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Category Archives: Self-Assessment

Have you Seen Yourself on Video Lately?

Seeing myself on video typically elicits a variation on one of these responses:

1)   “I will never wear that outfit again.”

2)    “I thought I was so much (pick any of the following) smarter, funnier, clearer, better looking than this.”

3)   “Turn it off.  Seriously, I can’t take another minute!”

So needless to say, when Barbara and I hit replay on a recent workshop videotape, I was both curious as hell and defensively hardened to expect the worst. We watched for a few minutes in silence. Then Barbara said, “Well, I don’t hate it.”  (That just killed me because what I really heard her say was,  “This is much better than I expected and I can live with it!”).  And she was right, though her language revealed the negative orientation toward self- assessment that I both relate to and witness frequently with my clients.

But here was the real zinger. Once we loosened up and enjoyed laughing at ourselves and each other, (and frankly we both have seen ourselves often enough to not be too surprised), we realized that a whole back-story was playing out on this video that neither of us had any awareness of at the time.

We were floored. Was I really standing so awkwardly nearby while she was presenting an important module? Was she really prepping the room for the next piece, while I was delivering my content? We were roaring with disbelief!   And more importantly, in seeing myself on film, I was able to recognize that I had actually experienced a sense of discomfort about where to stand while Barbara presented, but hadn’t been able to resolve it at the time.  My body radiated that discomfort on film. It was so illuminating and hugely beneficial. We got great insight into how to make our workshops even more seamless. It was a fantastic learning experience. And we screamed with laughter at ourselves which is always good for the partnership and the soul.

So pull out your video.  And don’t just see the worst; wait for that unexpected —you may be glad.



Stating the Obvious

Why do we need and value feedback and coaching? Because it is nearly impossible to 1) clarify your thoughts, 2) organize them into a cohesive presentation and 3) deliver them effectively while at the same time observing your own distracting quirks, de-railers and inconsistencies.   This 82 second video-test is a great example of this. Tell me how you do. -Charlotte

Are you a Credible Speaker?

I went to a fitness class yesterday with the intention of working up a good sweat after two days of sitting. Ten minutes into the class, the instructor said, “Now it’s time to do some dead lifts.” He proceeded to demonstrate your basic squat. I thought to myself, “It’s Saturday morning, his brain is still in bed,” and I joined him in the squat sequence.

Another ten minutes went by and he began to explain the importance of stretching the piriformis muscle, but he pronounced it “pirsiform.” OK, maybe he’s hung over. A few minutes before the end of class he turned to us and said, “One more rep!” But what he meant to say was “One more set.” The whole class did one last rep and set their weights down and he yelled at us –yes, yelled at us – to keep going.

That was it. Now I was frustrated. He had lost all credibility with me. Which means I will likely vote with my feet and avoid his classes in the future.

Of all the attributes of a successful public speaker, credibility tops the list. It’s even higher than making a connection, because what good is a strong connection with the audience if they don’t believe what you’re saying? Here are three tips to keep in mind about establishing credibility:

1. Don’t talk about what you don’t know. Before you get up to present, read through your notes and be sure there is nothing in there that could undermine your authority. Feeling confident that you are in command of your subject matter is essential.

2. Establish your ‘street cred” up front. Don’t wait until the conclusion to tell us you lived in London for ten years when your topic is Royal Weddings. Lead with the information that will help your audience settle in and give you their attention.

3. Put some energy into your words. Don’t memorize your speech or read from your text. Speaking is meant to sound different from the written word. The reason I overlooked the first error the fitness instructor made was because he was so excited to do 30 squats. That was more important than using the correct term, so we all just went right along.

In summary, consider this quote by Eliot Spitzer: ”I don’t care about motivation. I care about credibility.” Wiser words…..

– Barbara

Lead From Your Center

During a leadership communication workshop last week, I asked the participants to think of a time when they were effective and powerful – when they felt the most energized and proud of an outcome that they themselves had a hand in orchestrating.  I then asked them to share their story with a partner.  Within seconds the room was alive with voices and laughter.  As I was walking around the room, I noticed one participant sheepishly raising her hand. When I approached her she asked, “What if you can’t think of anything?”

For a brief moment I was dumbstruck.  I had a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that a person over the age of 18 could not come up with one example of personal efficacy.  Then I had a flash of insight and asked her if I could share her question with the whole group.  She agreed.

When I re-convened the group, I asked the participant to repeat the question, after which there was a collective sigh.  I then asked her a series of questions with the help of the audience and we uncovered the fact that she was an owner of a small construction company with 40 employees and several new contracts.  I then asked her where in that entire description of a successful business owner could she not identify a peak moment.  Her response, which elicited another sigh from the audience was, “I just figure that’s the bare minimum and it’s nothing to be proud of.”

Successes come in all shapes and sizes.  And they are force multipliers, providing evidence of what we know and can do.  If you are unsure of your personal triumphs, then find a group of people that can help you identify them, because  if you can’t summon the energy that comes from feeling successful,  how will your staff or your audience react to you as a leader?

Effective communicators use their accomplishments  to build their confidence.  Confident leaders make us want to listen to them and even work for them.

What’s your personal triumph story?  How do you use it to fuel your personal presence?

– Barbara

Newt Gingrich: An Object Lesson in What Not to Do

When I heard Newt Gingrich say that the reason he was unfaithful to his wives was because his passion for this country made him work too hard, I was nearly speechless (and that, my friends, is a rare moment). I yelled out to no one in particular, “Who’s buying this BS?!”

I was then reminded of one my coaching clients who had to deliver bad news to a direct report and his instinct was to dance around the issue so as to not hurt the employee’s feelings. The result was confusion, resentment, and the need for three more meetings to iron everything out. When I asked him what he learned from the experience he said, “Telling the truth saves time and money!”

Rarely, if ever, is obfuscation the best approach. Unless you are an executive assistant who tells the caller that his or her boss is “not available right now” rather than “in the bathroom and not coming out for a while,” speaking honestly and with clarity is the best approach.

While we all know that audiences can turn on you in a flash, what is also true is that audiences will forgive you for your mistakes if they feel that they can trust you and believe what you say. So take a lesson from thinking-about-thinking running for president Newt Gingrich and treat your audience with the respect they deserve.

Note: I could not find a link to the interview that was “neutral” so I will leave it up to you to watch whichever version appeals to your own politics or religious beliefs.

– Barbara

OSCAR MADNESS: 8 Public Speaking Lessons from the 2011 Academy Awards

1. Care That You Are There: Wake up James Franco you are a HOST.
2. But Not Too Much: Anne Hathaway: Eight dress changes and a solo is overkill (adorable and energetic as you are).
3. Don’t Be “Shocked:” Seriously, your odds of winning are roughly one in five. Why waste half your air time exclaiming how utterly surprised you are?
4. Align Your Visuals with Your Message: Why are we watching Gone with the Wind and Titanic montages? I am still confused.
5. Avoid Insider Jokes: Only a handful of us have seen the short films up for awards. Justin Timberlake’s “I’m Banksy” comment makes us feel like we are missing something.
6. Plan a Good Opening: Seventy-three- year-old David Seidler’s opening quip, “My father always said I’d be a late bloomer” was brilliant. And he didn’t step on his joke by rushing to his next point.
7. Expect the Unexpected: Audiences are bored when the outcome is preplanned. Shake it up!
8. Hollywood Glamour Always Prevails: Each year I proclaim the Oscars as long, tedious and cheesy. And then I tune in again. Maybe someday, the producers will stop trying to make it something it’s not and let the glamour and talent reign.
-Charlotte Dietz

How to Win Others Over

As I was getting ready to write this post, I accidentally typed the letter T in the Google search window. Not because I wanted to, but because my dog wanted to go for a walk and he knows the best way to communicate that wish is to bump my hand off the mouse. All dog owners are nodding their heads right now. When I looked back up at the screen, the following search words had already popped up in this order: Target, TD Bank, Toys r Us and Twitter. Nothing I was interested in at the time, but it made me think about how the Google algorithm has a way of rank-ordering content to make our lives easier and more productive. That’s exactly what you need to do for your audience.

For today, let’s focus on the key message. Do you know your key message? Really? Let’s explore this a bit further. If you were my client and I asked you this question, you may say something like, “I want to convince my audience that they should switch to the American Express Open card and get rid of all their other cards.” Sounds like a key message, right? The only problem is, it’s being viewed through the wrong lens – yours. Where’s the audience in this? If you really wanted to win over your audience you would have said to me, “I want to exemplify the frustration people experience trying to juggle four credit cards because each one offers a different perk when all they need is the American Express Open with all the perks on one place.”

Human beings are managing an emotional balancing act at all times. The balance is between two simple things: pleasure and pain. Your key message, if you want to be successful, is to alleviate the pain and enhance the pleasure. Sometimes you have to point out the pain first and sometimes you have to open their eyes to the pleasure. Either way, if you use this one organizing tool, you will be a more persuasive and successful speaker.

If you would like to explore this concept further, I recommend you pick up a copy of the art of woo, by Richard Shell and Mario Moussa.

– Barbara