- I’m better off winging it
The problem with improvisation is that it’s terribly haphazard! You’ll need some landmarks to stop you going off track. A mind map can help to plan points without scripting.
- I need to write out my full speech before I speak
Do you? What a hassle! A script can take longer to write than notes and is much more difficult to edit. Even more importantly, we don’t speak as we write: the language may be different and sentences are usually shorter
- …and then memorise it
Hence the cause of crippling nerves and blanking out! Make life easy on yourself: remember where you’re going and where you’ve been and you’ll find it easier to know where you are now without having to memorise anything
- Nerves are bad for Presentations and Pitches
Actually, if you can control your nerves instead of letting them control you, the nerves become adrenalin. In time, you’ll learn to enjoy the freedom of speaking in public (yes, I did say ‘enjoy’!). Techniques to do this, include breathing, anchoring and visualisation. More about this in future blogs.
- Make eye contact
Merely looking up from your cue cards or taking a break from your PowerPoint is not making eye contact. Getting a response from people by looking at them is.
- Begin with a joke
Unless you are a comedian, try something a bit safer. There are other, surer ways to make your audience comfortable and get a response, like those on the spice rack in this brochure. Humour is often in integral part of a familiar situation but shouldn’t be treated as a technique of its own.
- You can’t change your voice
Your voice is as unique as your fingerprint. But you can change it by enlarging its scope in range, speaking on different pitches, making it resonant and using different rhythms, and clarifying your articulation. It takes training and practice.
- Always introduce yourself at the beginning
Think of how many times you’ve been out and got talking to someone. 10 minutes later, you realise you don’t know each others’ names. A presentation or pitch works the same way: first grab attention, then say who you are. It also makes you calmer as it reflects what we naturally do when chatting to people.
- ‘He’s a natural.’
Just because a person has the ability to get up and talk before a group of people does not necessarily make this person an effective speaker. If a speaker is effective, s/he has most likely prepared over a length of time, gathering creative, pertinent material that have personal importance. Then s/he puts orders those thoughts clearly, using methods to engage an audience.
- Squeeze your buttocks
OK, maybe this isn’t a common myth but I heard someone suggesting this during a radio interview. How I wish he’d been on television so that we could see him walking around like he had a bad case of haemorrhoids. The rationale for buttock squeezing is that it stops women getting shaky legs when speaking and men should squeeze their thighs, for the same reason. The speaker obviously wasn’t a performer otherwise he’d have used some more useful methods.
Here are some of the subtle and more obvious ways creative problem solving is squashed like a rat under a rhino.
1. No time to be creative
If people are rushing from one meeting to another and are overworked, they’ve no time to throw around ideas. Downtime to think laterally, speak to people and have those coffee machine chats is where stuff gets solved, initiated and created. Stillness and play are, for the most part, under-rated and misunderstood in business.
2. Boring meetings
No results and deviating from the agenda don’t help. Look here for how you can keep people to the point. Meetings without energy mean that people have to work extra hard at shaking off the lethargy. Part of the problem is that brainstorming meetings are confused with ones where information simply needs to be given, thereby crushing any vitality that may have been floating in the ether.
3. Contracts don’t last as long as the cycle of the project
This means staff won’t even see the outcome of their designs so they will have little care about contributing to how the end looks. Furthermore, a lack of job security can affect the ability to think differently: people will be more concerned with redoing their CVs.
4. Demanding on the small stuff
Sweating the small stuff can be crucial but is more often a comfort blanket. Preoccupation with detail can delay reaching goals and result in bags of wasted time.
5. ‘Yes but’
There are a thousand excuses for not being creative. Some organisations prefer to stick with the familiar old devils. Changing – even if it makes more business sense – seems like too much of a hassle.
6. Pressure for results
Too much stress on delivering outcomes rather than allowing time to test and tweak can mean relying on some half-baked idea from last time. Oh well, keep your fingers crossed and hope, this time, it works.
7. No allocation of resources
Time’s the big one but people, equipment and money may come into play as well.
8. Too many ideas floating around and not captured centrally
It’s fun coming up with ideas but how are they captured and seen through to realisation? Innovation is creativity captured and made into something. Otherwise, it’s just an exercise in free thinking which isn’t bad in itself but may not result in the Next Big Thing.
9. Demoralising environment
No natural light; sticking the kitchen half way down the corridor; lack of comfortable seating areas; screens everywhere: basically, a modern-day workhouse.
