Posts Tagged ‘best practices’

Goodbye 2016, Hello 2017!

Friday, February 17th, 2017

Each new year brings the good intentions of productive beginnings, and the vow to stop bad habits. Resolutions. With the arrival of 2017 came countless articles and social media bemoaning the horrible year we had just come through. The common refrain was, “Thank goodness 2016 is over!” At first, I was quick to join that chorus but then I shifted my perspective, as that was not a mindset I wanted to hang on to.

Before I get to my key message I need to share some back-story. I lost my Mother in November 2015, two years shy of her 90th birthday. I held her hand and watched over her fragile body, the one that gave me life. I prayed for more time despite the fact that I was blessed to have her in my life for so long. We are told, “No regrets”. So hard to do. So hard not to rewind our lives wishing what could have been. To go that route, I knew was futile and damaging.

So I shifted perspective.

I got a pad a paper and started to make a list all the special moments and milestones my mother and I shared. Quickly the list filled a page, then a second. I was amazed. I was comforted. I was grateful. My tears turned to smiles.

The loss, the disappointments, the shortcomings dwell in our minds. But if you started a personal list of joyful moments, achievements you may just be amazed and grateful. Sometimes we just have to see it on paper.

So I have started to a practice of writing down the positive events and moments that touch my life and keep the notes in a large Mason jar. I plan to refer to these notes when I feel overwhelmed or am need of some inspiration. Our heads get full of so much stuff that sometimes our most precious memories get buried. The jar is a convenient receptacle that can be accessed immediately. You don’t have to wait until the end of the year to take stock of your life.



‘Winging it’ is for the Birds.

Thursday, February 18th, 2016

Colorful silhouettes of flying birds.THE PRESENTER TRAP

The four deadliest words a prospective presenter can say are, “I’ll just wing it.”

When it comes to presentation excellence, professionalism is synonymous with preparation. Audiences may forgive initial jitters but they will rarely forgive an unpolished performance. In a highly competitive business world ‘winging it’ is risky business. Be prepared. Be professional. You may be a subject expert however this alone does not ensure that you can effectively communicate your knowledge to an audience.

You may argue, “I know someone who is a great presenter and she tells me she wings it all the time.” I would receive the proclamation with caution and skepticism.  You may recall the student who told you she only starts studying the night before exams and always gets an ‘A’.  Believing this to be true, the next time you have an exam you cram the night before only to be shocked when you receive an ‘F’.  I’m not so cynical to think that the ‘A’ student was leading you to fail, but rather, she likely wanted to impress you with her scholastic expertise. Having said that, there are those amazing few presenters who have the innate talent to deliver presentations with limited preparation.  The rest of we mortals need to plan and practice.

Audiences know when you lack preparation and they don’t like it. It makes them feel that you didn’t think they were worth the time. They attend presentations with high expectations and low attention spans. To keep people engaged requires substantive content and dynamic delivery. A sign that you have successfully engaged your audience is when you are able to stop them from reaching for their smartphones while you speak.


One of the first questions I ask when coaching a client is, “What’s your process? The common response is, “I build a deck and put speaker notes below the slides.” A good start but that is only about 50% of the equation. Your road to success begins with a disciplined process which is a combination of efficient planning and diligent practice.  As one of my acting instructors once said, “It is not how many hours you practice, but rather how you practice in those hours.”

I have my clients deliver their presentations twice in a row to see if they are able to repeat the presentation with consistent content and delivery.  You don’t want to be a ‘one hit wonder’ who presents on a wing and a prayer.  The high standard of delivery and messaging needs to be repeatable. Imagine if you attended a theatre production on a night when the cast was performing erratically – lines missed, sloppy staging, and lack of enthusiasm. You would feel cheated by the experience and the ticket price.


There is a popular misconception that a shorter presentation is easier to prepare.

A shorter presentation doesn’t mean you can take shortcuts. It is known among professional speakers that the less time you are given to speak, the greater the challenge. Short presentations can actually require more preparation than a lengthier one. Why?  You have limited time to engage your audience and communicate your ideas.  The messages need to be delivered with precision. Economy of words is critical.  This notable saying underscores the point, “If I had more time I would have written a shorter letter.”


The more you practice the less nervous you will be.  If you have anxiety when you speak, particularly when stakes are high, why sabotage yourself by not being properly prepared?  Some people think they need oxygen and medication to make it through their presentation. What they really need is to prepare and practice to build their confidence.

Here is a list of suggestions to practice properly:

  1. Deliver at performance level.
  2. Time your presentation for repeatable consistency and continuity.
  3. Visualize a positive response.
  4. Practice advancing slides along with verbal transitions.
  5. Tape record your presentation to evaluate your delivery and refine content.
  6. Repeat process and refine content and delivery until you feel confident.

This May Obvious But…

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015

Man on smartphone 2I usually only blog when I feel the need to share something of interest to my readers.  I feel the need.  I am certainly not the first to blog about this and I am sure I will not be the last.

This is not a rant but a sincere piece of professional advice for other professionals to protect the privacy and reputations of their companies and colleagues.  As obvious as this information may be, it is often ignored.

