Archive for the ‘Personal Development’ Category

Take AIM at your audience and make them like you

May 24, 2017

LikeableToday I am going to talk about likeability.

It’s something you should strive for when you’re presenting in a business setting. Practically every business communication event involves selling something. If not directly a product or service, then at the very least, a point of view.

You are likely hoping to persuade your audience of something or trying to motivate them to do something, aren’t you? Therefore, finding a way to demonstrate that you care about the people with you in the room when you present is precisely the way to encourage them to care for you and your position.

Last week, when I emceed the Irish Centre for Business Excellence conference, keynote speaker, psychologist, and author, Owen Fitzpatrick, reinforced this idea as he explained how influence is best achieved when you spend time asking questions of and taking an interest in the other person first.

In short, we teach people how we want to be treated.

For many, this “be likeable” notion might not come naturally. Instead, we focus on our proof points and logic to carry us through. Sorry, folks, because I do want you to like me but, blech – that is often super boring.

But knowing some need a structure to dial up on “likeable”, I teach my clients to apply a logic-based methodology.

Derived from communications lecturer JD Schramm of Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, this approach helps you get systematic in your presentation preparation – especially if you’re not naturally inclined to consider others.

Gina London - Fuzion Communications

The methodology is boiled down to three simple letters: AIM.

Audience. Intent. Message. In that order.

1 Audience

Take a moment to consider who is in your audience.

Are they new-hires or veterans? Senior management or the executive board? Women or men? Both? Other? Do they prefer Elvis or the Beatles? PCs or Macs? Coffee or Tea? For my Irish audience, Barry’s or Lyons?

When CNN first promoted me to anchor, they sent me to an anchor-training school in Dallas, Texas.

I didn’t realise there was such a place. There is. One thing the trainer told me back then in Texas particularly stuck with me.

He said that no matter how dry or dense a story may seem, someone out there watching will be emotionally affected by it.

Every story has a ‘hope, dream or fear’ attached to it,” he said. It’s important to try to see the pictures inside their heads.

I sometimes ask clients to write their presentation agenda.

Next, write a second agenda from the audience’s point of view. Then I have them throw out that first agenda and begin again from the second one.

This is what I mean by truly considering the others’ points of view.

2 Intent

Your intent is never simply to inform.

If you’re just doing that, then you might as well simply put your information in an email and hit the send button. You must be trying to motivate or inspire your audience to some sort of action.

Define your goal very clearly. Too often I see this one overlooked.

The goal is too broad and ill-defined. What is it exactly that you want your audience to do after you’re finished speaking? Even if it’s just to agree to another meeting. That’s okay. Be very specific.

3 Message

Only after you have dealt with points one and two should you move on to craft your message. Like intent, this must be clear too. Write it down. One sentence!

Here’s the definition I learned from organising campaigns:

A message is “Brief, Memorable, Repeatable, Emotional and Data-backed“.

But it’s not only the data. While supportive, taken stand-alone, data dumps, as I already mentioned, are often dry and boring.

Your message is your ‘call to action‘ – your spoken declaration of your written intent, your motivation!

State it clearly and state it often. Don’t assume your audience is just “getting it“.

If you know your AIM, before you start writing, you will be better at framing and outlining your talk.

A client wrote to me just this week proclaiming that he now realises “this isn’t going to be an easy fix. It will take serious effort“.

He’s right!

Here’s a prime example from one of the readers of my column:

The 82-year-old writer shared that he learned how “to think and speak more clearly” through communications training.

He applies the training all the time, including just last Saturday when he said a few words at his 80-year-old sister’s birthday party in London. “Communications training has become a way of life.“, he wrote.

To my client and you lovely people reading today: Exactly.

Applying AIM and becoming deliberately more likeable to your audience will take time. But I promise, it is worth it.

From presentations, to one-on-one scenarios, from spoken to written if you have a question about communications that you would like me to deal with in my column in the Sunday Independent please send me an email at gina@fuzion.ie .

Gina London - Fuzion CommunicationsGina London

Gina London is a former CNN anchor and international campaign strategist who is now a Strategic Communications director with Fuzion Communications. She serves as media commentator, emcee and corporate consultant. @TheGinaLondon

Gina London: Face Your Fear! My Top 3 Tips for Public Speaking

May 22, 2017

If the thought of public speaking fills you with dread – like you’re about to walk a tight wire high above – without a net – please read on for my top tips that appeared in my column this week in the Sunday Independent, “The Communicator.” 

Circus Tightrope Walker on a Unicycle

If I go on The Late Late Show and ask the audience to “raise your hand if you’d like to stand in front of everyone else and give a presentation”, how many hands do you think would shoot up?

