Today is Mother's Day so I am
reprinting a 2010 blog post about my Mom and all the wonderful things I have learned
from her.Here they are, in random
Snacking is good.Mom loves to snack and had a simple rule for
my brother and I when we were growing up: as long as you brush your teeth, it's
ok to eat potato chips, ice cream and chocolate.When we played outside, Mom would call us in
to give us ice cream.And during our
marathon Scrabble sessions, there was always a snack break or two.No snacks were forbidden and no food was
"evil," so we developed a healthy relationship with food.And all that teeth-brushing must have worked
because I have never had a cavity in my life!
Talking to strangers is ok.Mom talks to anyone, especially in the
grocery store.All it takes to start a
conversation is an observation about the size of the iceberg lettuce or shared
commiseration about the long checkout line—and then the conversation is off and
running.Today it would be called
Dollars are stretchable.Growing up, we did not have a lot of
money.Mom managed to keep a family of
four afloat on very, very little money.She did this by working hard and spending only on necessities.And even when we didn't have a lot, she
enjoyed volunteering at church to make food baskets for people who had less than
we did.She made sacrifices for us; in
fact, I don't recall her ever buying anything for herself.We often joke that we should send her to
Washington, D.C. to help the government balance the budget.
Coupon clipping is an art.Mom checks the sale papers and clips coupons
religiously.Then she calls and tells me how much money she
saved in the store.I expect to get a
phone call from the police one of these days, informing me that they've arrested
her because she saved so much on one item that the store had to pay HER for it.
Projects can be fun.Organizing the file cabinet? Unpacking
boxes?Cleaning out the basement? Call
Mom.She loves doing work around the
house especially if she gets to use the paper shredder or go to the dump (or
"transfer station," as it's called in my town).During her last visit, she helped me organize my office closet, which had
been so crammed with stuff that I hated opening it.It took hours.And when I inevitably got tired of doing it,
looked at all the junk that we had piled on the floor and the desk and said "I
don't want to play this game anymore," Mom said "it's ok, we're almost done" and
kept me going.Now everything is in its
place and properly labeled and I love opening the closet. And some of the neighbors want to rent her out
to help with their projects.
Humor helps.Mom always has a positive attitude and loves
a good laugh.She loves the Pink Panther movie and recently laughed
hysterically at the dance scene in Johnny
English, a spoof on spy movies starring Rowan Atkinson (from the "Mr. Bean"
series).We played the scene over and
over, just to make her laugh more.She
will be delighted to know they are releasing a sequel.She also has the unfortunate habit of
laughing whenever I am up on a chair, taking a box down from the closet – I
don't know why.She is supposed to be
holding the chair for me and instead, she starts giggling just as I'm trying to
lift a heavy box and then of course, I
start laughing… luckily, no one has gotten hurt…
Simple things can make you happy.Mom doesn't need a "spa day" or a meal at
a fancy restaurant to be happy.She is
what we fondly call "low maintenance."She enjoys the little things – like watching an old movie starring Robert
Taylor or Joseph Cotton (extra points if it's set during World War II), going
grocery-shopping at the Shop-Rite store near my house, eating ice cream outside
on a warm day and of course, eating a Hershey's chocolate bar.
Complaining is not helpful.Not complaining is easy when life is
easy, but Mom never complained even when life got hard.When family members were sick or even when my
father died, Mom didn't complain or ask, "why me?" She just kept going forward,
with a strong spirit, a smile and a desire to help other people.I'm still learning that lesson.
A few weeks ago, I received a
big envelope from Mom in the mail.Inside were packages of one of my favorite candies – the dots of colored
sugar stuck to long strips of paper.(Yes, you get some of the paper stuck in your teeth when you eat them,
but that's half the fun.) She knows that I couldn't find them locally, so she
looked for them on one of her grocery trips and sent them to me.
I'll be seeing Mom for
Mother's Day.What am I bringing her?
Flowers? A gift certificate for a massage? Nope.I'm bringing her all my love – and chocolate
brownies.Thanks, Mom, and I love you.
Whether I am coaching an entrepreneur in Connecticut, an executive in Italy or a project manager in Thailand, there are three main presentation skills issues that I see over and over:
1. Lack of Confidence
The first area that I work on with most clients is overcoming this confidence deficit. People say, “Who am I to get up in front of this group and talk? They are not going to be interested in what I have to say. There are smarter people in the room than I am. Why am I doing this? I do not feel like I have much to offer.”
This lack of confidence undermines everything about the presentation from practicing to delivery to what happens if someone asks you a question that you haven’t prepared for.
2. Unclear Message
The second issue that I find that people face very often is not being clear about their point or their message. What are you there to say or share? Can you do a data dump of everything you know about this topic? Probably not, because it will put your audience to sleep and take you over your time limit.
You have to be clear about your message. What is the one thing you want people to remember from the conversation? What is the newspaper headline or billboard? And your message must be tailored to your specific audience.
3. Insufficient Practice
The third issue that I see is people not practicing their presentation. I find that people do not practice as much as they should and as much as they could. Also, they do not practice in the right way.
Most people belong to the “wing it” school of practice. I ask, “Do you practice?” and they say, “Well, not really, I have so many other things to do.”
So they just “wing it” and then get frustrated when they don’t perform as well as they’d like, which just confirms their misguided and negative view of their public speaking ability.
You have to realize that if you practice in the right way, you will become more effective and therefore, more confident. And if it is a new presentation, high-stakes, in front of a new audience or on a topic you have not spoken about before, you need to practice more than you normally would.
“Practice”does not mean you just sit at your laptop and flip through your slides if you have them. It means you actually stand up in a room (as similar to the real one you as you can get), say the words out loud and time yourself.
This is not in order to memorize your presentation word for word, but to become so comfortable with your material, your transitions, and your timings that you come across as comfortable, confident and smart. You are able to be in the moment with your audience.
The good news is that these three issues are not insurmountable. With focus, coaching and practice, you can overcome them and improve your confidence, influence and success through effective presentation skills.
When you give a presentation, it is important to “know your
audience” – but what does that mean?
In order to tailor your presentation to the audience and
make it easier for them to follow, you have to understand as much as you can
about their background, how they like to receive information and what questions
they might have.
If you know the people you’re presenting to and have
presented to them before, that can make
it easier because you know what they’re interested in and what questions they
But if you’re presenting to a group of people that you don’t
know, such as colleagues from different parts of the business or remote
customers, you may not have a lot of specific information about them.
Do what you can to research and gather data about them. Talk
to people who have presented to this audience before. For example, talk to your
customer service staff and ask about some of the issues that come up.Talk the sales people to get an insight into
what’s important to these customers.
Talk to a few of the audience members yourself.Explain that you are preparing your
presentation and ask what questions they have or what they’d like to know about
If you research your audience, to the extent possible, you
will be in a better position to customize your presentation so they remain
interested and engaged.
The pause is a powerful, though underutilized, presentation tool.
There are several reasons why pauses are effective in presentations.First, pauses give your audience a chance to
think about and absorb what you just said.Pausing also gives you a chance to breathe properly.
Pauses can also help you eliminate “ums” and “ahs” that tend to creep into
your presentation when you are not sure what’s coming next.If you replace your “ums” and “ahs” with a
pause while you think of what to say next, you will sound more confident and
the audience won’t be distracted.
Additionally, pauses convey confidence – powerful people pause.They have so engaged the audience that people
are waiting eagerly for their next words.
How long should you pause? Enough that you can catch your breath and the
audience can absorb what you’ve just said, but not so long that they will think
you’ve forgotten what to say next. Keep in mind that it will feel longer to you
than it does to the audience - record yourself so you hear long it sounds.
And if you smile confidently when pausing for a few seconds, the audience will
see that it’s just a pause and that you didn’t lose your place. If you do it
well, they won’t even be conscious that you’re pausing and it will just be a
natural part of your presentation.
The next time that you have to give a presentation, try pausing rather
than rushing from one sentence to the next - you’ll become a more powerful and
Someone in a recent presentation skills training program
asked, “How do I project my voice and also, project authority?”
It's a great question because your voice is an important part of your presentation and
should communicate that you’re confident, knowledgeable and engaging.
Here are 7 tips for projecting authority using your
In order to project your voice, breathing is crucial.The more that you can breathe deeply and support
the breath from your core and diaphragm -- as opposed to taking shallow breaths
from your chest - the more you can support your voice and project it.
Shouting can offend your audience and leave you with a
sore throat, laryngitis or vocal cord damage.Projecting your voice means supporting it with breath from your diaphragm
and core so that your voice sounds strong and supported rather than
high-pitched and breathy.
Used correctly, a microphone make it easier for the
audience to hear and understand you, even while you are speaking at your normal
volume.Practice using it so you will be
comfortable with it in front of an audience.
presenting over the phone, avoid the speakerphone
A speakerphone will pick up all the background noise in
the room and make it harder for the audience to hear you clearly.Use a headset or hand-held phone rather than
a speakerphone, if possible, so it can easily pick up your voice without you
having to shout.
If you stand up, you automatically have better posture and
it’s easier to breathe fully and project your voice.You sound more awake and energized and are
less likely to slouch and cut off your air supply.
“ums” and “ahs”
If you have a lot of “ums,” “ahs” and pause words, you don’t sound authoritative
– you sound tentative and unsure.Eliminating those pause words will help you sound like you know what
you’re talking about.
“Uptalk” is when you voice goes up at the end of every
sentence, so every sentence sounds like a question, as in, “Welcome? My name is
Beth? I will present the third-quarter results to you?” Updalk makes you sound
hesitant and timid.Be mindful of how
you speak, and particularly how you end sentences.End with your voice pitch staying the same or
going down slightly, so the audience knows you are making a statement rather
than asking a question.
If you follow these 7 tips, you will make able to use your
voice to project authority so your audience will listen to what you have to
Gilda Bonanno is a speaker, trainer and coach who helps entrepreneurs, small business owners and corporate professionals improve their presentation and communication skills so they can become more successful.
She achieves these results by combining her extensive business experience with a talent for improvisational performance and the conviction that with the right training and practice, everyone can become an effective communicator.
Gilda's blog includes tips and techniques for improving your skills.