Improve Your Body Language: People WatchingLast night I took myself out for a nice dinner. I enjoy sitting with a good glass of wine and people watching.  It is a great way for me to study body language.

Body language speaks volumes about who you are and what you are thinking.  Poorly communicated body language can occasionally undermine your message, your presence, and how you are perceived by clients, colleagues, and even your boss.   The good news is you already speak body language.  But do you speak it well?

If not, how do you improve your body language?

You can’t watch yourself,  so watch others.  Becoming more aware of the signals others are sending will help you become more aware of your own body language.  Sitting alone in a restaurant, an airport, or even at your local Starbucks, you have a great opportunity to sit back and watch other people’s body language.

If you are watching more than one person, try figure out their relationship – first date? married?  colleagues? What are they talking about? Are they mad? Happy?

Watch people in line for coffee.  What do they do for a living? Are they in a hurry? Are they confident? Nervous?  You will answer these questions  by reading body language.

So sit back and enjoy the view.  What you learn about body language may help your presence, your image, and your career.


When we are meeting new people we constantly have to articulate who we are, what we do, and why they should remember us.  The truth is most people are terrible at this.  Why?

Here are the top 3 reasons why elevator pitches fail to make an impression:

1.    They don’t think before they speak.

A good elevator speech is not something that happens off the cuff.  It is something you need to put time and effort into.  Companies have elevator speeches but they are called tag lines.  Do you think Nike spent any time or effort on ‘Just do it’? Exactly, so why would you present yourself to potential clients, employers, or influencers with no effort?  Take the time to craft, edit, and practice your elevator pitch.

2.    They aren’t memorable.

The point of an elevator pitch is to get more time with someone.  To accomplish that, you need to be memorable. When I ask clients to give me their quick elevator pitch, they tend to give me a rambling list of facts that are so generic they could apply to anyone in their field.  Why would that make them memorable? Think about what makes you different and how you can sound memorable.

3.    They make it all about them.

Newsflash – your eleavtor pitch about you is not about you.  It is about them and how you can be valuable to them.  Stop thinking about why you are great and starting articulating your value to them.

For more ideas on how to create a deliver a great elevator pitch, join me on December 3rd for a FREE Webinar.  Articulate your Value – The Secret to Taking Advantage of Every Opportunity. See you there.

Last week I saw this video of the Chevy spokesman present the award World Series MVP Award to Madison Bumgarner.  The video made the news not just because of Bumgarner’s play, but because of the awkward, uncomfortable and unpolished delivery by the Chevy spokesman.

Giving a short speech and speaking ‘off the cuff’ is not as easy as it sounds.  We think we don’t need to give it much thought; it is off the cuff after all.  But as this spokesman has come to realize, a poorly delivered short speech can undermine your message and your credibility.

Here are his three biggest mistakes.

Notes
For some reason despite only speaking for 1 minute, the spokesman felt the need to not only have notes, but look down at them several times.  Notes are always a bad idea, especially on camera.  Anything that breaks the eye contact with the camera or the other participants makes you look nervous and edgy. This is true even when there is no camera and you are simply speaking at a staff meeting.  Even if you are nervous, you certainly don’t want to look it.  So leave the notes at home.

Preparation
People think if they just need to make a few brief remarks, then they don’t need to get their thoughts together in advance.  Wrong!  You need to take the time to decide what message you want to get across, ensure the message is clear and succinct and finish by editing.  Yes, editing.  There are a few gifted people who can get away with truly speaking ‘off the cuff’. Most of us don’t have that luxury.

Practice
The shorter the speech, the more you need to rehearse.  When you are delivering some brief remarks there is no time for ad-libbing, getting off track or trying to remember what you need to say.  Rehearsing is the only way to make sure you get your message across just as you prepared it.  That is the secret to making it look like you are great ‘off the cuff’.

So next time, don’t leave it to luck, or even your notes. Instead, prepare, practice and then deliver a great short speech.

Not to show my age, but I remember when music videos took over the music industry.  No artist could get a number one hit without a video.  Often, the video was better than the song and that made the hit. Video gave context to the song and allowed listeners to build a connection with the artist. The same is still true today. There is a reason why YouTube is so popular for both work and fun.  People feel more connected to information, ideas and people when watching videos.  It can be a powerful tool. So why not use it to your advantage. Facetime instead of calling.  Leave a Skype message instead of emailing.  Any opportunity you can take to connect more closely with a client, colleague or prospect, the better.  Rapport is very hard to build, and even  harder to maintain via phone and email is even worse.  So take the extra minute or two to connect with video and feel free to send me one with any questions you may have.

Now I have to go and make some videos.

 

 

 

 

Not everyone is good ‘off the cuff’.

