Saturday, March 23, 2013

How to Persuade Using Body Language

Being persuasive means choosing your words carefully. I’ve covered how to create powerful messages in previous episodes; however, effective persuasion requires the right delivery too. Your body language can either help you get your message across, hinder your influence, or worse, send the wrong message entirely. Today I’ll talk about how to successfully persuade and influence through body language.

Ask in Person
If you have an important request, don’t send email. It’s best to ask face-to-face. Your request will be more persuasive if it’s made in person. Coincidentally, it’s much easier to say “no” to an email request than to someone’s face. But perhaps more importantly, by watching the body language of your conversation partner you can tailor your message as you speak. For example, let’s say when describing a benefit of your proposal, you notice a slight “no” nod. This is a small clue that your partner may not agree with you, and you can then use that information to change the course of your conversation.

In addition, your passion and emotions are more contagious in person. Don’t believe that? Ever have a laughing fit just because someone else was laughing? The point is that no matter how many exclamation points, smiley faces, or hearts you put in writing, they’re no substitute for real emotions experienced in person through facial expressions, voice, and gestures. Think about how different it is to listen to this podcast versus reading it. It’s a completely different experience. Persuading over the phone presents similar hurdles; you may not have their full attention and you won’t have the opportunity to see facial expressions or gestures of the person on the other line.

So if you’re asking something of someone, ask to meet in-person. Go to them. Perhaps invite them to a meal or for coffee. If you’re trying to persuade a group, call a meeting. Finally, if meeting in person is not possible, try the best next thing: video conferencing.

Check Your Body Language


Self-Motivation Keys

Here are some more self-motivation tips that you might find useful ....

Don't let what you can't do stop you from doing what you can do

Self-Motivation Key #1 – Eliminate distractions.

If you’re feeling scattered and unfocused, try working in a secluded spot, closing the door for some quiet, or even wearing earplugs to shut out excessive noise. Once the distractions are gone, you might find your motivation increasing and your determination returning.

Self-Motivation Key #2 – Remember your “why.”

It’s easy to stay motivated when our reasons for wanting to improve our lives are fresh in our minds, but motivation can dissipate as time goes on. Write down your reasons for wanting to make positive changes or pursue greater goals. Read them to yourself often to keep them fresh in your mind, and review them when you need a mental or emotional boost.

Self-Motivation Key #3 – Read something inspirational.

Nowadays there is no shortage of inspiring reading material available for purchase. Visit your local bookstore and get a few books with motivational themes and make a point of reading a few pages before you start your day. When you feel unmotivated, open one of these books randomly and let your finger fall blindly onto a passage from the book. Read that passage and let it speak to you. Does it hold a message that relates to your situation and helps to inspire you to move into action.

Self-Motivation Key #4 - Surround yourself with inspiration.

Do you have some favorite plaques, prints or paintings that make you feel inspired? Fill up your blank walls with them! Visit a flea market or home decor store for visuals that lift your spirits. Go to a stock photo site and download a few beautiful images and have them blown up into a larger size at your local photo place.   

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How to Stay Motivated – Stay Focused & Stay Positive

If you want to know how to stay motivated for longer periods, this article is just right for you! It is not only helpful to know methods that motivate you, but also to know some tricks that allow you to remain motivated in the long term, thereby allowing you to be positive and to stay focused on your goals and objectives.

In the following you can find tips to stay positive and an instruction on how to stay motivated throughout your life as well as inspiring quotes that can accompany you on your journey, I call them the “stay positive quotes“.

Quotes about staying positive – The “stay positive quotes”

    “Keep your face to the sun, and you will never see the shadows.”
    Helen Keller

    “Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will.”
    Zig Ziglar

    “Winners make a habit of manufacturing their own positive expectations in advance of the event.” ~
    Brian Tracy

    “Happiness is a habit – cultivate it.” ~
    Elbert Hubbard

How to stay positive for a fairly long term?

