‘Tis The Season

December 14th, 2011

Photo by Lorraine Behnan

Photo by Lorraine Behnan

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched.  They must be felt with the heart.

– Helen Keller

Heartfelt wishes for a most joyous and healthy holiday with family and friends.

May your days be filled with wonderful stories, laughter, and love.

Perhaps you will get a chance to view some of these Holiday classics. If you don’t have time to watch the movies in their entirety, here are their links to excerpts on You Tube:

It’s a Wonderful Life

A Christmas Carol

Miracle on 34th Street

Maximize Speaker Value

November 22nd, 2011

Woman presenter with WhiteboardOrganizations and companies continually look for new ways to create memorable and valuable meetings. One of the most popular practices is to engage a dynamic Keynote Speaker whose role is to set the tone for the day, introduce the theme, and infuse excitement and energy that can be sustained for the duration of the event.

A great keynote speech inspires the audience, encourages a call-to-action, and generates interest to explore the topic further. A memorable keynote adds value to your meeting or event. Many speeches are independent, however, others can be great springboards for workshops.

You can maximize the value of a speech and increase the longevity of its impact by engaging the same speaker to deliver both the keynote speech and lead or facilitate a workshop on the same day. This is an option that is becoming more in demand to increase the sustainability of an event.

Here’s how the  combined offering of Keynote Speaker and Workshop Leader maximizes the value:

  1. Having the same speaker deliver the keynote and lead or facilitate a workshop provides continuity and boosts retention of key messages and best practices.
  2. The keynote followed by a workshop creates an immediate opportunity to put theory into practice. Participants can dive deeper into the learning and development process while the keynote ideas are still fresh.
  3. The workshop setting allows the participants to build a deeper relationship with the speaker thereby increasing their willingness to embrace and implement ideas.

Steve Jobs: In his own wise words

October 8th, 2011

Steve JobsFrom Jobs’ 2005 Stanford commencement speech:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.

Steve Jobs February 24, 1955 – October 5, 2011

Busy Busy Busy

August 28th, 2011


“Sorry I didn’t get back to you. I have been so busy.”

“Sorry it took me so long to get back to you. I have been so busy”

“Sorry I’m late. I am so busy.

These are not endearing communication openers whether they are expressed in person, by email, or voice message. If you live and breathe in the working world you are ipso facto, busy. If you aren’t busy, something is awry.

No doubt, I too have slipped the “busyness” phrase into my own communication – it is usually followed with immediate regret.  When someone says, “I am so busy”, the unsaid inference is,“ and I have been too busy to include you.” Now this may not be true, but that’s how it sounds and feels.

To add to the drama the latecomer may rush in to a meeting juggling binders, iPads, Smartphones, and a Starbucks coffee as they breathlessly deliver their apology. The recipient of the greeting responds with a polite, “No problem”, however their inside voice is saying, “So what, I’m busy too but I left my busyness outside the door so that I can be focused and ready for you.”

We DO get overwhelmed with work and personal responsibilities.  We DO run late for meetings or forget or postpone replies to our messages. Apologies are always appropriated.  What is unnecessary is the preface along with a litany your busyness agenda.  If you are late for a meeting or phone call simply say, “ I sorry I am late because, (insert ONE reason).  If you are late in replying to an email or voicemail,  “My sincere apologies for this late reply”, is sufficient.  Already disgruntled because of the delay, why add to the aggravation by making people read, or listen to lengthy excuses?

In summary:

  1. Open with “ I am sorry for being late”
  2. Give one specific reason
  3. Get on with the meeting or message.

Considerate Communication

February 14th, 2011

Male and female conversationWhat do I mean by considerate communication?

Asking for a person’s attention while being respectful of their time.

How do you demonstrate your consideration?

Do whatever it takes to make communication easy for the recipient.

This statement is so important it is worth repeating.  Do whatever it takes to make communication easy for the recipient. Think about the people with whom you would rather communicate.  They are likely easy to listen to, easy to understand, and easy to share an exchange of ideas.

There is a classic saying, “If I had more time I would have written a shorter letter”.   Indeed, it does take more time to organize clear, concise, and compelling communication.  If you want people to listen, understand, and retain your ideas, then take a few minutes to organize your thoughts.  And, ‘Do whatever it takes to make it easy for the recipient.’

