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General Blog

27 Mar Keying Off the Keynote

Recently I saw a conference agenda that listed multiple keynote speakers. This is all too common, and it’s wrong. Formally, there can only be 1 keynote speaker. Consider it like this. In an orchestra, where the term keynote comes from, a member plays a “key note” before they begin, and all other members tune their instruments to that note. The result is a symphony! Without this important step, you have something that’s musically akin to kids with instruments sitting on the stage together playing out of key. At a conference, the keynote presentation should do the same. It is designed to set the tone for the conference, such that all other speakers connect to the keynote in some way. Even though topics will vary, there should be some tie-back, providing the attendees a common point of reference. This is exactly where speech coaches help conference speakers - working together to ensure key points or ideas are consistent with, and connect to the keynote and to each other. We almost always see presenters using the same sponsor-designed PowerPoint templates. But consistency in the visual aids gets you nowhere if those presenters use different language, have different viewpoints, present conflicting data, or go off the rails in terms of the central theme of the conference. Some conference planners will brush my comments off as trivial, but it can be the difference between world-class conferences and spending a lot of money by parading a bunch of big name speakers across the stage. It’s boring. Executing well means people leaving at the end of the conference are feeling like they got a lot of valuable information and much needed motivation. Otherwise, they leave feeling like something or other went on in the conference and wow, did they have a great time in Vegas!
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06 Mar So Easy to Like: Apps Add to Speech Coaching

My colleagues and I are delighted to welcome a new app, LikeSo into our toolbox of  techniques to help clients become top notch speakers and communicators. We coaches are always on the lookout for ways to help clients practice and progress in their crazy busy lives. The leaders, managers and professionals I work with are attached to their mobile devices (Ok, I admit, so am I!) That’s why I am so delighted to collaborate with Audrey Mann Cronin, a vivacious advocate for more effective speaking, and the creator of the LikeSo app.
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01 Mar Why Doesn’t Bill Belichick Smile?

In his TED talk, The Hidden Power of Smiling, Ron Gutman provides some insights into the proven value of smiling. We are born smiling. Using 3D ultrasound, we can see developing babies smile in the womb. When born, they continue to smile. A smile is one of the most basic expressions of all humans and it is the fastest way to build trust and rapport during face-to-face interactions. OK, so why doesn't Bill Belichick smile? What would he be revealing? Especially with the Media, he knows how to be brief, be good, be gone. Yet he almost never seems happy. I believe this is his strategy. In fact, one study tracked him smiling only 7 times in 114 minutes of media footage!
“Even the simulation of an emotion tends to arouse it in our minds.”
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16 Feb The New MacBook Pro Really Helps Presenters

For those who present with slides, you will want to look closely at the new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar. Apple’s Keynote presentation software has added a simple, yet powerful feature to its software that will have a profound impact on public speakers. Hopefully PowerPoint will have it too. Some background: We know through research at The Speech Improvement Company that the most effective speakers are able to synchronize their visual aid support so your listeners won’t see the slides until you say it. In 2001, Apple released Keynote with a feature whereby the speaker could see the upcoming slide before advancing to it and thereby putting in on the big screen for all to see. This was huge. At the time, PowerPoint had a similar feature, but it would only work if you had a desktop computer with 2 monitor cards and a projector, all connected to each other in a specific way. Keynote was way ahead of its time. Apple reached out to The Speech Improvement Company and asked if we would endorse the software. We don’t normally do endorsements, but this particular feature was very significant. We had not seen anything like it since the invention of the teleprompter. Today, PowerPoint for both Mac and Windows has this functionality.
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15 Feb The Owl in the Oak

There has been a plethora of communication about President Trump’s communication.  We are , indeed, experiencing a new kind of communication from the office and the person who holds the Presidency of the United States.  In recent days, the attention and commentary has shifted from everyone’s...

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08 Feb Do I Need to Tell a Joke in a Presentation?

Yes, go ahead and tell a joke if all of the following apply:
  • You can immediately tie in the joke with the larger theme for the presentation.
  • Your joke is simple and short - audiences can’t remember more than three types of guys meeting Saint Peter at Heaven’s gate.
  • Your jokes won’t offend men, women, children, Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Seventh-Day Adventists; Republicans, Democrats, Independents; cat, dog, fish, or bird lovers; people who don’t like jokes; and so forth.
  • You like telling jokes and not just for speeches.
  • Not only that, you’re good at telling jokes, especially for speeches.
Otherwise, don’t tell a joke.
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07 Feb Lessons on better speaking from the Super Bowl

I love it when after a major game, people who have little to no experience with the NFL or professional athletes, do the Monday morning quarterbacking and proclaim the connections to business. Certainly, professional sports can serve as a cool way to learn about leadership and teamwork, but you’ve got to take it in context plus remember that many people are not sports fans. Some may wear the hats and jerseys, nod their heads, smile and cheer, but if you ask them how many innings there are in the quarter, they will answer a basket is worth 2 points. So, what are some meaningful lessons and how can sports fans and non-sports fans alike learn them? As professional speech coaches, we’ve worked with pro-athletes, their coaches, and senior team executives in several major leagues. From that perspective, looking through the lens of communication, we do get to hear firsthand how these executives, coaches, and professional athletes think.
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16 Jan MLK Day: King’s Speech

"Let us turn our thoughts today to Martin Luther King" --James Taylor, "Shed A Little Light"
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would have turned 88 this weekend. A pivotal figure in American history, he is revered as an exceptional public speaker whose ideas and language helped effect real change in the world. King was human and imperfect. He shot pool and was a fan of Star Trek. Concerns raised about plagiarism and his private life may have merit. He faced criticism from fellow activists and many others. I mention this to underscore that the power of words that he harnessed is not reserved just for perfect, mythical figures, but available to all of us mortals with hopes and fears. As a child in school I was conscious of MLK for a few reasons. His work in the struggle for civil rights was a point of emphasis in the curriculum. And, our adjacent mid-January birthdays meant I often enjoyed a long birthday weekend. Only later did I learn of King’s connections to Boston, or begin to grasp his significance as a communicator.
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12 Jan Powering Up with the TEDx Speakers

Congrats to our TEDx Chandigarh, India clients and all who value spreading ideas to change the world, one talk at a time. We are delighted to add to the brilliance and talents of TEDx Chandigarh.  Chandigarh is known as the Silicon Valley of India, and the...

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11 Jan “We Waste A Lot of Time at Our Meetings”

You have plenty of company.  According to numerous surveys, most businesspeople view meetings as boring, un-productive, and a waste of time.  (In one poll, 43 percent of executives admitted to having dozed off at a meeting at least once.)  Some view meetings as downright unbearable.  Is it possible to leave a meeting feeling refreshed, with a heightened sense of teamwork, and ready to take constructive action?  Use this diagnostic test and follow up with the necessary cure.  There can be more to look forward to than danish and coffee.
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09 Jan Developing Practical American English Skills

An article by Sacha Pfeiffer in The Boston Globe entitled "For more firms, teaching English is in business plan" discusses an innovative benefit that at least 35 Massachusetts companies are providing their employees who are non-native English speakers – free classes to develop their English communication skills. This caught my attention as an educator, coach, and clinician dedicated to the development of people’s communication potential. As a student of linguistics at Northeastern University years ago, I had the privilege to volunteer with S.H.A.R.E., a program provided for service workers on campus to develop practical American English skills. Besides a chance to make use of some high school Spanish, it was a rewarding opportunity to bridge differences, develop my coaching skills, and serve my school community. Today, whether you’re a businessperson, academic, or merely a conscious global citizen, the ability to connect, understand, and collaborate with people and groups of different language and cultural backgrounds is as important as ever to your success.
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03 Jan A Performance Gone Wrong

I am sure you have either seen or heard about Mariah Carey’s disasterous New Year’s Eve performance on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Eve with Ryan Seacrest.  Moments after it happened, social media had labeled it a train wreck, an end of her career, a lip...

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02 Jan A Winning Strategy

I came across an interesting Business Insider article entitled, The 10 best retail companies to work for in 2017, according to employees. It cited Glassdoor’s Employees’ Choice Awards. I expected that pay, benefits and advancement opportunities were the tops reasons why these companies were selected....

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