Thursday, April 29, 2010

Patricia Fripp on Impromptu Speaking

Executive Speaking Coach Patricia Fripp has written a informative blog post on how to handle the impromptu conversations that arise at work - what she calls mastering "the skill of the water cooler vignette."

Here is an excerpt:
"1. Have something to say that is of interest and topical. Keep up with the news, and peruse your corporate report or newsletter regularly. Have two or three relevant things to say at all times. You can even "rehearse" with a trusted friend for those chance encounters with CEOs.

2. Focus on others. The silver bullet in business and politics is the Like Factor, but it's easy to concentrate so hard on what others are thinking of you, you forget that even VIPs care what others think of them. Know what is going on in your company so you can congratulate people on their achievements or refer to a previous conversation: "How was that trip you took last week?" Your sincere interest in people will make a lasting impression."

I had a chance to hear her present at the 2009 NSA Convention in Phoenix and she was terrific! And I'm looking forward to attending the Odd Couple(R) Seminar with Patricia Fripp and legendary speaker Alan Weiss in a few months.

Read the rest of the post here -

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Monday, April 26, 2010

5 Frequently Asked Questions about How to Use Eye Contact

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

1) Why should I use eye contact?
It helps you connect to the audience, no matter how big or small. Whether you're speaking to an audience of four or four thousand, it can help to create a one-on-one communication experience for each audience member. It also demonstrates your confidence and proves that the information resides in your head, not in your notes or on the slides. And it helps you get feedback on how people are reacting to your presentation.

2) How long should I look at each person?
Approximately 5 seconds, which is about the time it takes to complete a thought. Then move on to another person. Avoid darting your eyes around the room, trying look at everyone at the same time.

3) What if I'm uncomfortable looking at people's eyes?
It is very intimate to look in someone's eye; remember the old adage, "the eyes are the window to the soul"? If you're uncomfortable looking directly into their eyes, you can start by looking right above their eyes, at their eyebrows. The difference won't be obvious to them and as you practice and get more comfortable, you can try looking them straight in the eye.

4) What if someone in the audience is uncomfortable with my looking at them?
He or she can choose to look away. If someone repeatedly looks away, don't take it personally. Just glance over him or her on your way to focusing on someone else.

5) Who should I look at in the audience?
Your goal is to look at everyone and not ignore any section or person. You want to communicate that each person in the audience is important so don't focus only on the highest-ranking person in the room or the one friendly face. And since no one should be able to predict where you will look next, avoid what I call "tennis eyes," where you move your eyes from one side of the room to the other in a repetitive pattern, as if you were watching a tennis match.

With practice, you'll be able to use eye contact with ease and convey your message to your audience with confidence.

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Gilda to Speak at Project Management Conference

Back by popular demand for the fourth year in a row, Gilda Bonanno will speak at the Southern New England Chapter PMI (SNEC-PMI) Project Management Conference in Hartford, CT on April 30, 2010.

Learn new skills, earn PDUs and network with over 500 professionals and industry leaders!

Friday, April 30, 2010 Conference Session: "Presenting with Power and Passion" As Project Managers, we often need to present in front of groups, including the project team and the stakeholders. It is crucial to be able to convey knowledge and passion to the audience. In this interactive workshop, you will learn how to project a powerful, engaging and persuasive presence while presenting. Techniques include overcoming anxiety, using voice and body language and persuading the audience.

Held at the Connecticut Convention Center, 100 Columbus Ave., Hartford, CT
For more info, visit and click on "Conference"

Gilda's website

Friday, April 23, 2010

Visualize Successful Presentations

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

When I train groups or coach individuals in presentation skills, I encourage them to drown out the negative voices in their heads with a positive mantra and visualize themselves successfully giving an effective presentation.

The power of visualization has long been used by top athletes to achieve high performance and it also applies to giving presentations. I recently read a concise description of visualization in The Best Tennis of Your Life: 50 Mental Strategies for Fearless Performance by Jeff Greenwald, a sports psychology consultant and former world-ranked tennis player (read more about Jeff at

In chapter 12, "Visualize After Errors and Before Matches," Greenwald recommends the following process for successful visualization [I am paraphrasing loosely]:

• Find a quiet place

• Relax your mind

• Take deep breaths for about 5 minutes and focus on your breathing

• Imagine yourself succeeding – exaggerate the image and allow yourself to experience what success feels like, looks like and sounds like

• Use a quick snapshot of this image to focus yourself before you play [or in your case, present] and also to refocus yourself after you've made an error

You can apply the same steps to visualizing your presentation success. Imagine what it feels like to hear your name spoken by the person introducing you at the event or welcoming you to the meeting. Then feel yourself walking confidently to the front of the room or smiling as everyone seated at the table turns toward you. Experience the sensation of delivering your content with ease, overcoming any fear or anxiety.