Daily we experience waves of information overload.  Our heads are full and so are our email folders and voicemail boxes.  Our time is squeezed multi-tasking at home and at work, and multi-managing communication devices.  We suffer from the T’N’T effect — Technology and Time deficit.

Attention spans have dwindled.  In a rush to communicate we do not take the necessary time to process and edit our thoughts.  As words form in our head they go directly to the page or out of our mouth.   We rush to hit the ‘send ‘ button.  Rambling emails, conversations, and voice messages leave the recipient with the frustrating task of sifting through all the content in an effort to decipher the important information. This is no way to make friends and influence people.

Before you write that next email, make that call or ask for a meeting, take a few minutes to, ‘Do whatever it takes to make communication easy for the recipient’. Follow this efficient, effective and considerate process.

  1. Keep your ideas short and simple.  Compound and complex language causes disengagement and frustration.
  2. Prioritize your main points. Don’t assume the recipient will stay focused to the end of your communication to get ‘the good stuff’ .
  3. Include only the information that is relevant and helpful to the recipient. Minimize the backstory.
  4. Construct a logical flow of ideas.  This helps the recipient to understand and strengthens retention.
  5. Replace long-winded explanations with examples, metaphors, or analogies. The recipient is more likely to remain engaged.
  6. Review and determine the extraneous or superfluous information. Distill. Review. Distill.
  7. Proffread. I mean proofread!

The Magical Horse

January 4th, 2011

New naybourThis horse does not fly. He does not talk. He does not do tricks. Yet, he has brought magic to our community.

I live is a small neighbourhood on the edge of a conservation area. Across from my home is a pasture which has been vacant since moving here 9 years ago. One morning I was reading a magazine and sipping coffee by the light of the kitchen window when the horse appeared, peacefully grazing on the tall grasses. His arrival was sudden and whimsical. I had to take a long second look. It was a strange and surprising vision but a welcome one. We always thought this property was earmarked for a new house. Indeed that may be in the future but for now we have been given the gift of, Remington The Magical Horse.

Several months have passed since the arrival of Remington. The horse has become a community treasure. People pull over in their cars to stop for a visit. Sometimes they just quietly lean on the fence as they reach over to pet him, other times they share the events of the day or whisper sweet nothings or secrets. Maybe they even unload their cares and woes. Remington is an excellent listener. He holds a regal and patient pose while his nose is stroked and his ears are scratched. Dog walkers pause for a brief encounter and even their pets have made a connection to the new ‘naybor’ (sorry couldn’t resist). Children come from their homes scurrying with excitement eager to feed Remington their handful of carrots. The apple tree in our backyard has also provided a convenient and nutritional source of treats for people to offer. Sometimes the neighborhood is alerted by the clip clop of Remington’s hoofs. Kids and adults stop whatever they are doing and head for the street as the owner takes him for an afternoon stroll, frequently stopping to allow Remington’s friends to say,”Hello.”

The view from my kitchen has literally become a window to a new and joyous world. It is so heartwarming to see Remington prance toward the fence to greet the kids who have left their computers and Xboxes to spend time with their friend and folks going to and from work take time to stop for a peaceful rendezvous.

Remington is a reminder  that there is always time to stop and smell (and sometimes eat) the flowers, no matter how hectic life may be.  This is magical.

Going Local

October 13th, 2010

Local SignAs a relatively new advocate for buying local, I am already reaping the rewards.  Local is not exclusive to growers but to a variety of providers to the consumer. I live in a small community close to big city plazas and big box stores.  Only recently, out of necessity and convenience, I started buying locally at smaller shops and grocers.

Not only am I enjoying fresh food, simplified shopping, and unique products but I am also experiencing exceptional customer service.  Is it because many of those serving the customers are also the owners? Is it because many shops are family operated and have been in the community for decades? Is it because they have built a history of reliability, trust, and integrity? Is it because they call you by name when you return?  Is it because they welcome customers with the warm smile of a close friend? Is it because you get value for your money from staff who sincerely care?

Yes, to all of these reasons, and more.

I read many books and magazines on the latest trends in building and sustaining client relationships to grow business and retain loyalty. Many of the writers are from the Harvard Business School, but sometimes the best ‘tried and true’ practices are good old-fashioned approaches found in our own backyards.

Benefts of  good old-fashioned customer service:

  1. Always take time to exchange pleasantries.
  2. Staff is knowledgeable and courteous.
  3. Pride in their products and their brand.
  4. Keen awareness of a customer in search of an elusive item.
  5. Communicate with customer instead of chatting with colleagues.
  6. Patience is extended in helping the customer make a decision.
  7. Share your joy in the discovery of the perfect product.
  8. You are escorted to a desired item rather than being pointed in a vague direction.
  9. If a product is not available an alternate suggestion is made or they special order.
  10. Offer unique products and express enthusiasm for their special attraction.
  11. Remember your previous purchases and ask for your feedback

If you have experienced additional benefits of local customer service I would love to hear from you.

Joys of Summer

July 14th, 2010

dreamstime_5069601I usually reserve my blogs for sharing best practices and current business ideas with my readers. On occasion I simply share my personal thoughts. Hopefully ones that still offer inspiration and a lightness of being.

It is summer – the season to kick back a bit and lower the tempo as the heat rises.

Summer marks the half-way point to the year and vacation is a a rewarding way to celebrate the milestone. Although work still goes on there is a more relaxed feeling in the air. The days seem longer because dark does not fall until late evening.  Summer is my time to reflect on the first six months, project about the next six, and simply enjoy the present.  This enjoyment includes golfing, gardening, hiking; barbeques with friends and family; visits with colleagues on cafe patios; and reading those books and magazines I bought months ago and collected dust because of busy schedules. The reading material is an eclectic collection of business, biography, and fiction.  If you are looking for some interesting reading please visit Lorraine’s Library.

Oh yes, one more item to add to the list of summer activities. I am learning how to use my new iPad. Yes, I have drunk the Kool-Aid, and I am feeling very refreshed.  Techno-toy or business tool?  Either way, I am loving it.

However you choose to enjoy the summer – I  wish you good health, relaxation, and rejuvenation.

Speech Versus Presentation

June 23rd, 2010

Woman presenter

Often in my presentation workshops and private speaker coaching sessions I am asked, “What is the difference between a speech and a presentation?” If you Google this question you will see many similar responses. A speech is only words with no slide support. A presentation is interactive with the use of slideware.

Today’s business world requires a hybrid scenario. We want to effectively communicate ideas while ensuring audience connection and retention in order to achieve our goals. Not everyone is an orator who can engage people for 30 minutes or more, so we tend to rely on slides for support and audience engagement. Used sparingly and selectively, slides can help underscore a message or illustrate an example.  Most importantly, however, you need to deliver your ideas with dynamic speech and animated body language. Breathe life into the content.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tall Tale about Shrimp

April 27th, 2010

ShrimpA tale can be fictitious or true. This is a true tale.  While vacationing in Naples Florida this month I discovered a fabulous grocer called Wynn’s Market. Fresh everything! Prepared gourmet meals, mouthwatering appetizers, and exotic condiments . Heaven for the vacationer.  The experience at Wynn’s turned out not only to be a discovery of fine cuisine but a lesson in sales and customer service.

As I approached the seafood locker and eyed the selection of shrimp, the smiling server peered over the shelf and said, “I see you are having difficulty making a choice. Let me help you.”  She presented me with a plump shrimp from the local Gulf of Mexico.  It was exquisite! Then she offered an imported shrimp from the Pacific at half the price of those from the gulf.  “Now try this one and don’t worry about finishing it. Here’s a paper towel. ”  These were  clearly inferior.  It was no contest. I bought the Gulf shrimp  – quality won over price. As the server reminded me, “How often do you have the opportunity to eat such wonderful fresh shrimp like this?” The interaction was about two minutes – the revenue $23.00.  Oh yes, and I returned to the market twice more in the week.

Tips from the Shrimp Tale:

  1. Observe customer behaviour
  2. Offer your expertise with a friendly smile
  3. Allow the customer to experience the product
  4. Compare value for price
  5. Reassure the customer about their purchase decision