Archive for September 26, 2011

Grand Slam Communication: Workshops That Wow (Part 3)

Fear of death.
Fear of cats.
Fear of speaking.

In a study on fears, Americans listed the fear of speaking as the number one thing that made them a “big fraidy cat.” There are a number of reasons people fear presenting – and near the top of the list is being another boring speaker.

So instead of being scared to death to speak, turn that fear and stress into presentations full of life! Whether you call it a seminar, presentation, symposium, break-out session, or workshop – fear no more! You’re about to find out how to turn a mere audience into a group of engaged, excited, and enthusiastic fans! If you can remember the basics of baseball or softball then you’ve got the key to presenting a winning workshop!

Note: For the first part of this article, the Infield, click here.
Note: For the second part of this article, the Outfield, click here.

Step #3 is covered in Fans: it’s the little things that make a Big Difference!

Know Your FANS
Next to knowing your pitch, understanding your audience is the key to turning them into huge fans. Great presenters do their homework to customize their message and understand the needs of their audience. Here are some basic things you want to know about your fans:

—Ethnicity and culture
—Experience with the topic
—Their expectations
—Where you present in the program (are you the first session or last?)
—Attitudes and values
—Common ground (what experiences do you share with the audience?)
—Number of participants to expect

Start a DUGOUT
Great presenters are always on the lookout for new material, quotes, news, studies, and stories that can bolster their message. Just as the Dugout in baseball and softball holds the players and equipment during the game, a “Dugout” for a presenter is where you keep your presentation materials. Find a central place to file new materials, old presentation notes, and hot ideas for future workshops.

TRI TIP: PDA’s and digital organizers make great Dugouts. If you own a PDA or digital organizer, then fill it up with stories, quotes, presentation notes, and outlines. Now you’ll be ready to present on a moment’s notice or in the event something happens to the hardcopy of your materials.

Know the STADIUM
The stadium in baseball is where the game is played. The “Stadium” for presenters is the facility and location where you’ll present your workshop magic. Some facilities are better than others — but all of them can work for you as long as do your homework and know your location in advance. Here are some keys to researching your facility:

Know the Set: Ask your contact what the room set will be for your presentation. Common settings include boardroom (table in the middle with chairs surrounding), classroom (rows of tables and chairs), theater (rows of chairs), rounds/banquet (round tables with 8-10 chairs), U-shaped (tables in the shape of a “U” with chairs along the perimeter), etc. All settings present positive and negative potential. The key is to know in advance so you can prepare accordingly.

Size of Session: Knowing the number of fans attending your presentation is a critical factor. It tells you the types of activities you can plan, if there is room for movement, how many copies of handouts to make, the amount of supplies needed, and more. When it comes to audience size, be a Boy Scout – be prepared for anything.

Room Temperature: Get to the workshop early and check the room temperature. Too hot or too cold will play a factor in your presentation. Know how to contact facility officials who can adjust the temperature accordingly. Remember sound and bodies will increase temperature so do not worry if the room seems cold at first — it will warm up!

Location: Get the address so you know where you are going. Be sure to secure your room number in advance or arrive early enough to find your host(s) and locate your room. Scope out the parking situation — especially if you have lots of supplies to transport.

Here’s the key to handouts — USE THEM! Remember, “What you plant is what grows.” If you want people to “get your message,” then you must give them the message you want them to remember. Your handout is the key to creating a more lasting memory.

Fill in The Blank: The best handout for workshops is a fill-in-the-blank style exercise. Create a prompt (example: Making a Million Point #1 _______) for them to write down your key thoughts or points. This style is great because it essentially outlines your message, keeps them active filling in details, and signals when your workshop is almost done because the worksheet is almost filled up.

