Monday, December 28, 2009

The Humor Project

Could you use a laugh right now? Check out - it's a website dedicated to humor where you'll find humor quotes, interviews, articles and lots of fun information.

Joel Goodman and Margie Ingram created the Humor Project in 1977 as the first organization in the world to focus full-time on the positive power of humor. Their mission is "to make the world happier, one smile at a time." They even hold an annual International Humor Conference! In June 2010, it will be in Lake George, NY. I haven't been to one yet, but I hope to attend in the future.

As an improv comedy performer, I've seen firsthand the power of laughter - I hope you have fun exploring their site and also finding your own sources of laughter!

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Questions to Ask When You're Presenting

by Gilda Bonanno

Lately, I've been hearing from a lot of people who have been asked to present at a meeting for a different department or group. Essentially, they're told (by phone or email), "be there at 1 pm to talk for a few minutes about your project." That's not enough information.

If you're asked to present, here are the questions that you should ask the organizer to ensure that you convey a message that is useful and appropriate to that audience:

• Who is in the audience? What is the purpose of the meeting? How many people, what is their background and what is their level of experience and knowledge about my topic? What have they been told about me and my topic? Who is introducing me? (send them an intro)

• How much time do I have to present? What comes before and after my presentation?

• Do I need slides, handouts or other visuals? Who is responsible for creating them? (I've seen presenters try to deliver a slide deck that they've been handed five minutes before – trust me, that doesn't work).

• Where am I presenting? What is the space like? How big is it, am I standing, sitting or behind a podium? Am I expected to use a microphone?

• What is my goal? What do you want to happen as a result of my presentation? Do you want me to:
**Inform the audience so they know
**Educate so they can do
**Convince so they believe
**Entertain so they can enjoy
**Inspire so they will act

• Why did you ask me? Sometimes the truth is that no one else would do it, but often, it's because you have a specific background or particular knowledge. For example, a program for a global company might start with a presentation by a senior leader who had experience working in the U.S., Asia and Europe.

The answers will help you convey a useful and effective message – which is a goal that you and the meeting organizer share.

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Handling a Pizza Crisis

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

Recently, I ate at one of my favorite pizza restaurants. The manager, Carlos, told me the story of the crisis he had faced the previous evening. It was a weeknight evening, the restaurant was crowded and things were going great - and then the pizza oven stopped working.

Troubleshooting didn't work, the oven's manual didn't have the answers nor did the senior manager when Carlos called him at home. The corporate head office wasn't any help, either. Carlos called a repair technician, but it was going to take a while for him to get there.

A crowded pizza restaurant + no pizza oven = catastrophe.

What could Carlos do? He called his team together and they made a game plan. The wait staff explained to people who had ordered pizza that pizza was not available and asked if they could order something else. Carlos went table to table apologizing and listening to customers. Some got angry - one couple eventually left - but everyone else eventually took it in stride and ordered something else. Most people realized that it was only a minor inconvenience.

Finally, the electrician got the oven to work at 3 AM. Carlos said he learned a lot about his team that night as they made the best of a bad situation. He learned who was a team player and who crumbled under the pressure.

I've blogged before about managing a crisis (see June 23, 2009 post, How Do You Handle a Mini-Crisis? ) and though both of these examples involve restaurants, the same principles apply in any situation where you have to deal with an unexpected problem.

So think about it - what do you do when the pizza oven stops working? How does your team respond to an unexpected crisis?

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Saturday, December 5, 2009

How to Network at Holiday Parties

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

'Tis the season for holiday parties! Whether you're looking for a job or just looking to make contacts in your field, holiday parties are a great way to build your professional network. And networking is really just another form of communication - so here are five guidelines for how to communicate/network successfully at holiday parties:

1. Have a Plan
Before you decide to attend an event, focus on your purpose for attending. Is there anyone in particular that you'd like to meet, or information that you are looking to gather? Will you share with people that you are in the market for a new job, or are looking for new clients? Having a plan will make it easier for you to focus your attention and make it more likely that you will be successful.

2. Listen
Good networkers listen more than they talk. Resist the urge to dominate the conversation with tales of your professional prowess or your favorite (and lengthy) holiday anecdote. Ask open-ended questions; these questions often begin with "how" or "what" and require more than a "yes/no" answer. And then actually listen to the answers. Demonstrate that you are listening by your non-verbal communications, for example, by making eye contact.

3. Everything in Moderation
Whether it's sponsored by your company or the local professional association, a holiday party is not the place to sample all the free booze you can swallow or stuff yourself with the free shrimp. You are there to meet and greet people and you can do that best when you are sober and focused on people, not the bar or buffet table. In fact, I recommend that you have a snack before you go to the party so you're not starving (which helps if you're dieting, too).

4. Be Confident
If you hate networking and are uncomfortable schmoozing with people, recognize that many others feel just as uncomfortable as you do. Reach out to them and they'll be grateful – and you may just make a great professional connection! Another way to network confidently is to "tag team" the event with a colleague. You both attend and each of you talks about the other person's accomplishments. For example, I recently attended an awards event with a colleague who had won an award the previous year – it was far easier for me to introduce her and say, "Have you met Lisa? She won last year's award," than for her to say, "Hi, I'm Lisa and I won last year's award." If you do tag team, be careful not to spend all your time just talking to your tag team partner or people you already know well, which defeats the purpose of networking.

5. Follow Up
If you meet someone interesting, make a decision to follow up within a few days with a quick call or email. It can be as simple as an email that references your conversation, such as, "I enjoyed meeting you at the Chamber of Commerce party yesterday and discussing our children's college search process." Unless you schedule time in your calendar for following up with your contacts, you will have a stack of business cards on your desk that will only collect dust.

If you follow these five holiday networking tips, you'll be able to communicate effectively and build your professional network. And having a strong network will be useful no matter what the future brings.

For great tips on how to build successful professional relationships with people, check out Keith Ferrazzi's fabulous books, Never Eat Alone and Who's Got Your Back -

Gilda's blog

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Know Your Audience

by Gilda Bonanno

The number one rule of successful presentation preparation is to know your audience. Here are some tips to consider when you're thinking about how to connect to your audience, whether it's an audience of 1 or 100:

· Know what's playing on station WIIFM. That's the station the people in your audience are tuned into - "What's In It For Me?" They're focused on WIIFM (pronounced "wiff-um") not because they are self-centered, but because they are bombarded with information and have to filter it in order to stay afloat. They can only retain a small part of what you're saying and they need to find which part is most relevant to them. State the WIIFM outright; for example, in a presentation about transitions, you might say, "If you understand the stages of reaction to change, you will be better able to understand what your employees will go through when the merger is announced next month."

· Know their style. Does this audience want to see the graphs? Do they want the big picture or the details? Are they geared towards defining the problem or hearing a solution?

· Know their background. Are they experts in the field you're talking about or novices? Will everyone understand the industry jargon that you're using? For example, if you mention "AEs" in a presentation, salespeople may interpret it as Account Executives, while those in the pharma industry may interpret it as Adverse Events (which are negative reactions to medication). You have to speak in a language that everyone can understand easily and be careful not to talk down to them or over their heads.

