11 Jan “We Waste A Lot of Time at Our Meetings”

You have plenty of company.  According to numerous surveys, most businesspeople view meetings as boring, un-productive, and a waste of time.  (In one poll, 43 percent of executives admitted to having dozed off at a meeting at least once.)  Some view meetings as downright unbearable.  Is it possible to leave a meeting feeling refreshed, with a heightened sense of teamwork, and ready to take constructive action?  Use this diagnostic test and follow up with the necessary cure.  There can be more to look forward to than danish and coffee.

Your meetings are out of control if:

  • People show up late or not at all.
  • Instead of an agenda, anything and everything comes up.
  • 10 percent of the participants do 90 percent of the talking.
  • Most of the topics discussed have no relevance to most of the participants.
  • Things are discussed and discussed and disgust meeting after meeting.
  • There’s no procedure for reaching a decision.
  • People use the time for getting paperwork done or for daydreaming about a world without meetings.
  • People wake up only for the name-calling and confrontation.

 

You can end meeting madness if you:

  • Cancel any meeting you don’t really need.
  • Call a meeting only when the input of the group is necessary for discussion and constructive action.
  • Use other communication methods (text, telephone, email) for routine announcements.
  • Create and distribute an agenda several days in advance.
  • Include participants’ concerns by inviting all beforehand to suggest topics for discussion.
  • Break down the agenda by the time allotted for each topic of discussion.
  • Consider having certain participants attend only relevant parts of the meeting.
  • Include introductory and concluding statements for each agenda item.
  • Let participants know how and when a decision will be made:  “Let’s hear your ideas for our fund-raising project.  Next Tuesday, the executive board will vote on them.”
  • Keep meetings as short as possible.
  • Take frequent breaks, about once every hour and a half during a long meeting.
  • Brush up on listening and group leadership skills.
  • Don’t forget the goodies—try juice and fruit for a change from coffee and doughnuts.

 

WARNING! Exposure to too many meetings can be dangerous to your company’s health.  Stick to a moderate meeting dosage.

Laurie Schloff is an Executive Communication Coach at The Speech Improvement Company

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Laurie Schloff
laurie@speechimprovement.com

09 Jan Developing Practical American English Skills

An article by Sacha Pfeiffer in The Boston Globe entitled “For more firms, teaching English is in business plan” discusses an innovative benefit that at least 35 Massachusetts companies are providing their employees who are non-native English speakers – free classes to develop their English communication skills.

This caught my attention as an educator, coach, and clinician dedicated to the development of people’s communication potential. As a student of linguistics at Northeastern University years ago, I had the privilege to volunteer with S.H.A.R.E., a program provided for service workers on campus to develop practical American English skills. Besides a chance to make use of some high school Spanish, it was a rewarding opportunity to bridge differences, develop my coaching skills, and serve my school community.

Today, whether you’re a businessperson, academic, or merely a conscious global citizen, the ability to connect, understand, and collaborate with people and groups of different language and cultural backgrounds is as important as ever to your success.

(more…)

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Jordan Piel
Jordan Piel
jordan@speechimprovement.com

03 Jan A Performance Gone Wrong

I am sure you have either seen or heard about Mariah Carey’s disasterous New Year’s Eve performance on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Eve with Ryan Seacrest.  Moments after it happened, social media had labeled it a train wreck, an end of her career, a lip syncing gone horribly wrong, etc.

How did Mariah Carey and her folks handle the situation?  Well, I guess it depends on who you ask.

Mariah Carey’s tweet showed us acceptance of what happened and a desire to move on.  A statement from Mariah Carey’ s manager came out two days after the performance explaining exactly what had occurred.  Unfortunately, social media had already made and communicated their assumptions.

Whatever the reasons for Mariah Carey’s disappointing performance, waiting more than 24 hours to give an explanation of her side is way too late.  We would have recommended that a statement of explanation be made immediately.  Ten years ago, two or three days seemed acceptable.  Today with the presences of social media, two days is more like two weeks.  FaceBook, Twitter, Instragram and other forms of social media make news relevant at the exact time the news is occurring.

Remember, “Everything Communicates!”  So not giving an explanation or statement, communicates a message. Don’t let social media decide your fate, get an explanation/statement out as soon as possible.

Kristen Curran-Faller is an Executive Communication Coach and COO for The Speech Improvement Company.

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Kristen Curran-Faller
Kristen Curran-Faller
kristen@speechimprovement.com

02 Jan A Winning Strategy

I came across an interesting Business Insider article entitled, The 10 best retail companies to work for in 2017, according to employees. It cited Glassdoor’s Employees’ Choice Awards. I expected that pay, benefits and advancement opportunities were the tops reasons why these companies were selected. I was happy to see other, key reasons that were common threads between these companies, most notably great management teams; positive and friendly work environments; and holiday and social gatherings. It’s interesting to note three of the reasons involve communication. Communication from management and between co-workers both help create a winning, positive work environment. We tell clients “Everything Communicates!” and we teach how managers need to consistently communicate sincerity with their tone, non-verbals, and word choices.  