Paper Fun: Don’t just rest with a boring 8 ½ x 11 white or goldenrod piece of paper with your key points. Simply jazzing up your handout will send a message to participants from the beginning that they are in for something new and different in your session. Change the paper from portrait (up and down) to landscape (left and right). Use an 11 x 17 piece of paper folded in half (creates four 8 ½ x 11 sheets, front and back). Create a special “business card” sized handout with your key points and your contact information so they can reach you later for more. Trim your handout into shapes (circles, triangles, squares) to make them stand out.

Timing: If you use a worksheet style handout, distribute it at the beginning of your workshop. If you have a detailed handout full of raw information, distribute it at the end. This will keep your audience focused on your presentation and happy that you summarized your material for them in a lasting way.

Grand Slam Communication: Workshops That Wow (Part 2)

Fear of death.
Fear of cats.
Fear of speaking.

In a study on fears, Americans listed the fear of speaking as the number one thing that made them a “big fraidy cat.” There are a number of reasons people fear presenting – and near the top of the list is being another boring speaker.

So instead of being scared to death to speak, turn that fear and stress into presentations full of life! Whether you call it a seminar, presentation, symposium, break-out session, or workshop – fear no more! You’re about to find out how to turn a mere audience into a group of engaged, excited, and enthusiastic fans! If you can remember the basics of baseball or softball then you’ve got the key to presenting a winning workshop!

Note: For the first part of this article, the Infield, click here.

Step #2 is covered in The Outfield: it’s workshop delivery – knocking your message “out” of the park!

What Gets LEFT Out?
Left Field in our Grand Slam Communication model contains all of the things you should not do in your workshop. We say they should be “left” out of your presentation. Here is a quick list of key mistakes not to make during your workshop:

—Do not forget to introduce yourself
—Do not pretend you are something you are not
—Do not fidget
—Do not READ to your audience (either from your media, notes, or cards)
—Do not go over time
—Do not tell tasteless jokes
—Do not make excuses, apologize, or put others down (including yourself)
—Do not hide behind the podium
—Do not make up information or forget to acknowledge your sources
—Do not use fillers (“um”, “err”, “and”, “ya know,” “like”, “okay”, “uhhhhh”)
—Do not chew gum
—Do not show up late
—Do not do activities without processing them and debriefing
—Do not talk too fast
—Do not “count off” to divide participants into groups (use colors, fruits, words, etc.)
—Do not pace
—Do not rock the boat (sway back and forth)
—Do not lock your knees (unless you want to pass out)
—Do not single out participants (unless they volunteer)

TRI TIP: Check your facts! Nothing detracts from credibility more than a presenter that either doesn’t know their stuff, pretends that someone else’s story actually happened to them, or doesn’t practice what they preach. If an audience finds out you are lying to them—your credibility is shot and so is your message!

What’s RIGHT On?
Right Field in our baseball/softball field is everything a presenter should do “right” to deliver a powerful message. This is where you turn mere chocolate into mile high mud pie and truly tantalize your audience. Here is a quick list of ways to get it right in your workshop:

—Do vary your speaking pace, tone, and volume
—Do check the room, equipment, and set up early
—Do greet audience members prior to your workshop
—Do prepare a biography for a workshop host to introduce you
—Do reconfirm with your host that the schedule and rooms have not changed
—Do make eye contact with your fans
—Do smile and keep a pleasant look on your face
—Do deliver your introduction and close without referring to notes
—Do share your enthusiasm and energy for your topic
—Do research your audience and location
—Do number your note pages in case they get out of order
—Do empty your pockets and remove anything that can cause fidgeting
—Do use the whole room (present from all corners, the center, standing on a chair, etc.)
—Do pick an original theme for your session to make it distinct
—Do prepare back up activities for “just in case”
—Do use visual aids to make your point (props, Power Point, overheads, toys, etc.)
—Do use music to create buzz and energy (check the lyrics!)
—Do debrief all activities, energizers, and icebreakers
—Do use incentives and prizes to mobilize your audience
—Do provide practical things audience members can do when they leave
—Do break up the audience into smaller work groups to create connection
—Do bring garbage bags if your activities are going to create trash
—Do incorporate eye candy (decorate the room, welcome banner on the door, etc.)
—Do control enthusiasm levels (respect the space of others presenting near you)
—Do turn off your wireless phone before presenting!
—Do be yourself
—Do have fun!