Tip to stay positive #1 Focus on this moment

Don’t let yourself get in a bad mood and procrastinated by shocking news about murder, terror and similar chaos that is being spread by the media. This will not only demotivate you but it can also cause depressive feelings. Try to stay positive by creating exciting aims and objectives that you aim to reach in the future. This moment is the most precious thing you have. You cannot change the the past, but you can always change your future, by making the most out of this moment. Don’t allow this chance to pass by – focus on this moment, make the best out of it, instead of trying to distract yourself with TV, video games, etc.

Tip to stay positive #2 Set yourself exciting goals

Speaking in Public: A Step-By-Step Guide to Overcome Public Speaking Anxiety

I had an interesting discussion with a friend recently about how even people with great interpersonal skills may struggle with speaking in public.  As someone who was once relatively shy, and now speaks on panels and to large groups, I felt it would be useful to share some of the strategies I personally used.

Step 1: Improve Speaking and Pronunciation

Before I dealt with issue of speaking in public, I first wanted to be a good speaker.  There’s an unfortunate catch-22 with public speaking: good speakers have confidence, but they have confidence because they are skilled at public speaking.  To raise my own abilities, and confidence in those abilities, before I ever spoke in public I first practiced just speaking.

    Read out loud.   I had a number of choose-your-own-adventure novels I enjoyed when I was young. In addition to being entertaining, reading them out loud allowed me to practice speaking with a broad, exciting vocabulary.  Choose your own adventure books also lend themselves well to dramatic interpretation, which allowed me to play around with inflection and tone.  My brother and I would sometimes take turns with them, reading a page and then debating which was the best approach.  If I had to pick reading material to start with now, I would probably use op-ed pieces in newspapers.
    Emulate other speakers.   As a child I watched Wheel of Fortune with my family. Pat Sajak had a calm, clear speaking voice.  When I started looking to improve my speech, I would watch and quietly repeat what he said to myself, and later while reading out loud in my room, or even in conversations with friends, I would ask myself “How would Pat Sajak say this?”  Pat Sajak was the ultimate host – he made people feel at ease, projected confidence and charisma, and spoke clearly. 

Read more:

25 tips for motivating staff

We all know that motivated staff work better and harder.  But how do we ensure our staff are always motivated?  Here are a few tips.

1.  Happy work force = happy customers

Provide a great environment to work in and look after your staff the way you expect them to look after your customers.

Why should they be nice to customers if they are getting a raw deal at work themselves? Keep them happy by providing what they need in terms of training (soft skills as well as technical knowledge) and genuine support with positive messages where appropriate and constructive feedback where development is needed.

2.  Senior manager feedback

You don’t need to spend a lot of money to make your people feel motivated and valued. Quite often a telephone call from a senior manager congratulating a team member on a ‘good week’ is equally as effective as an offer of a training course or gift voucher. You can’t be seen to be withdrawing from investing in your people. Of course, you may have to make decisions to protect the profitability of your business that may not be popular so the messages you communicate are extremely important. We must continue to celebrate success, coach people on specific challenges and address any difficult issues they face.

3.  A positive attitude

It is vital that recruitment team managers realign their expectations and take into consideration the economic climate when setting targets and objectives. Whilst I don’t believe it is all doom and gloom out there, it is definitely tougher to convert leads into sales and there are fewer opportunities. That said, team leaders must encourage their staff to raise their game and sell themselves out of the credit crunch.

4.  The right tools and skills for the job

How to Get Leadership Skills While Doing Good

Let’s face it: When you’re the head of a small business, you want to develop your leadership skills and, if you are like most entrepreneurs, contribute to your community. What if you could do good and beef up your leadership skills at the same time?

As a business owner, you have more than money to contribute. Being on the board of a nonprofit is great way to give back. It is also a great way to improve your leadership skills.

Many big companies recognize that being on nonprofit boards builds “soft” leadership skills. They pay for rising stars in their companies to go through nonprofit board training and encourage nonprofit board service, according to Nicole T. Sebastian, deputy executive director of  VCG Governance Matters, which places people on nonprofit boards.

Founders of small to mid-sized companies also recognize the importance of board service as way to improve their leadership skills. Many successful entrepreneurs — some pretty big players — credit their success to integrating nonprofit work into their business plan.

Decision-making on a nonprofit board requires building consensus, a very different skill from influencing someone who reports to you. Learning how to work within a group of equals is particularly useful when the time comes for your small business to form alliances and partnership.