· Know their interest level. Are you trying to win over a hostile audience? Are you talking to an audience that is already passionate about the topic? Are they bored by the topic? If you're a tax accountant speaking to small business owners about the tedious details of the state tax code, you might have to work harder to keep their interest than if you were talking to other accountants. Similarly, if you're the speaker standing between the audience and lunch, there is a greater expectation that you will end on time (or better yet, even earlier).

Sometimes knowing your audience is easy because it's made up of people you know personally or work with on a daily basis. Even then, you should take a step back and rethink the audience in the context of this presentation.

At other times, you don't know anything about them and you'll have to do some research. Do an internet search for the company or the individual and browse their websites. If they don't have a website, you can look for websites related to their industry to discover the hot topics or industry concerns. You also can get feedback from colleagues who know members of your audience.

What if you gather information about your audience, only to find out that they're a mix of different styles, backgrounds and interest levels? That situation is a challenge. You should choose the "relevant" subsection of the audience to focus on - for example, the decision makers, or the largest identifiable group in the audience. Be careful not to ignore everyone else. No one likes to be ignored and you never know what roles the other people in the room might fill in the future.

The next time you have to speak to an audience, whether it's an audience of 1 or 100, spend some time doing an audience analysis, using these tips. Then rework your presentation based on your analysis so that you can speak to them in language they understand and use material that makes sense to them. Ultimately, knowing your audience will make it easier for you to convey your message effectively. And it will ensure that the people in your audience understand your message and act on it, which is the point of giving a presentation!

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Thursday, November 19, 2009

How to Speak Up in a Crowd

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

A class participant recently emailed me with a question: "What if you find yourself in a discussion with quite a few people at a social gathering and you have an important point to make, but feel intimated by those around you? I find I get all tongue twisted and the words do not come out the way I had planned." Here are my suggestions:

· Think about WHY you feel intimidated – it gets back to fear and self-confidence. FIRST, you have to believe that you have something to say that is worth listening to – do you believe it? What do you tell yourself before you open your mouth to speak to them – “wow, they’re so smart/experienced/articulate, they’re never going to listen to me” or “I have something to contribute to this discussion and this group will benefit from listening to me”?

· What is your goal in making your point? Do you want to convince them, or just contribute to the conversation, or speak up for what you believe in even if no one else changes their mind?

· Think about your message. Can you boil it down to one short sentence with a few points to back it up? Getting to the point quickly will help you keep their attention.

· Deliver your message with confidence. Wait for a slight break in the conversation and then jump in. Speak in a voice that is loud enough for everyone to hear, speak confidently and make eye contact with people in the group (smile if appropriate). Be mindful of the message you are sending with your body language; it should match your words and your intention. So, for example, a confident person will stand up straight with shoulders back and head up, while someone who is less confident will slump their shoulders and avoid eye contact.

· Even though you may not be able to practice at home for the exact social situation and conversation, you can practice speaking concisely and confidently about topics that you want to discuss in social situations. For example, if you usually go to events where there are a lot of teachers, you might want to discuss educational reform or how to handle a specific classroom problem. So when you have free time at home, or in the car, you can practice stating your opinion or relating a relevant anecdote. Practice saying the words out loud, so you get used to how they sound and are less likely to get tongue-twisted.

· Take one step at a time. Before you decide to make a very controversial point in front of a group of 15 lawyers, try speaking up about something a little easier to a smaller, less intimidating group. As you experience success one step at a time, you will build your confidence.

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Speaking at a High School Reunion

Here is an email I received from a friend who was speaking at a high school reunion:

Dear Gilda,
I have to do the welcome speech at the reunion and I'm a horrible public speaker. Do you have any advice for me? Should I be short & sweet or should I try to be funny & long winded?

Here, in part, is my response:

"I’d recommend short and sweet … don’t worry about trying to be funny. Just be yourself and be sincere. And here are some more specific tips:

**Focus on the one message you want to convey (Looking forward to a great event – or – it’s nice to reconnect with everyone after 20 years – or – as the economy tightens, it’s nice to know that we can still rely on our friends… or whatever the message is). And only include details/stories/points that relate to that message and support it. So, for example, if you have a nice story about one of the math teachers, but it doesn’t relate to your message, don’t include it.

**Prep for the logistics of the room – will you have a microphone? When will you speak? Where will the audience be – seated/standing?

**Practice – especially your opening. What will be your first few sentences? And also the closing – how will you end? You want to start and end strongly and with confidence instead of using lots of ums and ahs… Audiotape yourself or even videotape yourself. Public speaking is just a skill and that means you can improve!

**For your delivery, you can harness the power of your voice to communicate effectively. Speak loudly enough and slowly enough (use pauses) so everyone can hear.

**Other delivery tips: make eye contact, be aware of your non-verbal communication, like gestures; movement (no pacing) and your facial expressions (a smile is great). Be sure your non-verbal communications match your words.

The biggest piece of advice I can give - be yourself and have fun!"

These tips can apply not only to speaking at a high school reunion, but also to presenting at an conference, speaking at a deparment meeting or any other occasion you have to communicate your ideas and thoughts to an audience.

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"How to Write a Rude Q&A" - from Scott Berkun

This post is from the blog of author and speaker Scott Berkun. Even though it's from 2007, it's still a great description of how you should prepare for questions that might come up during your presentation. Berkun used to work at Microsoft, where "a Rude Q&A is a list of questions you don’t want to hear about whatever it is you’re working on."

I wasn't familiar with Scott's work until a friend in India suggested I might be interested in his third book, Confessions of a Public Speaker, which was just published. So I checked out his blog and found this useful post. And I'm looking forward to reading his book.

So the next time you have to deliver a presentation, create a "rude Q&A" so you're ready for those tough questions. Read Scott's post to learn how - How to write a rude Q&A

Posted using ShareThis

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Jeff Korhan's Book Project Day 4 - Find That Voice

I've been following fellow speaker Jeff Korhan's journey towards writing a book on social media marketing for small business and entrepreneurs.
Check out his daily blog posts here - Book Project Day 4 - Find That Voice

Posted using ShareThis

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Thursday, November 5, 2009

How to Listen & Not Interrupt

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

A reader emailed me with a question: "You give points on being a good listener. I try, but I find myself at times interrupting because I'm so afraid I'm going to forget what I have to say. I've been told to keep a pen and paper handy to jot down what I want to say once the speaker has finished. However, for simple one on one conversations or small group discussions, this isn't always practical. Any other suggestions??" This is a common issue that many of us face. Here are my suggestions:

First, let it be all about the other person. What is more important - what you have to say or what the other person is saying? I'm tempted to answer, "what I have to say is more important (of course)." But is it really?

What if each of us focused on truly understanding what other people are saying without worrying about having to respond? What if we tuned into their words and non-verbal communications and the feelings behind them? I think we would have a communication revolution.

