Thursday, January 29, 2009

Special Public Speaking Course for WBDC

Public Speaking: How to Talk to Strangers
It’s okay to talk to strangers - your mother’s rule doesn’t apply here. In fact, public speaking is a required skill for entrepreneurs and anyone looking to advance in business. Yet, the idea of speaking in front of groups or networking one-on-one makes most people very nervous. In this interactive session, you’ll learn essential tips and techniques on how to conquer your fears and what you can do to develop effective presentation skills.

Norwalk City Hall
125 East Ave.
Norwalk, CT
Tuesday, February 17, 6-8 pm

CT Women's Business Development Center members $15, non-members $20

Friday, January 23, 2009

Gilda's Upcoming Classes

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 Education, Greenwich, CT
Tuesday, February 24, 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 Education, Greenwich, CT
Tuesday, March 3, 7-9 pm, $39

Stamford Adult Education, Stamford, CT
Wednesday, February 25, 6-8 pm, $29 203-977-4209

Thursday, January 22, 2009

President Obama's Inauguration

by Gilda Bonanno

Whether or not you voted for Barack Obama, his inauguration is something that should make every American proud. And the peaceful transfer of power is one of the hallmarks of a democracy that we should not take for granted.

President Obama has demonstrated that good communication skills are an important component of leadership. As a presentation skills coach and a former historian, one of my favorite parts of his speech was where he used his excellent communication abilities to highlight the strength of our diversity:

"For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and nonbelievers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace."

In case you missed the speech, check it out at

Friday, January 16, 2009

Body Language - Gestures and Movement

by Gilda Bonanno,

When communicating, your body language (facial expressions, gestures, movement, eye contact and voice) should match your message. If there is a disconnect between what you say and your non-verbal communications, your audience will believe your non-verbals.

Movement and gestures are key components of body language. Mark Brown, past Toastmasters World Champion of Public Speaking, once coached me: "Gilda, stand and deliver." Rather than pacing aimlessly on stage, I should stand and deliver my message -- and move with purpose.

Try this out yourself. Before you start to speak in front of a group, no matter how small or big, walk to where you'll be standing with even, purposeful steps. Stand your ground and when you move – to the flipchart, to the other side of the room, into the audience – make it deliberate.

Here are other tips to help you use gestures and movement effectively:

How to Stand
· Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees relaxed. Your weight should be evenly distributed on both feet. Avoid nervous pacing or shifting from one foot to the other.

· Stand up straight - you do not need to stand like a soldier at attention, but your shoulders should be back and your head held high so you can make eye contact. This posture conveys confidence and helps you breathe more fully.

· Don't “hide” behind a desk, podium or flip chart.

What to Do With Your Hands
· Begin with your hands in the "neutral position," hanging loosely at your sides, so they will be available for natural gestures

· Avoid hands in pockets since it can lead to a sloppier posture and slouching. You also may start jingling the change in your pocket without realizing it (yes, I've seen – and heard – it happen!).

· Empty your hands. If you must hold something (your notes or the PowerPoint remote), be aware of what you are doing. I've seen speakers unconsciously fold their notes into little squares - how's that for distracting?

· Be aware of what your empty hands are doing – "washing" each other, grasping each other tightly, playing with your watch, etc.

· Don't point at the audience. Yes, your mother was right – it's not polite to point. Try an open-handed gesture instead.

How to Use Gestures
· Whether they come naturally to you or you have to work at them, gestures can help communicate your ideas and a little goes a long way.

· Use a variety of smooth, deliberate and natural gestures that support and visually illustrate your message.

· Use the "fisherman gesture." Remember the fisherman telling the story "I caught a fish THIS big" with his arms open wide? That gesture is a visual clue to what his words are telling you.

· Use the "on the one hand… , on the other hand" gesture to show both sides of the issue.

Gestures and movement provide the visuals that accompany your words. Learning to use them effectively will help you convey your message with confidence and your audience will see your message instead of just hearing it.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Feedback is a Gift

by Gilda Bonanno,

I recently was facilitating training programs in Shanghai, China, for Chinese employees of a US multinational company. One of the concepts that the participants struggled with was giving feedback to their peers and managers. They viewed feedback as negative and causing the other person to lose face.

In order to help them understand how important feedback is in the company culture, I described it as a gift that they give the other person. Rather than causing the other person to lose face, feedback (delivered in a respectful and professional manner) can help the other person by giving them information about their behavior and its impact on others. Giving feedback - and being open to receiving feedback in return - was a way they could demonstrate their commitment to continuous improvement. With much encouragement and practice, they got used to the concept.

That experience got me thinking about how we receive feedback - do our actions show that we view it as a gift?

Think about it: how do you ask for feedback? Is your body language sending the message that you really don't want to hear the feedback, especially if it's negative? Do you interrupt the person giving you feedback to disagree and defend your actions?

If we are commited to continuously improving ourselves, then feedback is a gift that we should welcome - and our actions should demonstrate that we welcome it.