Find Your CENTER!
Center Field is reserved especially for YOU! What are you centering on to improve your presentation ability? Great presenters have their own style. Rookie presenters try to emulate great presenters and avoid the pitfalls of others. That’s a safe way to begin. But, to get really good you need to develop your own style based on your strengths. Identify the things you are working on and center on improving them. Great presenters use each opportunity to get better, try new material, and polish. They seek coaching, review evaluations, and center on ways to get better!

Near the batter’s box on every baseball field is what is called the On Deck Circle. This is where a batter warms up before taking their turn. Successful presenters, like athletes, feel the tension of wanting to do well. To overcome stress they know they must warm up and practice before they perform. Here are some keys to controlling nervousness and increasing confidence:

Breathe: Take in a breath deeply and slowly, and then release. Ahhh… now repeat! According to experts breathing relieves stress because it decreases acidity in the blood and increases oxygen to the brain. When we’re nervous we tend to hold our breath rather than concentrating on air flow.

Get Sleep: Fatigued minds and bodies cause more stress because you have to think and work harder to do everything. Give yourself a break—get some rest!

Stretch: Reach for the sky, lift your shoulders, roll your head, stretch your arms. Stretching relieves muscle tension and makes you look more natural and at ease.

Get into Uniform: Feeling good about what you wear and how you look is part of the presentation—and it’s one of the easiest ways to decrease stress. From your undergarments to your overcoat, wear your favorite “power outfit” and make sure you feel pressed, polished, and ready to perform!

Get Pumped: Repeat to yourself, “I’m exited to be here… I’m excited to be here!” Fill your mind with positive thoughts. If you focus on “not messing up,” it’s almost certain you will!

Practice: Know your message. Know your cues. Know your stories, quotes, and statistics. Practice out loud—get used to your voice. Video yourself: no one will be a tougher critic than you. Get a trusted friend to review your presentation and coach you. There’s no substitute for good old-fashioned practice!

Grand Slam Communication: Workshops That Wow (Part 1)

Fear of death.
Fear of cats.
Fear of speaking.

In a study on fears, Americans listed the fear of speaking as the number one thing that made them a “big fraidy cat.” There are a number of reasons people fear presenting – and near the top of the list is being another boring speaker.

So instead of being scared to death to speak, turn that fear and stress into presentations full of life! Whether you call it a seminar, presentation, symposium, break-out session, or workshop – fear no more! You’re about to find out how to turn a mere audience into a group of engaged, excited, and enthusiastic fans! If you can remember the basics of baseball or softball then you’ve got the key to presenting a winning workshop!

Step #1 is covered in The Infield: it’s workshop development – what goes “in” your message.

What’s the PITCH?
A winning message starts with the pitch. What information are you pitching your fans? What is the main message, most important thought, key concept you want your fans to know? What is the goal of your workshop? The development and delivery of everything else in your workshop depends on the answer. Most presenters skip this important step and that is a major reason why their workshops are lame – because there’s no point!

TRI TIP: As you outline your workshop, everything you present should answer your main pitch question: “What action and/or feeling should the audience to take when I’m done presenting?”

Attention CATCHER!
Your attention catcher is the first message your audience hears. It’s the introduction to the workshop. It highlights what is to come (example: “Today I’m going to share three important reasons to…”). It gives your fans a reason to listen and explains what’s in it for them (example: “If you’ve ever wondered how to make a million dollars, you’re in the right place!”). Your introduction sets the tone (“We’re going to have fun exploring…”). It’s your opportunity to build rapport, show your credentials (don’t go overboard), provide reasons for paying attention, share where you are taking them, and, perhaps most importantly, tell them how long the trip is going to last.

