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Modern Etiquette: Seven tips to making the right impression

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Reuters
Jo Bryant

We all know that making a good impression is fundamental to professional and social success. All too often, however, we unintentionally tarnish our personal polish by forgetting the basics of face-to-face communication.

From personal appearances and body language to handshakes and introductions, here are some top tips on being remembered for all the right reasons…

1. Looking Good

Your appearance is an instant message to those around you, so the way you look is as important as how you behave. It goes without saying that you and your attire should be shiny and clean from head to toe. Dress appropriately for the situation – tailor your personal sense of style to suit your surroundings.

2. Positive Posture

The way you stand, walk and sit all make a big impression. Hold your head high, keep your back straight and pull your shoulders back, but keep it all looking natural. Tread lightly (no clumping, thundering footsteps), and don’t drag your feet or shuffle. Women should always sit with their knees together; men should avoid sitting with their legs excessively wide apart, and should never repeatedly jiggle their leg up and down.

3. Boost Your Body Language

Body language is a series of silent signals that play a vitally important part in the impression you give to the world. Create an air of confidence and positivity by avoiding crossed arms, hunched shoulders and awkward fidgeting. Focus on good posture, positive gestures and a natural sense of self-awareness. Never yawn in public and don’t forget to smile.

4. Shake On It

A handshake, lasting just a few seconds, is the common form of greeting for all business situations and most social situations. Always use your right hand and ‘pump’ the recipients hand two or three times before you let it go. Make eye contact and ensure that your fingers firmly grasp the other palm. Avoid bone-crushing grips or loose, limp hands.

5. Successful Social Kissing

When faced with a cheek-to-cheek greeting, approach the situation with confidence. Usually it’s right cheek first, but prepare to change direction at the last minute. Cheek skin must make brief, light contact; avoid sound effects, air kissing and saliva traces. Pull back decisively (but don’t be too abrupt) if you are just giving one. Be cautious with those you are less familiar with – two might seem over the top.

6. Seeing Eye-to-Eye

There’s no doubt that a certain amount of eye contact is a positive form of communication, but remember that there’s a split-second’s difference between a good impression and unnerving staring. Eye contact is crucial when you are being introduced to someone, shaking hands and engaging in conversation. Just don’t unnerve your recipient with an intense gaze.

7. Interesting Introductions

When you are introduced to someone, the traditional response is to say “How do you do”. If this is overly formal for the situation, then a friendly “Hello” is an equally acceptable response. If you are making the introductions, remember the hierarchy: men should be introduced to women, juniors to elder people. Offer a little information about each person as you introduce them to help break the ice. Speak clearly and don’t mumble; you don’t want people to be left embarrassed, forced into “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name” territory.

 

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Email Etiquette

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Debrett

Email has replaced many traditional forms of communication, both verbal and written. The writer of an email must remember that their message may be stored permanently, and that there is no such thing as confidentiality in cyberspace.

  • Delicate communications should therefore be sent by other means, and you must think carefully before hitting ‘send’ if the message is written in haste or when emotions are running high.
  • Avoid sarcasm and subtle humour unless you know that the reader will ‘get it’. If in doubt, err towards the polite and formal, particularly where you are not well acquainted with the recipient.
  • Think carefully about using smiley faces, ‘kisses’ etc. Are these symbols really suitable for the recipient?
  • Aim to stick as closely as possible to the conventions of traditional letter-writing. Close attention should be paid to spelling and grammar, and the habit of writing in lower case throughout should be avoided.
  • A well thought-out subject line will ensure that the message gets the attention it deserves.
  • Emails will often be printed and filed, and therefore close attention must be paid to layout. Again, treating the construction of an email just as you would a ‘real’ letter is the most effective approach.
  • Where there is more than one recipient, list them alphabetically or, in the business environment, according to hierarchy. This applies also to the ‘cc’ line.
  • Avoid blind copying (‘bcc’) where possible: instead, forward the original email on to the third party, with a short note explaining any confidentiality. Blind copying is, however, appropriate for distribution lists, for example, where all recipients must remain anonymous.
  • If you send an email in error, contact the recipient immediately by telephone and ask them to ignore/delete the message.
  • It is polite to reply to emails promptly – a simple acknowledgement with a promise that you will give the email your full attention at a given later point is preferable to ‘sitting on’ the message.
  • Never use email to reply to correspondence or an invitation that was not sent by email or does not supply an email adress as an RSVP option.
  • There is no replacement for paper and ink; in this day and age where propriety is so often sacrificed for the sake of immediacy, the truly sophisticated correspondent will put pen to paper rather than dashing off a quick email.

