Bog header



Ira Koretsky
(click for all of Ira's posts)
Duane Bailey
(click for all of Duane's posts)
Guest Bloggers
(click for all of our posts from guest authors)



« November 2017 »
Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
    1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30      

I've been helping several clients with presentations these past few weeks. These are initial, generate interest presentations. And the common theme is "assume too much."

The challenge is all too often, presenters assume the audience…

- Has the same level of passion
- Cares about the subject as much as you
- Understands the complexities and connections of the information
- Will be able to retain ALL of the information presented

With rare exception, none of the assumptions are accurate.

To ensure maximum comprehension and information retention, think of your audience as a room full of 10th graders. Envision yourself as a 15-year old. How is your attention span? Ability to remember what was presented? And so on.

Leave the details, jargon, facts, and complex information for subsequent meetings…AFTER you have generated interest with a compelling presentation.

Over the weekend my wife and I went to the mall to do some shopping. We went to one of the large retailers. When it came time for us to put all of our items on the counter, I made some small talk and an in-the-moment joke. The associate, Harold, laughed.

I then handed Harold a coupon. The coupon had some restrictions he had to read. As Harold was reading it, he remarked that there are so many coupons in the store employees are sent to a five-day couponing course. Harold shared that he went earlier in the year. I responded incredulously, "come on. no way." He beamed a huge smile and said "oh yes." He continued, "in fact, the course is so exhausting that they give the students a 40 page manual. In fact sometimes the instructor has to read the manual himself." He had us both for a good two-minutes as he shared more information about the course.

I interrupted him after a few minutes and asked, "are you pulling my leg?" With a straight face, Harold said "yes." My wife and I laughed. On the way home, we talked about how nice he was and what a pleasure it was shopping at the store.

In just a few minutes, Hank increased my potential for increased customer loyalty, repeat shopping, and referrals.

What are your customer service teams doing to make visitors and telephone callers feel good about doing business with you?

Article Summary:  The best sales professionals distinguish themselves by their ability to build rapport with everyone they work with regardless of their initial perceived value. Whether we can see it or feel it, most people treat others based on perceived “value” or “importance” to their goals. Whether you are on a call, networking at an event, presenting to key decision makers, or sharing a meal with a prospect, how we respond with our non-verbal communication, tone of voice, and words can make the difference between “Yes, let’s move forward” and “No thank you.” In this article I address three major points of Improv is Just Like Sales, Do You Have Status? Do I? What is Status?, and We All Desire Appreciation. Also, two exercises are suggested to offer insights into the words you use in writing and verbally. Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, people will never forget how you made them feel.” Every interaction, whether in person, by telephone, in writing, or email, affects your relationships.

If you have any preferences or requests for topics, contact us by telephone, email, or leave a comment on this blog entry.

To read other articles in The Chief Storyteller Blog, select the category, Articles.

Treat Everyone Like a Key Decision Maker: How Improvisational Humor Training Helps You Sell

© 2009. ThinkBusiness Magazine and The Chief Storyteller®, LLC.
Ira J. Koretsky
August 2009

Whether we can see it or feel it, most people treat others based on perceived “value” or “importance” to their goals. Whether you are on a call, networking at an event, presenting to key decision makers, or sharing a meal with a prospect, how we respond with our non-verbal communication, tone of voice, and words can make the difference between “Yes, let’s move forward” and “No thank you” in your sales process.

The best sales professionals distinguish themselves by their ability to build rapport with everyone they work with regardless of their initial perceived value. Someone seemingly uninvolved in the process may have unseen pull or be a quiet champion.

The best sales professionals are like improvisational theatre (improv) performers making the most of every moment with clients, partners, and prospects. I know this from first-hand experience! Over a ten-year period, I performed more than 1,000 shows live on stage with a national improvisational comedy franchise called ComedySportz.

Improv is Just Like Sales
Improv performances are live shows where the performers play unscripted games based on audience suggestions. As performers, we had absolutely no idea what an audience member would say next. Improv mirrors life. Most life experiences arise from random interactions with people.

In improv, you do not know who will be in the scene at any given time and you do not know with certainty what someone will do or say next. Sales is like improv. To help ensure your success in selling, let us explore status, one of improv’s foundation concepts. Used well, it can become a critical communication technique to help you deal with changing business environments with ease.

Do You Have Status? Do I? What is Status?
Whether your sales cycle is short, long, or complex, it is imperative for you to know who is involved in the decision-making process and the role each person plays. We all strive to spend time with Key Decision Makers (KDMs) and their key staff.

Some sales professionals, consciously or not, exhibit obvious differences in how they treat key staff perceived as having lower “importance” or “value.” In improv, this treatment is called “status.” Examples of treating someone with low status include long response times to emails and telephone calls; discounting ideas, comments, or questions raised in meetings; and even more blatantly disrespectful actions that, sooner rather than later, everyone notices. We all have heard stories where disrespect of key staff, subtle or overt, led the sales professional to be shown the exit. If I were a betting person, the poor behavior was rooted in perceived status.

Some of the greatest comedians use status. Rodney Dangerfield was famous for using self-effacing humor. He told jokes giving him lower status compared to everyone else. A classic joke is “I get no respect. Even as a kid. We would play hide-and-seek, and nobody would look for me.” Here is another example of human behavior in action. Imagine a movie with a pompous couple. We watch them treat everyone poorly. As they exit their limousine, a passing car splashes a large puddle and they get soaked. We laugh aloud because their status changes instantaneously, as we say to ourselves, “Justice served.”

