Tag Archives: verbal communications

Six Ways to Reject Bad Ideas Without People Rejecting You

By Curt WangCurt Wang

You’re in a meeting when a colleague brings up an idea that you think (or even know) is not so great. For many of us, our first instinct is to shoot the idea down immediately, one way or another, before it gains traction. How often have you suffered through this challenging situation?

When it comes to gaining influence, remember the law of reciprocity. The more you support others, the more they will support you. If you want people to adopt your ideas in the future, you need to be collaborative yourself. You need to support their ideas, or at a minimum, show respect and a willingness to listen before weighing in. Squash a colleague’s pet initiative too quickly or be perceived as a naysayer, and you may find that your initiatives will increasingly fail to receive full and fair consideration.

The key to your success is to learn to reject or redirect bad ideas in a thoughtful, positive and more collaborative way. Consider employing one or more of the six tips below:

1) Pause. Take a deep breath before weighing in. Often, someone else’s idea can “hijack” you during a meeting because it poses a threat to your own objectives, goals, priorities or resources. As human beings, we are wired to identify and react immediately to anything that may harm us. By simply pausing, you are allowing your reasoning power to catch up to your emotional response. If you wait until you are fully composed, you will deliver your response in a more thoughtful, reasoned and kind way.

2) Allow others to weigh in first. Particularly when your gut reaction is negative, suppress the urge to be the first to jump in with your opinion. Why object before you have others’ perspective? You may hear a thought that sways your opinion. Or the opposite may happen; someone else brings up the challenges you were going to raise first. Even if you later reinforce the concerns, you are not a lone dissenter.

A CFO was tired of always being the bad guy when he had to shut down ideas for which the business case was not sound. He started implementing this technique in leadership team meetings and found that he had to be the naysayer only half as often. Many leaders intentionally weigh in last so that they can hear the opinions of their reports without biasing them first with their own thoughts.

3) Be curious first; pose questions rather than pass judgment. Ask open-ended questions with an open mind. Make sure the person feels fully heard, and be careful not to take small stabs at the idea in the phrasing of your questions. To quote Steven Covey, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Even if you ultimately disagree with or reject the idea, you will be in a much better position to state your objection in a way that acknowledges the idea presenter’s point of view. The person will receive the feedback much better if he or she feels that they have been fully heard and understood. Remember how frustrated you felt the last time you presented an idea and it was shut down before you felt you had the chance to fully explain it.

4) Instead of stating why an idea can’t be done, state what is required from your perspective to make the idea work. Phrased this way – what needs to be done to make an idea work – your objection to the idea is served up as a problem to be solved rather than a flat rejection. You shift from someone who is saying “no” to someone is giving helpful insights and facts. While you may actually see the challenge you pose as insurmountable, often others will bring creative solutions to the table that may make the idea feasible.

A marketing director in a manufacturing company proposed an idea for a new product. The operations director’s first instinct was to jump in and say, “We can’t make your product because we don’t have the right equipment.” But instead he said, “In order to make your products we will need to plan for having access to the right equipment which we currently don’t have.” That led to a full discussion about what it would take to lease, buy or outsource the production. Once the marketing person had a greater understanding of the different options and their costs, she came to the conclusion that the idea was not feasible.

5) Help the other person save face whenever possible. If you feel compelled to shut an idea down, ask yourself, “Do I need to shut the idea down right now and during this meeting?” Perhaps you can circle back with the idea presenter after the meeting to meet one-on-one. Shutting down a staff member’s idea in your department meeting is a good way to help ensure no one on your staff will risk bringing up new ideas in the future that might be extremely valuable to the success of your team and organization. If peers lose face because of you, there is a good chance that they will increasingly work around you and you will be the last to know about their future initiatives.

Circling back after the meeting also provides you more time to reflect and prepare. You can gather more facts and information, be more thoughtful and tactful in sharing your opinion, and perhaps get into a longer and more open conversation.

6) Acknowledge the parts of an idea you can agree with. Even if you can’t agree with the entire idea, acknowledging components can help to validate the presenter of the idea, at least in part. Very often there are aspects of ideas that idea are valuable and can be evolved to be very usable and helpful.  Imagine yourself saying, “I like this part of the idea, let’s dig deeper into the other part.” Provide recommendations on what might make the idea better or more workable.

