Tag Archives: verbal communications

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.

Winning with Laughter

By Marti MacGibbonMarti MacGibbon

Jenny, a manager in a large manufacturing firm, is required to deliver several presentations per month. She feels confident about putting together the speaking points, which cover technical material, but feels that she is “inflicting” a boring lecture on her listeners, since the material is so dry. She worries that the important information will not be memorable. Jenny wishes she could add an element of humor to presentations, but all her life, she’s told herself that she’s not a funny person. She secretly dreads each presentation and wonders how to pep things up.

Jim’s office is right across the hall from Jenny’s, and as a manager, he is required to present frequently. Jenny marvels at his skill in engaging his audience, each and every time. Jim manages to inject humor into the most technical material, and he obviously has fun doing it. In addition to being a humorous presenter, Jim laughs easily and often, even under the stress of an approaching deadline. Jenny figures that Jim was born with his ability, but nothing could be further from the truth. Jim deliberately developed his skills, and he knows that anyone can do the same.

Laughter wins. Adding humor to your speech will make your intellectual content easier to remember and a whole lot more fun to deliver. Research has shown that laughter stimulates both hemispheres of the brain, accelerating learning. Your audience will retain more of what they hear because humor reduces stress. The lower the stress level, the more we learn.

You don’t have to be a professional comedian or even a class clown in order to infuse a presentation with humor. You don’t have to tell jokes. You can cultivate a unique sense of humor, develop funny material and acquire skills for delivering humor. Here are some tips to help you get started:

Fun is the bottom line: If you are having fun and feeling good, you are more likely to laugh and to create laughter. Confidence, enthusiasm and likeability flourish when you are enjoying life in the moment.Loosen up and practice the art of not taking yourself too seriously. Cultivate a sense of playfulness and focus on having fun, even in mundane things. Immerse yourself in the experience by hanging out with funny people and people who like to laugh.

Visit your local comedy club or watch standup comics on television, taking note of what makes you laugh. This will tell you a lot about your sense of humor. You’ll soon find you are funnier than you thought you were, and your unique sense of humor will manifest itself. After that, it’s just a matter of honing and polishing your wit.

When you’re having fun, your audience can sense it. The fun is contagious, and the audience will be pulling for you. Even if one of your lines doesn’t get a laugh, when you stay in the moment and have fun, it won’t make a difference. You’ve made friends with your audience, so a self-deprecating “saver” comment such as, “That was funny at my house…” or “My mom laughed…” can pull you out of the comic ditch.

Your attitude, perspective or point of view will help you develop your brand of humor: A lot of humor comes from looking at things from one specific vantage point. What’s your personal spin, your take on things in the news, in pop culture or on daily mundane situations? Are you skeptical, enthusiastic, optimistic, defeated or depressed? Any or all of these can be tipped into a comic perspective and will serve as a mother lode of humor.

Tap into what annoys you, but look at it with a humorous approach. Go on a rant – on paper. A sense of desperation, when you apply it in a funny way, can get a really big laugh. Try it and see what kind of funny stuff comes of it. This is a big stress reliever, because the next time someone annoys you, you win! Conversely, what are you excited about? What do you really love? Write it down. A pattern will emerge. Be yourself. Relax. Step back and find yourself looking at life from your new comic perspective.

Prepare your mind as you prepare your presentation: Preparation is essential in public speaking, and doubly so when using humor. Of course, you’ve prepared your material, what you are going to say. But often presenters get so wrapped up in the words they are going to say, they forget the spirit, energy and passion of their message.

Humor requires enthusiasm, commitment and emotional investment. In order to get better connected prior to presentation, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What am I bringing to the relationship with my audience?
  • Do I want my audience to benefit from the humor, or am I preoccupied with my own ego and the fear of my humorous lines bombing?
  • Am I speaking from the heart?
  • What do I love about this message and this speaking opportunity?
  • What do I love about my audience?”

If you fill yourself with optimism and positive anticipation, it’s easy to savor the fun of creating laughter. When you let go of your ego, you relax and radiate confidence. Remember that confidence, likeability, and relaxation are key to this process.

Emphasize the “present” in your presentation: Stage presence, cadence, timing, and platform skills will develop with practice. An audience needs to like you in order to laugh. They need to pick up on your confidence. One way to radiate confidence, or at least an illusion of confidence, even when you’re not feeling it, is posture. Stand up straight. Throw your shoulders back. Stand with your feet planted, your weight distributed evenly – that is, don’t shift from one foot to the other. Always move toward the audience. Never appear to shrink back or retreat.

Smile and keep on smiling. Make eye contact. Remember the audience wants the same thing as you do: they want you to be funny and do well. When you deliver your laugh line, slow down and enunciate. When they laugh, stop and let all the laughter die down before continuing. That way you simply ooze confidence– or appear to! Comedy is always in the “now.” Stay in the present moment, and you will be aware of opportunities for extemporaneous humor.

