Friday, February 28, 2014

Set Your Audience Expectations – and Then Follow Through

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

Two of my readers shared examples this week of what goes wrong when a speaker or trainer doesn’t set the right expectations for their talk or program:

Example 1:
My daughter wants to do a study abroad program, and she saw a meeting announcement at her college on study abroad programs. The meeting announcement instructed people to review the website and come with questions, so that’s what she did. However, at the meeting, all the presenters did was to review what is on the website.  My daughter was terribly bored and felt it was a waste of time. She had come with specific questions, and she had to hold them until the very end.

Example 2:
Last week I attended a corporate training event. As prework, we were asked to prepare two slides with our goals and objectives for the year.  I spent at least an hour preparing the slides and submitted them to the trainer.  But the slides were never used during the training.   Instead, during the training, he asked us to work in small groups to brainstorm goals and objectives on sticky notes and then post them on the wall. So, the time I spent preparing the slides was wasted and I felt very frustrated.

Don’t let this happen to you.  Don’t frustrate and disappoint your audience by having them prepare material or questions you have no intention of using. 

The next time you have to give a talk, run a meeting or lead a training program, be clear about your expectations – and then follow through as promised.  You will end up with a happier audience. 

Thanks to my readers for sharing these examples.  What examples do you have of speakers or trainers not following through on expectations?
Sign up to receive more public speaking and networking strategies from Gilda's e-newsletter:
Gilda Bonanno's blog

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Phone Presentation Skills for Financial Advisors: 4 Strategies for Building Trust Over the Phone

Here’s a question I was asked in a recent teleseminar by a financial advisor about delivering and soliciting information over the phone:

Question: I’m a financial advisor. Most of the first phone calls I have are about building trust with the client.  The more they talk, the better for me because I’m able to gather a lot of information from them.  But in a 30-minute call, at some point I need to jump in with my “pitch” or to just give my message to them and I don’t want to cut them off in the middle of a conversation.   

How do you manage that when you want them to feel comfortable, but time is kicking in and you need to be sure that there are certain points you’ve made before the call is over? What do I say?

This is a common problem for financial advisors and others who need to deliver as well as solicit information during a phone call. Here are 4 strategies for handling the call:

1.      Set the expectations up front At the start of the call, let them know how you see it unfolding.  Say something like, “Since this is our first call it’s important for me to learn a lot about you so I’m going to ask you some questions.  Then I also want to share the products and services I have at my disposal that I think can meet your needs. So do I have your permission to interrupt you gently if I need to, in order to share something I think can help you?”

Acknowledge that the call will be a give and take, which can be difficult over the phone.  The first time you want to interrupt, wait for a break in the conversation and say something like, “I’m sorry to interrupt, but you mentioned something about having a child going to college next year. Let me tell you a little bit about the plans we have for college saving.” Make sure the interruption is targeted and relevant and get their permission up front.
2.      Don’t assume you can cover it all in one phone call
It might not be feasible with some clients to get everything you need from them and to give everything you feel you need to give to them, all in a 30-minute phone call.  For example, send them general information ahead of time and then after the initial call, send a targeted, follow-up email and then have a second phone call or an in-person meeting. Be clear about your own goal for the first phone call – is it to convey everything you can or is it to get them to agree to an in-person meeting?

3.      Think about it from the client’s point of view
Maybe it’s important for them to share their story, their needs or their concerns, rather than hearing the laundry list of your products. Other clients may have specific questions about exactly which products and services you offer.   You have to decide on the fly what is important to the client and then act accordingly.

4.      Understand that it takes time to build trust – especially over the phone
Trust takes time to build – and only a moment to destroy – and can be even more difficult to build over the phone.  Be a good listener.  At the end of the call, summarize what you’ve discussed and establish the next steps.  And ater the call, follow up with what you’ve promised within a reasonable time frame.

