Friday, December 30, 2016

What's Your Point When Presenting?

by Gilda Bonanno LLC
How many times have you sat through a presentation, only to walk out wondering "what was the point of that?!" Whether it was a one-minute presentation or one hour, if the audience doesn't know what the point was, then the presentation was not successful. Here are some things you can do to ensure this doesn't happen to you: 
Have a message. What is the one thing that you want your audience to walk away with from your presentation? That one thing is your message, also known as your theme, your purpose and your point.  Realistically, that's all the audience can digest and remember from a presentation, especially considering the sheer amount of data and information that is thrown at them on a daily basis from all sources.
Describe your message in one sentence.  It could contain a call to action such as "company x has solid financials, a good product and a sound business plan, so we should invest in it." Or it could be informative such as "you can overcome your fear of public speaking." If you can't say it in one sentence, then you haven't focused enough yet.
If something doesn't relate to your message, cut it out. When you are preparing your presentation, look at every example, detail and story you'd like to include and be ruthless about cutting out what doesn't relate to your message.  You want to make it easy for your audience to focus rather than forcing them to sift through all the extra information to uncover your message. If you have extra details, keep them in your notes so you can use them if someone asks you a question.  You can also include them in your handouts (like an appendix in a book), but don't clutter your presentation (or worse, your slides) with them.
Be explicit about your message. State what your message is in your introduction to help your audience focus on your message as you're going through the body of your presentation. And repeat your message in your conclusion so it's the last thing they hear, which will help them remember it.  
Sometimes it's not clear to you what your message is.  In that case, set aside extra time to prepare. Look through your material and keep organizing and reorganizing it until you see one clear theme or message emerge.  You're not ready to deliver your presentation until you have identified it -if it's not clear to you what the message is, it won't be clear to your audience.   

Having a clear message will keep you focused and organized as you are preparing and delivering your presentation.  Your clarity and focus will, in turn, ensure that your audience understands what you are trying to communicate. No one will walk out of the room after your presentation asking "what was the point of that?!"

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Your First 90 Days

You have just accepted a new job as a leader for a company – congratulations! As the ink is drying on your contract and you’re figuring out your commute and the benefits package, take some time to learn about the company and the people you will lead. 

Here are some questions to be thinking about in your proverbial “first 90 days,” when you have the opportunity to make a good impression, learn about the organization and lay the groundwork for personal and organizational success.

Learn about the history
1. Who came before you in this role? Where is he or she now?
2. If it’s a new role, why was it created? Who supported its creation? (and who didn’t?)
3. What is the background of the company? (who founded it, when, why, how has the company evolved since being founded?)

Learn about the culture (which is expressed as “how we do things around here”)
1. What is the culture of the organization overall, your specific business unit or department and the team you will lead?
2. What does the company do? (how does it make money, who is the competition, who are the customers, top selling products/services, biggest challenges, greatest wins…)
3. How could your actions/values be interpreted as fitting in the culture or being “countercultural”?

Learn about the people (meet as many people as possible in person)
1. Who is on your team? What strengths do they bring to their roles? What challenges do they face?
2. Who are the official leaders (in titled roles) and the unofficial leaders (who don’t have the titles, but have influence)? What are the lines of communication?
3. Who do you need to build relationships with in order to be successful? Who will give you honest feedback?

Make your plans
1. What skills and experience do you bring to this role? What do you still need to learn?
2. What quick wins can you achieve with your team?
3. What longer term plans can you develop and execute that fit with the company’s strategy and mission?

There are many ways to find answers to these questions and then reflect on the; for example, you can meet people in your new organization, reach out to your mentors and work with an executive coach. The more you can observe and learn in your first 90 days, the more your immediate and long-term actions will be successful in the many days that follow. 

My executive coaching program helps you answer these questions and others, using interviews, assessments and active practice.  Together we evaluate the situation, develop a strategic vision of what you would like to accomplish and then translate that vision into an action plan.  This coaching is not remedial, but aimed at helping already successful individuals maximize their impact, whether you have recently been hired or have already completed your first 90 days on the job.  To find out more, email me at 

Gilda Bonanno LLC © 2016

Friday, December 23, 2016

Gilda's results are so good we keep bringing her back for more

"Gilda is an excellent resource for our employee skill building and development.  We first partnered with her to teach our team how to develop and deliver more effective, clear and concise presentations.  The results were so good that we brought her back to do more presentation skills training with another group of employees and also our finance team which was preparing to present overseas to International customers and colleagues. 

