Friday 31 May 2013

How to Make Presentations that are Seen, Heard and Felt

This week, I have been preparing for back-to-back presentations that are being given 3753 kilometers apart; Calgary in the west and Halifax in the east. 
After hours of writing I noticed that my design process hasn't changed much since the early 90s when I was a full-time trainer. I wrote and facilitated many custom-designed sessions in industries as diverse as steel making, cosmetics, book publishing, non-destructive testing, farming and retail. It was a fascinating time.

Like many trainers, my biggest challenge is to not create talks or workshops based solely on my own learning preferences. For example, I am a visual learner who loves pictures and I prefer to work in small groups solving problems. But the best presentations appeal equally to all learning styles.

Here is how I make presentations that can be seen, heard and felt:

  • Write objectives based on needs and session length
  • List key learning points
  • Arrange points in a logical order
  • Add exercises (validate with peers if required. Will it work?)
  • Create slides (text only)
  • Test  design to see if it delivers objectives
  • Add visuals for interest and emotional appeal (my favourite step)
  • Write the script including stories and examples
  • Dry run the slides with the script to test flow, pacing and interest level
  • Read the script out loud as I cycle through the slides the night before and morning of the presentation
  • Present with no notes, amplifying points through passion, gestures and humour 

There are a lot of steps but like all patterns, it has become a seamless routine. I jot down notes after presenting based on what worked and what could be improved. There are always things that could have been better seen, heard or felt.


Friday 24 May 2013

Are we a collection of our highlights?

I was in Florida this week working with a senior team. The people were great and I had the chance to get to know them over two dinners. Our conversations focused on our highlights, both personally and professionally; we were introducing ourselves through our best moments. 

I do the same when people ask me about my book. The first thing I share is the most recognizable accolade. I highlight the best of what people value in Change with Confidence

This week I got a new highlight. On Wednesday at 11 am, I received an email from a friend saying, "Great review by Harvey in the Globe and Mail today". This is a big deal. For those outside of Canada, the Globe and Mail is Canada's national newspaper with paid weekly circulation of 143,000. Harvey Schachter is an award winning and highly respected writer who specializes in management and business issues. 

Harvey Schachter
When I met my publicist team at Media Connect in New York, they mentioned Harvey by name and said he is one of the few business book reviewers who reads the entire books he reviews. The Wiley team also talked glowingly of his journalism and influence. He's the best.

Given the unlikeliness of finding a printed copy of the Globe and Mail in Miami, I searched for the article on my Blackberry. My mind was working faster than my fingers and I impatiently tapped on the Google search button while it was in mid-search. Once the article appeared, I reread the title and my name a few times before going further, as if to confirm, "Yes, that's my book and yes that's my name." It's funny what you do when you are excited.

The Change with Confidence review, "A nuts an bolts guide to managing change", is long (845 words), comprehensive and thorough. It provides an excellent overview of the content and format of my book. I am grateful.

Another friend emailed me today asking how my book was doing. I responded, "Really well. It was reviewed in the Globe and Mail this week."


Friday 17 May 2013

How would you spend my time?

For the last year, I have been carrying around a fortune from a cookie. It says, "Value time over money. Only time cannot be replenished." I like it, especially since as families grow and careers grow longer, I have realize that life doesn't last forever. 

Everyone's challenge is to spend their finite time in ways that gives them an amazing life and success (whatever that means to them). 

I asked myself this question this week about how I am spending my time promoting Change with Confidence. Have I distributed my time wisely? Am I maximizing my potential? How will I know?

I am spending time on all activities in my marketing plan. Fortunately, all of them are building awareness and, if I had more time, I could do more of each one. The best I can do is track my results by activity and adjust the percentages accordingly. Also, I need to add other activities to make sure I don't miss any opportunities. 

Like most things you are trying to perfect, testing and learning provides a solid path to better results, maximizing your potential and success. Since time cannot be replenished, every second counts.


Thursday 9 May 2013

Why don't we do the things we know we should do?

I read an engaging post on Gail Severini's Change Whisperer blog called, "Leading Strategy, the Three Key Ingredients to Rejuvenation". She talked about the importance of going slow to go fast and how rejuvenation puts you in the best frame of mind to lead complex strategy. 

