Business Tips

Planning a Presentation? Make Sure Your Back-Up Plan Really Covers Your Back

Many of DeFinis Communications’ sales and technical clients spend a lot of time on the road, delivering presentations to prospects, customers, and users near and far. As such, they often share their road warrior tales of woe during our classes. So many things can go wrong before and during a presentation, from technical glitches to misplaced papers. While you can do your best to prepare and plan for almost any presentation crisis, there are some things that are completely out of your control, such as the weather and airline cancellations.

Rita Williams, one of our top trainers, has a travel story to trump all others. If you’ve ever had Rita as a DeFinis Communications instructor, you know her to be incredibly organized, punctual, and prepared. She’s not the type to wing a presentation or any part of the planning stage either. That’s why I was so surprised to hear her latest travel story.

Rita arrived at the airport early for a routine cross country flight from San Francisco to Washington DC. At check-in, the booking agent told her that she could take an earlier flight. In order to board the earlier flight, though, she had to gate-check her personal travel bag. Normally she never checks her bags for a short 2-3 day business trip, but this seemed safe enough so she was unconcerned.

After settling in to her seat and waiting on the tarmac for 30 minutes, the captain announced that the plane was having mechanical problems. Everyone would have to deplane and wait back in the terminal until the plane could be repaired. Rita wasn’t about to wait so she raced back to her original flight and luckily was able to board … but her travel bag wasn’t with her. Before the flight took off she called her husband and explained her dilemma—that she would arrive in DC after hours with no business clothes to wear the next day and no place to shop. Even though she was clearly distraught, her husband seemed indifferent. He simply told her that it would be okay and not to worry. But Rita was worried. Maybe he was tired, she reasoned. Rita was upset, but how could he help from so far away?

Fortunately, Rita is a natural born problem solver and came up with a truly creative solution. She decided to go to the hotel and offer to “purchase” a hotel uniform worn by one of the women at the front desk—ifshe was lucky enough to find a 6 ft. tall woman working that evening.

She arrived at the hotel, walked up to the front desk manager and explained the bind she was in. Before she could finish her plea and ask the woman for the shirt off her back, the hotel manager said, “Oh, this must be for you,” and handed her two shopping bags: one from Nordstrom and one from The GAP.

When Rita got to her room and opened the shopping bags, she saw two complete outfits in her size, style, and colors. She was absolutely stunned to see these beautiful clothes ready to wear to her presentation the following morning. She called her husband and found out that after speaking to her, he immediately called a friend in DC and described the situation. The friend, a man by the way, left work, went shopping for Rita, and delivered the clothes to her hotel!

Talk about a husband coming to the rescue!

I often think about the community of people we need to make our presentations successful and to make our lives work well on a daily basis. In our programs, we ask our participants to identify the people in their lives who act as role models, task masters, and supporters. Time and time again, when push comes to shove, spouses always seem to come through. So hats off to Rita’s husband, Dennis Williams, and all the other husbands, wives, family, and friends who support presenters every day. It’s always nice to know that someone out there is covering your back.

Adopt a “Pay it Forward” Mindset for Your Next Company or Industry Presentation

This week is the National Speakers Association annual convention. While I did not attend this year’s event, it got me thinking about what it takes to present at a large scale annual meeting—whether for a company or an association/industry. The key, I believe, lies in good planning—the kind that results in delivering a unified message and creating an atmosphere of “can do” collegiality. The best annual meetings provide an immersion in the uniqueness of the company or industry culture, important teaching moments, and opportunities to connect with colleagues. But the pitfall of any annual meeting occurs when the meeting gets out of control at the planning stage and caves in to excess, namely too much on the agenda and too many boring presentations.

If you happen to be giving one of these presentations, you have a unique opportunity to do your company, industry, and colleagues a huge favor—to pay it forward, so to speak, by taking the road less travelled and being a “kinder, gentler” presenter. How? By resisting the urge you may feel to deliver too much information in a typical PowerPoint presentation, just like every other presentation that will be given during the meeting.

If you are one of the chosen few who will deliver a presentation at the annual meeting, give your audience something that is easy to digest and that will lighten their load. Deliver a presentation so well rehearsed that your authenticity shines though. Give them a hard-core message delivered with just the right amount of charm and confidence. And do it so well that they feel the power to do the same for others in their presentations. When you pay it forward, they pay it forward. Here a few tips to help you do so.

  1. Plan with the planners in mind: Before you start planning your presentation, find out the meeting’s overall theme and goal. Understand why you were chosen to present. Is there a specific message they want you to give? Ask questions to clarify your role and any goals the planners have for you. If possible, check in with more than one person so you are certain of everything. Once you complete your due diligence, then you can tailor your presentation to focus on just one important area.
  2. Cut, Cut, Cut: You are one person and one presenter. So there’s no need for you to tell the audience everything. Remember that people are there to learn from many different experts. No matter how much you believe your audience needs to hear everything from you, you’re just one vital piece of the puzzle. Therefore, keep your message short, simple, and focused, and always tie your remarks to the meeting’s overall goal.
  3. Speak to the highest denominator: This is an important event. People from all levels will be there listening to you. Even with the broad spectrum of people in attendance, always perform for the people whose standards are the highest rather than for your most complacent audience members. This is your moment to shine for your boss, your boss’s boss, and even his or her boss. These people expect a lot from you, so be sure to deliver.
  4. Step out of the PowerPoint Box: Yes, PowerPoint is helpful…it’s even cool. But how about not using PowerPoint…at all. Think about the endless possibilities of doing something different and unexpected, like a treasure hunt or a group game. If you must use PowerPoint, design it with color, images, and sound. Use lively video clips or interactive pieces to entertain, educate, motivate, and inspire.
  5. Build in audience participation and involvement: Deliver your message with a light and creative touch. No matter how big the group, you can still get them talking to each other by pairing them up and asking them to share stories or to brainstorm ideas. Use your sense of humor, even if it’s modest. Tell inspiring stories and use examples to drive the message home.

Annual company and industry meeting status quo can have a powerful impact on your performance. You could fall in line, do the same old boring PowerPoint, and ignore the greater needs of your audience; however, if you do, you miss a great opportunity to truly excite and inspire others to act in a positive way. It takes confidence to pay it forward, but when you do you set off a chain reaction. Suddenly everyone’s presentations are more passionate, more creative, and more engaging—and everyone wins.

The Top 3 Things that Stand Between Busy Professionals and Speech Preparation

No one wants to give a less than stellar business presentation, but that’s what sometimes happens to even the most well intentioned people. While they know they need to prepare for the presentation (and they even want to), other things get their time and attention, leaving speech preparation on the back burner. Here are the three top things that get in the way of speech preparation…and how to overcome them.

