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21 Apr The Hold Button Is Not a Weapon!

Don't use the hold button to explode an obnoxious, annoying, or irritating caller into the never-never land of hold.  In fact, if you can avoid putting people on hold, that's even better.  Do you like being put on hold?  How long are you willing to wait?  What does it feel like to be on hold?  Most likely, very unpleasant and unproductive.  No one likes to be kept waiting on hold.  Many businesses try to soften the experience of being on hold.  The most popular device has been music.  Some companies tune into a local radio station.  Have you called an airline or a movie theater lately?  They play commercials for their products or services.  One company uses Jokes on Hold.  Great idea?  Wrong.  People would pick up the phone before the punch line and upset the holding caller.
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19 Apr 8 Steps to Exceptional Customer Service

Much has been written about the recent situation where United Airlines forcibly removed a passenger (David Dao, a 69 year-old doctor born in Vietnam and living in the U.S.) because they overbooked the flight. It raised questions about everything from passenger rights and the small print on your ticket, to outright discrimination against people of Asian descent. There was a lively discussion here at The Speech Improvement Company about service-oriented corporate culture, the attitudes of front-line employees, and if misaligned, how to fix it. Clearly, United Airlines needs to fix it. “Fly the friendly skies” stands in stark contrast with the image of a bloodied Dr. Dao. I recall one trip home from Japan on United Airlines in first-class. I was hanging out with a flight attendant, and she was complaining about other passengers to me. She said, “These passengers think they are so special. They expect everything, don’t they know this is no different than taking the subway?” I was astounded that she just compared a $15,000 plane ticket with a $1.25 subway fare. Here was a clear disconnect between the employee on the front lines and the marketing and sales departments who sell premium first-class tickets based on how great the service will be. Wow. Here are 8 things all companies, not just United, need to do in order to turn poor attitudes into exceptional customer service.
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16 Apr Happy World Voice Day!

My observance today included hydrating, and singing classic rock in the car during a long drive. World Voice Day is an annual, now-international event created to recognize and honor the importance of the human voice – “to share the excitement of voice science, pedagogy and the vocal arts”[1]. We use our voices to communicate from the very beginning of life, crying, laughing, and babbling before we can hold a crayon or even know a word of language. Voices carry emotion and information, speech and song. Voice is central to human identity and interaction throughout our lives, and especially important in my life and work.
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15 Apr Impressing Investors: Rules for the Roadshow

Congratulations on bringing your innovative idea to the investor presentation stage. Now comes your next challenge--creating a winning presentation. Here are 8 key ideas for success:
  1. Develop the mindset of a ‘professional presenter’.
In addition to innovator, entrepreneur, CEO, CFO, or executive, your skills as a professional presenter/communicator are also being judged. Professional presenters know their words and delivery are being scrutinized. A $10,000,000 decision could rest on the right rhetoric! You are prepared, vigilant, and self-aware with your business acumen. Apply the same rigor to getting your presentation ready.
  1. Think theme.
What do you want investors, analysts, and interested listeners to remember about your firm? Tell them in fifteen words or less. A good idea is to focus on what sets you apart. Ex: ”Powerline meets the growing need for networked, efficient and easy-to-use audio conference systems."
  1. Get Organized.
We’re not talking about spring cleaning your office here. Devote time to packaging your message efficiently, prioritizing the points you want to make and developing a catchy and comfortable opening and closing. Importantly, troubleshoot the top ten questions you’re likely to be asked and outline how you’ll respond. The two biggest organizational mistakes: trying to include too much information and not spending enough time on what makes you viable and valuable in the marketplace.
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28 Mar Creating Muscle Memory

When I work with clients on strengthening their communication effectiveness, I’m often asked, “How can I make these new tools come more naturally?” I assure them that when they carve out time to practice they are creating 'muscle memory'.  Muscle memory is something we often take for granted, yet it’s there and if harnessed, we can use it anytime to project confidence in doing any task.  Obvious examples include putting your car key into the ignition, zipping a jacket, brushing our teeth.  Any habit repeated dozens or hundreds of times creates muscle memory. This muscle memory comes in a  3 part process: Level 1 is self awareness: "What am I doing that is working well and what areas do I need to develop?"  This is often the most challenging part of a learning process. If unsure, ask people you trust what they feel you do well and could strengthen.
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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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