Now that you’ve taken a look at how to win with humor, you are ready to begin your journey. Humor energizes, relieves stress, and improves learning and memory. Enjoy the process of sharing and enjoying laughter. And above all, remember to have fun!

Marti MacGibbon, CADC II, is a certified mental health professional, inspirational motivational speaker, veteran standup comic, author, and member of the National Speakers Association. Her memoir,  “Never Give in to Fear,” is available on Amazon.com and through her website, martimacgibbon.com. To find out more about her speaking, visit her site or call 310-210-4674.

Speaking at Service Clubs: Boost Your Business

By Patricia FrippPatricia Fripp

Are you looking for an inexpensive way to promote your business? Have you ever wondered what a higher visibility in your community could do to increase business? Have you ever listened to a speaker at a service club and thought, “I could do better than that!” You can!

Brenda was a successful men’s hairstylist in San Francisco’s financial district. At the encouragement of her mentor, she attended the Dale Carnegie Public Speaking course and then became a Toastmaster. The hair product company she was affiliated with hired her to deliver seminars for other stylists who carried their product line.

Conversations with her executive clients about her weekend speaking activities led to invitations to speak at their Rotary, Kiwanis, and breakfast clubs. They knew her bubbly personality and prior experiences with other groups would lead to an interesting program. When she exceeded their expectations, the executives recommended her customer service talks to their companies for staff meetings. What Brenda was delighted to discover was that speaking for groups in her community was a very effective way to help build her business.

Why Should You Give Free Talks? Service clubs do not pay a fee. However, you are paid in a currency that is far more valuable: visibility and access to new contacts who are part of your local community where you do business. As Brenda told one of her salon owner friends, “Rod, clients who drive 80 miles for you to cut their hair feed your ego. Clients who walk or drive to you in a 15-minute radius feed your family.”

Talking about your business, charity, or major passion is exciting, fun, and provides great visibility. Your first talks to local service organizations like Rotary, Kiwanis, and Optimists lead to many more invitations. Remember, every service club is looking for a free speaker for next Thursday!

Al was one of Brenda’s loyal hairstyling clients and recommended her to speak at the Golden Gate Breakfast Club. At the time, all the members were men and good prospects for her salon. Brenda was excited to discover that the same day she addressed them, three members of the audience made lunchtime appointments in her salon.

Even though your business may be in insurance, advertising specialties, or printing, an effective speech will bring you recognition and eventual business. Even if you talk about your hobbies, interests, or charity of choice, your introduction will mention your business. You will be networking and meeting new local business professionals.

What Should You Talk About? What do you know that other people want to know about? What do you know that other people should know? What are the questions people ask you most often about your business, or industry, or even hobby or interests?

Speaking at a service club or any local group is an excellent starting point for promoting your product or service. But remember, no one is eager to listen to a sales presentation. Your goal is to be interesting, informative, and even entertaining. This leads to the audience members wanting to have a conversation with you. A conversation can lead to a friendship, a client, or a referral. For example, an insurance professional, who also happens to be an athlete, can talk about running an Iron Man Triathlon, what it taught him, how that relates to planning for the future, and add in his expert advice or investment philosophy.

How Do You Get Invited to Speak? First, develop your speech. Then, tell your friends, clients, associates, and acquaintances you are available and would love the opportunity to speak to local programs. Search online for service clubs in your town or city. In most cities, the local Chamber of Commerce will be at the top of your search. Find out who the program Chairperson is; they have a tough job and are always looking for interesting speakers.

An entertaining, interesting talk on any subject that is well delivered is always very well received. You now have the opportunity to make yourself and your business more visible in your community.

How Do You Maximize the Experience?

Be easy to work with. Write your own short introduction, including the importance of the subject, and why you are the perfect person to deliver that message. Make your bio available to them well in advance for their newsletter. As most organizations now have websites that advertise the program, also send a good photo and link to your website.

Go early to the event, and make sure you meet as many people as possible. Find the visitors from other organizations and mention, “If you enjoy my presentation, please give my card to your program chair.”

Have a handout or flyer: develop a one sheet detailing your key points and information on your topic. Offer a catalogue or brochure, if appropriate. If you’ve had an article published, make copies for the audience members. Make sure whatever you offer includes your contact information.

Collect business cards. If your goal is to develop business contacts, always collect business cards from the audience members. You can hold a drawing for small prizes, such as a gift certificate for your business.

Drive traffic to your website or blog. If your audience is interested in the subject, where can they get more information?

Let them know you are available to speak for other groups. Just as you did in conversation, before you close your speech mention, “If you belong to any other organizations that would be interested in hearing a speech on this subject, feel free to pass along my card and website.”

Speaking before a group of strangers may be slightly intimidating at first. Just remember, this is the beginning of many long-term relationships. Go on! Step up on the podium and profit from the experience!

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.