Monday, March 24, 2014

Handling Q&A During a Phone Presentation

It’s important to be prepared for questions when you are giving a phone presentation.  Think of questions as a key element of your presentation rather than just an add-on or afterthought. 

Think about what you would hate to be asked and have a response for it.  It can be much harder to recover on the phone when you get a question you aren’t prepared for because the audience can’t see you nodding, smiling, listening to the question and thinking of a response.  They just hear a long silence.

Have an answer for when you don’t have an answer
If, despite your practice and preparation, you get a question that you have no answer to, what will you say? What you don’t want to say is, “ah, um, well…um, well…okay, let me think about that. You know, I suppose we could…”  That kind of non-response will undermine your creditably.  Instead, you need a stock answer ready to go for those moments when you don’t have an answer. 

For example, “That’s an interesting question. I’m really glad you brought that up. I don’t have a clear answer at this point. I want to give that some more thought and do a little bit of research. Let me check on that and I’ll get back to you tomorrow.”  Or, you could say something like, “That’s something we hadn’t considered as part of our analysis. I can see how that definitely would need to be considered and we’ll certainly look into that before we go into a full launch for this product.”

And here is where giving a presentation over the phone gives you an advantage. You can have your desk full of notes and potential answers and no one will know. Provided you can access them easily without doing a lot of paper shuffling, you can have extra information right in front of you.

What to do if there are no questions
What should you do if you ask for questions and all you hear is a big silence? First of all, rather than asking, “are there any questions?” ask, “what questions do you have?” It’s subtle, but the shift in wording assumes that there are questions. 

Secondly, it can be more uncomfortable over the phone to have no questions, but don’t rush through the silence.  Don’t just ask for questions, hear the silence, get uncomfortable and move on. Give people a chance to think of a question, get ready to ask it, figure out how to un-mute the phone, make sure no one else is speaking and then ask it. And explain to the audience, “I’m going to give you a moment to un-mute your phone, that’s *6, and then ask a question.”

Thirdly, you can ask your own questions.  For example, say something like, “Often at this point I get asked…” or “when I was talking to a customer yesterday, he asked me…”

Don’t end with questions
Contrary to common practice, it’s not a good idea to end your presentation with questions because you are relinquishing control of the end of your presentation to the audience.  If you end with questions and there are none, you end with an uncomfortable silence. If you end with questions and you get a question that you can’t answer, you end with the awkwardness of your not having a response. Instead, break midway or near the end of your presentation, handle questions and answers, then finish your presentation and do a final conclusion. 
If you follow these strategies for preparing for questions for your phone presentation, you’ll be better equipped to give an effective, confident, successful presentation

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

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Eliminate Up Talk When Presenting

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

One of the most common problems I hear when people present – and one of my pet peeves – is “up talk.” What is up talk? Up talk is when you say everything like it’s a question, as in, “Hi, my name is Gilda? I’m really happy to welcome you here? I hope that you like my presentation?”

Up talk undermines your credibility with the audience.  When you use up talk, you’re expressing that you’re not sure about anything you say, so you make it into a question just in case it’s wrong.

And this is not just something that new college graduates do.  I’ve heard people of all ages do it.  

I had one client, a market researcher, who often presented over the phone to remote customers and she asked me to listen in on her presentations.  She was very smart, had a master’s degree and several years of experience.  She knew what she was talking about, yet on the phone she sounded like a little girl unsure of what she was saying because everything sounded like a question: “Here’s our marketing numbers for the quarter? And here is what we recommend?”

She had no idea she was doing it.  Once I had her listen to a brief recording from one of those calls, she instantly became aware of it.

So, first of all, you need to be aware if you are using up talk.  Record yourself or have someone give you feedback.  Then practice ending the sentence with a period rather than a question mark, which means that your voice tone either goes down at the end of the sentence or stays the same, rather than going up.  It will take time, but eventually you will replace the up talk habit.  

Once my client heard how she sounded, she was able to purge the up talk from her presentation and thus, sound more confident.

If you suffer from up talk, work on eliminating it so you can stop undermining your credibility and authority with the audience.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Mobile Learning - ASTD-SCC 3/31 Meeting

American Society for Training & Development - Southern CT chapter meeting (ASTD-SCC)
Topic: Mobilize Your Learning: Learning Solutions for a Multi-Device World
Monday, March 31, 2014; 5:45-8:00 PM
Speaker: Meghan A. Young, Senior Solutions Consultant, Kineo
We all get it! We need to create courses that serve learners well beyond the classroom, and even beyond the PC. The very idea of building separate courses for each delivery device seems both complex and costly – or maybe not!
Please join us on March 31st when we de-mystify this challenge. We will explore three timely and related learning topics:
Responsive eLearning Design: Learn how eLearning designs can support learners where they are and when they need it!
Multi-Device Delivery: We live in a multi-device world and need to provide mobile delivery and learning support through a number of devices. Learn about one program that fits all needs!
Open Source Programming:Open source programs are actively supported and improved by a collaborative community. Typically they are NO-to-low cost for course developers and users. Learn how you can benefit from this novel approach!
We will take a closer look at one program that embraces all three trends. Adapt is an open source tool for multi-device mobile learning that uses a responsive elearning design framework. Adapt creates just one version of elearning in HTML5, which responds intelligently to the device it’s viewed on, including desktops, smartphones and tablets. In this presentation, Meghan A. Young of Kineo will explore some practical examples of how the needs of a number of clients were met with Adapt technology.
About Meghan A. Young
Meghan brings 17 years of experience in blended learning production, system design and consulting as part of strategic organizational learning solutions, often for her Fortune 1,000 clients. Prior to joining Kineo, Meghan held senior positions in learning and development with Genesis Advisers (First 90 Days), Harvard Business Publishing and Saba, and recently earned her M.A. in Adult Development and Psychology from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Monday, March 31, 2014Norwalk 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

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

How to Deal With a Distracted Audience During a Phone Presentation

Here’s a question I was asked in a recent teleseminar about dealing with a distracted audience when presenting over the phone:

Question: I’m a market researcher and do a lot of phone presentations of numbers. When I’m presenting, I often hear computer pings in the background and the sound of the audience typing. I lose my confidence quickly and feel like I have to kind of rush through what I’m saying. They’re distracted so it’s hard to keep their focus on me while I’m giving my presentation.