  • Types of Attention Catchers: jokes (be appropriate), statistics (tell your source and don’t bore!), relevant stories (be original!), questions (make sure you have the answer), quotes (give credit), music, magic, movies, pictures, toys, props, and more.
  • Rules of the Game: Understand your audience’s expectations. Ask your fans, “What do you expect to gain from our time together today?” Write down the answers and refer to them during your presentation. Share your workshop ground rules. Examples of rules include only one person speaking at a time, understanding your signal for stopping an activity, leaving the room clean and orderly, etc.

Remember, you’re making fans, not foes. Regardless of the type of attention-catcher you choose – it must be relevant to your message, appropriate for your audience, and well delivered by you!

TRI TIP: Ace your intro. An intro that is read is dead. If you blow your intro, you lose credibility and will spend the rest of the workshop working to get it back. Develop your Attention-Catcher last. It will stay the freshest in your mind and you’ll set your workshop up more powerfully.

Rounding the BASES.
Now that you’ve got an awesome Attention-Catcher, it’s time to round the bases. There are three bases in baseball/softball. Great messages should not have more than three main points. You highlighted these points in your introduction – now it’s time to deliver the substance!

  • Remember the Seven Minute Rule: An audience can only hang on for about seven minutes before you need to change stimulus. If you are lecturing, after seven minutes you need an activity. If you are leading an activity, after seven minutes you need an energizer. Your activity can take thirty minutes or more to complete—but after seven minutes the activity needs to advance, change directions, get more difficult, or transition to something new.
  • Open and Close: As you head to each base let the audience know (example: “Now let’s get started with our first point…”). As you complete the main point let the audience know you are done and preparing to run to the next base (example: “Now that we have explored _______, let’s discover our second point ____________.”)

Audiences get lost easily. Even awesome presenters lose participants – usually because they’ve got them thinking. As you are rounding the bases, be sure to take a “short stop” between your second and third point. You’re now letting your audience know that the workshop is more than half over and your final point is near!

TRI TIP: Short Stops give you a chance to gather participants who have gotten lost during your workshop. It also gets everyone focused on the final point (yeah, we’re almost done!) Try something like this, “We talked about (point 1); we discovered the benefits of (point 2); now it’s time to explore our third and final point (insert point 3).”

HOME Plate!
Congratulations, you’ve rounded the bases! Now it’s time to head home and close with power. Your conclusion is where you leave no doubt what action or feeling your fans should take at the end of your workshop.

  • Summarize: Briefly review your key points. Have the audience repeat them with you for added “umph.”
  • Heads UP: Give your fans a heads-up that you are concluding (example: “As we conclude our time together today, I have one final challenge/message/story for you…”)
  • Show Appreciation: Congratulate your audience for being such great participants. Recognize volunteers who aided in the presentation. Thank your host for inviting you to be a presenter.
  • Leave No Doubt: If you are asking for help – ask! If you are challenging them to change – tell them what to change. If you are inspiring them to act – tell them what to do next.
  • Put a Bow On It: You’ve just presented a complete package and even wrapped it up as a gift. Now finish in style and put a bow on your present. Use a quote, refer back to the opening, give a toast, tell a joke, share a personal revelation.

TRI TIP: Never close your message with “thank you.” Close with power and purpose. Most of the time the point of a presentation was not to come and thank the audience. The final point is a “call to action” – what should your fans go do next? (Examples: visit a website, meet with you after the presentation, join up, vote, start something, finish something, donate, pray, sign up, feel good about their support, etc.)

Working With the Media

You’ve been appointed the public relations coordinator for your organization. Your job is to entice the media into writing about your group’s activities. But the only school-related articles you ever see in the news are drug busts and school board meetings. How do you compete?

The “negative” articles may receive the front-page splash, but in general, the news media is looking to talk about what is going on and what has happened in the community. Getting the word out about your organization or event can be easily accomplished through the news media. You just have to present your information properly, know what to expect, and understand how the process works.