In your role as a business leader, you go with your strength and delegate others to take over in your weak areas. On a nonprofit board, you can join a committee outside your comfort zone, one that doesn’t draw on your core expertise but can expand your skills and knowledge.

Barbara Nagel is a partner at Perlman + Perlman, a law firm that specializes in working with nonprofits and social enterprises. She has been on several nonprofit boards and is now on the boards of Arts Engine, Grove With Me, and the Alpern Family Foundation.

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Friday, March 22, 2013

Before the Speech

1. Rehearse

While this seems like a no-brainer, a lot of the corporate executives I have coached before actually think they can wing it before their big speech. As a result, their speeches and presentations end up with many awkward silences and transitions while building up unnecessary tension for themselves. 

The key in rehearsing is not to memorize it word for word such that you are unable to flow or react with sudden circumstances, like having a question from the audience that derails your train of thought.

Rehearse standing up. Gesticulate as if you are speaking to an actual crowd. Practise pausing at important segments of your speech like after asking a rhetorical question or for dramatic silences while telling a story. The closer you get yourself to anchoring to an ideal state of delivery, the better your rehearsal prepares you for your actual speech.

2. It’s about Your Audience

There are two questions that remain in the minds of the audience, “What’s in it for me?” and “So what?”

Handling these “mental objections” at the onset ensures that both you and your audience will be on the same page.

The first question boils down to either what the audience can gain in listening to your speech and/or what the audience will lose out on in not listening to your speech i.e. the pleasure and pain principle. The second question relates to relevance to an audience — the more you connect the dots and make it relevant to them, the stronger the listening you create.

To find the answers to these two questions, you can do two things – interview your audience and intelligent guessing.

A professional speaker who gets paid a modest five-figure sum for his hour-long keynote speeches once shared with me that he has a routine system of interviewing at least 15% of his audience before his speech with a set of questions to find out what are the challenges they face vis-à-vis the topic to be presented and what they hope to take away from the speech.

10 Tips for a Powerful Voice

Make your voice one of your best assets.

1. Rise and try to shine. 

After getting out of bed, head to the bathroom for some warm-ups. Look at yourself in the mirror and take deep breaths. Are your shoulders rising as you inhale? Don't let them. Stand straight, relax and let your breath come in down low. It should feel like it's entering your body around your waist, not being pulled down your throat.

2. Keep it up.

 Not only does slouching look like you couldn't care less, but it also prevents your lungs from filling up. Full lungs keep your voice from cracking, make you sound more powerful and keep you from running out of air. When you realize you're hunched over while on the phone, sit back and straighten your spine to allow more energy to come across.

3. Support can be beautiful.

 Some people are blessed with resonant voices like James Earl Jones or Lauren Bacall. Most of us aren't. But rather than throwing in the towel, try wrapping it around your waist. Breathe in low and gently expand your abs and obliques. Relax, let go and pretend the towel is like the waistline of your sweatpants. You can feel it grow a little wider.

Then open up and say "Ah." Now repeat. This time, use your abs to expand your waist. You'll also feel the downward push of your lower abs. Say "Ah" once more, and as you expand, you'll hear the sound get stronger. Use this technique for more volume and a stronger sound.

4. Open up.

 When you get nervous, your voice gets squeaky and high. Not the confident image you want to project. And the more you try and control it by force, the more you start to lose it altogether. The cure: breathing low, gently using your lower abs to push down and relax. And always let your throat be open and free of tension. An open throat protects your voice and produces a richer sound.

5. Variety is key.

Want to control your whole audience? Speak in a monotone voice, and you can send a group of 2,000 people off to dreamland. Especially when working by phone, that dead air may not be your client pondering. Try listening for snoring. To prevent this, remember the "four P's" of vocal variety:

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What Leaders Must Do to Ensure Mentoring Success

2. Leaders must be personally and organizationally committed to mentoring. Leaders who demonstrate their personal commitment are better able to rally others around it. Leaders who don’t support mentoring with both talk and action stifle these efforts within their organizations. When this happens, it undermines mentoring credibility and sends a message about its lack of importance to the organization. It sometimes takes years to recover from this kind of setback.

