Monday, January 25, 2010

Lemonade - the Movie

You've heard the saying "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade." If you need some inspiration about how to make lemonade, check out the trailer for the movie Lemonade. Whether you've been laid off and are looking to reinvent yourself or you're stuck in a dead-end job and looking for an escape, this movie will inspire and motivate you.

The full 30-minute movie can be viewed (or purchased) through

Thanks to Career Coach Nancy Collamer for telling me about it.

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Keeping Your Voice Strong While Presenting

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

Sometimes when you're presenting, introducing yourself or answering questions in front of a group, your voice trails off at the end of the sentence. Your audience can't understand the last part of your sentence and you may sound nervous and unprepared. Here are four tips for keeping your voice strong throughout your presentation:

1. Breathe
When you take short, shallow breaths, there is not enough oxygen to fuel your voice through the end of the sentence. You literally run out of air by the end of the sentence. To prevent this from happening, take full, deep breaths which will energize your voice.

2. Pause More
You won't have enough air to race through several long sentences delivered end-to-end. Pausing during or between sentences will give you a chance to catch your breath and your audience a change to digest what you've just said. It also helps you emphasize important words or phrases. Pausing will feel awkward at first, but with practice, you will get more comfortable.

3. Use a Microphone
If there is a microphone available, use it. The microphone will make it easier for you to project your voice. As I stated in another article, "How to Use a Microphone Like a Pro," you should practice the mechanics of using a microphone so you can do it successfully.

4. Be Confident
Sometimes your voice may trail off because you are not confident about what you are saying or how you are saying it. Work on overcoming any fear you have of presenting in general and then focus specifically on your anxiety about presenting this topic to this audience at this time. If you still don't feel confident, act as if you do – and it will help you feel more confident.

Keeping your voice strong throughout your entire presentation will help you deliver your message to your audience with energy and confidence.

Gilda's blog

Friday, January 15, 2010

Public Speaking - What's Your Point?

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

How many times have you sat through a presentation, only to walk out wondering "what was the point of that?!" Whether it was a one-minute presentation or one hour, if the audience doesn't know what the point was, then the presentation was not successful. Here are some things you can do to ensure this doesn't happen to you:

• Have a message. What is the one thing that you want your audience to walk away with from your presentation? That one thing is your message, also known as your theme, your purpose and your point. Realistically, that's all the audience can digest and remember from a presentation, especially considering the sheer amount of data and information that is thrown at them on a daily basis from all sources.

• Describe your message in one sentence. It could contain a call to action such as "company x has solid financials, a good product and a sound business plan, so we should invest in it." Or it could be informative such as "you can overcome your fear of public speaking." If you can't say it in one sentence, then you haven't focused enough yet.

• If something doesn't relate to your message, cut it out. When you are preparing your presentation, look at every example, detail and story you'd like to include and be ruthless about cutting out what doesn't relate to your message. You want to make it easy for your audience to focus rather than forcing them to sift through all the extra information to uncover your message. If you have extra details, keep them in your notes so you can use them if someone asks you a question. You can also include them in your handouts (like an appendix in a book), but don't clutter your presentation (or worse, your slides) with them.

• Be explicit about your message. State what your message is in your introduction to help your audience focus on your message as you're going through the body of your presentation. And repeat your message in your conclusion so it's the last thing they hear, which will help them remember it.

Sometimes it's not clear to you what your message is. If so, set aside extra time to prepare. Look through your material and keep organizing and reorganizing it until you see one clear theme or message emerge. You're not ready to deliver your presentation until you have identified it - if it's not clear to you what the message is, it won't be clear to your audience.

Having a clear message will keep you focused and organized as you are preparing and delivering your presentation. Your clarity and focus will, in turn, ensure that your audience understands what you are trying to communicate. No one will walk out of the room after your presentation asking "what was the point of that?!"

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Using Improv Comedy's "Half-Life" Technique to Stay Within Your Time Limit While Presenting

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

Have you ever seen a speaker go over the allotted time limit? Or rush through the material when they realized they were running out of time?

What was your reaction to that speaker? Were you impressed?

I've seen speakers go over the time limit by five, ten or fifteen minutes and then look surprised when they have to be pulled off stage. And I've seen them speed up their rate of speech or flash through their last slides so fast that you can't see them.

I'm unimpressed. In fact, I'm offended. It's as if the speaker is saying to the audience, "What I have to say is much more important than anything else you might have to do or anything else any other speaker might have to say, so I'm going to blow the time limit and make you stay and listen to me."

If you are given a time limit, as a speaker it is your responsibility to cover your material within that time limit. In order to do that, you need to focus on your message and practice delivering your presentation within the time limit.

When I teach the "manage your time" topic in my workshops and coaching program, I use an exercise called "Half-Life," borrowed from my improv comedy team, World Class Indifference (

In this exercise, two people improvise a scene in 64 seconds, based on a suggestion of a location from the audience. Then the actors repeat the same scene in HALF the time (32 seconds) - rather than just talking faster, they have to cut out the extra material in the scene and focus on the essential elements. Then they do the same scene in 16 seconds and then in 8 seconds (and sometimes, if we're feeling lucky, in 4 seconds!).

In addition to the great fun of seeing pairs of people performing 8-second scenes simultaneously throughout the room, this exercise helps people see how editing can cut out the extra material so they can focus on the message within the time limit. When the timer starts beeping, there is no extra time.

When I demonstrated this exercise with a class a few weeks ago, the 64-second scene was set in New York City, between a taxi cab driver and a potential passenger (me). We had a long discussion as to how I had arrived in New York, what sights I should see, whether I should take the cab or walk to the sights, how I was going to pay for the cab, what currency was accepted, etc. Yes, 64 seconds is a lot longer than you think!

By the 8-second version of the scene, we had edited it down to its essential elements: I had landed at JFK Airport, the taxi driver was going to drive me to the Empire State Building and we were going to stop at an ATM to get cash. The extra material, the fluff, had been cut out because there was no time to waste.

This Half-Life technique works so well that I use it for all my own presentations and workshops - and it's become a verb, as in "Half-Life my presentation" or "Half-Life my slides." I edit down to the essential elements - the message - and cut out the extra material so I don't go over the time limit.

The next time you have to speak in public, Half-Life it. Whether you have to present at a staff meeting, introduce yourself at a networking event or leave a voicemail for a potential client, practice cutting your material in half until you are covering the essential element, the message, within the time limit.

Gilda Bonanno's blog