Let’s say you’ve got a car wash fund-raiser coming up and want to spotlight the awards your organization won at state conference. No problem. Just don’t expect a front-page article. Most newspapers, radio stations and televisions stations have a section they save for simply telling the public about what is going on. Media, especially broadcasters, often refer to this as a community calendar. Newspapers also will run around three paragraphs about your event in a “briefs” section of some sort. My newspaper has a weekly brief section called “School Notebook” where any news related to schools such as open houses, school board meetings, or student and educator awards is printed. Many newspapers have a section specifically for education related news. Often newspapers will include guidelines and a contact person for submitting news for that section. Some smaller television stations will have their own version of community briefs as well, especially if they have a locally produced talk-show type program.

If your awards are impressive enough or if there is an opportunity for a good photograph, a newspaper might use a picture. Newspapers are often searching for what they call “wild art,” a picture and caption that appears without a related story. Local TV news may want to create a short story on an event with a lot of action and the potential for good pictures. Even if the best picture you have are students holding up plaques (not a very exciting picture), some journalists are looking to spotlight students who are succeeding in school and will do so with a photo and a caption. But the more exciting and interesting your picture is, the better its chances of seeing print.

But some days are busier than others. You may be asked to take the picture yourself instead of the newspaper sending a photographer. Make sure there is plenty of light on the people and have the picture in focus. You would be surprised how many dark, unfocused pictures newspapers receive. Another tip is to include the fewest people possible. News photographers prefer to take pictures of no more than five to seven people because too many people in the photograph makes it difficult to recognize faces. If you must have 20 people in the picture, go ahead. You just won’t be able to make out the faces when or if it’s printed in the paper.

If you are asked to submit a photo, you will also be asked to include information for a caption, often called a “cutline” by journalists. Include the name, age (if students) and awards of each person in order that they appear in the photograph. For example, write, “first row, left to right: Ms. Jane Doe, adviser; John Smith, 16, president (2nd place in public speaking); and Mary Jones, 17, treasurer (4th place in job interview).”

I should warn you: happy stuff like community news can usually “hold.” In other words, if an editor does not have enough room in the paper or the news program that day because of higher priority stories, he will often wait to use it another day. And that other day could be weeks later. If there is a time element, such as student singing Christmas carols at a hospital, then the editor must and will use it sometime during the Christmas holidays. If it’s non-time-specific, be prepared to wait a while to see your story.

And who knows? Perhaps what you submit to the media will be considered worthy of a full article or TV news story. If you can convince the journalist that it is a good story or if you can tie your situation into a larger issue, like teaching financial literacy to students, you have a good shot. The latter is the best way to go about it; if you can connect what happened in your organization to the latest “hot” education topic, you’ve got a great chance of a full, feature story.

Confrontation and Dirty Dancing

We’ve all worked in groups where there was that one person that no one liked. That one person that no one could work with and that everyone talked about behind his or her back. We also all know that gossip and trash-talking can tear a group apart and can really hold a team back from its full potential. So why do we do it? Most likely we do it because we haven’t been taught the other alternatives. We haven’t been given the skills to properly confront the person. Well, it’s time to be the person who really makes a difference on your team or in your group. It’s time to be the one who stops complaining and starts taking action. It’s time to confront.

In the great 80’s film Dirty Dancing, Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze taught us a lot more than how to stand up for what you believe in and how to dance. Believe it or not, they taught us a lot about confrontation too. In one scene, Baby goes to the lodge dining room to confront Robby. She wants to know why he hasn’t helped out his ex-girlfriend Penny and thinks that he should help pay for Penny’s medical expenses. I hate to give it away but the scene ends with Baby pouring a pitcher of water onto Robby and saying, “You make me sick. Stay away from me. Stay away from my sister – or I’ll have you fired.”

So many lessons in confrontation can be learned from Baby and Robby’s interaction. For instance, lesson # 1 could be: “No food or beverages are to be thrown or poured onto either party”. Beyond the obvious though, Baby made some serious and very common errors in her confrontation attempt. It’s no wonder the conflict was not resolved and they both ended up worse off than when they began.

Baby’s Mistake #1: Confronting in a public space in front of others.
Public confrontation sends the message that you are frustrated and at your wit’s end since you cannot wait long enough to meet in a private place one-on-one. Confronting in front of others shows that you are not there because you truly care about the other person or their feelings, you are simply there to state your feelings of anger or frustration and be done.

You can do better:
Think ahead about the best times and places to have the interaction. Talk to that person and tell them that you’d like to meet with them whenever they have some free time and as the two of you begin to develop options, make sure to rule out times where there is any possibility that you could be cut short by another meeting or activity. Keep in mind that when confronting someone, you are opening a lot of subjects to discussion, and that other topics are likely to arise. Overestimate the time you will need. Always confront one on one. Or basically, confront as you would want to be confronted. If you truly care about resolving the conflict and seeing some results, understand that people are different in front of a group than on their own. You don’t need a cheering section! You’re already advantaged because you have had time to think about what you want to say and how you’re going to say it, so be fair and give that other person as much of an advantage as possible.

Baby’s Mistake #2: Telling Robby what to do.
Telling someone what to do automatically puts you into an authority role and tells the other person that you know what’s right and you’re the boss. This can make the person reject anything further that you have to say and question why on earth you should be listened to. When you tell someone what to do you also place a lot of blame on them and their actions. Doing any of these things will only make the person defensive and reactive, and this won’t really help your cause if you are truly looking for a resolution to the conflict.

You can do better:
Go into the confrontation with specific examples of what the other person has done. Don’t even try if all you’ve got is, “You say mean things that hurt my feelings all the time.” What is the first thing that someone will say back? “What kinds of things? I don’t know what you mean.” This technique gets you nowhere. Use a specific and recent example and always use “I” statements as opposed to “you” statements that place blame. Say “I felt really low and ashamed when you told me that my dancing needs a lot of work” instead of “you hurt my feelings when you told me that my dancing needs a lot of work.” Listen and seek to understand. If you’re not going to listen and seek to understand the other person’s point of view and reasoning, then why not just tell them what to do? Confrontations should never be one-sided. They should be discussions that are very purposeful and involve a lot of understanding and open-mindedness to reach a resolution.

Baby’s Mistake #3: Not staying calm.
Raising your voice, becoming very short and attacking in your statements, and even unnatural body language that might indicate you are angry and frustrated, creates a hostile atmosphere. When you raise your voice you can expect that the other person will most likely raise his voice as well. It is extremely unlikely that the conflict will get resolved in such an intimidating environment.

You can do better:
Stay calm. Keep your voice calm, your body calm, and your facial expressions calm. By keeping a low, friendly and compassionate tone of voice you are welcoming more discussion and are setting a pleasant tone with the expectation that the other person should do the same. If you truly are seeking to understand, listening well, and seeking a resolution or compromise, then your body and voice will naturally stay at calm levels.

Let’s give credit where credit is due: Baby did have the guts to approach Robby and that was surely a difficult thing to do. The first and usually most difficult part of a confrontation is taking the steps to make it happen. Don’t forget that confrontation skills take time and experience. There are always things that you can work on and always things that you can do better.

Somewhere along the way, at some point in your life, there will be that expectation that you can and will confront others when necessary. It could be a new job or a new relationship. You may feel like you’ve been tossed into the lion’s cage, but just know that these skills are ones that will better your interactions and relationships for the rest of your life. Whether it’s your boyfriend or girlfriend, best friend, parent, or co-worker, at some point you’ll need to face the music. You’ll care enough about that person to make the effort and you’ll be proud of the progress you’ve made.