Gail outlined a three-step process for rejuvenation: rest, reflect and explore. Her personal example illustrated how it worked and I found myself rereading the steps and nodding in agreement. 

At the time, I failed to notice that it was midnight on Saturday night after I completed a work task. Something was wrong with this picture. My actions were not aligned with my thinking; I hadn't taken a break in two months and I definitely was not rejuvenated.

 I know that taking breaks and making time for reflection improves my effectiveness and quality of work. So, why am I not doing these things? Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton wrote a book in the late 90s called "The Knowing-Doing Gap:  How Smart Companies Turn Knowledge Into Action". It explores why companies don't act on what they know. The same principle applies to individuals. I have not been doing what I know is in my best interest.

My default behaviour is to keep working until tasks are completed, even when my resources are low. Why do I do it? Like most people going through change, old habits are familiar and comfortable. A past manager had a phrase that described my working style: "Line them up and knock them down." As long as there is something to line up I will keep knocking them down, even when my productivity is low. 

It's time to make a change. Here is my plan for breaking this unproductive habit:

  • Make a list each night of non-work activities I will complete on breaks during the following day (I am a list person)
  • Visually display this list beside my priority activities list (visual reminders are powerful)
  • Review my progress nightly (and make notes as I do after my runs)
  • Ask a friend to check in on my progress (I know I will never have "nothing to report")
  • Reward the desired behaviour (schedule guilt-free play time to spend with family and friends)

My actions must become aligned with my beliefs or I will not maximize my potential. This is my main benefit. Also, now have my own personal example of "rest, reflect and explore".


Friday 3 May 2013

4 Things You Need to Know Before You Write a Guest Blog Post

Guest blogging is an excellent way to raise your profile and promote your book. I have been looking forward to it. It's like preparing a meal at someone else's house party: The seasoning, presentation and guests are different but you still are the chef.

For an author, guest blogging:

  • Establishes a new relationship with another author
  • Gives you access to a new audience (including the people who they send your post to)
  • Provides an opportunity to communicate with those who leave comments
  • Increases your credibility through your association with the blog owner (your post has met their quality standards)
  • Positions you as being knowledgeable about your topic
  • Generates awareness, interest and ideally desire to buy your book

I wrote my first guest blog post two years ago for my friend Mel's Pivot Points. I selected a topic I thought she would like but put my own spin on the content. She liked it.

I have written five guest posts for leadership and people management blogs since Change with Confidence was published. The first to be posted was on Jennifer Miller's The People Equation. I am fortunate because she is a great advocate for guest posting including posting a video about becoming a guest blogger on her home page. Also, Jennifer's writing style is upbeat, personal and professional, which made writing the post easy.

A successful guest blog post needs to be aligned with the overall themes and feel of the blog. There needs to be similarities between your post and theirs to ensure that it meets readers' expectations. Therefore, the first step of writing a guest blog post is to get acquainted with the blogger's site. Here are four things you need to know before you write a guest blog post:

Content. What topics appeal to the writer? Your first clue is how they describe the site, for example, "Addressing Current Leadership Issues." Writing down the topics from the last fifteen posts is a fast way to identify content themes. Clustering topics under these themes will provide you with options for your post topic.

Style. How does the author write? Is it conversational or academic? Short or long sentences? Is the vocabulary expressive or factual? Copying their style is not the goal; the goal is to be similar to it so that your style doesn't clash with readers' preferences and expectation.

Titles. Are titles dramatic "grabbers' like "Why Everything Ever Written in Blogs Till Now is Wrong?" or summary statements like "4 Things You Need to Know Before You Write a Guest Blog?" Typically, a blogger will use a menu of three to five title styles. Which one you pick from this list is up to you.

Format. The blogger has made many design decisions. They have selected a font and a layout. They have also chosen a preferred length of post. I find it's easier to write within a host's format preferences, especially when sizing paragraphs.

Jennifer kindly sent me a note after my guest post was published. She said there had been a lot of interest in my post, which made me feel great. I wonder whether it was because of the content, style, title or format. It probably was all of the above.