Featured Posts

<< >>

Volunteering for fun and professional growth

Volunteering is recommended as a skills-building and networking opportunity for anyone looking for a new job or career. I’m consistently surprised of the number of people in mid-career who disregard this suggestion. From my lens, I see lots of people entering the workforce – often 20-somethings who have recently finished school and are in search […]

What if you are having an “off day” on a day when you must be “ON”?

We all have those days. Perhaps we didn’t sleep very well. Perhaps we have a sick partner, parent, child, and our thoughts are preoccupied. Perhaps a cold or virus has latched on to us. But the timing couldn’t be worse. A big meeting, a networking event, or we must give a presentation. And make a […]

Are your words and body speaking the same language?

Non-verbal communication accounts for an estimated 93% of our communication. I’m not just referring to written communication – emails, text messages, and letters – but to our verbal communication style. While we spend a lot of time crafting our message – selecting our words, our phrases, our tone, perhaps even our sentence structure – we […]

Your Key Benefit Statement: Your First Step to Career Success

Your Key Benefit StatementI presented at Toronto’s National Job Fair, as part of the District 60 Toastmasters Booth, yesterday. My topic: Your Key Benefit Statement: Your First Step to Career Success.” Why this topic? Because our ability to clearly understand, define, and articulate what we want is, for many of us, quite difficult. As for […]

Volunteering for fun and professional growth

Volunteering is recommended as a skills-building and networking opportunity for anyone looking for a new job or career.

I’m consistently surprised of the number of people in mid-career who disregard this suggestion.

From my lens, I see lots of people entering the workforce – often 20-somethings who have recently finished school and are in search of a position to launch their careers. – look for volunteer opportunities. They are often eager, curious, driven, and ready to do what they are meant to do.

However, once many of use hit, maybe 35-45 or 50 years old, well, many of us do not volunteer our time.

I do. And many of my friends do. Friends I’ve met though volunteering, interestingly enough.

But I also know lots of people who opt to spend their free time doing other things. Certainly, taking care of their children ranks highly (and I am not going to disagree with that decision) but those who opt to lie in from of the TV, or play online video games, hang out on Facebook, etc.

While, “downtime” is certainly important, spending a couple of hours a week or a month, donating your time, is certainly worth considering.

Some benefits I have received:

  1. I have met some really interesting and fun people.
  2. I have had to deal with personality challenges, which have helped prepare me for dealing with workplace challenges.
  3. I have made business/career connections, which have helped find work, learn about potential contracts, and find clients.
  4. I have developed skills that I enjoy. Such as making presentations, helping organize fundraisers, designing and facilitating workshops, and creating and managing social media strategies and websites.
  5. I have seen plays – lots of plays – and met interesting actors, directors, producers, and theatre managers/coordinators – all of which opens my eyes to forms of thought, creativity, ideas, and opinions.
  6. I have laughed – repeatedly – which helps reduce stress, exercises our stomach muscles, and helps put us in a good mood.
  7. I have helped others, which I think (opinion only) is a really good thing to do.
  8. I have learned interesting tidbits of information. Tidbits that I might not have learned otherwise or might not have had the inclination to research.
  9. I have made new friends. Many people tell me that making friends as an adult can be challenging, but I haven’t found that to be the case.
  10. My friends have met interesting and fun people – finding camaraderie, friendship, and romance. My volunteering benefits have expanded past me, past those I might have directly helped, to my TV-watching, video games playing friends.

If you are looking for a new career, job, or just looking to get off your proverbial couch and experience new things, make friends, learn some skills, or just laugh, I strongly recommend you consider spending a couple of hours a week or a month volunteering your time. The benefits you will receive will far outweigh the benefits you will deliver to others.

Making a change in our habits is never an easy step. But it is necessary, if we want to see a change in our live.

My volunteer experience includes, but is not limited to:

If you are curious about opportunities and you are in the Toronto area, check out Volunteer Toronto. Or, simply enter “Volunteer opportunities” into your search browser. Have fun and good luck!