If statistics are any indicator, most of you would literally rather die than get up and speak in public.

Fear of public speaking, as you may already know, is often listed as people’s number one fear. It out paces the fear of death or the fear of flying.

This brings me to a letter I received this week from a reader. He writes:

I love your column and three words that would describe me would be ‘curious’ and ‘confident’ in one-to-one conversations, but a very ‘nervous’ person when it comes to standing and speaking before an audience.

As an owner of a small business, I have occasions to stand and speak about my business. But, to be honest with you, I would rather visit the dentist than give a speech.

I know how important it is to the growth of my business but the fear I have of public speaking is just too great. I get very red, my hands shake and I have the dry mouth of a desert.

Please, please how do I get over this fear?”

If you’re like some fad-dieters who keep looking for a quick trick to shed pounds (or kilos or stones or whatever), I have to point out there is no magic pill to do that or to instantly shake your stage fright nerves.

But, here are three things that should help:

1 Think positively

In an old episode of The Brady Bunch (please tell me you know this show!) Mike Brady tells daughter Jan, who is petrified of giving a speech, to imagine her audience wearing only underwear.

I won’t go that far, although you’re welcome to try it for a laugh. But I will tell you that in my experience, every audience — no matter how they are attired — wants you to succeed.

That’s a really positive place from which to start. They’re looking to find meaning in why they are there. They want to connect with you. Bear that in mind. Be self-affirming.

You step up on stage at 100pc.

2 Take time to write it right

Don’t wait until the day before you have to speak to write your speech – Give yourself proper time to prepare.

When you craft your speech, make sure to consider and address your audience’s interests and not simply your own. What’s in it for them?

If you operate on a “brain-dump approach”, that’s fine for your first draft, but revisit it the next day to refine and edit. Get early, honest feedback on your script from a colleague.

Remember, too, that the way you write may not be the way you speak.

Are you writing words you’re comfortable with? If the words aren’t conversational to you, they won’t sound conversational to your audience.

If you want to be comfortable with your public speaking delivery, you must first be comfortable with your written material.

3 Practice out loud and on camera

That silly joke, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” comes to mind. Answer: “Practice. Practice. Practice.

This is where you really can combat potential butterflies. You have to practice the same way you expect to deliver.

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For instance, if you’re going to present standing up, then stand up when you practice.

Don’t forget details like voice quality, energy and expression.

Many people are uncomfortable hearing the sound of their voice when it’s projected, so they hold back when they practice. That’s a mistake. You should practice as performance-day-like as you possibly can.

Smile. Gesture. Get into it. Try to get off-script. You’ll connect better with your audience and that’s the whole point.

I feel like an actor,” one client told me recently. That’s okay at first. Over time, it will feel natural.

Bonus tip: Get help

Years ago, at my first job as a journalist with the Orlando Sentinel, I joined a “Toastmasters” group. With clubs all over the world, Toastmasters members deliver a wide-variety of speeches, receiving structure and encouragement along the way.

Joining wasn’t a job requirement, but I thought, “Hey, if I’m developing my skills as a written story-teller, it would be a good idea to practice telling stories aloud too.”

It was a great experience and one that helped me during my transition to on-camera reporting at CNN. I’ve since enjoyed going back as a guest speaker at Toastmasters clubs including in Lagos, Nigeria, and at the West Cork Toastmasters, one of top performing clubs here in Ireland.

With the right coaching, practice and time, public speaking comfort is a gift available to us all. Or, as you may have heard once or twice on The Late Late Show,There’s one for everyone in the audience.

So, go on. When I ask, raise your hand.

Whether through Toastmasters or another training programme, I’d love to hear from readers who are learning to overcome their fears of public speaking. What is working? What are you still struggling with? Email me at sundaybusiness@independent.ie

Gina London

Gina London is a former CNN anchor and international campaign strategist who is now a director with Fuzion Communications. She serves as media commentator, emcee and corporate consultant.

Gina London: Become a more deliberate communicator

May 2, 2017

Today I ask this question: What three adjectives do others likely use to describe you?

I often have my clients first write down how they would like to be described and then square that up against how they imagine they currently fare.

That’s the challenge today in my “The Communicator” column in the Your Work section of the Sunday Independent.

360 feedbackIf you’ve ever had a 360 report done on you, you know what I’m talking about.

If you haven’t, reach out to me or your employer to get one. It’s kind of like President Trump’s 100 Days gauge, without hitting the front pages. Reality. Check!

What we think about ourselves is less important that how we’re perceived by others.