  1. Work: Studies tell us that Americans work the longest hours among all industrialized countries. This is what the American Dream is about—having the drive to work hard and succeed. But many professional don’t think of giving a presentation as real work; rather, they view themselves as subject matter experts who have to give a presentation as a means to an end. To alleviate this, turn the tables and think of your next presentation as part of your real job. You wouldn’t short-change the professional tasks you are trained for and paid to do, so don’t short-change your presentation skills either. They are real work.
  2. Time management: It is not unusual for professionals to work 50-60 hours per week. Additionally, according to International Data Corporation (IDC), a global provider of market intelligence, advisory services, and events for the information technology, telecommunications, and consumer technology markets, Americans spend 32.7 hours a week online—for both work and personal matters. No wonder making time for speech preparation can be so difficult. To successfully fit it in, practice in chunks. Make a list of all the meetings you have in a given week. Assign a presentation skill to practice for each meeting. For example, in your Monday morning staff meeting you could practice eye contact, while at your employee briefing you could practice gestures—and there’s always the dinner table! Remember that practice and preparation can be spread out and incorporated into other daily tasks and activities.
  3. Business Travel: More than 405 million business trips are taken in the U.S. annually. The packing, travelling to and from the airport, time in the air, and then doing business preclude having adequate time for speech preparation. Ironically, the reason for the business travel often involves one or more members of your team giving a presentation. Many people use their time in the air to create their PowerPoint™ slides, but this is also a great time to practice the various sections of your presentation and to memorize your opening, transitions, and final thought. When you arrive at your hotel room practice your entire presentation out loud at least three times.

Giving great presentations is essential for business success. When you can overcome the top three distractions that impede your presentation preparation, you can hone your public speaking skills for continued professional growth.

What typically gets in your way for speech preparation? Leave your comments here and I’ll address them in a future blog post.

Guest Blog: Lessons from Bethenny Frankel of The Real Housewives of New York City – How to Build Income

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Got Platform? Part 3 of a Three-part Series: IncomeGreenleaf Book Group is a publisher and distributor that specializes in the development of independent authors and the growth of small presses. Our publishing model was designed to support the independent author and to make it possible for writers to retain the rights to their work and still compete with the major publishing houses. Carly Willsie is an Assistant Consultant at Greenleaf where she handles the acquisitions process. In her current role, Carly reviews submissions for market viability and superior content, and works to identify books that will be great additions to Greenleaf’s respected line of titles. She also manages the Big Bad Book Blog and internal social media efforts.

The term “platform” is ubiquitous these days. We see it in the business world, hear it bandied about among authors, experts, and speakers, and we experience it in the social media landscape. This phenomenon isn’t accidental. Platform is a powerful concept that reflects the content, brand, positioning, credibility, audience, and intellectual property you develop. Your platform lives at the intersection of ideas, influence, and income—and your book’s success depends on it.

In this three-part series, we’ll share valuable information and resources to help you create, maintain and boost your platform. To learn more about Greenleaf Book Group’s platform development program, visitgreenleafbookgroup.com/platformdevelopment.

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Platform, Part 3: Income

Income. It’s the last piece in the platform development puzzle and the final brick on your path to success. It’s an absolutely essential function of your business and brand. It’s where your audience shows you the money, and it’s where all your idea-generating and influence-building pays off—literally.

Income is the ultimate product of great ideas, great content, and strong influence in the form of interaction and conversation among your audience. Income means monetizing your ideas and converting customers into closed leads. Great ideas combined with a powerful interaction strategy can lead to great business if handled correctly, as Bethenny Frankel of The Real Housewives of New York City fame has showed us over the past few years.

We usually think of The Real Housewives cast members as, well, housewives. And with a few exceptions, that’s mostly what they are—women who have the financial luxury to spend most of their days throwing catered dinner parties and gossiping with pricey cocktails in hand. Not many reality TV stars have made the leap from “personality” to true entrepreneur, but Frankel was able to use the show to build and promote her now-infamous Skinnygirl brand.

When Frankel first appeared on the show, she was the relatively “broke” housewife, a natural foods chef living in a 700 square-foot closet of an apartment and struggling to make rent. But she had an idea—a low-calorie margarita—and she used the exposure she received from the show to cultivate her influence and create a strong brand. Two years later, and she’s sold her Skinnygirl cocktail line to Beam Global for a price rumored to be around $120 million—an unheard-of number in the spirits marketplace for a single celebrity. Even though reality TV is often seen as a joke, Frankel is dead serious in her income-building. And now uber-rich.

You, too, can make income happen when you’ve built enough influence and interaction around your content and found your audience’s pain points, or points of interest. Check out our suggestions below to seamlessly and successfully make income a part of your platform-building experience.

1.  Diversify your offerings.  You’re going to want a diversified set of product offerings, or assets, to generate multiple streams of income—content, products, services, and programs. You can customize these for audience segments and areas of expertise. Below are a few specific examples of great income-generators:   

  • Speaking and presenting—keynotes, breakouts, or workshops
  • Book sales
  • Training sessions and facilitation
  • Affiliate marketing
  • Custom downloads from your website
Income
Income

Don’t be a one-hit wonder when it comes to generating salable content. Be dynamic. Not only does Frankel continue to market and support her claim to fame—her Skinnygirl margarita—she also offers health DVDs, several bestselling books, online personal training, shapewear, and dieting and cleansing products. All of this is, of course, in addition to her countless paid media and event appearances.

2Keep an open mind. A successful income strategy also means building partnerships and welcoming the right sponsorships, spokesperson opportunities, affiliate marketing, and anything else you can think of. Don’t be afraid to dive into new territory.

When Frankel was first approached by Bravo to join The Real Housewives cast, she refused for two months. However, she considered the influence-building potential of the show, and cites business exposure as the only reason she finally said yes, according to the Hollywood Reporter . Keeping an open mind not only allowed Frankel to launch her Skinnygirl line; it also earned her a spin-off show, Bethenny Ever After, which garners over a million viewers per episode.

3.  Facilitate the process. Make sure that your content is easily found and easily bought. Invest in a user-friendly and well-designed website to help facilitate and automate ecommerce. Don’t settle for a second-rate one, either—your online presence is going to be where your audience turns to learn about you, buy from you, and stay engaged with you.

 Remember that income is ultimately about selling more of less. It’s about the long tail. Sometimes it’s best to start by giving away valuable content. You’ll build trust and get people engaged. They’ll want more.

4. Repurpose. Ideas are valuable. Keep a list of your ideas for income-generating content and revisit it often. Just because someone might not be willing to pay for your product now doesn’t mean you’ll never be able to sell it. As your influence grows, you’ll be able to leverage more of your ideas into income-making opportunities.

A list is also a good idea because it will help you figure out ways to divide and repurpose your content assets. For example, you could turn your book or blog into a workbook or webinar series. Keep in mind that services and programs like speaking, training, and coaching have a higher perceived value and require higher pricing. You should focus on breaking into these worlds if you haven’t already.

