Don’t Make this Stupid Mistake #10: Too Much Info Too Soon

August 13, 2009

Here’s the situation:  John was eager to make a good impression.  A  highly qualified individual,  John was was interviewing  for a desirable position.

Here’s the stupid mistake:  John told me the mistake in his own words:  “I just blew an interview,” John said. “I droned on and on about my background for 45 minutes and bored the interviewer. The guy’s eyes glazed over, and I didn’t get called back.” 

In their eagerness to make a good impression, job seekers often provide too much information too soon. They miss the opportunity for a dialogue and the chance to make an impression by targeting the interests of the other party.

Salespeople make the exact same mistake. So do project managers reporting on the outcome of a project. Chances are you make the very same mistake on a regular basis–in e-mails, presentations and proposals. Providing too much information too soon is the top communication mistake.

Here’s the solution:  One of the strategies I recommend to my clients comes from Garr Reynolds–on the topic of simplicity.

Reynolds is right when he says that simplicity is an exercise in subtraction. Conciseness is an exercise in subtraction as well. As you plan a presentation, a project report, an e-mail, a proposal or an interview, ask yourself what is essential to your receiver understanding your message. Subtract everything else.

Once you subtract the nonessential, your communication will become more clear, concise and powerful. What’s more, you’ll open up communication “space” in the situation, which allows you to receive and respond to the interests and concerns of the other party. This is the heart of persuasion.

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Three Words to Make You a Good Listener

April 20, 2008

Recently, I attended a presentation by Sandra Yancey, founder of e-women network.  When she referred to three “X” words, something clicked for me.  These aren’t X-Rated words but X-Relationship-building words or X-Make me-a-good-listener words, or X-Now-I-get-what you-mean words.

When you really want to understand someone, or make them understand that you seek to understand them, try these three words:

  • Example—“Can you give me an example of that?”
  • Explain—“Could you explain your point in a little more detail?”
  • Expand—“Could you expand on that?”

Three “X” words.  Very simple.  Very powerful.


Stupid Mistake #9: Conclude Your Speech Abruptly

March 29, 2008

Here’s the situation:  As my husband and I were watching a movie, I was reminded of an important rule about how to conclude a presentation.  We were watching the movie, The Manchurian Candidate.  As this film came to its close, I felt my jaw drop open. Beside me, my husband shook his head in disbelief, “Is that all?” The movie had ended abruptly. The hero (Denzel Washington) stood gazing blankly over the ocean, his feelings and his future unresolved. There we were, still on the edge of our seats, and the movie was over. It had stopped on a dime.

Shuffling out of the theater, I felt dissatisfied and frustrated. A thoroughly suspenseful movie had left me hanging at the end. Testing out a theory, I asked my husband about his feelings, “Do you feel angry?” “Yes,” he answered, “I do.” I realized that I felt angry too.

Here’s the stupid mistake:  What holds true in a movie holds true in a presentation. An audience expects an ending. In fact, an audience expects a cohesive package that moves smoothly from beginning to middle to end. A good presentation does not end on a dime.

Here’s the solution:  As you prepare the close of a presentation, keep the following points in mind:

  • Audience members expect you to provide closure or tie things together at the end.
  • Audience’s perceive an unspoken contract with speakers.  When you start a story or a line of logic, they expect it to come to a satisfactory conclusion.  
  • The conclusion is the final impression of your speech.  If you do a great job throughout and then flub the conclusion, the audience is left with a negative impression.
  • The most powerful speeeches end with an action statement.

Now I invite you to view a free longer version of this article–with practical suggestions for closings: http://www.incrediblemessages.com/Articles/pp-10-dime.htm.

 For more stupid mistakes that sabotage your speech, check out this special report: http://www.incrediblemessages.com/products.htm#howtowin.


Add Power to Speech with the 7-Second Rule

March 25, 2008

On television, images change approximately every 7 seconds.  Yet, in organizational settings and conference presentations, we expect audience members to watch the stationery body of a presenter, speaking from behind a podium, for an hour or more.  No wonder people dread these presentations!

To be effective as a speaker, you have to recognize that our culture is increasing fast-paced and increasingly visual.  Here are some tips to build changes into your next presentation:

  Give up the podium.   It’s okay to use the podium as a home base.  Just don’t plant yourself there!  When you move with purpose, you add interest and variety for your audience.  For example, try moving away from the podium when you make a key point, or when you ask for audience participation. Of course, random pacing, due to nervousness, doesn’t count as purposeful movement.  Think:  walk, plant your feet; walk again, plant your feet again.      

Make your PowerPoint visual.   An agenda for the presentation is helpful for the audience as well as the speaker.  Overall, however, words on a slide don’t work as visual stimulation—no matter how often you change them.  If you choose to use PowerPoint, add changes with photographs and dramatic graphs.  Show brief video clips that support your points.  Just make sure that everything you use is relevant and easy for the audience to grasp.        

