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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Power speak vs. Power point

I started laughing this morning when I entered the space where I'd soon be presenting to the Legal Marketers Association. There at the head of the room was a pulled down screen and next to it someone setting up the extensions and power cords for a power point projector. One of the association representatives quickly jumped in to assist with where to align the small projector table just as I sidled up to share, "I won't be using power point today." Both the facility manager and the association representative did a double-take.

Nope, there's only one time I have used power point to enhance my presentation, and it wasn't worth it. At the time I used only visual images to support the points I was making. Since then I've realized so many other applications can create a more engaging effect for my topics on communication.

For instance, using volunteers to demonstrate the communication basics (message, delivery, connection, projection and attitude). Without fail there is such high engagement from the audience when volunteers are included that it is always worth the time to await the 5 volunteers I ask for. In adult learning, 1/3 of our cues come from those around us. So we can either whisper back and forth or be encouraged by the presenter to share.

The second 1/3 is from our own reflection. This has led me to tap into what people are thinking about each idea I present. Audiences commonly hear me ask, "What does this lead you to think?" or "What questions come to mind as a result?"

The third 1/3 of information useful to audiences comes from the presenter. If I have an hour to present a topic of information, I aim for 20 minutes of timed content. Beyond that is a string of questions seeking feedback, probing for more clarification and comparing to what the audience has already experienced. I know to infuse activity to deepen the learning, taking the content from head to gut. When my presentations use all three approaches, there is such heightened focus and prolonged post-presentation conversation with me and others in the room that I have vowed to never waste time with power point.

The best images I can create are in the nonverbal responses within the room. That's worth much more time than power point. The name of the game is connecting, and the method isn't technical. It's now power speak, power reflect, power experience and power results.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Mondays - in the rough

Over the weekend I saw a video of a country recording titled something like, Who are You When I'm not Looking? Really great perspective on the fact that most of us are slightly different in public than we are on our own. This leads me to today's topic - Monday behavior.

Keeping the same theme in mind - behavior change at key times - on Mondays all of us who work are just a bit different. We begrudge the fact that we must get out of bed, that the weekend still calls us to reflect on our freedom yet Monday's call is tugging at us. Like a diamond in the rough, our week will develop its quality based on the steps we take on this most important day of the week. The day we are called to atone for our own discipline.

If there is any day to jump out of bed, it is Monday. This is the day our character calls - the day our actions speak the most regarding our sense of duty. Without early action on Monday, the rest of the week lacks focus, lacks motivation and lacks results.

Carve your progress deep through Monday and that diamond in the rough will have a more polished, more pure result. By Friday, if not Thursday, the results will show.

For me, discipline comes in the form of exercise routine, planning, followthrough and commitment. My alarm goes off and I allow myself 2 snoozes - that's a Slow and Steady person's most comfortable time. More than 2 and I just get grumpy. That 3rd snooze calls me out to feed and litter cats, get into my gym clothes, grab the Ipod for my morning dose of great rhythm and get out the door.

If I return from the gym to sit down in front of the news, I relax. That's a problem. I must get into the shower, get into my clothes for the day, eat a good breakfast and then stay moving. This pattern allows me to chisel through that diamond in the rough. It keeps me disciplined and in keeping with my work ethic. If I can perform this way on Monday, the rest of the week is on par. By Tuesday morning I'm remembering what worked the day before, my body is resuming the pattern and my mind accepts it.

How many diamonds can we carve out in a month to a polished, shapely condition? It all depends on Monday. Set your sights on creating discipline that day and you're on track to managing yourself and stone-carving with the best of them!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

We All Felt It

It's Thursday, and as is often the case, I'm walking downtown, ready with a smile if needed, yet usually focused on earlier conversations in my head. Seldom do I walk around downtown without a purpose, so I'm often rehashing, prepping, planning, anything but paying attention to what's going on around me. I guess you could say I was once again NOT connecting.

I stopped for the light at the corner of the busiest intersection in downtown Columbus (Broad and High) awaiting the Walk sign so I could cross Broad when I saw a flash of 4 young men stream past me, then wham! I looked down to discover one of them face down on the sloped part of the sidewalk leading into the street, feet almost touching the street and blood already streaming from his face.

