Thursday, May 29, 2014

Networking & Talent Contest: ASTD-SCC June 9 Meeting

American Society for Training & Development
Southern CT (ASTD-SCC) chapter meeting
Monday, June 9, 2014
Networking Spectacular and Who's Got Talent Contest

This is one evening you will not want to miss!   Welcome the summer with a spectacular evening of networking, fun, and  learning from one another! It promises to be bigger and better than ever.

Last year we  launched our first ever ASTD SCC's Got Talent! Contest. It was such a fun night! It was full of energy and we all learned from our contestants sharing of best practices.  The contestants told stories, shared engagement ideas, ice breakers, motivational tips, and game building.

Four ASTD SCC's Got Talent! contestants will bring their best training tool,  technique, or special skill and compete for prizes and the opportunity to be:  THE WINNER OF THE 2014 ASTD SCC'S GOT TALENT CONTEST!
Monday, June 9, 2014
Norwalk Inn and Conference Center
99 East Avenue, Norwalk CT
5:45- 8 PM

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

To register or for more information, visit

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Five Tips for Keeping Your Voice Healthy When Presenting

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

Your voice is a key part of your presentation delivery.  And having a tired, hoarse voice can negatively impact your presentation.

I’ve conducted many training programs where I’ve had to present for five or six hours a day for five days in a row. And I’ve also sung in choirs and as a soloist. So I understand how important it is to take care of my voice so I can rely on it being ready when I need it. 

Here are my five tips for keeping your voice healthy: 

1.    Hydrate
Drink plenty of water, and not just during your presentation, but also before your presentation so you can stay hydrated.  Room temperature or warm water works best for me.  I also drink warm tea without caffeine.  I find that cold water, particularly ice water, actually constricts my vocal cords, and makes me feel hoarse, making it much harder for me to project my voice. Gargling with warm water and salt also helps (and the salt is a natural disinfectant).  Find something that works to keep your voice well lubricated.

2.    Control the room environment
Sometimes you’re in a room that is too hot, too cold or dry and that can quickly give you a sore throat.  Check out the room before you present and decide if you need to open a window, lower the heat or increase the air conditioning.

3.    Rest
Rest is crucial.  You need adequate sleep the night before a presentation so your voice sounds rested (and you are alert and focused).  And you should rest your voice, so no screaming at a sporting event the night before.  You can’t fake rest – if your voice is tired, people will hear it.

If you’re going to do several presentations over a few days or conduct multi-day training programs, you have to accept the fact that you will tire your voice and will need extra rest.  It's like working out – if you do bicep curls with weights, you expect that your muscles will be sore the next day.  As you gradually build up strength, you’ll be able to lift more weights without feeling as sore.  The same is true with your voice.

4.    Breathe
Breathing properly keeps your voice supported.  Take full deep breaths from your diaphragm and core that will support your voice to the end of the sentence, rather than taking shallow breaths from the top of your chest that cause you to run out of air. If you do yoga or Pilates, or you swim or sing, use that same kind of breathing.

5.    Warm up your voice
In preparation for your presentation, do some vocal warm-ups, much the same way as you would do flexibility stretches with your body.  Vocalize from high to low – just open your mouth wide and say “ah,” making a continuous sound with a pitch that goes from high to low.  Pronounce consonants and vowels and really move your lips.  Repeat the “t” sound and the “k” sound, for example. 

Screw up your face and then relax it. You may feel silly doing these exercises but they will help you loosen up and open up your voice. 

If you follow these five tips and take care of your voice before, during and after your presentation, you can keep your voice sounding energized, full, supported and healthy.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

