Category Archives: Presentation Skills – You

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3 Ways to Successfully Close a Presentation Including One Scary Way

presentation skills closing

Would you have the nerve to perform an actual dance routine as the first dance at your wedding?  Seems like a bold move to me.  I was quite surprised at a friend’s wedding that he and the bride performed a dance routine for their first dance.  He didn’t seem the dancing type. Or even less, the showboat type.  He’s a CEO with a pretty conservative organization.  When I asked, he told me he got the nerve to do it because his dance instructor said,


“Focus on the beginning and end.
Get those right and all the mistakes in between won’t matter.”


Turns out this is good advice for more than dance routines. It’s just as true for your presentations.

The importance of the beginning and the end is based in science – since 1925 we’ve known about the primacy and latency effects. Even then it was not a new discovery. Ebbinghaus published the first studies on this phenomenon in the 1880s.  In summary,

We remember best that which comes first, second best that which comes last, and least that which comes just past the middle.

Your audience will most likely remember the beginning and end of your presentation.  And yet, those are the two big areas neglected in presentations.  My last few articles and videos have been on how to start your presentations for success.  The closing is just as important so let’s chat about that now.

How can we close our presentations so that our goals are met?  So that your audience remembers you and your message, and takes the action you’re hoping for.

There are tons of techniques for closing.  We’ll discuss three here, including:

Tell a Story


The Power of Three


A Provocative Question

(To Download 9 More Ways to Close A Presentation for Success Click Here)

1.   Tell a Story

If you have read any of my recent articles or watched recent videos, you may think I’m obsessed with stories.  Not obsessed perhaps; but I’m definitely convinced of the power of the story.

Ending with a story brings a human element to your presentation, and can show that your topic can impact real people in real situations. This can be a personal story of your own, or you can use someone else’s which is a great way to share assets among colleagues. Make the story a logical but possibly not-anticipated result of your presentation so far.  A good story will engage your audience, highlight your main points and potentially give you a great segway to a call to action.

The story doesn’t have to be your own, but I believe it has to be either true or a parable.  Don’t make something up that you can’t discuss authentically.  You’ll hurt rather than help your presentation that way.

The Significant Objects Project

showed a mind-blowing impact on sales from the simple process of using stories to promote items.

Significant Objects, a literary and anthropological experiment devised by Rob Walker and Joshua Glenn, demonstrated that the effect of narrative on any given object’s subjective value can be measured objectively.

The hypothesis was that emotionally charged stories would increase the perceived value of each object and net a larger profit on each item sold than if they were sold in the more traditional way.

The project auctioned off thrift-store objects via eBay. For item descriptions, short stories purpose-written by over 200 contributing writers, were substituted. The objects, purchased for $1.25 apiece on average, for about $129.00 total, sold for nearly $8,000.00.

Stop and think about this for a minute.

If substituting stories for item descriptions had this impact on e-bay sales of cheap little items you’d expect to be of very little value to very few people,
what could you achieve with stories?

presentations trainingGlenn and Walker are now pleased to announce that a collection of 100 of the project’s finest stories has been published by Fantagraphics.

You can find it at




2.   Rule of Three 

presentations trainingThree is the smallest number of things that can form a pattern.  And our minds like patterns.  We want to be able to predict what’s coming.  That might be why so many of us (want to) believe in life after death.   Think of the music from the movie Jaws.  Most of us know that music means that something scary with a lot of teeth is coming.  Predicting the attack is possibly more terrifying than the attack itself.   At least for the audience, if not an actual victim.

A pattern is easy for us to remember.  And since three is the smallest pattern, that means a grouping of three will stay with your audience more easily than other structures.  There is solid research that details how many things our minds can retain.  7 is generally considered the most.  But if we combine our desire for predictability through patterns, the fact that three is the simplest pattern, and that we can only retain a pretty small number of things in our heads, it becomes easy to understand why 3 can help us make a point in our presentations that the audience will retain.  That retention is key.

If you can leave your audience with a memorable statement, structured around the rule of three, you are significantly increasing the odds that your message will be understood and remembered.  And from there, the right Rule of 3 can get you the action you’re targeting.  That might be taking you to the next step in a sales opportunity, inspiring philanthropic action, effecting a change of heart or mind.  All helped through a powerful closing and the rule of three.  If you want something stuck in someone’s head, put it in a sequence of three.


What are ways the Rule of Three Can Work in Your Presentation?

You’ve worked hard to prepare and execute a strong persuasive presentation.  Closing with a powerful structure that is consciously and subconsciously embraced by all people can only help.  But how to do it?

Let’s consider three speech structures that employ the power of three:

  1. Hendiatris
  2. Tricolon
  3. Comic Triple


A hendiatris is a figure of speech where three successive words are used to express a central idea.