3. Leaders must encourage and invite participation by inspiring a shared vision of what is possible through mentoring. They must conscientiously work at engaging their people. They need to talk about how mentoring benefits the individual and the organization, as well as how it aligns with their vision and strategy. They must acknowledge and recognize the importance of mentoring by making the time to talk with others about their experiences.

4. Leaders must continuously create value for mentoring. When leadership is not present and accounted for in the mentoring effort, people take notice. If mentoring is felt, experienced and perceived as a 
vested interest and a commitment of leadership, then that spirit of ownership permeates every level of the organization.

5. Leaders must build the right infrastructure to support their mentoring efforts. Infrastructure promotes sustainability by assuring that mentoring ownership is well-anchored within multiple layers of the organization. An organization with a mentoring-friendly infrastructure commits its leadership and time to mentoring over the long term. It also ensures that there are sufficient financial, technological, human and knowledge resources to support mentoring as it develops and expands.

6. Leaders must proactively address the succession of mentoring leadership. This task cannot — and should not — reside with one person. This responsibility is too important and too time-consuming to rest on only one set of shoulders. Leaders eventually move on, retire or leave. Wise leaders empower mentoring leadership to replace itself.

7. Leaders must be role models of mentoring excellence. Positive role models exert powerful influence. Their example extends a compelling invitation to engage in a personal odyssey, to learn their story, to follow their example and to travel alongside them. As Laurent Daloz reminds us, the mentor’s gift “is not the opportunity to become like them but the challenge to become more fully ourselves through them. They call forth the best we have. They invite us to transcend ourselves.”

8. Leaders must keep abreast of progress and current developments. Up-to-date knowledge, success stories and data points should be part of the organizational leader’s 
communication tool kit. Holding periodic briefings to keep leaders current helps them in their efforts to maintain mentoring visibility and reinforce the value mentoring creates in an organization.

Overcoming the Fear of Public Speaking

Glossophobia, or fear of public speaking, is a condition that effects as much as 75% of people. During a flare-up, symptoms may include sweaty palms, shortened breath, heightened blood pressure, nausea, stiffening of neck and upper back muscles, dry mouth, and a distinct desire to flee the premises. Fortunately, a number of organizations exist to help victims overcome this affliction.

Toastmasters International is a non-profit working in 116 countries to help its 280,000 members become better public speakers through peer workshops, communications-based assignments, and competitions. Each year, the competitions – which involve 30,000 competitors worldwide - culminate in a World Championship of Public Speaking to determine the world’s #1 public speaker. This summer, THNKR had the pleasure of attending the championship in Orlando, Florida. Afterwards, we talked with Dr. Nick Morgan, one of America’s most prominent communication theorists and coaches, about the experience, and the important things to remember as you prepare for a big speech.

Nerves Are Natural

“It should be good news to speakers everywhere at every level that even the best of the best get nervous,” Morgan says. In fact, he argues, that’s exactly what makes it possible for a person to give an inspired and unforgettable speech. “The smart ones,” says Morgan, “use those nerves as welcome signs of what they actually are – adrenaline – because they know they need that adrenaline to do their best.” This fight-or-flight response, often referred to as an “adrenaline rush,” is caused by a stress signal sent from the brain to the adrenal gland. The hormone released, called epinephrine, speeds up the rate of respiration, thus quickening blood flow to the muscles, increasing oxygen to the lungs, and giving the body a surge of temporary energy. While some people may feel overwhelmed by this burst of energy and the heightened awareness that comes with it, it can also be harnessed to give speakers just what they need to ace a speech. “There’s moments when you’re nervous and you’re fearful—” says Andrew Kneebone, one of the nine finalists at this year’s championship, “—well, that’s a friend now, not a stranger.” Nerves are natural – and can work in your favor. So embrace your nerves, and allow them to fuel the energy that will make your speech come alive for your audience in an authentic way.

Be Authentic

5 Motivational Tips to Get You Through the Day

Your motivation is what pushed you to succeed and determines to a large degree if you are going to succeed or fail. But even the most motivated person needs a little extra help sometimes.