10. Lack of cohesion between people
Too much tribalism between departments results in a limited way of approaching issues. Groups that have no spirit of cohesion or too much fear and negativity around them will be very hesitant about giving their ideas, or building upon those of others.
Look here to see what other companies like Intuit and 3M are doing to make creativity lead to innovative, money-making ideas.
Was he expecting a volley of fire from enemy territory or did I catch him in a game of hide and seek?
Whatever the reasons for his visual masking, one of the Directors seemed a bit concerned: how’s he going to forge links with other departments and sell up services? We only see him between the cracks of his fortress.
The new CTO seemed to be under the impression that for anything more than a face to half-face meeting, an email would suffice: a clear example of the challenges with which technical experts struggle, when they suddenly need to manage people, push strategy and develop business links.
Here are some of the 3 main obstacles these specialists need to overcome:
Over reliance on email
Sitting behind a screen shooting off emails or slugging through reports can have a pay off: firstly you don’t have to get up, except for coffee, the phone or the loo and secondly, you are protected from the vagaries of pesky humans.
Unfortunately, you can’t use an instruction manual to help you navigate their utter unpredicted lack of perceived rationale, the proof of which lies in that email you’re replying to now. You know as you press ‘send’ it’s like throwing a missile but sod it. A point has to be made and you’ll be making it.
Unfortunately, that email is not really a missile but a leaky boat – and you’re both in it.
The best way to really ‘get’ what someone’s intention is by seeing them. So if you want to get through those choppy little waves, you better row yourself over to their desk and save yourself a mauling by a shark later on.
Too much detail
That PowerPoint with the 70 slides, accompanied by aerial and close up photos of the processor you’re proud of is going to bore the pants off commercial when they see it.
They know you know your stuff, they just don’t know how it’ll affect them. To know how much to tell them seems like a telepathic skills. However, all that’s necessary is that you find out what their problem is and how you can be the solution. To do that, ask and the way will be obvious.
Not communicating the bigger picture
Having mixed commercial and technical teams in workshops is always an eye opener: they realise that they’ve been working with only half a map in front of them. Neither has the full picture and both realise how much they benefit from the missing half.
Management don’t communicate the bigger picture to tech teams: they think it either doesn’t concern them or they don’t care to know. So, technical teams need to be more proactive. Ask questions such as:
- How does this affect the business in the long run?
- What difference will it make to you when this is completed?
- What’s the rationale for this?
The last question could be replaced by ‘Why? But that could provoke a defensive reaction, especially in email.
The developers and coders need this information – and want it – so it’s important to ensure that the context is filtered through the teams.
Once this information is clear, tell everyone – not just the decision makers. Knowing why we do what we do and what difference it can make, means teams can be more proactive and driven.
What other specific communication challenges do you think technical experts have?
Let me know right here…
“Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today,”
(Robert McAfee Brown)
There are two ways to share knowledge: either you can push information out or you can pull people in with a story.
Whether you need to sell a product or change behaviour, stories are vital to your success. Here you’ll find 5 reasons why having an anecdote up your sleeve will immediately change how people perceive you.
1. Stories can simplify the complex through a metaphor.
2. They make no claims so aren’t threatening.
So instead of saying, ‘If you don’t buy this anti-virus package for your computers, you’ll be in trouble’, you can tell the story of how using BungleBoo Anti Virus system allowed a virus into your computer like water though a sieve, destroying your client base, all your documents and forcing you to have to purchase a watertight new laptop.
3. Want to change the way someone is doing something?
4. If you want to make a strong point, this becomes easier to internalize and remember by building a sense of anticipation.
If you make your audience want to know the outcome, they’re more likely to remember it.
5. Fires imagination and provides role models for action.
Such a story of resourcefulness can make you think ‘Goodness, if she can do it, so can I.’
6. Potential customers can identify with an issue and are more likely to then want to buy from you
Instead of ‘selling’ a product or service you give a case study of a problem that existed before e.g. boring presentations or bullish managers.
Look on the courses page here or contact me and I’ll help you find your story.
You go on holiday to the quaint country of Kapistan and expect the locals to be friendly and warm on this island.
In fact, many of the inhabitants live in mountain villages, cut off from main roads until 20 years ago, they’re cold, suspicious and unhelpful.
What you don’t know is that they warm up if:
a) you express your love of the antelope;
b) you know all 20 words for rock and
c) you nod a lot.
