Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Mind the gaps

Coming up on four years of working with folks to enhance their presentations (and thus their result) I'm finding that once we build the thing and run it for the first time we are usually faced with gaps between concepts. Ideas without transitions is another way of putting it. We begin with our introduction and then stumble um and ah, stumble some more, until we stop and figure out how we're getting from the intro to our first big idea. Same thing happens when we go from the first big idea to the second, or even to the first idea supporting the first big idea. yikes.

Sometimes we realize the first big idea doesn't even belong after the intro, it belongs after the second big idea. Every once in a while we take a big deep breath and admit that the first big idea doesn't belong in this presentation! (I'm always glad when the client is the realizer for this one. Of course I'll always tell them if something doesn't belong, but it's better when they tell me first.)

These "gaps" between parts of our presentations are inevitable and important to work through. No matter what we discover, whether it's a transition point or story, moral to the story, whether it's moving things around or taking things out, the key is to do it BEFORE you actually give the presentation. That is unless you like walking a tightrope without a net.

As laborious as it is for my clients to go through their presentation that first time and find and fix these gaps, it's much better than the panic they would feel were they to fall through the gaps in front of a live (gulp) audience.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

For my beloved mother in law; Ann Heath Fay. She died last month after a 2 year battle with ALS. Although her son and I divorced almost a decade ago, she and my father in law and I remained connected. We visited, talked and laughed. When she called to congratulate me on my engagement she said, "No matter who you marry, you'll always be our daughter in law." I will miss her every day.

The Ship

We are standing upon the seashore...A ship spreads her white sails to the morning breeze, and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength, and I stand and watch her until at length she is only a ribbon of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

Then someone at my side says, "There! She's gone!"

Gone where? Gone from my sight, that is all.

She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side, and just as able to bear her load of living freight to the place of destination...Her diminished size is in me - not in her - and just at the moment when someone at my side says, "There, she's gone!" someone on the Other Side and other voices are ready to take up the glad shout, "There! She comes!"

And that is what we call - dying. Col. David Marcus

Thursday, July 29, 2010

business speak = yawn

Last night I had the opportunity to talk about elevator speeches with some of Hartford's sharpest business women at a meeting for the CT Women's Council. It was a very very short talk, 10 minutes in fact, because the main purpose of this hard working group is to get to know one another socially.

As I went around the room and listened to a few of them try out their newly crafted elevator speeches and the stories that accompanied them, I heard the all too familiar super duper boring "business speak" in which they were (not at all surprisingly) fluent. The worst thing about business speak, even worse than its ability to induce sleep, is its inability to SAY what we really MEAN. One poor woman had written out a paragraph about "stakeholders" and "maximizing ROI" Her title, (which she told me she never tells people because it just confuses them) doesn't even accurately depict what she does, which is to PROBLEM SOLVE. She's really truly a problem solver. How great a job is that??? What's so bad about that for a title? "VP of Problem Solving" (and it sounded like she was really good at it to boot.)

Even my friend Jody Ferrer, who owns The Perfect Promotion, was struggling to talk about what she does. She was mumbling something about "apparel" HUH? How about "I get you in front of your clients and prospects even when you're not there." THAT would get people sitting up and taking notice. Then she could say, "We can put your name and logo on anything; but we don't. We only put your name and logo on things that help illustrate who you are and what you do."

Wouldn't it be great if people started talking about what they DO in ways an eleven year old could understand and BE INTERESTED IN? How about if we could get people to gather up all the business speak words and throw 'em in a big black hole. (along with all the songs that should never be played again, but I digress...)

Monday, July 26, 2010

the beauty of a deadline

I know, I know, most of us hate deadlines. (I think the word "dead" might have a little to do with this, but still.) But if we're really honest with ourselves we have to admit that deadlines help us GET THINGS DONE. More important, when you know you have a deadline and it's a reasonably distant one (not a "I need this yesterday" one) it helps us GET THINGS DONE RIGHT.

Such is the case for the most successful clients I work with. They know they'll be giving a presentation in three months so they contact me NOW. They don't wait til 5 days before they're to speak to 800 people. They give themselves time to design and develop their presentation and even time to (gasp, no kidding) practice it! Even my most reticent (a polite way of saying they HATE it) speakers are exponentially LESS nervous and thus have an exponentially BETTER experience when they take advantage of their deadline and use it as the impetus to prepare.

For me deadlines give me something to look forward to, something to move toward, a finish line.

And it looks like I'm about to have a BIG one, or a series of small ones. I've met this morning with three very dynamic gentlemen who, if all goes as I think it will, will be instrumental in the publishing of my book about public speaking! Stay tuned.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The amazing power of women

Sorry guys, it's not that I don't love you (and A LOT), and I'm not saying that there aren't more than a handful of you who have helped me over and over and over, (Marc Tannenbaum, David Roth and Michael "the saint" Grimes come to mind immediately) but this past week I've been struck by the resilience, brilliance, and enormous generosity of spirit of women.

Where to begin? Karan Spanard is a consultant for BNY Mellon Bank and contacted me a few months ago about working with a few of their presenters for the upcoming SIBOS conference in Amsterdam. The referral itself would have been enough, but she has shepherded me through the process in such an amazing giving way. Thank you and thank you and thank you can never be enough.

I attended one of Jane Pollak's "Remarkable Women" events last week and was blown away by every woman's eagerness to really LISTEN and offer positive, supportive suggestions. Looking around the room I could see in each of the women's faces an openness, an intense interest. Jane set the stage perfectly (and being surrounded by gorgeous Eileen Fisher clothing didn't hurt either). It was a magical night.