Even when his idea has flaws, the person might be calling attention to an important, underlying problem that needs to be solved.

In conclusion, don’t lose sight of the fact that if a truly bad idea needs to be challenged, challenge it. The primary emphasis here is not to change what you need to say, but on the process and timeline you choose to say it in order to maintain social capital and goodwill. Remember, soon will come the time when it is you who is the one striving to influence others to buy into your idea.

Curt Wang is an Executive Coach at Make The Leap! Coaching. He coaches smart, creative and successful executives and professionals to reach higher levels of performance and achieve their business and career goals.  He is also an expert and professional speaker on the topics of change leadership and organizational change. For more information on Curt’s speaking and coaching, contact him at 888-848-3130 or curt@maketheleapcoaching.com.

Memorable Presentations Require You To THINK

By Kevin E. O’ConnorKevin E O'Connor

Too many presenters say things like:

  • “I know you can’t read this but…”

  • “This is pretty dull stuff so I’ll try to get through it quickly.”

  • “You may be bored by my presentation today but it is really important.”

  • “Let me tell you a funny joke.”

  • “I know you are out there; I can hear you breathing!”

  • “I just love my blue laser pointer!”

  • “Whew, that wasn’t so bad was it?”

These (and more) are indicators of two things: the presenter is a rank amateur, and the audience has once again been noble enough not to string them up by their thumbs!

In reality, these presenters are not amateurs in their field. They are accomplished professionals who know their stuff but not how to convey it. The audience is eager, open and wants this presentation to succeed. Our corporate culture, however, has intimidated audiences into being polite Labrador Retrievers—ever loyal, even-keeled and placid. Presenting technical, complicated material need not be a chore when you THINK!

Transform how you think about your role: Your first job is to be a memory-maker, so don’t be the supplier of solely facts and data. You are there to present and inform, but more importantly, you are there to create a learning environment. A community of learners is there to unite around your message and make something of it. The last time you went to a comedy club, despite having a great time, you likely had trouble retelling the stories and jokes the next day for those who were not there. That is because you had a community formed around not only the presentation and digestion of material, but you were there to be entertained. That the last meeting you attended left you unable to explain what you learned does not mean you had a positive community experience!

Presentations should focus on digesting content into directly-applicable skills going forward. Because there is no subject that cannot be presented without interest and enthusiasm, you can transform your mindset from that of a lecturer to that more like a preacher, counselor and facilitator.

Hunt for the essence of your content: When you simplify, you stand a greater chance of being an educator supreme. While coaching a sales rep from a Fortune 500 company, a consultant was told the rep feared “dumbing things down” for his audience would reduce his credibility. The consultant encouraged the rep to speak with elegant simplicity, as that would engage customers in thinking of the meeting as a conversation, allowing this sales rep to directly respond to the client’s most pressing questions. Imagine the difference that this rep saw when he began the conversation by sharing four quotes from consumers who had used their product, explaining the results they had experienced. Outcomes, after all, are the essence of why anyone tries new products.

Investigate the expertise present among your audience: Facilitation does not mean “boring group work,” for—when done effectively—it permits the attendees to meet and learn from one another. When you’re given a timeframe in which to present, perhaps one hour, plan to speak for only a third to half of the time. This allows for true interaction.

Net results make you valuable: Pragmatism must be a goal, so think about what the audience will do with the material. Always ask yourself this question, “What do I want them to think, feel, and do as a result of this presentation?” It may help you to send an advance e-mail to all the participants at your next meeting, asking the group about their work, how they are struggling now, and what they hope to learn during your time with them. This will give you a clear sense of direction that meets the audience where they are psychologically, and where they want to be professionally. Even if your next presentation is to your own team (a group that you may believe that you understand well), send the e-mail. Net results are what your boss and clients care about, because they demonstrate the value of attendance.

Know the stories and examples that make your presentation memorable: Watch the presenters at your next meeting just minutes before they start. Too many of them are likely fiddling with their slides. There comes a time, however, where professional presenters stow away their slides and commit pen to paper, noting what stories and examples they will use to accompany each visual. This nuanced change in focus will have a dramatic change on how the audience perceives the speaker. When you personify the content with real-life stories, your audience sees you as a peer – not as a lecturer. While PowerPoint can be a great tool for visually representing data, some speakers rely too heavily on it. To force yourself to re-focus your attention on your message and away from your slides, use a flip chart for your next presentation. As you draw and write, you will focus on what the audience needs to know. Remember, some of the most intimate connections with the audience can be made with no visual aid. Your audience will remember the stories; they’ll forget about the slides.