Although this is a fictional land, the spirit of the rules – if not these particular ones – is worth knowing in an increasingly complex world, where we’re expected to already know the etiquette by sniffing it in the air. That’s not very practical so here are a few tips to see you through the multi-cultural maze.
What it means to you is not the same for me
Andy was infuriated with his manager, Jacques, for pointing out unsatisfactory work in front of others at a meeting.
Deciding not to make his anger known to the group, Andy resolved to approach Jacques about his behaviour. However, Jacques was confused. He couldn’t see why Andy should be upset at being reprimanded so openly.
The fact that Jacques is French and Andy was American had much to do with the conflict of management style.
In France, managers are more concerned about professional jealousy and try to mitigate against that by reproaching in public and rewarding in private.
In the States, this is reversed.
‘Surely we show interest in the same way’
No, we don’t: coaching a Japanese Banker in Presentations revealed an interesting difference. We were discussing how to tackle difficult questions when he said that if his particular audience of Senior Managers in their late 50’s and 60s were to start asking him any questions, he would know that he’d already lost the game. However, this may not be the case with a younger audience.
Collectivism versus individualism:
The collectivism more common in Spain unsettled Ferdy, from Germany, when the Engineering company to which he was seconded had a team picnic at the beach. Not only were the team there, but the families: children, partners, fiancés: even a dog turned up with the crowd.
Directness versus indirectness:
The Indian clients I’ve worked with have thrown up several paradoxes that can cause problems in the West.
The Indians tend to be more direct in some circumstances than, say, in Britain, but the Brits are more pointed in other ways and this can very confusing unless someone decodes the behaviour.
For example, when presenting at senior level in India, there’s a huge expectation to embellish your talk with stories and side points . In the U.K., it’s more like ‘We’ve only got 5 minutes left. Could you make it quick?’ New York will be 5 seconds on a quiet day.
However, Indians can be more direct when making requests, and very much so when expressing an opinion. In order not to alienate a whole team, I’ve had to teach indirect requests and embedded commands. (To check out the Indirect Requests, go here…)
How does your body talk?
Since so much of how we communicate is non-verbal, are you aware whether your body language is telling people to ‘get lost’ or whether it’s saying ‘OK’?
I was watching a Japanese tour guide in a restaurant, as she was organising the orders of 25 Japanese tourists in Chihuahua, Northern Mexico, with the Mexican staff.
With tourists, she kept physical distance, even though she evidently knew them quite well. However, when conversing with the Mexican staff, she was physically closer and more tactile. When I say more tactile, she wasn’t launching herself in their arms, but there’d be a short touch on the forearm and longer direct eye contact.
There was conflict between Naaz, a male Indian client from Bangalore and a female British-born Indian woman, Sandra, who complained that Naaz dismissed her decisions. Naaz, on the other hand, claimed she never seemed committed to her opinions.
What Sandra needed to realise was that in Indian culture, where gender imbalances are so distinct, it’s often the case that a women would need to come across with ‘more steel’ than in British culture. I’ve found that to be the case from Italy to the Middle East.
Much of this comes from three non-verbal cues:
1) direct and prolonged eye contact
2) depth of voice
3) physical commitment e.g. strong gestures rather than fidgeting
However, when you’ve put your foot out of sync with culture, you won’t always know. When people do make their dissatisfaction clear, they can’t always tell you explicitly what you’ve done to so offend.
It’s your choice whether you adapt to another culture, but finding someone who can help you through the cross-cultural maze will allow you to get your message across and keep relationships bubbling away at the same time.
Motivation is like catching butterflies. Even if you work out what drives you now, that can change tomorrow.
Are you one of those people who can’t get down to work at your desk but whose focus turns razor sharp in the bustle of a cafe?
Your surroundings can put you into a completely different gear. Here are some ways you can adjust your environment to make you more productive, focussed and creative.
Music: Put some music on: it may be Primal Scream or Schubert as long as you can zone out to zone in.
Atmosphere apps: Some people love apps like Coffitivity that offer listeners the sounds of various coffee shops around the world. You can enjoy all the benefits of a coffee shop, without having to pay for your ‘dry-skinny-soya-latte’. However, the app doesn’t come with service. You’ll have to get off your butt and make your own until they come up with an app for that too.
I’ve recently downloaded an app called Nature Sounds that’s improved my own focus 100%. I have a mind that spans outwards and flies around so this helps me to stay on the task. I love the sound of the roaring fire but the waterfall may well have you running for the loo.