It’s helpful to identify what traits or behaviours of ours may be holding us back.

It’s also important to not get defensive, but to get determined once you identify it.

Don’t cop out with the old, “Well, that’s just how I am” excuse. Instead, to use this expression I’ve learned since moving here to Ireland, “Cop on!

It’s a lot like when my mom used to make me sit down at the piano in our dining room and practice every day for an hour. She would set the clock on the stove and I wasn’t to get up from the bench until the buzzer rang. Except sometimes, like the cheeky eight-year-old I was when I first started taking lessons, I would sneak over to the stove and move the alarm forward a few minutes to hurry it along.

Naturally, my mom had no idea that somehow in our home, the passage of time was magically accelerated. Ha!

But, like learning to play the piano, you also can practice taking incremental steps toward changing your behaviour as I discuss in today’s column.

Experts agree leaders are made not born. So now that you’ve been born, let’s get together to make you better!

If you have an A. B. C. (Appearance, Behaviour or Communication) question for me – please write to me here (gina@fuzion.ie) or in care of the Sunday Independent and I’ll try to answer it in an upcoming column!

That’s your first homework challenge – make it a great week!

Gina London - Fuzion CommunicationsGina

Gina London is a former CNN anchor and international campaign strategist, now Strategic Communications Director with Fuzion Communications. She serves as media commentator, MC and corporate consultant.

Gina London: Your posture and smile are key

May 1, 2017

Presenting

Mae West is quoted as once saying, “I speak two languages. Body and English.”

As a communications consultant, I work with executives and organisations on improving all facets of communications. Body language is a key component of that equation.

Recently I worked with a director at the Ireland office of a large multinational. The organisation’s annual sales conference was coming up and she was preparing her presentation.

Together, we watched a video of her in action previously. Or not in action.

During this presentation, although she clearly had command of the topic and delivered her words smoothly, we agreed she did not connect with her audience.

The video cut out towards the audience and showed their reaction – or lack of it. Most of the people were sitting passively with their arms crossed. Not at all engaged.

While my client delivered powerful and emotionally-charged words, her body didn’t match them.

Her posture behind the podium was rigid, her face devoid of emotion.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming you naturally communicate well in presentations.

If you don’t believe this, have someone record you speaking at your next meeting, then watch it – with and without sound.

You’ll learn a lot about yourself because we generally don’t acknowledge how much of our communication is done through expression, gesture and posture.

Here are a few things you can try:

1 Power up your posture

Many people in pressure situations hide behind the podium and hold on to it for dear life.

If there’s no podium, nervousness may cause them to rock on one foot or shift their weight from side to side.

It can be very distracting. If they come out from behind the podium, they may race back and forth. Stage presence is executive presence.

I encourage my clients to ‘plant‘. Stand with your legs about shoulder-width apart, plant your feet solidly and distribute your weight evenly. Feel comfortable.

Now deliver your introduction in strength and poise while standing still. If you want to address another part of the room, try turning your body from the waist.

Lean forward and stretch out your arms to make a point. If you do move, do it purposefully and please stop for a bit before you about-turn.

Staging is challenging for many people who either stand like statues with moving lips or run like frightened deer.

2 Use your eyes to make contact – and more

A client of a large telecommunications company once told me that a former coach advised him to look slightly above the heads of an audience during a presentation. No way!

Acknowledge the humans in the room. If you see someone out there you didn’t know was attending, say hello to them. Make the event personal.

I sometimes place large photos of people’s faces showing various degrees of boredom (like most business audiences, unfortunately), in empty chairs around a room for a client to practice looking at them.

I can always tell if my clients really look if they notice that among the face photos is one of Marilyn Monroe and another of Elvis Presley.

Another way to engage your audience with your eyes is by changing their shape – your eyes, not the audience.

We do this naturally when we’re speaking with friends. If something is compelling, we may narrow our eyes. With something surprising, or exciting, our eyes become wider and our eyebrows go up.

Don’t turn off those lovely windows to your soul when you speak before a business crowd. Your product or service should be exciting too.

3 Broaden your smile

My client who watched her past video with me was really struck by how unhappy her face looked. Imagine what the audience felt. No wonder they didn’t laugh at her jokes.

For most of you out there, smile more than you think you possibly can, and you’ll probably be about halfway there. And, guess what? Even if you don’t feel happy, smiling makes your endorphins kick in so it will help relax you and make you feel more at ease when you present.

Oh, and before any of you comment that my column photo “screams negativity” as a friend of mine, who’s a dentist, not a communications expert, wrote to me, please let me add that the study of body language, or kinesics, emphasises three Cs. Pay attention to Clusters, Context and Consistency to help you better gauge others’ intentions and help you become more engaging to those others.

