Friday, December 31, 2010

Gilda's Photos from Shanghai, China

Here are photos from my third trip to Shanghai, China, in December 2010, where I facilitated training programs for a global client with a large presence in Asia. 
Outside a camera shop on Taikang Road in Old Shanghai
The NBA is popular in China - LeBron James is a global icon

A view of Nanjing Road, Shanghai's famous shopping district

A view of Pudong from the Bund
on an unseasonably sunny and warm day

The famous Pudong Skyline

Celebrating my birthday with tiramisu at a
wonderful Italian restaurant in the Puxi region of Shanghai!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Gilda to Keynote SNEC-PMI Project Management Conference

I am honored that I have been selected as the Keynote Speaker for the Southern New England Chapter of the Project Management Institute (SNEC-PMI) Conference in Hartford, CT on Friday, April 29, 2011. 

I have spoken at this conference for the past several years and it's a wonderful opportunity for attendees to learn new skills, earn PDUs and network with over 500 professionals and industry leaders.

Gilda's Keynote: "How Will You Spend Your 28,000 Days?"
Don't wait for a life-changing crisis to create the life and career that fulfills you most. In this motivating session, illustrated by Gilda's experience of being near the path of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, you'll gain a vivid understanding of the importance of priorities in life and work.

• Being challenged to consider how you choose to spend your time
• Understanding how to boldly break out of your comfort zone
• Avoiding career burnout by recommitting to your career or making a change
• Focusing on important priorities in life and work

After this talk, you won't want to spend another thousand of your estimated 28,000 lifespan days complaining and making others around you miserable - and you'll be on your way to making important changes happen so you can live a more inspired life.

SNEC-PMI Conference
Friday, April 29, 2011
Connecticut Convention Center
100 Columbus Ave., Hartford, CT

For more info, visit and click on "Conference"

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Power of Giving - from Suzanne Bates

For a wonderful (and true) holiday story about the power of giving... check out this blog post, A Christmas Wreath, by communications expert Suzanne Bates on The Power Speaker Blog.

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Friday, December 17, 2010

Take Action to Improve Your Presentation Skills

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

For two weeks in October, I drove around with a chest of drawers in the trunk of my car.

I was supposed to bring it to the recycling center in my town since I no longer had use for it. It took up most of my trunk space and every time I braked or made a sharp turn, the drawers flew open and then slammed shut. When I heard that sound or looked in the rearview mirror and saw the drawers slide back and forth, I thought, "I really should do something about that."

There were many solutions. The most obvious solution was just to drive to the recycling center and get rid of them. But I found excuses not to, like "I don't have enough time," "it's raining," or "the recycling center is closed."

I even could have tried a temporary fix like taking the drawers out and keeping them separate so they wouldn't keep opening and closing or turning the drawers face down so they couldn't open. But I said, "I guess it's not that bad – I can ignore it…" or "it's not that important right now – I'll get it done eventually…."

So I did nothing. The pain of inaction was less than the pain of action; in other words, it was easier for me to do nothing than to do something. It was easier for me to ignore the issue, pretend it wasn't there or listen to the sound and complain, than to actually find the time when the recycling center was open, drive there, unload it and be done.

This principle also applies to improving your presentation skills. Many executives, business professionals and entrepreneurs are not comfortable presenting in public and refuse to do it. Or if they must do it, they are very anxious about it, are confused about how to prepare and have a less-than-successful experience, which merely confirms their anxieties and dislike of public speaking.

Like the slamming of the drawers in the trunk of my car, the painful experience causes them to think, "I should do something about this – I should take care of it..." And there are many solutions; they could practice more, join Toastmasters ( or hire a coach. But they find excuses, such as no time, no money, it's raining… And they do nothing because the pain of inaction is less than the pain of action.

Then, suddenly, the dynamic shifts. Maybe a boss has made it clear that they will not get the next promotion unless they're comfortable presenting or maybe business is dwindling because they are unable to present to new clients. Whatever the trigger, that nagging feeling finally becomes too overwhelming to ignore and then they do something about it. Often, they call me and we start working together, because suddenly, doing nothing has become the worst option. The pain of doing nothing has finally become greater than the pain of doing something.