Frankel was able to negotiate the astronomical purchase price of Skinnygirl because of her unique idea and powerful influence. Still, it took some time and some great opportunities for her to get there. The lesson for anyone who aspires to grow is that building a platform happens one “I” at a time—with ideas, interaction, and income. The more time you spend on each component, the better your platform will be and the stronger your income-generating opportunity.

The other idea to keep in mind is that in the end, you will be as successful as the quality of your platform. And the quality of your platform will determine your opportunities and income over time. As you focus on building your platform, think about Gary Vaynerchuk, Suze Orman, Bethenny Frankel, and other creative entrepreneurs that have transformed great ideas into influence and income. Each has mastered the three “I’s” and this mastery has resulted in a powerful platform.

For more information on the ins and outs of what a platform is and how to get started on developing one, check out parts 1 and 2 of Greenleaf’s platform development series, in which we discuss the necessities of great ideas and strategic influence. Want help expanding your influence and developing your expertise? Greenleaf offers a broad range of platform development services, including integrated brand strategy; keynote and presentation design; print and online product development; speaker reel and video production; social media strategy; and more. For a full list of what Greenleaf can do for you, visit www.greenleafbookgroup.com/platformdevelopment.

When Passion, Power and Perseverance Combine – You Get Melinda Gates

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Tracking the philanthropic activities of Melinda Gates is like watching an army of ants build their colony. Yet she is not just the queen; she is also a worker, taking on the roles needed to build the vision, implement the plan and change the world. If you ever think that everything going on in our world today is so bad that there’s nothing you could possibly do to spark change, look in the direction of Melinda Gates. She is the perfect antidote to that outlook. She turns doom, gloom and apathy on its head. As a powerful female role model and spokesperson for the projects and people who have benefited from her good works, she continues to inspire and uplift us. As a speaker she also gets it done. She speaks with passion and sincerity, and listeners are moved by the sheer scope of her vision and her can-do spirit. I talked about her personal power and communication style at length last year in this blog.

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What I find so endearing about Melinda, though, is that while she is a compelling speaker and philanthropist, she rarely seeks the spotlight. Quiet and thoughtful, she is content diligently working on the causes and initiatives that matter to her. If no more than a blip about her success appears in the media, so be it. She is the strong and silent leader—someone who can move an army of people with her mere presence.

I am also impressed that she’s not singularly focused on one cause. She has her hand in many projects, giving us the opportunity to see her in action in a variety of settings. While most people know that she and her husband Bill work in developing countries, focusing on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty, she also works hard at home to make sure local needs are addressed.

For example, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which she and her husband directly oversee, has been awarded LEED-NC (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for New Construction) Platinum certification from the United Stated Green Building Council, making it the largest, non-profit LEED-NC Platinum building in the world. Completed in the spring of 2011, the campus is located in downtown Seattle across the street from the Space Needle. It replaces an asphalt parking lot with a campus that returns more than 40 percent of the site back to green space via two-acres of living roofs and native plantings. At 639,860 square feet of occupied space, the project demonstrates how large-scale sustainable architecture can be delivered at the highest level.

In addition, their Foundation is also working with Starbucks to encourage local coffee drinkers to help King County public school teachers (the county where the Gates are located). King County Starbucks stores are now giving away $10 gift cards for DonorsChoose.org, an organization that helps teachers ask for money for classroom materials and equipment. People who pick up a DonorsChoose.org gift card will be able to go online and pick which school project they want to support. About 100,000 gift cards are expected to be distributed at King County Starbucks. The cards will be paid for by the Gates Foundation.

So from famine and poverty overseas to environmental concerns and education issues at home, Melinda Gates is one of our most inspiring women role models today. Her endearing style, unyielding certainty, and vision for what can change in our world have set the bar high for leaders everywhere…and for individuals too. So if you ever think your actions won’t have an impact, take a lesson from Melinda Gates. While you may not have billions of dollars for philanthropic generosity, you can rest assured that even the smallest ant can make a difference.

This blog is part of my Wednesday for Women blog series, where I feature stories, resources and information to help women gain greater influence, power, and confidence in their professional and personal life. Please enjoy these weekly Wednesday blogs and forward them to the powerful women in your life.

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Guest Blog: Lessons from Suze Orman - How to Influence and Connect

Got Platform? Part 2 of a Three-part Series: Influence Greenleaf Book Group is a publisher and distributor that specializes in the development of independent authors and the growth of small presses. Our publishing model was designed to support the independent author and to make it possible for writers to retain the rights to their work and still compete with the major publishing houses. Carly Willsie is an Assistant Consultant at Greenleaf where she handles the acquisitions process. In her current role, Carly reviews submissions for market viability and superior content, and works to identify books that will be great additions to Greenleaf’s respected line of titles. She also manages the Big Bad Book Blog and internal social media efforts.

The term “platform” is ubiquitous these days. We see it in the business world, hear it bandied about among authors, experts, and speakers, and we experience it in the social media landscape. This phenomenon isn’t accidental. Platform is a powerful concept that reflects the content, brand, positioning, credibility, audience, and intellectual property you develop. Your platform lives at the intersection of ideas, influence, and income—and your book’s success depends on it.

In this three-part series, we’ll share valuable information and resources to help you create, maintain and boost your platform. To learn more about Greenleaf Book Group’s platform development program, visit greenleafbookgroup.com/platformdevelopment.

Platform Part 2, Influence

Money is personal. Spilling your economic guts to anyone other than your spouse, partner, or family members is unheard of to most people. But not to Suze Orman. Orman, a financial advisor-turned-television host and bestselling author, listens to personal financial pain on a daily basis and gives empowering solutions for people in tough situations. It’s especially helpful in today’s economic climate. Her advice is often abrasive. She challenges her fans to make immediate proactive changes in their financial lives. And as creatures of habit, it’s never easy for us to make changes like these.

With her loud, in-your-face approach and established expertise, Orman’s reach extends to millions of people. They love her, and her Twitter community alone shows it, topping 1,100,000 followers. Her TV program, The Suze Orman Show, has been on the air for ten years and continues to be one of the most highly rated programs on CNBC. She’s also penned nine consecutive bestsellers and hosted the most successful fundraiser in the history of PBS. That’s powerful.

Everyone wants Suze’s advice. And when Suze talks, not only do people listen—they share what they’ve heard with others. She gets people talking, which helps drive word of mouth. It’s hard not to admire Suze’s ability to wield widespread influence and connect. And her path to platform success is worthy of study. It didn’t happen overnight. But she tapped into a deep need (personal financial advice) and transformed that into a brand—one that allows her to continue to capture people’s attention.

 

 If ideas are your foundation when it comes to building a successful platform,  influence is your most important tool. Without meaningful influence, great ideas can die. So you want to be sure to find your audience, cultivate your relationships through offline and online channels, and build a following.

