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