I have a friend who’s just received an advance from a publisher for her 3rd book. The previous 2 written entirely…in bed. One of my clients, a CIO, finds he works so much more productively in the kitchen at home.
I’d just moved and had to practically burrow in and out or mounds of empty packing boxes, to access my kitchen. I discovered that my concentration was intensified when surrounded by brown card and in the absence of a huge advance from the publisher, it was just what I needed to finish the book.
Now, I’m not suggesting you live like a rabbit in a cardboard hutch but being aware of the order you need around you can help you knuckle down.
So many articles suggest that in order to be productive, you need to get up before the crack of dawn. It’s got to be before 4am and not a minute later or you’ll spend all day playing catch up. However, energy is cyclical. While I agree that early mornings can be tremendously energizing, it’s not the be all and end all of a day’s focussed work.
Night owls often feel a rush of ideas or focus at midnight. There are some who even regard the hours of 2pm-6pm as their peak period for productivity.
It’s a case of personal preference. What’s yours?
So soundscape, place and time cover the environmental aspects of motivation.
Being aware of these aspects of motivation can have you feeling more in control of your actions and zipping through your ‘to do’ list in no time.
What specifically drives you? Let me know below….
In fact, it’s simply the ability to solve problems or be resourceful. To quote Steve Jobs, “Creativity is just connecting things.”
Looking at it this way, it’s probably not hard to see why an IBM survey revealed that CEOs all over the world rated creativity as the top leadership skill. That’s ‘the‘ top, not ‘one of the top’.
So what stops you from being creative? In a workshop I ran on Creative Problem Solving, the group generated a whole list of blocks.
See if any of these strike a chord:
- You’re too tired or drained from the day that’s been or was.
- Identity – ‘I’m not a creative’. Creativity is who you are, black and white.
- If you’re successful, people will want me to do this again. You can’t guarantee achievement when pure chance is what helped me the first time.
- If you achieve your goal, then your profile’s up and so you’ll be easier to find and shoot down.
- What’s the point? Nothing will come of your ideas anyway.
- You’ve got so many ideas, you don’t know where to start.
- You can only generate ideas with people you trust and the opportunity doesn’t happen very often.
- No-one will listen to you.
- You’ll be stigmatised/outcast/mocked/considered to be an upstart.
- You don’t have the money/time/equipment.
- You’ve failed too many times to believe you can be successful with your ideas.
- You can’t be creative until you’re financially secure.
- It’s not ‘important’ enough : it’s play you can only allow yourself to do in the shadows.
- It’s too much effort to put an idea into reality
- By concentrating on that, you’ll neglect things that really matter.
- Being creative means you don’t want a proper job and can’t hold one down.
- Creativity is frowned upon in your culture: it’s a sign of weakness.
- Your parents/teachers told you that you weren’t creative and it still sticks.
- Creativity makes you feel so happy: you haven’t deserved it.
- Creativity? What’s that?
Addressing blocks in being creative – as well as revealing what creativity actually looks like in practice – is vital to understanding how to do it.
Let me know of any specific block that comes to mind in the comments below:
There are some people who can walk into a room and effortlessly be heard by everyone, without raising their voices. This is called resonance and is due to a power in the voice that doesn’t rely on volume (shouting) to have impact.
Here are 7 tips to help you increase your own vocal power so you can command attention and be heard.
Tip One – Watch your posture:
Since you need your lungs to breathe, they’ll be quite limited in how much they can expand if you’re standing like a figure ‘C’, all hunched up, quite natural if you’ve been slaving over a laptop before you present.
Stand up straight with your feet firmly planted on the ground, looking out at your audience. This will help to ensure your voice carries to the back row.
Tip Two – Open your mouth:
Most people simply do not open their mouths enough. This decreases vocal projection. In workshops, people often feel it’s really unnatural to open their mouths more. When I film individuals ‘exaggerating’ and they watch themselves back, not only do they realise they sound more interesting but they look more expressive: both discoveries more likely to maintain the habit of opening the jaw more.
Tip Three – Breathe from your centre:
Breathe from the abdomen and imagine a beam of light from there, channelling out of your torso, throat and mouth, ‘zapping your audience’! The breath doesn’t generate in the upper chest but lower down in the ‘engine room’ around the belly. Your voice will drop and sound more resonant if you breathe from here.
Tip Four – Look at the audience, not your notes:
It’s amazing how many times I see people either looking towards their notes, or at the projector. If you look towards where you’re speaking, you’ll have a greater chance of being heard.