 

 

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How to cultivate a professional communication style?

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News Olio

Looking to succeed in business? Work on developing competent communications skills in speaking and writing to enhance your professional image

Unless you want a career tucked away in a quiet little cubicle, start working on your communication skills. Interviewers of new job applicants look for a professional communication style when they recruit and hire new employees. And within the organization, you will have to compete with some pretty smooth talkers for that bonus, raise, or promotion.

How to cultivate a professional communication style?

Professional communicators share several key characteristics that help them stand out from the crowd and influence the people they work with. Here are some tips for developing a polished image through your use of language skills.

1. Focus your message on a central purpose. Don’t waste words in the business world where corporate writing can cost $1 to $5 per word. Make each message count, whether by telephone, speech, email, Web site, or post. Decide what your main point is and package it in a way that will appeal to your reader or listener. Brevity is a virtue for those with hectic schedules, so get to the point quickly and stay there.

2. Add a catchy opening. Jokes, riddles, quotes, short poems, pretests, and stories are great ways to grab people’s attention in a presentation or paper. Avoid being glib, corny, or cute. Make it short, but something that your audience can relate to. Setting the mood and establishing yourself as an expert are important to gaining the audience’s trust and holding their interest.

3. Include support details. Examples, illustrations, anecdotes, and descriptions can flesh out a dry point. Use support that your audience can relate to. For example, when addressing a group of farmers, use planting or harvesting analogies. If speaking to fire fighters, make reference to fire-related imagery. Find out ahead of time something about your audience demographics and plan your presentation accordingly. For example, if most attendees will be female, adjust your speech to suit feminine needs.

4. Look the part. Dress conservatively in the business world, but add a bright accent or personal decor item. A neon scarf or signature tie can seize the imagination of your audience. Avoid anything extreme or bohemian to be sure you invite your listeners’ respect rather than their curiosity.

5. Arrive early and greet guests. Looking at ease, introduce yourself or ask people’s names while shaking hands. Smile and engage in friendly conversation. When the presentation begins, ask your audience a question to engage them immediately. Continue to interact with listeners throughout the session.

6. Provide careful explanations that your audience can understand. People dislike when a speaker communicates at a level that is over their heads. On the other hand, don’t speak so simply that your hearers feel like you’ve underestimated them. Aim for a middle-of-the-road approach that will meet most of your audience’s needs for information.

7. Use visual aids or handouts to convey a complex idea. Whether in a document or part of a “live” session, adding a visual component is often greatly appreciated.

8. Be receptive to feedback from your audience. Answer questions, invite alternate views, and respond politely to hecklers, which will earn your listeners’ respect.

9. Seek feedback and continue to improve. Don’t give the same stale speech you’ve been making for twenty years. Tweak, revise, or change it completely to make your ideas relevant to the current generation. Take constructive criticism in a positive way as a means to help improve your delivery.

10. Enjoy communication for its own sake. People who like talking to others send a powerful message about the value of professional communication. Someone who reads from notes or an outline reflects discomfort with words and ideas. Plan a quality presentation, deliver it with gusto, and you’ll have listeners eating out of your hand.

An audience can tell a qualified speaker from one who is not. Follow these suggestions to make your next presentation the most effective yet and leave your audience clamoring for more.

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Why It’s a Bad Idea to Air Your Grievances Publicly

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Forbes
Chrissy Scivicque, March 15 2012

Remember on Seinfeld, when George Costanza’s dad decided to rebel against the commercialism of the winter holidays and celebrate a holiday called Festivus instead? One tradition was to stand around the Festivus pole and air your grievances.

Well, the spirit of Festivus must be in the air because lately, it seems, quite a few people (including top level executives) are being very vocal about their employment grievances.

Take, for example, the Goldman Sachs executive, Greg Smith, whose scathing resignation letter hit the opinion pages of the New York Times.

And then there’s the former Google employee, now working for Microsoft, who took to the Microsoft blog to rant against Google’s deteriorating corporate culture.

Of course, let’s not forget about the most legendary display of employee dissatisfaction—the Jet Blue airline employee who cursed at his passengers over the loudspeaker, pulled the chute for the inflatable evacuation slide, grabbed a beer and made a dramatic emergency exit.

So, here’s the question: Are public displays of this nature helpful?

The answer is NO.

I’m sure some people will disagree, but I’m coming at this from the angle of a career coach. And this is what I know: Employees get disgruntled. It happens. Companies make poor choices, leaders don’t treat their staff with the respect they deserve, life isn’t perfect.