What if you are having an “off day” on a day when you must be “ON”?

We all have those days. Perhaps we didn’t sleep very well. Perhaps we have a sick partner, parent, child, and our thoughts are preoccupied. Perhaps a cold or virus has latched on to us. But the timing couldn’t be worse. A big meeting, a networking event, or we must give a presentation. And make a good impression.

All the tips to “stand up straight and look them in the eyes,” while valuable and true, might not even get us on the stage.

What to do?

I have three suggestions for your consideration:

1. Take a deep breath. Ideally, several. Before you leave your home. Before you enter the room. Before you walk onto the stage. Close your eyes, take several deep breaths. Pull the air into your belly two or three times. Hold and slowly release it. As you pause to breathe, remember why you are about to do what you are about to do. Remember, you only have to focus on this task for a set period of time. Then, your “regular” life will be waiting for you.

2. Strike the Power Pose. You might want to try this in a bathroom or area where you are alone. Stand up straight. Bring your arms up over your head, into the shape of a V. Reach your hands for the sky. Close your eyes and breathe. Again, two or three deep breaths. Open your eyes. Do you feel more relaxed? Confident, ready to take on what you must? (If not, try again.) You have just accomplished a couple of things. One, you have stretched your body. Two, you have released some of the stress sitting in your shoulders. Three, you have expanded your body, which helps restore/create confidence. And four, you have taken some additional deep breaths. Breathing is good.

3. Stand up straight. Chin up. Shoulders straight. And walk into the room. Keep your head up and smile. These gestures are signs of confidence and are actually easy on your body. As your body relaxes (the breathing helped do this too) and you will look confident, and you will start to feel confident. Remember, this isn’t forever. You just have to get through this event.

We can’t always be “on.” Sometimes life just gets in our way. But we can take advantage of a couple of tips to help trick our body and mind into feeling confident. Even for just a couple of moments in time.

Remember to breathe. And smile.

Good luck.

Are your words and body speaking the same language?

Non-verbal communication accounts for an estimated 93% of our communication. I’m not just referring to written communication – emails, text messages, and letters – but to our verbal communication style.

While we spend a lot of time crafting our message – selecting our words, our phrases, our tone, perhaps even our sentence structure – we should spend more time on our non-verbal style.

Consider your facial expression, your arms, your legs, your stance, and your eyes.

Five simple areas to consider when you are communicating:

Sit still. If you are sitting across from a person, sit still. Don’t fidget. Don’t cross and uncross your arms and your legs repeatedly, for seemingly unknown reasons. If you must, due to an injury or discomfort, call it out. “I hurt my leg cycling and I have to adjust it occasionally. I hope it isn’t distracting.” But ideally, keep your hands on the table or in your lap, unless you use them while speaking, and keep your legs still. Otherwise, you risk sending a message of disinterest, boredom, and that you would rather be anywhere else, but there.

Nod your head. Not like a cartoon character, but when you agree or understand what is being said. Couple that with a smile and a look into their eyes, and you will show that you are paying attention, understand what is being said, and that you are genuinely interested in the conversation.

Mirrioring. Imitation is often said to be the greatest form of flattery. Consider this when you are speaking with someone. If they smile, smile back. If they look curious, be curious. If they have something to say, recognize their urge to speak. By being in-sync with their body language, you will send a message that you are aligned with them philosophically.

Don’t be a shrinking violet. Hold your body straight, even if you are sitting down. Hold your shoulders out, your chin up, your back straight. Look them in the eyes. These simple moves will demonstrate confidence, interest, intelligence, and help you connect with your conversation partner.

Don’t be limpy. I’m not referring to your dancing style, but to your handshake. Yes, we know that we must have a strong, confident handshake. So why do I continually encounter gentile, limp, hesitant handshakes?  When getting ready to shake hands with someone, especially in the business environment, keep your shoulders square, your back straight, hold out your right arm, hand firm and shake the other person’s hand a couple of times. Look them in their eyes and smile at the same time. Be genuinely happy to meet them. Aim for a natural feeling. Practice on friends, if you must. The more you practice, they better you will be.