While things such as money and benefits will always be important to employees, it is a breath of fresh air to see other reasons why companies such as Apple, Wegman’s Food Markets, Bain, Trader Joe’s and Forrester made the Employees’ Choice Awards.

Kristen Curran-Faller is an Executive Communication Coach and COO for The Speech Improvement Company.

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Kristen Curran-Faller
Kristen Curran-Faller
kristen@speechimprovement.com

28 Dec Conference Confidence – A Valuable Guide for Conference Speakers

People and organizations invest valuable time, money, and effort into producing and attending conferences. But the truth is that all the slides, videos, lighting, staging, and materials are just support tools for the most valuable asset of a conference:  the speakers.

Drawing from our 50-year history as presentation coaches and consultants, we developed a guide that offers important advice to ensure presenters connect with listeners authentically and speak with confidence.

It’s free, and you can download it right now.

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Jeff Turner
Jeff Turner
jturner@speechimprovement.com

27 Dec Helping Kids at Ron Burton’s Training Camp

It was such a joy to be able to give back to the famed NFL player Ron Burton’s training camp!  The kids in this program have amazing spirit and desire to improve. To be able to see kids adopt the same best practices in communication that we teach to leaders of countries and companies is both remarkable and inspiring!

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Dr. Ethan Becker
Dr. Ethan Becker
ethan@speechimprovement.com

26 Dec Bloomberg Ranks Massachusetts #1

A recent article in The Boston Globe entitled Massachusetts Again Beats California as Most Innovative in US is reason for some hometown pride.

We work with a lot of tech companies, both established and startups including many in software and health sciences, so we train and coach some truly innovative people. From this vantage point, we see this creativity first-hand alongside the people who fund, build, and drive our local innovation economy. It’s great to have them collectively recognized by an authoritative source as the best in the nation.

FWIW: We also blow away California for seafood and football. 🙂

Click here to read the article.

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Jeff Turner
Jeff Turner
jturner@speechimprovement.com

19 Dec Are You a Fast Talker?

Have people ever said to you “Hey slow down, you talk too fast!” Wonder what they are referring to?  Being from the Northeast, we hear this comment quite often. When thinking about controlling your communication style, it’s helpful to peel back one more layer and look at what makes up someone’s speed of speaking.

As a Speaker Coach, I break speed into two categories: rate and pace. Rate refers to the speed in which a person puts words together.  It literally refers to the amount of words per minute.  The average rate of speech in a business presentation will range from 150-180 words per minute. Think about listening to a commercial and often, at the end there is a voice quickly giving you all the fine print details at a rate you can hardly follow. They are speaking at approximately 300 words per minute. Much too fast for the average listener!

The second category of speed, pace, refers to the amount of time the speaker pauses between main ideas. It’s a wonderful tool to focus the listener where you want them to reflect. This is controlled by pausing at the end of a thought, giving the listeners time to hear it, process it, put it in a place in their brain and get ready for the next new information. A good speaker will make use of this and strategically pause for effect during their talk to help the listener focus and even reflect on key points. It’s powerful!

So the next time someone tells you to slow down…. ask yourself are they talking about my rate of words or the pacing of ideas? By controlling both of these, you will help your listeners get the most out of your message.

Monica Murphy is a senior coaching partner with The Speech Improvement Company.

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Monica
Monica Murphy
monica@speechimprovement.com

15 Dec What Is Communication Style Coaching?

In his book Style, Sir Walter Alexander Raleigh (1522 – 1618) described language as having a “chameleon-like” quality. Sir Walter’s book is an exhaustive study of the origin, popularity, and decline of the word style. Regarding style, he said, “Good style is the greatest of revealers – it lays bare the soul.” You must be comfortable with your style. You live and work in the real world. It is not theater. Your listeners, unlike the audience in a theater, do not suspend reality. They take what you give them as you. What and how you communicate is what others use to assess and describe you. What and how you communicate reveals much of who you are in real life.

The ability to be natural, to be who you are, and not to be phony, is most people’s goal, especially those in leadership and management positions. Those positions carry enough responsibility in their own ways. It is far too challenging to also be worried about being something that you have to fake or that is not comfortable for you. Not only can it be uncomfortable, but it can also be downright discomforting to try and match a particular leadership or management style that has been dictated or described in a textbook.

There is truth in a favorite quote of mine: “Life is not a dress rehearsal.” We do not get a second chance to go around in life. It is incumbent upon each of us to do the best we can every day, to project our best, most sincere, and most authentic selves. That is what communication style coaching is all about. It is most successful when you are truly comfortable with the communication techniques you use to create the impression you want others to have of you. This is even truer in today’s world than it was in the time of Sir Walter Alexander Raleigh.

Dr. Dennis Becker is the Founder of The Speech Improvement Company and author of Personal Communication Style.

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Dennis Becker
Dr. Dennis Becker
dennis@speechimprovement.com

07 Dec Everything Communicates!

As an Executive Communication Coach, my job is to remind clients that when presenting, everything communicates – how you look, how you sound and what you do with your body. Mary Lou Andre, a nationally recognized wardrobe, dress code and corporate image consultant, got me thinking about this after reading her excellent article: Is Hosiery History? 