I can hear the skeptics now – "if I just listen and don't interrupt, then people will go on and on." Yes, that may be true for some people, but for many others, just the respect of being listened to will cause them to talk less. If they know people are really paying attention, they will be more careful about the quality of what they are saying. And remember, listening does not necessarily mean that you agree.

Now there may be times when just listening is not enough; for example, during a job interview or a meeting at work, where you are expected to say something intelligent. In those situations, jotting down quick notes to yourself can be helpful, but that may not be practical because you're standing up, you have your hands full (at a social event, for example) or for some other reason.

In those situations, preparation is important. Think about what topics likely will come up and which questions you'll be asked. Then practice delivering a response. Actually say the words out loud, so you get comfortable saying them in different ways. For example, at a job interview, you know you will most likely be asked, "Tell me about yourself." At a project status meeting, you will have to explain any delays or cost overruns. At a meeting with a potential vendor, you will need to respond to their capabilities presentation. At a social event, the economy and politics are likely topics.

This preparation will help you with 90-95% of the situations you'll find yourself in. Yes, there will always be a random question, statement or topic that you'd like to respond to and in those cases, you'll have to improvise, but that will be the exception rather than the rule. The more you prepare and practice, the less you have to worry about forgetting what you want to say and the more you can focus on listening and not interrupting.

Gilda's blog

Saturday, October 31, 2009

No Time to Practice a Presentation?

My colleague Susan Daffron just posted a great article on her website, "Practice a Presentation Even When You Can't Practice," which outlines 5 ways to practice a presentation when you have no time to practice.

Susan is the president of Logical Expressions, Inc., a book and software publishing company in Sandpoint, Idaho. She recently had to present a workshop based on her book, Funds to the Rescue: 101 Fundraising Ideas for Humane and Animal Rescue Groups. She knew she needed to practice her presentation, but had no extra time to practice.

Here is an excerpt from Susan's article: "The end result of all this practice was that throughout the three days of the conference, I had many people tell me how much they liked my presentation. One person even asked if I do public speaking at conferences all over the country. I confessed that it was my first time speaking in front of more than a few people. (She suggested that maybe I have a new career!)

If an introvert like me can successfully speak in front of 250 people, so can you. The secret is practice!"

Read the rest of the article at

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Monday, October 26, 2009

Tips for "Going On Stage Relieved of This Dread"

Here is an email I received recently from a contact:

"Dear Gilda, HELP!!! I'm in a play this evening in my play-reading group (we act out in costumes while reading the scripts) and I realize I'm beginning to get nervous (30 in the audience). I get choked up or have to swallow. This is my bĂȘte noire. Any quick tips for going “on stage" relieved of this dread? Tonight? Thank you!!"

Here is part of my response:

"For tonight, I would recommend breathing deeply whenever you feel nervous…. And thinking positive thoughts (use your mantra) and reminding yourself why you are there (to have fun?). When you feel anxiety bubbling up, take a deep breath and either "swallow" down the fear or let it just wash over you without engaging it. Let it be, watch it go by, but don't "get in the mud" with it. And know that the more you speak in public, the easier it will get."

These quick tips can be helpful in dealing with your fear of public speaking, whether you are going on stage to perform a play reading, giving a toast at a wedding or presenting at a staff meeting.

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Ice Cream & Your Career

Career Coach Nancy Collamer had a great blog post today, "Reinvention Strategy: Build a Better Sundae." I love anything related to ice cream and Nancy has connected ice cream variations to reinventing yourself and your career.

Here is an excerpt from Nancy's post:
"Finding your niche, customizing your service, and putting your own unique stamp on your work is a critical skill for anyone looking to build a lifestyle career. Don't look to be all things to all people. Think about ways you can sell your expertise in a way that hasn't been done before."

She also provides examples of enterprising moms who "took a basic concept and added their own unique twist to their services -- turning plain vanilla into a delicious new treat."

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Happy Anniversary, Blog!

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

Today is the 1st anniversary of my blog! One year ago today, I dipped my toe into the ocean of social media and began writing my blog. In the past year, I've tried to provide interesting and informative content - I've enjoyed great conversations with you, my readers, and I've learned a lot from readers and fellow bloggers. Thank you all for your support and interest.

In honor of the anniversary, I am republishing my very first blog post, Think of Yourself as a Speaker.

Think of Yourself as a Speaker

Often, people tell me, "I'm not a speaker so I don't have to think about presentation skills." I disagree. I think we are all speakers – yes, even you.

Whether you talk to a small or large audience or in a corporate, academic or community setting, you are a speaker. If you give an update to a project team, speak up at a neighborhood meeting or organize a fundraiser, you are a speaker. If you give a toast at a wedding, conduct orientation for new employees or train someone on a new process, you are a speaker. If you teach a class, lead a conference call or accept a community award, you are a speaker. If you answer a question at a meeting, attend a networking event or interact with potential clients, you are a speaker.

The point of thinking of yourself as a speaker is not to make you crazy. The point is for you to become conscious of your power to communicate. Public speaking is a skill – it's not magic or a special gene. And as a skill, it can be learned and improved. You already have knowledge and expertise; public speaking gives you the ability to communicate that knowledge and expertise effectively to others. And in so doing, you can have a positive impact on your career, your self-confidence and your community.

One of the first people that I coached was a man who had to give the toast at his brother's wedding. One of my most recent coaching clients was a woman who had to lead a teleseminar with a global audience for a major client. Both of these people are speakers, even though that is not their primary job description. They had something to share with other people and communicating effectively made a difference in their personal and business relationships.

Just by thinking of yourself as a speaker, you benefit from what I call the Focus Effect. Earlier in my career, I worked in process improvement and was often called in to analyze a business process that was inefficient, costly or time-consuming. I found that just by asking people who were involved in the process to focus on what they were doing and how, the process often improved because they were more conscious of their actions.

Likewise, when you think of yourself as a speaker, you begin to focus on what and how you communicate. And as you pay more attention to your communications, you become more conscious of what works well and more able to improve what doesn't.

The next time you have the opportunity to speak or present, think of yourself as a speaker. Doing so will help you eliminate the barriers to letting your voice be heard and make a positive contribution to your professional and personal success.

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Friday, October 16, 2009

Keith Ferrazzi and the Art of Elegance

I'm a huge fan of Keith Ferrazzi, the guru of business relationships and author of Never Eat Alone and most recently, Who's Got Your Back.

One of my favorite quotes from Who's Got Your Back is from Peter Guber, film producer and former head of Sony Pictures: "Elegance is the art of exerting the minimum amount of effort for the maximum effect, the maxiumum amount of power and achievement in our life." Peter challenged Keith to work smarter and allow other people to help him - and reminded him that frenetic activity is not enough to ensure success - his efforts had to be aligned with his goals.

It's an important message for all of us to remember, especially those of us who are business owners. Sometimes it feels like we have to do everything - and do it ourselves. Instead, we have to focus first on what's important to help us achieve our goals and reach out to others for advice and help.