Rather than choosing a status level, treat everyone like a Key Decision Maker. In this way, you will avoid many pitfalls and show yourself to be an attentive communicator.

We All Desire Appreciation
Year after year, employee compensation surveys report, among the top responses for desired reward was appreciation for one’s contribution and recognition from superiors. It is one of the qualities of being human—our desire for acknowledgement and appreciation of our efforts and accomplishments. Given the impact showing appreciation has, use body language, tone of voice, and words to place each person in a high status position.

Here are two exercises to help you improve your understanding and use of status as you face your selling situations.

Exercise 1, Language Scan: Examine your choice of words in emails, calls, presentations, proposals, networking—everywhere you are telling your business story. Look for words and phrases you use often and the tone of voice used in your vocabulary, spoken and written. Are there patterns that emerge? How about responses from your listeners and readers? Are they positive and inquisitive or unresponsive and aloof? Learn what works for your audiences and then accentuate the language generating the results you want.

Exercise 2, Yes And: Focus completely on what is being said and not on what might be said. When on stage, performers respond to every communication nuance of their fellow performers. Yes And forces you to listen and respond to everything someone says or does. This affords them high status. To achieve complete focus, mentally precede each of your responses with “Yes, and.” Avoid negative words like “but,” “although,” “however,” and “on the other hand.” Mastery of this technique dramatically improves written and verbal communication. Review a recent email where you used one of the negative words, most likely “but.” Delete “but” and either replace it with “and” or a period. Can you see the positive difference this small change makes?

Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, people will never forget how you made them feel.” Every interaction, whether in person, by telephone, in writing, or email, affects your relationships. By treating everyone like a key decision maker, you will be on the path to building stronger and more profitable business relationships. In addition, sometime in the future, a key staff person will likely be your next key decision maker.


Ira Koretsky is the president of The Chief Storyteller®, a boutique marketing and sales consulting firm. He has delighted audiences around the world helping them achieve better business outcomes and accelerate their revenue with highly effective written, spoken, and social media communications. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after global speaker, columnist, consultant, and executive coach. Find him on Twitter, LinkedIn®, and YouTube.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

You Owe Me a “But”Buck

During my recent board of director's retreat workshop in Boulder, Colorado an interesting thing happened. People actually took a dollar from their pocket.

The "rule" is that the participants can not say "but." As well all know, "but" is a negative and destructive word, especially in brainstorming and creativity sessions. It is absolutely IMPOSSIBLE to delete "but" from your spoken word (I have been diligently trying since 1994). It is absolutely possible to delete "but" from all of your written communication. By using a little bit of humor with the "But"Buck concept, I am gently reminding them to say "Yes And" (Another entry I will explain Yes And). As such, I point it out to the person when they use "but" and mention he/she owes a dollar.

Now, in all the years that I have been doing this, I have never enforced it or pushed anyone to give a dollar. For some reason, people took the "But"Buck out of their wallet.

One woman only had a five. And she asked if anyone had change. One of the other board member chimes in, "Just put the five in. This way you have four left." Everyone had a good laugh.

Last week I had the honor of presenting one of my favorite workshops, "What Do You Do?" in Baltimore to the members of National Association of Catering Executives (NACE). Below is more information on the group. If you are in the catering or related fields, NACE is the organization to join. And if you are anywhere near the Baltimore, Maryland region, this chapter is the second largest and is very active.

I challenged the room full of more than 85 professionals in a variety of industries (e.g., catering, music, entertainment, flower, linen, invitation, photography, event designer, transportation, wedding magazines, event supplies (e.g., tents), and meeting planning). I challenged them to think differently, very differently about how they answer the most frequently asked question at networking events, "What do you do?"

Most people view the elevator speech as simply a tool for networking. It is so…so…much…much more. It is your core message. Everything that you communicate in writing, by email, in person, and on the web has to be synched to your value expressed in the elevator speech. It is not a gimmicky catch phrase–it truly focuses the benefits of what you have to offer in a 30 seconds or less.

I had a lot of fun, more than typical. Likely because they shared stories often based on a personal nature–these are often funnier than business stories. And because the group was so cohesive, they shared personal inside jokes during my workshop.

It was a great bunch of folks with giving hearts. The food was gourmet and delicious, the musician entertaining, flowers and linens beautiful, giveaway bags enticing, and so much more. Of course it was some of the best that I have ever experienced as these firms were also showcasing their talents.

From the NACE-Baltimore Website

NACE is the oldest and largest professional society that addresses all aspects of the catering industry. Through the collective efforts of members, local chapters, committees and the Foundation of NACE, NACE is at the forefront of the issues that directly affect you and your business.

From practical tips that you can use to provide better service to your clients, to recognition and marketing programs that enhance the credibility and professionalism of the field, NACE is on the cutting edge. From educational programs to standards, to ethics, to legislative monitoring, NACE leads the way.

Here are some pictures courtesy of Kelly from Kelly Burns Photography.















Professional speaking is quite a challenging profession. You have to be part educator and part entertainer, among many other things.

One of the most important aspects is the "re-telling factor." After the event is over, what will the participants say about your topic and their experience to friends, family, and colleagues? Will they refer people to your website, give out your contact information, and make referrals on your behalf? They will if you appropriately inspire, engage, educate, and entertain. Packaged together, it's the experience.