On Tuesday of this week I had lunch with Jody Ferrer uber-connector and owner of The Perfect Promotion. She invited Jessica from co-communications, whom I've been wanting to meet for almost a year now. Jessica, without even having met me, connected me with Execsense, a company in San Francisco for whom I've been doing webinars. In the short space of an hour we had solved (minor) issues for Jody, talked about all kinds of connections we can make for one another, sprinkled with hilarious stories about our kids and significant others.

After lunch I sat down with Marjorie Luke, president of the West Hartford Chamber of Commerce and talked about terrific speakers for her "Women who mean Business" speaker series. Heidi Michaels, a life and sports coach, and Lisa Wexler, a TOP radio personality came immediately to mind, as did my dear friend Dale Allen. So charged up was I after telling Marjorie about these women I don't even remember the drive home.

Brava! Ladies. Thank you ALL for energizing, inspiring and coming to my aid me every single day.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

getting OUT

Having moved every year of my life as a kid ( no my dad was not in the military; it's a long boring story...) I am pretty comfortable in a room full of strangers, and I really like networking events. In fact, networking and speaking are the two main marketing methods I've used to build my business. They've worked so well that until last night I've been too busy with clients to attend any networking events this year. Last night reminded me why I love networking and why it's so important.

When you're in business for yourself it can be really lonely. When I'm panicking about something I'm doing it alone, and when something great happens I'm jumping up and down in my office alone. Neither one feels as bad or good as it would were I sharing the feeling with someone else. Unfortunately, as a "solo-preneur" you can feel like you're all BY yourself ; you forget that there are all kinds of great people out there just like you.

Last night I attended the Entrepreneurial Women's Network's Grand Networking event, and did just that. What a great night! I connected with friends and colleagues from Jessica Bram to Gillian Anderson to Jane Pollak to Peggy Garbus. I saw current and former clients like Rita Smircich and Dr. Ann Abram and Maryann Donovan and the"glitter fairy" Laurie Davis. I met interesting dynamic women like Holly Hurd and Bonnie Marcus (the evening's honoree). Rather than coming home tired I came home energized and inspired. Busy or no, I absolutely will not let months go by before my next outing. Getting OUT is absolutely a MUST for an extrovert solo-preneur like me.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Who wants a flawless diamond?

Recently I've been researching diamonds; the serious ones that adorn engagement rings. Learning about the 3 C's; color cut and clarity, and all the ways that diamonds are "graded". The idea is to own a diamond with as few flaws as possible. As close to "flawless" as you can get is the goal.
I'm thinkin' ,"Why would I want a flawless diamond?" I'm flawed. The magic of finding the person you belong with, the person you want to spend your life with, is that they don't mind your flaws. In fact, if you're really really lucky they may even LIKE your flaws. And you feel the same way about their flaws.
We are all flawed. Every one of us. I think that's what MAKES us beautiful. Certainly loving one another, flaws and all, is what makes love beautiful. Why not have a diamond that mirrors that?
p.s. I am now the proud proud owner and wearer of a flawed and beautiful diamond. Mounted on an engagement ring. Given to me by the love of my life, who loves me flaws and all.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

what makes me de-loyal

This past Saturday, while running mindless errands I found myself devastated by a company to whom I have been a loyal customer for the past three decades. Well, actually I was devastated by a sister company of the one to whom I've been loyal.

I went to Banana Republic, the swanky sexy younger sibling of the GAP, to return two blouses I'd bought during the holidays. Standing at the register, confident that the return was merely a formality, (and with two pairs of pants in my arms to try on) I was informed by the woman behind the counter that I had purchased the blouses more than 30 days before and thus they were unreturnable. Period. No store credit (and i had paid for them with my beloved Banana Republic card) no nothin'. I was stuck with them. For life. After 30 days.

Stunned and incredulous I left the store, (after having deposited the pants I was about to try on at some display on my way out). For a solid hour I went about my other errands shaking my head and muttering, "I can't believe it." I worked at the Gap in the early 90s when my kids were tiny, and I remember a day someone came in and returned a pair of jeans he'd bought a YEAR before, but he had his receipt and we gave him his refund. 30 days???? are you kidding me???? during the holidays???

Almost a week later I am still shaken. My beloved GAP may very well become "dead to me now" as my Italian neighbor refers to those who've displeased him. For the life of me I can't figure out who in their right mind thought this would be a savvy business move. Why would I ever ever buy a gift for anyone there? If the recipient has a normal busy life (ahem) he or she may not be able to get to the store in 30 days. Certainly this aggressive return policy will not encourage any new customers to try their stuff. The penalty's too great.

I can only hope that within a very short time the powers that be at GAP Inc. will realize the error of their ways and change this woeful policy. Then maybe we can get back together. For the moment though, they're dead to me.

Monday, January 18, 2010

gratitude is IN at the Golden Globes

Watching the Golden Globes last night I was happily struck by the overwhelming gratitude of the winners. To a man (and woman) each winner expressed true heartfelt appreciation for not only the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, but for their producers, directors, fellow castmates and crew, their families and their work.

I think maybe a silver lining in the challenging economy of the last year and a half or so is that people are taking stock of what they do have and giving thanks. Having work and work that you love and are rewarded for doing is truly something worth cherishing. (and don't I know it.)

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know; this is Hollywood and these are actors for crying out loud (I may be a HUMONGOUS Pollyanna but I hang out with a couple stark realists; you know who you are.) Still, gratitude it gratitude and I don't think theirs was manufactured of misplaced. And I, for one, found it utterly heartwarming.