Archive for the ‘Presenter Training’ Category
Posted February 18th, 2012 by The Steve Alexander Group
In the communications world, we’re constantly looking for those anecdotes and stories that help others learn about the importance and challenges of communicating to our audiences. One recently occurred with a little friend of mine (‘little’ meaning 10 years old!) in trying to help her solve a problem. It helped underscore the importance of using language that has meaning to the receiver, and of making sure our communications are audience-focused.
She called me, as a family friend, from her mom’s mobile phone to tell me they were having trouble with their new television and video-streaming reception (not that I’m an expert by any stretch, however, I’m a practiced tinkerer and have some talent in unexpected areas beyond my day job!). It seemed like nothing was working. Because they had one of those full-service, one-provider arrangements, I asked if the house phone worked. She didn’t know (and rarely uses it), so I asked her to pick up the phone and listen for the dial-tone. Her response was startling!
“What’s a dial-tone?”
At first I thought she was teasing me (something she learned from me and at which she is now well-practiced). I repeated my question, and asked if she could hear the dial-tone on the house phone. For context, this is someone with an iPad, iPod and notebook computer, and who uses her mom’s mobile phone for voice communication. Once she knows your eddress, you’re a regular in her ‘Contacts’ list, and are sure to be updated on her life activities via email, texts, etc.
I was a bit taken aback and started to describe what a dial-tone was when I realized she was of a generation that had no real experience with the concept, and that I’d lost my ‘audience’ because I was unable to speak in a language and with words, symbols and substance that she understood. In my inability to explain and attempt to grasp for comparisons, this thought came to me: How often do we communicate in a language, at a time, with an emotion or intent that makes complete sense to us, but leaves our audiences, our listeners, totally disconnected (pardon the pun!)?
We act based on what WE think WE know, rather than taking the time to understand what our audiences/listeners know and need. It’s a focal point of a lot of the professional coaching I do as well. Often my counsel (when clients present a challenge in communicating with someone) is to slow down, think about the person they are communicating to, and ask them to apply the old ‘put yourself in their chair’ exercise. For example, what is that person thinking? What experiences do they bring to the conversation? What are their needs, wants, desires; fears, apprehensions, anxieties? Apply the “Seek first to understand, rather than to be understood” lesson. In other words, focus on your audience.
When we train speakers, it’s the same advice. Ask, why are folks sitting in their chairs listening to me? Why are they there? What do they want? (Rather than the classic speaker’s mistake of asking: What do I want to tell them?)
This little 10-year old is pretty sharp, and eventually I was able to help her with her problem. It made me aware that a mobile-phone generation may NEVER hear a dial-tone, and that word, like so many others, illustrates the need for changing language, symbols and substance as we communicate to others who may have a different perspective, background, culture, history, etc. than we do. We need to understand what others need and want from the communication, presentation, meeting, or other interaction they’re having with us, and help understand their ‘language,’ and where they are coming from in the midst of their challenge, or solution-seeking.
And remember, we may be speaking ‘dial-tone,’ and they may be speaking ‘mobile phone,’ and we both may lose out on making an important connection!
Posted May 6th, 2010 by Steve Alexander
Today is my dad’s birthday. He usually gets an early morning call from me to tell him how much I appreciate and love him. He and my mom have been a major influence in my life. They taught me how to accept others, and myself, for all the imperfections we encounter in our lifetimes. Especially our own. And they also taught me how to love… and not just those that are close and caring toward us, but those ‘stretch’ experiences. You know the kind. Loving the unlovable. We all get challenged by that, no matter what we do in our lifetimes. At least if we’re living authentically.
They also taught me how to pay attention to people that matter. People in our lives we sometimes just take for granted. That they’ll be there. And care. I’ll bet you have a few like that in your life. Have you noticed them lately? And thanked them?
We use a little exercise when training speakers how to communicate effectively and the importance of caring about their audience. This brief exercise helps them undertand the importance of what people really remember. It goes something like this: Name the five weathiest people in the world. Name the last five Heisman trophy winners. Name five people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize. Name the last five Academy Award winners for best actor and actress.
We give them a few minutes (without the help of Google!); most can remember maybe one or two in each category. Sometimes none. The point is, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday and yet they are no second-rate achievers – they are the best in their fields. But facts fade along with our memories.
Then we ask them the following: List a few teachers who aided your journey through school. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special. Think of three people with whom you enjoy spending time.
Easer? Sure. The people who make a difference in our lives are generally not the most credentialed, richest or awarded. They are the ones that care. The ones who made an impression. We use this to help speakers understand the importance of being present and caring about their audience, and to understand that impressions are made by that and not the facts you tell them. I believe it’s also important as we move about our busy lives each day. After all, you never know how long, like an audience, the people that matter in our lives are going to stick around.
So take a moment, pick up the phone or make a special trip to reach out to someone that matters. Tell him how they affected you and why they matter. I promise it’ll enrich your life as well as theirs.
Something I wish each year I could still do on my dad’s birthday. Ever since he passed away years ago much too young in life.
Posted April 18th, 2010 by Steve Alexander
When you’re responsible for a meeting, whether it’s a one-on-one or a group, in-person or by phone, teleconference, etc., try this effective technique for driving solid, measurable results from the time and effort you’ll spend with your meeting participant(s). The process can be used in a brainstorm session with others who are involved in designing and making the meeting successful, or you can do it on your own. The key element is to do it in writing until you’re crisp, clear and focused on the three outcomes from the following question.
“Thinking about the participants (again, this can be a meeting with one or more), what do I want him/her/them to think, feel and do as a result of this meeting?” Sounds simple enough, right? Now try it quickly with an upcoming meeting you’ve generated or one you’re planning.
First, what do I want them to think: Depending on your meeting, you should come up with “I” statements as to what the person(s) should be thinking about you, your fellow meeting planners, your proposal, project, etc. “I like this idea!” “I believe this will provide us what we need.” “I want to hear more.” “I like the thoughtfulness that’s gone into this proposal.” The more “thoughts” you generate that connect with the feelings you want to elicit and the action you want to lead to, the better.
Second, what do I want them to feel: People are often motivated by the feelings generated during an experience. Feelings are typically one-word statements like, “confidence,” “encouraged,” “excited,” “invested,” “respected,” “trust,” etc. You get the idea. Any time you follow a feeling by the word “that,” “like,” “as,” or similar words, you know you have a thought, not a feeling. Put those responses back in the first category.
Finally, what do I want them to do: Based on the thoughts and feelings you’ve created by your presentation, discussion, interaction, etc., you should end up with a crisp, concise, thoughtful and strategic “do” from this session. Homing in on this will help you build the discipline to use your and your audience’s time wisely, respectfully and productively. The length, format, venue, number of participants, etc. for the meeting don’t matter.
Next time you’re planning a meeting, even if it’s a stand-up five minutes, use this brief exercise wisely, complete it in advance and write it down. You’ll quickly find your meetings generating thoughtful results and engaging your participants respectfully and productively.
Posted April 11th, 2010 by Steve Alexander
Typically, when asked to make a presentation, the first question you ask yourself is, “What am I going to say?” That’s the first mistake a presenter makes. If you want an effective presentation, one that keeps your audience talking long after you’ve gone, you have to apply “The Platinum Rule®” (more on that in a later post!) to your speaking and presentation opportunities.
The first key question you should ask is, “What does my audience want to hear?” Focusing on why folks would sit in their seats for the time you have with them is the start to the most powerful, effective and valuable presentations. As a speaker, you need to learn about your audience… what motivates them, why they are in the room, and why they would give their time to you. You need to make the effort to get to know them, their backgrounds, interests and needs; what matters to them, and why and how you can deliver it. Make a contract to use their time wisely and productively.
If you don’t have the time to do the right research in advance to get to know your audience and design your presentation about them and their needs (I’d suggest you not give presentations unless you can invest the time to do the right research about your audience’s needs, hopes, expectations, etc.), in an impromptu setting, you can always start with a few opening questions you can ask the entire audience that give you a sense of who they are, what’s on their minds, what matters to them and why they’re sitting in front of you. Simple questions like, “How many of you have been with the company (or whatever the appropriate venue is) less/more than a year (etc.)?” How many of you have heard something about this topic before?” “With what one key challenge do you struggle that you came here today to get help?” You get the picture. (This should be based on your particular audience, topic, etc.)
The most important thing to remember: It’s all about them! Any effective presentation thinks about, and anticipates first, what matters to the audience, not the presenter. Remember, most folks only remember about 10% of what they’ve heard after only a couple days. Identify and connect with what they care about, and you can drive up that percentage for a memorable, useful and engaging audience-based presentation.
