Archive for the ‘Personal Development’ Category

Millennials -The Good, The Bad, and The Selfies

November 8, 2017

Millennials are a generation of lazy, entitled, fame obsessed, technology worshiping, narcissists.

Sound about right?

Baby Boomers out there, think we (yes, I am one of “the” M crew) have been handed life and its obstacles on a silver platter, meaning we have grown up with a sense of entitlement, brought up to believe that we deserve the best (even when we don’t) and crave praise and attention, all of the time!

Subsequently, it is not difficult to see why we are stereotyped as lazy, entitled and selfish.

But to you, the Baby Boomers reading this, shocked at the expectations and entitlements of my generation, you may also be shocked to learn, we are not all that different after all.

Now as we fast forward ten, fifteen years, Millennials have the same high expectations in the workplace. But what is so wrong with having confidence in yourself and your work?

It is not that we, as Millennials, have created a revolution in workplace and life expectations, but rather evolved to this world of abundance. We have not developed new personality traits from Baby Boomers when they were our age. Most teenagers and young adults, from any era compared to their parents, are selfish, can be lazy, and at the very least narcissistic, now and again.

Baby Boomers say we are consumed by social media. We check our phones, at minimum, once every hour. But how many times a day do you check your email? Now I can hear you say in that voice at the back of your head “But emails are far more important that social media”. Are they?

I believe we are evolving to the point now that they are both equally as important (especially in the world of PR).

And just think what if the world of technology had evolved a generation earlier? Is it possible that Baby Boomers would have been just as social media obsessed as us? We didn’t choose this life, but rather it was selected for us by Apple, Samsung, and Facebook, and we simply evolved and adapted.

So what can we bring to the world of PR?

We know Millennials don’t see technology and social media as a chore but rather part of their everyday routine being switched on and connected, close to 24 hours a day.

We are a troop of networkers, ready to shout and scream to get our message across. We want to work hard, make a difference for our clients and reap the results, even if that does mean sharing it on Insta Stories, Facebook posts, Snap Stories, Tweets, and the list goes on.

As a generation, we don’t have high levels of respect for authority. But because we don’t respect authority we don’t resent it, and therefore we feel as if we can approach and create relationships with our leaders.

We are a generation of dreamers, meaning we are optimistic, thinkers, and life hackers.

We inspire and find new ways to deal with on-going issues. We believe that we can in fact “change the world” and want to bring your business to the next level. We stand up and combat the stereotypes by continuing to show up to work with enthusiasm and ambition.Actions speak louder than words after all!

Let’s not forget that Baby Boomers, you too were a problematic generation, and you turned out alright.

Didn’t you?

Blaithín

Blaithín Gallagher is a PR intern with Fuzion Communications, a full service agency who have offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

Time to stop playing politics

October 31, 2017

Jeff Flake speech

In the earlier part of my career as an accountant I used to hear people talk about “Being Political” and naively I never quite got what it meant.

Did it mean being sneaky, being dishonest, playing silly buggers instead of just doing your job?

I never quite got it, and I did think that, if it did exist it was something that happened in large organisations or literally in politics, where it sadly seemed to be a necessary part of that game.

As far as I was concerned. as long as I worked hard I would get ahead and there was no reason for me to believe that I needed to act otherwise.

I worked hard in a busy accountancy and management consultants office and progressed well. I worked hard in an American subsidiary of a multinational and progressed well. I worked hard in a subsidiary of Guinness and progressed well and I found myself promoted to the role of General Manager at the age of 28.

I could see “politics” happening externally around me but it was still a case of, work hard and you will always progress.

I then took up a role with the fantastic Guinness company in Dublin and six months later I discovered that my ‘hard work’ previously effective instrument was no longer sufficient to progress – I had to learn how to play politics to get on!

I never quite cracked this skill and while I had a fantastic time working at St.James Gate I can quite honestly admit that I never fulfilled my potential, even though I did learn a lot and make some contribution to the business.

