“Increasingly powerful systems seek to ensure that our attention is never truly ours… We are witnessing the dark side of our new technological lives … Vast quantities of high-pressure media content are pumped into our faces.”
You know this because you too are distracted by emails, breaking news and discounts.
This guest opinion NYT essay goes on to share, “You are lucky these days to get 47 seconds of focused attention on a discrete task.”
How do you get heard above the noise when you only have 47 seconds?
Be unique from the get go. Do not begin a meeting, presentation or even a Linked In post with generic pleasantries. Start with a startling statement, a story, a quote, or a solution to a problem targeted to your listeners.
Tell good stories – in a speech, at your holiday party table, or in the hallways at your next conference.
Schedule carefully. Place your presentation mid-morning if possible. Caffeine has been injected and your digital life is under control.
Insert breaks – if you’re talking for more than 90 minutes.
Mix it up. If you’re giving a presentation of any length keep your content moving and include your audience in nonthreatening ways.
Be organized. Tangents will kill you.
Use humor. Carefully. I’m not a fan of jokes because you might alienate others. Use self-deprecating humor. One time my computer blew up. Another time someone stole it. Painful then, funny now … and lessons abound. (Always bring a backup and put your info/ppt in the cloud.)
Bribe often! I always throw snickers into the group to bring home the point that we need to snicker/chuckle more. Take your work seriously, take yourself a little less seriously.
Catching a small piece of chocolate – perfect attention crisis antidote!
You’re headed into this holiday season. You’ll probably encounter extended family and friends. Your conversations will start with small talk, defined as “polite and standard conversation about unimportant things.”
While small talk might seem trivial, it can net big benefits – around the holiday table and in your various business settings.
This initial type of conversation can help drive richer connections by finding common interests while also demonstrating empathy. At the very least you’ll gain more insights about the other person.
Abrahams defines these two types of responses. “Tell me more” is a support response. You are supporting what the other person says. You are inviting the other person to keep expressing themselves. You are winning the gold medal of active listening.
“Shift responses” create the opposite outcome. You shift away from the other person and hook back to your own agenda. In essence, you hijack the conversation.
Example: “We really had a rough travel day! Got stuck in Chicago for 3 hours and missed the connection at DFW.”
Support response: “Tell me more.”
Shift response: “You think that was bad, one time we were going to JFK but landed in Philadelphia because JFK flooded!”
You might have a great story about your JFK/Philly calamity but you’ve shut down the other person.
Other “support responses”
In addition to the best response, “tell me more”, other support responses include asking more questions about the details of the event or the emotions around the event. “What happened next?” or “Did that make you go crazy?” or “How did you handle that?”
When to use “shift responses”
You don’t want to sound like you’re doing a legal deposition either! There does come a time to share your own anecdotes and experiences. Give and take conversations create more meaningful encounters.
So, as you head into the holiday season remember that information talks and wisdom listens. Use more “support responses”.
I’m nervous and think, “This 90-minute class will never end.”
But I’m done in 5 minutes!
There I stand, with 40 college students looking at me. I know I have nothing else to say. They know I have nothing else to say. And my entire body breaks out into a sheen of sweat.
Had I not signed a contract to teach this class I might not be a speaker and communication consultant now as CEO of Speak For Yourself®! I am forced to show up at Richland College every Tuesday and Thursday for 16 weeks. That’s 32 class sessions in case you didn’t do the math.
It was a powerful lesson that I learned about practice and perseverance.
Effective speakers/teachers/communicators make it look easy.
I warn all of my fabulous clients that speaker anxiety is part of the game of speaking. You won’t get rid of it. In fact, you want that adrenaline edge. You learn how to dance with that demon and use that extra energy in a positive vs. negative way.
And some of those demon-dance steps include practice, perseverance, time, rinse and repeat.
I taught at Richland College for 10 years. The first class of each semester (and all my classes) lasted the full 90 minutes!
One of my coping mechanisms then and now (I still can get hot!) … I wear cotton.
Do you want your audience of one or many to look like this skeleton?
💀 #1 Scariest Speech Mistake ➜ Cobweb Brain
❌ Don’t be boring. If you and your content are not compelling we (your audience) will grow cobwebs in our brains… and stop listening.
✅ Do gain traction. Tips: Smile more. Have good posture and eye contact. Use stories with dialogue. Add metaphors. Engage with a clever opener. Conclude with a “call to action”.
💀 #2 Scariest Speech Mistake ➜ Cue Coma
Even your dog will NOT be your best friend if you make these scary speech mistakes!
❌ Don’t ignore the pulse of your audience. If you don’t understand their needs and issues you’ll put your group into a coma.
✅ Do read the cues in the room. Tips: Do your advance intel. Understand who they are and what they need from you. Then, at your event keep tabs on your audience’s nonverbal and verbal reactions. Gage their mental buy-in and physical energy level. If either begin to lag then vary your vocal pace and add in group participation.
💀 #3 Scariest Speech Mistake ➜ Clock-or mortis
❌ Don’t talk too long.
✅ Do stay within your time limit. Tips: Know the length of your presentation or meeting ahead of time. End when you’re supposed to end.
Happy Halloween BUT don’t make these scary speech mistakes!
It’s Paris Fashion Week. The city is invaded with stunning 6-feet tall models.
By chance my husband, Jim, and I are staying at a Paris Fashion Week hub hotel. We wear black, pretend we’re important, and walk right into the fray.
The models, while gorgeous, all have the same facial expression: miserable to catatonic.
Vanessa Friedman’s NYT article, “Why Do Runway Models Always Look So Grumpy?” explains, “it’s hard to maintain a believable expression of great joy and when a happy face is required, it turns, very quickly, into a frozen rictus that doesn’t reach the eyes.”
Vanessa – I disagree. Smiling is powerful.
6 benefits of smiling
Ground rule: Smiling does not mean grinning like the “village idiot”. Smiling means an open positive facial expression.
Smiling is good for relationships by providing a nonverbal positive feedback loop.
Smiling reduces your stress. It leads to the release of endorphins, the good chemical of the body which suppresses the effect of cortisol, the stress hormone. Even forcing a fake smile can legitimately reduce stress and lower your heart rate.
Smiling suggests success. People who smile regularly often appear more confident.
Don’t look like a depressed runway model.
Do smile. It enhances your demeanor and your business deals.
My sister, Nina Cortell, and I on my LAST day of chemo (in 2012) followed by a pink manicure!
This post is in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
“You’re a poster child for mammograms,” the radiation oncologist said to me.
“Why?”, I asked, from my seat in his bad-aqua blue treatment room.
“Because you found your breast cancer early. You’re going to be okay.”
Eleven years ago I walked into that regular annual mammogram looking pretty good and feeling great. Nine months later – after a lumpectomy, 16 weeks of chemotherapy, 33 radiation treatments, and 101 doctor visits – I walked out of that bad-aqua blue treatment room bald, tired and puffy.
Here’s what I have come to know
Embrace “Normal”. It’s not about how much money you make, or how many trips you take, or how many clients you have. It’s about being able to get up in the morning and having the luxury to do whatever is on your schedule. You get to enjoy a normal day.
Find the humor. I tell my clients that the definition of humor is Tragedy + Time. When I found out I was going to have chemo, I cried. Then, later, I had to chuckle. I told my husband, Jimmy, “I always thought I’d sleep with someone who’s bald, I just never thought it would be me.”
Maintain best practices around exercise and diet. If you’re in good shape you’re ahead of the curve when you get a challenging diagnosis.
Nurture your support system. My family and friends made all the difference.
Speaking professionally and personally – here are 8 communication tips to help you interact with your colleagues, clients and friends who are dealing with medical challenges like breast cancer.
Do stay in touch with someone who’s going through a health issue – emails, texts, phone messages – all are great.
Do NOT ask the person who’s sick to return your call or electronic message. That’s a burden.
Do say or text, “You do not have to return this call/text/email.”
Do NOT ask, “What can I do to help you?” Again, this is a burden.
Do something that you would like someone to do for you. Options: mail a fun card (appreciated and unobtrusive), meet for a walk, wash her car, make a meal, walk the dog, drive him to a doctor appointment, bring lunch, take her to a manicure place, or make a donation in his honor. And, do tell her that she doesn’t have to write you a thank you note.
Do NOT use social media as a place to share your concern unless invited. This can be a major breach of privacy.
Do NOT talk about your own experiences (or the medical outcome from your brother-in-law’s mother’s aunt…) with this type of illness. You are there to hear your friend’s story, she is NOT there to hear yours.
Do listen, if he wants to talk. That’s right. Just listen. Biggest gift of all.
These tips worked for me, and I hope you will use them as guidelines for you.
My annual mammogram saved my life.
Who wants to be a poster child?
But it sure beats the alternative.
PS: Please do your annual mammogram/PSA/whatever test(s)!
PS: Write in comments below of other ways you’ve been helpful to others in a health crisis.