Remember, you have an estimated 90 seconds to make a good impression. Ensure you communicate what you want, by aligning your body, face and words. Look your colleagues in their eyes, smile, and be happy to meet them. Remember to pay attention and treat them with genuine respect. Practice and your comfort level will improve, as will your communication style!

Your Key Benefit Statement: Your First Step to Career Success

Your Key Benefit StatementI presented at Toronto’s National Job Fair, as part of the District 60 Toastmasters Booth, yesterday. My topic: Your Key Benefit Statement: Your First Step to Career Success.”

Why this topic?

Because our ability to clearly understand, define, and articulate what we want is, for many of us, quite difficult.

As for why, perhaps a psychologist can help us understand. In a world of 120 characters in a tweet, for some of us, well we use too many words when we write. We jump between different tenses as we try to describe what just occurred. We don’t edit our words – either written or spoken – so that our listener has to work to understand what we are trying to say.

Or, not work at all. Which is definitely not our goal when we are trying to advance our careers.

I focused on three main messages during this presentation:

  1. Who is your audience?  Define their position, their company, their problem or pain points, and their industry.
  2. How can you help solve their problems? What characteristics do you have that will help him/her/them out?
  3. Get comfortable with what you want to say and to whom you want to say it. Practice.

I’ve attached the presentation “Your Key Benefit Statement” for you.

Remember – the more clearly you are able tell people what you want to tell them, the better they will understand you.

Note: I hope I didn’t use too many words in the above post…  😉

Assessment tools, do you follow up?

 

I’ve been working with some organizations, facilitating assessment tools, surveys and focus groups. Our goal is to determine a pulse of how they are doing, from the eyes of their members, customers or employees.

Information gathered from these tools is valuable, which can be used in new programs, new offerings and to help increase productivity. Occasionally, it tells management what they already know, but at the minimum, employees, members or clients are given an opportunity to voice their concerns. Feeling heard and appreciated is, of course, extremely valuable.

Consider that getting the pulse from those on the “ground floor” can help streamline operations, improve employee productivity and build commitment to your brand.

Win. Win. Win.

But often what is missed follows these exercises. Management will spend resources – time and money – on gathering information. And then, neglect to follow up. The information, from the viewpoint of the contributors, falls into a black hole from which it doesn’t emerge.

Consider the adage that perception is everything.

Are you one of these managers?

Initially, employees or members feel good about the exercise. Their sense of self-worth and value increases when the opportunity is proposed. They enter the experience with a positive energy – even if they complain. If you hire a good facilitator, they will allow attendees to gripe, but then focus energy on improvements and moving forward.

But when managers drop the ball and don’t communicate their plan for change – even if it is to buy time – the negative feelings magnify exponentially. We hate feeling ignored and undervalued. Do you question this? Think of yourself and when you are ignored. Yuck.

When we ignore those important to us, their tendency is to feel negative, a lack of commitment, disinterest in the organization and poor productivity.

You can mitigate these negative feelings and actions. All that is required is a discussion on the results, some sort of plan of action, and then communicate your thoughts.

The cost of inaction is high and is wasteful; a waste of time, energy, resources and goodwill.

Organizations are often, but not always, pragmatic. Why bother with the exercise if your intent is to ignore the results?

The secret: Follow up. And prosper. That’s all.

Good luck!

The secret to career success?

Have you ever been told that if you do what you love, that the money will follow? I have. And I know people who have followed this career advice. to great success. And I know some who have ended up frustrated.

I happened upon this chart on LinkedIn this morning:

 

 

For me, it sums up the challenges of “doing what you love” but also, and in red, highlights the major gain.

Success requires luck, good timing, dedication, perseverance, and sometimes, creative thinking. Approaching our talents with an eye for how we can carve a career while doing them.

Have you tried “doing what you love” as a career?  Are you happy with this decision?  What would you change about it?

And if you are not “doing what you love” but perhaps “doing what you like and are good at,” are you happy? What would you change about this decision?