And to pass the re-telling test, you have to get emails like this!

I had the pleasure of attending your session several years back at the [XYZ] Conference.  As a testament to your storytelling, I remembered The Chief Storyteller tag and was able to Google and find you.

Being memorable takes time, commitment, perseverance, practice, practice, and more practice (I have been public speaking for nearly 30 years now). And most important, to use one of my father's favorite phrases, it takes tenacity.

In one of my LinkedIn groups, a person posted a question, "Consult: Speaking with an Interpreter…I have a keynote in Peru next week and learned all my Spanish on Dora the Explorer. Any tips regarding successful partnership with an interpreter?"

Several people gave advice of never use humor. I VEHEMENTLY DISAGREE.

People worldwide want to laugh, to be entertained, to smile, to feel good. A keynote presenter has the responsibility to inspire, entertain, then educate. And I would emphasize, so do any presenters. For educational sessions, the priorities are reversed.

The key is doing your homework. And if you think that you are not funny, use other people's humor. How about quotes and cartoons (The New Yorker licenses them for as little as $20 through CartoonBank)? And the best source of humor is you–your personal stories about family, work, and friends.  Just be sure that your humor is relevant to the topic. Whenever possible, test your use of humor on friends, colleagues, and in rehearsal sessions.

Here's what I suggested to the the keynote presenter who is presenting in Peru:

I disagree with anyone and everyone that says do not use humor. The advice comes from well-intended people. And the advice is given because most people do not know how to incorporate humor.

I performed over 1,000 improvisational humor shows live on stage and have been publicly speaking for nearly 30 years. The key to successful humor is do your homework. Like all of your messages, stories, supporting points, etc. ensure that your humor translates. For example, use a quote that says something funny in its learning message–particularly one that is Peruvian. Or a personal story that has appropriate humor in it. Be sure to wait for the audience to "get it" — that's the pausing part.

You are not looking for a gigantic belly laugh. You are looking to entertain (that’s what keynoters do – smile)

The other day, a person in one of my LinkedIn groups posted this question:

"How to deal with requests for webinars, podcasts, speaking, etc. Wondering how people handle these requests. I have a book being released in April. People are coming out of everywhere, asking me to speak (for free). Since they will be recording these, do I ask for anything in return? Do I want my material to be used/reviewed by others? Should I be keeping any proprietary? Should I be charging? I'd love to hear options and your experiences."

Here's my answer and suggestions…

I am not sure if you have been speaking professionally before. My suggestions assume that you are new to being a professional speaker.

There are two schools of thought here represented quite well and do both. I suggest that you create a sales and marketing campaign plan. Within the plan identify what activities you are going to use to generate leads (e.g., speaking, public relations, direct mail, networking, publishing articles, radio and tv, etc.).

Let's focus on speaking. I view speaking opportunities in four buckets: free, in-kind, expenses, and fee.

I advise my clients to be deliberate, very deliberate when they engage a potential speaking opportunity. I do no-fee events in my local area for exposure, a good cause, or both. I always ask about opportunities to write articles, receive testimonials, and introductions to other groups. It's how most people start. Because of the free engagements early in my speaking career, I received numerous introductions to other groups and companies that helped propel my success (I can give you lots of examples of relationship building because of a free event I did four years ago coming back to help). Until you are a proven commodity, balance fee with exposure, even with a national book.

Since my assumption is that you are new to speaking, if an organization wants to video tape you, then I say yes. Include in your contract that you receive two copies and that you may make additional copies as promotional items (not to be sold). You just saved several thousand dollars, have a professionally mastered video, and just put yourself into a higher credibility category of having a video. Meeting Planners know that a book does not automatically equate to great speaker.

Some of the other comments hinted at the call-to-action at the end. It's up to you as to how much you are going to plug your book, other products, and have back-of-the-room sales, etc. I definitely agree that your book should be "pushed" and promoted.

Remember that if the participants and event organizers do not feel good about your speaking experience, then how are you going to get referrals?

The choices come down to a wide range of variables such as your availability, revenue goals, who is in the audience, opportunities in your pipeline, and measured progress in your campaign.

Larry sent me a link to a recent article on The Telegraph in the UK, "Four in ten people laugh at bad jokes, scientists find."

Dr. Nancy Bell, study author is specialist in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL), linguistics, and academic literacy for students who use English as a second language. She shared during her radio interview (below) that she was intrigued by the use of humor by people for whom English is the second language.

Overall, bad humor has the potential to be dangerous socially, professionally, and physically. During her research she avoided offensive jokes and instead used bad jokes. An example is "What did the big chimney say to the little chimney? Answer: Nothing. Chimneys can’t talk." Responses ranged from polite laughter to mild to rude to really rude/angry.

The most common responses to a bad joke included: a) "That's so stupid," b) "You're an idiot," and c) "That's so stupid and you're an idiot."

The reasons for such a negative response according to Bell, "Canned humor often disrupts the natural flow of conversation. And jokes that fail to deliver humor are a violation of a social contract, so punishing the teller can discourage similar behavior in the future. A stupid joke insults the listener by suggesting that he or she might actually find it funny."

Bell shares that "the younger you are and the closer you are in age to your failed humorist, the more likely you are to attack." Another interesting finding is that children were especially mean to parents when parents used bad jokes.