I got a chance to meet Keith Ferrazzi when we both spoke at the National Speakers Association convention in Phoenix, AZ in July. He's the real deal - the same in person as he comes across in his books - smart, self-deprecating, genuine. Here's a photo of me with Keith after he graciously signed a copy of his latest book.

If you're not familiar with Keith and his work, check out his books and read his blog at And the next time you're feeling overwhelmed by all the tasks on your to-do list, practice the art of elegance! Take a breath, focus and reach out for help.

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Monday, October 12, 2009

Happy Birthday, Eleanor Roosevelt

"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." - Eleanor Roosevelt

October 11 would have been Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt's 125th birthday.

"Eleanor Roosevelt, who was born Oct. 11, 1884, and died Nov. 7, 1962, was the first woman to be a radio commentator, speak in front of a national convention, write a syndicated column and earn money as a lecturer. She was also a strong advocate for the Fair Labor Standards Act enacted by Congress in 1938 and she led the United Nations commission that drafted the Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the General Assembly in 1948...."

For the full article about the birthday celebration held in her honor at the Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic site, visit

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Monday, October 5, 2009

Non-Verbal Communications Matter

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

When you meet someone or present to an audience, do your words match your non-verbal communications?

If there is a disconnect between verbal and non-verbal communications, your audience will believe your non-verbals. Studies show that much of our communication is non-verbal.

For example, imagine that a speaker shuffles to the podium, fumbling with his pen and folder. He stares down at his notes, frowns slightly and says in a lifeless monotone so soft that you can barely hear him, "I am excited to be here with you today. We are going to have a fun session together." Are you excited? Or are you running for the exit?

While his words may be correct, his non-verbal communications strongly contradict his verbal message. His voice, facial expression, body language and lack of eye contact broadcast a message of boredom and anxiety.

Non-verbal communications encompass many aspects, including:
*Voice: volume, tone, pausing, rate
*Body Language such as
*Eye Contact
*Facial Expression
*Movement and posture

When you communicate through writing, punctuation provides cues for the reader as to your meaning and emotion. When speaking, however, you have to use your voice and body language to provide the punctuation for the audience.

For related tips, see my previous post on Body Language - Gestures & Movement

Gilda's blog

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Four Types of Words to Avoid When Speaking

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

When you've giving a presentation, your words can affect your ability to communicate your message to your audience. If you want to be a more effective presenter, avoid these three types of words:

Filler words are words such as "um," "ah," "like," "so," and "ok," which are used as verbal bridges to the next word. Rather than being effective bridges, however, they are roadblocks, distracting the audience and interrupting the flow of your message. These filler words also make you look and sound nervous. Instead of using them, just pause and take a breath instead. Then continue on with your next sentence or word.

Your goal is to speak confidently to the audience and convey your knowledge and expertise. If you use weak words like "sort of" and "hopefully," they lessen the impact of your message. If you're uncertain about what you're saying or only providing an estimate, say so directly, but don't let weak words undermine an otherwise certain statement.

Also beware of using weak words when networking. Nothing projects your lack of confidence more than an introduction such as "Hi, I'm Leslie and I sorta have my own business and I kinda help people organize their offices."

Buzzwords are words or phrases which at one time may have been interesting or unique, but which through overuse, have now become tired and meaningless. Examples include "leveraging our assets," "touching base," "pick your brain," "24/7" and others that may be specific to your industry. Be careful not to overuse buzzwords; they fill the time but they don't convey a lot of meaning.

For example, in the phrase, "I personally think," the word "personally" is unnecessary because "I" already conveys who is doing the thinking. Another example is the phrase, "at this moment in time" which can simply be replaced with "now." The extra words don't add anything; instead, they just muddy your presentation.

Your word choice is critical to the success of your presentation. By avoiding these three types of words, your meaning becomes more clear and focused – and easier for your audience to understand.

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

5 Common Voice Mistakes

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

Your voice has the ability to convey an incredible range of meaning and emotion when you present. It's an important part of your non-verbal communications, or body language, and can help you can communicate your message clearly and effectively to your audience.

Avoid these five common mistakes in order to tap into the full power of your voice:

Voice Mistake #1 - Speaking Too Fast
How fast is too fast? It depends. You have to speak slowly enough so you can enunciate your words and the audience can understand you. Slow down even more if you're speaking in a language that is not native to the audience or if you're presenting new, complex information. Your rate tends to increase when you're nervous, so be aware of your nerves.

Voice Mistake #2 - Speaking Nonstop
Speaking nonstop means that you will run out of breath by the end of the sentence and your voice will sound strangled as it trails off. Instead, use pauses to catch your breath and give your audience a chance to catch up. You can also pause before an important word to clue the audience that they should pay attention; for example, "the results this year have been [pause]… excellent." Pausing to take a breath also means you're less likely to use pause words like "um" and "ah."

Voice Mistake #3 - Speaking Too Softly
How soft is too soft? If your audience has to struggle to hear you, you're speaking too softly. You also need to speak more loudly than usual if you're in a large room or any size room with poor acoustics. If you have the opportunity to use a microphone, use it. As long as it is working properly, a microphone can make it easier for the audience to hear you. As you increase your volume, it may feel like you're shouting. Chances are, you're not, but to be sure, you can record yourself or ask an audience member for an honest assessment of your volume.

Voice Mistake #4 - Speaking in a Monotone

A monotone robs your voice of inflection and doesn’t allow you to emphasize different words and emotions. Using inflection in your voice can convey your precise meaning to the audience. For example, your voice inflection can convey the difference between these two sentences - "I love Brussel sprouts! [bring me a big plate of them!]" and "I love Brussel sprouts? [are you kidding? I hate them!]"

Voice Mistake #5 – Speaking in a Tone that Does Not Match Your Words
As with other elements of non-verbal communications, your voice should match the words that you are saying. If you say "I know this is going to be a great conference," but your voice conveys boredom or sarcasm, the audience will believe your non-verbals rather than your words.

If you avoid these five common voice mistakes, you'll be able to harness the power of your voice to connect to your audience and communicate your meaning.

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Monday, September 28, 2009

Top 3 Tips for Making a Great Speech

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

Recently, someone asked me for my top 3 quick tips for making a great speech. It was difficult to narrow them down, but I've listed them here:

  1. Focus on the audience. You're not ready to speak in front of an audience unless you can answer the question "why should the audience care about what I'm going to say?"
  2. Practice, practice, practice. It's not enough to think about what you're going to say or flip through your notes while you're sitting at your desk. Practice means that you actually open your mouth and say the words out loud in as close to the real environment as possible.
  3. Don't use PowerPoint/KeyNote slides. If you are asked to use presentation software, resist. If you are required to use it, then be careful. Remember that you are the presentation and the slides should aid your presentation, not replace you. Avoid text-heavy slides and instead, use high-quality images to connect to your audience and tell your story.

Let me know what you think -- what are your top 3 tips?

Gilda's blog

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Gilda's Fall 2009 Classes

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

Public Speaking for Special Occasions
Do you have an upcoming opportunity to speak for a special occasion? Whether you're giving the toast at your best friend's wedding, saying a few words at a retirement party or accepting an award from your community organization, this class will help you plan and practice your remarks. We'll work on organizing your material, adding humor and interacting with the audience, so your words will be memorable-for all the right reasons!

