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Keep your presentation short and tweet


Leslie Dickson


Posted by Leslie Dickson


presentation skills

Communication skills get Twitter-ized

I’ll be honest. Twitter sounded like a crazy idea to me. Who can say anything about anything in 140 characters? And who cares anyway? After two months (and realizing I’m not omniscient), I decided I should get a Twitter account to see what it was all about. (Experiential learning is part of VoicePro’s core philosophy!) I immediately saw the draw. Fun and slightly addictive, but it still felt like a novelty to me.

Did you hear that? It’s the sound of the paradigm shifting. Everything changed when professional communicators got into the Twitter game: grocery chains, coffee shops, TV networks, celebrities, Senators, pundits, and comedians. Tweeters suddenly could take 140 characters to make you laugh, cry, call your Congressman, buy a new pair of shoes, and, maybe most importantly, click on a link to find out more.

Wow, that was the epiphany. Isn’t that succinct, persuasive, get-to-the-heart-of-the-matter approach at the center of good presentation skills?  Fewer words, more engagement? Something that captures the imagination (or mind, or heart, or pocketbook)? A gift-wrapped box you want to open to find out more?

As you prepare for your next presentation or sales call, don’t start by organizing those 27 pages of data into your 45-minute narrative. What’s your short, sweet Tweet that will make brains “click” on the rest of your presentation? Be imaginative, be bold, be captivating. Check out some favorites from the Twitter folks I follow, each with a link to more content.

  • Having a great idea and not selling it well is like sitting on a pig and hoping for a ham sandwich. (That’s making your headline a punchline.)
  • The Spending Habits of The Poor - Sitting on my high horse it’s easy to make quick judgments about the poor. (Start personal and make a connection.)
  • Leadership & Skydiving: Lessons in Informed Risk-Taking (That’s a metaphor that gets an audience moving in the right direction right from the start)
  • National Pest Management Association offers tips to consumers to avoid bringing bed bugs home from summer vacation. (Itching to find out more?)
  • What does Steve Jobs love? (This one didn’t need 140 characters, just 29!)

Admit it. Those are tweets likely to get some attention from the audience, right?

A little tweet-ology can be a helpful, disciplined way to approach a presentation, first as you set the overall message and then as you think through each sub-section or topic area. What’s the nugget that captures your message – and your audience?  Put your presentation together with thought and people will be listening, remembering and re-tweeting it!

By the way, you can follow VoiceProInc on Twitter, too.


Image By Barb's Photos2006


The Secret of body language in Mastering Communication Skills

Carolyn DicksonPosted by Carolyn Dickson


Body Language“Straighten up,” your mother may have said. “Pull your stomach in. Don’t slouch.”

And you either stood up straight, or you ignored her and, as an adult, you’re still slouching.

This isn’t the only scenario that may have doomed you to poor posture, but it’s a good illustration of a real life situation that can have a lasting impact on one’s image, career, and even one’s health.

There are good reasons why it’s critical for individuals wanting to develop good communication skills for leadership to pay special attention to body position and skeletal alignment. When you’re in balance, with your bones and muscles all in the right places doing what they’re supposed to do, you look good, sound good, and feel good. Your mind works more clearly and it’s easy for you to move.

As I was watching the 2010 U.S. Open Tennis Championships last September. I was conscious of how often the commentators mention posture and body language. “He’s got that hang-dog look,” Patrick McEnroe said of one player who had visibly slumped. “He’ll be out of this if he doesn’t change his attitude—fast.”

In VoicePro’s workshop, Executive PresenceTM, we take clients through a visioning exercise where they fashion a model of themselves as a leader. Some time later we ask them to assume the posture of their envisioned selves, as they would stand, sit and move, when they become the leaders they aspire to be. Every single individual changes in some way, and almost all gravitate toward what we at VoicePro® have termed Neutral Position.

