Friday, May 31, 2013

Powerful Presentation Skills: Use Non-Verbals Effectively - Video

Check out Gilda's most-viewed YouTube Video - Powerful Presentation Skills: Use Non-Verbals Effectively.  It has been viewed more than 5500 times in more than 20 countries, from the United States to India, Brazil to South Africa. 

If the video does not play, click on this link

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Thursday, May 23, 2013

10 Mistakes to Avoid When Using Gestures

by Gilda Bonanno LLC
Non-verbal communication, or body language, is an important part of presentation skills and how you gesture is an essential component of that body language.  At the very least, your gestures should match your words and not distract the audience.  And with a little practice, they can help you convey confidence and make it easier for the audience to understand your message. 

Here are ten mistakes to avoid when using gestures:
1.    Not using gestures at all.  If you keep your hands locked at your sides, you will look nervous and your presentation will lack the visual element to accompany and enhance your words.  The audience should be able to see what you are saying, in addition to hearing it. 

2.    Keeping your hands in your pockets.  This position leads down the slippery slope to slouching and a sloppier posture.  And you also may unconsciously start playing with the keys or change in your pocket (yes, I've seen – and heard – it happen!).

3.    Fidgeting with your hands.  Be aware of what your hands are doing, such as "washing" each other, grasping each other tightly, fiddling with your watch or jewelry, etc.  One of my public speaking coaching clients rolled and unrolled his shirt sleeves while he presented (we solved that problem by having him wear short sleeves).   

4.    Playing with "stuff."  If you must hold something, such as your notes or the PowerPoint remote, be conscious of how you are holding it.  Too often the item becomes something for you to play with unconsciously, or in the cause of notes, a crutch that prevents you from looking at the audience. 

5.    Holding your hands behind your back.  This gesture usually resembles that of a child reciting a poem at a school assembly. When not gesturing, your hands should be in the "neutral position," hanging loosely at your sides and ready to come up to gesture. 

6.    Pointing at the audience.  Yes, your mother was right – it's not polite to point.  Replace it with another gesture; for example, try an open-handed gesture instead.

7.    Folding your arms across your chest. Even if you are only doing this because you feel cold, this gesture will most likely be interpreted as your closing yourself off from the audience. Instead, keep your gestures open to the audience. 

8.    Gripping the podium. This gesture is usually accompanied by the "deer in the headlights" look.  If you're using a podium, place your hands lightly on the top of it or in a relaxed hold on the edges. 

9.    Using stilted gestures.  Your gestures should be natural and flow smoothly rather than looking forced or robotic.

10. Using overly rehearsed gestures.  I once saw a speaker fall to his knees during his speech, which struck the audience as melodramatic and insincere.

If you eliminate these ten mistakes from your presentation, you'll come across as more confident and sincere and you'll be able to communicate more effectively.  Your gestures will reinforce your message to the audience rather than distract from it.

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mom, I Love You

Today is Mother's Day so I am reprinting a 2010 blog post about my Mom and all the wonderful things I have learned from her. Here they are, in random order:

Snacking is good. Mom loves to snack and had a simple rule for my brother and I when we were growing up: as long as you brush your teeth, it's ok to eat potato chips, ice cream and chocolate. When we played outside, Mom would call us in to give us ice cream. And during our marathon Scrabble sessions, there was always a snack break or two. No snacks were forbidden and no food was "evil," so we developed a healthy relationship with food. And all that teeth-brushing must have worked because I have never had a cavity in my life!

Talking to strangers is ok. Mom talks to anyone, especially in the grocery store. All it takes to start a conversation is an observation about the size of the iceberg lettuce or shared commiseration about the long checkout line—and then the conversation is off and running. Today it would be called "networking."

Dollars are stretchable. Growing up, we did not have a lot of money. Mom managed to keep a family of four afloat on very, very little money. She did this by working hard and spending only on necessities. And even when we didn't have a lot, she enjoyed volunteering at church to make food baskets for people who had less than we did. She made sacrifices for us; in fact, I don't recall her ever buying anything for herself. We often joke that we should send her to Washington, D.C. to help the government balance the budget.
Coupon clipping is an art. Mom checks the sale papers and clips coupons religiously. Then she calls and tells me how much money she saved in the store. I expect to get a phone call from the police one of these days, informing me that they've arrested her because she saved so much on one item that the store had to pay HER for it.