As someone who performed live improvisational humor for many years (see ComedySportz), bad jokes are inevitable. What I would like is to understand more of the study. What was the context, audience, expectation, delivery, and other variables. I do agree that in general, bad jokes receive immediate groans and other responses that leave the comedian with absolutely no question that the joke was bad.

The other important thing to note about office humor: one person's belly laugh could be another person's trip to human resources. Use extreme caution with potentially offensive humor.

23249129 [small]

Additional Resources:

- "Offering Up Bad Jokes a Good Way to Draw ‘Friendly Fire,' WSU Researcher Shows" (Washington State University where Dr. Bell works)
- "Four in ten people laugh at bad jokes, scientists find,"  UK Telegraph
- "No Kidding! Bad Jokes Result in Real Social Harm," MSNBC
- Nancy Bell Biography
- Listen to a recorded radio interview on the Bob Rivers Radio Show
- ComedySportz National website
- ComedySportz San Jose, California (tell Jeff that I sent you–I used to perform with this group)

Today was the second session of a two-part workshop series on messaging for the Entrepreneur Center @NVTC (Northern Virginia Technology Council).

I co-presented with I.J. Hudson sharing insights into developing compelling messages. Examples included: How to answer the ubiquitous "what do you do?", delivering the five-minute investor pitch, the always-ready message points for media, and message points for getting the word out.

Several of the participants were video-taped delivering their elevator speech, investor presentation, and message points. One participant was put under the lights and interviewed by I.J., giving the group a good perspective of how interviewers listen for sound bites and how they pose subsequent questions. It was especially helpful (and fun) for the participants to see before and after footage.

One gentleman, Sal (name changed) shared that he was a little bit frustrated with me during the first session (I knew why). We were reviewing his elevator speech, the answer to what do you do?  While he was obviously passionate and intelligent, he could not deliver a simple and easy-to-understand answer. I suggested that he try imagining that I was a 10th grader–that worked a little bit. Over the next week he continued to work and make progress including a few email exchanges where I made additional suggestions. After today’s session, he thanked me for "pushing" him to simplify his message. He realized that what is important in communication is to tell one’s business story through the prospect’s eyes. One of my favorite mantras is "it’s all about them."

I.J. has a rich career in broadcast media spanning more than 30 years (click for a short bio). He offered some really practical advice on working with print and broadcast media. One of his suggestions really resonated with me…he shared his Dad’s words of wisdom: "If You Always Tell the Truth, You Will Never Have to Remember What You Said." It resonated with me because I am a huge advocate of speaking from your heart. It’s all about packaging your passion into a compelling business message.

Thank You Kristin
About a year ago I met Kristin Seitz D’Amore, Director at The Entrepreneur Center @ NVTC. We met at one of my "How to Pitch to Investors" events with TiE-DC (The Indus Entrepreneur). Over time we became friendly and chatted about creating a program on messaging. If you are an entrepreneur in the Washington, DC area, I encourage you to attend and join the NVTC.

Article Summary:  [Part 2 of 2]  By a show of hands, who likes public speaking? A few hands go up. OK, who likes attending PowerPoint presentations? Again, a few of you. Both responses are what you would expect, right? In this column and the next one, I will show you the steps to change both answers to a loud and resounding "yes!" It is time to tell your great story — a story that melds passion with compelling business messages. Compelling presentations inspire others with your belief in your business and enable you to confidently give your presentation anywhere and anytime. Compelling presentations drive business results: increased membership, reduced client turnover, higher staff retention and enduring profits. 

If you have any preferences or requests for topics, contact us by telephone, email, or leave a comment on this blog entry.

To read other articles in The Chief Storyteller Blog, select the category, Articles.

Presenters Must Prepare Like Orchestra Conductors

© 2008. Washington Business Journal. Used by permission.
Ira J. Koretsky
September 5, 2008

As shared in my previous column, designing and delivering a winning presentation takes planning and practice. We developed an eight-step process that offers a proven framework for creating inspiring content, engaging visuals and messages that win more business.

To recap, the eight steps are:

1. Know your goals. 2. Know your target audience. 3. Develop a compelling message. 4. Identify your call-to-action. 5. Anticipate key questions. 6. Develop compelling talking points. 7. Add supporting content and visuals. 8. Deliver your great business story.

We previously covered steps 1 through 3, so let us explore 4 through 8.

Great presenters are like great orchestra conductors — each piece must fit together and be synchronized.

A specific call-to-action synchronizes the presentation. The call-to-action is what you want your audience to do during and after the presentation. Below are some examples.

* For a sales presentation: Purchase our product.
* For human resources training: Practice the new skills weekly.
* For management: Choose an alternative.
* For government: Select one system for beta test.
* For marketing: Gather more information to validate our assumptions.

It is now time to anticipate the questions your audience will ask. Knowing you are prepared goes a long way to reducing stress and impressing your audience. Pre-empt the tough questions by incorporating as many answers as possible into your presentation.

Be a master at questions and answers by testing your presentation in front of a practice audience. Count on them for frank and constructive suggestions.

Next, develop a compelling message with strong talking points. Each of these points should have their own compelling mini headline and offer clear benefits.

How much time you should devote to each part of a presentation? A rule of thumb is: opening 5 percent, support points 75 percent, closing 5 percent and Q-and-A 15 percent.

The first part of Step 7 is to develop the details and benefits for the talking points.

