Top 5 Presentation Tips from a Public Speaking Coach in Toronto

Your upcoming presentation is an important initiative. No doubt, you have an exciting message to convey to a sophisticated audience. Since your audience will be listening with great anticipation, it’s important to deliver opening remarks that lend credibility and sets the tone for the day. The content needs to be clear, brief/to the point, and impactful. Although the content is critical, it is not what will convince your audience — you will. As a public speaking coach in Toronto, I’ve helped many clients polish their presentation skills, and in this post, we will work on some of those key principles together. Truly powerful communication inspires audiences to action. As a speaker, your job is to persuade. Whether you seek to change beliefs, perspectives, or actions, all communication is geared towards changing something. The only way to change anything is by persuading the audience with ideas. The goal is to communicate clear, concise and convincing ideas. Let’s make sure your remarks convey your ideas and that your audience is prepared to commit to them at the end of your speech. The courage to speak with conviction elevates the definition of communication. As an expert, you want to focus on the ideas you believe your audience needs to hear.  At the onset, the audience may be skeptical or not agree with you. That’s why it’s so important to engage them from the start and be sure to persuade them in the end to commit to your idea. The presentation tips outlined below will help structure your speech in a way that is engaging to the audience right from the start.

1. Speak with Conviction

To speak from a point of belief and conviction, it must be clear in your mind, as to the reason why you are speaking to this audience. You can ask yourself: a) why are you speaking to this audience of senior executives? and b) why should they listen to you? Once this is clear in your mind, it will trigger your mindset and support you to speak from a point of belief and conviction.

2. Get to the Point in One Sentence

Build a relationship with your audience instantly by starting with a strong introduction.  Frame your introduction as a headline: Ex: “I believe THAT new finance will be the major driver of global economic growth. So much so, we at Company XYZ have invested $9B in R&D towards that.” Tell us in one sentence (7 words or less) what you want to talk about. Get to the point immediately, audiences will wander away if you don’t. Most speakers start from creating a context for their content in order to help the audience understand how they came to their conclusion. The problem is that the audience doesn’t know what the speaker is trying to prove or defend. So, they get lost, confused, and sleepy, and we hope they wake up for the big reveal and the call to action. People’s attention span is about 3-5 seconds. If the speaker is interesting, people will go in, out, in, out…if the speaker is not engaging from the start, people go in, out and stay out. The word THAT is useful in ensuring that the sentence is an active idea rather than a passive statement of fact.

  • The one idea I have is THAT…
  • The message I want to share is THAT…
  • My argument is THAT…

a) What do you want your audience to feel and think at the conclusion of your talk? b) What do you want your audience to do at the conclusion of your talk? It is not easy to ask. Although, whatever your ask is, it stands to reason that your chances of success skyrocket when you actually ask for what you want.

3. Identify Your Main Points

Answer the WHY Example: a) Every social advance has resulted from technological progress b) Industry 4.0 means huge opportunities and challenges for the financial sector Show the HOW Example: a) The global financial information platform will be based on cloud services and Big Data, and everyone will be more and more able to access the platform via apps on their mobile phones, anytime, anywhere. Prove your conclusion up front, it engages the audience.

4. Prove Your Point

Identify the evidence that support your main points: Use only details that support your conclusion. If you need to discuss a list, call out all items first before discussing each.

5. State Your Call to Action

What do you want your audience to do at the conclusion of your talk?  Again, your request has to be concrete. By leveraging our strengths, we will contribute to social development and help create a better future.”  This is not concrete enough… This conclusion will invite smiles and nods and allow the audience to leave without demonstrating their commitment to your message/ideas. This message will soon be forgotten.  Presentation Tips Recap:

  • What is your goal in delivering these opening remarks?
  • How do you want to set the tone for the day?
  • What is the main topic you want to discuss?
  • What idea/s do you need to convince them of?
  • What arguments will you use to convince them?
  • Come full circle in the end … “So now you can see/understand why I said at the beginning THAT…”
  • What do you want them to do now?