 

 

Closing your presentation powerfully

 

When preparing a presentation, your closing statements are just as, if not more so, important as your opening remarks. While your opening comments will capture your audience’s attention, they will be left with your final remarks.

And often, too often, these comments are left as afterthoughts. I make this statement as a frequent audience member of presentations.

If you are in the midst of preparing a speech, how can you create conclusions which will stay with your audience?

1.    Circle back to your introduction.

How did you begin your speech? Let’s take the example of using a story. When you select an appropriate story for your topic, this technique captures your audience’s attention and reinforces your main points. As your presentation unfolds, consider referencing back to your opening story. And then, during your conclusion, reference your opening story to form a circle. This will connect the dots for your audience and effectively conclude your speech.

2.    Tell them what you told them.

One of the secrets in presenting an effective speech is to tell your audience what you are going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them again. Using this technique, at the beginning of your presentation, orient your audience to your main topic. Use the majority of your presentation to prove and reinforce your topic. When you conclude, summarize your presentation to help reinforce your main point.

3.    Give your opinion

Audiences generally appreciate hearing the viewpoint of their speaker. If you are presenting, as an example, the pros and cons of a topic, be sure to tell your audience your overall opinion at the end. Stay clear of remaining neutral. This need became apparent to me last week, when I spoke about Wind Powered energy sources. The point of my presentation was to simply present the pros and cons of wind turbines and wind as a viable energy source, and leave the audience to form their own opinions about its viability. However, at the end of my presentation, the resounding feedback was that my audience wanted to know my opinion on the topic. They were preoccupied with my opinion, to the point that they wanted to continue the conversation after my speech. Had I provided my opinion at the end of the speech, we would have formed a stronger bond, and could have continued our conversation from that point. Don’t let them leave the room disappointed in spending time listening to you.

4.      Conclude your story.

One technique in speech preparation is to take your audience on a proverbial trip. If you opt for this approach, you’ll lead your audience throughout your presentation. Conclude your speech with your destination. As an example, consider a speech in which you are introducing yourself, or perhaps your career. Using a chronological approach, begin with an earlier point in your life and conclude with your current state. This technique works in conversations as well.

Regardless of which approach you use, be sure to consider it as your draft your presentation. If you use a story in your introduction, assess whether it will successfully conclude your speech. Chronological order works for some speeches and be sure you know where you want to end up. Be sure to tell your audience what you told them. And definitely tell them your thoughts, if that is appropriate to your speech topic.

Good luck and happy presenting!  Have fun!

And now, I’d like to introduce…

 

Have you ever been called upon to introduce a guest speaker? Do you have any idea how to start? 

The task is an honor, but it can also be slightly challenging. What do you say? How do you say it?

To help you get started, consider these tips:

Ask the speaker for an introduction

This is the most straightforward approach. Your speaker should have a sense of how they want to be introduced.

Craft your own introduction

This is where things can get tricky. A 60-90 second introduction is ideal. Aim for something to attract the audience’s attention, without hogging the limelight from your speaker.

1. Know the topic and presentation title

Perhaps you already know this, but double check with your speaker to ensure you have the correct and current details

2. Identify why this particular speaker

By identifying one key point as to why this speaker was selected to present to your audience, you can clearly articulate why they should listen. Tie it back to the topic.

3. Why is this particular person speaking to this particular audience?

Perhaps you have a group of marketing executives looking for a spark to help them reignite their creative juices. To help this initiative, you have a speaker who is an expert on brainstorming and digital media. Highlight the key benefits of your speaker to your audience.

While this isn’t necessarily a component of your introduction, be sure your speaker has everything they need (i.e., microphones, digital projector, clear speaking area, etc.) to deliver a stellar presentation.

Finish with the speaker’s name. “Please welcome ****” and lead the applause

Remember:

  • Your goal is to prepare your audience for your dynamic special speaker, but keep the spotlight on them, not on you.
  • Honor your speaker with a kind, heartfelt and sincere introduction.
  • Keep your audience’s interests in mind by highlighting, “what’s in it for them.”

