Archive for May, 2008

Public speaking: Just be yourself?

Monday, May 19th, 2008

Oh, all I have to do to excel at public speaking is just be myself?  Wonderful, now I know the secret.  Certain speaking coaches warn against trying to use gestures and practicing movements.  Their assertion is that the presenter could look fake, forced, robotic, plastic, and so on.  They extol the virtue of simply being yourself before the audience.  In theory they have a point.  Rehearsing every gesture could make the presenter look very odd indeed.  In reality, however, the overwhelming majority of presenters appear petrified (in the fossil sense of the word).  Most remain standing in one place and avoid any type of gestures.  Even somewhat forced movement is better than no movement.

Also, a small yet meaningful percentage of people are rude, asocial, short-tempered, obnoxious or simply flat.  I would not encourage a person like this to just be himself before an audience.

I think better advice is don’t try to imitate someone else’s presentational style when that person is very unlike you.  For example, if you are not a particularly funny person, trying to deliver your presentation like your favorite comedian would likely result in disaster.  You may admire the way your coworker delivers her presentation with resounding authority, but you may be of a softer, more diplomatic nature.

The best advice may be: just be a super version of yourself.  That is to say, on a great day, at your best moment with respect to mood, character, humor, confidence, affinity to the audience, what would you look like?  If you absolutely loved your topic, you felt a great connection with the audience, you were well prepared and you were comfortable, how would that look?

Not all variables are in our control, but we can certainly be well prepared by rehearsing. Perhaps not every move and gesture, but SOME movement and gestures, to jump start us into using our bodies, posture and hands to communicate more naturally.  Contrary to other experts’ warnings, the more we rehearse, the more comfortable we feel.  Knowing we have a solid structure enables us to take chances in the “here and now” and improvise because we know we have a safety net.

Some of my readers may know that I am also a professional close-up magician.  One of the secrets of magic is to know exactly what you are going to say, when you are going to say it and how you will deliver it.  Only by having the details rehearsed can you free up your brain to think and react to a spectator’s extemporaneous comment.  The safety net allows you to be the super version of yourself.

As odd as it sounds, to “just be yourself” takes a great deal of thought, practice and rehearsal.  The work, however will pay rich dividends.

Please leave a comment on your thoughts.  Thanks.

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The Executive Persona: Names

Sunday, May 18th, 2008

Having cold called at the top as well as far from the top, I noticed something curious. Irrespective of whether the prospect was interested, those at that top of the organization did something with far more frequency than those many levels down:  They used my name.

Interesting.  As prospects, these executives were in no way attempting to make a positive impression.  In certain cases, they were trying to terminate the call; yet with great frequency they would capture my name right from my introduction, retain it and use it.

When talking with gate keepers and managers at “lower” levels of the organization, I noticed that use of my name was far more infrequent.  Counterintuitively, I found that in cases where there was no interest, the executives were equally short, but far more courteous than their subordinates.  In a certain way, calling at the top can not only be a more fruitful experience but also a more pleasant one.

To be honest, I’m not sure if the case is that many executives are groomed and trained in the fundamentals of business success or that they simply tend to have stronger interpersonal skills.  In any case, you’ve heard it before and here it is again: executives and leaders tend to remember and use names more frequently in their conversations.

Many of us get tripped up on names when we are networking or socializing.  It does require decision and effort.  Right before every introduction, we need to make a conscious decision that we will listen for the name and use it. It takes effort to fulfill this commitment because it’s clearly easier not to be concerned with the detail while we focus on what we are going to say next.  The long-term payoff is that eventually it will become second nature, just as it is for many of those executives we cold call at the top.

If you have methods for remembering names, please share for our readers’ benefit. Thank you.

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Achieve Success: Get Focused! Turn off the ringer. Quit out of email.

Saturday, May 17th, 2008

magnifying-glassFor the most part, you know what you need to accomplish in order to achieve your goals.  Procrastination is a huge inhibitor of success, especially when the tasks that need to be accomplished are difficult or make you uncomfortable.

Procrastination’s best friend is distraction, which takes many forms.  Two of the most common forms of distraction are the telephone and email.  We end up servants to these vital tools instead of masters.  We can be in the middle of a creative thought, or about to pick up the phone to make a cold call, yet we stop to check the new email that just came in.  This happens all day, and our progress on the tasks that really matter becomes fragmented and limited.