I guess I was never the type that was suited to playing games and I guess this is why I was always suited to entrepreneurship, where you make your own bed and lie in it.

What does “being political” actually mean?

Being apolitical refers to situations in which people take an unbiased position in regard to a political matter.

I guess if you are being political it means you give up on your own views and principles, you take positions on things that are not yours to stay in some sort of favour with others, for some other benefit (a promotion, a raise maybe?).

Once this creeps in, as I saw in Guinness you never get to see all of the potential of the people there. Many will leave frustrated and those that stay will be the ones who are good at surviving in that environment. A lot of positive energy gets suppressed and the business never performs at the level that was possible.

At a certain point it is accepted that “this is the norm” and something bad creeps in forever.

Republican Senator Jeff Flake

I watched the speech last week given by Senator Jeff Flake of the Republican Party in the United States whereby he was declaring that he was ‘turning his back‘ on politics and not running again.

He used the words “the new normal” and how we must not let what is happening now become ‘the new normal‘.

If you listen to the content of his speech it is very interesting and quite sad with some very basic points, which illuminate how bad things have become when you ‘play politics‘ at the very highest level with the dangerous potential of affecting the whole world.

There are times when you must risk your career in favour of your principles” – the opposite is a scary place to be. Who are we if we don’t follow principles – do you want that person working with you?

We are all complicit when we don’t stand up when we know wrong things are happening” – this should be something basic you would want in everyone you work with.

The flagrant disregard for truth and decency“`- the new norm?

The reckless provocations, most often for the pettiest and most personal reasons” – the schoolyard bully?

Heaven help us if this is politics as usual” – this feels like a huge cry for help and something higher to intervene

Reckless, outrageous and undignified behaviour has become excused as telling it as it is” – politics in all its glory

When this come from the top it is something else, it is dangerous to democracy

Our strength comes from our values” – the most powerful statement of all.

It is often said that children are watching” – We are setting an awful example for the next generation

Remaining silent and failing to act in fear of making enemies is dishonouring our principles” – Yep!

I think you get the idea…

If you want your business to flourish then be proactive about creating a culture that brings out the very best of people. and one where no one is afraid of speaking their mind in fear of the consequences.

Stop playing politics…

Well done to Jeff Flake for standing up to the biggest bully of them all, potentially the most powerful and most dangerous man in the world today, Donald Trump.

Check out the full speech by Jeff Flake, which already many are considering to be one of the most important of our age.

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications, a full-service agency that offers Marketing, PR and Branding  services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

Gina London – The Message is clear: Soft skills are a critical part of success

September 3, 2017

Back to school

It’s back to school time for the kids!

While we prepare to deal with the school-run surge in morning traffic, my daughter Lulu and the rest of Ireland’s students are (blessedly) preparing to sling on their book bags again.

Which reminds me, I spoke last Tuesday to a high level group of HR directors from an assortment of top tech companies.

Why do these professionals remind me of schoolchildren? – because we grown-up employees have a lot in common with not-yet-grown-up pupils!

The HR directors shared some of the biggest issues employees say they’re facing.

Top concerns centered around well-being and communications. They’re connected – and they’re issues children face as well.

When I lived in Italy, Lulu went to Aliotti, the most progressive primary school in town.

There, under the guidance of director Donata Baroni and English instructor Pavlina Checcacci, students are taught so-called ‘soft-skills’ alongside other subjects as part of core curriculum.

You can’t teach only knowledge anymore,” Pavlina says. “Twenty years ago, you went to university and studied a subject like engineering. The methodologies didn’t change for about every 10 years. Now it’s every five years. So, when you get out of school, what you learned is already out of date. Today, we need people who can communicate. That makes the difference.

If two people have the same amount of knowledge, yet one also has soft skills and the other one does not, the difference in their success is significant. Your success in business starts in primary school,” Pavlina says.