Greenwich Adult Ed., Wednesday, October 14, 7-9 pm, $29

How to Schmooze
Hate networking events because you never know what to say? Do you get stuck talking to the one person in the room that you know? Whether you're looking for new clients or a new job, or just looking to broaden your professional horizons, networking is a key ingredient of your success. This interactive session will teach you the techniques of successful networking so you can schmooze with ease.

Greenwich Adult Ed., Tuesday, October 13, 7-9 pm, $39

Stamford Adult Ed., Thursday, October 15, 6-8 pm, $29

Gilda's blog

Friday, September 4, 2009

Public Speaking Practice, Practice, Practice

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

When I was in high school, I played clarinet in the school band. Every afternoon, I climbed up the hill from the bus stop carrying my clarinet case and every morning, I trudged back down the hill carrying my clarinet case, still unopened and untouched.

My performance on the clarinet failed to improve because merely carrying the clarinet was not enough to help improve my skill at playing it.

The same is true for presentations. When you're preparing to speak to a group, no matter how small or large, it's not enough to think about what you're going to say or flip through your slides while you're sitting at your desk. That doesn't count as practice.

Practice means that you actually open your mouth and say the words out loud in as close to the real environment as possible. So, for example, if you're going to stand while presenting, stand while practicing. If you're going to present while sitting around a conference table, then practice while sitting around a conference table. The purpose of practice is to become comfortable enough with your material and the mechanics of presenting it in the environment that you will be able to deliver your presentation naturally and effectively.

You should practice going through your presentation at least a few times. Memorizing it may make you more anxious since you'll be worried about forgetting the exact words you memorized. Instead, become familiar enough with your key ideas and message that you can use different words and phrases to express them each time you practice. If you choose to use notes, practice how to use them effectively without clinging to them or reading from them.

There are three major areas of content that you should focus on during your practice:

This is your opportunity to engage the audience and also to build your confidence. You should be so comfortable with your introduction that you can deliver it effortlessly, with full eye contact, a strong voice and few pause words (like "um" or "ah").

Presenters often get lost between points or slides. You want to practice how you will move smoothly and logically from one idea to the next. Having a well-organized presentation makes transitions easier because you can say something like, "the second reason we need a new process for handling customer complaints is…" or "the next phase of the project involves testing the software against the requirements…"

This is your last chance to remind the audience of your message. Don't just let your voice trail off with "well….. that's it, I guess…." You should end with a powerful conclusion such as a call to action or a strong reiteration of your message and its importance to the audience.

I learned the hard way – it's not enough to carry the clarinet around and think about practicing. To improve, you actually have to open the case and play it. So the next time you have to give a presentation, make the time to practice the right way by saying the words out loud in as close the real environment as possible. As a result, your actual delivery of it will be smooth and effective.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Taylor Mali and the Power of Words

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

I had the chance to hear a wonderful poet present at the National Speaker's Association Convention in July - Taylor Mali.

His use of words was beautiful. He chose each word carefully so its meaning and sound hit just the right note in his poem. And he paused to great effect so the audience had a chance to drink in his words.

One of my favorite poems was "Miracle Workers," his tribute to the work that teachers do. Check out his "Miracle Workers" video on YouTube - and observe his masterful use of words and pauses. (You can also check out his other poems, including "What Teachers Make" and "Totally Like Whatever.")

The next time you have to give a presentation, emulate Taylor and choose your words with care.

And for all the wonderful teachers out there who work so hard to educate our students, have a great year!

Gilda's blog

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Public Speaking... and Mary Poppins

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

Today is the 45th anniversary of the movie musical, Mary Poppins, which starred Julie Andrews and Dick VanDyke. Not only is it a wonderful movie, but it also has some lessons for public speaking.

One of my favorite songs from the movie is Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious! As a child, I delighted in learning to say this word (all 34 letters of it) because it was so big and complicated. In order to learn it, I had to break the word into sections and practice each section separately. Then we put all the sections together and I practiced saying them. Eventually, I could say the whole word!

What does this have to do with public speaking?

Well, giving a presentation can be a lot like learning to say Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious - it can be overwhelming and seem impossible. But if you break the presentation down into smaller pieces -your opening, your key examples, your supporting stories and data, your closing - and spend time preparing and practicing each section and then putting all the sections together, you can be successful.

In honor of the anniversary of the movie, watch it again - or for the first time... and use the Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious method the next time you have to give a presentation.

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Monday, August 24, 2009

Eye Contact While Presenting

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

Whether you're speaking to an audience of one or many, it's important to make eye contact in order to connect.

It demonstrates your willingness to connect to the audience on a personal level. It also shows that you are confident and proves that the information resides in your head, not your notes or the slides. When you present, you are talking to individuals, not an impersonal mass of people. You want each person to experience the communication one-on-one.

How long should you look at each person? About 5 seconds, which is about the time it takes to complete a thought. Then move on to another person. Yes, 5 seconds will feel like a long time at first!

If someone is uncomfortable with your looking at them in the eyes, they can choose to look away. If you're nervous about looking the audience in the eyes, you can try this as a starting point: look right above their eyes, at their eyebrows. The difference won't be that obvious to them and it will help you get more comfortable until you can look them straight in the eye.

Here are other tips to help you use eye contact more effectively:

**Avoid "tennis eyes" - moving from one side of the room to the other in a repetitive pattern, as if you were watching a tennis match.

**Avoid scanning the room quickly, trying to look at everyone at the same time.

**Aim to connect with all sections of the audience on a random basis - no one should be able to predict where you will look next.

**Stand where you can look at people seated in all parts of the room - don't ignore any section or person.

If you practice your eye contact, you will be able to face any audience with confidence.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Ah, the "Glamorous" Life of a Sleep-Deprived Entrepreneur on the Road

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

A few days after flying back from speaking at the NSA Convention in Phoenix, where it was 115 degrees, I flew to Buffalo, NY to do a 2-day training program for a client.

The first night at the hotel, the people in the room next door were very loud until very late, so I didn't get much sleep.

The second night at the hotel, the fire alarm went off at 1 AM thanks to a cigarette butt thrown into the mulch outside an air conditioning unit. So we evacuated the building and stood outside for 1 hour while the fire department made sure the smoke had dissipated and the building was safe. So I got even less sleep.

The final night in Buffalo, I was scheduled leave on a 6:25 PM plane to JFK. Rushed to the airport in the pouring rain only to find out at the gate that New York was having massive thunderstorms and JFK had closed runways. I remember sitting in the one airport restaurant that remained open after 9 pm, asking the people at the next table, "What city am I in?"

By the time we boarded the plane at 10:30 PM, I was beyond tired. Once we landed in JFK after midnight, there was a further delay because the airline put our bags on the wrong carousel… I finally got home at 2 am and had to reschedule a meeting with a potential client in Manhattan that was scheduled for first thing the next morning because I was too tired to speak coherently.