How to Continue Developing Your Public Speaking Skills

by Gilda Bonanno LLC
Public speaking is a skill, which like any skill, can be learned and improved.  If you think of it as a  public speaking skills as a continuum, where you may start off  not being particularly skilled at presentations, and then continue along the line to being fairly skilled and then very skilled and finally, you are extremely skilled.
Wherever you are on that line, you want to keep moving forward and continue to develop your public speaking skills.
Here are four actions you can take to ensure you continue to make progress:
You can’t work on ten areas of improvement at once so select the one or two elements that you’re going to work on.  Pick the areas that will yield the most return and where you’ll see the most improvement in your presentation.  Find ways to practice them and focus on them during your presentations.
For example, if you want to work on crafting a message that’s clear and relevant to your audience, then each time you give a presentation, write the message at the top of your notes. Make sure you state it in the introduction and the conclusion, and then follow up with people afterwards to see if they understood the message.
Listen and be attuned to others’ presentations: what works for them and what doesn’t work?
By observing other presenters, often you can learn about what works from an audience’s point of view more effectively than if you just thought about it yourself.
For example, I recently attended a presentation in a long, narrow room, full to capacity with three hundred people.  The speaker stood behind a podium which had an attached microphone.  Early on, it became obvious that the back half of the room couldn’t hear her.  She tried speaking louder but that didn’t work and I could see people around me getting antsy.  
She finally realized the situation was getting a little out of hand and said, “You know what? I think I’m going to take the microphone out of the stand and hold it myself.” She pulled it out of the stand and held it close to her mouth.  And she got a round of applause because it was so much easier for people to hear and now they could actually understand her content.  Observing that example really drove home to me the point that if the audience can’t hear you, they get restless and can tune out.
Be careful while observing, however, not to copy somebody else’s presentation style completely. You have your own unique style and you want to develop that. 
After each presentation, take the time to reflect on it.  If you recorded yourself (while video is best, audio alone also can be helpful), make time to review the recording.  Write down the date, the presentation, the number of people in the audience and what happened.  Start off with what went well.  For example, you were well-prepared or you handled difficult questions with ease.  
Then think about what you could improve for next time, particularly in light of the areas you’re trying to focus on.  Be specific and non-judgmental. For example, you need to practice your transitions between slides so you use fewer pause words like “um” and “ah.”
Select someone to give you feedback who is capable of being specific.  You don’t want to hear, “Oh, you did great!” because that’s not helpful. You need to know what specifically was “great” about your presentation. For example, “You handled those questions confidently. You were able to say ‘I don’t know the answer,’ without stumbling.”
You also need someone who is capable of giving you constructive, specific criticism.  If the feedback is, “Well, you didn’t sound confident,” you need to ask, “What did I do or say that didn’t appear confident?” You will only be able to improve if you understand specifically what you did, for example, your voice was shaking or you stared at your notes rather than looking at the audience.
So don’t just accept random feedback – make sure you get specific, focused feedback both on what worked and what you can do better.
Use every opportunity you have to take action to improve your public speaking skills.  Like with any skill, the more you practice and get feedback about your public speaking, the more you will improve.  And if you’d like information about my public speaking coaching program, email me at
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Friday, May 16, 2014

How to Prepare for What Can Go Wrong During a Teleconference

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

In addition to preparing the content for your teleconference, you also have to consider teleconference logistics and be prepared for any glitches. You want to think about what could go wrong and how you will handle it.  Being prepared will allow you to handle the teleconference calmly and confidently without allowing any problems to distract you from focusing on your presentation and the audience.

Know the environment
Which teleconference service are you using? What are the phone numbers and access codes? Are you going to be at your desk or in a different room? Will there be anyone else in the room with you? Do you know how to use the phone/headset? Are you going to have a laptop in front of you with slides?

Deal with noise in the room or on the line
Before the teleconference, check the room you will be using for noise, like a loud air conditioning vent or sounds from outside or the office next door.  What will you do if there is a lot of noise or static on the phone line? In that case, I recommend asking everyone to mute themselves (or you can mute them all) and if that doesn’t solve the problem, the worst-case scenario is that you ask everyone to hang up and dial back in.

Assume the mute button is broken
Assume that the mute button on your phone is broken and that everyone on the call can hear everything you say.  Don’t say anything to yourself or to somebody else in the room that you wouldn’t want the participants to hear.  It’s fine if they hear you cough, but you don’t want them hearing you complain, “Mary was supposed to give this presentation, and she didn’t show and now I’m stuck with it.”

Assume there are more people on the call
Never assume that there are just two people on the call.  Once I called into a teleconference and heard the presenter having a conversation with another person on the line, assuming it was just the two of them.  She didn’t hear the beep when I joined or she had disabled that function, so she chatted with the other person about the weather and weekend plans, without realizing I could hear them.  I finally coughed loudly and announced myself.