I eventually took the drawers to the recycling center – after 2 weeks of driving around with the painful reminder, the pain of inaction became too great. Driving away from the recycling center, I had the feeling of a weight being lifted from my shoulders and I savored the blissful silence when I made a sharp turn…

So what about you? What will it take for you to take action to improve your presentation skills? When will the pain of doing nothing finally become too great?

When you are ready to take action, call me. And if you’d like to take a small and painless action step, visit to sign up for my free twice-monthly newsletter with tips to improve your presentation skills.

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Monday, December 13, 2010

What Do You Tell Yourself About How You Present?

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

What you tell yourself about how you present is important.

In fact, it's as important as how you actually present.

Why? Because what you tell yourself about how you present will affect how you actually present. In other words, your thoughts and beliefs shape how you act.

If you tell yourself, "I'm a lousy presenter" or "I suck at public speaking," (these are real statements from my presentation skills coaching clients), it will be difficult for you to overcome that negativity and do what's needed to deliver an effective presentation.

If you think that the end result will be poor anyway, it will be hard for you to dedicate the time, energy and effort needed to become an effective presenter.

For example, if you practice giving a presentation and accidentally stumble over your words, forget what you wanted to say or get stuck repeating "um" too often, you will be tempted to say, "oh well, I'll never be good at this anyway" and stop practicing… which, in turn, will mean that your presentation will not be as effective as it could be.

Follow these 3 steps to break the cycle of negativity:

1. Listen to your thoughts and words to become aware of what you are telling yourself about how you present.

2. Change what you tell yourself. I'm not suggesting that you tell yourself, "I'm the best presenter in the whole wide world" – you will be lying to yourself and that won't help you become successful. Instead, find the middle point between lying to yourself and berating yourself – a positive statement that recognizes your potential, such as "I'm working on developing my presentation skills" or "I'm getting better at public speaking" or "I'm capable of being a competent and effective presenter."

3. Believe the positive statement that you tell yourself about how you present – and then actually go out and work on preparing and practicing so you can become a more effective presenter.

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Thursday, December 9, 2010

4 Reasons Not to Start Your Presentation With a Joke

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

In my presentation skills training programs, people often ask me, "Should I start my presentation with a joke?" My immediate response is "No!"

Now I'm a fan of humor as much as anyone – and in fact, probably more than most people, since I've been performing onstage with an improv comedy group for the last 6 years and I've incorporated improv comedy rules and ideas into my communication skills/leadership training programs.

(Improv does not involve telling memorized jokes, however, but instead requires you to be in the moment and spontaneously respond to audience suggestions and whatever your fellow performers on stage have offered. Applied to speaking, improv helps you connect with the audience, remain fully in the moment and trust that you've prepared enough to handle the unexpected – from a technical glitch to an unanticipated question to a fire alarm.)

So here are 4 reasons why I don't recommend starting a presentation by telling a memorized joke:

1. A joke is difficult to get right.
Great jokes are all about timing and delivery. Expert comedians like Jerry Seinfeld work for hours to perfect a joke and decide which words to use, where to put the emphasis and how long to pause before delivering the punch line. Telling a joke right is a lot of pressure to put on yourself at the start of the speech, especially when you already are feeling nervous.

If you're a stand-up comedian performing for 15 minutes, you can afford to flub a few jokes. However, if you're giving a presentation and the joke is your opening, it's hard to recover from a joke gone wrong and from that awkward silence during which the audience wonders if they're supposed to laugh.

Speaking is not about perfection – it's about communication – and perfection is unrealistic and unnecessary. But jokes require you to be near-perfect, especially if it's your opening line and your only joke.

2. They've heard it before.
Unless you have your own personal joke writer (and if you'd like to hire someone to write funny lines for you, I recommend speakers/comedians/humorists David Glickman and Ron Culberson, you probably get your jokes from the Internet. And if it's a funny joke, that probably means that someone in your audience has read it in their email inbox. And if the joke is specific to a particular industry, the chance is even greater that many people have read it or heard it before.