THINK About the Feedback: To evaluate your progress toward becoming a masterful facilitator, just go to the restroom after your presentation. That’s where people will be discussing what intrigued them, whether they were bored, and whom they met during their time with you. Beware: you may only hear positive feedback from those who don’t want to hurt your feelings, but note the different reasons your participants enjoyed your presentation. “Great talk!” and “I didn’t before understand how to give a good technical presentation that focuses on stories over data” are worlds apart!

When your technical presentation is compelling, you will literally have no competition.

Kevin E. O’Connor, CSP (kevin@kevinoc.com), is a facilitator, medical educator, and author. He focuses on teaching scientific and technical professionals how to influence and lead teams of their former peers. He presents and coaches over 175 times per year around the world to corporations, individuals, associations and non-profits about how to move teams from conflict to consensus. His latest book, “Fearless Facilitation: The Ultimate Field Guide for Engaging (and Involving!) Your Audience,” is available in bookstores now and online at kevinoc.com.

The Phrase That Pays: Three Ways to Make Your Point Stick

By Patricia FrippPatricia Fripp

Every day, your listeners are bombarded with more and more information until their ears are positively ringing.  How on earth can you make your messages the ones that stick in their memories?

Your goal as a business professional and presenter is simple: Speak To Be Remembered And Repeated.

Tying a powerful, repeatable message to each point gives you a “Phrase That Pays.”  When we remember vivid examples, we nearly always remember the associated lesson or message.  Your Phrase That Pays is your Point of Wisdom or Foundational Phrase or Sound Bite Statement.  The following are techniques that help to create or identify your memorable phrase.

1. The “Two and a Half Men” Technique: One very popular sitcom on TV at the moment is Two and a Half Men.  Many people don’t realize that the unusual titles of the episodes always occur in the dialogue of one of the characters:

Go East on Sunset Until You Reach the Gates of Hell

If I Can’t Write My Chocolate Song, I’m Going to Take a Nap

The Last Thing You Want Is to Wind Up With a Hump

Did You Check With the Captain of the Flying Monkeys?

I Can’t Afford Hyenas

Round One to the Hot Crazy Chick

I Remember the Coatroom, I Just Don’t Remember You

Back Off, Mary Poppins

Can You Eat Human Flesh With Wooden Teeth?

Viewers begin watching for the title to occur in the show’s dialogue.  If you are a fan, you can probably even guess which character said each title.  The actor’s dialogue amuses us and cements the show.  The brilliant writers know we, the audience, will go out and retell the storylines.  The result is that we add to the show’s success with our word-of-mouth reviews and advertising.

So, how can this help you as a speaker?  When you give others a catchy, repeatable catchphrase – something funny, powerful, or thought provoking – your listeners will be eager to repeat it to others.  When your power phrases that are attached to your content and examples you will create an ever-expanding network of people retelling your key messages.

2. The “Quote Others” Technique: Let the wisdom in your speech come from the actual advice or dialogue of your characters, not you.  Reframe and emphasize your own key points with the pithy comments of others.  They may be talking to you, or you overhear something said.  It is important to let your audience know that you had to learn what they are leaning, and give credit to who passed on that knowledge – you never want to be the hero of all your stories.

In my leadership speech, I tell the story of how I learned to better manage my staff.

“In 1975, I opened my first business.  My staff quickly made it known what they thought of my leadership style by assigning me a few non-complimentary nicknames.”

“With my life savings tied up in this business and a ten-year lease, I realized I had to do something fast.  So, I attended my first leadership seminar.  The seminar leader said something I will never forget.  It was as relevant in 1975 as it is in 2012.  He said, “Your business is as good as your worst employee.””

After a pause to let that idea sink in, I ask my audience, “Isn’t that a terrifying thought while you are attending this conference for the next three days?”

3. The “Repeat After Me” Technique: Often, it is helpful to give your audience the actual words for them to use when they repeat your message to their own team.