Those of us waiting at the corner all did a collective gasp, momentarily held in suspension of belief, then moving in slow motion to assist the young man. His body was lifeless, angled at the waist yet facing down. No one seemed concerned by the baggy pants exposing his bright yellow shorts. Stepping around the enlarging puddle of blood under his face, we all moved tentatively to help him, move him, adjust him so we had a better understanding of what just happened.

Just at the time I said "We need to call 911", my hand was on my phone and the lady near me said, "Got it."

"You're calling?" I repeated, not wanting to waste another moment in making the call. "Yes", she said while nodding and then I heard her say, "a young man was accosted while on foot at Broad and High; he's bleeding badly from the face and not moving; wait, yes, he's breathing..."

By this time 2 businessmen were at his side, on the pavement in front of me just as he was getting up to move.

"Wait!" we all yelled, and the completely unaware victim slammed himself into the light pole, bouncing in the direction of traffic.

Only my mouth could move - "Grab him" I said, for his poor feet weren't stopping. As blood was streaming down his face and his eyes were working hard to focus, he hardly noticed anyone around him. Quickly the young man was contained, pulled away from traffic, yet the men were apprehensive to touch him, he was soiled badly by his own blood. Then he began to cross the street just as a bus was pulling through.
"No!" several onlookers exclaimed and the men nearby no longer thought of their clothes but only of his safety as they pulled him back onto the sidewalk.

By then 3 teens entered the scene, laughing, taunting him. 8 or 9 of us adults stood in horror, witnessing the callous behavior. One stood right beside me. I wanted to say, "What is wrong with you?!" But all I could do was watch. This time not only my feet, my mouth wouldn't work, either.

By now an ER wagon pulled up from the north and a lady near me flagged down a patrol car heading down High Street from the south. The youth pulled away from the men corraling him, stepped into the Dunkin Donuts on the corner behind us where he was immediately assisted onto a chair and guarded. Those assaulting him had flown across Broad, tucking themselves into the underground parking shelter.

"I don't know for sure, but I think those 3 across the street were the ones responsible for this," I said, turning to the adults around me who had stayed behind to assist. Many heads nodded and fingers pointed that direction as others clumped into tidy bundles to discuss their interpretation of what just happened.

"Excuse me, ma'm." A Dunkin' Donuts manager had walked outside with a tall cup full of hot water, intent on washing out the crimson blood from the sidewalk into the street. Up until that point, I was trying to protect the pedestrian traffic from walking through it, unaware. Some saw it, did a double-take, quickly looking around for evidence or a trail.

"Oh, yes, thank you," I offered as I side-stepped to avoid the splash. My next move was to rush into the donut shop to get the patrol's attention on the 3 assailants across the street. Once there I realized another lady was already telling him about the offenders, so I jumped in to speed up his awareness of where they were.

"Yes, she's right," the lady continued. "One has bright red shorts on and a black jacket." A man nearby turned to me and said, "the kid knows them."

Probably only 6 or 7 minutes went by as all this developed. Yet I can't recall being so aware of my surroundings and those around me until that moment. We seemed caught up in a fog, yet nothing like we were just minutes ago. I'm pleased to note we responded. We weren't the innocent bystanders who shy away from the action. Nor are we deserving any credit. We were just caught up in the moment of someone's life being harshly taken for granted. Slammed into the sidewalk. Poked fun of. Callously used as entertainment. In that moment I felt the universal need to step in and make a difference. Many of us did.

Little difference we made on the life of the poor young man. Maybe we saved him from real pain that day, yet something tells me he's been getting it for awhile. He'll still get it. No, I don't think we did much to stop that chain of events. Yes, some of them who were harrassing the youth were arrested. I saw them put the handcuffs on, saw the harasser patted down. But there was only one. Another stood on the sidewalk watching - or did I assume that young man was involved? It happened so fast.

