Business talks don’t have to be boring

bored_room

There is an assumption that business talks, by their nature, are boring, as exemplified in this post. This is good news, in a sad sort of way. It’s like the old joke about the two guys trying to outrun a grizzly: “I don’t have to outrun the bear; I only have to outrun you.” Since expectations are so low, anything you do that raises your talk above the level of boring makes you outstanding in the eyes of the audience.

The simplest way to do this is to remember why we do the “out loud” stuff in the first place. Just asking that question and answering it is likely to put you way ahead of the competition all by itself. Continue reading “Business talks don’t have to be boring”

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You can lessen the grip of media-induced fear

lessen_the_grip

I have heard many cry out in the last few days, “Media! Leave Newtown alone! You’re despicable!” The humane part of me agrees with this cry. But you have to understand something. That media frenzy that everyone decries? It’s all our fault. Continue reading “You can lessen the grip of media-induced fear”

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Why Lois Creamer is one of my speaking heroes

Lois Creamer

There are a lot of reasons Lois Creamer is one of my speaking heroes. Here are just a few of them.

  • We haven’t had this conversation, but in my observation, I don’t think Lois thinks of herself as a speaker. She might call herself a speaking professional. Certainly, she is an expert who speaks… and writes… and blogs… and produces CDs and audio products… in other words, she knows something, and will share it in any way she can.
  • If anyone understands the importance of focus, it is Lois. As long as I have known her (which must be over 15 years), she has focused on working with professional speakers who want to book more business, make more money and avoid costly mistakes.
  • She doesn’t confuse simple and easy. She takes things that scare people and tells them a simple way to do what needs doing. But she doesn’t tell you it’s easy. That part depends on what you do with it.
  • She walks her talk. (Focus, sticking with your niche, positioning statements.) So she’s a great model.
  • She doesn’t quit. I won’t go into personal circumstances I happen to know about. Let’s just say she doesn’t let what happens outside the business interfere with the business. (And I suspect she doesn’t let business interfere with what happens outside the business, either.)
  • She has figured out how to manage the balance of business and personal connections. I think she’s a great friend, and in a people business, that can potentially be a problem. If you give away the store to your friends, you will starve, and then you won’t be able to help anyone! She’s done a fantastic job of being a friend, and also knowing when an interaction needs to cross into “on the clock.”

As I said, there are lots of other reasons. These are just a few. If you have a chance to hear Lois, take it. If you have a chance to work with her, take it. Your business will be better as a result.

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Update: Speaking Expert Teleseminar helps–but grab it now!

Experts only by kevin dooley, on Flickr (Creative Commons licensed)

Let me tell you right now that I am an affiliate for the Speaking Expert Teleseminar. But let me also tell you that I paid for it up front because I recognized five out of the seven experts and knew their work to be well worth the price, and I wanted to ensure I got access to every bit of their expertise. Continue reading “Update: Speaking Expert Teleseminar helps–but grab it now!”

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Book review: Say yes and benefit from this book

One of the major rules of improv comedy, of which Avish Parashar is an expert, is that whatever your colleagues throw at you, you should say yes to it and develop it. Saying no stops the action. It’s a little harder to see that “yes, but” is just a form of no, but in effect it is.

Say “Yes, And!”: 2 Little Words That Will Transform Your Career, Organization, and Life! lays out the contrast between “yes, but” and “yes, and,” and makes a quick case for the huge difference it makes in attitudinal and practical terms. It then proceeds to develop those insights in great depth and apply them to several areas of life.

An important idea for me out of this book is that we say “Yes, but” so much because it works, in the sense of getting some immediate result. We can miss the downside, though: it stops the scene, the action. It stops development. It stops progress. We say it because we’ve gotten some reinforcement from the immediate results, without ever seeing the long-term results that would have come from “yes, and.”

Plus, “yes, but” is safe. It doesn’t involve risk. On the other hand, “yes, and” is effective. Throughout the book, Avish shows how “yes, and” is more effective, especially in the long run, than “yes, but.”