During a presentation on Exceptional Customer Service and using examples that incorporate “Two and Half Men” or “Quote Others” techniques, you can help cement the ideas, by recommending the following:

“When you leave this conference, you will be filled with enthusiasm and information that you’ll want to share with your team.  After you tell them the best ideas for your company, say, ‘For the next few minutes, I would like you to tell me which ideas will be the most relevant to our company and how we can best incorporate them.’  As good leaders, you know your team will be more committed to the results if they help design the solution.”

This is how you can connect your entertaining stories to the reality of your listener’s lives and businesses.

Let Others Provide Your Phrase That Pays: There are few new Universal Truths, but unending ideas that can become fresh and powerful when aided by your stories and personal experiences, then summarized in your Phrase That Pays.  Here are some ways to develop them.

  • Listen to speakers and even read newspaper and magazine articles, trying to spot the Phrase That Pays – the point of wisdom, the sound bite, the foundational phrase.  If there isn’t one, create one.

  • Sometimes an audience can invent the Phrase That Pays FOR you.  A presenter teaching good customer service asked the audience to tell stories about good and bad service.  One attendee said she had complained to a Customer Service Department and heard, “Oh, that must be Anthony.”  This indicated everyone knew a problem existed, but nothing was being done about it.  So, “Oh, that must be Anthony” became the Phrase That Pays for that audience and subsequent ones when the story was retold.

  • While phrases usually derive from stories, sometimes a dynamite phrase can send you looking for a story to present it.  Here are some great phrases that I’ve encountered:

“Don’t focus on making a lot of money.  Rather, focus on becoming the type of person others want to do business with, and you most likely will make a lot of money.”  A. H. Fripp.

“If you roll out the red carpet for a billionaire, they won’t even notice it.  If you roll out the red carpet for a millionaire, they expect it.  If you roll out the red carpet for a “thousandaire,” they appreciate it.  But if you roll out the red carpet for a “hundredaire,” they tell everybody they know.” Banking executive Gary Richter.

Get the idea?

Patricia Fripp is an executive speech coach, sales presentation trainer, and keynote speaker on sales, effective presentation skills and executive communication skills. She works with companies large and small, and individuals from the C-Suite to the work floor.  She builds leaders, transforms sales teams and delights audiences.  She is the author of Get What You Want!, Make It, So You Don’t Have to Fake It!, and is Past-President of the National Speakers Association.  To learn more about having Patricia do her magic for you, contact her at www.fripp.com, 415-753-6556, pfripp@ix.netcom.com.

The Top Meeting Pet Peeves that Plague Organizations

By Jean KelleyJean Kelley

Tell most business people that there’s another meeting on their agenda, and you’ll likely see them shake their head, roll their eyes, and mumble something under their breath.  That’s because nearly all meetings succumb to a few pet peeves – those annoying meeting happenings that derail the meeting’s purpose, waste time, and cause friction and frustration among attendees.

While all types of meetings fall prey to pet peeves, it’s the process-oriented, information sharing meetings that most business people dislike…and that are the most common.  Even though the role of this sort of meetings is to keep others informed and to learn how what they’re doing fits in the big picture, many people leave these types of meetings feeling confused, aggravated, and sometimes overwhelmed.

This is a huge problem for business, because if a meeting isn’t informative at the very least and enjoyable at the most, then the company is wasting a lot of money getting people together.  Additionally, if your meetings aren’t on the mark, you’ll get the reputation for holding poor meetings, which erodes morale and productivity.

To ensure your meetings are effective, informative and enjoyable, be aware of the top five meeting pet peeves and avoid them at all costs.

Pet Peeve #1 – Not Having an Agenda or Not Sticking to One: The top three rules for Toastmasters are to start the meeting on time, end it on time, and always have an agenda.  This rule should be true for business meeting too.

Having an agenda is not only simple courtesy; it also tells attendees that the meeting has a goal and will be productive.  An agenda gives the meeting facilitator control over the meeting’s flow, keeps the meeting on task, and reduces confusion among participants.  Realize that the agenda does not need to be elaborate; a simple bullet list of topics is all you need to prepare.