I trust answering all of these presentation tips will move you closer to the end goal of delivering a polished speech with poise and command. If you’d like to work with a public speaking coach in Toronto or virtually online, get in touch with us. We can help take your presentation skills to the next level!

First Impressions are powerful: In a split second they establish the existence or absence of Executive Presence

first impressions

First impressions are the building blocks of every connection we make. They impact our decisions about whether to proceed with the connection and ultimately have the potential to derail an impending relationship.

Developing the ability to read people and interpret your initial connections with them can guide you to manage how you are perceived; the impact you make, and the opinion people form of you in that very first encounter.

Foe or friend?

Experts agree that we have a genetic pre-disposition to form fast, accurate first impressions. This intuitive ability can be traced back to our cavemen ancestors. They were on high alert every time an outsider appeared on the horizon: “Foe or Friend? Am I in danger?” This is our primal instinct working. It’s in our DNA to jump to conclusions when we meet someone new.

Executive Presence is synonymous with creating a positive, charismatic First Impression

Analyzing your own First Impressions of people equips you to increase your awareness of their perception of you. This helps fine-tune behavior that leads to increased levels of engagement – and the ultimate goal of Executive Presence.

How are First Impressions created?

We make assumptions and judgments using hunches and intuition, not information.

There are 4 key factors that influence our First Impressions
These are:

  • Likeability
  • Credibility
  • Power
  • Appearance

As part of our intuitive process these are the entry points we use to make judgments:

Factor 1. Likeability

“Am I comfortable with this person?”
We respond to warmth and friendliness.
 We are at ease with extroverts; they are demonstrative and expressive.
“Am I confusing shyness with concealment?”
We often misjudge introverts for their soft speech patterns or limited eye contact.

Factor 2. Credibility

“Do I trust and believe this person?”
We have an irrepressible need is to feel at ease with people.

Factor 3. Power

Powerful people exercise influence. 
We recognize their authority and involuntarily feel the need to please them.

Factor 4. Appearance

“Do I like the look of this person?”
Yes, we do judge a book by its cover when it comes to first impressions.
The upshot is we generally consider ‘likeable’ people attractive. Attention-to-grooming is key to how we measure attractiveness and appearance.

Takeaway

The key to making a positive First Impression is to focus on how you make people feel about themselves. To achieve the right state of mindfulness:

  • Be conscious of how you’re feeling
  • Take control of your emotions and your energy level
  • Focus on positive thoughts

Experts have proven that our mind can change our body. When we’re happy, we walk more energetically; we lift our head and shoulders. When we sit up straight, the entire body “salutes” our surroundings. We appear attentive, open and receptive.
Finally, remember as we judge others, they judge us.

Back to school countdown!

Classes will soon be in session:
Courses for individuals!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017 marks the opening of our new fall curriculum with Introduction to Executive Presence & First Impressions.
This 90-minute, interactive session takes place at our Toronto Head Office from 4:30 to 6:00 pm. Fee: $225.00

To enroll, contact Michelle Yuen at: 416-967-1221 Ext 107 or Click here

In our complex, challenging and competitive world, Executive Presence is not an optional asset. Executive Presence is an expectation. We encourage you to take stock of your presence to take charge of your future.

Six Steps To Achieving Essential Board Presence

board presence

Most senior executives know that an invitation to speak to the board of directors is a rite of passage. It signals the board’s desire to hear details and question people directly and acknowledges the presenter’s authority. For first-timers, it can indicate a change in status. In many organizations, however, both people new to the experience and seasoned executives are often ill-equipped to meet board directors’ expectations. Board presence is the ability to fulfill those expectations … Continue Reading

Continue reading

When presenting to senior leaders – start with the answer first.

pyramid principle

An invitation to present to C-Suite leaders typically prompts excitement. It’s sometimes even a wow moment. “Hurrah, here’s my chance to show what I can do!” Yet all too often, enthusiasm spirals downward into an abyss of fear as the impact of the invitation sinks in.

Whether it was extended to a senior executive or new professional – anxiety is common. The solution to managing the stress is twofold:

a) The Pyramid Principle
b) Practice and more practice

To the uninitiated, The Pyramid Principle is a powerful presentation management system. It actually was “invented” by Harvard Business School professor Barbara Minto. The core of the concept is to start with the ending. The conclusion comes first! Supporting data follows and is logically organized in a specific and easy-to-follow manner.

At Corporate Class, we actively encourage adopting The Minto Pyramid Principle for three reasons:

  • Presenters are forced to construct materials in an orderly manner
  • Audiences learn about the substance of content immediately
  • Back-up data is more understandable when applied to already stated objectives

The rule of three

Coincidentally, this offers an interesting example of a writing principle widely used for structuring presentations with the Pyramid system: the rule of three.

At its essence, the rule of three combines brevity and rhythm to encourage audiences to retain the information.

“The Latin phrase “omne trium perfectum” (everything that comes in threes is perfect, or, every set of three is complete) conveys the same idea as the rule of three.” – Wikipedia

Many stories, slogans and movie titles are structured in threes; consider for example, The Three Musketeers, Faster, Higher, Stronger – the Olympic motto or the movie, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

Why The Pyramid Principle?

For many people, the idea is contrary to what seems natural. They want to build up to their big idea and are sometimes resistant to this technique. We remind people that a business presentation is not a movie script or a Broadway show. The audience is not looking for a surprise ending. Busy executives appreciate an introduction that cuts right to the chase. McKinsey & Company, the global management and consulting company to many of the world’s most influential businesses strongly advocates, “start with the answer first.”

Practice and more practice

There is no substitute for rehearsal. The most carefully written presentations fall on deaf ears when presenters fumble. The audience stops listening and paying attention. Even if the presenter manages to get back on track, it’s often too late. This is not to suggest that every presentation should be memorized in its entirety, notes are absolutely acceptable. It’s the presenter’s ability to use the notes as cues that counts – and that only comes with practice. This process also provides a profoundly calming effect. As presenters become more comfortable with their material, their delivery improves and they feel a new sense of confidence.

Ideally, toward the end of the rehearsal process, a non-threatening third party can play an instrumental role as coach.

Learn more about our Presentation Skills Training

Presenting to the Board of Directors: The high stakes forum of corporate life

presenting to the board

To the uninitiated, the concept of Board Presence may be interpreted as a form of advanced presentation skills training. Yes, that is a component but interfacing with the Board, notably for first-timers, demands familiarity with its intricacies:

  • Understanding of expectations
  • Engaging and interacting with the appropriate tone and respect
  • Roles of Board members and the Chair
  • Dealing with short attention spans – and the right way to respond
  • Contingency planning when presentations are cut short
  • Preparing for vigorous Q&A

It is a fact of corporate life that presenting to the Board of Directors is a very big deal!

Board members’ expectations run high. They are not passive listeners but active participants, eager for clear, concise information they can discuss among themselves – immediately. They ask questions and expect prompt answers.

We developed Board Presence Workshops to train executives for these highly demanding and often intense interactions. The origin had its beginnings in feedback senior leaders received from Board members, frustrated by disappointing, ill-prepared presenters. Especially when this is a new experience or executives are new to the company, they may not understand, and be familiar with the high-performance demands required in meeting with their Board.

C-Suite leaders, from various organizations, realized they needed to equip themselves and their people with the skills to meet and interact with Board members. They approached us to develop training and identified two very specific but differing groups:

  • C-Level leaders
  • Senior executives and managers

C-Level leaders

These experienced professionals realize a first invitation from the Board could signal the possibility of more frequent attendance, demanding a clear understanding and firm grounding of expectations, including detailed presentation guidelines. They comprehend their role as guests, not members, at an exclusive club.
Some admit a sense of presentation anxiety they have not experienced in years. These leaders understand that although stress diminishes with practice, being called to meet with the Board requires meticulous preparation.

Senior executives and managers

This group was seen by numerous organizations as being more vulnerable to stress when invited to this high visibility environment, underestimate the need for specific preparations and fail to understand their role at Board meetings. In addition to high stress levels in this situation, three specific behaviors, complacency, smugness and wordiness (usually among so-called technical experts) were identified as possible pitfalls. The organizations’ workshop objectives ranged from allying stress for those with anxiety, to checking over-confident conduct with comprehensive training that enabled participants to simulate the Board experience.

A unique, hands-on opportunity for participants

CCI Senior Consultant Jim Olson’s expertise was instrumental in enabling us to replicate the sense of Board meetings, and fine-tune content for these BP Workshops. With his extensive experience as a Board member, and currently serving on the Board of Maple Leaf Foods, and as a member of NACD (National Association of Corporate Directors), Jim continues to both facilitate Board Presence Workshops and drive curriculum updates. As a Board Leadership Fellow, Jim is recognized for his expertise and commitment to excellence in the boardroom, notably, the importance of continued education to enhance boardroom skills.

Behind the closed doors of the boardroom

Although CCI works with organizations to customize and address specific requirements attuned to its senior executives, every session goes behind the boardroom doors to examine Board Presence — the precise requirements imperative to excel in this high-stakes environment.

The content for Board Presence Workshops is designed to prepare potential presenters at higher organizational levels including:

  • C-Level leaders
  • Direct reports to CEO and C-Level
  • Senior executives with regular Board interaction
  • Management who interact informally with the Board and its members
  • Department heads accountable to the Board – investor relations, public relations, IT – who may not report directly to its members

Read more about co-facilitators Jim Olson and Diane Craig

Read more about Board Presence

Contact us to discuss your organization’s needs for Board Presence training
team@corporateclassinc.com

Connect, network, manage difficult conversations and make great presentations

People don’t intuitively master the ability to connect, to network, to manage difficult or awkward conversations, and to make great presentations. All are learned skills.

At Corporate Class, we train business professionals to develop and refine their communications skills. The ability to forge alliances, to bring people on board, to enlist others in the shared vision that moves things forward are fundamental to successful communications.

Three Communication Skills Courses taking place in our Toronto Boardroom

Course 1: How to Command and Work a Room
Developing the skills to face a room of people you barely know or have never met, with self-assurance, seemingly effortless conversation and to make meaningful connections is the focus of this Course. The centerpiece of our training is developing the presence, self-assurance, and confidence to make the most of business networking events. The expression work-a-room is something of misnomer because it really refers to friendly interaction with fellow-attendees at an event.

What’s required to step up, and step out at networking events?
Even seasoned professionals often feel intimidated when facing a room of new people. Our training recognizes the significance of overcoming this social anxiety and empowers participants with new methods of communicating.

We train people to develop precise techniques that seamlessly build connections and lead to establishing relationships, regardless of the event or venue. The goal is to be sufficiently experienced with these ever-present interactions to achieve a comfort level – and the ease, grace, and poise – to speak to anyone, on any occasion. In addition, this newly activated skillset provides participants with a significant competitive edge. Cost $225.00

Course 2: Conversations that matter
Business professionals understand that to positively influence an outcome, every window of opportunity counts; every conversation matters.

Often, delicate conversations that are not carefully managed, may lead to incorrect decisions and disappointing outcomes. During this Course, we review and assess active listening behaviors and examine examples of conversations that broke down and became uncontrollable. We compare these failed endeavors to how an improved outcome could have been achieved.

Participants practice a series of procedures to maintain a balanced mindset in potentially challenging situations, and discover how to analyze and transform behavior to improve chances for optimum results. Cost $225.00

Course 3: Presentation Skills: On Stage Presence
Today, the skill to present, persuade and convince – to speak with impact – upstages even the best products or ideas. This presentation skills Course trains participants to make compelling, engaging presentations.

Technique is key to overcoming speaking anxiety. When people are confident about their material, have systematically organized it, and rehearsed in a disciplined manner, they communicate ideas effectively. We introduce a model for participants to create a framework that guides them through fine-tuning and honing presentations.

This Course is designed to show participants how to demonstrate high-quality communication skills when speaking more formally – making speeches, presentations or pitches. Cost $225.00

Toronto Courses in our Boardroom

We are in the process of finalizing our Fall 2017 dates. If you would like to receive information about these Course dates, please contact us:
michelle@corporateclassinc.com
416-967-1221 Ext 107

A 6-Step Guide to Challenging Conversations: Let’s Be At Our Best

challenging conversations

Challenging conversations occur across the globe every minute of every day. Some are handled well and result in decisions and actions that propel organizations, teams and individuals forward. Conversations not handled well, may result in conflict that could lead to incorrect decisions – and even business or individual failures.
Unfortunately, when it matters most, we’re often at our worst. When opinions differ and emotions run high, the hair on the back of our neck stands straight up, a trigger releases, our adrenaline pumps. Some of us say something that makes complete sense to us in the moment, but inflames the situation. Others shut down, hoping the moment will pass. Whether it’s manager to employee, employee to manager, or peer-to-peer – studies have shown that close to 32 percent of employees deal with conflict on a regular basis. It makes sense to prepare to deal with conflict in a constructive fashion.
Whether you foresee an emotional trigger, or it just appears unexpectedly, it’s best to take a deep breath. Therapeutic benefits aside, taking a deep breath prevents you from blurting out something you’ll regret later. It’s impossible to speak when you’re breathing in. And, breathing in gives you a chance to think, while you:

  • Develop a positive mindset; make it about we, not “me.”
  • Identify the backstory; what buttons are being pushed?
  • Define the ideal outcome, not only for you, but for other participants as well
  • If you think something good may come from it, it likely will.

Reframe the other person’s role – from opponent to partner:

  • What are their needs, and fears?
  • What are your needs, and fears?
  • What solution might they suggest?

6-Step Guide
Once your preparation is complete and you re-enter the conversation, adopt this course of action:
Step 1: Create a composed, cool-headed atmosphere

  • Stay calm
  • Don’t speak over others
  • Never interrupt
  • Don’t withdraw, or give people the cold shoulder
  • Stay in charge of yourself; this keeps the other person centered, too

Step 2: Get to the heart of the matter, emotion-free

  • Inquire politely
  • Be curious
  • Even when you know the backstory, allow others the chance to get it out –people really want the opportunity to speak
  • Listen attentively – say something like; “I’d like to hear what you have to say.”
  • Empathize – show compassion
  • Borrow the phrase; “I didn’t realize this was going on, tell me more.”

Step 3: Acknowledge that there may be a difference in how you both see the situation

  • This doesn’t equate to agreement, but it does make it safe for both of you to express your point of view
  • Consider saying something like; “I really need to say something that might upset you, and I’m concerned.”

Step 4: Show respect

  • Politely clarify your position, without minimizing theirs; “Your opinion means a great deal, thanks for providing it.”

Step 5: Ask them what they think will work

  • Build on their answers
  • If the conversation starts to become adversarial, try saying; “Can we continue talking about this later to see if we can come up with solutions?” Or, “Both of us need to put more effort into this if it’s going to work out.”

Step 6: Closure

  • Always try to end the conversation with clearly expressed actions
  • Summarize who will do what
  • Check for any obstacles that remain
  • Invite the other person to work with you, to make matters better

Let’s be at our best when it matters most. As author Vivian Greene reminds us, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning how to dance in the rain.”

The four variables that influence first impressions

first impressions

First Impressions are critical when discussing Executive Presence. We constantly make judgements about others based on spur of the moment hunches and intuition. This mechanism is part of our DNA, and can be traced back to our caveman ancestors who were on high alert every time an outsider appeared. They needed to know immediately whether or not the stranger posed a danger to them.

Judging others we meet based on very little information is a subconscious act, and we do it with everyone we meet. Needless to say, when we meet others, they judge us and form impressions on the spot. It is therefore in our best interest to try to create the best first impression we can when we meet other people.

There are four variables that influence first impressions: Likeability, Credibility, Power and Attractiveness. Let’s take a look at each one:

Variable #1: Likeability

Likeability describes our feelings toward people, their warmth and friendliness. Is this person approachable? Can we open up to them right away?

We are generally more comfortable with extroverts as they are demonstrative and expressive. Extroverts typically have great eye contact, use open and expressive gestures, and conversations are a give-and-take. For these reasons, we tend to warm up to extroverts quickly – we are inclined to perceive them as likeable people. Introverts, on the other hand, often speak softly, display few gestures and may not have great eye contact. We may read and misinterpret these as signs of deception – that the person is concealing something.

Why talk about introverts and extroverts when discussing likeability? When it comes to creating a favorable first impression, introverts may need to stretch themselves outside their comfort zones, in order to increase their on-the-spot likeability factor. Introverts can recharge themselves in solitude immediately after an interaction, as Dr. Brian Little describes, following his university lectures.

Variable #2: Credibility

Credibility is the quality of being trusted and believed in. There can be no bias present if credibility is to shine through. Think of Oprah; what happens when a book lands on her book list? Millions of copies are sold immediately! That is because she oozes credibility and we trust her taste and judgement.

Be careful not to focus on credibility at the expense of your warmth/likeability! (Recall our blog post a few weeks ago that discusses warmth, or likeability, versus competence?).

Variable #3: Power

Powerful people exercise influence. We recognize their authority and involuntarily feel the need to please them and receive a favorable reaction. According to Dr. Kathleen Reardon, there are two types of power, personal and positional:

Positional power has to do with how much formal power people perceive you to have. Status, visibility centrality, relevance, job cachet, and autonomy are a few common forms of positional power. Personal forms of power have to do with traits and styles of acting, such as charisma, dedication, ingratiation, and professionalism (Reardon 150).

Variable #4: Appearance

First impressions are formed in a mere 500 milliseconds, which means before we get a chance to say a word, people have formed an impression of us. Ninety-five percent of our bodies are covered in clothing and accessories, so our appearance is bound to say something about us. Note: although attractiveness may increase people’s likability factor, we instinctively consider likeable people, attractive.

There are many factors at play when it comes to creating a favorable first impression. Breaking down the variables paints a clearer picture of the areas we need to focus on, and improve upon, when it comes to interacting with others. Doing so will help to enhance our Executive Presence.

To learn more about how to enhance the first impression you make, take a look at our course on Intro to EP and First Impressions.

Works Cited

Reardon, Kathleen Kelley. The Secret Handshake: Mastering the Politics of the Business Inner Circle.
New York: Doubleday, 2001. Print.

Tech-addiction: Decrease your screen time + increase your presence

tech addiction

Last week we discussed power posing and its effects on one’s feelings of confidence and power. Power posing before a stressful event, such as delivering a speech or a presentation, can help to decrease nerves and increase your presence when you step into the spotlight.

That’s exactly what Executive Presence is all about – engaging in behaviors that increase your presence, both in front of others as well as behind closed doors.

Because we live in an ultra-high-tech society – one might say, a tech-addicted society – the ability to remain present, and to exude presence, is becoming more and more difficult. We are constantly glued to our mobile devices; cell phones, laptops, computers, tablets… We seem to always be half in, half out, and rarely fully present in the moment. We are always checking for that email, text message or notification. We are often unaware of what we’ve just checked out of, such as an important conversation with a colleague or boss.

Less is more

There is a time and a place for everything. This saying is highly applicable when discussing the use of technology within professional settings. Most of us require the use of technology to do our jobs, complete our tasks, and organize our lives. We have become so dependent on these devices that interrupting a conversation or a meeting to check the source of the buzz or beep has become standard. This lack of awareness, or habit of ignoring the outside world for what’s happening inside our device, is effectively robbing us of our presence.

We must not forget that business thrives on relationships. It also thrives on responding to emails in a timely fashion, and at the end of the day, the need to do so comes down to retaining relationships (with the receiver, with the company, etc.). When amongst peers, colleagues, and superiors, how can we build on existing relationships, or create new ones, if we are constantly checking for new emails?

When you spend less time on your mobile devices, you have more time to spend in face-to-face interactions. It helps you stay focused and present, and others will take notice. It will help to increase your listening skills, one of the core traits of Executive Presence.

Strategic screen time

It’s not only about spending less time looking at our screens, but ensuring that the time we do spend is strategic. Here are some tips for increasing strategic screen time:

  • Instead of bringing your phone with you into your next meeting, leave it in your office
  • Instead of putting your phone on the table at your next client lunch (which seems to have become the norm), leave it in your purse of briefcase
  • Give yourself a limit of two, five-minute social media checks throughout the day (if not one!)

Increasing your focus by forgoing distractions, such as checking your phone, will serve to immediately increase your presence. This can be a scary thought and overwhelming to some, so start with small goals, such as not bringing your phone to your next meeting. Remember, your emails will still be there waiting for you when you return!

P.S. check out this article for a more in-depth examination of our “tech-addiction.”

How to accept and apply feedback you didn’t ask for (and didn’t know you needed)

unsolicited feedback

What happens when we receive unsolicited feedback, feedback we weren’t prepared for, feedback that hurts the ego?
One of the best ways to grow as a professional – whether a seasoned employee or someone just entering the job market – is by applying feedback from friends, family, colleagues and superiors. We often receive feedback only when we ask for it, as people may be weary of offering it unsolicited.
There are, however, the brave souls who go out of their way to offer unsolicited feedback to a colleague or a friend, in order to help them improve and grow. What happens when we receive feedback we didn’t ask for, and didn’t know we needed?

Avoiding a shutdown

Receiving hard-to-stomach, unsolicited feedback about our performance, appearance or presentation skills, for example, can sometimes cause us to shut down as a mode of self-protection.
“What do you mean I was mumbling during that presentation?? I think you’re wrong.
I was pretty well-spoken!”
Our first reaction is often to counter the feedback in order to protect ourselves, typically by becoming defensive. For instance, if a colleague mentions that he or she noticed your shirt is wrinkled 4 out of 5 days of the week, you may be tempted to say something like: “Well, you know how busy I am and there are no dry cleaners close to me. Plus, it shouldn’t matter what I look like. What should matter is my productivity.”
Following the criticism, we often become defensive, come up with excuses or change the subject. These reactions are misplaced and detrimental to our growth.

How to apply unsolicited feedback

Hearing tough feedback – especially when you least expect it – can be bruising to the ego. It’s critical that the ego be left out as it blocks personal development.
Here are some tips to help you absorb, and apply, feedback that you didn’t ask for (and that you needed):
1. Always be in a “feedback mindset”.
At Corporate Class, we encourage our clients to always be in a “networking mindset”, that is, to be open to networking everywhere they go, like the grocery store, gym or the long line at Starbucks. The same applies to feedback. If people are consistently open and willing to receive feedback from others, they will never (or rarely) be taken off-guard.
2. Isolate and clarify
This sustained “feedback mindset” allows people to process unsolicited feedback when it comes. It is important that, if the feedback is unclear, individuals first isolate the point they don’t understand, and clarify what the person means.
3. Don’t take it personally
When a colleague, superior or friend offers you feedback you didn’t ask for, it means they care about you and want you to succeed. If you take the feedback personally, in a negative way, you’re missing out on a great self-improvement opportunity.
4. Practice, and then confirm
Changing behaviour with the hope of sustainability requires lots of practice. Take the feedback to heart, practice making the necessary changes, and confirm with those around you in a few weeks that they’ve noticed a change.
It’s wonderful when those around us, who care about our happiness and success, are bold enough to offer unsolicited feedback. It takes courage on their part to offer feedback in the first place. We should be courageous and accept the feedback with grace and humility. After all, our colleagues and friends are simply trying to help us get to where we know we belong.