Her advice on this business appropriate accessory reinforces how important clothing is in communicating respect for yourself and others. The way we present ourselves is our personal brand. The way in which we build trust and rapport with listeners is first conveyed through what we are wearing.

When you ask a group of listeners what’s the first thing they notice about the speaker, they’ll often say in unison,”How they look.” Before the speaker even opens his/her mouth, impressions are being formed about whether they are confident and project to the right level of gravitas. 

For women, this means paying attention to detail. Conveying a strong ‘executive presence’ means wearing clothing that is stylish, well-fitted and thoughtfully assembled.  When done properly, I believe it helps us “speak with confidence.”

Monica Murphy is a senior coaching partner with The Speech Improvement Company.

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Monica
Monica Murphy
monica@speechimprovement.com

05 Dec Pun Intended

Since we’re all about words, we really enjoy it when people have fun with them. Like these puns below. Some are really funny, some are simply clever, and some will make you groan. You’ve been warned.

  1. No matter how much you push the envelope, it’ll still be stationery.
  2. If you don’t pay your exorcist you get repossessed.
  3. I’m reading a book about anti-gravity. I just can’t put it down.
  4. I didn’t like my beard at first. Then it grew on me.
  5. Did you hear about the crossed-eyed teacher who lost her job because she couldn’t control her pupils?
  6. When you get a bladder infection, urine trouble.
  7. When chemists die, they barium.
  8. I stayed up all night to see where the sun went, and then it dawned on me.
  9. I changed my iPod’s name to Titanic. It’s syncing now.
  10. England has no kidney bank, but it does have a Liverpool.
  11. Haunted French pancakes give me the crepes.
  12. This girl today said she recognized me from the Vegetarians Club, but I’d swear I’ve never met herbivore
  13. I know a guy who’s addicted to brake fluid, but he says he can stop any time.
  14. A thief who stole a calendar got twelve months.
  15. When the smog lifts in Los Angeles U.C.L.A.
  16. The batteries were given out free of charge.
  17. A dentist and a manicurist married. They fought tooth and nail.
  18. A will is a dead giveaway.
  19. With her marriage, she got a new name and a dress.
  20. A boiled egg is hard to beat.
  21. When you’ve seen one shopping center you’ve seen a mall.
  22. Police were summoned to a daycare center where a three-year-old was resisting a rest.
  23. Did you hear about the fellow whose entire left side was cut off? He’s all right now.
  24. A bicycle can’t stand alone; it’s just two tired.
  25. The guy who fell onto an upholstery machine is now fully recovered.
  26. He had a photographic memory which was never developed.
  27. When she saw her first strands of grey hair she thought she’d dye.
  28. Acupuncture is a jab well done. That’s the point of it.
  29. Those who get too big for their pants will be totally exposed in the end.
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Jeff Turner
Jeff Turner
jturner@speechimprovement.com

26 Nov Break a Leg?!?

Since we do a lot of training for public speaking, many of our clients find themselves in front of people on a stage. We got to thinking whether wishing them success by saying “break a leg” was an appropriate use of the term. That got us wondering where did that expression come from, and why is it used for performances, primarily among actors, musicians and dancers?

It certainly plays on the superstition that wishing someone well before going out on stage will somehow jinx them, so you hope for the opposite by wishing them bad luck. And while the exact origin is unclear, there are a number of theories for the story behind it: (more…)

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Jeff Turner
Jeff Turner
jturner@speechimprovement.com

08 Nov I Say “um” Too Much

Vocalized pauses or fillers, including um, uh, ah, and their close relatives like, you know, and OK? are some of the most common concerns brought to a speech coach.  We don’t um want to uh get too um picky here, since 1 to 3 percent of everyone’s speech normally contains hesitations, and folks like Ted Kennedy have spoken successfully in public life despite long aah pauses.  However, a bad case of um-itis makes you annoying to listen to.  So why do so many of us um along in life?  Most often, vocalized pauses function as a way to fill up space as we formulate the next thought.  Though old habits take some time to break, it is possible to banish the ums and ahs forever. (more…)

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Laurie Schloff
laurie@speechimprovement.com

03 Nov Helping Startups Startup at MassChallenge

One of the reasons Boston is the best place to start a company (take THAT Silicon Valley) is because of organizations like MassChallenge (www.masschallenge.org) who bill themselves as “the most startup-friendly accelerator…no equity and not-for-profit, we are obsessed with helping entrepreneurs across all industries.”

And their stats are impressive: 835 startups accelerated, 6,500 jobs created, $1.1 billion in outside funding raised. Currently across all their locations, they have 326 young companies taking advantage of all they have to offer.

They turned to The Speech Improvement Company to help their entrepreneurs be better communicators. Two of our experienced coaches, Dinneen Grably and Tori Hollingworth (more…)

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Jeff Turner
Jeff Turner
jturner@speechimprovement.com