Remember to send the agenda out a day or so before the meeting so attendees can prepare.  And if you forget to send it out early, bring copies of the agenda to hand out when the meeting starts. On meeting day, stick with the agenda.  If a topic comes up in conversation that is not on the agenda, offer to address that topic after the meeting.  This way you keep the meeting on schedule and don’t derail the meeting’s purpose.

Pet Peeve #2 – Lack of Facilitation: Some people mistakenly believe that meetings run on their own – that all you have to do is get a group of people together in a room and they’ll automatically produce good results.  Wrong! Getting the people together is the easy part; leading them in a productive discussion takes skill.  That’s why solid meeting facilitation is so critical.

The facilitator’s job is to control the flow of the meeting, to help attendees work together, to provide structure to the meeting, and to get everyone involved.  When attendees are allowed to have their cell phones ringing during the meeting, when one or two people are permitted to dominate the conversation, or when it’s acceptable for key people to not contribute to the discussion, good facilitation is lacking.  Therefore, make sure all your meetings have an effective facilitator at the helm.

Pet Peeve #3 – People Arriving Late to the Meeting: How many meetings have you arrived to on time, only to have the meeting start late as everyone waits for others to show up?  Even worse, if the meeting does start on time, it restarts 10 minutes later when a few people straggle in. Rather than continue with the meeting, the facilitator attempts to bring the late comers up to speed by rehashing everything that was just covered.

But why penalize the people who arrived on time?  A better approach is to close the door when the meeting starts and put a note on the door that says, “Meeting in Progress.” Those who arrive late will know to sneak in as inconspicuously as possible…and, hopefully, they won’t make the same mistake next time. Additionally, unless the late person is the boss, don’t restart the meeting later.  When meeting start times are enforced and honored, people will make the effort to be on time.

Pet Peeve #4 – Using PowerPoint When It’s Not Needed: PowerPoint is an essential business tool, but it’s not effective for all meeting types.  Unfortunately, many people believe that ALL meetings require the use of PowerPoint.  Not true!  Typical information sharing meetings require a facilitator asking questions and everyone contributing in round-robin style.  Watching someone read PowerPoint slides is not how these meetings should run.  After all, if people simply needed to read pages of text, you could just send them the file and skip the meeting completely.

Of course, if your informational meeting needs more of people’s senses involved, then use PowerPoint to add that visual component.  Likewise, if you’re combining everyone’s data and showing it in chart or graph form, PowerPoint is great.  But don’t use PowerPoint just for the sake of it.  Know why you’re using it, and then do it right.

Pet Peeve #5 – Listening to Unprepared or Ineffective Speakers: Nothing is worse than listening to a monotone speaker who says “um” or “ah” every other word…or having someone start their portion of the meeting by saying, “I really didn’t prepare anything for this, so let’s just wing it.”

While everyone should speak and offer ideas at these meetings, some people may have to give more thoughtful, polished information.  These people should be identified beforehand so they have time to prepare.  This is crucial, because in most organizations, to be promoted you must have solid public speaking skills.

Additionally, if someone simply isn’t good at giving presentations, no matter how much preparation he or she does, that person needs to get support and training to become more effective.  Granted, no one wants to tell a colleague, “You need to work on your public speaking skills,” but offering support to others will not only make meetings more effective, it will also make the company stronger.

Do Your Part: Business meetings are a mainstay in our work-world, so no matter what you think of them, they’ll never go away.  Knowing this, isn’t it time we all work to avoid the top meeting pet peeves?  If we all do our part, we can make meetings more enjoyable, more productive, and more meaningful for everyone involved.  And that’s one kind of meeting everyone will love to attend.

Jean Kelley, author and entrepreneur, is the managing director of Jean Kelley Leadership Alliance whose faculty and Trainers have helped more than 750,000 leaders and high potentials up their game at work in the US and in Canada. For information on keynotes, in-house programs, or customized training, email jkelley@jeankelley.com or go to jeankelley.com.

Three Techniques for Better Storytelling

By Patricia FrippPatricia Fripp

Everybody loves a good story. No matter what our culture, we grow up knowing that hearing a story is somehow a reward. Stories are how we learn values and our family’s legacy.  When we go to school we discover that stories are a way to make history come alive. In business we realize stories help us explain the complex and the best way to train our associates.

Wise leaders, managers, and sales professionals are well served to develop an arsenal of great stories and good examples. Good stories help differentiate us from our competition.

