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: info@promotionswest.com.


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.

Storytelling
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: info@promotionswest.com.

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: http://www.livescience.com/6727-invisible-gorilla-test-shows-notice.html

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.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Facilitator Behaviors and Strategies

Starting out as a facilitator was brutal for me because I was flying by the seat of my pants, learning every step of the way. My days of being a facilitator started early when I chose the path of becoming an elementary & middle school teacher. Talk about cutting your teeth on a piece of reality -- my eyes were wide open.  I was fortunate to meet a couple of fantastic trainers and facilitators who took me under their wings and mentored me to become a strong, confident presenter that I am today.

Many presenters or facilitators study their materials or presentation over and over again. That never worked for me. It's more important to learn your materials enough so that you feel comfortable presenting them to anyone.  The key is connecting with your audience. In every training, I make a point to getting a better understanding of why participants are attending the training and what information they want to gather.  As I am listing to their responses, I am mentally redesigning my presentation in my mind to meet their needs. No presentation should be exactly the same. The way you present the information to each audience is significant to your success.

Here are some of the BEST things a facilitator can do:

  • Carefully assess the needs of your audience
  • Help people understand why they are there
  • Ascertain the knowledge level of your audience
  • Inquire why they chose this training or workshop
  • Probe sensitively into people's feelings
  • Create an open and trusting atmosphere
  • Stay flexible and ready to change directions at a moment's notice
  • See yourself as servant of group needs, providing information
  • Speak in simple, and direct language
  • Display energy and appropriate levels of assertiveness
  • Be a good listener and paraphrase what has been discussed
  • End every session with clear steps or an accurate summary
  • Treat everyone as equals without showing favoritism to anyone
Here are some of the WORSE things a facilitator can do:
  • Be oblivious to what the group thinks or needs
  • Never check the concerns of your group members
  • Not hearing or listening to what is being said by participants
  • Not watching the faces or body language of your audience
  • Take poor flip chart notes or change the meaning
  • Lose track of key ideas
  • Try to be the center of attention
  • Get defensive or argumentative
  • Get into personality battles
  • Put down people
  • Allow the discussion to get badly sidetracked or ramble without proper closure
  • Not knowing when to stop or talking too much about yourself
  • Insensitivity to cultural diversity issues
  • Use  inappropriate humor
These are just a few of the tips that I have picked up over the years. The most important part of being a trainer or a facilitator is to have FUN, and remember to smile often. It makes a big difference. One of my mentors taught me that, " Amateurs practice until they get it right; Professionals practice until it can't go wrong".


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Crisis Planning


When is the right time to plan for a crisis? Probably before it's staring you in the face.

So often in my marketing classes students were told, "Failing to Plan is a Plan to Fail." I can remember rolling my eyes every time the professor drove this crisis management vehicle into our heads.

Most organizations or agencies often don't believe that they need a crisis plan until having a strategic discussion of all the things that could happen.  Organizations or celebrities at one time or another may be faced with a crisis of some degree. When a crisis strikes, communications is critical to protecting the organization's reputation, brand and ability to fulfill its mission.

A great way to get started with your clients or with your board members is to conduct an activity that is often used called "What Could Go Wrong?"  The activity is a great opportunity to share ideas of real disasters and sometimes not so real ones that could affect an organizations brand. All disasters can be placed on post it notes and placed on a board for all to review. Once reviewed and discussed, members can decide which concerns are potential disasters and ways to handle it.

Regardless of the crisis, there are a few steps that should be developed in a crisis communications plan and followed. Those steps include:

  • Identifying your crisis communications team
  • Develop a 24/7 call down list of all members of the team
  • Conduct a crisis assessment
  • Identify audiences (stakeholders, media, etc.)
  • Develop partnerships / relationships
  • Identify and train key spokespersons
  • Develop your crisis management messages or talking points
Once the plan has been written and approved, there is a 9-step Crisis Cycle that may be helpful:

  1. Verify the situation
  2. Conduct notification
  3. Activate the crisis plan
  4. Organize assignments
  5. Prepare information and obtain approvals
  6. Release information to media, public and partners through arranged channels
  7. Obtain feedback and conduct crisis evaluation
  8. Conduct public education
  9. Monitor events
The most important communications advice during a crisis is to be honest at all times and provide the media with constant updates, even if there is no information available. Otherwise the media may assume that you are hiding something.

Can you think of an organization or celebrity who displayed a great crisis plan? Can you think of those who displayed horrible plans? Ask yourself; did Paula Deen have a communications plan? How about the City of New Orleans during hurricane Katrina? Remember "Failing to Plan is a Plan for Failure".

For more information or assistance with your crisis management plan, contact us at http://promotionswest.com.




Monday, April 22, 2013

Django Unchained: Clear Messages for Discussion

Although it's challenging to watch every new movie that comes out or receives an academy award but I am making an effort to slowly catch up.  This week I had the opportunity to see a great movie, Django Unchained, written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. The movie stars Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio and a host of other great actors.

If you haven't seen it be warned that it's a long movie, a bit violent, but touches all the right buttons to make one tilt their head to the side and start to ponder on things from the past and to be on high alert of things happening today. I have noticed that audiences are divided on giving the movie a thumbs up or down, regardless of race, religion, or sexual preference.While watching the movie with a group of colleagues of all races, we decided to gather after the film to figure out how many of the hot button items could be used to create a discussion and resolve old issues.

Some of those hot buttons that started our mini think tank are:
  • Why were many of the slaves so loyal to their plantation owners?
  • Why did house slaves torture and abuse other slaves on the plantation?
  • Were those with the guns ever afraid that the slaves would rise up to beat them with the very hammer used to bash black skulls?
  • Simply looking at the huge number of slaves, why didn't slaves ever fight back or overtake the few who were in charge of brutalizing those with dark skin?
  • In the movie, when Django returned to find his wife and released 3 other slaves, why did they just sit in the back of the wagon instead of running away?
  • Why do some people still act like slaves today, lowering their heads and acting inferior to others?
  • Why is the term "nigga" so popular today and used by all races when it was meant to be derogatory? Why do some African Americans use this term so freely and accept it unlike other races accept negative terms used to identify them?
  • Why are people not using these terms the way they use the work "nigga" when talking about other races?
  • There seems to be a negative label for everyone. I was surprised there were so many since they are not verbally shared like the word "nigga", which is used more than in conversation than it was during slavery, or so it seems, but you get the point. 
  • Here is an abbreviated list of very offensive terms recommended not using:
    • Caucasians: Honky, Pecker wood, Cracker, Gringo
    • Mexican: Wetback, Spic
    • Asian/Pacific Islander: Jap, Nip, Chink, Chalie, Chinaman, Gook, Oriental, Chee Chee
    • Muslim: Muzzie
    • Italian: Dago, Guido
    • African Americans: Nigger, Aunt Jemima or Uncle Tom (kisses up to the boss) Crow, Coon, Jigaboo (once used by President Richard Nixon when speaking in private to refer to dance like mannerisms), Mammie
    • Vietnamese: Charlie
    • Native Americans: Buck, Blanket Ass
    • Jewish: Hymie, Kike
    • Irish: Paddy
    • Russian: Russki
    • German: Kraut
As you can see the derogatory names used for the various races are unlimited. You will see that African Americans have the longest list of negative terms used to define or describe them. Have you ever used one of these terms in conversation with your family, colleagues or friends? Have you ever thought of one of them?
  • The big question for discussion is why are some African Americans not proud of who they are?
I would love to hear all creative ideas to find solutions and resolutions to many of the issues Tarantino unveiled in Django Unchained.

For more information refer to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ethnic_slurs_by_ethnicity