When the going gets tough these 5 tips can help you turn the day around and get you back on track.

Getting out of a cold streak
 I recall using these techniques with one of my salesmen; he was having a really bad week and was on the verge of just giving up, working just meant another rejection anyway.

At the beginning of the month we had set the goal that he was going to make two sales a week and agreed upon a very nice reward if he made it.

He was still motivated, as he really wanted the reward, but just couldn’t focus and get hungry about his work.

We went through these 5 tips (I will share the results with you below):

•  Focus on Your Goals

Your motivation stands in direct relationship to how clear your goals are, they are the source of your motivation. When you feel down, focus on them, visualize them and think about how great it will be once you have completed them.

•  Reward Yourself for Finishing Tasks

This is a great technique. Whenever you finish a task or complete a goal, give yourself a reward.

It can be a cup of coffee, a 10 minute break, a weekend away…. Anything that gets you motivated.

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Why is Teamwork Important?

Why is teamwork important? Well it’s one thing to create a team, but quite another to create teamwork.

Just as it’s one thing to join a team, but quite another to perform as a team member. To put it simply, teams don’t work without teamwork.

What is teamwork? There are several ways to define teamwork but for some colour why not think of it as the French do. The French language has an excellent expression to describe it: esprit de corps.

This means a sense of unity, of enthusiasm for common interests and responsibilities, as developed among a group of persons closely associated in a task, cause, enterprise, etc.

Teamwork can be likened to two compounds, almost essential to modern life. It’s the glue which keeps a team together, a bond which promotes strength, unity, reliability and support.

Teamwork is also the oil that makes the team work. It can enable smoother movement towards targets, can prolong forward momentum, and can help teams to overcome obstacles.

Teamwork has the potential to underpin so much of what is valuable in work. In fact, the benefits to be gained from teamwork synergies are essential for the effective management of resources

Why is Teamwork Important? 8 Good Reasons!

What a difference teamwork makes. Teams and teamwork have become a central part of our work life. Why is teamwork important? Because:

  • Creates synergy – where the sum is greater than the parts.
  • Supports a more empowered way of working, removing constraints which may prevent someone doing their job properly.
  • Promotes flatter and leaner structures, with less hierarchy.
  • Encourages multi-disciplinary work where teams cut across organizational divides.
  • Fosters flexibility and responsiveness, especially the ability to respond to change.
  • Pleases customers who like working with good teams (sometimes the customer may be part of the team).

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7 Little Tricks To Speak In Public With No Fear

There was once a time when I had no fear. I was 11 years old and I entered a story telling competition. I was confidently telling the story and captured everyone’s attention until suddenly I heard a voice from just in front of the stage commenting about my nose. It’s totally disastrous from that moment on. I lost focus and forgot the script altogether. That’s the exact time that I began to have a certain fear of public speaking.

Over the years, I finally overcome my fear of public speaking. I can now speak at any function unprepared and even though the nervousness is still there, I am able to control it. It was not easy but I made it with some help from books and a few techniques I develop myself.

Hopefully these tricks will be able to help you as they had helped me in overcoming fear of public speaking.

1) Admit nervousness

All you have to do is admit that you are a bit nervous speaking to your audience. When you do this, the audience will be more forgiving if your nervousness shows up later on. More importantly you will feel more relaxed now that they are not expecting a world-class presentation. Imagine their surprise when you gave them the best presentation ever despite your nervousness.

The best way to do this is by joking about it. Here’s an example of a good one. “On the way here, only God and I knew what I will be presenting. (looking a bit nervous) Now, only God knows.”

2) Redefine your audience

Redefine your audience generally means changing how you see your audience. Instead of seeing them as lecturers who are evaluating you, maybe you can convince yourself that they are all fellow students who are in queue to present after you. They are all equally nervous so there is no reason why you should be too.

Or perceive them as long lost friends that you haven’t seen for 10 years. This way you can maintain eye contact trying to figure out where you have seen him before. To the audiences, they will see a very friendly and personal presentation.

Do not try to convince yourself that they are babies in diapers or that nobody is around as suggested by some books. It is very hard to convince yourself that no one is around when you are actually speaking to them.