If you stumble over a word, forget what you were going to say next or go blank when someone asks you a question, call up the images of you eloquently describing your topic, easily remembering what comes next and confidently responding to a question. These positive images will help you make a quick mid-course correction and prevent a small mistake from snowballing into a presentation disaster.

The next time you have to give a presentation, try these visualization steps. Along with your other preparation and practice, visualization can help you deliver an Olympic-worthy presentation.

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Six Tips for Handling Questions with Ease

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 during the question-and-answer part, you're still presenting – keep your energy up once you finish your formal presentation and start answering questions. Your presentation is not truly over until the audience has left the room.

3) Prepare for questions by thinking, “what questions would I hate to have someone ask me?" and then have an answer for them. Practice your presentation in front of others and have them come up with likely questions.

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. Restating the question in your own words is also helpful when the question was long-winded; it helps focus you and your audience on the one or two elements to which you are going to respond.

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

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Voice Power - Pauses, Inflection & Tone

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

Your voice has an incredible range and ability to convey meaning and emotion. Yet most of us use only a small part of that range. Use the following guidelines to unleash the power of your voice so you can deliver your message effectively and connect to the audience:

Use pauses. Pause before an important word, at the end of the sentence or anywhere you'd like a break. The audience has time to absorb the information, you have a chance to breathe and you're less likely to use a pause word such as "um" or "ah."

I remember a cartoon in which a man looked distressed after his dog dragged in the paperboy. The bubble above the man read: "Oh dear, perhaps I should have made myself more clear. I said "Fetch me the paper, boy" (Rubes, © Leigh Rubin). See what a difference a comma can make? In writing, you use punctuation to provide meaning; when speaking, you have to use your voice and body language to provide the punctuation that provides meaning: "Bring in the paper [pause] boy."

Use voice inflection. Inflection allows you to emphasize key words and emotions and helps convey your exact meaning to the audience. For example, try speaking the sentence, "I know the answer" with a variety of different meanings just by changing your voice inflection. You could say "I know the answer [no one else does]" or "I know the answer! [all that studying paid off]" or "I know the answer?" [no, I don't] or "I know the answer… [but what's the question?]" These sentences have vastly different meanings, but the words are the same – only your voice inflection has changed.

Be aware of your voice tone. Does your voice have energy? Do you sound angry, tired, bored? Remember, as with other forms of non-verbal communications, your voice has to match the words that you say. If you say "I'm excited to be here," but your voice conveys boredom, the audience will believe your non-verbals rather than your words.

Your voice has a wide range and the potential to convey meaning and emotion to your audience.  Learning to tap into the power of your voice will enable you to become a more powerful communicator.

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Friday, April 2, 2010

Public Speaking Fear? Drown Out That Negative Voice in Your Head!

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

If your stomach churns just at the thought of speaking in front of a group of people, you're not alone. In fact, Americans rate public speaking as their number one fear - even ahead of death (hence the old joke that you would rather be in the coffin than giving the eulogy)!

Think about what's going through your head right at that moment when you're getting ready to open your mouth, whether it's at a staff meeting at work or in front of the local YMCA parents' group. Yes, I admit that I hear voices in my head - and I bet you do, too.

Take a moment, close your eyes and really listen for that voice - what is it saying?

When I ask clients to share what that voice in their head is telling them right before they speak, they invariably come out with a whiny, annoying voice spewing negatives like "you're going to make a fool of yourself" or "who do you think you are?"

That voice goes by many names. Creativity expert Julia Cameron calls it "The Censor." I call it the "Joy-Sucker" because it sucks the joy out of your work and your life. The Joy-Sucker undermines your confidence and makes you less able to convey your knowledge and experience to your audience. In its worst manifestations, it may even cause you to forget your own name!

The Joy-Sucker may come from old beliefs about ourselves or perhaps a comment made by an unhelpful friend, teacher or ex.

Instead of allowing the Joy-Sucker to sap your confidence, I recommend replacing it with a positive affirmation or Mantra. Mantra is a term borrowed from meditation and yoga and means a word or phrase that you repeat to yourself to focus your mind and energy. Your mantra should be personally meaningful to you and should be a phrase that you can believe. You can use a song title (Aretha Franklin's "RESPECT" comes to mind), a line from a poem or anything that makes you feel powerful and confident. "You go, girl" is my personal favorite (accompanied by a mental fist in the air).

Once you have created a mantra, try it out in real-life situations. When you're getting ready to speak, listen for the Joy-Sucker and replace it with your mantra.

Remember that the Joy-Sucker has had years of practice, so it's okay to try several mantras before you find one that is powerful enough to drown it out.

You'll know the mantra is working when you feel your anxiety decreasing and your confidence increasing (a little bit at a time). As you build your confidence, you'll be able to tap into your knowledge and experience related to the topic at hand - and you'll be on your way to becoming a more polished public speaker!

Gilda Bonanno's blog