Remember, influence is about capturing people’s imagination and emotion, their hearts and minds, and engaging them to share your ideas. It’s essential for your platform. Influence also allows you to amplify your message as it moves from person to person to group to larger networks. Here are four driving points behind building influence:

1. Provide great content.

We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again: You need to begin with a solid content strategy. You need content designed around a problem or pain point for your target audience, content that exists in different formats to help different types of learners. Orman’s audience needs financial advice. She provides it across several media: her website, TV, radio, social media. And Orman not only makes sure that her financial recommendations are top-notch, she also makes them in a way that’s unique and personable.

When you create consistently great content in different formats, you provide value and benefit to your audience and win mindshare. You get them talking. Eureka! That’s influence.

You can read about how to get started on creating content that people care about in part 1 of Greenleaf’s platform development series.

2. Help your audience share your content, online and offline.

People want to share. Sharing information is not only entertaining, it’s educational and gratifying, too. Use our natural tendency to share—your job is to connect with people and give them tools to share your message.

Your content should be designed to resonate and get people sharing. If it’s not worth their time, they won’t share it. And it’s not worth your time to create. So make it shareable, fun, different, or controversial.

It’s essential to have a diversified web presence. A clean, professional, well-designed, and easily navigated website experience is a necessity—but don’t stop there. Start blogging regularly and reach out to other bloggers in your arena. Consider doing a blog swap to build your readers. Maintain your social media presence on Facebook and Twitter, and make an effort to regularly post relevant information and interact with your followers. Making a webinar, podcast, or video series is a great way to share your content—and those media are usually the most viral.

According to a HubSpot survey, U.S. Internet users spend three times as many minutes on blogs and social networks than on email. Forty-six percent of people read blogs more than once a day. Is your content part of their conversation? Track your online influence by comments received, feedback given, number of likes, and the frequency of sharing among your readers, fans, and followers.

Face-to-face sharing is also a part of your influence. Offline, conversations happen following a presentation you give or an appearance you make. Always give them a (branded!) handout with your most valuable content—something that people will leave on their desks and discuss with their coworkers.

3. Do some sharing yourself.

Linking to videos and sharing links to notable content, even if it’s not your own, is low-hanging fruit you can do every day to create interaction and build up your influence. Show your followers that you care enough about them to share content that others create—use your influence for more than just a personal advertising tool, and it will, ironically, become one. Note that your brand and image alignment matter. So if you’re a health expert, make sure you look like the embodiment of health and that you’re sharing information about well-being.

Your fans will want to know a little about you, too. In return to her fans, who share very private information with her on a daily basis, Orman makes sure that she puts herself out there as well. On Suze’s “About Me” page of her website, viewers find a video—not the usual paragraph upon paragraph of description. The video not only gives viewers a sense of Suze’s expertise—it gives them a sense of her personality. She also has a highlighted section of her website devoted to “scrapbooks.” You’ll find her fans calling her “girlfriend” left and right.

Sharing notable content from others—in addition to the content you create on your own—will help you build influence and trust. You’re adding value, including people in your conversation, and building your credibility. You’re promoting great content. And you’re coming from a place of contribution. Your fans know that they can trust you to give them valuable information, and they’ll tell other people to use you as a resource.

4. Quantify.

Regularly quantify where you are in terms of influence. Analyze the number of online connections and offline contacts you have. It’s a good rule of thumb to measure where you are monthly or quarterly. Track the number of fans, followers, and page hits you have. This is especially important if you’re spending any money on ad campaigns. Make sure your ad spend is converting into influence.

A quick tool for measuring your influence is Klout Score. [http://klout.com/corp/kscore] Klout Score gives you a ranking based on a few different components, including the number of people who see your social media posts; the number of people who re-share your posts; and the relative influence of other people in your network. Our bet? Orman has a great Klout Score.

As you move forward to build influence, focus on setting goals and growing your networks exponentially. Your platform grows with each “like” and each mention you receive. Facilitate the process by providing great content, interacting with your audience, sharing relevant links, and measuring your status. Pay attention to those—like Vaynerchuk, Orman, and others—who have mastered the art of influence. And most importantly: have fun with your influence-building. What’s more exciting than sharing your ideas and making new friends?

Check in with us next week for part 3 of this series, where we’ll uncover how you can use the combination of great ideas and high influence to generate income.

Interested in getting a read on where you are in the development of your platform? Find out how you rank at MyExpertScore.com. It’s a free tool we’ve created to help you measure your current status by giving you a personal expert score. One you finish the test, we’ll give you additional strategies to take you to the next level. Give the test a try, and feel free to get back to us with any feedback!

Part 1 of a Three-part Series: Got Platform?

Guest Blog Part 1 of a Three-part Series:Greenleaf Book Group is a publisher and distributor that specializes in the development of independent authors and the growth of small presses. Our publishing model was designed to support the independent author and to make it possible for writers to retain the rights to their work and still compete with the major publishing houses. Carly Willsie is an Assistant Consultant at Greenleaf where she handles the acquisitions process. In her current role, Carly reviews submissions for market viability and superior content, and works to identify books that will be great additions to Greenleaf’s respected line of titles. She also manages the Big Bad Book Blog and internal social media efforts.

The term “platform” is ubiquitous these days. We see it in the business world, hear it bandied about among authors, experts, and speakers, and experience it in the social media landscape. This phenomenon isn’t accidental. Platform is a powerful concept that reflects the content, brand, positioning, credibility, audience, and intellectual property you develop. Your platform lives at the intersection of ideas, influence, and income—and your book’s success depends on it.

In this three-part series, we’ll share valuable information and resources to help you create, maintain, and boost your platform. To learn more about Greenleaf Book Group’s platform development program, visit www.greenleafbookgroup.com/platformdevelopment.

Platform, Part 1: Ideas

Entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk has appeared on everything from Ellen and CNN to NPR. He’s written two New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestsellers. And he has amassed almost one million Twitter followers. One million! He grew his family wine business from $3 million in annual revenue to more than $45 million in eight short years. At age thirty-five, Vaynerchuk operates a slew of businesses and even boasts a gaggle of fans that refer to themselves as “Vayniacks.” In short, he’s a walking billboard for what a concentrated platform can do for you.

Becoming a mega-expert like Vaynerchuk sounds incredibly appealing and, for those just getting started, equally daunting. So let’s break down where you should begin. A strong platform starts with strong ideas. Ideas—the content you create—are your foundation; they’re a major reason people will talk about you. Ideas are a form of currency that translates into value for your audience, and the beauty is that that value can translate into money for you.

Building valuable content that an audience will care about enough to use, share with others and, ideally, purchase, depends on four components: (1) finding your passion; (2) knowing your audience; (3) choosing an effective content strategy; and (4) creating solid, new content on a regular basis. Let’s take a look at these to help kick-start your content conquest.