Arms crossed doesn’t always mean defensive.

So, for your next presentation, remember, your body is not just a vehicle to move your head from room to room.

Start practising now in those inconsequential situations – and then you’ll be geared up for the next big communications crunch.

Your audience, minus Marilyn and Elvis, will take notice and thank you.

Gina

Gina London is a former CNN anchor and international campaign strategist, now Strategic Communications Director with Fuzion Communications. She serves as media commentator, MC and corporate consultant.

This column is part of ‘The Communicator’ series that Gina writes for the Sunday Independent

 

100 years of Ford and Engaging Body Language

April 24, 2017

100 Years of Ford in Cork, Ireland

On Friday last I interviewed Bill Ford, the great-grandson of Henry Ford and the Executive Chairman of the company that bears his family name.

He was here in Ireland, along with his terrific wife Lisa and equally terrific sons Will and Nick, two of their four children, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Ford establishing a manufacturing plant in Cork.

In the University College Cork auditorium packed with pensioners from the factory, business students, and local dignitaries, we had a “fireside chat” about the future of mobility, technology and leadership.

I’ll write more about what he said on the topic of leadership, for my next week’s column in the Sunday Independent, which will also happen to be close to the 100 day mark for the presidency of Donald Trump, leader of my birth country, the United States. But, meantime, back to the Ford Company leader, if you weren’t in that auditorium to see him speak, you missed something critical: seeing how he delivered.

To me, Bill Ford exemplifies the skill of using body language to enhance a presentation.

Bill Ford at UCC

He didn’t hide behind the lectern when he gave his opening remarks like so many other CEO’s I have interviewed.

He didn’t pace around the stage. He didn’t rock or bob on his feet as he stood. He was poised and confident in the centre of it, angling his body to different parts of the room as he addressed them.

He didn’t read from a fumbling set of papers.

He looked directly out into the audience.

And perhaps most of all — he smiled!

His body language was a critical component of how he so compellingly connected with that audience.

Go online or if you’re here in Ireland, get over to your newsagent and pick up a copy of The Sunday Independent and discover my top three tips how you can become more engaging in that way too.

And, of course, shameless plug, that’s one of the communications skills I train and coach here in my directorship role with Fuzion Communications. So, I’m happy to help you and your organization power-up.

Like the Ford Company says, “The Future is Unwritten.”

And much of how your future gets written is up to you!

Great relationships equal great communications.

Gina London - Fuzion CommunicationsGina

Gina London is a former CNN anchor and international campaign strategist, now Strategic Communications Director with Fuzion Communications. She serves as media commentator, MC and corporate consultant.

 

Five great tips to ensure you can remember names

April 13, 2017

Tips to remember names

Oh, I’m terrible with names.” How many times have you heard that? Perhaps you’ve even said it yourself. As self-fulfilling

How many times have you heard that? Perhaps you’ve even said it yourself. As self-fulfilling

Perhaps you’ve even said it yourself. As self-fulfilling prophecies go, this may be one of the easiest to fall prey to. If you tell yourself you’re not good at remembering names, you probably won’t be.

I, on the other hand, am good with names. I’m not bragging here. I really am. I may not be great – I do occasionally have to be reminded of one – but I am good.

Recently, I was the featured speaker at the Enterprise Start-up Awards in Limerick. I was introduced to dozens of people in rapid succession.

I met contestants, academics, and some very high-profile people, including one with a famous family name of perhaps the most influential entrepreneur in Ireland. But all people matter, so all names are important.

I remembered them all!

Especially, Jerry, the technician, to whom I was introduced during the set-up, long before the event began. Later, during the program when my mic wasn’t working properly, I looked up to the control booth and asked for him by name: “Jerry, is there another microphone?

Smiling, Jerry zipped down with a new mic in hand. I then introduced him to the audience and asked everyone to give him and the other stagehands a well-deserved round of applause. An opportunity to recognise the efforts of someone made stronger due to the fact that I remembered his name.

I don’t deploy Derren Brown-style “memory palaces” or other fancy mental gymnastics to partner a person’s name with a rhyme or an object.

Like ‘Fancy – Nancy’ or ‘Burt in the Red Shirt’. No way. I am not that clever nor quickly creative.

But, simply, here is what I do. I find it really works.

1 FOCUS

Slow down and really focus on the person’s name. Chances are when you’re introduced to someone, you may have other things on your mind. Turn that off for a moment. Make the moment matter. Genuinely look at the person’s face and let their name sink in.