Tip Five – Visualise being in a stadium:
Simply imagining you’re speaking in a vast stadium can help you increase your volume.
Tip Six – Avoid ‘dribbling’:
Audiences often get tired of listening to speakers who ‘drop off’ at the end of the sentence. That is, the presenter loses volume. There are several physiological and psychological reasons why this may happen but ultimately it makes hard work for the listener, especially as the vital parts of information can be at the end of a phrase. Keep the vocal strength up to the end of the sentence. To avoid trailing off, think of pressing on the final syllable of the final word of the sentence or phrase.
Tip Seven – Use pauses to refuel:
Pauses can seem like uncomfortably long silences to the speaker, but to the listener they’re absolutely vital as a means to absorb and assimilate information. Without pauses, the speaker has no time to reach into their abdomen to breathe.
The best way to get used to pauses is to record yourself reading for a minute or so. We do this very consciously in workshops by pausing for a count of ‘one elephant’ at the following punctuation: ,/:/;/- and ‘two elephants’ (that means counting aloud ‘one elephant, two elephants’) for the ends of sentences. Once everyone’s recorded reading something into their phones a couple of times, they develop a feel for pauses so that the counting becomes intuitive rather than conscious, thereby allowing them to feel calmer, breathe deeper and project more.
Such is my influence that in the following video, I’ve managed to rope in Kevin Bacon, the Hank Hill family and even Clark Gable with Vivien Leigh – even though the last two are no longer with us.
All for one purpose: to reveal one of the most common reasons that couples argue and what to do about it.
No, I haven’t gone into relationship counselling. This issue also pops up at work but the effects are more dramatic at home. Either way, this behaviour can be very irritating.
Click below and my glowing supporting cast and I will help you…
Years ago I saw the film, Baraka. It’s a visual treat, showing some truly beautiful aspects of nature and culture alongside the ability of ‘civilisation’ to destroy what is precious.
I remember one scene in the film showing a native tribe in Brazil, rowing along the Amazon. Next shot, native tribes boxed in tatty blocks of dark flats, squeezed against each other, perching precariously on a deforested mound.
Yet those families, who had been running free not so long ago, looked quite content in their cramped homes. It’s a testament to the enduring human spirit or rather, how we can get quite used to a crappy situation.
What we are often seeing is not the victories of the human spirit but the amnesia of the human mind.
We forget how great we can be, how rewarding our jobs can be, or, our lives, affecting the possibility of businesses and individuals to more than just ‘manage’.
1. Hit ’em in the gut
Persuading people to change means showing reminding them of two factors:
1) Exactly how crappy things are now;
2) Exactly how great it could be for them.
When presenting and persuading, you need a balance of the analytical – facts, data, evidence – and the emotion.
The reason for this is that although the numbers will convince, we’re ultimately stirred into action by emotion, a concept that Chip and Dan Heath wrote about in their book, ‘Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard’. They picked on a Deloittes survey that analysed the decision making process of 400 people in 130 companies across four continents and proved that when you hit people in the gut, those feelings will be more likely to generate action.
2. Make it tangible:
Something that can be seen is more persuasive than concepts. In trying to prove how having numerous suppliers for any one item was reducing a company’s ability to attain competitive prices, a graph plotting the expenses could be projected on the wall.
Alternatively, throwing the identical and variously-priced objects on the board table, the point of wasting money through decentralised purchasing decisions is made more succinctly. It’s visual and real, allowing people to see and feel, in both senses of the word.
To read a case study of Joe Stegner did this at Deere, go here.
3. Focus on the individual:
When charities plead for money, they don’t show you a matrix of data but a face of a child (usually). In their literature, they will then focus on the story of this one individual to explain the issues. Take us for a moment into the life of another and we can walk in their shoes without having to take ours off.
4. Build an imaginary contrasted future
Paint a vivid picture of the situation now:
a) What are you seeing now that isn’t working?
b) How will this problem make everything worse?
c) What else will go wrong if we carry on like this?
Paint the enlightened future:
a) What would we see that will tell us the situation has improved?
b) What else would get better as a result of this?
c) What are the first steps to make this change easy, whereby we’d get our first small wins?
How to use these techniques:
You could apply them:
- in a pitch or presentation
- to change behaviour in feedback situations
- in persuading teams of the benefits of forthcoming change
- for marketing or advertising products
So when will you use one of these methods and how will you apply it?
Let me know here!
Interesting linksHere are some interesting links for you! Enjoy your stay :)
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