Why Leaders Must Be Readers

If you take only one glance at our professional branding company’s leadership team, you may be surprised by our youthfulness. Our team is young (and looks even younger), but I am confident that the youthfulness of our team is helping our growth. That’s not because I agree with anything stated by Cathryn Sloane in her article that declared that all social media managers should be under the age of 25 – it’s because I believe that our employees’ youthfulness drives their intellectual curiosity. They want to learn, and the most common way they search for new knowledge is by reading articles and books by successful business owners, marketers, and entrepreneurs.

This doesn’t need to apply only to young businesspeople, though. It can be even more important for seasoned employees; leaders must be readers. Reading and learning from peers within, and outside of, your industry enables you to grow as an employee, business owner, and leader in three distinct ways.

Reading Reminds You

I make it a habit to re-read specific books every year because I need constant reminders of the good things they’ve taught me. After my third reading of Gary Vaynerchuk’s The Thank You Economy, I was inspired to work with our team to handwrite every one of our clients a thank-you note. Whether you re-read the same book or article to remind you of concepts, or read content on time management and organization as a constant reminder to work on these things, reading is valuable because it keeps important concepts top of mind.

Reading Challenges You

A female co-worker of mine, whom I respect immensely, recently gave me a book and said, “I disagree with about 80% of this, but you should definitely read it.” I loved that she was sharing a book that challenged her opinions, yet felt it was worthwhile reading for the 20% that was valuable. Reading something you disagree with can have a big impact on your ability to think, both creatively and logically.

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Better Public Speaking

Becoming a Confident, Compelling Speaker

Whether we're talking in a team meeting or presenting in front of an audience, we all have to speak in public from time to time.

We can do this well or we can do this badly, and the outcome strongly affects the way that people think about us. This is why public speaking causes so much anxiety and concern.

The good news is that, with thorough preparation and practice, you can overcome your nervousness and perform exceptionally well. This article explains how!

The Importance of Public Speaking

Even if you don't need to make regular presentations in front of a group, there are plenty of situations where good public speaking skills can help you advance your career and create opportunities.

For example, you might have to talk about your organization at a conference, make a speech after accepting an award, or teach a class to new recruits. Public speaking also includes online presentations or talks; for instance, when training a virtual team, or when speaking to a group of customers in an online meeting.

Good public speaking skills are important in other areas of your life, as well. You might be asked to make a speech at a friend's wedding, give a eulogy for a loved one, or inspire a group of volunteers at a charity event.

In short, being a good public speaker can enhance your reputation, boost your self-confidence, and open up countless opportunities.

However, while good public speaking skills can open doors, poor speaking skills can close them. For example, your boss might decide against promoting you after sitting through a poorly-delivered presentation. You might lose a valuable new contract by failing to connect with a prospect during a sales pitch. Or you could make a poor impression with your new team, because you trip over your words and don't look people in the eye.

Make sure that you learn how to speak well!

Strategies for Becoming a Better Speaker

What's great about public speaking is that it's a learnable skill. As such, you can use the following strategies to become a better speaker and presenter.

Plan Appropriately

First, make sure that you plan your communication appropriately. Use tools like the Rhetorical Triangle, Monroe's Motivated Sequence, and the 7Cs of Communication to think about how you'll structure what you're going to say.

When you do this, think about how important a book's first paragraph is; if it doesn't grab you, you're likely going to put it down. The same principle goes for your speech: from the beginning, you need to intrigue your audience.

For example, you could start with an interesting statistic, headline, or fact that pertains to what you're talking about and resonates with your audience. You can also use story telling as a powerful opener; our Expert Interviews with Annette Simmons and Paul Smith offer some useful tips on doing this.

Planning also helps you to think on your feet. This is especially important for unpredictable question and answer sessions or last-minute communications.


12 Tips for Team Building

How to Build Successful Work Teams

People in every workplace talk about building the team, working as a team, and my team, but few understand how to create the experience of team work or how to develop an effective team. Belonging to a team, in the broadest sense, is a result of feeling part of something larger than yourself. It has a lot to do with your understanding of the mission or objectives of your organization.

In a team-oriented environment, you contribute to the overall success of the organization. You work with fellow members of the organization to produce these results. Even though you have a specific job function and you belong to a specific department, you are unified with other organization members to accomplish the overall objectives. The bigger picture drives your actions; your function exists to serve the bigger picture.

You need to differentiate this overall sense of teamwork from the task of developing an effective intact team that is formed to accomplish a specific goal. People confuse the two team building objectives. This is why so many team building seminars, meetings, retreats and activities are deemed failures by their participants. Leaders failed to define the team they wanted to build. Developing an overall sense of team work is different from building an effective, focused work team when you consider team building approaches.

Twelve Cs for Team Building

Executives, managers and organization staff members universally explore ways to improve business results and profitability. Many view team-based, horizontal, organization structures as the best design for involving all employees in creating business success.

No matter what you call your team-based improvement effort: continuous improvement, total quality, lean manufacturing or self-directed work teams, you are striving to improve results for customers. Few organizations, however, are totally pleased with the results their team improvement efforts produce. If your team improvement efforts are not living up to your expectations, this self-diagnosing checklist may tell you why. Successful team building, that creates effective, focused work teams, requires attention to each of the following.

    Clear Expectations: Has executive leadership clearly communicated its expectations for the team's performance and expected outcomes? Do team members understand why the team was created? Is the organization demonstrating constancy of purpose in supporting the team with resources of people, time and money? Does the work of the team receive sufficient emphasis as a priority in terms of the time, discussion, attention and interest directed its way by executive leaders?
    Context: Do team members understand why they are participating on the team? Do they understand how the strategy of using teams will help the organization attain its communicated business goals? Can team members define their team's importance to the accomplishment of corporate goals? Does the team understand where its work fits in the total context of the organization's goals, principles, vision and values?

6 Tips to Calm Your Nerves Before Speaking

Linda needs to speak to the Board of Trustees -- she feels strongly about about the road they want to build through her neighborhood and wants to voice her opinion, but something is stopping her.  She’s got speaker’s anxiety! Unfortunately, it’s very common. But when you care about an issue, you can’t let nervousness or anxiety stop you from getting involved.

If you’re on the PTA, you may be asked to talk about an upcoming fundraiser. At church, you may be asked to be part of the service or to teach a class. Although you may not consider yourself a public speaker, we all have times when we need to speak up and be heard in our communities.

Today, I’ll cover 6 tips to calm your nerves before speaking.

Tip #1: Stay Hydrated

Years ago, I went to small claims court with a friend. As soon as he started talking, his tongue went dry and his lips turned white. It was so uncomfortable to watch him struggle through his few sentences to the judge! Later on I learned that dry mouth, also known as cotton mouth, is a very real sign of anxiety and the person experiencing it is suffering. The secret? Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water before you speak. Keep your water bottle with you at all times. I find the more nervous I am, the more water I need.

Tip #2: Exercise to Stay Calm

If you know when you’ll be speaking publicly, plan a good workout earlier in the day. Even a quick stroll can really help.  According to researchers at the Mayo Clinic, exercise can alleviate anxiety by releasing endorphins that make you feel better. Exercise also increases the body temperature, which can have a calming effect. It distracts you from your worries and helps you feel more confident. Even the social interaction of smiling at someone as you walk by or greeting someone in the gym can help calm anxiety.

Tip #3: Try Pictures, Visualization, Laughing Just Before You Speak

Sometimes we don’t realize we’re nervous until just before it’s our turn to speak. You may feel calm and prepared until just before your name is called. If you’re out of view, you can try methods such as looking at a baby photo, smiling big, telling yourself a joke or taking big deep breaths. If you’re in plain sight, use your brain to calm yourself. Try visualization or discreet, deep breathing. Keep a smile on your face and try to look relaxed. 

If you’re going to use these methods, plan ahead. Create your visualization scenario before you need it. Picture yourself walking up to the podium, smiling, calmly giving your speech, and then visualize the result you want afterward, such as people coming up to volunteer or congratulate you on your passionate speech. Perhaps bring a list of jokes and a few pictures that make you smile with you.