Likewise, here in Ireland, John Doran, guidance counsellor at Patrician Secondary School in Newbridge, is championing his own approach called ‘Ways to Wellbeing‘, which, he says, “encourages students to adopt a growth mindset and to communicate with confidence“. It is currently being taught in 120 schools in Ireland and Europe. “If we don’t consciously teach young people to communicate, find their voice and create a literacy around emotional intelligence, we may end up with a generation in a fast-changing world that is unemployed, under-employed, or unemployable” John states.

Here in the business world, it’s high time to get serious about soft skills.

They’re not soft, they’re critical!

Let’s compare some student approaches to what we can do in our own professional lives:

1 Learn to give and receive constructive feedback

Here’s an example from Aliotti: Each child draws a picture. The artwork is put up on the wall. Each child is given a Post-it note and instructed to write one thing they like about the picture, one suggestion of what to do differently next time and then another thing they like.  The classic “compliment sandwich”.

At an early age and with a distinct twist, the children aren’t allowed to simply write something they “don’t like” in the middle. They must frame the criticism as a suggestion for the future.

Each artist reads the feedback aloud and thanks the writers.

This approach is structured and it’s a big deal – Imagine how more effective our business meeting debriefs would be if we had all learned, as children, how to organise our thoughts this way.

Productivity would surely increase if we spent less time getting personally offended and defensive from feedback. Learning not to punish the past but empower the future is a trademark of effective communicators.

2 Learn to work in groups

The HR directors who gathered at McKesson Cork’s remodelled offices, checked out the new “collaboration pods” – designed to get employees away from individual work stations and come together as teams.

More and more firms are updating work environments this way.

Similarly, John’s ‘Ways to Wellbeing‘ programme encourages group sharing for his students and Aliotti’s Pavlina says they’re committed to stop requiring children to work quietly alone.

When in your life will you sit in a room of 30 adults and not take opportunities to discuss things? We can’t prepare kids for a reality that doesn’t exist.”

3 Learn to be kind to others and yourself

Studies show the number one factor in team effectiveness is emotional sensitivity to the others.

Learning empathy is key because effective teams make sure everyone speaks and contributes to get a lot of ideas on the table and build consensus around the best idea.

‘Ways to Wellbeing’, stresses techniques to help develop more positive and constructive relationships. “We help them change their emotional state from one of fear and anxiety to one of effort and application” says John.

4 Learn how to learn from your mistakes

Aliotti concentrates less on grades and more on the process of problem-solving.

Pavlina puts it this way: “Life is all about the mistakes and errors and learning from them. So, we don’t just correct tests, we ask questions like ‘What did you do? Why did you do that? What can you do differently next time?’

We find the child who gets perfect grades and never makes mistakes may actually have difficulty as they get older. Children who learn how to try again and again may have an advantage.

Top university business schools like Stanford and Harvard are also adding highly interactive classes and exercises to develop these types of people to people skills. Your place of employment can introduce them too. After all, we’re all students in this school called life.

It’s time to learn soft!

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

It’s nice to be nice!

July 17, 2017

It’s nice to be nice..

I strongly believe in the saying ‘it costs nothing to be nice’. If we can all remind ourselves of this every so often it can have such a positive impact.

In today’s world, often it seems to be all money money money, but it’s the simple things that are free and can make all the difference. When people are nice towards one another we are much happier people.

I believe that you can never go wrong with being nice.

You often see and hear of heartwarming stories of people helping another person or carrying out a simple gesture and although it may seem small to you it can mean the world to the other person.

Sometimes being nice can come down to a little understanding.

Just take a second to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and try and understand it from their perspective and as they say, treat others like you would like to be treated yourself.

Life is short so just be nice – you will be a better person for it.

Saidhbh Sweeney - Fuzion CommunicationsSaidhbh

Saidhbh Sweeney is a PR Executive with Fuzion Communications: PR, Marketing and Graphic Design

Gina London: You are who you choose to be, so change is possible

July 5, 2017

Best mans speech

It was my brother’s wedding and as the best man,” my Dublin taxi driver tells me, “I’m supposed to give the toast.”