1.  Find your passion. It‘s essential that you care about your topic. If you’re not engaged, your audience certainly won’t be. So choose a meaningful topic that keeps you curious, one you spend a lot of time thinking, writing, and talking about. Ideally, you’ll be passionate in an area where you’re already credentialed. If you’re a fashion designer or marketer who loves fashion, there’s a golden opportunity to create content on the subject of fashion. If you’re a professional magician who wants to create a platform in the world of deep sea diving, you’ll have to work a lot harder than the Jacques Cousteau types who are already in the water. Take your passion and create content around it. Keep it simple, fun, and engaging, and always look for ways to make it remarkable.

2.  Know your audience. The content you create must match your audience’s needs and interests. Be sure to conduct a thorough audience analysis before you begin developing content and interacting. Create demographic and psychographic profiles. You need to know the answers to these questions:  

  • Who are they?
  • What do they do
  • What do they struggle with?
  • What do they care about?
  • Who else do they admire?

Knowing what your competitors bring to the table is essential, too. Remember, you must differentiate yourself, and you should focus on filling a hole in the field.

For example, Vaynerchuk had the foresight to realize that e-commerce would grow exponentially, and he started winelibrary.com in 1997. He also quickly identified an empty spot in the wine-tasting world—non-fluffy, honest feedback. He started     making video wine reviews and spoke to his audience on their level, using terms like “sniffy sniff” and “oakmonster.” His reviews were soon reaching over 100,000 viewers per day. He filled a need in the lofty world of wine collecting with excellent, informed content in a guy-next-door voice.

3.  Decide on a content strategy. With your passion and audience in your pocket, now you need to decide how you will present your content. Will you do it through blogging, infographics, videos, podcasts, presentations, webinars, articles, a book, or something else entirely? A mix of these is likely the most effective way to present your content, and as you craft that mix it’s important to track what your audience responds to. How do they learn best? And what works especially well for your content? You can also look at your competitors—what content strategies are they using effectively?

You also want to figure out your short- and long-term goals and pin down who will create your content. Do you want a blog with one weekly post, or do you want multiple posts per week? What about videos? Are you planning to create your own content? Or do you have a reliable assistant or support team that is in tune with your message and can do much of the heavy lifting for you? Your answer to these questions might depend on whether you’re creating a platform for yourself or your business (or whether your “self” is your business). If you are developing your personal platform, it’s important that fans feel like they’re interacting with the real you—not your personal assistant. As literary agent Rachelle Gardner writes on her blog, “It’s harder than ever to attract people to books. The way to do it is increasingly through personal connection, and that means YOU, the author, making connections with your readers.”

Vaynerchuk took the time each week to record himself on camera for his (recently-retired) video blog, “The Daily Grape.” He was being himself for his fans. And if you look at his Twitter feed, it’s a stream of responses to his followers. No wonder people feel connected to him—they are.

4.  Create solid, new content on a regular basis. Make a schedule for yourself and stick to it. An editorial calendar is not just for newspaper editors. It helps keeps you focused and productive, and can help you envision and manage your workload. The sooner you get started, the better. The Content Marketing Institute provides a guide to starting an editorial calendar, pointing out that the calendar not only keeps you on track—it helps you think of ways to repurpose your content as well.  Finally, be sure to keep up with new developments in your field. Once you’re perceived as an expert, you need to remain one. The members of your audience need to know they can depend on you, first and foremost, for new information and ideas. Make it happen through consistently great content.

When passion and good ideas connect with an audience need through a well-thought-out content strategy, great things can happen. Think of Vaynerchuk. He took what he knew and loved—wine—and spoke to his audience in a unique and casual way, through a medium they responded to—vlogging. 

Vaynerchuk’s success all started with his content, and yours will too. The more content you create over time, the more your ideas become the fuel that powers your brand platform.

Check in with us next week for part 2 of this series, in which we’ll take a look at influence—that is, how to spread your ideas through interaction with your audience.

Interested in getting a read on where you are in the development of your platform? Find out how you rank at MyExpertScore.com. It’s a free tool we’ve created to help you measure your current status by giving you a personal expert score. One you finish the test, we’ll give you additional strategies to take you to the next level. Give the test a try, and feel free to get back to us with any feedback!

How to Assess Your Public Speaking Comfort Level

Nervousness and public speaking go hand-in-hand. And in all my years as a presentations skills coach, I’ve found that people’s anxiety tends to fall into one of four categories. These four levels reflect a speaker’s comfort level and confidence. Which one best describes you?

  • Level 1: Pressured and Petrified: People in this category tend to display the greatest signs of nervousness—visible blushing, perspiration, quivering voice, or shaking hands. They are extremely uncomfortable and deeply afraid, often to the point of paralysis. These individuals generally have little experience speaking to groups, but because of a recent promotion or increased job responsibilities, they are now expected to speak (i.e., the technician who has been moved into the team lead position or the customer service representative who now has to manage others and represent the department). These people have little desire to speak in public, but now are required to do so. With limited confidence they have a great opportunity for personal and professional growth.
  • Level 2: Hurried and Harried: These people deal with their fear and discomfort by racing through their material for one specific purpose—to get through it! They are usually familiar with their subject matter but rarely prepare or practice. They like to wing it. Many even believe that their “practice” happens while they are giving their presentation. As a result of their lack of preparation, they “hurry” through their presentation, talking too fast, shifting their weight, avoiding eye contact, and showing other physical signs of nervousness. The good news for this group is that with a few simple changes they can quickly increase their capacity and become more comfortable and effective.
  • Level 3: Surprised and Startled: These people have situational nervousness. They are fine in their regular day-to-day presentations, but if asked to perform out of their routine, they experience anxiety and discomfort. However, they typically don’t show their nervousness. In fact, their audience barely picks up on it, but the speaker still feels anxious. These speakers take the time to practice and are generally more prepared than most, but unusual situations cause them to revisit earlier bouts of nerves and agitation. They are often the managers who comfortably lead staff or division meetings, but when asked to speak at an all-hands meeting or at a conference, they become anxious. The good news for these speakers is that they already know how to be comfortable in front of one type of audience, so it’s just a matter of increasing their capacity so that they can be as comfortable in every new situation they encounter.
  • Level 4: Eager and Enthusiastic: These are the people who love to speak and do so with ease, taking advantage of every opportunity and stepping up at a moment’s notice. They enjoy the adrenalin rush that speaking provides and ride it to peak performance. These people may be great product evangelists, expert salespeople, senior leaders, marketing and public relations professionals, motivational speakers, and corporate trainers. They have already built a substantial capacity for comfort—and there is still room to grow.

What sets these four groups apart? It usually boils down to just two things: knowledge and experience. Level 4 speakers know what they’re talking about and give presentations frequently. These confident speakers know from experience that preparation and practice are the keys to high performance. They develop powerful content. They prepare, rehearse, and get out there over and over. They have taken the time to build confidence.