 Add vocal or auditory changes.  Raise the volume of your voice to emphasize a point.  Try a stage whisper to draw the audience into a little-known fact.  Practice a powerful pause.  If possible, add brief musical transitions between points.

Give your stories the stage.  Concrete examples, brief case studies, and stories are powerful ways to add variety, interest, and practicality to presentations.  Make these gems stand out in the midst of a PowerPoint presentation by hitting the “b” key on your laptop.  “B” will give you a blank slide, so that you, the presenter, can move forward and connect with your audience in a powerful way.  The change will be refreshing to audience members.  When you wish to return to the slides.  Simply hit the “b” key again.

Use natural gestures.  Use the gestures that come naturally in conversations.  These include suggestive gestures like shaking your head and demonstrative gestures like showing the height of an object.  Even a shrug will create a brief change for the audience.  For a bigger change, consider using a prop or two as natural extensions of your gestures.

It’s hard to compete with a change every 7 seconds.  Unfortunately, this is what your audience members have come to expect, even if they don’t realize it.  Build changes into the content and the delivery of your next presentation.  You’ll be rewarded with a more engaged and attentive audience.


Law of Persuasion: Is Likeability Really Important in Business?

March 7, 2008

Technical whiz kids, scientists, and others professionals focus on increasing their skills:  the goal is to be an expert in their chosen field.  While education and expertise are important, researchers now insist that more is needed for success.  The highest levels of achievement come to those who mix expertise with likeability.

Research studies consistently reveal that people respond positively to others whom they like.  People prefer to do business with and to buy products from people they like.  Mitch Anthony, author of Selling with Emotional Intelligence,puts it succinctly, “Likeability is as important as ability.” 

While you may not officially be in sales, you must sell your ideas, your credibility, and your recommendations every day.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Accept the fact that developing likeability is an important success strategy.
  •  Find and mention the points of contact or similarity you have with others.
  • Learn to listen respectfully and to demonstrate an open mind.
  • Engage in small courtesies and expressions of appreciation, regardless of the other person’s formal status.      
  • Learn to keep gossip, unkind words, and disparaging remarks unsaid.
  •  Take time to laugh with others.
  • Choose a likeability mentor—observe and learn from someone who excels in likeability.

Lead with Influence–Secret of an NFL Rookie Coach

October 28, 2007

Fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers held their collective breath as the 2007 season started.  Their new coach, Mike Tomlin, was a surprise pick by the Rooney family, who owns the team.  Pittsburghers like to win, and Tomlin was an unknown rookie.

According to a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article by Ron Cook, the Steeler players had concerns too when Tomlin came on board last spring.  Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger reminded the new coach to gain the players’ respect and commitment.  Chances are Roethlisberger didn’t have to remind Tomlin about the players’ fierce loyalty to retired coach Bill Cowher.  Cowher had led the team for 14 years, one of which featured a Super Bowl win.

By the time the 2007 season actually began, the players were solidly impressed with their new coach—Tomlin stepped up to his new position with confidence and authority.  He also, it seems, had a ready knack to lead with influence.The team responded to their new leader’s influence with a blast, decisively winning their first three games.  Exactly how did the rookie coach lead with influence?

One secret, according to Ron Cook, was to follow an expected action with an unexpected one. 

The expected:  Tomlin met with each player during the spring minicamp. 

The unexpected:  He followed those meetings with handwritten letters to many of his players.Tomlin sent his letters via the post office, not e-mail. 

Each letter was personalized and quoted the conversation Tomlin had had with the player.  In sending these letters, Tomlin extended an old-fashioned lead with influence gesture.  It didn’t cost a lot, and it didn’t take a lot of time, especially considering what was at stake. 

Tomlin reported, “I’ve just always been a guy who, if something moves me, I respond to it.  And I’ve always believed a written letter is more meaningful than an e-mail or phone call.”

The results of Tomlin’s leadership gesture are instructive, especially for those of us who hope to build influence and credibility with others.  Hines Ward, the 2005 Super Bowl Most Valuable Player, reported that he carries his letter from Tomlin in his Bible.  How’s that for influence?!

Linebacker Larry Foote explained his reaction, “He [Tomlin] proved to me that he listened and that he thought what I had to say was important.”  Defensive end Aaron Smith said the letters made a huge statement because the coach took time to write them.  Because the letters were personalized rather than mass produced, they meant a lot.  Smith filed his letter.

Based on comments from players and performance so far this season, those handwritten letters played at least some part in gaining influence and commitment for the rookie leader.  Handwritten letters might help you lead with influence as well.  It’s a good time to get out your pen.

Copyright 2007 by inCredible Messages, LP.  Permission to reprint granted with the following attribution:

For more articles on gaining influence and commitment, visit www.IncredibleMessages.com