Following these strategies will help you make the most of your phone conversation and build trust with your client.
For more help communicating over the phone, check out Gilda's audio course, Virtual Presentations - How to Develop and Deliver an Effective Presentation Over the Phone

Sign up to receive more public speaking and networking strategies from Gilda's e-newsletter:

Thursday, February 20, 2014

5 More Ways to Be a Better Listener

Listening is a crucial skill for success in business and in life. If we listen to others, we show them respect, we learn to understand their points of view and we help to build our relationships. 

Here are 5 more ways to improve your listening skills:

1.    Show empathy.   Empathy means that you understand the feelings that the other person has expressed. Understanding the feelings doesn't necessarily mean that you agree with them.  And remember the old adage, "you can't fake sincerity." If you're not genuinely concerned about someone, pretending that you care doesn't count as active listening.

2.    Beware your filters. In order to manage the information overload that bombards us daily, we all use selective attention, or filters, to decide what is important and what we should pay attention to.  Filters help us survive, but we have to be careful about how we develop them because bias and stereotypes can creep in and become barriers to communication.   

Any time you make an "always" or "never" statement, or automatically agree or disagree with someone because of what you think you know about them, or people like them, you are losing out on a chance to listen and learn.  Filters like "IT people never deliver projects on time" or "Engineers always make things too complicated" or  "_______________ [fill in the blank with any category or group of people] always/never…"  shut down our listening and get in the way of true communication.

3.    Paraphrase.  In order to ensure that the message you are receiving is the same message that the other person is sending, restate in your own words what you think the person said.  For example, "If I understand you correctly, what you're saying is…" or "I want to make sure I understand you – you disagree with the idea because…"

4.    Be aware of the time.  Active listening takes time in your already crowded schedule.  If you only have a few minutes, let the other person know; "I'd like to listen to you, but I have a meeting in 10 minutes.  Is 10 minutes enough?" If you consistently hold to the time limit and really spend that limited time listening, most people will condition themselves to get to the point within the time limit. (Yes, there are people who go on and on with no regard to anyone else's time, but those are the exceptions and have to be dealt with separately).

5.    Ask open-ended questions.  To get more information, ask "how" and "what" questions rather than interrogate the person with questions that only require a "yes" or "no" answer.  Questions like "how do you think we should handle it?" and "what is your opinion about it" will open up the conversation and give them the opportunity to share their ideas.  Once you ask the question, however, be sure to listen to the answer.  

The next time you're in a conversation, focus on listening actively to the other person.  The more you practice this skill, the easier it will become.  And you'll find that as you listen more effectively, you'll learn more and improve your business and personal relationships.
Sign up to receive more public speaking and networking strategies from Gilda's e-newsletter:

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Leadership Through Technology - ASTD-SCC 2/24/14 Meeting

American Society for Training & Development - Southern CT chapter meeting (ASTD-SCC)
Topic: Leadership Through Technology: The Fastest Way to Get Things Done
Monday, February 24, 2014; 5:45-8:00 PM
Speaker: Mike Song, CEO,

Employees spend most of their day in Outlook,, or working on PCs, tablets, smartphones, etc. Virtual teams are the norm. Yet many leaders don't know how to navigate technology in order to effectively communicate, coach, and motivate their people. The result is lost productivity and profits.

Come hear about the five critical competencies that will enable leaders to evolve into highly effective "tech execs." Our speaker will give each attendee at the face-to-face meeting a copy of his new book and engage us in a highly interactive session about how to:
  • Diagnose employees' individual and team TQ (Tech Quotient=Team Tech Skills Level)
  • Identify, motivate and celebrate tech champions
  • Become tech ambassadors who enthusiastically share carefully-selected zip tips and strategies with their teams
  • Inspire employees to embrace exploration and practice - the two most critical behaviors for boosting performance via technology
  • Utilize e-communications (email, text, IM,social media) and virtual meetings to drive performance and maintain excellent relationships, team focus and job satisfaction.
Our speaker, Mike Song, is one of the world's leading technology and time management experts. In addition to Zip! Tips: The Fastest Way to Get More Done, he's the lead author of the best-selling email and meeting effectiveness book, The Hamster Revolution. He is CEO and Founder of, an internationally renowned productivity training company. He has touched millions via interviews with Good Morning America, CNN, NPR and the Wall Street Journal.

