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3 Ways To Lose Your Audience in 30 Seconds


VoicePro, Public Speaking

by Scott Danielson



VoicePro, Public SpeakingMaking a good first impression is important, especially for speakers. This is an easy explanation for why beginning a speech is so nerve wracking. You want to introduce your topic, get the audience’s attention, and maybe, just maybe, get the audience to like you. Though, we’ve made it clear how forgiving audiences can be, starting your speech the wrong way is a great way to kill their enthusiasm.

Here are three ways to lose your audience in thirty seconds.  Avoid them at all costs.

#1 Apologize For Your Inexperience

Sometimes a speaker should share information with the audience. If you’re sick and unable to speak loudly, it’s courteous to let your audience know. That way they will understand if your voice is soft and not take it personally.

New speakers believe this same logic applies to them and will apologize for being inexperienced. The logic being if I tell them I’m new at this they won’t expect much. Trouble is, the audience hears “I’m not worth your time” and immediately checks out. 

The audience is there for you, so don’t take anything away from what you have to offer. If you are inexperienced, practice until you are truly comfortable with your material. You may not be a ground breaking speaker your first time, but your expertise and dedication to your audience will show.

#2 Start Up The Slides

Considering the fact that I suffered through fifty minute Power Point presentations in high school & college, I dread any speaker that opens with a slide. If the projector starts up within the first minute, I gear up for a boring note taking session with a slew of bullet points to write down.

Slides can be an effective way to enhance your presentation.  It’s a great way to represent data or post relevant images to make sure your point hits home. Starting with slides, however, immediately puts distance between you and your audience. Your next presentation can have slides as long as you connect with your audience beforehand.

#3 Don’t Dress The Part

In the days leading up to Facebook’s Wall Street debut, Mark Zuckerberg was under unusually intense scrutiny for wearing a hoodie during a high profile meeting. Though it’s very easy to argue that the Wall Street types were being close minded and judgmental, Zuckerberg’s ridicule happened for one reason.

He failed to match the Wall Street culture.

If a speaker doesn’t look like the expert they claim to be, it’s very difficult to take them seriously. Imagine taking medical advice from a new doctor dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. The doctor in question is likely competent and knowledgeable but that’s difficult to remember when you assumed they’d be wearing a white coat or scrubs. To avoid a fashion faux pas, research your audience’s typical attire and dress slightly better.  Remember severely overdressing is just as bad as underdressing.

Don’t make your next presentation an uphill battle. Think like your audience. If any part of your presentation would bore, offend, or anger you, it’s a safe to say the crowd will react the same way. It’s not difficult to earn the audience’s respect but it’s insanely difficult to win it back.

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Image provided by Akidos

Pixar's Brave Take On Leadership


Voice Pro, Leadership, Communicationby Leslie Dickson


Voice Pro, Leadership, CommunicationNote: We recently discovered that Jonah Lehrer, who inspired this blog post, has recently admitted to fabricating quotes used in his book, Imagine: How Creativity Works. Details are provided in the Wall Street Journal story. We apologize for any misrepresentation. Please read our reaction article here.

Have you read Johan Lehrer’s new book, Imagine: How Creativity Works? Team collaboration is a hot topic with VoicePro clients, and this must-read book does a powerful profile on the process at Pixar, the production company that brought us Toy StoryFinding Nemo, and their newest movie Brave.   

The book’s focus is on creativity, but isn’t out-of-the-box thinking part of what makes any organization successful? His premise – and Pixar’s – is that success is more than one person having a brilliant idea. It takes a team to create something special.  Sound familiar? And, in case you’ve forgotten, one of Pixar’s early leaders also took this process to his next company. That leader was Steve Jobs, and his next company was his return to Apple.

Here are some ideas of Lehrer’s, ideas that struck me as particularly insightful.

#1. Engineer casual interactivity.

Great thinking doesn’t always happen in meetings -- or in solitary effort, for that matter. At Pixar, they wanted computer programmers and writers and animators to bump into each other regularly and casually, breaking out of the constraints of meetings and conference reports. To promote interaction, they moved all the mailboxes to a big, airy atrium. Then the cafeteria. And the coffee bar. And the gift shop. And finally the building’s only bathrooms. Maybe you can’t renovate your offices, but consider what you could do to build engagement. Regular lunches? A bulletin board? Turn a conference room into a gathering space? 

#2. Hear all the voices. 

When Pixar is making a movie, there’s a daily team session to review the previous day’s work. All the disciplines are there – writer, editor, computer graphics artist, software engineer. Anyone can bring up an issue, agree or defend. And, most important, they work together on a solution – because in Pixar’s business, that could require new words, new music, or even new technology.  

#3. Brainstorming isn’t enough.

Author Lehrer piles on the research findings that say pure, freeform brainstorming awash in positive feedback doesn’t lead to the most creative ideas.  Criticism and debate (not to be confused with cynicism and defeatism) within the group hone the ideas. In one study Lehrer cites, the groups required to brainstorm and debate generated almost 25% more ideas than the pure brainstormers. 

#4. Focus on improvements, not mistakes. 

Of course, it’s important for team members to feel safe within the critique-and-debate scenario. That means the focus is on improving the work and not demoralizing the people who did it. At Pixar, they’ve coined the phrase “plussing”. A criticism should contain a new idea, a “plus.” Do people’s feelings get hurt? Sure. But that’s where the regularity of critique comes in – everyone makes mistakes, everyone plusses. That regular casual interaction in the Pixar atrium (and cafeteria, mailroom and bathroom) also helps keep relationships on an even keel.

How could stronger team collaboration shape your organization?  Are you ready to lead it? Is your team ready to try?  It’s not magic – it can be learned.  Let’s talk more about ways to change, think differently, and communicate more powerfully.   