2 REPEAT

Silently say the name over and over in your head while you’re looking at them. I’m not talking a mindless repetitive mantra here, say it to yourself in a thoughtful way. Find meaning in the name.

Is it a name of someone you’ve met before, perhaps a relative or a dear friend? Jerry happens to not only be the name of the technician, it’s also the name of my step-dad for whom I have enormous love and admiration. That helped the memory stick.

3 SPEAK

Say the name back to the person. Don’t let yourself off easy, with a simple “nice to meet you“. Add “nice to meet you, fill-in-the-person’s-name-here.”

Of course, you don’t want to over-use the person’s name as an obvious measure to remember, but here is a great opportunity.

4 LEARN

If it’s an unfamiliar name, take the time to try to learn it properly; don’t simply nod and gloss over the introduction. In today’s global marketplace, this is especially important.

Here in Ireland, I am learning that names written in Irish, “Caoimhe” for instance, are said differently than I may first have thought. I also do a lot of work in Africa and am learning a range of great new names there as well.

The wife’s name of a business associate in Nigeria, for instance, is Olaseyi. It is pronounced “Oh-lah-SHAY-ee” and it also has a lovely lowering in pitch on the final syllable.

Where does your work take you? Wherever you go, the point is not to create a fuss about a new name, but to demonstrate your sincere interest in expanding your horizons – embracing the new – and getting it right.

This can build rapport with the person in addition to solidifying your recollection of that person’s name.

5 ENQUIRE

Take a moment to ask a question of the new person. Try to learn something about them. In your mind, repeat their story along with their name.

Rather than overloading your memory, this gives the name a story to stick to which makes it easier for you to recall the name when you need it.

After the awards ceremony, the head of the Limerick Institute of Technology Foundation, Kieran McSweeney, wrote to me: “It was an absolute pleasure meeting you yesterday. The inspiration of your talk was only surpassed by the warmth of the sincere friendship you extended to everyone.”

Thanks, Kieran, I credit that, in part, to taking the time to remember names.

It’s a good place to start to build a relationship – Business is built on relationships.

On Tuesday, CPL Resources, Ireland’s largest recruitment agency, held a conference in Cork to feature its latest research on ‘The Future of Talent‘.

It showcased how the best companies are getting the best people. Why jobs are being lost to machines – machines, like my iPhone, which are programmed to “know” your name.

Hello, Siri.”

Hello, Gina.”

Don’t let a machine beat you at having the human touch. I still believe people are the future of talent and if you’re a person, you can be better than Siri.

So, don’t tell yourself or others that you’re no good at remembering names.

It’s a blow-off comment that doesn’t get you off the hot seat. Take a breath and discipline yourself.

Try. You can remember names.

Gina London - Fuzion CommunicationsGina

Gina London is a former CNN anchor and international campaign strategist, now Strategic Communications director with Fuzion Communications. She serves as media commentator, emcee and corporate consultant.

This column is part of ‘The Communicator’ series that Gina writes for the Sunday Independent

 

The importance of remembering people’s names

April 12, 2017

Remembering names

Early on in my professional career, I learned how important it is to get names right and here I will give you my simple tips to help you get them right too.

My first job in Washington was on Capitol Hill in a Congressional office. The Chief of Staff’s first name was Christopher.

It’s Christopher. Not Chris,” he corrected me after I erroneously referred to him in the more casual manner.

Christopher wasn’t being fussy. He simply preferred his name how he preferred it. We went on to have a very solid working relationship. I always respected him for reminding me. Nothing wrong with that.

Our names are possibly the most important part of our identity.  

Later on, when I began working in television news in Washington at WTTG, I carefully made it a part of my job to learn and remember the names of everyone I met. I even made a little spreadsheet – listing names, positions and something cool or interesting about each person.

One day, about a couple of months in, I passed a producer in the editing hall whom I had probably met only once or twice before. “Hey, Mark,” I tossed out as I walked by. I won’t tell you his last name, but the cool thing I had listed was his ponytail. Very un-Washington-like!

Hey,” he turned, “You’re new, right? You clearly make an effort to remember names.

He went on to leave WTTG to become the producer for The McLaughlin Group, one of the best-known and longest-running current affairs panelist talk shows in US television.

I never forgot Mark. Or Christopher and to this day, I try not to forget names.

Last week, I traveled to Shannon to work with a group of directors from an aviation company. One of the directors’ first names was “Iarlaithe.” I have learned plenty of great new names here in Ireland, but this was a new one for me.

You probably haven’t heard my name,” Iarlaithe said to me. “It’s unusual.”

Yes, it is. It even says so when you Google it.