The best way to design a presentation is on paper. Use blank paper without lines or use large stickies. PowerPoint forces you to think linearly while the best storytellers think creatively and sometimes randomly.

After developing the supporting information, ensure that slide headlines are short and engaging.

When you design the visuals, synchronize the colors in your presentation to your organization’s style guide or to the colors on your Web site. Balance the use of text, pictures, graphics and charts.

To make your presentation more impressive, replace text, tables and graphs with professionally looking images. The images should tell your story through the visuals.

For example, replace a typical Microsoft Excel line chart with a large arrow pointing upward and the annual values to the right of the arrow in a column. There are hundreds of options for shape, size, text, font, colors, images, headlines, messages and metaphors.

Use photography and images that your audience can easily relate to and diagrams and charts that they can easily understand. Drop me a note and I will e-mail our Chart Your Success tip guide.

For professional photography, there are three options. One is free pictures from Microsoft. In PowerPoint, access the menu and select then separately select . The other options are fee-based photo CDs from a site like and subscription services like

With your title, talking points and imagery, create an inspiring and attention-getting opening with options like a personal story, an anecdote, a quote from a relevant industry expert, high-impact facts and statistics, and a well-told joke that readily supports your main message.

After developing your opening, create a powerful and memorable closing.

Last, practice, practice, practice. Experience shows that you should practice the complete presentation five times. The first two are for timing and identifying the gaps. The third is for smoothing out the transitions, the fourth for overall polish, and the fifth is for the ultimate in confidence. The fifth rehearsal ensures that you are ready — timing is perfect, Q-and-A is a slam-dunk, transitions are smooth, etc.

It is your responsibility to educate, entertain and inspire. If you want to be compelling and deliver a presentation that generates real business results, follow these proven steps.

Your audience will feel your passion, readily understand your messages, be informed about key concepts and make business decisions that favor your organization.


Ira Koretsky is the president of The Chief Storyteller®, a boutique marketing and sales consulting firm. He has delighted audiences around the world helping them achieve better business outcomes and accelerate their revenue with highly effective written, spoken, and social media communications. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after global speaker, columnist, consultant, and executive coach. Find him on Twitter, LinkedIn®, and YouTube.


I recently attended an event where super big-brained people presented their ideas in the hopes of obtaining funding to bring their products or services to market. In the venture capital world, it is often called a beauty contest, analogous to beauty pageants where the contents are vying for the judges favor in the hopes of winning.

Each of the presenters was allotted 8 minutes to tell a convincing, why-fund-my-company presentation in Microsoft PowerPoint(R). One gentleman showed a slide that was essentially dots on the screen. As soon as this slide flashed, he stated, "I know that this slide is busy, but…" He then proceeded to review virtually all the words on the screen.

I was amazed and it takes a lot to amaze me. I have never seen this much text on a slide before. Most of his slides exceeded 100 words and the irony was that he thought this to be a good way to present.

Then it came to me…count. I counted about 210 words when he switched to the next slide.

I recreated the amount of text and basic layout in the picture here with as much likelihood that you can read it as the audience could the other night. I used to create the picture to get a feel for the sheer mass of words.

Please send any of your "favorite not-to-do" slides. Would be great to create a library and share it with everyone.

I see about one zillion PowerPoint(R) presentations a year. Today, one of my clients sent me a rough draft to review. On three consecutive slides were diagrams with text size between 5 and 6 points. I had to squint to see the words. Unless you are presenting in a stadium with a 100 foot screen the diagram is unreadable.

So why do people continue to do this over and over? Human behavior is the answer, as it is with most things related to communication. Each of us is intensely proud of our job efforts (as we should be). Because of this, presenters feel that they must show lots and lots of details to the audience. This is what gets you into trouble when designing presentations.

At The Chief Storyteller, we have an unwavering mantra of "It's all about them™."  For example, no small text, no confusing diagrams, colors are synchronized, and professional pictures are relevant, not stretched, and in focus.

When it comes to watching presentations, your instinct is to read everything in front of you. As such, people will be squinting and trying to read charts all the while complaining to themselves about how unreadable the chart is. My strong suggestions are: delete the chart or simplify it so that the text is easily readable.

Next time you are at a presentation, watch the audience watch the presentation. Watch how they watch and respond to the speaker and watch how they read the slides. Business voyeurism, as I jokingly refer to it, offers a lot of lessons and insights into human behavior. Most importantly, it shows you things to do and things to avoid.

I was visiting Guy Kawasaki’s blog the other day and came across Bert Decker’s "Top Ten Best (and Worst) Communicators of 2007."

From Bert’s site, "This year’s List of Top Communicators highlights the best (and worst) from business, politics, entertainment and sports. Take a look to see how communications skills helped make or break these notable individuals."

He has a list of his top 10 best and top 10 worst, each with a little bit of commentary. And he ends the article, "So what do you think?" A good ending!

Here are the last three lists.
2005 List
2006 List
2007 List

Friday, November 16, 2007

Please Mr. Panelist, Be a Panelist

I attend hundreds of presentations a year as you would expect. Some because my clients are presenting, some as part of conferences I am attending, and some for personal education reasons.

When I attend a presentation, I have two brains working. One is the learning brain and the other is The Chief Storyteller brain.

Of late, The Chief Storyteller brain has been put off a bit by inappropriate activities on the part of panelists.

The typical panel presentation has a moderator and three to five panelists whom are experts in their field.