Good luck!  And please share any suggestions you have to help others deliver stellar introductions.

Hello, is anyone listening?

 

Getting you audience’s attention can be a challenging task. In my experience it only seems to occur when I’m not prepared for it.

Their preoccupation with “not you” doesn’t necessarily mean that they aren’t interested in hearing what you have to share with them. It also doesn’t necessarily mean that your introduction wasn’t good. They could just be absorbed in their own company. Think of an after-dinner speech or if you have the time slot after lunch, when tummies are full.

Remember not to take it personally. Recognize the situation and move forward.

In case you ever find yourself in a position where you have been introduced, but the audience is still happily chatting away with each other, here are some tips to help focus their attention on you:

1. Greet the audience

Stand up, wait for a couple of seconds, put a big smile on your face and greet the audience. This might be when you realize that they are preoccupied.

2. Ask someone at the back of the room if you are audible

Not only does this engage audience members, but this also ensures that you aren’t dealing with a technical problem. This might not be appropriate in each situation. I’ve used it in a group of 250 and it was effective.

3. Start clapping and smile

In my experience, your audience members at the front of the room will join you. Once others do, then you can segue into thanking them for joining you for whatever the occasion.

4. Start speaking anyway

If you opt for this tactic, I suggest staying clear of any of your key messages. Help your audience remember your key messages by mentioning them once you have their attention

5. Start with a video or song

This tactic is commonly used in large groups, often thousands of attendees at conferences. It can be quite effective. This requires preparation and equipment, certainly a screen, projector and speakers, unless you opt to sing yourself. (I wouldn’t try that one myself.)  Regardless, if you decide to use a video or song, check your equipment, pay attention to your timing and ensure that it is appropriate both for your audience and subject matter.

Good luck and I hope you never have to remember my suggestions!

And along those lines, what tactics have you tried and recommend?

Successful Team Brainstorming

“Brainstorming” is a fun word, isn’t it? Bringing with it the suggestion of creativity and the freedom of ideas, it is rich with possibility and potential. An exercise that is seemingly unlimited!

Or perhaps you find it daunting? Especially when it has to be done with a team of people? Each person has their own agenda. Each wants certain outcomes, which may or may not be congruent with the rest of the team.

With the goal being success, consider the overarching purpose of the team. Are you working together to achieve the same outcome? Improved customer service? Marketing excellence? Developing a valuable product? Whatever your purpose for working together, keep that in mind as you gather for your brainstorming exercise.

And consider why you are bothering with this exercise. Team brainstorming has the potential to find solutions to problems, in addition to fostering a cohesive team commitment to the solution.

The trick about successful brainstorming is to simply let the ideas flow.

Some tips to ensure that a group effort will achieve your desired outcome; that being the purpose for your team.

  1. Remind everyone of the overall purpose of the brainstorming session.
  2. Break up and encourage independent thought. Give each team member the opportunity to brainstorm on their own. Encourage them to be as creative as they like, using tools that work for them. For example, a mind map, list, pictures, or colours – either electronically or with paper.
  3. Regroup and share the ideas. Give each person the opportunity to present their ideas without passing judgment. The key is to be positive and welcoming for each idea. Remember, no one has the answer, which is why you are conducting this exercise. Make a master list of all of the ideas.
  4. Review each idea individually, as a group. Discuss the pros and cons as a group. Remember that as the group leader, to avoid passing judgment. Facilitate the discussion without criticizing the suggestions. Let the group form its own consensus, and eliminate or keep the suggestions accordingly.
  5. Ideally, one or two key suggestions should emerge as keepers, and worthy of continued consideration.

The key to this exercise is to enable and encourage the creative juices of your team. If your suspect creativity might be impeded within your office, consider going offsite. Another technique that works well is having an outsider facilitate the discussion; someone who does not have a stake in the outcome.

Remember, you don’t have the answer before you start. The goal of the exercise is to find a solution and build cohesion around it. Good luck and have fun.