Why is it that the most pleasant person in everyday life turns into the most difficult at the monthly meeting? What is it about the Board table that converts team players into silent observers or arrogant warmongers? How do you accurately describe the negative effects of the two-hour conference call—pandemonium—boredom? These scenarios typify a common, pervasive problem in business and professional life today—meeting muck. Meeting muck is the oozy, slimy, muddy, cloudy, insidious gook that invades even the best-intended meetings and conference calls. It dirties the cleanest of agendas; it drains the most energetic of work relationships—and sadly, slows potential productivity. Meeting muck is exasperating because, like mud after a heavy rain, it seems to return again and again, no matter how hard you try to eliminate it.
We like to talk about meetings as team efforts, but in the final analysis, a great meeting is the product of really great individual efforts—mixed with a strong dose of willpower and discipline. The late Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton said, “You can’t change the team until you change yourself.” He spoke of football, but it works for meetings, too. To change yourself, first be aware of the most common behaviors that slow down productive communication. Second, recognize when you are the one demonstrating those behaviors. Third, change your style and practice positive, helpful behaviors even in the face of others’ inability to do so. This is often difficult. Others on the conference call or around the board table can unknowingly lead you to immature and ineffective comments. Be careful. Take deep breaths. Keep your contributions healthy. When you sense muck oozing up, carry your own mop. Don’t wait for someone else to do the dirty work. Continue Reading →
A free mid-week performance at the local improvisation club sounded like a marvelous way to forget about work and get lost in the zany world of quick thinking around absurd themes. My friend Jill’s idea quickly became a reality and I met her just as the eight o’clock show was beginning. The place was packed, mostly with young people there to support their favorite team. Jill noted the intense energy in the crowded room.
Chicago has been a center for the art of improvisation for decades, priding itself on the success of The Second City, which developed stars like Shelley Long and John Belushi. Tonight’s club, the Improv Olympic, had no stars, but was very well known for the unique improvisation form it invented called “the Harold.”
Continue Reading →
In mid-life we’re often asked to comment on the road we’ve taken. It might be a simple question like, “How did you get started doing that?” or a longer request like, “My daughter’s class would like to hear you speak about what you do.” I was recently asked to speak to a college class on my work in communication and as I detailed my notes, I came up with this list of twenty things I believed in…things I have learned along the way. As you read, please attach your own experience. Life is actually pretty optimistic. Continue Reading →
By Cyndi Maxey, CSP and Kevin E. O’Connor, CSP
While distance learning grows daily, it’s still a fact that at least 65% of all seminars and meetings are delivered in rooms with a live person in the front of the room. Those rooms may range from hospital basements to four star hotel ballrooms, but no matter the venue, both room and audio-visual management are extremely important for setting the tone of the event and for encouraging effective learning. People are brought together to learn and to share ideas, and you as the presenter are doing them a disservice if you’re not aware of (1) how to set up the best environment for this to happen and (2) what to do when things go wrong.
And things will go wrong. Most experienced presenters will tell you that the biggest challenges of an event, meeting, or exchange will often center on something surrounding the set-up of the day. If you’re tired of being surprised by all the nuances of your room environment, borrow some tips and techniques from the media pro, the actor, the professional speaker, and the audio-visual technician to set yourself up for success. Learn to love all the tools available to you to enhance your presentation in the room you’re in. The next time you find yourself greeted with the unexpected, you’ll be ready. Continue Reading →
An e-booklet by Cyndi Maxey, CSP
Why this booklet?
Summer has a relaxed feel, no matter the climate. Summer in the Midwest and Eastern United States is a special limited time of hot lazy days and outside activities and gifts. In the South and the West, even though marked by hotter days, it’s still a special, relaxed time of year when school is out and workers vacation. It’s in that spirit … a little more relaxed, a little less focused on the routine of life and work … that the reader can enjoy this booklet.
How to read this booklet:
Pour your favorite beverage and find a spot where you feel very alone, even if people surround you. A place outside is best, but a nice compromising locale could be in front of a fire, an open window, or the gentle air of a heating duct or fan. Do your best to re-create your favorite summer spot—whether that’s a beach chair, a back porch, a patio, or a forest glade. Tell yourself, “This is just for me.” Continue Reading →
Dynamic Discussion and Dialogue Starters presents 21 ways to get people talking. Use them:
But wait! There’s more! Continue Reading →
The very best teachers are often in your own neighborhood. Leader-panelists at the two recent Chicago area regional connects certainly fit that description; having had the opportunity to attend both was especially insightful. From my perspective as a communication coach, it was great to see both classic and cutting edge communication concepts come to life via the executive mindset of food service industry leaders. Here are some of the lessons they shared that I learned and re-learned. Continue Reading →
There’s a great saying that most of you in sales and marketing probably already know and use: “Successful people do what unsuccessful people don’t want to do. And that really holds for getting started getting published. The good news is that today’s technology (e-mail, Internet, etc) make writing and research easier than ever. The bad news is that the best-selling books every year are still on topics of sex, money, or dieting.
So how does a sales and marketing professional get started in the publishing game? You may be surprised by what I suggest as the first step. Continue Reading →
Those of you who give after-dinner presentations frequently will not need to read this article. Those of you who want to extend your speaking horizons–read on! First, let me position myself as an NSA member who is primarily a seminar leader. When I am booked for a keynote or short program, I typically speak at breakfasts, luncheons, and concurrent sessions.
Recently, however, I had an opportunity to present my first after-dinner speech. It was during this experience that my respect and admiration for the after-dinner speaker skyrocketed. Here are some of my “AHA’s,” anchored with the wise comments of experienced NSA after-dinner speakers.
Get specific information about previous programs.
I arrived very early to set up and had some time to help the program committee place give-away’s at attendees’ seats. I struck up a conversation with one of the committee members about the event. She recalled that last year’s speaker was a Chicago Bear “who didn’t talk about service at all” but who was “really cute” and that the program the year before was “a Jeopardy game thing that everyone loved!” Mental red flags began to wave; I knew I had made a deadly mistake by not asking more about previous programs. Continue Reading →
Business & Professional Communication
DePaul University, Chicago, IL
College of Communication