Projects can be fun. Organizing the file cabinet? Unpacking boxes? Cleaning out the basement? Call Mom. She loves doing work around the house especially if she gets to use the paper shredder or go to the dump (or "transfer station," as it's called in my town). During her last visit, she helped me organize my office closet, which had been so crammed with stuff that I hated opening it. It took hours. And when I inevitably got tired of doing it, looked at all the junk that we had piled on the floor and the desk and said "I don't want to play this game anymore," Mom said "it's ok, we're almost done" and kept me going. Now everything is in its place and properly labeled and I love opening the closet. And some of the neighbors want to rent her out to help with their projects.
Humor helps. Mom always has a positive attitude and loves a good laugh. She loves the Pink Panther movie and recently laughed hysterically at the dance scene in Johnny English, a spoof on spy movies starring Rowan Atkinson (from the "Mr. Bean" series). We played the scene over and over, just to make her laugh more. She will be delighted to know they are releasing a sequel. She also has the unfortunate habit of laughing whenever I am up on a chair, taking a box down from the closet – I don't know why. She is supposed to be holding the chair for me and instead, she starts giggling just as I'm trying to lift a heavy box and then of course, I start laughing… luckily, no one has gotten hurt…
Simple things can make you happy. Mom doesn't need a "spa day" or a meal at a fancy restaurant to be happy. She is what we fondly call "low maintenance." She enjoys the little things – like watching an old movie starring Robert Taylor or Joseph Cotton (extra points if it's set during World War II), going grocery-shopping at the Shop-Rite store near my house, eating ice cream outside on a warm day and of course, eating a Hershey's chocolate bar.

Complaining is not helpful. Not complaining is easy when life is easy, but Mom never complained even when life got hard. When family members were sick or even when my father died, Mom didn't complain or ask, "why me?" She just kept going forward, with a strong spirit, a smile and a desire to help other people. I'm still learning that lesson.

A few weeks ago, I received a big envelope from Mom in the mail. Inside were packages of one of my favorite candies – the dots of colored sugar stuck to long strips of paper. (Yes, you get some of the paper stuck in your teeth when you eat them, but that's half the fun.) She knows that I couldn't find them locally, so she looked for them on one of her grocery trips and sent them to me.
I'll be seeing Mom for Mother's Day. What am I bringing her? Flowers? A gift certificate for a massage? Nope. I'm bringing her all my love – and chocolate brownies. Thanks, Mom, and I love you.

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Top 3 Public Speaking Issues: Confidence, Message & Practice

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

Whether I am coaching an entrepreneur in Connecticut, an executive in Italy or a project manager in Thailand, there are three main presentation skills issues that I see over and over:

1. Lack of Confidence
The first area that I work on with most clients is overcoming this confidence deficit. People say, “Who am I to get up in front of this group and talk? They are not going to be interested in what I have to say. There are smarter people in the room than I am. Why am I doing this? I do not feel like I have much to offer.”

This lack of confidence undermines everything about the presentation from practicing to delivery to what happens if someone asks you a question that you haven’t prepared for.

2. Unclear Message
The second issue that I find that people face very often is not being clear about their point or their message. What are you there to say or share? Can you do a data dump of everything you know about this topic? Probably not, because it will put your audience to sleep and take you over your time limit.

You have to be clear about your message. What is the one thing you want people to remember from the conversation? What is the newspaper headline or billboard? And your message must be tailored to your specific audience.

3. Insufficient Practice
The third issue that I see is people not practicing their presentation. I find that people do not practice as much as they should and as much as they could. Also, they do not practice in the right way. Most people belong to the “wing it” school of practice. I ask, “Do you practice?” and they say, “Well, not really, I have so many other things to do.”

So they just “wing it” and then get frustrated when they don’t perform as well as they’d like, which just confirms their misguided and negative view of their public speaking ability.

You have to realize that if you practice in the right way, you will become more effective and therefore, more confident. And if it is a new presentation, high-stakes, in front of a new audience or on a topic you have not spoken about before, you need to practice more than you normally would.

“Practice”does not mean you just sit at your laptop and flip through your slides if you have them. It means you actually stand up in a room (as similar to the real one you as you can get), say the words out loud and time yourself.

This is not in order to memorize your presentation word for word, but to become so comfortable with your material, your transitions, and your timings that you come across as comfortable, confident and smart. You are able to be in the moment with your audience.

The good news is that these three issues are not insurmountable. With focus, coaching and practice, you can overcome them and improve your confidence, influence and success through effective presentation skills.

For more information on how public speaking coaching can help you, visit

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Learning Leaders & Cultural Transformation ASTD-SCC 5/20/13 Meeting