Also throughout the book, Avish is careful to point out that he is advocating neither mindless agreement, nor becoming a pushover, nor even avoiding “yes, but” altogether. “Yes, and” is a mindset, not a rule. The idea isn’t to turn you into a clone of Jim Carrey in “Yes Man,” but simply to remember to be open. (And, I would add, it enables you to genuinely and warmly say no when you need to, without beating around the bush.)

Avish simply believes “and” is superior, and he suggests three considerations for saying “but.”

  1. Say “yes, but” later.
  2. Put the positive after the “but.” (Managers are told to start with something positive, mention whatever criticism they have, and then finish with something positive, often called the “criticism sandwich.” Research tends to show it doesn’t work very well. (http://www.openforum.com/idea-hub/topics/the-world/article/the-criticism-sandwich-a-stale-idea-1). What does work, according to Clifford Nass, the Thomas M. Storke Professor at Stanford University, is starting with the negatives, followed by a long list of positives–sort of a criticism deep-dish pizza. Parashar’s principle here, fits that bit of advice.)
  3. Use “but” to come up with alternatives–really another way of saying “yes, and.”

In developing his thesis, Avish hits on a topic that is close to my heart: communication. He says good communication is at the heart of success (I would agree), and says, “‘Yes, And’ is the simple tool you can use to increase the quality of your communication and make it as effective as possible.”

I definitely recommend reading this book more than once. Its deceptively simple approach has many nuggets of practical wisdom that you can mine over several readings.

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book. That doesn’t matter. I calls ’em like I sees ’em, and would say so if I didn’t like it.

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Infographic: The Pitfalls of Freelancing

Infographics have become a trend–at least partly, I think, because they’re information-dense means of quickly making sense of a topic, and effectively combine visual and verbal information. This one applies to both writing and speaking, I think, as well as the obvious connections to IT.

Pitfalls of Freelancing
Created by: Masters Degree

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New medium, old idea–working well together

Diana Huff points out the obvious, which is often anything but: relationships are crucial in most areas of human endeavor, and yet hard to measure. Her post, “Social Media: Don’t Expect a Marriage Proposal on the First Date,” uses as an example a contact she developed (and that’s really too strong a word, since it implies a conscious agenda) over a period of years in the old-fashioned face-to-face days. She says:

If I had asked [my contact] if she was going to send me work while sitting at that BMA dinner meeting, do you think she would have hired me a year later? Hell no!

It’s the same for social media. You can’t expect people to send you “juicy fat contracts” simply because they’re following you on Twitter.

And yet that’s exactly what many observers of current social media seem to expect, saying implicitly or explicitly that Twitter is a waste of time unless you can track an almost immediate return on investment.

When you’re planting corn, you can tell how much of it came up in a given year. When you are cultivating a forest, you can’t tell the effects of your efforts for a long time, and even when you can see them, you likely will have no idea which seed led ultimately to which trees. As the old saying goes, you can count the seeds in an apple, but only God can count the apples in a seed.

My take? Whether through Twitter and Facebook, or the old fashioned way of simply being interested in people, cultivate your relationships–not just so you can make a buck, but so you can make a life. When you do, the bucks come much more easily, and much more enjoyably to boot.

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Especially for students: taking charge of your “job”

This blog is “not just academic,” as the flag shows. While we’re primarily interested in communication-related topics, and technology in higher education, we’re focused on application. Feeds show up in a couple of online classes, though, so I want to take an opportunity to post a link to an article that may spark some pragmatic solutions for students who worry about getting a job once they graduate, whether they’re journalism/PR folks or more general students who read this.

It also happens to be a good example post for speech students to show how expressing an opinion goes beyond merely expressing it, but also illustrating it and backing it up.

Columnist and consultant Peter Bregman tells CNN readers/viewers, “No job? Create your own!” Like anything else, it’s easier said than done. (Isn’t that true of everything? So why is that supposed to be a reason not to act?) The idea, or perhaps the attitude, is the value of this post.

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