Gilda focuses on results and customizes her programs to our specific business needs.  We also asked her  to help our employees work more effectively with each other both on formal teams and informally.  She created and delivered a custom teamwork program where she taught participants how to adapt their behavior to work better with each other and be open to others' input and ideas to solve problems.

We value our long term relationship with Gilda.  And her results-focused, impactful training is interactive and engaging, even for a group of skeptical, seasoned chartering and operations managers.  I highly recommend her." Linda Doherty, Human Resource Manager, Heidmar

Contact Gilda to find out how she can provide skill development for your team 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

What Filter Gets in the Way of Your Vision?

by Gilda Bonanno

I recently went to the optical store at the mall because I needed a new pair of sunglasses.

The first pair I tried on made everything yellow.  For a few minutes, that yellow-tinted world became my reality.  The blue sky, visible through the window, became green.  The red sweater I was wearing, viewed through the yellow tint, looked orange. 

The yellow-tinted world was true for me, but it was not real.  Someone else looking at these same things, but without the yellow sunglasses, would have seen entirely different colors.

That got me thinking about my view of the world in general.  How is my view of certain people or situations colored by the mental filter I’m wearing?

Like the sunglasses, I use the filter to protect myself from information overload or unhelpful details.  But, like the sunglasses, the filter can also impair my vision and prevent me seeing people or situations in a clear light.

The next time you are so sure that your vision of a situation is correct, take just a moment to consider whether there is another view of reality that you could see if you just adjusted or removed your filter. 

And as for the yellow sunglasses, I took them off – and replaced them with sunglasses that show everything in true color.

For a humorous take on the process of shopping for glasses, see my humorous essay: April Fools' Humor - Getting Glasses: The Comical, the Bad & the Ugly

Friday, December 16, 2016

6 Strategies for Sounding Confident Over the Phone

by Gilda Bonanno

Presenting over the phone is a common occurrence in business today, whether you are doing a sales call, conducting a meeting or connecting with clients, partners or vendors.

The challenge with phone presentations is that your voice is the only element of body language that you have to support your words.  So your voice becomes even more important than when doing in-person presentations since it can broadcast your lack of confidence to your audience. 

Here are six strategies for how to sound confident when presenting over the phone:

1.       BreatheWhen you take short, shallow breaths, there is not enough oxygen to fuel your voice through the end of the sentence.  You literally run out of air by the end of the sentence and your voice trails off, which makes you sound less confident.  To prevent this from happening, take full, deep breaths which will energize your voice.  (And keep your voice well hydrated).  

2.      Speak loudly enough to be heard clearly.  How loudly depends on the audience and the phone connection.  And technology such as cell phones or speaker phones can also make it harder for people to hear you.
3.       Confident people don’t mumble.  Enunciate your words so each word can be understood easily. (Often this requires you to slow down and pause more, how slowly is "slowly enough" depends on your audience).
4.      Avoid using a monotone.  Vary your volume, rate of speed, pausing, tone, etc. to keep the audience’s attention and help communicate your exact meaning.  Variety also demonstrates that you are confident about your content.

5.      Energize your voice.  Overall, your voice is more important on the phone than it is in person, and so it must be more energized than it would be in person.  An energized voice projects confidence and authority.  Speak standing up, which gives you better posture and energizes your voice automatically.  Also, remember to smile when presenting - yes, the audience will be able to hear it in your voice.

6.      Practice.  Do a practice presentation over the phone and record yourself (your phone or laptop recorder will do).  Listen to the recording from your audience’s point of view.  And work with a coach to make rapid progress towards improving your skills.

If you follow these six strategies, you will sound more confident when presenting over the phone, which will help you connect to your audience and communicate your message effectively.    

For more help with this topic, check out my course Virtual Presentations: How to Develop and Deliver an Effective Presentation Over the Phone 

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Simone Biles Has a Coach – Why Don’t You?

As we come to the end of the year and reflect back on 2016, one of the highlights was the Summer Olympics in Rio. 

I was mesmerized watching the Olympics.  Having made 2 trips to Rio to facilitate training for a global company with large operations in South America, I was delighted to see the spotlight on Brazil’s beautiful beaches and warm, friendly people.  I love watching the Parade of Nations during the Opening Ceremonies and was wowed by so many spectacular performances, including Usain Bolt and the U.S. women’s basketball team. 
A photo I took in Rio a few years ago, after walking up
more than 200 steps to the base of the 125-foot
Cristo Redentor atop Corcovado mountain

I noticed that every Olympic athlete, including all-time greats Michael Phelps and Simone Biles, has a coach.  And no one thinks that their having a coach means they are weak or any less than high achievers. 

But somehow, that “elite performers have coaches” mindset hasn’t translated completely to business, where many people still view coaching as remedial instead of a means to achieve the next level of performance excellence.  In fact, some of my executive presentation skills coaching clients want to meet with me away from their offices, so no one knows they are working with a coach.  

Here are 7 reasons why you should follow the example of Olympic athletes and work with a coach to optimize your presentation skills and executive presence.  Remember, while your presentation may not be telecast to millions of viewers across the world or come down to one one-hundredth of a second, it does make a difference to your brand, success, career and impact.

1.     A coach can accelerate your performance.  Using a wealth of experience gained from their own background and working with other clients, he or she can show you how to move from good to great and take your presentation from okay to outstanding.
2.     A coach takes the guesswork out of success.  You’ll learn exactly what to do to deliver a successful presentation and connect with your audience, instead of taking random steps and hoping your presentation works. 
3.     A coach saves you wasted time working on the wrong things.  For example, if you spend hours memorizing your presentation and then panic when you can’t remember it in front of a live audience, a coach can suggest an alternate way to prepare and practice that is more effective than rote memorization. 
4.     A coach provides unbiased, specific feedback.  Unlike your colleagues who may just say, “good job” after a presentation, a coach knows what to look for and will tell you specifically what you did well and what you have to improve. 
5.     A coach provides custom guidance.  He or she focuses on your individual needs and specific situation rather than a cookie cutter or a “one size fits all” approach that wastes time on irrelevant elements. 
6.     A coach provides practical and hands-on tools and techniques.  This means that you know exactly what and how to practice, rather just being given theory that you have to figure out on your own how to implement.
7.     A coach provides external motivation when your energy and enthusiasm are flagging.  In fact, I have a client who says, “I work better on creating content for my strategic presentation when you are in the room with me to help me focus and stay on track.”

So when you want to take your presentation or executive presence to the next level, don’t go it alone.  Be like Simone Biles and every other high-performing athlete and get a coach. 

 (And I’d welcome the opportunity to be your coach - contact me to find out how we can work together to help you achieve Olympic-worthy presentations.)

Friday, December 9, 2016

Presentation Prep Framework

 The next time you have to give a presentation, use the following framework to ensure you are clear, effective and confident.  

1.       Plan your presentation (plan early!)
  • What general topic are you presenting on?
  • How long do you have to present?
  • Understand other logistics: how many people, who are they, room setup, order of presentation, present seated vs. standing, etc.)
2.      Prepare content
  • What is your message – the one thing you want people to remember from your presentation?
  • What supporting information will you provide to convey that message?
  • Outline it: introduction, points 1-3, conclusion
  • Create notes that you will use to deliver it (1 piece of cardstock paper or 1 big card – printed or handwritten in large font)
3.       Practice (practice early and often!)
  • Practice for fluency, timing and getting comfortable with notes
  • You are not memorizing word for word, but getting comfortable with the material  - make any final adjustments to content well in advance of actual presentation day
  • Practice your delivery out loud (can record yourself): be aware of your body language – voice, facial expressions, gesture, posture, movement, eye contact
  • Practice your “pregame ritual” and your confident self-talk

Gilda Bonanno's blog

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Murphy's Law of Presenting With Technology

plug 4.jpgMurphy’s Law states that whatever can go wrong, will.  And when you’re giving a presentation using any kind of technology, from a projector to a phone, Murphy’s Law definitely applies.  I’ve seen or experienced all 10 of these examples, and while some can be prevented or prepared for, they are all nerve-wracking when they occur!

  1. If you are hosting a conference call on your cell phone, the call will drop at the most crucial moment of the discussion.

Read the rest of the post on my Constant Contact Community blog: