Preparing for Our Next Normal

Well, here we are <insert tentative smile> at the onset of another new year.

As they typically are, this new year is filled with the promise, hopefulness, and opportunities of a new start. Yet, at the same time, many of us feel uncertain, limited, and confused by the same constraints this winter as we did last year at this time. 

The pandemic is obviously with us. It’s moving into the new year with us and likely beyond. So it’s not really a new normal we need to concern ourselves with now, it’s the next normal we need to anticipate. While the situation around us is constantly evolving, and we’re hastily evolving along with it, the key question is: Do we have everything we need to be successful in the next normal? 

Sure, we’ve adapted and taken advantage of tools and resources we always had access to but hadn’t yet mastered or maximized. One of those, of course, is virtual meetings and virtual meeting platforms. Zoom has become the Kleenex or Xerox of virtual meeting platforms. But I think we all can agree it’s very 2020 and so it’s the old new normal. And while there’s a huge adoption of, and so many improvements to, virtual platforms like Zoom, there’s also still a ton of fatigue. The reality for all of us is that engagement in virtual meetings is still elusive.

What’s missing then? What can we do to be better, more effective, less draining to others? 

Communication. How we communicate, how much we communicate, when we communicate, how we listen, how we engage, how we execute on our goals for a meeting. Communication skills and styles need to be the sharpest tools in the toolbox in order to be ready and be successful in the next normal.

Getting there isn’t or shouldn’t be difficult. For starters, there are the five communication principles I espouse in Jock Talk: 5 Communication Principles for Leaders as Exemplified by Legends of the Sports World. They are audience-centricity, transparency, graciousness, brevity and preparedness. All five are critical, but clearly brevity is the one in shortest supply.

Take it upon yourself to sharpen your communication skills in 2022. Read the book (or listen to it) or reach out for coaching. In many cases, your exposure to others, internally and externally, will be one-dimensional … on a screen. Let’s make sure the impression you leave isn’t like the screen … flat.

Welcome to 2022!

Happy Holidays!

Here we are at the end of 2021. Cheers to all of us! We’ve been in person, virtual, working, resigning, working from home, returning to offices, and a hybrid of all of the above. We’ve seen normal, new normal, and the next normal. Adapting to change seems to be the one constant.

But it’s not. 

The one constant is Communication. Communication is the one superpower that can handle anything! In fact, I may be biased, but I would suggest that the people and the organizations who value communication the most and execute on it the best are poised to be more successful and better prepared for whatever comes our way in the new year.

As we reflect on this past year and look to 2022, let’s put Communication at #1. It’s the one thing we all need.

Happy Holidays!

Q4 Challenge

Q4 Challenge

It doesn’t take much to be a good leader-communicator. Perfection may be elusive, but being good enough to earn the admiration of your team are well within reach. Adherence to a few core principles takes care of most situations.

In my book Jock Talk: 5 Communication Principles for Leaders as Exemplified by Legends of the Sports World, I walk readers through the philosophy behind, and application of, these 5 principles: Audience-centricity, Transparency, Graciousness, Brevity, and Preparedness.

Taken together, they send two really important messages about you to your audience: 1) that you care about and respect them, and 2) that you’re real and therefore credible and trustworthy.

Audience-centricity is probably the most fundamental of the five principles. Simply put, audience-centricity is making the audience’s interests and experience a top priority in the planning and execution of a talk. Too many speakers prepare and deliver what is important and interesting to themselves without enough careful consideration of their listeners. Being audience-centric is a mindset shift that encourages the speaker to prepare and deliver content in a way that will matter to and resonate with the audience.
Transparency is exactly what you think it is; it’s about being open and direct—yes, and honest, too. Transparency is critical. It contributes to the levels of sincerity and trust that are accorded to you by your audience.
Graciousness is the art, skill, and willingness to be kindhearted, fair, and polite. As motivators and influencers, love and peace work far better than hate and war. Speaking in positives rather than negatives leaves lasting, favorable impressions. 
Brevity is a crowd-pleaser and needs no further introduction.
Preparedness speaks for itself as well, especially because the unprepared speaker is the one who is most likely to be longwinded, not to mention unfocused. While the mere thought of preparation might bring on feelings of dread or even impossibility, there are ways to prepare that take only seconds but that can greatly enhance a speaker’s effectiveness.
As you settle in for the homestretch toward year-end, I would encourage you to pick one of these principles as your personal pet project for the remainder of Q4. Which one of these 5 do you feel like you need to improve on the most? Or which one of these 5 would have the most impact on your business if you strengthened it? Pick one and go for it!