Who among us hasn’t dreamed of pulling a stunt equal to that of the Jet Blue flight attendant? Who hasn’t silently drafted a scathing resignation letter? These are fantasies every employee indulges in now and again.

But only a rare specimen acts on the impulse.

In some cases, such as with the Goldman Sachs executive and the Microsoft employee, it seems these folks honestly believe their vocal complaints will some how, some way make a difference. They seem so fed up that they can no longer sit idly by and watch the company they once loved dissolve in front of their eyes. It’s as if they believe that “taking the fight to the streets” will change the outcome.

Perhaps in these cases, the publicity will have an impact. How much is yet to be determined. But of course, these are very high-profile situations. In the average person’s life, a scathing resignation letter probably won’t hit the pages of the NY Times. The average person storming out of the office crying, “Who’s comin’ with me?” probably won’t make the evening news.

The sad truth is that these kinds of things (usually) have very little impact on the business. The person carrying out the wild, vengeful act is usually the only one harmed. Their reference is destroyed; their reputation tarnished.

But for the company, it’s barely a tiny blip on the radar.

If you choose to leave the company—whether in a dramatic, irresponsible fashion or in a more professional manner—your vote no longer counts. You can scream and shout about the injustice, but you’ve taken yourself out of the equation. What does it matter to the company? You’re a quitter. You’re no longer any of their concern. You’re disgruntled. These are the ramblings of a mad man, they cry! It’s just emotional nonsense! And thankfully, you’re a problem they no longer have to deal with.

If you really want to make a difference, why not be the calm, rational, reasonable voice of dissent from the inside? Why not be an advocate for change while you’re still in a position to do something about it?

If that doesn’t appeal to you—or if you’re convinced you’re powerless in this situation—then, yes, it’s time to leave. The problem is bigger than you. A public display isn’t going to change that. It might make you feel better…for a minute or so. It might make you the talk of your town (or office building) for about 15 seconds. But, chances are, the company will come out unscathed.

And let’s face it: Your public display wasn’t really about changing things. It was an attempt to “punish” the company in some way—for doing you wrong, for failing to be what you wanted it to be.

But in the end, you only hurt yourself.

I’m not trying to discount the importance of speaking your mind. But the way you do it impacts how clearly your words are heard.

The debate on my morning news show today was about whether the Goldman Sachs executive’s letter will change anything. One commentator said, “Why are we talking about this? What’s the headline? Wall Street is greedy? We already knew that.” Another said, “This sounds like a disgruntled employee.”

I don’t think this is the reaction Greg Smith was looking for.

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8 Tips for Giving a Great Elevator Pitch

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AllBusiness
October 18 2011

An elevator speech is a sales call in a sentence. It either confirms or destroys your image — not to mention how it affects your results.

If you find yourself stammering and stuttering when you should be selling yourself and your services, consider the following tips:

1. State what you do in terms of a benefit. Example: “We help salespeople really engage their buyers when they deliver a sales presentation or a written proposal.”

2. Make sure the benefit has  a “hook.” The hook causes listeners to say to themselves: “Oh, yeah? We have problems with that, too. I wonder how he/she does that?” People don’t really care what you do — they care about what you may be able to do for THEM.

3. Add a credibility builder. You may mention well-known clients to establish that others value your services. Consider key results achieved for clients, such as a certification process “just completed” to accomplish the same effect. Example: “Our clients — such as IBM, ExxonMobil, and Frito-Lay — tell us that they’ve been able to improve their closing ratio by up to 20 percent.”

4. Deliver your “speech” as if off the cuff. Never sound purposeful or canned. Work in some conversational glitches. Stumble on a word, use a colloquial phrase, or bridge from the conversation at hand with a spontaneous segue. Give careful attention to your phrasing, speaking rate, tone, and demeanor. They all provide context to make the message sound as if you’re talking friend to friend.

5. Be quotable. Make it memorable so the other person can pass it along to others interested in what you offer. Before you charge me with contradicting the previous point about a casual delivery, let me elaborate: There should be some phrase that sums up the essence of your offering succinctly.

You might deliver your memorable quote in a casual way like this: “I often tell clients that when they need to talk to the top brass, our presentation programs open the door. How well do your people do that in the C-suite — routinely talk to the top brass with class?”