Whether you need to give a presentation at a low-key staff meeting for just a few or at a high profile conference for thousands, you can increase your capacity to adapt to the demands of the speaking situation and use your skills and experience to succeed. Every speaker—even you—has the potential to get there!

Want to Be a Better Public Speaker? Play with Your Kids

My husband and I celebrated our wedding anniversary in Hawaii last week and went to the beach every day. To me, swimming in a warm ocean, unlike the cold San Francisco waters, is one of life’s greatest pleasures. We spent the majority of our time swimming, snorkeling, and body surfing. But we also had plenty of time for my other favorite beach activity—people-watching. That’s when I discovered the link between public speaking and playing with your kids. We watched as young families arrived in colorful clothes and weighted down with beach gear. Like all of us do when we arrive at the beach, they laid out their towels, put up chairs and umbrellas, and carved out their space for the day. Then the parents turned their attention to the kids. They lathered them with sunscreen, laid out the snacks and emptied the beach toys. I saw one toddler covered in sun protection from head to toe—sun suit, hat, sunglasses, and even little boots to protect his feet.

Once the sunscreen was applied and the toys assembled, the kids began to play in the sand and dip their toes in the water. That’s when the parents took out their cameras to take pictures—lots and lots of pictures. And then the parents retired to their chairs to sit back and watch the kids play.

There’s nothing wrong with being a fussy parent (I know I was one), but I do see missed opportunities for enjoyment and family bonding when all you do is “fuss” and watch. After all, what are vacations for if not for bonding, closeness, and that all too brief special time that vacations provide to create wonderful experiences and lasting memories?

In my beach time observations I saw one model family. They arrived weighted down like all the others, the kids helping to carry and set up some of the gear. They set up shop, lathered with sunscreen, and did all the requisite fussing. Then the dad scooped up the baby and walked down to the ocean, ushering the other two toddlers who ran beside him. Then he scooped up everyone and headed into the surf. As the waves tumbled around his small brood he never stopped laughing, smiling, tussling, and encouraging. He made it fun and safe for his kids to play in the water. I couldn’t keep my eyes off the energy and joy of this man. And when the mom joined in the fun, he scooped her up too—at one point holding everyone and bouncing in the waves.

This kind of personal energy, leadership, and magnetism was compelling to witness, and in my musings I imagined that this dad was probably a magnanimous public speaker too. I realized in watching this dad that when someone knows how to “play” with their kids, they inherently know how to create trust. They are willing to give generously of their time, energy, and attention—and those are the same ingredients necessary to be a good speaker. Knowing how to create excitement, inspire others, and lead them in an experience—whether enjoying the ocean or supporting an idea—are the same traits.

So if you want to become a better public speaker, take the time to play with your kids.

What Makes Women Successful Business Owners?

Recently, I’ve noticed an increasing number of women leaving their corporate jobs in favor of starting their own small business. In one case, the woman was let go, and in several other cases, she left voluntarily. Regardless of why she ventured out on her own, one thing seems consistent: women make great entrepreneurs. Here are some interesting facts I came across from the National Women’s Business Council:

  • There are 7.8 million women-owned businesses in the United States.
  • Women-owned firms generate $1.2 trillion in total receipts.
  • Women-owned firms employ 7.6 million people across the country with a payroll of $217.6 billion. These employer firms have average receipts of $1.1 million.
  • Women-owned businesses make up more than half (52.0%) of all businesses in health care and social assistance.
  • The other top industries for women include: educational services (45.9% of all businesses are women-owned), administration and support and waste management and remediation services (37.0%), retail trade (34.4%), and arts, entertainment, and recreation (30.4%).
  • Industries with the lowest percent of women-owned businesses include mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction (15.0%), transportation and warehousing (11.4%), agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting (10.3%), construction (7.9%), and management of companies and enterprises (6.7%).

If you look at the industries where women business owners tend to gravitate—healthcare, social assistance, education, administration, retail, and the arts—you can see a glaring trend. Women do well in industries that are communication based.

Surprising? Not really. Women are, by nature, strong communicators. They know how to build relationships and create strong teams, and they believe that teams are important. No wonder they do so well in fields that require fine-tuned communication skills.

Additionally, the Small Business Administration has reported in recent years that women-owned businesses are far outpacing all other businesses in terms of growth. To me, that means women are choosing businesses that play to their strengths and their passion and are putting their all to making it a success.

As a female business owner myself, I’m obviously happy by these findings. But I think we can do even more. Yes, women are choosing business ownership because they want more control in their life—they want a way to work and stay productive without having to sacrifice family time. But what if they didn’t have to make that choice? What if the fact that women held only 14.4% of Fortune 500 executive officer positions weren’t true? What if women held more than the measly 15.7% of Fortune 500 board seats? And what if women held more than 2.6% of Fortune 500 CEO positions? I believe, as does Harvard Business Review, that having more women in top positions ultimately leads to greater overall success. Why? Because with women participating, a group’s “collective intelligence” rises.

So women, if you’ve ever dreamt about starting your own business, know that you have some natural tendencies that will contribute to your success. And if you’re one who enjoys the corporate culture, push on to make your voice heard in the executive level. Whichever path you choose, know that the business world needs your expertise, your passion, your communication skills, and your unique female success traits.

This blog is part of my Wednesday for Women blog series, where I feature stories, resources and information to help women gain greater influence, power, and confidence in their professional and personal life. Please enjoy these weekly Wednesday blogs and forward them to the powerful women in your life.

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How to Be a Great Woman Leader

In 2005, a year-long study conducted by Caliper, a Princeton, New Jersey-based management consulting firm, and Aurora, a London-based organization that advances women, identified several characteristics of women leaders. They found that when it comes to leadership, women are stronger than men in several areas. For example, women…

  • Are more assertive and persuasive
  • Have a stronger need to get things done
  • Are more willing to take risks
  • Are more empathetic and flexible
  • Possess stronger interpersonal skills
  • Can “read” situations better
  • Make those they lead feel more understood, supported, and valued

Since few people are “natural born leaders,” almost all great leaders—women or men—have had to hone their leadership skills in order to make the greatest impact. And while women do have some natural leadership traits, it’s how well you develop those traits that mark your true leadership ability. 

So if studies indicate that there are particular traits women leaders possess, perhaps it’s time to look in the mirror and assess yourself. If you’re ready to step up to a leadership role, here are a few questions to consider:

Who do you admire? Asking yourself this question is a good place to begin because it helps you identify the characteristics of great women leaders, and because studies show that the characteristics and qualities you admire in others are often latent in you. When I work with executive women, coaching them on communication and presentations skills, I always ask this question because it gives us a reference point and a role model. It also helps us see their potential. So make your list and identify the characteristics. That’s your starting point.

