Monday, February 29, 2016

9 Tips for Doing a Great Webinar

by Gilda Bonanno LLC 

Webinars are becoming increasingly common in today’s interconnected business world.  Participants log into the webinar application from their computer to view the presentation or document you’re sharing and hear you speak through their computer speakers or through a phone connection.  In a webinar, even more so than in an in-person presentation, it’s crucial for you to capture and keep your audience’s attention; otherwise they will quickly move on to another task or start checking email. 

1.     Be clear about your message 
It will be easier for your audience to pay attention and follow you if you have a clear message.  Eliminate any unnecessary material that could clutter your message and confuse your audience.  Have a clear organizing principle and share your high-level agenda early in your presentation. 

2.     Avoid text-heavy slides 
People can read to themselves faster than you can read out loud, so they will finish reading the words before you and wonder when you’re going to move on. If you do have longer text on the slide, such as a quotation, leave that slide up for longer so people have time to read and absorb it. 

3.     A picture really is worth a thousand words
Interesting, relevant visuals (rather than bulleted lists) are a great way to communicate your message.  For maximum impact, fill the whole slide with the visual by dragging the corners of the photo to fill the slide, rather than leaving a big border around it.  I highly recommend Presentation Zen, a wonderful book by Garr Reynolds which is my “go-to” resource for creating visual PowerPoint slides.

4.     Use high-quality photos
Real photos are often more appealing and memorable than cheesy clip art.  You can find some free photos in PowerPoint or online (be careful with copyrighted images) and purchase photos from stock photo websites.  I use my own photos, too.  For example, I use a photo I took of a peacock at a zoo.  It’s on a slide with only the words, "be confident, not cocky,” in Gills Sans MT font, 40 point size.

5.     Plan ahead
Have an answer to the inevitable question, "will we get a copy of your slides?" While I usually provide a follow-up summary of key points, I don’t share a copy of my slides since they do not make much sense without my voiceover (after all, they are ONLY the visual aid - I am the presentation).  Also decide if, when and how you will handle questions from the audience. 

6.     Use more slides than usual
Having more slides than you usually would use in an in-person presentation will allow you to change slides quickly and keep people’s attention.  They will be discouraged from disengaging from the webinar to multitask since they might miss something.

7.     Your voice matters
Unless you are also using video, your voice is the only element of body language that your audience has.  Speak loudly and clearly enough so you can be heard and understood easily.  Vary your volume, rate, pitch, etc. so you can communicate your meaning.  Keep your voice hydrated.  Standing up and smiling will make your voice sound more energized.

8.     Have a technical host
You want to focus on your presentation and not any technical issues.  Have someone available (ideally co-located with you) to handle the technical aspects – such as participants having trouble logging in, finding the phone dial-in number, etc.  He or she can also monitor the chat screen, moderate questions and help if something goes wrong.

9.     Do a dress rehearsal
Test out your presentation and internet connection using the webinar software and ask others to log in so you can see how your slides look and find out if there is a delay as you advance the slides.  This is especially necessary if your presentation includes many slides with photos, since it can be a big file and require more bandwidth.

The next time you have to present a webinar, follow these 9 tips to help you deliver a clear,  effective presentation that engages your virtual audience and communicates your message.  

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Avoid Career Burnout: Recommit to Your Job or Quit Your Job

by Gilda Bonanno LLC 

I was on the train recently and overheard the man next to me on his cell phone, saying, “I hate my job!”

Do you agree with him?  How do you feel about the job where you spend most of your waking hours and which may occupy your thoughts even during your sleeping hours?

If you are suffering from career burnout, you wake up to the sound of your alarm clock with an awful feeling in the pit of your stomach because you have to go to work today.  Or you feel the “Sunday night blues” – as the sun sets on Sunday, you begin to feel blue, because in the morning the work week starts again and there is no holiday on Friday.

In the long term, ignoring your feelings of career burnout can be very detrimental to your physical, emotional and mental health, your relationships and your career.  When you’re facing career burnout, you have two choices: you can either recommit to your job or make a change.

Recommit to Your Job
Rather than feeling miserable at work every day and then going home and sharing your unhappiness about your job with your family, try to rediscover or create an aspect of your work that excites you. 

Remember why you got into the field in the first place and what you used to enjoy about it.  Or be creative and figure out what else you could do in your job to make it more interesting for you and to provide more value to your employer.  For example, if you’re an IT project manager who enjoys public speaking, could you offer to represent your company at industry conferences?  If you’re an interior designer who enjoys sharing your experiences, could you mentor newer designers at your firm?

In order to pursue a new or newly rediscovered portion of your job, you may need to develop or hone your skill set.  And you will have to be persistent and savvy in how you market this to your manager so it’s a win-win-win: for you, your manager and the company.  Exploring these others facets of your work will make it more enjoyable and allow you to recommit to your job.