Moral of the story: Be prepared - what can go wrong, will, and usually in rapid succession. And never schedule a client meeting for the morning after a flight, even if it's "only" a 1-hour flight!

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Gilda's NSA Speech Video Posted

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

I had a great time attending the National Speakers Association (NSA) Convention in Phoenix a few weeks ago! It was my first time attending and I got to hear fabulous speakers and meet great people!

Check out the video of the speech I gave, "How Will You Spend Your 28,000 Days?" It was part of a new format at NSA - the 20/20 Lightning Round. Like the Pecha Kucha presentation format, I had 6 minutes and 40 seconds to deliver my speech, using my 20 slides that advanced automatically every 20 seconds.

The audience of more than 150 people was standing room only!

Gilda Bonanno from Edward & Camelia Burleson on Vimeo.

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Friday, July 10, 2009

Gilda to Speak at NSA Convention in Phoenix

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

I'm preparing to go to Phoenix, AZ to present at the National Speakers Association Convention in mid-July. The NSA Convention is like the "Woodstock" of the speaking industry. This is my first time attending and I'm so excited that I have the opportunity to present my motivational speech, "How Will You Spend Your 28,000 Days?"

I am one of 11 specially featured NSA members who is presenting as part of a new format - the 20/20 Lightning Round Session. I have 6 minutes and 40 seconds to deliver a speech, using my own 20 slides that advance automatically every 20 seconds! So I have to be prepared, focused and concise - and the graphics have to be crisp and compelling. I'll keep you posted on how it goes.

And if you're attending the Convention, stop by my session and say hi.

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Grads4Hire Earn Money & Donate Time

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

We can't control what life throws at us - but the one thing we can control is how we choose to respond to a situation. For example, we all know the job market is tough right now, but one group of young women I know is dealing with the situation in a positive and innovative way.

Danielle and five of her friends just graduated from college and have not yet found full-time jobs. Instead of spending their summer at the beach, complaining about the job market, they have started a summer business called Grads4Hire. They will do any odd job from sitting (baby/pet/house) to running errands to tech-savvy tasks like selling items on ebay or teaching people about Facebook and Twitter. And the best part is that for every hour of work they get, they will also do an hour of community service.

They have started working with Meals on Wheels, spending 2 hours every week delivering meals to the homebound and shut-ins. They are also working on a project to create an informational board about recycling at their local town transfer station.

What a great idea!! Kudos to Danielle and her friends for being enterprising and giving back to the community.

If you'd like more info or if you're interested in hiring Grads4Hire (in Fairfield County, CT), please email or call Kristen at (203) 253-6112.

And the next time you face a problem, rather than just complaining about it, try to come up with a creative and generous solution.

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Declaration of Independence

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

I think we should read the historical documents upon which our nation was founded... lest we forget the principles we aspire to as a nation. In honor of Independence Day on July 4, here is the Declaration of Independence...

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — [emphasis mine] That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

Read the rest of the Declaration of Independence at

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Teen Money 101

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

If you have a teenager in your life, then check out this new book by my colleague, Stacia Morris.

Teen Money 101 is a workbook to teach teenagers about the concepts and use of money. This book was inspired by Stacia's teenage nephew and niece and is an introduction to financial education that every teen should have, especially in these challenging economic times.

The workbook is formatted in a "Lights, Camera, Action" format. The "lights" introduce new terms in the chapter, the "camera" depicts the teenagers' stories, and the "action" provides activities to reinforce the chapter's concepts. The goal is to help teens become financially responsible adults.

Teen Money 101 is intended for teenagers (ages 13 to 16), though it can be used by any age. It can be used in facilitated classroom settings, in schools or after-school programs. Stacia can facilitate these sessions or she can train teachers and educators to run the sessions.

Read more about it or order it for $19.99 at

Stacia holds a post-MBA Certificate in Accounting, an MBA from Pace University, and a BA in Economics from the University of the West Indies. She also holds the financial and insurance certifications for a Financial Advisor (series 6,,63, and 65).

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Declutter Your Presentation

by Gilda Bonanno

A cluttered home or office can overwhelm you and make it difficult for you to find anything. Likewise, a cluttered presentation can overwhelm your audience and make it difficult for them to find your message. Here's how to cut out the clutter in your presentation so your message is easy to find and understand:

1. Cut Out the Extra Material
Before you deliver a presentation, be clear about your message - the one thing that you want your audience to walk away with from your presentation. Look at every example, detail and story you'd like to include in your presentation and decide whether they relate directly to your message. Sort them into three groups: keep, not sure and throw out. Focus on the keepers, resort the "not sure" group and throw out the rest. You want to make it easy for your audience to find your message rather than forcing them to sift through all the clutter to uncover it.

2. Cut Out Your Filler Words
Filler words include "um," "ah," and words such as "like," "so," and "ok," which are used as a verbal bridge to the next word. These words just fill in space while you remember or think of something to say next. They are the verbal clutter that distract the audience and give the impression that you lack confidence or knowledge about your subject. Instead of using a filler word, pause silently and breathe, then move on to your next word.

3. Cut Out the Extra Text on Your Slides
If you have to use slides, cut out any extra words or graphics. Slides are not a substitute for you, the presenter, so they should only contain supporting material rather than a script of all your words. If your slides contain countless bullet points in tiny print and impossible-to-read charts, then you are forcing your audience to dig through all that clutter to get to the point. Whenever I see those types of slides and hear a presenter say, “I know you can’t read this," I want to shout back, "Then why are you showing it to us?!"

The next time you have to give a presentation, spend time decluttering it. A neat and organized presentation will allow you to focus on your message, which means it will be easier for the audience to follow and understand.

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Non-Traditional Sales Strategies - Free Workshop in Stamford, CT

Non-Traditional Sales Strategies: Sell More In These Challenging Times!
Free Brown Bag Workshop - June 25, 2009 - Stamford, CT

This event is for you if you are:
-- 'in sales'
-- managing someone who is, or
-- the owner of a business that has at least one of the above

This event is for you if you answer "yes" to one of the following questions:
-- Are you or your people getting all the sales you'd like?
-- Is your sales cycle too long?
-- Do you or your people know what's really happening on a sales call?

Thursday, June 25, 2009
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
People's United Bank
350 Bedford Street
Stamford, CT

Click here to learn more
Presented by: Gene D'Agostino, Vice President, Sandler Training, TEM Associates Inc.
Gene has over 30 years of experience in sales, sales management and sales training. He has been involved in the broadcast, cable, film and advertising industries. Sandler Training, TEM Associates, a training and consulting firm located in Stamford and Rocky Hill, CT, specializes in helping individuals and companies develop honest, no-nonsense, sales and sales management skills that get results and at the same time preserve the business professional's self-respect.

Gilda Bonanno's blog

A "Present" for New Graduates

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

In honor of all those graduating this month, here is a "present" that will help you with one of the most important skills you can develop in life - Presentation Skills.

Please, have a message when you speak.
Respect the audience by being relevant to their needs.
Encourage yourself to work through your fears.
Speaking is a skill that everyone can learn.
Everyone is unique, so be yourself.
Nurture your eye contact, body language and vocal variety.
The purpose of slides is to help you, not replace you.

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

How Do You Handle a Mini-Crisis?

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

Recently I was staying at a hotel in New York for a few days because I was facilitating a program there for a client. On the first morning, I set up the training room so I would be ready to start at 8 am, then went to the hotel restaurant to get breakfast. The restaurant was supposed to open at 7 am, but at 7:15, the doors were still locked. Eventually, the restaurant hostess opened the doors and explained that the server hadn't shown up for work.

The hostess was clearly flustered and probably frustrated, but she adjusted quickly. She bustled from table to table, taking orders with a smile, apologizing for the delay and attacking the situation with an energy that was evident and reassuring. Even though the situation wasn't ideal, she made the best of it. She acknowledged the situation, did what she could to remedy it and communicated often to us about when our meals would be ready. As customers, we sympathized with her situation and appreciated her effort. And I still left her a big tip (and, yes, I did make it to the training room on time – barely).

The following day, there was a similar situation when only one server showed up at 7 am, instead of the two that had been scheduled for what was going to be a busier day. (Yes, this hotel clearly had some major issues around processes and customer service – let's just say that my client won't be returning there for future programs). This time, the one server was clearly overwhelmed – she was sullen, moved slowly from table to table and didn't smile. The situation was the same as the previous day, but this time, the server showed no energy and didn't really communicate with the customers about what was going on. As a result, the customers got frustrated and angry.

The next time you have a mini-crisis on your hands, choose how you will respond. Acknowledge the situation and do what you can to make it better. Even though you may not be able to control the situation, your response can make all the difference in whether your customers (or colleagues) end up sympathetic and appreciative, or frustrated and angry.

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Monday, June 22, 2009

Six Tips for Handling Questions

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

Often once you're finished delivering a presentation, the audience will ask questions. This question-and-answer time is still part of your presentation and you can prepare for it in the same way that you prepared for the rest of the presentation. Handled appropriately, questions give you a chance to clarify information you presented or discuss things that you didn't get a chance to mention.

Here are six tips to help you prepare for and answer questions with ease:

1) View questions as requests for information, not as adversarial challenges. Make it clear through your words and body language that you welcome questions.

2) Remember that you're still presenting – keep your energy up once you finish your formal presentation and start answering questions.

3) Prepare for questions by thinking, “what questions would I hate to have someone ask me?" and then have an answer for them.

4) Listen carefully to all questions and then restate them so everyone in the audience can hear and so you have a few minutes to think.

5) If you don't know the answer, don't bluff or guess. Instead, admit that you don't know and if it's important enough, say, "I don’t know but I’ll find out and get back to you.” Then do it.

6) If you get a hostile question, keep your answer brief, direct it to the entire audience and when you're done, move your eye contact away from that questioner.

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Thursday, June 18, 2009

What Not to Say to Your Manager's Manager

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

A manager recently shared the following story with me. He saw an employee in a social situation – an employee he hadn't seen in a while who reported to one of his direct reports. The employee told him, "Oh, you've put on weight." Yes, that's right, the employee told his manager's manager that he had put on weight!

What could he have been thinking? What could have been his reason for making that statement? I don't always like hard and fast rules, but I think we can be certain of this rule: unless you work for a dietician or a weight-loss clinic, never comment on someone's weight at work – especially if you think it's a weight gain and especially if it's your manager's manager.

Think before you speak. Practice small talk – things like "nice to see you," "can you believe the weather?" or "this pasta is delicious" are appropriate for those situations with management when you're not talking about a specific project or work-related topic. Better to be forgotten by your manager's manager or remembered as the employee who chatted about the weather - than remembered as the employee who insulted him.

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Friday, May 29, 2009

Choose Million-Dollar Words

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

When you're preparing and practicing a presentation, your word choice matters. If your words are weak or unclear, they can interfere with your ability to communicate your message effectively to your audience. To be an effective presenter, you should choose what I call "million-dollar words" - strong, evocative, precise and sensible words.

Choose strong words. Your words should convey your confidence and convince the audience to believe your message. Avoid using "weasel" words like "hopefully" and "sort of." If you're unsure, say so directly, but don't let those weasel words creep into an otherwise certain statement. This tip also applies to networking situations or when you introduce yourself. I've actually heard people introduce themselves using weasel words, such as "I'm Joe Smith and I kinda work in IT and sorta am responsible for disaster recovery." That introduction does not convey confidence.

Choose evocative words. "She felt drained and collapsed into the chair." Can you see the image that those words convey? What if speaker said instead, "she was tired and sat down in the chair"? While that sentence is grammatically correct, it does not paint the picture as strongly as the first sentence.

Choose precise words. American author Mark Twain said it best: "The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter--it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning."

Choose sensible words - words that make sense to your audience. Be careful not to overuse jargon or buzzwords like "leveraging our assets" or "touching base." Don't use a long word when a shorter one will do. Choose "explain" or "clarify" instead of "elucidate," for example. Using words that make sense to your audience will enable you to communicate your message clearly and effectively.

The next time you prepare and practice a presentation, spend a few minutes and focus on your word choice. Cut out any distracting or ambiguous words that cloud your meaning and replace them with million-dollar words - strong, evocative, precise and sensible. You'll be amazed at how much more effective your presentation will be.

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The LayOff Survival Guide

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

Are you about to lose your job? Have you already lost your job?

Then check out The Layoff Survival Guide by career coach Nancy Collamer. This downloadable guide has more than 90 pages of resources, strategies and tips that will help you survive being laid off with less stress, greater confidence and more success.

Nancy Collamer is the career coach that I chose to work with when I left my corporate job to start my own business. She wrote the guide as a result of her husband being laid off from his IT job. The content includes what to do in the first 72 hours after being laid off, where to look for job postings and how to handle your emotional and financial concerns while you're unemployed.

Visit her site ( to sample some of the content and purchase the instantly downloadable guide for $17.95.

Fortune Magazine called it "an incredibly useful resource." Whether you think you are about to be laid off or you have already received your "pink slip," this guide will help you get back on your feet.

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Friday, May 22, 2009

Cut Out Your Filler Words

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

Filler words include "um," "ah," and words such as "like," "so," and "ok," which are used as a verbal bridge to the next word.

These words just fill in space while you remember or think of something to say next. Rather than being effective bridges, they are roadblocks, distracting the audience and interrupting the flow of your message. These filler words weaken your presentation and give the impression that you don't know what you're talking about. Starting every other sentence with fillers (for example, "you know" or "like I said") can also be interpreted as verbal expressions of your anxiety or lack of confidence.

The good news is that you can learn to eliminate filler words. And like with so many bad habits, the first step towards change is to become aware that you're using them.

How can you become conscious of the filler words you use? Listen to yourself as you speak, record yourself or ask someone in the audience. Or attend a Toastmasters meeting (an international organization dedicated to helping people improve their public speaking, where there is an official Um and Ah Counter. He or she tallies up all the filler words used by the speakers and then reports on it at the end of the meeting. The point is to hear yourself using them so you can cut them out.

Once you have become aware of when you use fillers, here's how to eliminate them:

  • Stop speaking when you hear yourself using a filler word.
  • SILENTLY pause instead of filling the space with words.
  • Breathe.
  • Move on to your next word.

Here's an exercise that you can use to practice this:

  • Speak for 1-2 minutes about something you know, like your job or what you did today.
  • Every time you hear yourself using a filler word, STOP, breathe and repeat that sentence – eventually, with more practice, you will get through the entire 2 minutes without using any filler words!

Cutting out your filler words will help you convey your message to the audience without any distractions getting in the way. And you'll sound more polished and professional.

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Where Do I Go From Here?

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

Where to Go From Here - Reinventing Your Career... Your Business... Your Working Life, by my colleague and friend, Douglas Campbell III (aka "The Success Coach").

Doug has written a concise, practical book that will help you figure out what's important to you and what steps you can take to continue to grow professionally. The book is about taking action on that inner impulse - "there's something important I should be paying attention to, something that's just not working for me in my professional life."

What I like about it are the self-assessments and practical exercises that help you identify important things like your work values, your work persona, your risk profile and your personal history. He also weaves in relevant stories from his years of experience as an executive coach with top performers and top companies.

And I love his description of the Honest Broker role, someone who will help you set action steps and hold you accountable (could be a professional coach, but also could be a trusted mentor or former colleague).

This book will help you reflect and and then do something to reinvent yourself, your company and your working life.

I like the book so much that I just bought 10 copies to share with clients and colleagues! You can read more about it on Doug's website or buy it on Amazon.

Gilda's blog

Monday, April 27, 2009

Project Management Conference - Hartford, CT, April 30 & May 1

Attending the Southern New England Chapter PMI Project Management Conference in Hartford on April 30 and May 1, 2009?

Attend Gilda's sessions or stop by and say hi:

Thursday, April 30, 4-hour Workshop: "Presentation Skills for Project Managers"

As Project Managers, we often need to present in front of groups, including the project team and the stakeholders. This interactive session will provide you with the techniques you can take away and put to immediate use to make your next presentation more powerful, effective and engaging.

Friday, May 1, Conference Session, 3-4 PM: "Essential Communications Skills in a Tough Economy - Networking & Interviewing Skills"

Whether you have a job or are looking for a job, networking and interviewing skills are essential to your success. In this interactive workshop, you'll learn how to build your professional relationships when networking and how to project a competent and engaging presence while interviewing. Techniques include how to think on your feet and how to use non-verbal communications.

To register or for more information, please visit and click on "Conference." The conference will be held at Connecticut Convention Center, 100 Columbus Ave. Hartford, CT.

Gilda's website

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

5 More Ways to Be a Better Listener

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

Listening is a crucial skill for success in business and in life. If we listen to others, we show them respect, we learn to understand their points of view and we help to build our relationships.

Here are 5 more ways to improve your listening skills:

1. Show empathy. Empathy means that you understand the feelings that the other person has expressed. Understanding the feelings doesn't necessarily mean that you agree with them. And remember the old adage, "you can't fake sincerity." If you're not genuinely concerned about someone, pretending that you care doesn't count as active listening.

2. Beware your filters. In order to manage the information overload that bombards us daily, we all use selective attention, or filters, to decide what is important and what we should pay attention to. Filters help us survive, but we have to be careful about how we develop them because bias and stereotypes can creep in and become barriers to communication. Any time you make an "always" or "never" statement, or automatically agree or disagree with someone because of what you think you know about them, or people like them, you are losing out on a chance to listen and learn. Filters like "IT people never deliver projects on time" or "Engineers always make things too complicated" or "_______________ [fill in the blank with any category or group of people] always/never…" shut down our listening and get in the way of true communication.

3. Paraphrase. In order to ensure that the message you are receiving is the same message that the other person is sending, restate in your own words what you think the person said. For example, "If I understand you correctly, what you're saying is…" or "I want to make sure I understand you – you disagree with the idea because…"

4. Be aware of the time. Active listening takes time in your already crowded schedule. If you only have a few minutes, let the other person know; "I'd like to listen to you, but I have a meeting in 10 minutes. Is 10 minutes enough?" If you consistently hold to the time limit and really spend that limited time listening, most people will condition themselves to get to the point within the time limit. (Yes, there are people who go on and on with no regard to anyone else's time, but those are the exceptions and have to be dealt with separately).

5. Ask open-ended questions. To get more information, ask "how" and "what" questions rather than interrogate the person with questions that only require a "yes" or "no" answer. Questions like "how do you think we should handle it?" and "what is your opinion about it" will open up the conversation and give them the opportunity to share their ideas. Once you ask the question, however, be sure to listen to the answer.

The next time you're in a conversation, focus on listening actively to the other person. The more you practice this skill, the easier it will become. And you'll find that as you listen more effectively, you'll learn more and improve your business and personal relationships.

Gilda's blog

Saturday, April 18, 2009

How To Get Introduced When Speaking

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

When you have to speak to a crowd, how should you handle getting introduced?

1. Write your own introduction. Think about which of your many credentials or past experience examples will be most relevant to this particular audience. For example, I'm speaking at a Project Management Conference in May and I will include in my intro include the fact that I am a certified Project Management Professional (PMP). However, when I speak to groups of entrepreneurs and small business owners, I don't include that credential in my intro because it doesn't mean that much to that particular audience.

2. It is also helpful if the audience has a longer bio in front of them on your handout or in the invitation they received, so then your actual introduction can be much shorter - just a few sentences.

3. Find out who will introduce you and go over it on the phone or in person when you arrive early to the event. Ideally, have her or him practice reading it, in case there is difficult pronunciation or unusual emphasis required. For example, at a recent meeting I attended, the keynote speaker (legendary speaker Jim Cathcart, was introduced with a long list of all the unusual jobs he has held and the final words, "he may not be able to hold a job [pause] but he can hold an audience." This last line got a laugh as planned and which required practice for that pause to be effective.

4. Bring two copies of the introduction to the event, to use "just in case." It should be printed on one sheet in large font so the person can read it easily without glasses. (I also include the phonetic spelling of my name - as in "Gilda"is pronounced "Jilda" in case a different person introduces than the one I talked with earlier).

5. While you are being introduced, look humble and smile gently. If you're uncomfortable looking at the audience during the intro which is praising you, then look at the introducer or somewhere just off to the side of the introducer (where it will not look like you are deliberately avoiding eye contact).

6. Have a backup plan in the rare case that you have to introduce yourself. This happened to my colleague, Lynn, at one of the first presentations she made to a professional group nearly 20 years ago. Lynn provided a written introduction to the client who agreed to introduce her. But when it was time to start, the client simply said, "Lynn will introduce herself"! Luckily, despite her surprise and relative inexperience, Lynn was able to recover, introduce herself and go on with her talk as planned. You can be sure that since that event, Lynn always brings a self-introduction with her!

Gilda's blog