Steve Ball of Microsoft was in charge of finding the right music to be the boot-up sound for theVista operating system. He brought in three professionals from worlds of music and Hollywood – for 6 seconds of sound! Steve explained the importance, saying, “Part of the sound was also used in our email program. That translated into this sound being heard more than any other music ever heard, including the Beatles.”

The professional that was chosen was Robert Fripp, guitarist and founder of King Crimson. Steve explains how he came to the decision, “All the artists created a sound that would have worked. However, Robert told the best story of how his music best represented Vista.”

Sometimes, the most unlikely people tell great stories. Often a coworker in the break room will have you in stitches as she regales you with tales of what happened taking the bus to work. Then the head of Finance walks inand halfway through his story everyone says, “It’s time to get back to work!”

Why is it so few have the skill? How often have you heard someone tell a rambling story that seemed to go nowhere, or you are left wondering “What was the point?” These three techniques will help you turn simple stories into examples that will be remembered and frequently repeated.

Think chronologically: As kids most of our stories started with “Once upon a time….”  Take that advice.  When did your story happen? Where is your story set?  From whose eyes is the audience going to see the story?  Stories work best when told in the order it actually happened; it is easier for you and the audience to remember it.  While you develop your example, add as many details as you can remember.  After you have your outline, take the advice of Alfred Hitchcock: “A movie is like life with all the dull parts left out.”  Meaning cut anything that is irrelevant or boring.

Classic movie formulas that can help you are:  “A day in the life,” “Something happened…” “And the result of that is…” “And the result of that is…”

Shorter sentences or phrases: Ron Arden the speech coach and stage director told me “The written word for the eye, the spoken word is for the rhythm.”  When we read it is easy to look back and read over a paragraph again. When we speak we need to keep the audience with us. Present information in shorter segments than you would write.

Consider each sentence a “scene”: Speakers need to present information in the way the audience “sees” the message.  When putting together a story, consider each sentence a “scene” as it would be in a screen play. Try writing your notes down the page, line-by-line, rather than in paragraphs; it will be much easier for you to internalize.  The audience will be transported to a different time and place and be able to emotionally connect that much more.

Putting it together: A recent example of a sales professional who impressed his managers and peers as he incorporated these three ideas is Mark, a District Sales Manager from a biotech company.  He was preparing to moderate a panel at the Las Vegas National Sales Meeting and was nervous with his new role in front of a 100-person audience.  He had been moving fast to understand new products, clients, and products, and his mission in the speech was to encourage the audience to embrace new jobs in different areas and to appreciate they would have to “move fast” to get up to speed. He had even included a quote about “moving fast” in his email signature line.  But, even with his fast moving, Mark did not have any idea how to set the tone for the meeting.

He remembered a story from last years’ sales meeting, how his wife came in for the weekend; they went to see David Copperfield, and he made her disappear.” Using the three principle advice, it was easy for Mark to create a short, meaningful story that set the right tone for the panel and earned rave reviews:

“After last years’ sales meeting, (Gives the timeframe)

my wife, Tammy, came to Las Vegas for the weekend.

We went to see David Copperfield’s magic show. (Something happened…)

Three quarters of the way through his performance, Copperfield threw two dozen balls into the audience. (Creating the visual scene)

Tammy caught one. (Using shorter sentences)

David said, ‘If you touched a ball, please come on the stage.’

He sat 24 people on bleachers and covered them with a tarp.

Whoosh! Five seconds later, they were gone!

Suddenly, they appeared at the back of the room.

On the way out, I asked Tammy, ‘How did he do it?’

She said, ‘We are sworn to secrecy. However, we did have to move really fast!’”

Mark reported, “The panel was a wild success, and everyone raved about my opening story!”

Patricia Fripp is an executive speech coach, sales presentation trainer, and keynote speaker on sales, effective presentation skills and executive communication skills. She works with companies large and small, and individuals from the C-Suite to the work floor.  She builds leaders, transforms sales teams and delights audiences.  She is the author of Get What You Want!, Make It, So You Don’t Have to Fake It!, and is Past-President of the National Speakers Association.  To learn more about having Patricia do her magic for you, contact her at www.fripp.com, 415-753-6556, pfripp@ix.netcom.com.