Like thousands of  daily commuters I am confined on a train with people talking loudly on cell phones and am involuntarily exposed to, what should be, private conversations.  Why people speak louder on their cell phones than they do talking to a person next to them is one of life’s little mysteries. I often wear headphones but sometimes they are not enough.

There is a designated quiet zone during rush hours on the commuter train but seats are not always available. Being in the non-designated zone, however, should not give passengers carte blanche to speak at the top of their voices for the entire one-hour journey in which there is no escape.  I think it is fair to say, when a person speaks with a booming voice in public places then their conversation is now public knowledge and confidentiality is forfeited.  Recently, I learned a lot from an oblivious caller, and the unsuspecting person at the other end of the phone.

The longer the caller spoke the more the passengers became privy to sensitive information.  I remarked to a fellow passenger that it was lucky the caller did not reveal the name of his company, to which the passenger replied, “I am sure we will know eventually.”  And she was right. It didn’t take long to determine who he worked for and who he was talking to, particularly as the organization had recently made headline news. The person to whom he was speaking, who I will refer to as ‘J’, was having a problem with a colleague, who I will refer to as ‘D’.   As a leader of a department  ‘D’ apparently is crossing lots of boundaries and is harassing colleagues with too many calls. No matter how much the caller tried to convince ‘J’ that ‘D’ was actually a good guy and an asset to the team, ‘J  simply was, “not going to take it any more!”  We also learned that ‘J’  is doing a major house renovation on his 2,600 square foot home.  I could reveal many more details but  it is not my intention to expose anyone.  Rather it is my intention to remind you of the obvious –  be careful when having public cell phone conversations, or any public conversations for that matter.  Not only could the people next to you be listening, they could be recording you as well.  I’m sure you don’t want to end up on Your Tube (see link below).

people talking loudly on cell phones’

Golfing and Presenting: Common Ground

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

ImageI am not the first presentation coach to use a golf analogy, and likely will not be the last.  The comparison is so fitting that it is worth another perspective. And it is golf season after all.  My apologies to non-golfers, however I trust you will get the idea.

There are no short cuts.  No magic wands. No luck. It is preparation. Period.

When I coach business professionals my first question is usually, “What is your preparation process?” Often the response is, “I don’t really have one.

There are those presenters who think they do have a process simply by putting their slides together, attaching a few speaker notes, and going through the main messages in their head.  Like golf, this is not an armchair sport.  You need to practice on your feet, speak aloud and learn to how to properly use your tools.

Let’s look more closely at the golf analogy. We all want to lower our score by sinking those long putts, chip with accuracy, and hit long and straight drives.  Yet, even after dozens of rounds of golf, our game is not much better at the end of the season than when we started. Frustration mounts.  We think the quick fix to lower our high handicap is to buy new clubs and more expensive golf balls. Not surprisingly there is still little improvement.  What we really need is a disciplined practice process and to practice regularly.

The presenter, like the golfer, may have all the right tools – great messages supported by compelling slides with engaging animations and graphics.  To really maximize the power of those tools you need to practice diligently and actively, otherwise you are not going to elevate your game.  Meanwhile, your competitors are likely out on the course elevating theirs.

Preparation is synonymous with professionalism.

Considerate Communication

Monday, 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!

New Beginnings, Old Best Practices

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

New Year 2010There are many pundits with opinions on whether we should bother with New Year’s resolutions because often they are made without a specific plan or support system, and therefore are destined to fail. This can have an adverse effect by causing feelings of defeat instead of igniting the optimistic intentions.

Rather than simply proclaiming hollow vows  another approach to resolutions  may be taking the time to reflect on the individual and collective practices that have contributed to your success, and resolve to continue with the best.  You can exercise this ritual any time of the year.  Let the celebrations begin!

Consider these practices:

  • Communication Effectiveness
  • Relationship Building
  • Innovation
  • Networking
  • Teamwork
  • Efficiency
  • Time Management
  • Customer Service
  • Research and Development
  • Continuing Education
  • Knowledge Transfer

Golf: Personal Mastery at Work

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

Golf flagI love to golf. I am an average golfer. Average as a result of limited practice. None the less, I have a great passion for the game and look forward to the hours on the course when the only goal is to get that little white sphere in the hole. Preferably in two putts or less! Golf is an oasis from the worries and tasks of the day. Golf is great outdoor exercise while enjoying quality time with friends, family, and colleagues. For my summer holiday I went to the magnificent Priddis Greens Golf Course outside of Calgary to watch the CN Canadian Women’s Open. My intention was to breathe fresh mountain air, view the vistas of the Rockies as I watched the best women golfers in the world, and pick up a few tips along the way.  I came away with more. I learned that the best practices of golf can be applied to business. If you are top of the Leader Board today, that doesn’t ensure you will be on top tomorrow. Complacency is your biggest enemy, along with the pressure of challengers nipping at your heals. You need to play your personal best. I noted that at the end of each round the players were back on the putting green practicing for the next day.  After all, it’s those short strokes that clinch the win. As the classic saying goes, “Drive for show and putt for dough.”

Personal Mastery:


Mental and physical conditioning

Determination and discipline







Calculated risk

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