How do you assess your skill level? Once you have identified the characteristics of those you admire, assess yourself against these traits and sort that list into three buckets, “Strengths,”  “Average Skill Areas” and “Development Needs.”

What skills do you want to develop? In reviewing your list, select two characteristics you’d like to work on. They could be from any of your three buckets—strength, average skills area, or development need. Investigate options for learning, coaching, and skill development. If the area seems too big to tackle all at once, use the “Swiss cheese” method and decide how you can poke small holes in the challenge. For example, you may not be able to afford an executive coach but perhaps you can read a book on leadership.

With women holding only 14% of leadership roles in Fortune 500 companies, now is the time for more female leaders to come forth. So no matter what your leadership aspirations are, take the time to hone your leadership skills. We want YOU (yes you!) to lead!

This blog is part of my Wednesday for Women blog series, where I feature stories, resources and information to help women gain greater influence, power, and confidence in their professional and personal life. Please enjoy these weekly Wednesday blogs and forward them to the powerful women in your life.

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Looking for a Mentor, Consultant, or Coach? Here are the 3 top things to look for

For most people, hiring a mentor, consultant, or coach is a tough decision. And for women it can sometimes be even tougher. After all, you’re hiring someone to help you look at all aspects of yourself. You want someone to help you address professional and personal challenges so you become stronger, more skilled, more strategic, and just plain better in some way. Whoever you hire is going to see the real you, flaws and all, and that can be scary on many levels. So how do you choose the right person to help you? What are your criteria? How should you evaluate the person? What’s your checklist?

The foundation of any relationship, especially for women, is trust. While trust is certainly important for men as well, women seem to seek it sooner in the relationship. As such, women often allow their “women’s intuition” or “gut instincts” about a person to shape their decision of whether to work with them…and they do so on the first phone call.

Whether you’re a woman looking for a mentor, consultant, or coach, or you’re a woman who works in one of these roles, following are the top three keys for building a trusting relationship during the first interaction.

  • Someone who takes his/her time with you. Obviously, the initial phone call with anyone is much like a sales call. But those consultants who focus on building trust are able to guide the conversation in such a way that it doesn’t sound or feel like a sales call. These people take their time, ask focused questions, really listen to the answers, and encourage the prospect to go deeper into the conversation. The dialog feels natural, not like an on-the-spot interview.
  • Someone who uses a neutral tone of voice. People who have a sense of tone—who know how to control their voice—naturally come across as more trusting. Using a neutral tone means the person’s voice is responding neither too strongly nor too lightly. Responding too strongly often makes it sound like the person is overbearing, while responding too lightly makes the person sound disinterested. Controlling your vocal tone so it’s deep, balanced and even puts listeners at ease.
  • Someone who is giving of information rather than guarded. Think of this as the difference between offering facts versus offering insights. While knowing such things as how long the consultant has been in business and what types of people he or she works with is important, that kind of information doesn’t always lead to trust. Real trust comes from sharing insights, personal examples, and emotional stories that are relevant to the prospect. The insights don’t have to go into great depth and detail, but they should highlight the quality of the consultant’s expertise.

If trust is the basis for an effective mentoring, consulting, or coaching relationship, then the selection process is indeed very personal. In other words, you can’t hire someone simply because of their experience. And even though it is important to review the person’s references and track record, what is more important in the end is to trust your interaction and your gut instincts. If trust hasn’t been established prior to your working together, you need to pay attention to that. Trust is not a “nice to have.” It’s an essential element for you to have a productive relationship that leads to positive and lasting change.

This blog is part of my Wednesday for Women blog series, where I feature stories, resources and information to help women gain greater influence, power, and confidence in their professional and personal life. Please enjoy these weekly Wednesday blogs and forward them to the powerful women in your life.

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Blog Carnival Today! Sales Coaching: Top Tips for Increased Productivity

 As you know, every once in a while we enjoy hosting a Blog Carnival. The “carnival” gives our readers a unique opportunity to gain valuable knowledge from numerous authors all in one convenient spot. Today’s offering features top bloggers in their fields who offer timely and thought-provoking tips on every aspect of sales coaching. Whether you’re a sales manager or a salesperson, the information presented by the expert bloggers in our Blog Carnival will broaden your understanding of this important topic. As an added benefit, you may discover new blogs to follow and develop new professional relationships.

I highly recommend that you spend time learning more about each of our talented bloggers. They have a lot of valuable information to share.

Thank you to all our contributors!

The Secret to Sales Productivity: Customer Data Ginger Conlon - 1to1Media The most productive sales people are those with the most current, accurate customer data.

The One Tip that Could Significantly Impact Your Productivity Mark Hunter – The Sales Hunter Building a Sales Team That Manages Itself

Execution Based Coaching Tibor Shanto – The Pipeline Effective sales coaching process needs to be based on two pillars of sales success.

How to Add Value to Your Sales Offering Dave Kurlan – Understanding the Sales Force A look at how to sell and build value.

Improve Sales Performance with 3 “Art of Sales Management” Functions Dan McDade - PointClear Sales managers have six basic jobs and they generally fail at  three of them.

5 Ways to Sell More by Getting Organized Craig Klein – Sell, Sell, Sell! Time management techniques that you need to implement.

Three Tips to Boost Sales Productivity Michael W. McLaughlin – Consult This Sometimes the shortest path to improved productivity is to eliminate what no longer serves you well.

How To Turn Your Salespeople Into Order Takers Kristin Zhivago - Revenue Journal Learn how your closing rate can average 90%.

Does the Sales Model Do What We Need It To Do Sharon Drew Morgan – Sharon Drew Morgan’s Blog What exactly is “sales” and how must it shift to keep up with our global economy?

Sales Management Math: The Sales Coaching Formula Bill Eckstrom - EcSELL Institute Sales Leadership Blog Examining the Sales Performance Equation™.

Sales Coaching: Top Tips for Increased Productivity Drew Stevens PhD – Stevens Consulting Group Exploring the most important attributes of a sales coaching relationship.

Productivity Tips from the Field Tim Rohrer – Sales Loudmouth Some thoughts about how youth soccer skills can improve productivity in the sales department.

Sales Management, It’s About Inspecting The Process, Not Transactions Dave Brock – Partners in Excellence Sales managers must focus on managing the process! Learn why…

How the Whole Organization Can Help Sales Management Increase Productivity Heather Rubesch – Savvy B2B Marketing Here are a number of productive themes that make sales organizations more successful.

Building a Sales Team That Manages Itself Ken Thoreson – Your Sales Management Guru The good news: It is possible to turn that dream of a self-managed, high-performance sales team into reality.

The Art of Selling – In Person and Cyberspace Katherine Winkelman – Gioia Company, LLC Learn how selling is an art from someone who sells art.

Can Public Speaking Be an Enjoyable Experience?