A distracted audience can be a real issue, whether you are presenting in person or over the phone.  

First of all, make sure you are as engaging as possible.  Speak in an energized tone that is loud enough to be heard easily.  Use inflection to vary your voice and give meaning to your words.  Involve the audience by asking questions and giving them opportunities to participate.

Second, make sure your content is valuable and relevant to the audience.  Organize it clearly so it makes sense and supports the main message you want to communicate.  Help them understand how your material is useful and applicable to their work.  

Third, sometimes you just have to accept the reality of the situation – audiences tend to be distracted when they are listening in to a phone presentation.  Oftentimes it’s not you.

I’ve had distracted audience members even in in-person presentations.  I once had someone sleeping in the front row.  I had 2 choices.  I could say, “He’s sleeping because I’m boring,” and rush through the rest of my presentation.  Or I could assume that he’s sleeping now not because I’m boring but because he didn’t get any sleep last night.  Maybe he worked the night shift or there’s a new baby at home or he took medicine that’s making him sleepy. It’s not me, it’s him. (Now if most people in the audience were asleep, I’d have to assume it’s me!)

If you’re hearing computer notification sounds and typing occasionally, just ignore it and don’t assume it’s because you’re boring.  Don’t focus on it.    

And if it becomes too distracting, mute everyone on the line or ask people to mute themselves.  I often mute the line anyway, except for questions, to block out the inevitable background noises – static on the line, honking cars, barking dogs, loud air conditioning units, etc. – that are part of the reality of phone presentations. 

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

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Saturday, March 8, 2014

Customize Your Presentation for Your Audience

by Gilda Bonanno LLC
One of the attendees at my presentation skills training program shared an example of what can go wrong if you don’t customize your material for your audience

Robby McQueeney, a Cape Cod historian, collector and photojournalist, is known as The Dune Tramp, because he focuses on the dune shacks on the beaches of Outer Cape Cod, Massachusetts. 

He usually presents to audiences in or near Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where people are familiar with the dune shacks. 

Earlier this year, he did his first Dune Tramp presentation in Connecticut and here’s what happened:

I knew going in I should alter my explanation of Cape Cod topography, by starting in Connecticut and not on Cape Cod.

However, it wasn’t until I was getting into the stories of the shacks that I realized there were a lot of references that weren’t familiar to a non-Cape audience.  So, I starting having to edit on-the-fly, and it got a little choppy.

I had several references to the infamous Art’s Dune Tours in my talk. Everyone on Cape Cod knows Art’s, whether they’ve taken the tour or not.  When the first reference to Art’s popped up, I asked if anyone had ever taken a tour. Silence. So, I stopped mentioning Art’s. But they were tied explicitly to three photos I was showing. I ended up just generalizing and moved along, a bit awkwardly.

Also, many times throughout my show, I referred to the National Park Service and Cape Cod National Seashore.  Again, Cape Codders know all about the logistics of these organizations and about the 42,000 acres conveyed to the federal government in 1961. But the audience outside of Cape Cod does not, and so in hindsight, I also should have briefly described the logistics of the National Park Service/Cape Cod National Seashore.

My lesson learned is to give thought, before every presentation, to the type of audience I expect: location, age, knowledge base.  (So I can leave the dancing shoes at home!)

Moral of the story: if you change your audience, consider the appropriateness of your material, and fix it ahead of time!

The Dune Tramp’s example can apply to you.  Before your next presentation, meeting or training program, think about your audience and how you can customize your material so it makes sense to them.  This customization will make for a happier audience and prevent you from having to make changes in the middle of the presentation.

Thanks to The Dune Tramp for sharing his lessons learned.  What lessons have you learned about giving presentations?
Find out more about The Dune Tramp at

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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Bold Presentation Skills – What Does It Mean To Be Bold?

by Gilda Bonanno LLC  

I often speak about the need for people to develop Bold Presentation Skills.

But what does it mean to be bold?

When I asked a recent audience, “When you hear the word “bold”, what comes to mind?” here are the responses:











These are great words! They describe the goal of where we want to be with bold presentation skills.

Just like you use bold font when you’re typing because you want the bold words to stand out, you use bold presentation skills because you want your message to stand out. 

When you present, you want to be distinctive and have people remember you and your message. You don’t want to hide in the background and be a wallflower. You want to be front and center, because you have something worth saying.

Being bold is not about being loud and crazy.  It’s not about showing off.  It’s not all about you.  It’s all about your audience.  It’s about using your talents and your experience to share your knowledge with the audience so they can be more successful.

In 2012, I was the keynote speaker at the Women in Business Summit, presenting "Bold Presentation Skills" to a engaged and enthusiastic audience. Here is the news story from CT Cares Media:

(video courtesy of Adam Chiara, CT Cares Media)
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