Make a Change
If you’re not able to recommit to your job, or you’re not willing, or circumstances don’t allow it, the only other option is to make a change. You could change roles, functions, departments, locations, companies or even careers.

I’ve quit my job to change careers and let me tell you, it’s not easy.  You don’t just wake up in the morning and say, “Today, I’m quitting!” While it might feel good in the short term to do that, it’s not the reality.
In order to make a change, you need a plan. First, you have to answer three questions: “What am I good at? What do I like doing? What does the marketplace need?”

And where your answers overlap is the sweet spot that you can build on.  It’s not enough if only two areas come together.  You may be good with numbers, but you don’t enjoy working with them.  Or you may love computer programming, but you’re not really good at it.  Or you may love drawing and be good at it, but no one is willing to pay you for it.  That’s not enough. 

All three of these areas have to come together and then you have to be creative in building a new role or career in that magical space where the three intersect. Like with recommitting to your job, you may need to brush up on your skills or develop new ones.  And you have to be clever when you’re looking at the marketplace and trying to anticipate needs. 

You have to look at your knowledge, skills and experience with a fresh perspective so you can identify new opportunities where you can provide value and feel fulfilled.  You’ll also need a timeline, a strong financial plan to support a temporary change in or loss of earnings and the support of your advisers/mentors and your family.

Continuing in a job that you hate is not doing any good for you or the company.  And while it may provide a certain sense of financial stability (which may be an illusion given the variability of companies and the prevalence of layoffs), it is eroding your sense of worth and fulfillment and destroying your happiness. 

Is that really the legacy you want to leave – “she worked at a job she hated and then she died”?

Don’t want until it’s too late.  Make the decision now whether it’s time to recommit to your job or quit your job.  

Gilda Bonanno's blog 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Gilda Had Her Audience Riveted

"It was a tremendous thrill getting to work with and host Gilda Bonanno, who was the featured speaker at Dominican College’s President’s Lecture Series in November 2013. Gilda’s commanding narrative of her experiences had the audience of mostly high school and college students riveted. Additionally, Gilda’s strategies for enhancing communication skills and maximizing opportunities were especially helpful to the adolescents in attendance, particularly in today's economic climate.

Working with Gilda proved to be one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had hosting speakers. She is a consummate professional, generous with her time and someone whose passion for what she does is contagious in the best of ways!" 
Matt Robertson, Host and Organizer, President's Lecture Series, Dominican College

To see more testimonials about Gilda's work, visit

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

How to Deal With Change

by Gilda Bonanno LLC 

“Nothing is constant other than change” goes the old adage, but sometimes change can be difficult to deal with and even painful.  I find it helpful to follow the model developed by one of the great leaders in the change management movement, William Bridges, author of Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change and Transitions: Making Sense of Life's Changes

Here is his simple, three-step human cycle of change model: 
William Bridges model of human cycle of change and transition

The first step is the change.  Whether it was planned or unplanned change, positive or negative, whether you quit your job or lost your job, or moved your office or got married, the old way of doing things has ended.

The final step is the new beginnings when the new reality is in place, whether it’s a new job, house, assignment or partner.

In between endings and new beginnings is the neutral zone, where people can often get stuck.  The ending has happened, but we’re not quite into the new beginning yet.  It’s like being a trapeze artist in the circus. To get from one trapeze to another, you have to let go of the old trapeze and reach for the new trapeze, and for a moment, you feel like you’re falling because you’re not holding onto anything.  But you’re really flying and the momentum carries you until you get to the new beginning, the new trapeze.

 In the neutral zone, we may experience a myriad of emotions about the transition.  We feel uncomfortable and sometimes frustrated, upset, disappointed or angry. While it’s natural to feel these emotions, the key to accepting change is to acknowledge the emotions and move through them into the new beginnings.  We also should recognize that the neutral zone can be a time of great innovation and creativity because the usual restrictions no longer apply. 

People respond to change in different ways and have to go through their personal journey to new beginnings at their own pace.  This individual response makes it challenging when a team of people face change together.  For example, if a company merges or gets bought out, some people on the team are fine with it and are ready to move on.  Others are stuck in the neutral zone and preferred the old way of doing things so they resist even having business cards printed with the new company name.

Whether you’re a manager or individual contributor, you have to be empathetic to each person as they go through the neutral zone.  And you have to recognize your own feelings as you deal with the change, which doesn’t have to be a monumental one to get you trapped in the neutral zone.

I remember once when I was working for a corporation, long before I knew about the Bridges model, my manager unexpectedly asked me to move my cubicle from one side of the floor to the other, to where a space had opened up closer to the rest of the team.  I agreed but I was thinking, “I don’t want to move. I like my location! I have my friends nearby, it’s quiet, I have a clear path from the elevator, I’m near the bathrooms. I don’t want to change!”

A week later, she repeated her request a little more forcefully, but still, I didn’t move.

The following week, she became very directive: “Gilda, you’re moving your desk today.”  At that point, I realized I had no choice and moved my desk that afternoon.  

The next morning after I got off the elevator, out of habit I walked to my old desk and then realized I no longer belonged there.

A couple days later, I was getting used to my new cubicle.  I enjoyed sitting near the rest of the team (including one person who had a consistent supply of peanut M&Ms on his desk!) and I found a new path from the elevator.  After about a month, I didn’t even remember the old cubicle. I had embraced the new beginning and adjusted to the new location.

The journey would have been easier if I had acknowledged that my feelings were a normal part of being in the neutral zone and had realized that things would be better if I accepted the change and continued on to the new beginning.  

So the next time you are faced with a change, big or small, indentify where you are on the Bridges model and resolve to make it safely through the neutral zone to embrace the new beginning and view it as an opportunity for growth. 

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Thursday, February 11, 2016

7 Strategies for Successfully Working a Tradeshow

by Gilda Bonanno LLC

A client recently asked how he could be more successful when working his company’s booth at an upcoming industry tradeshow.  Here are my 7 strategies for successfully working a tradeshow:

1)      Set realistic expectations
Popular tradeshows are attended by thousands of people and can be noisy, crowded and exhausting (for both attendees and exhibitors).  As a tradeshow team, set expectations for what you want to achieve and how you will measure success.  For example, collecting email addresses may be all you can do during busy, peak hours while during quieter hours, you may be able to have more in-depth conversations with people who stop by your booth.

2)      At your booth, smile and make eye contact
Greet people who pass by your booth with a smile and make eye contact.  If they don’t want to stop or aren’t interested in your product or service, they can look away or keep walking.  If they are interested in your company or even merely curious, your welcoming smile will encourage them to stop at the booth.   

3)      Use good questions to customize your conversation
Rather than launching into a sales pitch or product demo with every person who comes to your booth, some of whom are just walking aimless by or just want to pick up your free stuff, have a few questions ready to elicit information to help you tailor your conversation.  For example: what made you stop by? How do you currently handle [insert whatever your product/service is]?

4)      Know what points you want to make
Tradeshows can be similar to networking events since you may not have a lot of time to talk with people.  So think about how you will briefly introduce yourself and talk about your company’s product or service.  Prepare a few key points that will be relevant to the expected audience and then customize as needed based on their answers to your questions. 

5)      Have a clear call to action
Given the nature of the environment and schedule, it may not be possible to have in-depth conversations with many people, which makes it even more important for you to have a clear call to action for what you’d like people to do.  For example, you could collect business cards or have the person sign up or register using a mobile device in exchange for something free – like a trial period of a product, a white paper, to be entered into a drawing, etc.  In addition to signs announcing this offer, also ask, “May I invite you to…[receive our free newsletter, schedule a free demo at your office, etc.]?”

6)      Plan your exit strategy
As with networking events, one of the most challenging parts of tradeshow communication is figuring out to how end a conversation respectfully so you can talk to other people.  I favor the direct approach for both networking and tradeshows.  Make a definitive closing statement such as, “Thank you for visiting our booth and signing up for our newsletter.  I enjoyed speaking with you about [x product or service].  Please let me know if you have any questions about it once you look at the additional information. ”

Then provide them with some means of contacting you (or someone else at your company who is the more appropriate contact), such as a business card.  Review any agreements you made; for example, “I will call you next week to schedule a full product demo with your team.”  Shake hands, smile, make eye contact and then simply move on to the next person.

7)      Don’t forget to follow up
Immediately after you meet someone, if possible, or at the end of the day, make notes on whatever relevant information you remember, especially if he or she is someone who could become a warm lead or customer. 

Once the tradeshow is over, be sure to follow up in a timely manner with anyone you promised additional information to.  Call, email or make a connection on social media.  Be strategic with your time and customize the level of follow up based on your notes about the person and their potential as a customer, contact, etc.

Spend time individually and as a team to reflect on the experience: what worked well? What didn’t What would you change for next time? Then use this information in preparation for the next tradeshow, even if it’s many months away.

The next time you have to work a booth at an industry tradeshow, follow these 7 strategies so you can successfully make a connection to people and communicate your company’s value.

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Training: What a Subject Matter Expert Needs to Know

If you are a subject matter expert, you may be called on to conduct training and share what you know about your area of expertise.  However, it’s not as simple as putting everything you know on slides and presenting them to the audience. 

It’s not enough to know the topic well, you also need to know how to communicate your expertise to others; for example, how to engage the participants and help them connect what they’re learning to how they will apply it. 

For a checklist of elements and skills you need to be familiar with to help ensure that your training is successful and “sticks” with the participants, read the rest of the post on my Constant Contact Community Blog: