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Using PowerPoint to Influence & Inspire


Carolyn Dickson

Posted by Carolyn Dickson



PowerPoint Communication SkillsPerhaps this is a familiar story. You’re ready to deliver your big presentation. You stride to the front of the room, click on your laptop, and the screen lights up. At that moment, a silent groan rises from your audience. Even though you can’t hear it, it hangs there—palpable—in the air.

Undaunted, you forge ahead, voice droning on and eyes glued to the screen, as facts, statistics and graphs appear and disappear with monotonous regularity. Then, when it’s all over, you heave a sigh of relief and kid yourself with the thought, That wasn’t so bad.

Make no mistake, PowerPoint® is a wonderful tool. It has become the mainstay of business presentations all over the world, and not without reason. PowerPoint® allows you to create a visual depiction of the key points, the substance of your presentation. You can back up your points with critical details that deserve further attention. You can produce handouts that can be referred to long after your presentation is just a memory.

Unfortunately, the immense value of PowerPoint® is almost always lost in poor implementation, which leads to the scenario I described above. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Not any longer.

We at VoicePro® are excited about our new program, Persuasive PowerPoint® : Slides that Inform—Stories that Inspire. In this two-day workshop, we help the attendees master the three most important elements of a good presentation:

  1. Delivering factual information that appeals to the logical, critical thinker,
  2. Using stories and examples for strong, emotional impact, and
  3. Speaking with poise and flair.

Delivering factual information

Good slide design is crucial if the audience is to “get” what you’re trying to say. Here’s what our clients say when we quiz them about the slide presentations they experience:

  • Too many slides
  • Crowded, too busy, too much information, too many words
  • Print too small, can’t read
  • Spreadsheets on a slide, yuk!

Persuasive PowerPoint®  will show you how to eliminate these problems without sacrificing all important information. Your PowerPoint® slides will become an asset to your presentation, not a turn-off.

Using stories and examples for emotional impact

History’s greatest leaders have always been story tellers. Stories grab our attention, hold it, move us, and stay in our memories. They paint vivid pictures that provide an “aha” moment, when all the pieces come together in an integrated whole. They are part of the communication skills package that move people to action.

With the VoicePro® method of crafting stories, you’ll be able to reinforce your organization’s vision, mission, and values, while moving your audience to that always desired place where they’re ready to take action.

Speaking with poise and flair

Flair is the icing on the cake. In Persuasive PowerPoint®, you’ll learn to:

  • Use advanced speaking techniques such as movement, imagery, vocal inflection, timing and humor.
  • Read an audience and respond to their unspoken needs without missing a beat.
  • Become a more skillful, confident, and persuasive speaker than ever before.

The end result will be a stronger, more dynamic, more powerful presentation. And a stronger, more dynamic, more powerful presenter—you.

We hope you’ll take advantage of this exciting new offering. Persuasive PowerPoint®: Slides that Inform—Stories that Inspire can be the solution to all your PowerPoint® needs.

For more information . . .


Image by paolo.benetti

Eight Surefire Steps for Giving Feedback


Carolyn Dickson

Posted by Carolyn Dickson


Feedback communication skillsSooner or later we all find ourselves having to give someone else feedback. If you’re a manager, performance appraisals and other types of feedback are a huge part of your job. If you’re an executive, feedback may take a different form, but making evaluations—of people, of procedures, and of strategies—is an ongoing process. In fact, no matter what your position, if you’re working with people every day, there will always be times when you must respond to a persons ideas or work effort in a constructive way.

For the most part, folks hate giving feedback. No matter how tough we try to appear on the outside, in our hearts we don’t want to hurt people’s feelings. We know how sensitive they can be and how hard it is to be honest and constructive without seeming to be overly critical.

Believe it or not, giving another person feedback can be a positive experience. Here are steps you can take to set up a successful feedback experience.

Create a collaborative environment

Reinforce your common goals from the get-go. You both want to build behaviors that contribute to the well-being of the team…the department…the organization. Seek agreement on this. Are we on the same page…? Is there anything I’ve missed…?

Share what you like

Refer back to the goals you’ve agreed on. This is what we’re working on together. Here is how you’ve contributed. Outstanding…!

Share what concerns you

Put your concerns on a parallel track with the positives you’ve already stated. This is what I like about your work. At the same time, I have a concern about…. I’m worried that….

Avoid the big “but.”

At all costs. When you continue a statement with the word “but,” everything that went before it is negated. This is what I like about your work, but…. You’re really a nice person, but…. You can guess what the other person hears. Only the negative.

Solicit ideas for improvement

Before making suggestions, ask the other person for ways to address your concerns. Just be careful to keep the responsibility for making the change in the other person’s court. Given my concerns, what can you do to improve the situation…. Can you think of ways you can move us past this roadblock?

Listen respectfully to excuses without letting yourself be diverted from the key issues

Keep in mind that, to the other person, every excuse is a good excuse. That doesn’t mean you must accept it or let it justify inappropriate behavior. I can see the difficulty this is for you. At the same time we need to stay focused on the problem. What can you do to…?

Confirm agreed-upon points

Make sure the responsibility for carrying through on the decisions you’ve jointly made rests with the other person. If they feel they’ve been railroaded, you’re much less likely to have a positive outcome. By officially accepting this responsibility, they are choosing to cooperate, rather than dragging their feet in reluctant compliance. This is what we’ve agreed on. Can you do this…? I need you to commit yourself whole-heartedly to this. Are you okay with that…?

Set a time to evaluate

Without a timeline, agreements made in feedback sessions can easily fall into a black hole where they are lost and forgotten. Set a time to revisit your conversation, write it on both your calendars, and don’t forget to follow through.

I’ve read that heart attacks occur more often in managers shortly after they’ve conducted performance appraisals. It doesn’t need to be that way. By turning feedback sessions into opportunities for positive change, you’ve reinforced a core communication skills and taken stress out of your life and the lives of those around you.

For more information…


Image by nicoleraephotos


4 Communication Skills for Conveying Your Credibility


Carolyn DicksonPosted by Carolyn Dickson



Communication skills credibilityWhat gives some people credibility while other people have trouble being taken seriously? Is it because one person has more credible ideas or is telling the truth while the other is somehow less expert or honest? Not at all.

Your credibility is decided upon by other peoples’ perceptions of you and what they observe about you. So, being heard and believed requires you to be sensitive to your communication skills and habits that convey — or undermine — your credibility. Some of us don’t harness our credibility, or we may even “sabotage” it in ways we don’t know.

To convey to others the qualities that will build your credibility in their eyes, consider the following tips that have provided highly effective results for our clients.

Demonstrate openness

Perhaps the most important quality for integrity is the ability to appreciate the feelings and ideas of other people, while maintaining the integrity of your own. Listen with genuine interest to the people around you. Look at them. Keeping an open posture, relaxed manner and direct gaze will communicate your honesty and integrity. An open posture will also indicate to people that you have nothing to hide; you are comfortable with them and confident in yourself.

Breathe deeply

and learn to speak and project your voice by using your diaphragm. You will not only project a stronger voice and clarity, you will project a more powerful persona. By simply breathing properly, you are better able to connect with the inner source of your personal power.

Silence the “internal critic.”

We all have an “internal critic” that whispers to us about our shortcomings. Don’t listen. Believe in yourself and the value you bring to others. Be yourself, be natural, and bring that genuine quality into your presentations and your interpersonal communications. You will find people will connect with you on a much deeper level.

Express yourself and your enthusiasm

Becoming more physically expressive will engage others and create a stronger connection with them. When you lighten up and move freely, your professionalism is enhanced, not diminished. Even if you’re not talking, you’re communicating credibility with non-verbal expression.

When you learn to relax under pressure, breathe from the diaphragm, stay open as you look at and listen to people, and be genuine with verbal and non-verbal expression, everything changes. You convey integrity, expertise, dynamism and open-mindedness. People will see you as credible. They’ll see your inner intensity and passion that is not pushy or brash. You’ll display a quiet authority that others perceive and appreciate under any circumstances.

Image by R Bubnis

6 Communication Skills Strategies to Help Get You Over The Long Haul


Leslie DicksonPosted by Leslie Dickson


Leadership Communication skillsI participated in an event not too long ago that I was, frankly, surprised to be involved in. I have been a fitness runner for a few years and last winter my sister-in-law, also a fitness runner, suggested we set a goal for ourselves in order to ratchet up our effort.

The Goal...the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon in May of 2011! Now, in my mind this was analogous to sitting in the Wright Brothers airplane and planning next summer’s vacation landing on the Moon! Seriously! A marathon? I did however, accept the challenge and so we started to train.

Through the cold and overcast waning days of a Cleveland winter and the sucker-punch changeability of a Lake Erie spring, we started…mile by mile. And when the day of the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon rolled around, we felt nervous, very nervous, but ready as we could be. Maybe we’d have to walk part of it, but we were going to give it everything we had.

And so, in May on a chilly, rainy day, the starter’s gun sounded and feet started pounding the pavement. One mile, two miles, doing fine. Five miles, ten miles, halfway there. Fifteen, nineteen, twenty two, still okay.

Then came the wall. At 24 miles, wham. Not gonna make it. Maybe walk awhile…but run ten more yards first. Now ten more. Now thirty more.

Well, you’ve probably guessed how the story turns out. That first-time marathoner managed to put one foot in front of the other and made the last 2.2 miles, never having to walk after all.

Considering all of my anxiety and self-doubt  I can’t, quite frankly, remember the last time I felt that exhilarated. More than that, I felt empowered.

This experience is a wonderful reminder of the things we can do if we push ourselves. Six months ago, I didn’t know I could accomplish something like this. 2.2 miles from the end of the race, I still wasn’t sure. Now I’m on the lookout for other kinds of challenges. There is more in me to give, to stretch, and to try.