6. Prefer the vernacular to jargon. Sound as though you’re talking to your brother, not a prospective boss or client.

7. Keep it brief-not more than 15-30 seconds. Remember that people have attention spans geared to 15-second, 30-second, and 60-second TV commercials. And those employ screen changes to hold attention.  How often do you flip the channel or leave the room for a snack?

8. End with a question. Your goal is to engage the other person in a dialogue. Example: “How difficult do your employees find it to do X around your office?”

If you just end the “speech,” you’ll typically get a pleasant nod or polite “Hmmm.” And silence leaves both of you uncomfortable. But with a question, the person can either respond briefly and change the subject if uninterested, or continue about the challenges you can help him meet-ideal

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Four Ways To Quiet Your Presentation Anxiety

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Forbes
Selena Rezvani, July 22 2011

Last week, I found myself presenting a workshop to over 1,300 women around the globe—none of whom I could see or hear! I was leading a webinar on leadership for a high-powered, top-notch group of women as a guest of Professional BusinessWomen of California (PBWC).

As the registration numbers climbed prior to the event, so did my anxiety. I fussed and fretted–and it wasn’t until I found a list I’d jotted down last year that I got my focus back; that list contained four strategies that I’d focused on and upheld during my best presentations.

I ended up benefiting from this list greatly last week and hope that you too will get value from the pointers that follow. In the spirit of sharing best practices and continuing to learn, I hope you’ll share your own hard-won presentation lessons as well!:

1. Don’t Be Self-Centered!: Whenever you’re tempted to focus on yourself (for example, how I’ll perform, how I’ll be perceived) get in the habit of actively shifting your focus to your audience. Worrying about your own performance does very little to improve your talk or presentation, in fact it can often hurt your confidence and subsequently your style and delivery.

By dwelling on how you can best serve your audience on the other hand, you can dramatically enhance your presentation. My favorite questions to drive this shift are:

  • What does this audience need to hear most today?
  • How can the setup/format help them best receive today’s information?
  • How can they be surprised or have a norm challenged?
  • What would make this talk a smash success in their eyes?

2. Find Your Right Rehearsal Level: The other day I watched Jennifer Aniston on Inside the Actor’s Studio share her process for acting. Reflecting for a minute, she said she requires a major focus on grasping the material―really nailing her lines perfectly―which in turn allows her to then riff and improv well on set.

The same is true for you. If you know your material cold, it not only lessens anxiety, but allows you to flex in the moment, both of which make your presentation better. My favorite method (and one I’ve learned by doing the wrong and right things), is to prepare, perhaps even over-prepare, in the days leading up to a presentation but to leave “game day” wide open.

I’ve found that rehearsing too much on the day of (or waiting and cramming at the last minute) hurts rather than helps, muddling my thoughts too much in the presentation.

3. Get Right To It: I’ll admit that I hate going to presentations where the introductions go on forever. Whether it’s the speaker or someone introducing the speaker who’s trying to frame what’s to follow, this prattle is often perfunctory and needless.  After all, the audience is at their most rapt in the beginning of a talk, so why squander their attention on logistics?

The best way to kick off a presentation is to welcome the audience and jump right in. You can say something like, “Welcome everyone – I’m thrilled to be here today to talk about XYZ.  Let’s start by…” Realize too that by the principle of the Recency Effect, people remember best what they heard last. With that in mind, be sure your most vital messages are delivered in introducing and concluding your meeting.

4. Think Connection, Not Perfection: I’ve certainly been accused of being a perfectionist more than once, and I have a feeling I’m not the only one! What I’ve learned, despite this tendency, is that there is no “perfect” when it comes to presenting. If there were ever something we should be aiming for however—that is a real mark of performance–it’s our connection and rapport with the audience.

Certainly knowing your material will serve you, but so will your ability to read the room and shape your message to whatever feedback the audience is giving you.  For example, if lots of questions from the audience cluster around one topic, then go ahead and “meet them where they are,” rather than focusing on your original plan or order of events. The opportunities to connect and bend to your specific audience are everywhere, so make sure you look for these openings.

No, we won’t always have the perfect conditions for presenting. Nor will we always have enough time and insight into our audience. But what we can control is preparing ourselves thoughtfully, learning from and leveraging ours’ and others’ presentation mishaps and triumphs.