Monday, February 24, 2014
Norwalk Inn and Conference Center
99 East Avenue, Norwalk CT

Chapter member (at the door) - $40.00
Chapter Member (pre-registered) - $37.00
Chapter Member In-Transition - $25.00
Guest - $50.00
Student - $20.00

Networking: 5:45 PM
Dinner Served: 6:30 PM
Program: 6:45-8 PM

To register or for more information, visit

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Video: Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking

Video: Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking
4 minutes, 50 seconds
If the video does not play, click this link:

Sign up to receive more public speaking and networking strategies from Gilda's e-newsletter:


Saturday, February 8, 2014

How to Deal With Not Seeing the Audience When Giving a Phone Presentation

Here’s a question I was asked in a recent teleseminar about not being able to see the audience when giving a phone presentation: 

Question: I’m actually much more nervous giving a presentation over the phone than in person.  In person, I’m getting feedback from the audience and getting their approval by looking at them.  I don’t get that over the phone, I find that I suffer from a great deal of nervousness and that my voice begins to shake quite often.

I think that many people feel more nervous presenting over the phone, in part because of the reason you cited: you get no feedback from the audience.  You are delivering your presentation into a black hole. You have no idea if people are even on the line. If they’re muted and you don’t have some kind of call-in tracking where you see the phone numbers that have dialed in, you don’t even know if people are there.  And if they are there, you don’t know if they are paying attention.

First of all, as with any presentation, you need to have self-confidence.  You have to believe that you have something worth saying. This is especially true even when you can’t see the audience and even when you’re hearing computer pings that tell you they’ve got email coming in. 

Second, try to have a mix of people on the phone and some in person.  Most of the people could be on the phone, but have one or two colleagues or friends (or even supportive family members if you’re presenting from home) in your location with you.

Have them in the room with you and coach them before the presentation.  Say something like, “I want you to imagine you’re this type of client or audience member.  Look at me when I’m presenting. Smile when you understand something. Focus on what I’m saying.” Having this kind of live feedback in the room may help you feel more comfortable and less nervous.
For more help with phone presentations, check out Gilda's audio course: Virtual Presentations - How to Develop and Deliver an Effective Presentation Over the Phone
Get more public speaking and networking strategies from Gilda's e-newsletter:

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

How to Practice Your Presentation

How should you practice for a presentation? 

It is not enough to just sit at your desk and flip through your notes or slides.  Practice means you actually say the words out loud in as close to the real environment as possible. If you are going to be presenting sitting, you practice sitting. If you are going to be presenting standing, when you practice, you should be standing, and you should say the words out loud.
(And I even recommend doing a dress rehearsal, particularly if it’s new content, a new audience or venue, or a high-stakes presentation.  A dress rehearsal means practicing in the actual room, with the full slides and microphone set up, in the actual clothes you are going to present in.)

Your goal is not to memorize your material, but to get comfortable enough with your material and comfortable enough with delivering your material in that environment that you can present naturally and effectively. You won’t get thrown off by being in a new room and you won’t get tripped up by having to use a microphone or PowerPoint remote control.

Practice Your Introduction, Transitions and Conclusion
When you practice, focus on your introduction, your transitions and your conclusion. Your introduction is your golden opportunity to catch the audience’s attention and communicate your message clearly from the beginning.

Also practice your transitions between points and between slides.  Transitions are often where speakers get stuck because while they know the points they want to make, they don’t know how to relate them to each other. Practice simple transitions like, “the second point is,” or “on the other hand,” or “the reason I recommend this action is...” 

Finally, your conclusion is your last opportunity to drive home your message, help the audience understand why it is important, and encourage them to act on it. So practice how you will end your presentation strongly so the audience knows you are done, rather than just trailing off with, “uh, and I guess that’s it…”

Practice will help you be more comfortable and confident when presenting to your audience, which will help you communicate your message more effectively.
by Gilda Bonanno
Gilda Bonanno's blog