Next: The three key outcomes to identify for any effective meeting!
Posted February 24th, 2010 by Steve Alexander
The Steve Alexander Group celebrates its 10 year anniversary with the launch of its new Web site at alexanderpa.com. We welcome you to take a test drive to see what you think. If you like the experience, let us know. Your feedback about what works and what could be done better is part of our commitment to improvement. After all, the site is about you, our clients, colleagues and supporters, and the chance we’ve had to serve on behalf of the good work these many individuals and organizations do for their clients, customers and constituents.
And, of course, if our service lines, strategic partners and client testimonials inspire you to contact us, we’d love to have the opportunity to see if we can help you meet your challenges, contribute to your success and collaborate with you as you grow in the coming year.
We’ll also be offering tips, tidbits, advice and insights to challenge your thinking, and stretch yourself, your employees and your organization through our blog. We invite you to opt-in so you can keep abreast of the latest information, articles, resources and other opportunities that can benefit you.
So, thanks for taking the time to experience our new home. We look forward to continuing our work, and our commitment to the best professional services in an array of areas where we can provide value and collaborate in the coming years.
Posted January 31st, 2010 by Steve Alexander
Just finished reading Daniel Menaker,’s “A Good Talk: The Story and Skill of Conversation,” and I’m not sure what to make of it. Recommended by a friend who’d read a review, I’m waiting for his assessment as well. There are a few good tidbits about how a conversation develops between people, the stages Survey, Discovery, Risks and Roles, which I found interesting and am now paying attention to when meeting new people, and observing my/our conversations. Menaker using an interesting technique of taping one of his own conversations with a friend/colleague (with their permission, of course!) and breaks it down into these component parts; that is somewhat fascinating. There’s some history on conversation that’s mildly interesting and he casts about quite a few stereotypes. Be interested to see what others think if they pick up the book.
In the meantime, I’ve had a lot of flying this month, so it gave me a chance to catch up on something even as a bit esoteric as this. Probably not for most except those most fascinated by the study of human interaction.
As usual, available on my favorite, half.com and amazon.com.
Posted January 21st, 2010 by Steve Alexander
Seth Godin: Marketing Genius – A colleague and friend of mine turned me on to Seth Godin’s site awhile back; I find something useful all the time. If you’re not receiving Seth Godin’s blog, you’re really missing out. Guaranteed to stretch your mind (the kind of experiences we believe keep us creative, exciting and intellectually-stimulated!), sign-up for a test drive and you’re bound to find something in Seth’s words of wisdom as he challenges your thinking.
More to come in future posts. Just a few to get you thinking and experimenting. If you have favorites of your own, pass them along and we’ll take a look and post here what we think our connected world might find useful and interesting.
Posted December 14th, 2009 by The Steve Alexander Group
I’m a big fan of Seth Godin, whose blogs daily provide inspiration, self-reflection and challenge. He’s compiled a new e-book that’s worth the read, and I encourage you to check it out. It’s in a crisp, slide-driven format that facilitates easy links to the various authors, many of whom you’ll know as thought-leaders, successful entrepreneurs and communications experts.
Check it out. We’re sure you’ll find at least one morsel you can make use of today.
Posted December 14th, 2009 by The Steve Alexander Group
Communication can be a challenge whenever it involves more than one person (sometimes, we can even confuse ourselves all alone with our own internal self-talk!). A quick tip from the world of therapy can be applied in our day-to-day communications with profound impact. Try it and let us know how it works for you. More to come in future posts.
Make “I” statements – This doesn’t mean looking people in the eye, though that will help also! Start your communications with the word “I” rather than “you.” When you use “you,” it variably puts your listener on the defensive and can be viewed as an attempt to relieve you of your own responsibility in the communication. Conversation usually deteriorates rapidly.
For example, instead of “You really bother me when you don’t show up on time,” try “I get upset when people arrive late.” (Of course, you also want to be aware that you’re responsible for your own feelings and actions, so this statement means you have to look at your own responsibility for your feelings about how you react to what others do; what you feel is an option, not a mandate.) Even better is “I appreciate it when you show up on time,” which represents your thoughts about an issue. It also allows you to make an aspirational statement about what you expect from another.
Next time you’re in dialogue with someone, remember the role you play in talking about yourself, your feelings and your thoughts, and describe both what you want and need from the other person. Your next job is to listen. That’s why it’s called dialogue.
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