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Former Cisco CEO John Chambers lost me

I saw John Chambers speak on Nov. 14; he is the former CEO and Chairman of the Board of Cisco.

I had many issues with his presentation, but I will focus on my main objection:  the speed at which he spoke.

Yes, he is accomplished and smart.  Yes, he has tons of enthusiasm. Yes, he was voted one of the top 10 Best Performing CEO’s by Harvard Business Review.

But, YIKES, he talked way too quickly.

The speed, combined with his West Virginia accent, made it challenging to understand and follow what he was saying.

I brought a guest with me who is from Brazil.  Considering that her second language is English, (which describes many people in the San Francisco Bay Area), she struggled to understand him.  Ultimately, he lost her and she fell asleep.

When you make your audience work to understand your message, they will eventually tire of straining and tune out.

We were disengaged.

An accent can pose another challenge to being understood.  However, if you speak deliberately and slow the pace, you can be confident that you will be clear.

 

Hand gestures

President Clinton tucked his thumb under his index finger and relied on that as his “go to” gesture.

President Obama emphasized points using an index finger.

President Trump pushes the wrist and palm of his hand….forward, towards the audience, to punctuate his words.

I contend….your audience shouldn’t remember the gesture.  The point of the gesture is to provide meaning to the word.

PREVENT A POOR PERFORMANCE

“Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Poor Performance”
Stephen Keague, The Little Red Handbook of Public Speaking

Mr. Keague is right. I recently worked with the head of Cyber Security for a large corporation, prior to his presentation before the Board of Directors. Together, we re-wrote his speech so that the language was relatable and easy to follow. My client practiced in front of his team; he practiced a couple of times before his boss; and he practiced whenever he had the chance.

The practice paid off. His boss received many compliments, and the interest of the Board was piqued – something that never happened before when the presentations were technical and flat. The Board requested more presentations like this, so that they can have a deeper understanding of his department’s responsibilities.

So, proper planning and preparation produced a professional, polished and poised presentation.

NOW OFFERING ON-LINE COACHING

Have an important speech, job interview or high-level meeting coming up and need to quickly brush up on your presentation skills?

Then you think… how am I going to fit a coaching session in with travel, traffic and all that time spent away from the office? How convenient would it be to have a speech coach a couple of clicks away?

This is why I now offer virtual coaching as a part of my services.

How does it work?

 Contact me today to schedule a 15-minute phone conversation:

Email: gcohn@gloriacohnconsulting.com

Call: 650.906.4155

During that initial meeting, I will ask you a few questions about your organization and identify your specific, immediate needs. We will then set up a course for action.

The first session: you choose the topic(s)

  • Organizing, writing and refining your content
  • Creating and working with slides
  • Identifying your audience and their needs
  • Understanding the nine body language skills and how to use them
  • Knowing your natural strengths and leveraging them
  • The art of Q&A
  • Creating a sound bite
  • Effective listening skills
  • Reviewing and discussing any video links

We will set the agenda for any follow-up session(s) at the end of the first meeting.

Length of sessions

 The length of the sessions is flexible. They can be as short as ½ hour, or as long as 3 hours. I want to be responsive to your needs and be respectful of your time.

Technical requirements

GoToMeeting works great. Click the link below to make sure you’re able to connect to a virtual session.

https://care.citrixonline.com/gotomeeting/get-ready

Ready to get started?

 Contact me today to schedule a 15-minute phone conversation:

Email: gcohn@gloriacohnconsulting.com

Call: 650.906.4155

 I’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have. I look forward to hearing from you and to helping you enhance your delivery skills.

 

 

If English is not your native language, are you still struggling finding the right word?

In the San Francisco Bay area, I have many clients whose first language is not English. When I work with them on enhancing their presentation skills, a common fear is either mispronouncing a word, or using the wrong word when explaining a concept.

I know there are some positions where one has to carefully select words, and that being precise is essential.

But, for many of us, I would ask …..is that really what your audiences want from you….to always say the right thing at the right time? To never mispronounce word?

Even if English is our first language, how many of us can achieve that?

Here is my advice.

First –  be kind to yourself; mastering a language is difficult and public speaking can be scary.

Second – try this. When the right word is not coming to you, call it out. Say, “I am searching for a certain word, but it is escaping me.” You might discover that the audience is willing to help you find that word. Or, you can say, “I am not thinking of it, so let’s move on.”

Third – prepare. When practicing, make sure you select words you are comfortable saying.

 

DON’T AVOID AUDIENCE INTERACTION

 

 

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I cautioned several clients recently about timing; their presentations went on way too long.

When I asked why they hadn’t edited out extraneous information, they said they packed their talk with tons of information, in order to ward off questions at the conclusion of their presentation.

If this is strategy you are thinking of employing, don’t.

Questions are the most dynamic part of the presentation.

They allow you to further connect to the audience.  That connection comes when you listen to their issues, empathize with them, acknowledge a different point-of-view, or solve a problem.

If you fear being ambushed by a hostile question, or even being thrown an inquiry you can’t answer, you can prepare for those possibilities in advance.

Keep this in mind.   When you lengthen your presentation, the audience retention plummets; you risk losing, boring or annoying your audience.

Don’t give them an excuse to tune out and turn to their phones for entertainment.

Plus…you may get that bothersome question anyway.