A key element of humor is the element of surprise, whether it's an unexpected juxtaposition of words or events, a twist in the ending of the story or an unanticipated punchline. If people in the audience have heard the joke before, you lose the power of surprise. And telling a stale joke could brand you as "same old, same old" rather than as a unique individual with a fresh perspective on the topic.

3. You will offend someone.
While you probably wouldn't start your presentation with "a rabbi, a minister and a priest walk into a bar…" because of its obvious inappropriateness for most audiences, there are few jokes and types of humor that are universally inoffensive. Especially given the cultural, religious and ethnic diversity of our audiences, it's difficult to imagine a clean, funny and appropriate joke that is a safe bet for every audience.

And there's no real way to know if people are offended by your joke, unless they tell you. Just because people laugh doesn't mean they are not offended or hurt by the joke – sometimes, they give in to the social pressure to laugh, while inwardly feeling upset and even angry.

Beginning your presentation by alienating people in the audience will not help you communicate effectively.

4. Even if you get it right AND they haven't heard it before AND it doesn't offend anyone, it might be irrelevant.
Even if all else goes well, your joke might be viewed by the audience as irrelevant. They may laugh, but be unsure why you told it and how it relates to your message. Even if you think it's obviously and directly relevant to your presentation, they still might be confused about its purpose. And it's never a good idea to start off by confusing the audience.

So the next time you have to give a presentation, remember these 4 concerns. And unless, you can successfully address all of them, resist the urge to start with a joke you found online and you'll have a better chance of being effective.

For more on how to start a presentation, check out my 11/20 blog post - 6 Tips for Introducing Yourself at the Start of Your Presentation

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Brian Tracy: "You Can Do It!"

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

Gilda Bonanno & Brian Tracy
I was excited to meet the legendary Brian Tracy recently, one of America's leading authorities on the development of human potential and personal effectiveness and author of 13 books.  Brian is on the Board of Directors for the National Speakers Association (NSA) and because I'm president-elect of the Connecticut chapter of NSA, I had a chance to meet him when I attended an NSA leadership training.

He spoke very briefly to our group, but his words were very impactful: "you can do it." He recommended that we tell ourselves, our chapter members, our colleagues who are aspiring speakers and our children: "you can do it.

Brian believes that telling people "you can do it" will help them feel more powerful and confident - and reverberate through their lives.

He developed this mindset because he grew up with such negativity that he resolved to try the opposite approach with his children. So he consistently told his children, "you can do it," and they have grown up to believe they are truly capable of anything.

I have long been a fan of Brian's work and I appreciated his words. They are a great reminder of the power of belief and how four words can kickstart motivation and build the self-confidence that will allow people to get started on the right path.

I say "you can do it" to my presentation skills coaching clients and in my leadership training classes. The message encourages people and helps them believe that they are capable of moving forward and doing the work necessary to make progress towards their goal.

You have to say "you can do it" to yourself and believe it. That positive mantra can drown out the negative voice in your head that tells you that you will fail and that you're not good enough (which I've named the "Joy-Sucker" voice because it sucks the joy out of work and life). 

Tell yourself "you can do it" and then move forward.  It works for Brian Tracy… it will work for you, too.

One of my favorite Brian Tracy books is Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time (affiliate link)

And thanks to NSA-New Jersey president-elect Tommy Hilcken for taking the photo with his camera!

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Jane Pollak on the Fear of Public Speaking

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

I enjoy reading colleague Jane Pollak's blog.  She is a coach, speaker and author whose wonderful tagline is "leading remarkable women to uncommon success." 

Check out Jane's recent post, She Overcame Her Fear of Public Speaking, for the story of one of her colleagues, Susan Beallor-Snyder, who had to deliver a eulogy in front of 100 family and friends at a memorial for her father.  Since Susan did not have much experience speaking in public, she was very nervous.  Read the post for details about how Susan prepared and practiced so she could deliver an authentic presentation at a difficult time. 

And check out Jane's newly updated book, Soul Proprietor: 101 Lessons from a Lifestyle Entrepreneur (affiliate link) for practical advice on business, marketing and goal setting, including how to pursue your entrepreneurial dream during an economic downturn.

Gilda Bonanno's blog