Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Eye Contact: Tips for Speakers

Eye contact is essential for the speakers whether you are in a small meeting or addressing a crowd of 1000. Often, failing to use eye contact means you are losing one of the most important tools you have to connect and convince your audience about your message in the speaker audience relationship. Your position as the presenter will establish you as the leader of the group. Research shows that looking away from your audience may signal avoidance, looking at them signals approach and that audiences rate it highly. 

Here are a few tips:

  • Be sure you look at all sections of the room. Don't ignore one side or the other, or favor those in front without looking to the rear of the room. If you have trouble remembering to do this, write directions to yourself in your speech text. Look rear, look left, look right as reminders to yourself.
  • Audiences can sense when you are not connecting with them.  A helpful tip is to make contact with 2 or 3 people in the audience and try to focus on them. Make sure that all 3 are not in the front row, but all over the audience. It really does help to be at your workshop prior to the participants so that you will have time to develop a bond with them, introduce yourself and find out a little bit about each of them that you can refer to when presenting. It really does work in the meeting trainings I have facilitated with co-trainers.
  • Eye contact can also emphasize an important point. Eye contact can be an important tool for visual learners, and can help audiences to remember and retain what you are saying. Use it to emphasize what you want them to recall, to indicate a specific group in the audience or to refer to what a speaker or participant pointed out.
  • Remember, it's great to have a mini chat with your workshop or seminar participants  before the training. It helps to address key members of your audience and refer back or to call on them  during your presentation. Looking over the room and at certain individuals really helps to create a bond between you and your audience. It also help you, the facilitator to relax and to smile more.
  • The most important part of this exercise is to remember to have FUN and to enjoy your presentation.
You will be pleased with yourself and participants will love you.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Great Meeting Facilitation Does Exist

When was the last time you attended a meeting or a conference call that wasn't a major train wreck?

Well it happens more than you may know.  During the past year in 2016, every meeting I attended was poorly facilitated, failing to provide clear action items that needed to be accomplished. During the year there were more meeting than I can recall.  Each day I would attend anywhere from 2 to 5 meetings. Each meeting was always worse than the last one. We started to place bets to see which meeting would be worse than the last one.

Most people facilitating the meetings were unaware of what was to be discussed until the moment they sat down with a surprised look on their face while attendees were either sleeping or meditating, on their lap tops checking email, or sending text messages on their mobile devices. For me, it was the greatest waste of time and money.  Most people reminded me that I should not care because we were still getting paid and that's the way the cookie crumbles, so stop caring. I just couldn't stop caring and kept pushing for better use of our time.

Planning and organizing a great meeting is very easy to accomplish and can be an asset in engaging those in attendance. When conducting meetings I am always aware of the importance of the time of others, which helps me not to waste their time or mine with nonsense or the urge to hear myself talk in circles.

Here are some of the things that I strive for when setting up meetings:

  • Use common sense when planning and scheduling meetings.
  • Never schedule meetings on Monday mornings or late Friday afternoon.
  • All meetings should have a purpose with clear objectives.
  • Prepare an agenda and send it out at least 48 hours in advance.
  • Avoid having attendees go around the room providing updates that no one is really interested in hearing about again.
  • Keep meetings small - no more than 8 people at the max. Only invite key people that really need to be there and who can make decisions.
  • Meetings should be no more than 1 hour. That be should be shared upfront with participants. If extra time is needed to complete a thought or discussion, permission should be requested.
  • No digital devices to distract attendees. It's a great opportunity before the meeting starts for people to check in with each other and say hello as opposed to checking in with their mobile phones. It's just rude, even in today's society, not to mention rude to the facilitator.
  • Lastly, everyone should participate in the meeting, even if it means calling some people out for their feedback.
Give these tips a try when planning your next meeting and I guarantee that it will be a more productive and enjoyable experience.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Working in a Toxic Environment

I assume that many people love their jobs, but I have yet to meet one. Most that I talk to spend their allotted time with me sharing how much they dislike their job and the obnoxious people they have to deal with each day that lack simple social skills that a 2 year may possess. Toxic work environments can cause one to feel physically ill just walking into work. If your job just doesn't have redeeming qualities, your work environment may be toxic in more ways than one. Most staff feel that the benefits are so great that they can't leave their job or they have invested so much time into the job and are focusing on their potential retirement.

As a consultant and contractor, I have worked in a number of toxic environments in the past year. I am shocked each day as the fumes of the toxic waste dump of work hit me at the front door. Many of my clients have been honest enough to say, "Hey Mikael, we are dealing with a  bit of toxicity, so beware". In my latest gig I am working on coaching an organization through a process of change management and rebuilding staff morale. Not an easy task at all. There are many problems with leadership, management and staff with both blaming each other for their difficulties.

A toxic work environment is any job where the work, the atmosphere, the people, or any combination of those things can frustrate you so much that it may cause serious disruptions in the rest of your life. We all know that every job can suck badly from time to time, but if no joy can be found in the work besides waiting for retirement it may not be worth it. Many have shared with me that they enjoy some of their coworkers a lot, but other moody ones tend to drag them down. It's hard not to get pulled into someone else's negative feelings or actions. In many places policies are stifling and managers nitpick and micromanage or manage very poorly. Managers tell me that they hate being forced to perform as parole officers or police. Do any of these things sound familiar?

Here are a few tips to consider: 

  • Know When to Fold and Avoid Putting Energy Into the Untenable
  • Circle the Wagons and Rally Like-Minded Colleagues
  • Document everything, No Seriously, Document Everything
  • Keep a Work Diary that will document everything
  • It may feel personal but know that it's not YOU or your fault
  • Stick to your guns and keep your options open
One thing I would add to this list is not to trust HR in any company.  It was a very difficult lesson for me to learn that HR was created to protect Management and not staff. Not sure why we as staff members never received the memo that they would work hard for us too.  Don't believe it.  If a mediator or help is ever needed, find someone from the outside that will represent you fairly.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

10 Management Tips for Great Leaders

Through my many years of being a leader, a manager and working with teams of people – the one thing that always seem to work is to be genuine in saying Thank You.  Many managers don’t believe it, but people really want to hear it.  It’s not always about compensation or getting a raise, but most staff members tell me it’s about being invested and supported in the work they are doing.  
I also never forget to encourage people to have fun and laugh. I am learning through my recent communications contract position that some people are allergic to having fun or laughing. A lot of it is cultural. Most people of color, not all, love to have fun while getting work done. That should be encouraged instead of punishment.
What’s your favorite tried and tested leadership tip that you can share?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Networking vs. Relationship Building

Is there a difference between networking and building relationships? Could they basically be the same?  It's a question that many of my professional colleagues continue to discuss when we get together for tea, coffee or a cocktail.

This month I was invited to a business networking luncheon for entrepreneurs and independent consultants.  When I received the invitation I simply tossed it aside in my Review Later folder on my computer. After a several days passed I decided to review that folder and delete most of the "Not in Your Life" invitations, announcements that arrive daily.  This one was different for some reason, one of the co-organizers was a colleague that I've collaborated with on several projects. It peaked my curiosity as she is someone that I've built a strong relationship with over many years. So I responded in the affirmative, still feeling a bit hesitant. The question that kept running through my head was is this a networking hello meeting or building relationship activity.

Over the years we have been taught by professionals to always have an elevator speech in our back pocket or tucked away in your brief case to be pulled out at the drop of a hat. They usually say practice makes perfect and you end up delivering a canned speech that has been remembered, often sounding less than sincere. If you have an elevator speech, remember that it should change, depending on the audience or person you are talking to at the time. Giving a 10 to 15 second speech about yourself can inform and peak curiosity, but follow up is an important next step. Quite often I  hope that the elevator door will open sooner than later

Not everyone wants to build a relationship, but they are interested in networking if they can see the benefits for themselves. Networking can be a bit like speed dating.  Often you may be asked the same questions whether it's in business or on a date. The usual questions are:

  • So what do you do? My response is when? Then they probe further asking -- "For a living?" People tend to be impressed by job titles as opposed to who you are as a person. Of course this varies from region to region. 
  • Where do you work?  If you say Google or Apple people want to know more about you and if discounts come with knowing you. When living in Washington, DC,  the question always started with "Do you work on Capitol Hill?"  Give the wrong answer and people walk away. It was always fun to say I work at the White House to see them start to drool and gather around to become a new contact.
  • Where do you live? I sometimes say in my car just to see the look of horror on their faces.
  • Do you drive? When dating often someone will volunteer to walk you to your car as if you need a guard for protection. Do you know why -- to see what type of car you own.  Apparently it provides more information on how successful they think that you should be.
Building a solid relationship is an investment and takes time. It's a bit like fishing, if you reel the fish in too fast you could snatch the lips off, as my dad use to tell us kids on every fishing trip.

Daily, organizations ask me and those in my network, "How do we get into the African American, Latino/Hispanic or Asian/Pacific Islander community?" Building relationships with communities can take years to  create properly. The relationship between individuals must be nurtured and respected before it is used. Developing a genuine relationship creates trust and a strong bond. Creating strong relationships is a process of honesty, commitment, loyalty, and growth that starts with being culturally sensitive, respectful, and wise.  It saddens me that most companies and staff are not interested in putting in the time that it takes to develop a contact or a relationship.

Today, most companies and people expect it to happen immediately through social media, text messages or emails but not in person. One of my interns said to me, "What would anyone talk about over lunch or coffee with a stranger?" Fast and dirty is not always the long term solution to being successful. So I took my intern to lunch with a new contact to teach her how to have a delightful conversation.

So my question to you: Is there really a difference between networking and building a relationship? Please share your ideas and best practices in what works best for you.

For more information or to share your comments:

Friday, January 2, 2015

Grabbing the Attention of Your Audience

If you fail to grab the attention of your audience with your opening statement, it won't matter how brilliant the rest of your presentation may be because nobody is going to pay much attention. However if you are fortunate enough to engage them at the very beginning, you will increase their accessibility to all that you are trying to communicate and share. Here are several quick and easy recipes that will help you to hit the ground running.

Make it Personal
There is no faster way to create interest with your audience then in the form of story. Personal accounts, whether they focus on adversity, nostalgia or triumph, can create an instant rapport. The audience wants to know that you can relate to things that they have gone through in their lives.  Quite often presenters will talk at their audience, instead of to them with the same canned speech that they have used for every audience, regardless of the age, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or level of education to name a few.

Share a Fact or Statistical Information
Sharing a key fact or piece of data that relates to your topic and may affect your audience and ease the introduction of a challenging topic.  For example, if you were doing a workshop on social marketing, one could kick off the session by explaining the differences between traditional and social marketing and why social marketing is able to influence and change difficult behaviors.

Keep Them on the Edge of Their Seats
If you manage to pique the attention of your audience in the very beginning, there is a great chance that they will be with you throughout your presentation. Remember to always invite your audience to participate in your discussion.

To pull your audience into your presentation, it can be helpful to orient them with a series of connected “reality snapshots”.  If you were presenting about affordable housing and ways to avoid evictions, your audience will be interested in hearing how others, like them, are dealing high rents and unfair eviction practices. Your audience will be on the edge of their seats for every detail and to learn ways to prevent it from happening to them and to their family and friends.

Using Humor
If you are an extrovert, a real people person with a great sense of humor, by all means do use that magnetic personality at the right times. It can serve to reduce anxiety by making people feel comfortable, lighten the mood and it can leave your participants looking forward to your next thought.  However, if you are not normally a funny person, it’s recommended not to even try pretending. An audience can immediately identify a fake or nervous presenter. The greatest path to success is to be yourself.

Training Tip
Try to discover the background of your potential participants that will be attending your training.  Knowing as much about them can only be an asset to the trainer. When doing a presentation on a certain topic, it’s always best to know how much your audience will know about the topic, which will help you, the trainer to better target his or her presentation as not to bore the audience. 

Need help brainstorming your next training or community engagement, contact us at Promotions West:

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Death by Lecture

Can you remember the last time you thoroughly enjoyed participating in a training or lecture?  You may need a bit of time to dig deep in your memory banks to find the one training session that fired you up to make a difference.  Don't feel alone, until last week I hadn't experienced an entertaining speaker for several years and kept asking myself, "What makes them think they are such a good speaker or trainer?"

There are many presenters who simply talk to hear themselves talk without evaluating if anyone is interested in what they are saying. That's all to say that a trainer or speaker who never pauses to catch a breath is usually the only one learning about him or herself because no one else is listening.  I truly believe this is the reason text messaging is so popular, especially when we are not being entertained and given the exciting information that we hoped to discover.

Do you ever stop to ask yourself what you are like as a speaker or trainer? As a facilitator and trainer I am constantly practicing, learning from others and sharpening my presentation skills. A great trainer once shared a thought with me that I have never forgotten, amateurs work until they get it right, professionals work till it can't go wrong. I always strive to be a professional, always learning, always changing my presentation and listening to the audience.

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to witness two great presenters. The first presentation was a short lunchtime event on media perception and the way we see things, or don't see things. Our overall intuition or perception can sometimes deceive us or have an impact on our decisions for projects or other related work. The presenter was the best I have ever witnessed. His presentation was tight and well thought out. In other words he was prepared and in sync with the audience. I watched him very closely as he would go into 10 or 15 minutes of lecture, move into an interactive video or activity and constantly checked in with the audience for feedback, comments and questions. When he ended we all yearned for another session with this energetic presenter. He shared two videos with the group about seeing the gorilla in the room.  Here is a link to the videos if you have not seen them. Monkey business illusion:

At another all day training on the topic of Crisis Communications and Management, hosted by Fleishman Hillard's DC office, the training was simply amazing.  Attending an all day training is usually a clear signal to me that your head may hit the table before the first morning break.  But this time I was dead wrong. Every presenter was entertaining, funny and full of information.  Each one was ready to answer any question and listen to comments from the audience. My favorite speaker of the day was Andy Card.  Mr. Card was the Chief of Staff for President George W. Bush. Initially I thought he would be dry and stuffy. To my excitement and surprise, Mr. Card was outstanding and great professional speaker that spoke for one hour without receiving a yawn from anyone in the room. He gave us factual information about disasters and crises, how to plan strategically, made his presentation interactive by including the audience in his discussion and he managed to keep us laughing while discussing a serious topic.  Truly a professional.

Here are a few tips that can make you a hit at your next training:
  • Know your audience well
    • It's helpful to obtain as much information as possible about your audience which will help you to tailor your presentation
    • Information can be received through online surveys, phone calls or a brief survey card when your audience enters the room
    • It also helps to mingle and welcome the audience when they arrive to get a true feel of their attitude, etc.
  • Talk to and not at your audience
    • No one likes to be lectured to, even when sitting in a college classroom
    • Include your audience in the discussion or presentation
    • Try to give capsule or bite size pieces of information
    • The average listener loses interest after 30 to 45 minutes unless they are included in the conversation and also able to contribute. Remember your audience are smart people.
  • Keep the audience engaged
    • When possible, move around the room, wearing a wireless microphone
    • If you are stuck on stage, try to move around or be as animated as you can be, you should be truly interested in the topic you are sharing
    • If you have a good sense of humor, this is a time to use it
  • Reasons that make you want to remove a presenter from the microphone:
    • Boring speaker
    • Someone who likes to hear themselves talk.
    • Someone who always runs over the allotted time and ignores all the warning signs being waved by staff in the back of the room trying to give them the cut it off signal.
    • Someone who reads the PowerPoint presentation or their notes to the audience. Almost like a bedtime story. I think that we are all able to read the slides for ourselves.
    • Someone who never looks at the audience.
    • Someone who lectures with their back to the audience so they can read the slides.
    • Someone who keeps switching glasses in order to see the slides or to read their notes.
    • Someone who starts the training by admitting that they are not a very good speaker and may be dry.
As you can see, this list could continue on until the cows come home, but I will allow you to add to the list and share your list with me. Death by Lecture -- simply not worth the pain.  Remember to have fun when you are presenting, your audience wants to love your presentation and are ready to have a great time with you.