In the last few months, I have witnessed quite a few activities that have made me inwardly cringe.  Here are some examples of distractions that occurred during the panel, when other panelists or the moderator are talking or presenting:

- Panelists chatting with each other.
- Checking your mobile device and then typing messages
- Reading something obviously unrelated to the event
- Getting up from the panelist table to get coffee from the food area
- Fidgeting (e.g., tapping a pen, tapping your foot, moving paper around, and repositioning yourself in your seat frequently)
- Making faces that display obvious disagreement and displeasure as he or she hears what other panelists are saying
- Being a "But Head." There are some people that have one dominant crutch word of "but." They constantly say "No But," "Great idea but," "I agree but," etc.  
- Sharing personal stories that do not synchronize with the event theme
- Telling bad jokes that they knew were bad and apologized for being bad
- Apologizing for saying certain things (one panelist said, "I apologize in advance as I will likely be talking down to you." There are many alternatives to saying this kind of phrase that ensures your integrity and your audience’s support)

People attend presentations for primarily one reason–to learn.

Now imagine that each person is a Peeping Tom. We now have ~100 Business Peeping Toms focused on every move you make.

So when someone attends a panel, all attendee eyes are on the person speaking until there is a distraction (e.g., sound, motion, and action). Distractions, both small and big, are still distractions. The audience notices them regardless if you think that you are being discrete.

Overall, as a panelist, it is your responsibility to show genuine support for the other speakers, to be complementary as much as possible, and to focus exclusively on the person speaking.
Over the past few days I have been helping a CEO with an upcoming investment presentation. Carol expressed to me that she has some anxiety issues as she does not have full confidence in her abilities to wow the audience.

I shared with her several exercises to work on over the coming weeks. One of my favorite exercises to help her think faster on her feet, to be more creative, to build confidence, and to hone her presentation and communication skills is "1-2-5-10."

The idea is for you to, on-the-fly, create and deliver a one minute presentation. Then, using the same presentation information, expand it to two minutes, then five, then 10.

Here are the steps:
1. Wherever you are, look around, and take note of the first thing that grabs your attention. It could be a person, a gesture, a mark on the ground, a car, a color, a sound…you get the idea.
2. Think of the key thought that you want to communicate.
3. Make up a presentation on-the-fly about your key thought.
4. Talk for one minute. Fill the entire one minute!
5. Do the same presentation and expand it to two minutes.
6. Do the same presentation and expand it to five minutes.
7. Do the same presentation and expand it to 10 minutes.

If you do the 1-2-5-10 exercise regularly, you will feel the difference and realize the benefits. Practice presenting just as you would practice a musical instrument, a hobby, and a sport.

I subscribe to tons of blogs and newsletter lists. As I am sure with all of us, we do not read them as fast as we can or would like to read.

I had the pleasure of speaking at The Urban Land Institute (ULI) in Denver in October 2006. It was truly one of my favorite and most memorable speaking experiences. Today, I have kept in touch with more people and made more friends from the ULI conference than any other.

The ULI Blog, The Ground Floor, is an example of a blog that I do not read as often as I would like. I missed the write-up in The Ground Floor blog after the ULI Fall Conference in Denver.

Here is the write-up link.

How did I get introduced to ULI? Through ASAE & The Center for Association Leadership. The story is a picture perfect description of business networking. Ann attended my workshop at The Great Ideas Conference. We connected afterward and found that we were kindred spirits (smile). The rest, as the saying goes, was history.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

How Are Your Phobias Today?

"This is very uncomfortable for me. Can you just ask me questions?" This is what a national book author (call her Rita) told me on our first telephone call today when I asked her to answer, "what do you do?" I am helping her package her passion into a compelling business story before she embarks on a book tour and the speaking circuit.

She is like thousands of people that I have met and observed over the years. Smart, insightful, witty, and personable. That’s Rita and that’s a good description of the average business professional.

Years ago I would have been surprised to learn that a 52 year old sales professional was nervous at networking events or a many-times published PhD stomach knotted up when giving a presentation. Today, I can say without any hesitation that age, experience, education, skills, and background have little or no influence on the average person’s level of confidence. (The why’s and how’s are not included in this blog entry).

Personal evidence shows clearly that CONFIDENCE is the #1 obstacle to being the best communicator one can be. Confidence in one’s story, confidence in one’s ability to deliver the story, and confidence in one’s skills to be compelling and engaging are top of mind for many professionals.

When Rita and I were talking further about confidence and how to overcome her concerns, somehow the topic of phobias popped up. I thought to share with her that there are hundreds of phobias. The largest grouping of related phobias focus on communication-related topics. My message to Rita was that a positive frame of mind, an incremental approach to change, a sound story, and ample practice will absolutely allow her to overcome her lack of confidence.

Out of curiosity, Rita asked what were the phobias. So, I thought to share with you my non-scientific grouping of phobias from several Internet sources. From more than 400 listed, here are the communication-related phobias and their brief definitions.