An unusual Irish name that means ‘earl’ or ‘tributary lord,’” reads the citation.  The name is also Irish for the St. Jarlarth, who, research shows, was noted for his piety and his teaching ability as he founded a school in County Galway.

The current Iarlaithe I met last week is known to me for his ability with numbers and that he likes his curry very hot!

I find the more I focus taking a genuine interest in people and their personalities and stories that surround them, the more I will remember the names that go with them.

I’m not perfect, mind you. Last summer, when I spoke at the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Conference, I tried to show-off and go around the large ballroom and name everyone to whom I had been introduced. I got 99 percent – notoriously missing one gentleman I had been having a wonderful talk with before I came up on stage!

Thankfully, he forgave me. And I’ll keep trying to focus more!

Tune in for my next blog post, a copy of an article that I have written for my column “The Communicator” in the ‘Your Work’ business section of the Sunday Independent where I will share some simple tips that will help you to remember better.

If there’s a career communications topic you would like to me to cover in an upcoming column, or if you would like me to help you or your organization – please drop me a line at gina@Fuzion.ie

Great communications equal great relationships!

Gina London - Fuzion CommunicationsGina

Gina London is a former CNN anchor and international campaign strategist who is now a director with Fuzion Communications. She serves as a media commentator, emcee, and corporate consultant.

How to craft the perfect eight-second introduction

April 3, 2017

Gina London - Fuzion Communications

I just got off the phone with the CEO of a charitable organisation here in Ireland. He’s about to head to the US for a conference which will allow him to meet many potential donors. But most of these meetings will be the “reception or networking” type; casual events that aren’t set-up to be formal sales or pitch meetings.

He knows it’s essential he introduces himself in a way that is positive, interesting and leaves the other person wanting to know more.

So I had him rehearse his planned introduction for me. Thank goodness. Because his first go simply sounded like he was trying to pack in too much information. There were too many clunky, jargon words. It sounded like more like a brochure and not a relaxed introduction.

Together we re-crafted his introduction so he could quickly give his audience an upbeat, easy-to-understand interesting impression and then move the conversation back to them.

Knowing that there are exceptions to every rule, here’s my basic Intro How-To:

1 Write down your first thoughts.

Go ahead. Write whatever comes to your mind about yourself and your organisation. Aim for four components: 1. Hi, I’m (Name), 2. (Title) of (Organisation name). 3. We (What your organisation does). 4, (Question for the other person.)

2 Read that aloud and time it.

Do you sound jargony? Did you just go into company-speak? Assume every person is a lay person and think “conversational”. Would your eyes glaze over if you heard someone describe their business the way you’re describing yours? Get real and be tough on yourself.

Focus on your timing. You have between 4-8 seconds to introduce yourself and your organisation. I mean it.

Anything more for an introduction and you’ll sound forced.

Like my CEO, it’s trying too hard. You probably have included superfluous information. People may still be looking at you, but they’re likely no longer tuning in.

3 Give that a hard edit.

Okay. Now get out your scalpel or razor and cut! Cut out the jargon, the parentheticals, the disclaimers, the tangents, whatever. Your intro should be high-level and understandable. Go into more detail as the conversation unfolds. Not all at once.

4 Add a superlative – as long as it’s interesting and accurate.

Is your organisation the first, the largest, the newest, the something-est? If so, lead with that – in a friendly, not cocky way.

If you have to reach too far for this one, don’t force it. But at least consider it. Adding credibility adds interest.

5 Refine and rehearse.

Now re-time yourself. Do you have all four components? Are you under eight seconds? Say it aloud. Say it again. Say it again. Like you mean it. Do you sound effortless and conversational?

Don’t forget you’ll need to be able to say this without thinking really – as you’ll likely be surrounded by other “circles” of people at the conference or networking event. It will be buzzy and noisy.

So you should have this ready to roll. Be memorized but don’t sound rote. Make sure you have the question rehearsed.

Of course, it’s good to have two or three questions prepared so you don’t sound like a single-question robot.

Introducing yourself is not the time to “Give the pitch” or “Position your organisation.”

It’s your first impression – and even more importantly, it’s your chance to begin to get to know the other person. Relationships take time.

Practice doesn’t make perfect; practice makes permanent. So make sure you take time to purposefully and conversationally craft your introduction.

And remember how I opened this article by saying I was working with a CEO? These tips are not only for them. It doesn’t matter whether you are the top brass in an organisation or a new hire just starting out. You have goals don’t you?

Where do you want to be in six months? Six years? It’s largely up to you. Becoming a better communicator will help give you that competitive edge.