Prepare for technology problems
It happens.  Your laptop unexpectedly shuts down (due to automatic updates, low battery or an unplugged power supply) so you can’t see your slides.  The phone line goes dead.  Be ready with an extra power cord, a printout of your slides or notes and a physical (not just electronic) reminder of key information like the teleconference call-in number and access codes.

Have an alternate way to reach people
If the conference line you’re using disconnects for some reason, you need another way to reach people, such as via email, text or chat, to let them how you’re handling the technical problem. It also helps to have somebody you can call for technical assistance.

Keep what you need close at hand
Make a list of what you might need during the call and then keep those items nearby.  For example, you might need water, tea, cough drops and tissues. You don’t want to be running into the conference room at the last minute and then saying, “Oh wait, let me go get water.”  If you need to have notes or other documents, keep them easily accessible on the table in front of you, not buried in a folder or your briefcase.

Give yourself breathing room before the call
It will be more difficult to conduct an effective teleconference or deliver a good phone presentation if you are rushing and flustered in the last few minutes before the call. Give yourself a minimum of 15 minutes (ideally 30) before the call so you can calmly get set up, test the computer connection, make sure the phone is working, get focused, review your notes and pull everything all together.

If you think about the logistics of your teleconference and prepare for what could go wrong, it will be easier for you to be fully present to your audience.  And if something does go wrong, you’ll be better able to handle it calmly, with grace and humor, rather than letting it completely derail the teleconference and your presentation.

For more strategies for success when presenting over the phone, check out Gilda's audio course: 
Virtual Presentations - How to Develop and Deliver an Effective Presentation Over the Phone

Sunday, May 11, 2014

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 today 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.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Learning Leader Panel - ASTD-SCC 5/19 Meeting

American Society for Training & Development - Southern CT chapter meeting (ASTD-SCC)
Monday, May 19 Meeting: Annual Learning Leader Panel: Today's Challenges in Leader Development
Rob Phillips, Group Vice President, Human Resources, Talent Development, Gartner
Betsy Kennally, Director of Organizational Development and Learning, Greater Hudson Valley Health System
Monica Rigney, Director, Leadership Development-Integrated Talent Development, Pitney Bowes
Don E. Smith, Life and Presentation Coach, Trainer & Speaker, Don E. Smith, LLC, “The Speech Wiz” and “Compelling Choice”
Join us for our most popular meeting of the year.  Take this opportunity to hear learning leaders discusse their individual initiatives that address the most common challenges in leader development.
Monday, May 19, 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

Sunday, May 4, 2014

8 Strategies for Delivering Your Presentation With Confidence

by Gilda Bonanno LLC
Weak delivery can undermine your presentation and cause your audience to lose interest in what you have to say.  Here are 8 strategies for delivering your presentation with confidence:

1.    Use a strong voice
Speak loudly enough to be heard - use a microphone if one is available. Speak clearly, enunciate your words and don’t rush.

2.    Don’t forget to breathe
Make sure your voice is supported by breathing fully.  Breathe from your core, your diaphragm, so the air can sustain you all the way through the end of the sentence.

3.    Stand up straight
Stand up straight, not stiffly and keep your head and shoulders back.  Plant your feet on the floor with your weight evenly distributed on both feet rather than leaning on one leg or nervously pacing.

4.    Make eye contact
Look at different people in the audience.  Making eye contact helps you engage people and demonstrates that you know your material well.

5.    Gesture
Use your hands for natural gestures that illustrate what you’re saying.  When not gesturing, your hands should hang comfortably at your sides rather than in your pockets or behind your back.

6.    Smile
Smiling helps to relax you (and the audience) and allows you to make a connection to the audience.

7.    Eliminate weak words
Using too many filler words like “um” and “ah” makes you sound less confident. Overusing words like “kinda” and “sorta” also undermines your authority. 

8.    Eliminate “throwaways”
Throwaways are the words or phrases with little meaning that you throw in at the end of a sentence because your brain is thinking about what comes next.  You still need to finish the current sentence so you say a throwaway like “and that kind of stuff” or “and you know what I mean.” An excessive use of these throwaways makes your language sounds sloppy.

If you follow these 8 strategies, you will sound confident when you give a presentation and demonstrate that you have something of interest to share with your audience.

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