What I appreciate out of all this was the collective surge we experienced - those of us who were shocked out of our inner monologue enough to be present to something going on. The appeal we responded to, to take notice. To not walk away. Yes, the persuasive appeal was strong - the immobility of the young man and the blood that freely ran without any sign of awareness on his part. That engaged us.

Walking into the bank later, I could hardly speak for the emotions I had experienced. Yet I had to share the story. It was too gripping to ignore. We all felt it. Before the adult group at the corner of Broad and High broke up, we touched each other, thanked each other for staying, for helping, for influencing our own behavior. So those usual exchanges that we have with bank tellers, with coffee shop baristas, etc, today had a new cadence, a tempo and mood unique and appropriate to being aware of those forces in life that force us to take notice.

"I'm still recovering," has been my response to "and how are you today?" No drama, just simple, measured words. Usually someone who tries to extend positive energy and make a difference to those around me, I today am forsaking decorum for the sake of letting life make a difference to me. I've seen so many news stories about violence, vengeance, pranks, suicide, and murder. And I've not paid attention long enough for it to make a difference on me. If I had, I could then call myself to action: to pray for guidance, support or relief. It reminds me of the poignant take on an old saying,

"If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, you aren't paying attention."

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Success Story: Reclaiming Energy

One of the members of the Business Owners Accountability Group recently shared a need to insert downtime into her week. She knows that any group member may agree with her challenges, share their experiences with solutions, or ask further questions. Here is a re-created version of the conversation at BOAG and the road to success established:

"Once I get home, my focus is on others. No more can I find the quiet, or take a break, or get replenished."

"What is it that takes your energy from you?"

"Oh, it's my massage clients. I book them in full days, easily 7am to 7pm, 3 days a week or so." And as she said this, I recalled her massage environment - tranquil, lavender or citrus scented, dimly lit. Pleasant music in the background. She loves her time with them and willingly gives it. Yet, long days are long days.

"The problem is," she said, "I wish I could duplicate my massage environment into a space at home. But there's no place or no time for myself once I get there."

"Is it important that you have this kind of environment at home?"

Ding,ding,ding,ding,ding....You could see an aha moment in progress.

"Oh my gosh. I could just start my day at the office earlier, or stay a half an hour later, and I'm already there, in a quiet, tranquil space just for me now. Wow. Why couldn't I think of that before?!""Just 5 hours a month is all I need," she said.

She left in such great spirits, ready to schedule time for herself, regularly, at least 5 hours a month.

This morning I saw a FB message from her - already logged 7 hours since our meeting 2 weeks ago! Not only is she replenished. Her attitude is improved.

Simple assistance is the attribute of BOAG. Huge results is the benefit. Can't wait to learn how this has impacted her relationships, her focus, her commitment to her clients and her sense of self. Business Owners Accountability Group is the answer to the entrepreneurial drive - creating downtime for your business.

Monday, October 18, 2010

You have a speaking gig tomorrow... can you speak with confidence?

Just thinking about an upcoming presentation causes many speakers to feel squeemish -even for those of us used to speaking. It's a biological response that sets our energies in motion, in search of a plan. So planning is definitely the first step toward a confident presentation.

Planning our end result is key. Do you want to inspire? Do you want to educate? Do you want to persuade? Consider your intended outcome and work that outcome into both your introduction and conclusion. Now you have a set of bounndaries to stay within. With a plan, we feel grounded and ready - but don't expect the butterflies to disappear. They'll keep you geared up and ready to deliver, even with a plan.

Secondly, we must prepare. By this I mean focus on who the audience is, what they know, what they've experienced, what they need, what they want.

Preparation takes work. It means getting away from what you know long enough to relate that information to them during this particular time in their life. It requires thoughtful reflection, some mental calculation, some digging deep to uncover useful tidbits and some willingness to see things through their point of view.

Only this will help you connect with them. Leave them thinking, "Gosh, the speaker is just like me." If they feel this way, the lightbulb in their head will go on regarding your insight. They will not only pay attention to your logic, they will find you credible in understanding them and their needs. Prepare your message with them in mind - respecting who they are, where they've been and how you can support them.

