My mature Labrador Retriever, Max, likes to sit on the front porch and watch and sniff passers by. Normally this is quite a staid activity characterized by ear wags, nose action, head tilts, and now and then a tail thump. But occasionally something unexpected happens – like the time a cat went by and Max took off after it into the street putting himself in danger and causing fear in his owner – me! If I had been observing more closely this would not have happened. I just wasn’t expecting it!
For those of us in charge of leading meetings of all kinds (training, teambuilding, department, Board), unexpected behavior can cause the meeting to run amuck and us to look less than professional. This is not the time to criticize, to hunt down, and to cause further angst and disruption. Instead it is the time to observe, ask, clarify, and move forward.
The Fearless Facilitator knows what to do:
The unexpected (growler)
Often a meeting is going along quite smoothly when someone makes an unexpected comment. For example, the normally agreeable team member argues a long-held belief, or the typically prepared supervisor has outdated data. Or the enthusiastic marketer takes credit for another’s idea.
Fearless Facilitator: “Megan, if I’ve got this right, your concern is the turn-around time. Is that correct? How have things changed since your initial support of the idea?” OR “ Joe, if I’ve heard your report correctly, the data ends with winter quarter. Do you have the spring results?” OR “ Bob, I hear you; you’re building on Frank’s idea, right?”
The unleashed (barker)
We all have trigger points that unveil our values; for example, innovation, loyalty, honesty, hard work, or fun. If a meeting’s direction undercuts a core value, we tend to get emotional when we should be business-like.
Fearless Facilitator: “You feel strongly about this issue. What are you specifically referring to?” The idea is to acknowledge the feeling first, then get to specifics about the facts. Sometimes this must go off-line, as in, “ Yes, Kevin, company loyalty is key and your point is well taken. Let’s look at the immediate issue first.”
The unmotivated (whimperer)
Some people just don’t want to be there. They sit silently – even begrudgingly with ever-present cell phone texting or disruptive side conversing. Here the facilitator gently corrects (or not so gently depending on the rules). Bringing aboard the whiner happens outside of the meeting but during it, the behavior is acknowledged in subtle ways
Fearless Facilitator: “Dr. Jones, what do you do in your area?” or “Sheila, Jenny, is there a question?”
As you may have noticed, Fearless Facilitators have a mental “script” that kicks in when these three behaviors occur. Observe, ask, clarify, and move forward and your professional meeting facilitation will get results.
For more tips, check out our book Fearless Facilitation: the Ultimate Field Guide to Engaging and Involving (!) your Audience by Cyndi Maxey and Kevin O’Connor (Pfeiffer/Wiley, 2013). Available on barnesandnoble.com, amazon.com, and more.
At the end of one of my speaking seminars, a star participant asked, “OK, tell us again how YOU keep from being nervous when YOU speak.” I understood the question; I often wondered the same when I watched professional speakers…oh, and also when it was my kids’ turn to be goalie in AYSO soccer. I still have no idea how our Chicago Blackhawks goalie handles the stress of his job night after night or how his mother can watch.
But, back to the question: I do know speaking. There are definitely things you can do to keep from being a nervous wreck when you have to present to a group. Here are my best tips, which I try very hard to follow every time.
Fear #1 “I don’t have time to do this well!”
Get started right away.
I mean NOW.
The sooner you write something down the less stress you’ll feel. You can go back and change the whole thing later. It doesn’t have to be a formal speaking outline. Just some key bullet points will do. It will become your outline or template later.
Fear #2 “ I’m all alone in this.”
Get someone else involved.
Anyone will do.
It’s best to talk to a trusted coworker or stakeholder, but simply running it by your best friend or significant other is OK too. Conduct a phone interview, text, ask for time for coffee, have an email conversation. My longtime coauthor, Kevin, is often my first point of brainstorming.
Fear #3 “I’m an imposter; I don’t know enough about this!”
Yes, you do.
Someone trusts that you know more than most. That’s why you’ve been asked to speak.
Review examples that are unique to you. This is information that nobody else can say quite the same way. Research only the most current references online to add zest. Don’t let the Internet overwhelm you. Get a sense of what’s new and if your presentation aligns or argues that. Either agreement or argument is OK as long as you support it in your unique way.
Fear #4 “I will forget something.”
Most speakers do.
It’s OK to have notes.
Notes are a speaker’s right. Aristotle used notes. Churchill used notes. Obama has a teleprompter. Just don’t write them out word for word (unless you have a teleprompter) or your mind and your mouth will get out of sync.
Fear #5 “ My (shaky hands, red neck, cotton mouth, stutter) will show.”
You feel it more.
Audiences forgive these things.
Know your opening four minutes COLD.
Most of the time signs of discomfort less affect the audience than you may believe. And they are fairly ready to forgive them if your presentation is helpful and practiced. Also these behaviors tend to go away after the first moments. That’s why you should practice your opening over and over.
….to plan a STAND-UP PRESENTATION REQUIRED IN A JOB INTERVIEW!
The GOOD news is you’ve landed a GREAT job interview with a stellar firm. The BAD news is you have two days to prepare a 20-30 minute presentation for nine executives of the firm on why YOU are the best candidate for the job. (Note: This is a true scenario faced this week by a former student.) Here are some tips to survive and thrive in this situation!
Good old friends are known to call you out of the blue just to “see how you’re doing” or because they “…just had a feeling” and before you know it you’re transported years back with a person who knew you when.
I just met one of those old friends yesterday – a girlfriend who saw me through braces and crushes and 8th grade graduation when the lipstick was pale and the hair was high. This girlfriend edited the high school yearbook and went on to become a banker and a wife and mother. And then, like most of us…more of life –work, kids, anniversaries, deaths. All of this was mutually updated in an endless stream of conversation as if we’d never left Kingman School.
As business professionals, our current work life friends are important and hopefully fun. In fact, research shows that having a good friend at work motivates and satisfies us. As a coach, I often discuss this with those on their way up – building their networking skills and presence at work. Relationships at work are indeed essential.
But it’s also good for the mind and the spirit to kindle the older longer relationships that make us who we are.
Or as a stone in my garden path states, “ It takes a long time to grow an old friend.”
And the stone was given to me by – yes… another old friend.
As a speaker coach, one of the most common questions I hear is, “How do I get rid of ‘uhm’s’?” And I usually advise,”They are simply filling pauses. Imagine they are swear words you would be embarrassed to mutter.” That may stop you. Then we play a game where each audience member raises a hand every time the offending speaker says “Uhm.” It is so annoying to the speaker that it often works!
However the BEST TIP on GETTING RID OF UHM’S is from one of my speaking students at Columbia College Chicago – Eric P., a film and video major, who says he practices NOT UHM-ING when he orders in the Subway sandwich line. Try it! Just try ordering your sandwich and all the ingredients without one non-word. Or, for that matter, try it in any fast food line when you’re ordering a long list of items.
If you try “Eric’s Uhm’s Challenge”, let me know how it goes! Creatively yours, Cyndi
Good news: The speaker being introduced is you
By JIM KENDALL
This column originally appeared in the March 10, 2014 Daily Herald and is reproduced with permission. Read it and more great articles at the Business Owners Blog http://kendallcom.com/blog/
It’s too late to wonder what you’re doing on the speaker’s side of the microphone: You’ve been introduced to the audience, which has responded with customarily polite applause. It’s time to say something.
That’s good news, though, because a speaking engagement – even one you might have suggested to the program chair – is a not-to-be-wasted opportunity to put yourself and your company in front of a gathering of potential customers, referrers and influencers.
The better news is that Cyndi Maxey, a professional speaker, coach and author, and owner of Maxey Creative Inc., Chicago, is willing to share some thoughts on successful speech giving.
Some of Maxey’s thoughts come from a conversation she and I had last month; others are excerpted from a recent book, “Fearless Facilitation,” she co-authored with Kevin E. O’Connor, also a speaker-author-coach.
For Maxey, a successful presentation begins with the audience. “We don’t think enough about the audience and why they’re there,” she says. “They’re there because they’re looking to be engaged. Think about why you’re giving the speech, the unique value you bring.”
Your speechmaking moment may be in a workshop at the annual industry convention; following lunch at the chamber meeting; in front of an MBA class as a guest lecturer at the local college; or as part of a group of business leaders brought together to hear your thoughts on quality control issues.
Your value as a presenter could relate to your business’ reputation for outstanding customer service, your concerns about the future of the industry or your role as a non-profit volunteer.
How many people are in the audience doesn’t matter. “The people in the room are the right people” because they’ve chosen to come, Maxey says.
Maxey gets to know her audience beforehand. “Engage early and often,” she and O’Connor write in their book: Meet and greet before the meeting. Talk with audience members during breaks.
“I walk into the audience,” Maxey says of her presentation style. She engages listeners on those forays, too:
* Raise your hand if (you’re tired of winter, for example).
* Do you know the person on your right? Say hello.
The idea, Maxey says, is to “break through the wall” that almost naturally exists between speaker and audience. Breaking through “makes the rest of the presentation easier.”
The process works: Learn about the audience, which is there to hear what you have to say. Know your topic, which is why you’re the speaker. Engage. Go for it.
Other tips, from the Maxey-O’Connor book:
* Don’t read your slides, ever. In fact, when the room and audience size allow, “become the master of teaching with a flip chart or whiteboard” rather than a power point presentation.
* Never race through your material because you are short of time. At that stage, no one is listening anyway.
* Never finish late. You will not be forgiven.
Follow Jim Kendall on LinkedIn and Twitter, and at Kendall Communications on Facebook. Write him at Jim@kendallcom.com.
© 2014 Kendall Communications, Inc.
May I invite you to Speaker Magazine.com to view and comment on my article? You will learn 8 Habits to Help you Communicate Better in a social/media world and some action steps to start today.
Your comments are welcomed! Cyndi
As the workforce ages and younger trainers and managers emerge, facilitation skills take on a new importance and, with the increased use of social networks, new facilitation skills are needed. Written by two facilitation gurus, this book shows how to make any learning environment come alive. It outlines proven guidelines any trainer can use to unify groups, inspire creativity, and get audiences, teams, and colleagues to speak up, talk back, participate, and engage in meetings.
If you are a facilitator with years of experience or just getting started, you will learn what it takes to create and deliver a high-powered presentation that is tailor-made to draw in your audience members and get results every time. Once you set the stage to include and connect with your audience, you will trigger memory and action like never before.
Fearless Facilitation is filled with easy-to-implement presentation techniques designed to appeal to all types of participants. You will learn how to break the “fourth wall” (the invisible wall that separates you from the audience) and engage your audience through dialogue. In addition, the authors show not only how to involve participants in the conversation but also what to do when they grow silent or argumentative.
Throughout the book a personalized “coach” helps you with answers to common questions, specific scenarios, and past nightmare experiences. The coach helps to clarify the text, calm any fear, and take the next right step. And, to further illustrate how to become a skilled fearless facilitator, the book is peppered with interviews with masters of the craft of facilitation and engagement.
Praise for Fearless Facilitation
“Maxey and O’Connor inspire readers to engage with audiences as collaborators. Experienced facilitators will be motivated to take new risks; beginners will feel prepared to actively engage an audience.”
—Kathleen M. Galvin, Ph.D., Communication Studies Department, Northwestern University
“Fearless Facilitation is a blockbuster resource for engaging even the most challenging audience with confidence and purpose.”
—Judy L. Schueler, Vice President and Chief Human Resource Officer, University of Pennsylvania Health System
“Through this book Maxey and O’Connor have actually facilitated a process for you to become a better facilitator. These two not only know what they’re doing, they’ve put together one of the most practical books on the market. Read it and then go facilitate something!”
—Ron Culberson, MSW, CSP, speaker, humorist and author of Do It Well. Make It Fun
German researchers just discovered that 1 out of 3 people feel worse after visiting Facebook. Specifically, they feel lonely, dissatisfied, and envious. I could see this coming, couldn’t you? Now, I do have a Facebook page – actually two – one personal page and one to promote a family vacation property that users can “befriend” for discounts.
The research found that vacation photos were the biggest cause of resentment. People’s vacation photos – including my own (!)- should only be available upon request, in my opinion. But then perhaps that’s what my Facebook friends felt when I shared photos of my precious new baby grand nephew, Liam Kenneth, just two months old this week! or the holiday photo of my side of the family and our five squirmy dogs. We all have our weak points.
One of my favorite theories in graduate school was Festinger’s Theory of Social Comparison which basically says that we all feel better about our abilities when we compare ourselves to others. This helps us define ourselves; it reduces our uncertainties. And that is certainly one of the gifts of sites like Facebook – the gift of information giving, receiving, sharing, and comparing with the rest of the world – in particular those who are most like us.
To help us all reap the benefits of social media and avoid the rampant abuse of it, I suggest a SAFETY WARNING like this: CAUTION:may cause loneliness, jealousy, and general malaise if over-used! – followed by a 60 second required training program – NOT in how to operate the tools of TECHNOLOGY but in how to understand the results of SOCIAL COMPARISON.
So, for now, I will participate, but I must say I’m proud of my daughter, a very wise college student, who bucked the trend and put her page on “inactive” status – indefinitely.
As always your comments are encouraged and appreciated.
Business & Professional Communication
DePaul University, Chicago, IL
College of Communication