Tip #4: Make a Change to Calm Down During the Speech

Have you ever had a case of nervousness hit you right in the middle of a speech or performance? Early on in my career I was in the middle of a presentation, and my leg started to shake. I’m not sure what it looked like to the audience, but to me it felt violent and uncontrollable. I had no idea what to do, so I suffered through it.

This would have been a good time to take a couple of quick deep breaths, to find a place to pause, and to make sure I was smiling. It’s better to take a quick second to regroup than to let the symptoms build.  Breathe deep, change your position, focus on looking audience members in the eye, and if it seems appropriate make a small joke that lets you and the audience laugh and takes the focus off of you.

Tip #5: Embrace the Energy

Nervous energy isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, research has shown that good stress helps us focus and helps us think more clearly. Getting the blood pumping sharpens your senses sand makes you more aware of what’s going on around you. Use that extra energy to engage your audience, and to show your passion. Turn that negative energy into positive energy and your audience will sit up and pay attention. They’ll be more eager to interact with you. If you feel like you’ve got too much energy, some people like to purposefully on the stage.  Just be careful not to pace back and forth like a caged tiger!

Tip #6: Be Prepared

Richard Branson on the Art of Public Speaking

Entrepreneur Richard Branson regularly shares his business experience and advice with readers.

Q: My biggest fear is speaking in public because I usually start shaking or stammering, or sometimes I can't speak at all. How can I overcome my fear?
-- Rispa, Kenya

Rispa, you are not alone. The writer Mark Twain, who knew a thing or two about making a good speech, said: "There are only two types of speakers in the world: 1) the nervous and 2) liars."

If you are worried about public speaking, try tracking down videos of some of my early efforts online -- I'm confident you do well in comparison! I'm thankful that there is no footage of the very first time I spoke in public.

When my first venture, Student magazine, started to gain recognition, I was sometimes asked to talk at gatherings. The first event that could have been considered high-profile was at University College, London, for a German TV channel.

Before my turn came to take the stage, the student leader Danny Cohn-Bendit and the activist Tariq Ali gave exceptional speeches about human rights. They were passionate about their topics, oozed confidence and had the intellectual clout to back up their rhetoric. While the crowd cheered and stamped, I was fighting the temptation to throw up.

My mind went blank when I took the microphone. I mumbled incoherently for a bit before leaving the podium. It was one of the most embarrassing moments of my life, and my face glowed red as the Virgin logo.

A few years later, Sir Freddie Laker, one of my most important mentors and the man who inspired me to get into the airline industry, urged me to make myself the public face of our company. He argued that rather than trying to get people's attention with a big marketing campaign, it would be much cheaper and far more effective for me to make headlines myself -- especially since my small company was competing against bigger rivals. But this meant addressing my problem with public speaking. I realized that if I was going to be the face of our brand, I was going to have to talk the talk.

What I soon learned was that practice made all the difference. The more prepared I was, the less I stammered and stumbled. Good speakers aren't just talented or lucky -- they work hard.

Start practicing your speech well ahead of time at home. Try to get comfortable with the material and learn where you should be forceful and where you should use a lighter tone.

Above all, you should prepare to be yourself. Often when someone delivers a speech that was written for them by somebody else -- politicians come to mind -- it sounds too suave and premeditated.

The key is to understand your message, put your own personality into it and convey it in your own words. Remember, not everybody has a huge vocabulary. Often a short word will work much better than a long one that you may mispronounce anyway -- especially if you suffer from dyslexia like me.

Twain also said: "It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech." Whether you're preparing a few remarks or are just going to answer questions from the crowd, think about potential topics you want to talk about, then write them down -- bullet points will do. It helps to have a rough outline of where you're going to take a point, to keep the conversation moving forward.

Then, when it's time to make your speech in public, try to imagine that you are back in your living room chatting with friends. Pick out someone in the crowd and try to get your point across to them personally -- you'll find the rest of the audience will understand your message too.

Keep in mind that there's no need to stick rigidly to your script if an interesting tangent presents itself. Some of the finest moments in the history of oration include off-the-cuff remarks. Also, this is when spontaneous humor is most likely to erupt. A good joke will not only help you connect with the crowd, but help you relax. If you loosen up a bit, the words will flow more fluently.

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