The next step to put into place is practicing. Yet unless we realize what to practice, we could waste our time.

Keep these things in mind: Practice allows us to try out how to use the energy that's all fired up within us so we know what to expect when we're focusing on our message but all that we see is our nerves. With practice we can make use of movement to equalize our energy. We can look at our surroundings instead of the script. We remember that the focus is to be on our audience instead of ourselves. With practice we remember to project our voice into the entire space the group takes up, to use eye contact, to stop for questions and comments and to try out each tool we're relying on. With practice we get ourselves ready to connect. Without it, we stay in our head.

So allow time to adequately plan, prepare and practice. Until you do, you won't sleep well. So even if it's 11pm and you've avoided these steps, take them. You'll go to bed late, but you'll arise the next morning no longer lacking confidence. You'll be energized, focused and ready to connect. What a great place to be.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

When you disagree with what you hear, can you speak with confidence?

Today one of your peers has expressed an opinion different from your own. You've heard differences of opinion from this person before and at times have avoided saying what you think. Either you fear the result or out of need to avoid conflict, you said nothing. Later, you regretted not voicing your opinion.

Today you have a choice - share your opinion to avoid regretting this moment, or stay silent to avoid creating a conflict.

Generally speaking, you are good at communicating. Like most people, you know what is important to you, you share these things to some degree and you feel good about the result.

Yet there are 3 times any of us could stumble in our communication efforts:
* when we feel those listening have a difference of opinion
* when our emotions are negatively engaged
* when risk escalates

In today's case, you definitely have hit the first circumstance - there is a difference of opinion - or at least an apparent one. It has put you on hold, briefly contemplating whether you will respond the same way as before.

In the case of the second circumstance, the more you dwell on it, the more difficult it will be for you to express yourself, for your emotions will get tied to what your opinion is. You may get anxious, frustrated with yourself, nervous about how to say it, angry that there is yet something else you are holding back on. The more emotional you get, the harder to step out and express yourself OR the faster you speak without carefully preparing your approach.

Since this is a peer and not, say, your boss, the risk may not be severe. Yet if you are committed to spending quantities of time with this person, eventhough the relationship/authority doesn't pose a problem, the time with the individual could. The longer you are around someone who gives you emotional distress, the greater the risk to your ability to communicate with confidence, the risk to your ability to think clearly and the riskier your level of stress.

If it were a boss, depending on whether you have authority issues, this could create a major difficulty. You may be more apt to be passive aggressive - smile and appear in agreement while stewing inside. If it were your direct report - someone who you wish to correct or to be on the same page with - the harder it will be for you to be objective and encouraging around them if you simply let it go.

So what will you do to speak with confidence? Without knowing more about your circumstances and what patterns of behavior you have had or demonstrated around them, the best nuggets of focus for you to take are the following:
1. Decide how you want to come across to them - friendly, supportive, thoughtful, concerned, etc. Once you decide, your manner will follow suit.
2. Ask questions. Instead of just blurting out your own thoughts, seek to discover as much about how they have come to those conclusions as you can. This gives you a warming up period to discovering how to phrase what's important to them while then sharing what's important to you.
3. Remember that sharing your view is just about that - about sharing your view. It needn't be about convincing them.
4. Share your view, based on whatever perspective you have - experience, other resources, your own deductions or proof.

Further Tips
*When the topic isn't very important, the more you practice actually saying what you want to say, especially in a manner that helps you feel good about it as a result, the more confident you become when it's very important for you to speak up.
*Practice often with your peers. They are on your same level, so they are a foundational approach to getting used to sharing differences in ideas, strategy, opinion, etc.
*When feeling comfortable there, next practice sharing differences of thought with those in authority over you. Take care to respect their thinking, learning more about it, yet also valuing your own thinking enough to have them consider it.
*It is vital to allow direct reports have differences of opinion and thought. Create a space that allows for free expression while also helping all reports to appreciate your own value.

Practice may not make perfect, in this case, but it will build confidence. And if confidence leads to your own peace of mind, then work towards it!