I can promise you that as someone who grew up in the tiny rural town of Farmland, Indiana (yes, that’s actually the name of the place), I learned a thing or two about crafting and delivering content after the rigours of delivering hundreds of thousands of live-shots during my career with CNN combined with my time as an international campaign strategist. I do not write or talk the same way I did as a girl.

Developing better communication skills is something we can all achieve.

The same way you are developing your competencies in whatever field you work in, you can also start focusing on how to re-train the way you speak about yourself and your work. You can become a more strategic communicator.

Practice doesn’t make perfect; practice makes permanent.

So, today, let’s start at the beginning. Make sure you take time to purposefully and conversationally craft your introduction.

Gina

Gina London is a former CNN anchor and international campaign strategist who is now a director with Fuzion Communications. She serves as media commentator, emcee and corporate consultant.

This is the first ‘The Communicator’ column that Gina has written for the Sunday Independent

How do you tell your story?

March 26, 2017

Gina London - Fuzion Communications

At the beginning of this month I had the privilege of being the Master of Ceremonies for the first Cork University Business School (CUBS) conference.

The theme was “Shaping Ireland’s Future” and the list of impressive speakers included top business leaders, entrepreneurs and broadcasters. From Marissa Brown, one of Ireland’s most successful business women and creator of Cocoa Brown to Harry McCann, the founder of the first digital youth council of the world. Each person sharing their vision, their journey and their story.

And it’s precisely how they tell their story – how well they communicate – that will largely mark each one of the speakers as the successes they are.  Research shows that when you line up people with equal competencies, the better communicators will always have the competitive edge.

As a former CNN reporter and anchor, I first learned the power of communications the lens of journalism: how to write compelling copy that hooks a viewer. After my days at CNN, I managed international campaigns – for politicians – like the first female parliamentary candidates in Iraq and opposition parties in Egypt – and on issues – like increasing immunization awareness in Cambodia.

Today, as a strategic consultant with Fuzion Communications, I see communications as a solid combination of style and strategy.

What does that have to do with you?

Quick!

Without any further preamble from me, find someone and shake their hand.

What did you get? 

Did every single one of you deliver a warm, firm embrace? Fingers curling around the other person’s hand with the pads of your fingers making contact with their hand in a meaningful way? Did you clasp for a full second or two?

Or did some of you find that you shook hands with a limp, dead fish!? Or who got the arm wrestler – the squeezer of death?

Why do I make a big deal about a handshake?

Because it’s often the very first thing we do when we’re introduced to someone – and for many of us – we don’t have any idea about whether we’re doing it right – or even if there is a right way or a wrong way.

But make no mistake – how you shake hands does send a message.  Think about it. What does shaking hands with the arm wrestler or the dead fish say to you?  Every time you interact with someone – you are communicating something – either by design or by default.

Whether I am working with clients or participating in a business conference like the upcoming CUBS event, I constantly witness that:

“Communications is not a soft-skill,  it’s a critical skill.”

Thankfully, communications is also a skill that can be learned – and put into action for better results – in every part of your lives.

Any time you have what I call a “communication event” – you are either moving your relationship forward or backward with that other person – or people – in your work and in your personal life. I mention both, because we aren’t two different people – we don’t have a professional life and a personal life – we just have a life.

For instance, applying skillful communications is critical when you first have a big idea. How are you going to pitch your product, platform or service? Even more than the market research and the projection numbers, the story you tell will either connect or not connect – with your intended audience.

How do you take the kernel of an idea, or, as you mature in your field, the depth of your knowledge and best communicate that kernel or knowledge -to various audiences? It takes emotional intelligence and communications training.

This past spring, the University of Florida officially announced a new translational communications centre dedicated to making science and tech better understood by all. They understand the importance of training scientists how to communicate to a lay audience.

There are two main facets of any communication event: content and delivery – and there are teachable strategies around each.

Before you create any content, you need to apply an AIM strategy. This is devised by Stanford University as Audience. Intent. Message. In that order.

1. AUDIENCE. Take a moment to consider who is in your audience.

Are they new-hires or veterans? Senior management or the executive board? Women or men or both? Do they prefer Elvis or the Beatles? Tea or coffee? PC’s or Macs?

Every audience is different. Try to get inside their heads. What are their hopes, dreams and fears? 

I sometimes ask clients to write their agenda. Then write a second agenda from their audience’s point of view. Then I have them throw out their agenda and begin again from the second one!

2. INTENT. Your intent is never simply to inform. If you’re just doing that, then put your information in an email and hit the send button. You must be trying to motivate or inspire your audience to some sort of action. Define your goal very clearly. Too often I see this one overlooked. The goal is too broad and ill-defined. What is it exactly that you want your audience to do after you’re finished speaking? Even if it’s just to agree to another meeting. That’s okay. Be very specific.

3. MESSAGE. Only after you have deliberated points 1 and 2 should you move on to craft your message. Like intent, this must be clear too. Write it down. One sentence! Here’s the definition I learned from organizing campaigns:

 A message is “brief, memorable, repeatable, emotional and data-backed”

But it’s not only the data. While supportive, taken stand-alone, data dumps are often dry and boring. Your message is your call to action. Your spoken declaration of your written intent. Your motivation! State it clearly and state it often. Don’t assume your audience is just “getting it!”

Next! Now that you’ve crafted content, How do you deliver your message?

Think of presentation delivery as three legs of a stool, – words, para-lingual and body language.

1. WORDS. Use powerful, colourful, imaginative words. Don’t waffle or equivocate. Be bold. Choose active verbs not flat ones. Go for it in your word choice! Have you heard those people who say words are only 7 to 10 percent of communications?? Try watching a foreign film without subtitles and tell me if you understand 90-93 percent of what’s going on!! The words do matter!

2. PARA-LINGUAL. This mouthful just means the way we say our words. The tone, the pace, the volume, the pitch. These are tools we naturally vary when we’re talking to family and friends, but often get left behind when we deliver “business stuff.” When we don’t use them, they leave us sounding robotic, rote, dull and lifeless! You got ’em for football and rugby matches. Don’t leave them at home when you go to work!

3. BODY LANGUAGE. Whether we like it or not, unless we’re master poker players, our bodies are always “leaking” our emotions. And people are always reading us. How we hold our arms, our hands. Does your listening or concentrating face look interested or disinterested? Other people notice, so, take some ownership and get retrained to appear more engaged.

As we look to the future of Ireland’s economy, business leaders too, must learn how to improve their communications. Across vertical silos. Across countries and oceans too.

Like it or not, Brexit proponents and Donald J. Trump discovered how to break down and communicate potentially complicated messages in a simple way to reach their targeted audiences.  While critics may argue that those simpler messages also played on a constituency’s anger or fear, imagine what can happen when one creates simple, captivating messages that seek to inspire and motivate people to positive action?

It’s not too soon – or too late – to get started getting deliberate about your communications. Great communications equals great relationships in business and in life.

Thank you CUBS for such a fantastic event!

Gina London - Fuzion CommunicationsGina

Gina London is an award-winning former CNN correspondent who now serves as director of Strategic Communications at Fuzion Communications with offices in Dub;in and Cork, Ireland.

How little is too little? Nothing!

March 21, 2017

Patrick Jones, Fuzion PR in Belarus

Many years ago, or at least it feels like it, I took part in a charity trip with my Alma Mater, Dublin Institute of Technology that would change my perspective on life for the better.

In my youth, my mind was set that only the big things counted and if you could only do something small, it won’t make much of an impact. How my mind was changed.

It was this trip to Post- Chernobyl Belarus, where I first realised how incorrect I was and that so much could be achieved with so little. An old rugby buddy from D.I.T organised and led the troop of my bright eyed and bushy tailed students from D.I.T and Ulster University Magee, Derry. None of us had been to this part of the world before and to our shame, knew a lot less about it than we should have.

The experience centred on raising money prior to the trip, and cycling from orphanage to orphanage to see what the money would be used for. Before we left for Belarus, we were cautioned that some of the young people we would be meeting were disabled, both physically and mentally, but in our naivety, little did we know what was in store.

When we arrived into the first orphanage in Rechista, the whole convoy was stopped in our tracks at the reception we received; hundreds of people, small children to young adults were standing outside waving flags and cheering to welcome us. Those who could, ran and walked to greet us, the others had little other choice but to wait till we moved up to them. (We found out later, the children had been waiting for this day since the previous year.)

The children put on a magnificent show to welcome us, and then the tour. After the initial shock was over, we noticed the disrepair the building and grounds were in, how little they had and how much they needed.

In the week we were there, and with the intention of just raising money for the orphanages; two disabled ramps got completed, a playground got finished, a garden area covered in clay got cleared and we put as many smiles as we could put on faces that truly needed them. Anything that needed to be done, we did, if we didn’t have the tools, we made do, but we did it.

By the end of the week, there were no tears left, nor were there regrets as even though we could only do a little, I know it meant a hell of a lot!

Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a littleEdmund Burke

Patrick Jones - Fuzion CommunicationsPatrick

Patrick Jones is an Account Manager in Dublin with Fuzion Communications, Marketing, PR & Graphic Design 

 


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