Why do we subordinate the vital activities to the trivial?  It’s easier, more comfortable and we have a reasonable “excuse”: the phone rang or a new email arrived – and it COULD be important.

Depending on you profession and the urgency of the service you deliver, it really could be urgent.  Having an emergency line for doctors, plumbers, EMTs and the like makes sense.  But for most of us, the majority of cases is that it is less important that the vital task we are supposed to be accomplishing.

If you want results, try this:

Set one or two blocks of time each day where you shut your phones, and quit out of email.  You can check them right before and right after your block of time.  Can you imagine the focus and level of follow through you will have during that time?  What will it mean to you and your business?  Try it, and let us know.

There you have it – one less speedbump on your road to success.

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Trade Show Strategy: Avoid Master Blunder

Friday, May 16th, 2008

no sittingHelping Laura Briere, president of Vision Advertising and World Green Business Association promote her company at the Rt 2 Business Expo, I was fascinated by how many exhibitors were making the master blunder of exhibiting: sitting down while their prospects walked right by them.

It boggles my mind as to why companies spend money on a booth, graphics, space and opportunity cost only to watch as visitors stroll by their exhibits with barely a glance in their direction.  My theory is that these exhibitors believe that they are “getting their brand exposure” and that is return enough.

You do not need to be a corporate magician to to avoid this exhibiting blunder.  With no tricks or gimmicks, Amy Mosher, Director of Programs at the World Green Business Association, did something the majority of the exhibitors failed to do: she stood at the front of her booth, had open body language (smiling and no folded arms) and greeted visitors with a hello and a handshake.  After making a connection she sparked conversation by asking a question.

Here is the result: Amy was engaged in conversation about 85% of the time.  She qualified and collected contacts throughout the day.  For her, the event flew by as she made connection after connection.  All it took was a stroll down the aisle to see that she was the exception.  Most “exhibitors” were sitting behind a table of brochures and giveaways.  What they really were giving away wasn’t pens with logos, but opportunity to do business with every passing prospect that left the hall learning nothing about their company.

Avoiding this exhibiting blunder is almost cured by simply being aware of it.  If you know any exhibitors, please forward this link.  Chances are they will benefit.

 Check out my video with Laura Briere

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Trade Show Strategy: Exhibiting giveaways – branding vs. sales

Thursday, May 8th, 2008

dreamstime_4292517“Our flat-screen TV booth prize was a huge success”.

“Man, we raffled off Red Sox tickets and a flat-screen at our booth – what a disaster”.

Quotes from two of my trade show clients who told me what they had done in the past to generate exhibit traffic.  Why the difference?  Show type and primary objective.

The first case was a success for two reasons.  It was an industry-specific show where the vast majority of visitors comprised the exhibitor’s target market.  An example of this type of show is a dental conference, in which almost every attendee has an interest in dentistry.  The second reason for success was that the company was aiming to build brand recognition.  The flat-screen TV pulled in the masses, who then saw the exhibitor’s logo, heard the company’s tag line and signed up for the prize.  These visitors then received follow-up underscoring the company’s message and showcasing the logo.

In the second case, the flat-screen and sports tickets were a wasted investment.  It was a general show. For example, a home show attracts some visitors looking for candy and others looking for a kitchen remodeler.  In addition, the exhibitor was looking to make sales from prospects interested in his product. He later lamented that he had a whole bunch of leads for a television; painfully few were interested in his product.  This exhibitor would have faired far better if he offered a high-value giveaway from his own product line.  In this case, it would have selectively attracted prospects.

It’s interesting that broad-appeal products work best in focused trade shows and specific-appeal products are more effective in broader shows.

It is my experience that, in general, larger companies are less concerned with generating hard-sales from a show as compared to medium and smaller companies.  This is partly because larger companies see branding as facilitating sales down the line.  Smaller companies do not have this luxury.

The trick is to consider the show type and objective before launching into your giveaway strategy.  If you are promoting copier services at a business expo – think twice about giving away David Copperfield tickets, unless you want to see your profits vanish.  A nifty prize might be $400 worth of toner for the winner’s copy machines.  You’ll probably leave the show with significantly less leads than the exhibitor across from you who pulled in the masses with fancy electronics.  That’s good, because your sales staff will be calling on a handful of qualified leads, while the other guy’s sale staff will quickly grow discouraged from following up on a mountain of junk.

We invite you to share your experiences with prizes and giveaways right here.

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