3 Secrets to AWESOME Presentations

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If You Don’t Feel Like You’re Bragging, You’re Probably Underselling Yourself

Forbes
Caroline Ceniza-Levine, June 27 2011

 

As a former management consultant and recruiter who has seen thousands of business and career stories, I have found that women generally have a tougher time speaking up about their accomplishments, positioning themselves as experts, or otherwise selling their stories, skills and experience. As a career coach, even when I encourage my female clients to speak up, (and these are accomplished women from the best firms in their industry — Goldman Sachs, NBC, Gap) these women often don’t go far enough in selling their accomplishments. In fact, it is only when I outright tell them to brag, boast, and even gloat, do I get the confidence, enthusiasm, and moxie that really differentiates and attracts. Therefore, consider yourself warned: you need to go farther than you think. If you don’t feel like you’re bragging, you’re probably underselling yourself.

Write down your accomplishments so you have the evidence up front and center. If you’re an executive, go line-by-line through your resume and detail every project you completed, every relationship you developed, every impact you had. If you’re a business owner, go deal-by-deal and itemize your specific contribution. Document your accomplishments so you can look at them objectively, and recite them in all their glory without blushing.

Design a story that memorably hangs together, not a laundry list of facts. Categorize your achievements by function – sales, marketing, operations, finance, management – so you can batch all the tales you weave and make them easy to remember. Or look for other patterns –you’re especially good at turning around crisis situations, or you’re the go-to person for dealing with all types of people, even difficult ones. You want a frame or structure for your story to guide the listener and make it easy for him or her to get engaged. An engaged listener wants to hear more, is more likely to spread the word, and can more accurately represent you.

Practice regularly till it flows. I love professional associations for the chance to meet people, learn about the latest trends and news, and practice telling your story. You need to gauge people’s reactions in the real world. What do people remember from your story? Are they interested? Are they confused? If you find people are remembering something you didn’t expect, maybe you need to build your story around that angle. If people are confused, maybe you need to include an example as you talk about your work.

This isn’t a one-time fix. You need to constantly remind yourself about your accomplishments (there will be new ones after you do this exercise the first time!). You need to refine your story over time because your target audience and goals change, and your story should reflect what you’re aiming for, not just your past. You need to remember to brag because you’ll forget since it doesn’t feel natural. I know firsthand about the need for constant vigilance. Just a few weeks ago, I approached an organization about speaking at their annual conference. I knew there was an excellent fit, and still, as I look back at my earliest emails, there was an air of “Please pick me!” in my correspondence. When the organization appeared lukewarm, I finally threw caution to the wind and itemized briefly but clearly and in no uncertain terms exactly why they should book me. I’m speaking there in a few months! I thought I was being too loud. But that last email was probably the first and only time they actually heard me. Are you being heard?

Want more advice on networking or getting ahead in your career? More…

 

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3 Secrets to AWESOME Presentations

HubSpot
Marta Kagan, June 27 2011

 

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been subjected to Death by Powerpoint.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever subjected an audience to Death by Powerpoint.

Let’s stop killing each other with boring presentations, shall we?

Here are three simple, powerful things you can do to transform an average presentation into an awesome one:

 

1. Don’t just share information; TELL A STORY.

Most presentations share a common goal: to persuade the audience to take action.

What’s the best way to persuade someone? Get them to attach to your story emotionally.

What’s the best way to get them to attach emotionally? Tell them a story with a likeable hero who encounters some roadblocks and then, [thanks to your product] emerges transformed.

Reframe your presentation like a great story: three acts with two turning points. Let your hero make your points for you. Have him show your audience “what is”—and contrast that with “what could be.”

Nobody likes being sold to, but who doesn’t love a great story?

 

2. Go overboard.

Boring presentations are safe presentations. They take no risks. They state the obvious. And they’re more likely to provoke napping than purchasing behavior.

Sometimes the best way to make a presentation more awesome is to go completely overboard. Make ridiculous claims. State the opposite view. Use ginormously humongoussive words.

Polarizing slides engage audiences—they get people thinking and talking. So go ahead, BE EXTREME, and give them something to talk about.

 

3. Make your first slide and your last slide the AWESOMEST.

The first slide sets the audience’s expectation. The last slide is the one thing they’re most likely to remember.

And the stuff in the middle? It really only matters if the first and last slides kick major butt. So make sure they do.

What exactly makes a slide “awesome”?

Ask ten people that question and you will get ten different answers. But for me, it boils down to one simple thing: emotion.

 

Awesome slides make you feel something.

Love or hate.

Fear or desire.

Pain or pleasure.

Comedy or tragedy.

So go ahead. Take off the safety gear, let your hair down, get crazy. Make your next presentation AWESOME and kiss Death by Powerpoint permanently goodbye.