For most people, giving a presentation—whether something formal to the board or something casual to a community group—is a stressful experience. And as we all know, too much stress can contribute to health problems and impede a person’s ability to live a robust life. The American Institute of Stress reports that some surveys show 75 to 90 percent of visits to primary care physicians are for stress-related complaints. And according to the National Women’s Health Information Center, the effects of stress on women’s physical and emotional health can range from headaches to irritable bowel syndrome. Fortunately, there is a way to make public speaking less stressful and something you actually look forward to. Making public speaking enjoyable comes down to being in control of yourself and your environment. The more control you feel you have, the less stress you’ll experience in any situation. Granted, there are always some things you can’t control, like the weather, but there are key things you do have a say on. Here are the top four for presenters.

  • Your Content – Obviously, if you’re writing your presentation’s content you have a great degree of control over it. But merely writing the words and confidently owning the words are two different things. That’s why practice is paramount before delivering your presentation. When it comes to practice, I like the “Think It Through, Talk it Through, Walk It Throughmodel. Here’s how I do it: Once the content is set, I think it through when I’m washing the dishes, taking a shower or driving my car. I talk it through when I’m out for a walk or bouncing a ball. And I walk it through in full dress at least three times with all my equipment, props and aids. For those important presentations, I recommend that you schedule three to five practice sessions well in advance of the event and take them seriously. If you find this difficult and need support or “tough love,” arrange for a colleague or friend to join you. It’s not as easy to cancel a “meeting” you have scheduled with a colleague—so let this small tip help you practice.
  • Room Prep – How many times have you arrived just in time to deliver your presentation, only to find out that the room isn’t set up, the LCD projector isn’t working, and your handouts aren’t photocopied? Now you’re scrambling trying to pull everything together at the last minute. Talk about stress! I advise that you make it a rule to be at your presentation site at least one hour early. Even if your presentation site is simply the conference room next door, at least peak your head over well in advance to make sure everything is ready for you. Don’t assume someone else will do it, even if others have typically handled it in the past. Ultimately, if things aren’t ready, you look bad; therefore, control the situation before it controls you.
  • Your Audience – While you can’t always control who will be in your audience or what kind of mood they’ll have that day, you can control your audience’s first impression of you. One advantage of being at your presentation site early is that you’ll be able to greet your audience members as they arrive. That physical contact of a handshake and your greetings and small talk will help put you and your audience at ease. You’ll no longer be talking to the people from the marketing department whom you’ve had limited contact with; you’ll be talking with Jack, Lori, Raj, and Donna—people you’ve personally met and shared a story or two with. Talking with people you know is much more enjoyable than talking to strangers.
  • Food – Chances are you’ve been to a workshop or long meeting where the supplied afternoon snack consisted of cookies and brownies. While tasty, this traditional mid-day fare is the last thing the presenter or audience needs to stay alert. If a snack will be provided during your presentation, arrange that it consist of fruit, whole grains (crackers, bagels, etc.), and water. Food that provides actual nourishment and slow releasing carbohydrates will help everyone stay attentive and on task with your message.

Being in control of yourself and your environment plays a big role in how stressful or enjoyable your public speaking experience will be. Manage these two critical areas and you’ll be a healthy and strong presenter who can control anxiety, connect with your audience, and find joy in every public speaking opportunity.

This blog is part of my Wednesday for Women blog series, where I feature stories, resources and information to help women gain greater influence, power, and confidence in their professional and personal life. Please enjoy these weekly Wednesday blogs and forward them to the powerful women in your life.

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Keys to Developing Presentation Content for Women

No matter what industry you’re in or what type of presentations you give, chances are you have women in your audience. With 69% of American women in the workforce, the female presence in business is everywhere. Women give and listen to presentations, make buying decisions, lead groups to action, and influence companies worldwide. Therefore, to successfully present to this powerful audience segment, you need to know how to relate to women in every presentation you give. As a public speaking coach and owner of a presentation skills training company, I give and listen to presentations every day. So I have a unique perspective on this topic. I know what works from a technical standpoint, and I know what works from a audience standpoint. To that end, I offer these three tips for developing your content for a female audience. (Note: while these suggestions apply universally—to both men and women—the tips highlighted have a higher receptivity in women).

1. Women appreciate and respond well to stories.

It’s no secret that women love a good story. No wonder 55% of all fiction books sold are to women. Knowing this, it’s surprising how many presentations I hear that are overloaded with facts, statistics, and dry information—with no stories whatsoever.

To connect with the women in your audience, stories are a must. Realize that not every story has to be about you or your company. You can use stories that are in the public domain or stories you’ve heard from others. You can also use metaphors and analogies that relate to things women typically respond to, like family, food, or travel. As long as the point of the story builds upon or relates to your topic, it’s a valid story to use. So as you plan your content, make sure you focus on stories as often as you focus on facts.

2. Women want to participate and feel involved.  

Women enjoy feeling a part of the group. Women yearn for inclusion, for connections, and for relationships. Therefore, find opportunities to create ways for women to get involved in your presentation. You can suggest a “pair and share” activity, ask rhetorical questions, organize a group activity, or simply elicit feedback often.

The key, however, is to really want and value the involvement. Simply garnering participation at key points in your presentation but not making that participation meaningful to the experience, or not using or validating the information that is offered, sends the message that you really don’t care. So gain involvement and use what’s been offered. Your message will resonate stronger with your female audience if they feel they had a part in shaping it.

3. Women are keen to visual images.

Visual images are important for any presentation. In my experience, women respond to visuals that are more integrated, complex, and open to interpretation.  Unlike stereotypical visual concepts, such as men like images that are hard, sleek, and cold, and women like images that are soft, fuzzy, and warm. Women enjoy and are stimulated by images that are more subtle and less prescribed.  

One example of this is the Andrew Wyeth painting Christina’s World. In it, a woman is lying in a field, looking at a house. The painting’s message is not definitive. The woman depicted could represent someone distraught, forlorn, or forgotten. Or she could be hopefully reaching toward home—to that place of belonging and family love. Or she could have simply tripped and fallen. Paintings like this carry a degree of complexity and uncertainty that force people to interpret the image based on their own experiences. Women are comfortable with that complexity where there are multiple interpretations—no right or wrong. So to create powerful visual content for women, choose images that evoke a story.

Stories, participation, and powerful images – these are the three factors that are important for any presentation, but are especially so for a female audience. Keep these concepts in mind as you plan your next presentation and you’ll be one step closer to connecting your message with this powerful segment of the business community.

This blog is part of my Wednesday for Women blog series, where I feature stories, resources and information to help women gain greater influence, power, and confidence in their professional and personal life. Please enjoy these weekly Wednesday blogs and forward them to the powerful women in your life.

Sign up for our monthly newsletter to receive valuable tips, techniques and updates on the latest news and events from DeFinis Communications.