Agoraphobia – Fear of inability or expected difficulty to escape a situation

Allodoxaphobia/Alliumphobia – Fear of opinions

Cenophobia – Fear of new things or ideas

Criticophobia – Fear critics or criticism

Decidophobia – Fear of making decisions

Demophobia / Ochlophobia – Fear of crowds

Euphobia – Fear of hearing good news

Geliophobia – Fear of laughter

Glossophobia – Fear of speaking in public or of trying to speak

Gnosiophobia – Fear of knowledge

Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia – Fear of long words

Hypengyophobia – Fear of responsibility

Kainolophobia – Fear of anything new, novelty

Kakorraphiaphobia – Fear of failure or defeat

Katagelophobia – Fear of ridicule/embarrassment

Laliophobia/Lalophobia – Fear of public speaking

Ligyrophobia – Fear of loud noises

Logophobia – Fear of words

Mythophobia – Fear of myths or stories or false statements

Ophthalmophobia – Fear of being stared at

Topophobia – Fear of certain places or situations, such as stage fright

Tropophobia – Fear of change

Yesterday was a great day. Great weather, great people, great passion, and great stories.

I had the honor and privilege to be the closing keynote presenter for the American Society for Healthcare Risk Management (ASHRM) of the American Hospital Association (AHA) annual 2006 conference in beautiful San Diego. The title was "Tell Your Story With Passion: Inspire Lasting Business Relationships."

This year’s theme is "a fun and engaging celebration of our efforts toward safe and trusted health care."

I made about 1,200 new friends as we talked about the importance of having a simple, memorable, and compelling 30 second story, their elevator speech, their answer to what do you do?

In keeping with our mantra of ensuring that The Chief Storyteller keynotes and workshops are hands-on, interactive, and fun, I had everyone doing exercises in their seats and on their feet. Everyone practiced their elevator speech with a partner, met dozens of new people doing Hello-Hello and Goodbye-Goodbye, and learned one of the most powerful phrases in the English language, Yes And. We ended with my patented, sure-fire way to leave people feeling inspired, energized, and happy, saying and living Goodbye And.

To help promote the concepts of "safe and trusted health care," I challenged the group to bring out their passion, to share their compassion, and to be confident that their stories should be told and will be listened to. Who wouldn’t listen to you if you said, "I make a difference every day" in response to "what do you do?"

I also challenged them to spend more time building relationships, to network inside and outside their organizations. For example, if you had lunch with someone new just once a week, you’d make 52 new friends over the year. These 52 newbusiness friends will tell some of their friends all about Risk Management and the good stories will spread. And if you visit with another new person in your building per week for just one hour, you’ll have 52 more office friends. That’s over 100 new people each year helping you, helping you to tell your story.

During my on-site visit to a local hospital in my backyard, Ruth Dalgetty of Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland shared a very insightful comment that I included in the presentation. "We care about what our patients think of the care.”

In one of the ways that I tailor presentations to the audience, I shared the pillars of great communication within a health-centered concept of "Take Your Vitamin C’s." Compelling, Credible, Caring, Consistent, and Confident. You too should be taking your Vitamin C’s!

I look forward to hearing from the attendees about their experiences, their new stories, and how they make a difference every day in the lives of their patients.

2006sandiego_ashrm01thumbPERSONAL NOTES:
I thought I’d share a little personal info. The ASHRM team treated me like surfing royalty when I was picked up in a Woody limousine. Within the limo there were autographs on the inside from the Temptations and the Beach Boys. Wow, I was living a little bit of history. You can click on the small image to see a bigger picture.

And below are two more pictures: One is of the harbor area from my hotel room at the Manchester Grand Hyatt and the other is of beautiful palm trees along the roadway in front of the San Diego Convention Center.




By day, and depending upon what I am working on, I am sometimes a motivator, trainer, business storyteller, improvisational humorist, consultant, marketeer, coach, creativity guy, and so on.

5 minutes ago I wore the hats of motivator and coach. I have a new client who is sharp, insightful, great at her job, and successful.

When she has to present in front of a group, her world crumbles. Sweat beads down, nerves rattle and roll, hands shake, voice quivers, and the desire to flee overwhelms her. You would never guess this to be true and you would never be able to tell. She confided in me. I reassured her that this is common to many.

As her coach, I have been asking her to practice mini on-the-spot communication exercises, created just for this type of circumstance. She has been resisting for a few months to do these regularly. I’m politely persistent. Today, I was a bit more polite or shall we say persistent (smile). I made her promise to practice 3-5 minutes a day. Why? So that she can see the difference, feel the difference, to make a difference.

Just like a sport, a musical instrument, a hobby, and job skills, improvement starts from within you. Practice is essential. Will Durant in The Story of Philosophy referred to Aristotle’s approach to happiness. Durant wrote, “we are what we repeatedly
do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” Zig Ziglar, consummate advocate for delivering audience-centered messages, has a great way of talking about habit. He stresses, “motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.”

Communication is the absolute most difficult skills to learn and gain. If I really wanted to, I could become an astronaut, a neuroscientist, a brain surgeon. How? Through long hours of classroom learning and practice. As for communication, I humbly believe that no one can ever master it. It has too many surprises, unanticipated turns, complexities, nuances, colors, changes, and variables. How can we improve?  is a question that I get asked many times over.

My answer, every time…practice. You have to practice, practice, and practice some more. Practice until it becomes a habit. After it becomes natural and part of you, you will then be on your way to mastering your fear of __________ (insert here your fear).

I recently returned from Bonita Springs for the Florida Festival and Events Association (FFEA) annual 2006 conference.

I had the honor and pleasure of presenting my "How to tell your story in 30 seconds or less: 7 steps to a perfect elevator speech" workshop. The audience was filled with a variety of very passionate and committed association professionals and professionals who are volunteer leaders.

The audience represented festivals for art and food (e.g., strawberry and shrimp) and shows from A to Z (e.g., antique, air, historical, and musical). Also in attendance were professionals with social causes seeking partners and knowledge to help with their great causes (e.g., Island Coast Aids Network). A host of top notch service providers rounded out the exhibit hall and attendees.

During the conference, the association recognized the best advertisements for the year previous. You can find the list of winners here. I wanted to share one of my favorite television ads from the ceremony. The television commercial was for the 2006 ArtiGras held in Jupiter, Florida. The ad was produced by Silver Beach Productions. It is a 4 megabyte movie file in a .mov format. You can download it here or by clicking on the picture below. Can you see it?

One thing that I thought very interesting was how much of a draw the FFEA had across the nation. I believe that six other states sent representatives to this conference. As I understand from talking to a number of attendees and of course, through my personal attendance, the FFEA event is one of the best in the nation. Eleanor and her team should receive a standing ovation for the hard work and wonderful experience. I look forward to 2007!!


Personal Notes…
1. Hotel: The Coconut Point Hyatt was wonderful. They treated us like royalty, the grounds were spectacular, the spa was relaxing, and the food scrumptious.

2. Everglades: After the conference, my honey and I went to the tip of the Florida everglades. We took an airboat ride that at more than one point did we both feel like we were going to be alligator food. Speaking of alligator food, there is a joke that people politely laugh at…"after dark, there are two kinds of creatures in the everglades, alligators and alligator food." It really isn’t a joke, is it? Here’s a picture of one that was a little too curious for my heart–about three feet from our boat.


3. Ochopee Post Office: On our way to the everglades, I saw this REALLY small building and it REALLY aroused my curiosity. As such, on the way back, I had to find it. I kept slowing down around the blind curves on US 41, the Tamiami Trail. Luckily no one was behind us as they would have honked as we played car slinky.

What a find it was. The Ochopee Post Office is believed to be the smallest Post Office in America.  When we pulled into the parking lot, I not only took a double take, I took a quadruple take. The building makes the description of large executive one bedroom studio apartment in New York City true. Large studios in New York City are something like 400 square feet. The Ochopee Post Office measures a mere 7? 3" x 8? 4," which is about 60 square feet.  Wow…wow…wow!

The historical plaque has a brief history (see below). It is finds like these that are thrilling and make travel to new places special. Whereever I go, I always find interesting people and hear interesting stories. I don’t often get to find interesting sites to visit like this.



I was doing our “Be A Business Storyteller: 8 Steps to a Perfect Presentation” workshop when someone asked about my remote presenter.

Remote presentation devices give you the freedom and flexibility to be anywhere in a typical office conference room and training room. You can move around the room to answer questions, review materials, collaborate, give someone else control, and most importantly interact with your audience.

Typically, I have to gently nudge professionals who use PowerPoint to purchase a presentation device. It was a nice surprise to be asked the question.

If you are part of a team where one person “drives” (meaning sits in front of the laptop to advance the slides), then you must, must purchase a device (go, go now or order one from the Internet). It will add sooooo much to your level of professionalism, make delivery smoother, improve teamwork, enhance audience rapport, and a host of other benefits.

There are several devices out there. When I did my research several years ago, Interlink Electronics had the best product for me. The RemotePoint Presenter Special Edition had all the features of its competitors plus more. It has a 100 foot range, 32 megabyte drive, and it is synched via radio waves.

Let me know what device you are using and whether you would recommend it for purchase.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Talk Fat Free

I was talking to my colleague, Alex from Matrixx today about a presentation that we both attended. As we were talking, Alex said that guy has got to "talk fat free."

After that phrase popped up, I immediately interrupted him :-)

In an excited voice, I asked him to write an entry on it. In my business, I work with people that are "fat free challenged." They get to the point after many minutes of conversation and presenting. I look forward to Alex's insight so that we can all lose a few communication pounds.

Breakfast of Champions - Ted Leonsis

Ted Leonsis recently spoke at a local technology conference. His keynote address was titled, "Breakfast of Champions." He told his story through a sports metaphor. He used some of the most well known and respected names in sports today. Names like Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Wayne Gretsky, and Joe Namath.

Ted covered each of the points in his plan with a powerful quote from one of these sports giants. He told a story in a unique and very personal way. For those of you not familiar with Ted, he is the Vice Chairman of AOL, a majority owner of the Washington Capitals NHL Hockey team, minority shareholder in the NBA's Washington Wizards, and owner of the Washington Mystics, a WNBA team. He intertwined his message of how he is helping to shape the new AOL with a foundation of compelling and inspirational quotes. Quotes that all have a business relevance. In this humble at home sportcaster's opinion, his presentation was a homerun.

The 12-Point Plan for Success:

1. Plan it - write it down – break it down - strategize
2. Work at it – be committed
3. Measure and improve
4. Listen and learn
5. Trust those around you
6. Don’t be afraid of failure
7. Respect everyone
8. Don’t get too high with the highs and low with the lows
9. The journey is the reward - enjoy
10. Seek balance
11. Be part of something bigger than yourself
12. Love and passion


Here are a few of Ted's quotes...

-- “The more I practice, the luckier I get.”

-- “I don’t love the game. I am in love with the game.”

-- “Failure and loss are my best friends and personal motivators.”

<< Start < Prev 1 2 3 4 Next > End >>
Page 4 of 4