Neutral Position is a natural stance that allows your energy to flow freely. Because it’s free of tension, Neutral Position is also a powerful posture, its strength radiating outward and enveloping everyone in the immediate surroundings. The effect on the workshop participants is striking.

While I can’t help you find Neutral Position in a few hundred words, I can give you some pointers you can use right now—today—that will change the way you stand and sit, and that will raise your stature in the eyes of others.

Keep your posture open.

We see it all the time. Under stress, people protect themselves by closing up, turning away, or trying to become invisible in the midst of the crowd.

So whenever you feel yourself wanting to shrink into the woodwork, do the opposite. Open up. Let your shoulders drop and open up your chest. Let your arms hang at your sides or relax them on the arms of your chair. Resist any impulse to hide or make yourself smaller. In other words, take your space.
Sit back. We all know people who, knowingly or unknowingly, invade the personal space of other people. They lean in from the waist and get “up close and personal.” They perch on the edge of their chair as if they’re ready to climb into your lap. They point at you. Whatever they do, you want them to just back off.

This is something else to work on. People with higher status tend to stay back, so keep your back pressed against the back of your chair. When you’re standing, maintain a distance of approximately two feet from the person you’re speaking with."

"Float" your head.

When you “float” your head, the high point of your body is the crown of your head. You want to feel that you’re suspended on a string from the ceiling. It may help you to imagine helium balloons attached behind each ear, lifting your whole head gently upward. This natural head position will enable you to keep a straight gaze and will get rid of the kinks that can cause pain at the end of a stressful day.

Taking stock of your posture is one of the first steps in developing effective business communication skills. The way you stand, sit and move shapes your message in all kinds of ways.


Image By N.D.Q.牛大群

Storytelling in business can lead you to a happier ending.


Carolyn Dickson


Posted by Carolyn Dickson


Storytelling in BusinessI’m reading a terrific book right now by Chip and Dan Heath.  It’s called Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard.  It’s a thought-provoking guidebook on change management and I found some intriguing tidbits that will likely find their way into some of my VoicePro workshops.   

But today, I want to focus on something else: how well they used storytelling as part of their presentation.  That’s what was so powerful about this book – the stories of real people and real companies, real successes and some very real disasters. 

They had me hooked on page 12. That’s where I read a story I’ve told to at least a dozen other people. A man named Jon Stegner believed inefficient purchasing, caused by distributing control among the company’s many factories, was wasting millions of dollars each year.  His first step wasn’t to create an Excel spreadsheet.  He didn’t write a 3-page memo.  He had an intern gather up one of each type of glove bought by the far-flung purchasing offices of the organization.  Want to guess how many he found?  424 different kinds.  It gets worse. In some cases the price for the same item ranged from $5 to $17.

There’s more to this story

He still didn’t use his findings as the basis of a detailed report or a scathing email.  Instead, he tagged each item with its price, piled them all on the conference room table, and invited the division presidents to come and see what he called his “Glove Shrine.”  As the authors say, “The reaction was visceral…Soon Stegner had exactly the mandate for change that he’d sought.”

Now that’s persuasive power of storytelling

Both by the Heaths and Stegner.  Stories help us educate,  to transfer knowledge and create a community of common values. Stories helps an audience understand who they are, what they stand for.  They create a sense of belonging.   And, stories motivate, because they make the theoretical into reality and mundane into mission.    

What’s the story that captures your problem?

What’s the image that paints the picture of your goal?  What’s the plotline that lets your staff see how they’re either the guy in the white hat, the trusty sidekick or the cattle rustler?

Maybe I need to stop and do a little myth busting before we go on.  If you believe storytellers are born, not made, you’re selling yourself short.   Yes, there are natural storytellers.  But in my work at VoicePro I’ve watched people blossom as they learn to discover their stories, shape them and tell them with appeal, influence – and often a good bit of humor.  It’s a matter of taking time and staying in the moment.  And you can do it, too.

Believe me, a happy ending starts with the first word of a story.


Image By Bob Jagendorf
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