What To Do in Your First 120 Seconds

Three Tips to Overcome Public Speaking Nerves

What To Do in Your First 120 SecondsDo you get nervous about speaking in public? Sometimes? Always? Let’s see what we’re even talking about here.
One way Webster’s Dictionary describes nerves is “marked by strength of thought, feeling, or style: spirited.” That doesn’t sound like such a bad thing, does it? I think it sounds kind of promising. And that’s exactly the point.
Nervous energy is not negative energy. It’s positive. It’s your body’s adrenaline getting you ready to do a killer job. You just have to embrace it and understand it is a natural part of the experience.
The good news about the adrenaline rush you feel at the beginning of your talk
– even if it’s making you short on breath or sick to your stomach – is that it’s going to level off. There is research as well as anecdotal evidence that nervousness fades in the first two minutes.
So, here are 3 tips for you for those first 120 seconds:
1. Accept, rather than resist, that your nerves will come with you to the front of the room – kind of like a constant companion. And know that they’ll begin to dissolve in a matter of seconds.
2. Choreograph your opening in a way that allows you to share the floor with your audience and gives you a chance to inhale and exhale – and maybe even relax a wee bit. One example of this is opening with a question for the audience and soliciting some input from them. Engaging the audience takes pressure off you and gives you a feeling of control that helps your nerves dissipate more quickly.
3. Even if you don’t have a lot of time for rehearsing, set aside a little time to practice your opening. If you are familiar and comfortable with your opening, and you practice delivering it in a deliberately slow manner, you just might be able to compensate for the adrenaline that makes you flustered and that makes you speed talk.
Nerves happen.  They’re natural. They’re energy. And they’re temporary.

Presentation Theatrics

“Go right up to that line but don’t cross it,” I say. My client, rehearsing her speech for me, says, “Okay, let me give it another try.”

The line I’m referring to is the invisible but instinctive line between what’s barely comfortable and what’s not when employing theatrics to enhance your delivery.

Don’t let the word theatrics throw you off or cause you to self-select out of reading any further. Presentation theatrics are necessary, they animate you and your content. Theatrics are the energy – voice and body – that you infuse into your delivery. They should produce a delivery that feels a bit exaggerated to you but simply comes off as energetic to your audience.

To achieve that energetic connection with your audiences, here are some tips for your voice, hands and body:

Voice. In a word, modulate. Vary and adjust your speaking pace, volume, pitch. For example, if there is a section of your speech that should sound more conversational, then you can speak at a quicker pace and with a normal tone of voice. If you have a word, phrase or sentence that warrants attention, you will want to slow down, project your voice, and essentially emphasize it orally as you would if you were writing it in boldface font.

Hands. Use them as props in your play. Think Charades. You can literally animate your speech by using gestures that go with your words. For example, to welcome your audience or when talking about “all of us here in this room,” use outstretched arms to make a large, open embrace. If you are talking about something personal or touching or emotional, put your hands to your heart. You can clap (yes!), punch your fist in the air (victory!), offer an exaggerated shrug (who knew?!), put the back of your hand to your forehead (ugh!). Talking with your hands is a-okay.

Body. Unless you are forced to stand behind a podium due to a fixed microphone, you want to use your body also. Nothing distracting (like pacing), but some movement across the floor or stage helps to keep your audience’s attention. For example, if you’re talking about making a change or a move, literally walk a few feet across the floor. Move to get closer to different sides or sections of the room. Take a giant step forward to illustrate progress or a step backward to illustrate a setback. Act out your words.

Regardless of how you animate your speech and which tactics you use, just know that you will be pushing yourself and using your whole body, head to toe. Keep it authentically you, but an exaggerated you. Push it to the point where you feel like you’re putting on a show … because you are.