Now, I’m not a reserved individual. I’m normally outgoing and confident. I’m a national handball champion,” he says. “But when I stood up to speak, I suddenly blanked. I couldn’t remember a word. I looked down at the notes I was holding but my hands were shaking so much, I couldn’t read. I bombed.”

That was 21 years ago, he says as the taxi nears my destination. My handball-champion driver says he lives in dread considering that one day in the future he will be expected to give the eulogy at his elderly father’s funeral.

Do you label your public-speaking ability or leadership style by a single experience? During the recent Fine Gael debates, one of the candidates stated: “I am what I am” when asked about himself.

Are we? Is it that all there is?

I am who I am” sounds like a passage from God in the Bible or Popeye in the cartoons,” retorts Alan Weiss, PhD, an American thought-leader in career coaching and consulting whom the New York Post describes as “one of the most highly-respected independent consultants in the country” and whom I interviewed via email.

His latest book, co-authored with another notable American executive coach, Dr Marshall Goldsmith, is Lifestorming, Creating Meaning and Achievement in Your Career and Life. Between the two of them they have written more than 100 books on human behaviour.

Your past does not define your future.

When I asked Alan if he wanted to share any Irish experiences he may have had, he wrote: “I love the joy of the Irish and I loved driving through the Northwest, but I never had a question answered without the prefix, ‘After 800 years’ of British oppression‘.”

I hear that prefix all the time, too. Of course, experiences from our past may be part of our story.

But we can learn from them and move forward. They do not need to define us.

We can change.

Acting in any way and denying the ability to change and alter for the right occasions bespeaks someone who is so completely inflexible and self-centred as to be oblivious to others.” Alan says. “Who chooses to be boring?

I would expand upon that adjective by adding, fearful, or timid, or cynical, or whatever other limiting label we – or perhaps others – may attach to ourselves. We do not have to stay married to it. If a personality label is holding you back, take action to start unloading it now.

You can change.

Character can be developed. Lifestorming identifies six building attributes which can be improved on with respect to others,” Alan says.

There is no balance between competence and warmth. They are both rheostats. Not on/off switches.”

Leaders are made, not born. Most of the literature shows that the critical feature of successful leadership is flexibility, not some perfect style.”

Machiavelli said that successful people adapt their manner to the times.

Consider a single bold action to reboot your character in a positive way

For instance, I met Alan four years ago, when I was living in Italy. I had read a couple of his books and reached out to him to say how much I appreciated what I had learned.

If you ever come over here to visit,” I tagged, “I’d be delighted to buy you a cup of coffee.”

A few months later, he and his wife came over on summer holiday and I caught up with him in the marbled lobby of the Four Seasons in Florence where they were staying.

He didn’t take me up on that coffee, but he did give me invaluable advice.

Understanding that my inability to speak Italian at a professional level was limiting my ability to properly network and develop my own consulting business, Alan encouraged me to seek out an English-speaking country.

I did. And now, after two years living here in Ireland, it has made a world of difference. I am grateful.

So, to my taxi-driver, don’t wait until your father is dearly departed.

Take charge of your fear of delivering a speech in public. Write a rip-roaring eulogy for your dad.

Invite over loads of friends and family. Present your speech to everyone gathered while your dad’s alive to hear it.

He’ll thank you for it and you will thank yourself for taking the step toward changing your personal outlook.

What about you?

What is your limiting label? What can you do today to shed it?

We are who we choose to be.

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

Emojis and other informal communications: Why you must say it with feeling!!!

July 3, 2017

EmojisRecently, US President Donald Trump visited Israel’s holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem. Having visited there myself, I remember it as heart-wrenching experience.

Trump signed the guest book, “It is a great honour to be here with all my friends. So amazing and will NEVER FORGET!