Some of us are methodical thinkers.  We sit in a meeting, listen to all the details and take a few days to process and form answers.  Well that won’t work.  That meeting is over, discussion had, decision made.  You are too late.

Others don’t feel comfortable voicing their option in a crowded room, in front of peers with everyone looking directly at them. So they stay quiet and talk about it with one co-worker at the water cooler.  Again, it’s too late. You missed the boat

Or maybe you are great at chiming in (insert my photo here).  But that gets me in trouble too.  It can be unedited, unfiltered and unproductive.

So how can improv teach you to be great off the cuff?

  1. You have to think on your feet.
    There’s no script, no predetermined outcome (not unlike most meetings) You have to process information quickly and you have to react or the scene ends.  You can’t just come back in a day or two when you come up with a great comeback.
  2. Be Present
    The key to great improv is that the players are completely in the moment.  They are listening intently.  They react appropriately and they feel at ease and in command of themselves.

  3. “Yes… and” – The first rule of improve
    This rule makes all things possible.  If at any point you negate a situation, another’s point of view or anything others say about you, the scene or the meeting goes off the rails. Open yourself to all possibilities to free yourself and speak in the moment.

So go out and try an improve class.  I get that going to a class can seem terrifying to some.  But honestly, it’s no different than putting yourself out there at work every day.  Only you are in a safe place where everyone else is out on a limb as well. I promise it will get you out of your head and into the present.   Then let me know your improv experiences – they usually make for great storytelling.

 

More and more companies and executives are reaching their audience through video and media interviews.  And while most are great in person, they don’t always do as well on camera.  Why is that?  It is the same phenomenon that happens to actors.  A great Broadway actor doesn’t always make it in film and film actors almost always struggle on stage.  People think it should be an easy transition – acting is acting right? Nope!

The art of connecting to an audience on stage or on camera requires very different skills.  Energy, eye contact and what the audience sees changes on camera.  But professionals rarely take the time to get better on camera.  They often wing it, hope for the best and sometimes, get better over time.  Why risk ever getting it wrong.  There are a few simple strategies you can use today to help you become a more effective communicator on camera.

  1. Remember – the camera captures thoughts not words.
    People think that what they say is what people hear.  Wrong.  This isn’t even true when you are face-to-face.  But this is especially not true when you are on camera.  The view is trained on your eyes.  They can give you away.  If you are distracted, not comfortable with a question or only telling half-truths, your eyes will give you away.  There is hardly a modern politician who hasn’t given a great example of this.  So what happens – we don’t trust them.  We don’t connect with them.  They don’t feel authentic.  So make your thoughts match your message or you may find the viewers don’t quite trust you.
  2. Big personalities  can look crazy
    Some charismatic leaders are great in the room.  They have energy and confidence.  But when they get in front of the camera that big personality can just be too much. Bold hand gestures, an overly strong voice or puffed up body language will come across as cocky, loud and a bit… well, crazy.  So if you have a big personality, tone it down on camera.  Don’t lose your charm just bring it down a bit.
  3. The camera is an energy suck
    There is something about being on camera which requires a great deal of energy.  The problem is, if you bring a lot of energy and it’s not focused, you (go back to #2) – look crazy.  It is not natural to be in front of a camera so everyone’s energy can slump a bit.  Our minds race with too many thoughts about how we look or sound and we get in our own heads.  So bring up the energy level, but keep it centered and focused.  Use it to make you more aware of the interviewer or the questions. This will help you come across as present and engaged.
  4. Camera lights wash you out
    Part of being successful on camera is how you look.  The reality is that bright lights wash out color and not just on your clothes, but on you.  There is a reason newscasters, men and women alike, wear make-up.  I realize some people don’t care, but at least do yourself a favor wear dark colors and try to stand near a contrasting background. Find a dark background if you’re fair skin and a light one if you’re dark skinned. This will help contrast you with your surroundings and draw attention to your face.  If you are willing to wear make-up, add extra color to your cheeks, lips and brows.  This will highlight and frame the two things people will look at the most, your eyes and your mouth.
  5. The camera is in the conversation too
    If you are being interviewed and the camera is off to the side, speak to your interviewer but imagine the camera is just a silent third person in the conversation.  It will help you keep your body turned toward them – you wouldn’t want to be rude.  It will also help relax you.  It’s just someone else listening in, nothing to be nervous about.

So don’t walk into that interview or the video studio as if you were in front of a client or your board of directors.  Take the time to get ready to switch things up a bit.

Send me your videos if you want some additional quick tips on how to be great on camera.  Be bold and make sure I can share it to help others as well.

This is a pet peeve of mine and I know I am not alone.  No one wants to be read to after the age of 6.  So why are you cramming words on a presentation slide and then reading to a group of grown professionals?

STOP IT – NOW! 

There is never a reason to fill your slides with text and there is certainly never a reason to read it all out loud.

Here are some DOs and DONTs:

DO: Keep your slides simple – the longer they spend looking at your slide, the less time they spend listening to you.

DON’T:  Cut and paste a document onto your slide.  Who wants that?

DO:  Give it to them in a handout.  If there is too much detail to give your audience verbally, give them a handout to take home and allow those who want a deeper dive to do it when they have the time and interest.

DON’T: Ever give the handout before the presentation.  They will spend the time flipping through papers instead of listening to you.  Wait and give it to them at the end of the presentation.

DO: Take advantage of being in front of you audience to deliver your message with persuasion and energy. Your delivery gives your commentary context emphasis and impact.

DON’T: Leave your meaning and influence up to a few (or more likely too many) words on a page.

DO: Always assume your audience is at least as intelligent as you are.

DON’T: Read to them as if they were your 4 year old niece.

Own up, are you guilty of reading from your slides?  Try it my way and let me know how it goes.  I may want to interview you for my upcoming book.

This is always a challenge for me as a coach.  Clients want to be better presenters.  They want to get ahead at work.  They want to be more successful at business development.  But, when it comes down to it, they don’t want to do anything differently.  They tell me they have been doing it for years or the do it all the time, but that doesn’t mean they do it well.  I always have to push back and say if what you are doing now is working for you, why am I here?  I wish I had some magic fairy dust I could give them to make it all better, but that’s crap and they know it.  No one who wants to get fit will get there without changing how they eat and how much they exercise.  Why would it be any different for how you communicate?

Getting better at anything takes work and often struggle.  Ask any Olympic athlete or successful CEO.  Reading books can give you ideas, going to a workshop might spark enthusiasm and hiring a coach may give you strategies, but at the end of the day the work still lays with you.   You have to take those ideas, strategies and enthusiasm and do things differently every day, day after day.  Nothing happens overnight, but if you remain dedicated, things will begin to shift.  Your presentations will be more compelling and impactful, prospects will start signing on the dotted line and your business will begin to grow.

So don’t sit around waiting for things to get better just because you show up, DO THINGS DIFFERENTLY.  The difference may surprise you.

Try doing one thing differently and let me know how it goes.  Next time I may share your success story with the world.

 

Avoid the Pitfalls of Pitching as a Team

Should your whole team pitch?

This is a common question when teams are putting together their investor or sales pitch.  Often different members of the team can bring a unique perspective and expertise to the presentation.  But this can be tricky, because everyone brings a different energy, pace and presentation style into the room.  If not handled well, this can make for a muddled, disorganized and hard to follow pitch.

In most cases I believe only one person should give the initial pitch.  Here some examples of when to pitch alone, when to pitch as a team and why.

 

WHEN TO PITCH ALONE

Pitching to investors

Ultimately, VC or angels are putting their money on you as much as on your business.  They need to know how you think and communicate as a leader.  I always recommend the CEO give the pitch.  This is especially true if you are a founder.  No one knows more about the business or will have more passion than the founder.  That’s gold when pitching.  That does not mean you can’t bring key team members to the meeting.  You lead the pitch and they can join in during the Q & A when the investors will have more detailed questions.  This is when the deeper expertise can shine.

Pitching as the account contact

If you are pitching for new business and you will be the account manager it is best not to confuse them by having too many people pitching to them.  You will need to spend more time in prep with your team to fully understand their part of the presentation, but ultimately, you will instill greater trust with the client.  They will never be confused about who to contact or who is in charge.

 

WHEN TO PITCH AS A TEAM

Start up with more than on founder.

If both founders are crucial to the business and are truly equals, they should pitch to investors together.  You want to ensure that investors connect and build trust with both of you.  If not, someone could find them on the outside of the relationship later on.

Sales pitch when the client will be working with the whole team.

In this case, it is important that the potential client get to know and trust all the team members.  This give them the context for each team member and allows them to establish some common ground which makes communication easier later on, especially if you will not be working together in person.

To avoid the pitfalls of pitching as a team, follow these simple tips.

  1. Divide the topics each presenter will discuss before you even put the pitch together.  If you each know the areas you cover, you can avoid answering questions at the same time or sending mixed messages.
  2. Layout the pitch so that you only pass off the presentation once.  If you go back and forth, the listeners will feel they are at a tennis match.
  3. Practice in advance together.  Two presenters practicing separately are like the actors playing Romeo and Juliet rehearsing separately.  They will never be in sync and it will feel awkward to the audience.
  4. Align for the pass.  When one presenter turns things over to the other they can often fumble the pitch.  You need to align energy, pace and thought process.  It should feel like you finish each other’s sentences.

Do you have a good presentation story?  Or have any questions?  Leave a comment or email me.  Maybe your story can help someone else.