Want more advice on improving your presentation skills? More…

 

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Top Seven Ways to Improve Your Presentation Skills

Best Doc Info
December 21, 2010

Anyone aspiring to work in an executive capacity must to have refined presentation skills, unless of course you are the President of the United States – sorry George. However, few people are naturally eloquent speakers. Public speaking is difficult for most, but with a little help, you can polish your skills and impress even the most critical audiences. Use the following ideas to diminish your anxiety and improve your presentations.

1. Take a class. This may seem like a obvious solution, but you would be surprised how many people never think of enrolling in a public speaking class. Ask your employer if they will offer one through their training department or bring in an outside program. If they aren’t receptive to the idea, check out your local college as most offer refresher classes.

2. Join an organization dedicated to improving your public speaking skills. Not only do you have a safe environment to practice, but you get objective feedback on your presentations so you know where you need to improve.

3. Practice, practice, and then practice a little more. If you have cialis dosages a speech to deliver, you should know it start to finish. Practice until you are comfortable with the material and it just rolls off your tongue.

4. Video tape your practice sessions. Most people hate to see themselves on TV, so that makes this especially difficult – but extremely effective. If you are serious about mastering public speaking, you need to see yourself as others see you. Watching yourself deliver a speech will help you determine your strengths and show you where you still need improvement. You’ll also get an opportunity to see that you’re probably not as bad as you think!

5. Select topics that you are knowledgeable or passionate about. It’s much easier to be engaging and comfortable when speaking about something you are experience in or have a lot of energy around. Stick to your strengths and you’ll quickly build your confidence.

6. Speak at every opportunity. Speaking is like exercising a muscle, the more you use it, the better developed it becomes. So raise your hand the next time an opportunity arises – in all likelihood, you’ll be the only one.

7. Relax and remember that people came to see YOU. Chances are good that you are way more critical of yourself than anyone else. So take a deep breath and remember that you have something the audience wants – information – because that is where they are going to focus most of their attention.

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Presentation Skills: 5 Tips to Creating Powerful Stories

Sales School
Melissa, April 28th 2011

Stories are an incredibly powerful way to communicate. But you don’t have to take it from me. Consider Plato’s view: “Those who tell stories rule society.” Perhaps you don’t want to rule society, but you would like to be a bit more influential.

Creative writing instructor Robert McKee: “Story telling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.” Now we’re talking – all of us have ideas we want to share and have spread.

The bottom line is that if we want to communicate more effectively, stories can help us do that. Yet, there is an art to crafting and telling stories in a powerfully effective way.

While there is far more about powerful story telling than can be explored in a short article, I can give you some very specific ideas to help you in choosing and constructing your own powerful story.

Choosing Your Story

If you don’t select the right story to present or support your message, it won’t matter how effective the telling of that story is. To pick the right story you must start with your goal – what are you trying to present? What ideas are you trying to support?

Either way, when you can mine your own experiences for the ideas of your stories, you are off to a good start because you have intimate knowledge of the story.

If you can’t think about a personal story, look for stories somewhere else. Consider things you have read or heard in the past. The newspaper and biographies are also prime places to find your story.

Wherever you find your story, if you want it to be powerful, choosing it is just the start – you must take the basic story and construct it carefully to create the power you want it to have.

Constructing Your Story

When taking your basic story outline and developing it to create a powerful message, consider the following factors.

1 – Simple. Basic is best. One of the easiest ways to ruin your story is to make it too complex or to include too many details. Look for ways to hone your story to the basic elements. It will demonstrate your message better and be more memorable.

2 – Unexpected. Present a twist. Think about it. When you hear a story that is too transparent, you aren’t very interested. Make your stories more interesting by building curiosity – and curiosity is built when the story has at least one unexpected component.

3 – Concrete. Be specific. While you want the story to be based on concepts, you want it specific enough to be interesting. Walking this balance comes mostly from being descriptive about the components you leave in the story as opposed to detailing everything that could be included.

4 – Credible. Be believable. This comes partly from the selection of the story, but also comes from telling the story in a believable way. Have you ever heard a “fish story” that has been embellished to the point that no one believes it? To really make your point (unless your point is the danger of embellishment) keep your story credible.

5 – Emotional. Tell them why they care. The best, most powerful stories have an emotional component; that’s part of the reason we love stories! Construct your stories to highlight the emotions you or others felt during the situation you are retelling. These emotional ties are a large part of what will make your story compelling – and therefore successful!

Choosing your story and constructing it using the suggestions above will significantly improve the value, usefulness and power of the stories you tell. These approaches will help you communicate more effectively as a leader and in any area of your life.

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