The short message touting “all my friends” with the unlikely upbeat “amazing” adjective angered some, with it being described as adolescent or thoughtless.

Media outlets contrasted it with a variety of more eloquent notes written by US government officials who visited in the past.

When you write a thing like that in a place like that, it’s permanent. But so, too, for those of us whose jobs haven’t put us in the White House!

If you write as a habit without thought or intention, it can become a liability. You don’t want to communicate unconsciously. But that is precisely what many of us do.

Let’s explore two sides of the coin:

1: Uber-informal  – I made up that term, but you know what I mean.

A new business contact sent me an email on Wednesday. It has one, two, three, four smiley face emojis and one thumbs-up emoji. (And yes, I had to look it up, the preferred English plural for emoji is emojis.)

I use emojis too. Generally, however, I reserve them for casual emails to friends or social media posts.

For business writing, while I always aim for a friendly and warm tone in my word choice, I probably wouldn’t pop in an emoji unless I know the client very well and believe they are the emoji type.

To be fair to the person who sent me that emoji-filled email, we had met briefly face-to-face at an event I spoke at recently and since I have an amiable, energetic style of delivery, he must have presumed – correctly – that I would welcome them.

Decide what works for you. For instance, I can’t bring myself to use “LOL”, but I unapologetically roll out an exclamation mark when I want to add enthusiasm to the written word. Compare, “It was great to meet you yesterday.” with “It was great to meet you yesterday!

Sometimes, I even go for more than one. But never five out of respect to author Terry Pratchett who wrote that five exclamation marks is the “sure sign of an insane mind”.

Our written style of business communication is changing. Don’t be a dinosaur and dismiss new forms of expression as a “fad” – like an older member of the Sunday’s Marian Finucane Show panel I sat on did as we discussed social media. The influence is real. If you want to be relevant, consider social media writing style tools.

2: Uber-formal  – The other side of the business-writing coin is devoid of emotion.

One of my clients, preparing to establish a new company-wide email protocol, sent me a sample email to review. Without revealing who it’s from, here’s my review. “Dear all, IT will be changing our printer in the morning to badge print setup. Instructions are below on how to use the badge printing. ‘Bob Smith’ will also be around in the morning to answer any queries. I have also left some leaflets on the stationery press for your reference. Best regards,”

At face value this is fine. It’s a straight-forward “informative” business email. It delivers information. Nothing else.

But, if you consider the themes we have been exploring in my column for the past several weeks – employee engagement, leadership warmth, kindness, and building a sense of one-team, there are a variety of things that could be applied here.

1 Salutation/Greeting: A desire to establish a protocol around emails may include a single, directed salutation. “Dear all” for every e-mail is fine. Realise however, that over time, no one sees this anymore. The reader’s eyes simply move directly to the next sentence. Consider an agreed upon range of salutations, or deliberately allow salutations to be customised for the reader.

2 Body: This is very straightforward, as I mentioned. I wonder if the body would change once the audience’s reaction is considered. Does everyone understand what is happening with the printers? Do they know this change is coming? Will anyone possibly be confused by this? What will happen next when someone reads this? If there are concerns that could be perceived before writing, then referring to concerns in the body would demonstrate care.

3 Sign Off: Same as with the salutation. The way a written correspondence is signed off can become so rote as to have people not even see it. Even within protocol, here’s another opportunity to connect in a thoughtful variety: “Have a great rest of your day”, “Kindly”, “Cheers”, etc.

4 Bonus: What if you make “new email protocol” a campaign? Have people submit their top three “Greetings and Sign-offs for internal and external emails. Announce all the entries. Then announce and reward winners. Introduce some fun and engagement.

You can align your written communications to reflect your professional corporate brand. Becoming a more deliberate communicator means learning to tailor your communications style to the appropriate audience and platform.

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

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.

32298502311_30dfe8bff8_o

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

 


%d bloggers like this: