judging how they make their presentation. As a result, these presenters become over-focused on their wording and delivery. Presenters with a communication orientation focus on connecting and communicating with their audiences. They look at presentations as conversations, not performances, and enjoy one-to-one, friendly, personal connection with individuals in the audience.

Understanding the difference between hypervigilance and attunement can be as valuable to great communicators as shifting from a performance to a communications orientation.

When we are hypervigiliant, we are constantly looking for signals that we are not loved, appreciated, respected, cared about and helped enough. We are stressed, fearful and anxious, grounded in a flight-or-fight mentality.

Twenty years ago, I was appointed general manager of a large public relations firm and charged with building the Atlanta office. Although I did my best to cover it up, I lived in constant fear I might fail.

Uneasy in my new role, I became hypervigiliant. Something as simple as an employee’s suggestion that we do something in a different way felt like a direct assault on my authority. I heard the employee’s suggestion as a criticism that I was not good enough.

Once I became more self-aware and comfortable with myself and my abilities, I began to operate from a place of attunement. I was more relaxed and receptive. My desire was to know, understand, communicate and connect. I was no longer threatened by suggestions.  Instead, I welcomed them.

When we are attuned, we resonate with ourselves and other people. We seek connection over safety.

To find attunement, we must first be attuned to ourselves. We have to separate our feelings from those of other people. Becoming aware of our bodies helps us accomplish this.

To tune into your body, take a deep breath, release it fully and drop deep inside. Scan your body. Notice what you are physically feeling. Are you tense? Relaxed?  If so where? Just notice, don’t judge.

Monitor emotions, thoughts, judgments, tension and calm. Ask yourself, “What am I feeling now?”

Psychotherapist Charlotte Kasl in her wonderful book If the Buddha Married offers these additional questions to help us be more attuned to ourselves and others:

  • What is going on with me?
  • Am I afraid?  Am I angry?  Am I hurting?
  • Am I calm?  Am I open?
  • Am I really asking for what I want?
  • Did I agree to something that I don’t really want to do?
  • Are feelings of inadequacy or confidence underlying my words?
  • Am I being honest?
  • Is there a more skillful way to handle the situation?

When we think we know what another is feeling it can be valuable to ask if we are projecting our own feelings onto others. Is it us or them who are feeling angry, elated, hurt or content?

The journey toward connection challenges us to become more self-aware. By shifting from hypervigilance to attunement, we own our feelings, become more open and receptive and pave the way for authentic communication.

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How to Build Your Personal Brand

November 12th, 2012

Everything you do in life – from the way you dress to the car you buy, from the friends you see to the club you belong, from the notes you write to the way you speak — either builds or diminishes your personal brand. Below are ten suggestions for building a stronger personal brand.

One:  Become an expert source. Deliver a speech, write a bylined article, post on social networks, and become an expert source for reporters.  Make sure you have a current photo, bio, resume, and speaker introduction. Check your “Google index” to ensure that you are searchable.

Two:  Become a great communicator. Research shows communications skill is the top determinant for upward social and professional mobility.  Join Toastmasters or hire a communications coach to ensure that your written and verbal skills are at their best.

Three:   Draft a marketing plan for yourself annually, and review it quarterly. Include specific goals, strategies, action steps, and a timetable.

Four:  Develop an ‘elevator speech.” Within the time that it takes an elevator to travel one floor – about 60-seconds – be able to deliver a succinct description of what you do, how you do it differently, and the benefit it provides.

Five:  Build your Rolodex. Okay, so we don’t have Rolodexes any more. Build new business contacts and stay in touch with them.  Most people with powerful brands have powerful friends.

Six:  Realize that your boss can be your most powerful ally — or enemy — in building your brand. Be loyal and never speak ill of him or her – to anyone.  We should make our bosses look good, and help them build their own brands.

Seven:  Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Balance your individual style with clothing that will appeal to those you are trying to impress.

Eight:  Become a class act. Learn good business and social etiquette.  Buy elegant personal stationery and send hand-written notes.  Know how to order a good bottle of wine in a fine restaurant and drink it sparingly during dinner.  (Remember, alcohol and branding seldom mix.)

Nine:  Select “significant” significant others. Who you date or who you marry affects your brand.  John Hancock CEO David F. D’Alessandro in his book Career Warfare: 10 Rules for Building a Successful Personal Brand and Fighting to Keep It, suggests that single people not take their dates to company events.  If they do, they will be judged by the outcome of every romance.

Ten:  Give something back. Giving your time, talent, and money to charitable causes is a brand-builder especially when it complements your brand strategy.  Find a cause you are passionate about.  When I was in public relations, I wanted to be known for my creativity.  By limiting my community involvement to arts organizations I was able to reinforce my personal brand.   Not only did my involvement in the arts benefit my career, I enjoyed the work.  I still do.

Your personal brand is one of your greatest business assets.  Nurture your brand, and you will nurture your career.

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