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3 Horrifying Bosses


VoicePro, Leadership, Communication Skillsby Scott Danielson



VoicePro, Leadership, CommunicationWhat’s the one thing you’d like to change about your boss? Don’t worry, this isn’t a setup.  Realistically, most employees want to change at least one of their boss’s undesirable habits.  Usually, this improvement is something small.  But if small faults are left unchecked, they can overtake a boss’s positive qualities and turn an otherwise praiseworthy leader into an ugly caricature. Here are three bosses you never want to be.

#1 The Hunter

Hunters are constantly on the prowl for mistakes. Regardless of size, any and all mistakes must be discovered and critiqued with a shotgun blast of reprimands, reviews, and condescending tips for improvement. 

Victims of the hunter are defined by their shattered confidence, strong feelings that nothing they do is right, and loss of interest in their work.

If you believe you have hunter tendencies, do the following. Compliment more than you criticize. Treat mistakes as learning experiences instead of “gotcha” moments. Finally, own up to your own mistakes. Most hunters are too busy tracking down the mistakes of other people to notice their own.

#2 The Spy

Spies are not overtly terrifying, but they trust no one and expect deceit and sabotage from those around them. They monitor every project, anticipating disaster. They demand constant progress reports and scan basic assignments for the small sign of treachery.

Spies create fearful and frustrated employees who move at a snail’s pace to avoid being suspected of doing something horribly wrong.

If you think you’re a spy, you must let go of your need to control. Like it or not, your employees hold the key to the success—or failure—of your business. The only way to get the most out of them is to trust them to do their jobs and guide them along the way. You can’t do it for them.

#3 The Police Chief

“Get into my office right now!” The call of the police chief can only mean one thing: someone is in trouble. Even though they oversee an office, or a division, or an entire company, these bosses run things like a precinct of loose cannons. Employees are constantly called in for scathing critiques that echo throughout the entire area. It’s also a common police-chief practice to threaten an individual’s job as a “motivating tool.”

Police chiefs fail to recognize three things. First, if everyone is scared to death, no one will be honest with you. A project could have major pitfalls, but if people are afraid of being fired for disagreeing, they’ll keep quiet.  Second, employees want praise. Competent leaders balance praise and criticism so the people under them are motivated to improve. Finally, public shaming kills morale. No one likes to watch a coworker receive a tongue lashing. In all likelihood, the entire office will come to a grinding halt. So to keep productivity and morale alive, ditch the angry police chief routine.

Though workplace gripes may not indicate it, most bosses are competent leaders with good intentions. Therefore, don’t let one aspect of your personality or management style turn an entire group against you. Be mindful of your faults and work to balance them with your good qualities. Then, if you ever need advice on how to improve, I’m sure your employees will be willing to help.

Image provided by cdresz

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3 Gaming Tricks That Motivate


Communication Skills, VoicePro by Scott Danielson



VoicePro, Leadership, MotivationMy generation loves video games and I’m no exception. I own an Xbox 360 and play games two to three times a week. The appeal of video games is easy to understand. From the comfort of my room, I can defend the innocent as Batman or throw touchdown passes as my favorite NFL® quarterback.

What makes people dedicate hours, if not days, to one game? Turns out video games have their own tricks to keep gamers coming back for more.

If only our employees came into work with the same level of enthusiasm. Now they can. Here are three motivational gaming tools you can use in your office.

 #1 Give Them Freedom

The best video games give players freedom. In a football game, I can choose my team, my roster, and the plays. I’ve even amused myself by attempting a fake punt on first down. Regardless of my choices, the goal remains the same: win the game.

In oppressive office cultures, managers focus on things being done “their way,” instead of the end result. Realistically, most employees don’t think or operate like that. Thus, doing things “your way” will frustrate them and make them less productive.

Instead, create a goal-oriented office culture. Your employees will celebrate the opportunity to personalize their work. Combined with clear-cut goals, you can improve employee enthusiasm and your bottom line. 

#2 Offer Secondary Rewards

Even if I really enjoy a particular video game, I’ll get bored after a couple of hours. Yet I’ve often continued to play games way past the point of boredom. Why? Achievements. 

All Xbox games give players points for specific in-game accomplishments. While a good portion of the achievements are earned through completing the game, at least half require beating the game on a higher difficulty setting, completing side missions, or tackling a random feat you wouldn’t think of.

Even if your employees love their job, they’ll need something besides a paycheck to keep them motivated. If an individual has done exceptional work, feel free to give her a small gift card—or compliment him at his desk. These individuals will feel validated and motivated to maintain their work ethic.

An added benefit? The rest of the office now knows good work gets rewarded.

#3 Embrace Failure

Trial and error can be a great teacher. Unless you’re playing through a familiar game at the easiest level of difficulty, failure is inevitable. In fact, many players fail to complete the same task ten to twenty times. Thankfully, good games offer little to no punishment for continual failure. Instead they include checkpoints or my personal favorite, the retry option. Some games are generous enough to offer advice after your character dies.

Many employees live in fear of failure, because their ego is on the line. They feel admitting a mistake will make them appear weak, incompetent or unintelligent. Avoid damaging your employees’ psyches. If a worker slips up, offer words of encouragement and advice for improvement. If you’ve made similar mistakes in the past, take the opportunity to connect with your employee by sharing your experience. Now your employees can relax knowing you don’t think less of them.

A terrible workplace and a terrible video game are quite similar.  Both are restrictive, lack a sense of accomplishment, and punish failure without mercy.  Avoid the office equivalent of a thrown controller. Even if you've never played a video game, use their methods of motivation to improve your office.

Image provided by Ben Dodson 

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