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    Providing effective constructive feedback using the 4 I’s method

    Providing constructive feedback can very challenging. Recipients often get defensive and retreat. This video discusses how to communicate a critical/constructive message in a supportive and inviting manner using the 4 I's approach (Information, Importance, Invitation, and Implication).

      Your definitive guide to giving superb presentations

      My experience in listening to thousands of presentations as a communication professor and coach has taught me that having an engaged audience makes all of the difference in the world. Yet, getting your audience involved can be very challenging. Your audience expects you to both invite and help them to participate. This post will illuminate two best practices for facilitating audience participation.

        Step up to the mic! How to successfully use a microphone.

        Giving yourself one more thing to do can certainly make you more nervous. Nowhere is this more evident then when you start using a microphone for the first time. The microphone makes many nervous and novice speakers super sensitive about their nonverbal behavior. It doesn't have to be this way. By following some simple principles, you can be very confident knowing that your voice will be projected effectively using a microphone. As a microphone refresher, their purpose is to amplify your voice so others in the room or those listening remotely (be they live or recorded) can hear you. To maximize the effectiveness of a microphone, you need to keep it six inches below your mouth, regardless of if you're using a handheld or lavaliere (lav) microphone. If you are using a handheld microphone, then you should root the elbow of the arm holding the mic next to your body. This positioning will keep the microphone at the appropriate distance from your mouth. A lav mic will be attached to your clothes at the proper distance. With both types of mics, the trick is to make sure that when you turn your body to connect to your audience that your head does not turn alone -- You must turn your entire body to keep the distance from your mouth and the microphone the same. If you simply move your head and the distance between your mouth and mic increases or decreases, your voice will sound as if a train is rapidly approaching and then moving away. For a handheld mic, it's important to switch hands every once in a while for gesture variety. When switching hands, bring the hand not holding the mic to the hand that is and then release the mic as you switch. For lav mics, the tricky part has to do with snaking the mic cable in your clothes so it's not hanging out in front of you. Also, you must make sure that you are wearing clothes that you can clip a battery pack onto (e.g., pants or belt). I highly recommend that you ask in advance of your presentation what type of microphone you'll have. When you practice your presentation, mimic having the actual microphone. A paper towel roll makes a nice stand in for a handheld mic, where as a tie clip or bobby pin can be used as a stand-in for a lav mic. If possible, get into your room with a sound technician prior to your presentation to be sure to get wired up and actually hear what your voice will sound like on the speakers projecting it. With a little forethought and practice, you can become an expert at using a microphone.

          Structure Helps You Scaffold Your Audience’s Understanding of Your Presentation

          Routinely, when I visit my eye doctor, I am flummoxed by the puzzles she places in front of me. These multi-colored, spotted circles (technically called Ishihara plates), reveal pictures and numbers to those who see properly. Unfortunately, I don’t see properly… I am colorblind. I struggle to see certain reds and greens, which not only lead me to see nothing in my eye doctor’s tests, but upon occasion, have led to some pretty interesting fashion choices on my part. I am not alone in my color blindness. Approximately 8% of people (mostly men since it is a sex-linked genetic trait) are colorblind. Much like the way people differentially perceive color based on their genetics, people vary in their ability to perceive the structure of information they are hearing from others. According to Dr. Morton Gernsbacher’s “structure-building theory,” some individuals are better at creating initial mental frameworks based on the information they receive from others, which later allows them to build upon their initial foundation. These “skilled structure builders” not only understand information better, but they also retain it longer and more readily apply it. New research by Dr. Dung Bui published in the Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition has shown that less skilled structure builders can improve their understanding of the information they are hearing when they are exposed to pre-communication maps and diagrams. Specifically, by providing his subjects with outlines or agendas (these could be simple bulleted verbiage, images, or process flows) of upcoming lecture content, his subjects recalled more and were better able to apply the information learned to novel situations when compared to control subjects. Speakers would be well served to make sure they structure their presentations and then take time up front to set their audience’s expectations for what is to come in their presentations. There are many presentation structures on which you can rely, including: −Past-Present-Future — good for providing a history or stepping people through a process -Comparison-Contrast-Recommendation — good for showing the relative advantages of your position 
 -Cause-Effect-Results — good for helping people understand the underlying logic of your position 
 Additionally, having a structure not only helps your audience to understand and remember your words of wisdom, but it helps you remember what you plan to say, because even if you forget the specifics, you can use the general framework to stay on track. Early in the beginning of your presentation, you should make your structure known to your audience. By setting their expectations and mapping out your course, you will empower your audience to build mental frameworks of your content. Simply previewing your Problem-Solution-Benefit talk by saying “today I intend to walk us through the problem we are facing, how we can solve it, and the benefits we will reap” is enough to scaffold your audience. While there is not yet a viable, ubiquitous solution to color blindness, there are readily available techniques for helping both you and your audience with structure building.

            Business Buff Entrepreneurs podcast

            I was recently interviewed for the Business Buff Entrepreneurs podcast. If you tune in, you’ll learn some specific tips for managing presentations anxiety and being compelling when presenting. Enjoy! Listen Here

              Invoking a Positive Stress Mind Set to Manage Speaking Anxiety

              It turns out that how you approach stress might be more damaging than the stressor itself. Let’s say you have just been asked to deliver a major presentation in front of a hesitant or reluctant audience. You might immediately spiral into a stress response that has you imaging amazingly awful outcomes with horrific long-term consequences for you, your career, and your company. Your body instantly initiates a cortisol cascade that invokes the flight or flight response. Alternatively, you might view this speech as a learning opportunity where you have a chance to share something you are excited about. In this latter situation, you actually feel a mix of excitement and mild trepidation. The key distinction here has to do with what psychologists define as your stress mind set. Stress is most damaging and debilitating when we feel helpless and hopeless. In her new book The Upside of Stress, Kelly McGonigal suggests the following three approaches to a positive stress mindset: (1) Reframe your body’s stress response as helpful, not harmful. Evolution designed our stress response to help us cope. (2) Appreciate that you are not alone -- others experience the same stresses your do. With regard to presentation anxiety, 85% of people report feeling nervous prior to their public speaking. (3) Know that you have the tools or can learn the tools to handle most stressors that you are confronted with. In the case of nervousness around presenting, you can read my book Speaking Up without freaking Out to learn academically verified techniques to manage both the sources and symptoms of your speaking anxiety. Two specific speaking anxiety management techniques that help establish a positive stress mindset come from work done on mindfulness. First, when you experience negative physical arousal associated with presenting (e.g., your heart rate increases, you begin to sweat), remind yourself that these reactions are normal and typical. This is called relabeling. These sensations do not show anything beyond your body’s normal response to something that is displeasing. In other words, avoid giving these natural responses special significance. You can go a step further and greet or accept these natural responses by saying to yourself: “Here are those anxiety feelings again. Of course, I should be feeling them. I am about to give a presentation.” Second, when you are feeling negative or nervous about speaking, say to yourself, "This is me feeling nervous about speaking." This kind of assertion takes you out of the nervousness and instead allows you to observe yourself being nervous. To be outside yourself affords you the opportunity to calm down. You can gain a sense of control. Further, by thinking of a positive emotion—such as calmness or happiness—once you have distanced yourself from your negative feelings, you will more quickly reduce your feelings of anxiety. Developing and maintaining a positive stress mindset can comfort you as you confront stressors in your life. Nowhere is this more useful than when speaking in public.