Are you feeling stalled in your career? Settling in to a comfortable place? Think it’s too late for that dream promotion or new responsibility? Think again. We’re built for challenge. And instead of wearing us down, it builds us up. Makes us strong. And the adrenalin and endorphins of accomplishment make us hungry for more.

Here are a few runners’ tips I learned that also apply to the marathon that’s a career.

Set a specific and substantial goal

If I’d decided to “jog a little to get in shape” I never would have achieved a marathon.  It was the decision to do something big and bold that made the difference.   In the workplace, that process requires seriously pursuing a new skill.   Maybe it’s time for a course in communication skills or executive presence to take your career to the next level.  VoicePro can help with that.

Put one foot in front of the other

There will be times you’re frustrated and tired.  Just as a runner gets sore using muscles she forgot she had, you’ll be using brain “muscle” to get where you want to go.  Keep it up – things get better.

Run your own race

They’re younger, they’re older, they’re passing you, you’re passing them.  That doesn’t matter.  Focus on you.

Let the crowd cheer you on

Good folks lined the streets for the Cleveland marathon, cheering on the 13,000 runners.  Share your plans and your success with others who will help keep you going.

Enjoy it. Yes, really

I know that sounds crazy, but remember to focus on what you’re experiencing and learning, not on the difficulty.  When I thought about my burning legs, I wanted to give up. When I concentrated on how far I’d come, I went on.

Have a running buddy

Training and running with my sister-in-law kept us both energized.  In fact, we crossed the finish line at the same moment.  Consider signing up for a course with a friend.

Here’s the simple truth.  You are just months away from accomplishing something amazing.  Let me sound the starting gun for you.  On your mark. Get set. Go.



Image by Eleftheria G

5 Responses to Conflict. Which One is Yours?


Carolyn Dickson

 Posted by Carolyn Dicksn



Communication SkillsHow do you respond to conflict? When you and another person are locked in battle, what do you usually say? What do you usually do?

Before you answer those questions, let’s take a look at what conflict actually is. A simple definition is found in Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary: “the struggle resulting from incompatible or opposing interests, wants, needs, or desires.” A teenager’s craving to be independent clashes with a parent’s need to keep the kid from getting into trouble. A manager’s goal of achieving higher results with fewer resources (which might mean overtime) collides with the employee’s goal of balancing work and personal life. A company must cut costs in order to stay profitable, yet the employees aren’t about to give up their health benefits.

In each of these cases, the interests or needs of one party are opposed by the interests or needs of the other. As the parties struggle to achieve their own goals, conflict ensues and often escalates as they dig their heels in and defend their own positions.

Social scientists have identified five fairly common responses to conflict: denial, avoidance, accommodation, force, and negotiation (or collaboration).


To deny a problem is to pretend it doesn’t exist. Denial can be comforting. It seems to ease the pressure; if you refuse to recognize the problem, there’s nothing to worry about and you won’t have to take any action. But this is false complacency, because, whatever your reasons, your denial of the problem won’t make it go away. In fact, it will make everyone around you crazy, which is a surefire way to escalate the conflict.


Have you ever noticed that when you get the job, you get a phone call, but when you don’t get the job, a letter comes in the mail? Some people will go to almost any length to avoid confrontation; they want to protect themselves from unpleasantness and strife. As a short-term tactic, avoidance can provide a cooling off period. But in the long run, avoidance, like denial, does nothing to ease the conflict and will only prolong a difficult situation.


Accommodators believe peace and harmony are worth whatever price is demanded. They just can’t say no. If you are a people pleaser, you want everyone to be happy, even at your own expense. Doing nice things for people isn’t a bad thing; kindness and accommodation are an integral part of any healthy relationship. But don’t be misled. Habitual acquiescence establishes patterns that can be difficult to break. If you keep giving in, folks will continue to take advantage of you.


On the other hand, forcers use the power of their position or their personality to control. They make unilateral decisions and let you know in no uncertain terms that they are never wrong. Sometimes forcers are shouters and sometimes they are the strong, silent types. Either way, they rule by intimidation, and people back down because they don’t feel strong enough, or don’t know how to fight back. There are times (in the midst of a crisis, for example) when it’s appropriate to make use of power to get things done. The chronic use of force, however, destroys teamwork and inhibits group participation. Over time it will exacerbate the very conflict it’s meant to control.


To negotiate is to reach a settlement by conference, discussion, or compromise. At its best, negotiation doesn’t end until both parties feel they’re winners, and when the person you’re negotiating with is also a colleague in life or in business, a mutually beneficial, negotiated settlement is a worthy goal. Negotiation is neither quick nor easy. It demands patience, diplomacy, expert communication skills, and a strong desire to give satisfaction to the other side. In the long run, a successful negotiation is the way to a lasting peace.

Take a look at your own communication skills and they relate to your conflict response style. When you’re in the midst of a difficult situation, ask yourself, What am I saying? What am I doing? And more importantly, Am I responding in an appropriate manner—for myself and for those around me?

Excerpted from the book, Creating Balance: Moving Out of Conflict into Compatibility, by Carolyn Dickson. Oakhill Press, 1997.

Image by Diamond Hoo Ha Man
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