Examples of hendiatris include:

Veni, vidi, vici.” [Julius Caesar]

Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité“ [French motto]

Citius, Altius, Fortius” [Olympic motto]

Wine, women, and song” [Anonymous]

The real estate industry has used it for years:

Location, Location, Location

How could you use it in a presentation?  Come up with some ideas.  Maybe:

Today, Tomorrow, Beyond.        

  • If you’re talking about something that will give lasting benefit.

Shareholders, Employees, Customers  

  • Who will Benefit?


The content of these examples isn’t important – except that they focus on your audience, not you.  What is important is the grouping of them into a hendiatris.
3 words your audience can remember easily



tricolon is a series of three successive words or phrases of equal length and usually increasing power. In a strict tricolon, the elements have the same length but this condition is often put aside.

Examples of tricola include:

“Veni, vidi, vici.” [Julius Caesar]

Be sincere, be brief, be seated.” [Advice for speakers from Franklin D. Roosevelt]

Tonight, we gather to affirm the greatness of our nation – not because of [1] the height of our skyscrapers, or [2] the power of our military, or [3] the size of our economy.” [Barack Obama, Keynote speech to Democratic National Convention, July 2004]

Use this structure in a business presentation with three benefits you’re offering.  We all know we’re supposed to focus on the audience, not ourselves.  The customer, not our product.  So, in a case where we’re talking about a service, product, solution, we could focus on the top three things the audience wants. But do it in a group of three.

“We offer you time

We offer you success

We offer you your weekends back.”


Or maybe three products or services you offer.  At some point, you do have to talk about the purpose of your presentation.  But use the Power of Three in a Tricolon to add impact.


steve jobs 2007Think of Steve Jobs’ 2007 introduction of the iPhone.  How did he describe it?  Remember, until this point in time, we thought of these things as three separate devices.

Well, today, we’re introducing three revolutionary products of this class.

The first one: is a widescreen iPod with touch controls. 
The second: is a revolutionary mobile phone
And the third is a breakthrough Internet communications device. 

So, three things: 
a widescreen iPod with touch controls; 
a revolutionary mobile phone; 
and a breakthrough Internet communications device.
An iPod, a phone, and an Internet communicator. An iPod, a phone … are you getting it?

Three things.  Repeated three times.  By the master of presentations.


The Comic Triple

Our minds respond well to the unexpected.  We like novelty.  The world of comedy takes this fact, combines it with the rule of three and comes up with some great lines.

The key in comedy is to make the third in the list of three unexpected.

The comic triple multiplies the effect of humour in a speech.  According to a comedic theory developed by author William Lang, there are only three parts to most comedic bits. Comedians call these three elements humour’s SAP test.

S = Setup (preparation)

A = Anticipation (triple)

P = Punch line (story payoff)

Two Examples:

I celebrated Thanksgiving in an old-fashioned way. I invited everyone in my neighborhood to my house, we had an enormous feast, and then I killed them and took their land.
– Jon Stewart

Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.
– Mark Twain

We can use humour if we feel confident.  Maybe something like:


S = Setup (preparation) 

(Reader, suppose you were an idiot)

            I understand you are currently using Company X’s Product.


A = Anticipation (triple) 

(And suppose you were a member of Congress.)

            And you need to be able to onboard your new sales reps quickly.

P = Punch line (story payoff)      

(But I repeat myself.)    

You’re doomed.

I’ve known some very funny business presenters.  Much funnier than this example, obviously.  If it works for you, humour is powerful.  Use this tried and true guideline for humour to help you make your point while making your audience laugh.

What if we take that Comic Triple basic concept, and use it not for laughs but for impact?  The third element doesn’t have to be funny.  It can take its lead from the first two elements, or statements and add the convincing but unexpected statement.

S = Setup (preparation)

You like the way your current system works.  True?

A = Anticipation (triple)

Changing to a new system is going to take some work.  And you’re already busy enough – you don’t need the added hassle of a new system.  True?

P = Punch line (story payoff)

Then we should leave.

The example above is a real-life example from a sales rep I admired a lot.  We were in a product presentation and demonstration.  The audience wouldn’t listen to ideas we had for new methods to help them.  They gave us copies of the screens they were currently using and asked us to duplicate them.  Obviously, the audience at that meeting didn’t welcome change.  So why were we there, prepared to discuss how changing to our solution would be wonderful?  In most cases, the sales team would push forward, against all odds. Not Susan.

There is more than the Power of Three using the unexpected here.  Obviously, this is a pragmatic, smart and brave salesperson.  But look at how she did it.

S:  She asked a setup question.  Got the Yes.

A:  Added anticipation.  The audience anticipated where she might be going.  Which would be to persuade them they were wrong.

P:  Delivered the punch line.  The unexpected end of the meeting.

This story ends well.  The project leader called a break, and had a quick internal meeting.  They then resumed the meeting and said the old methods did not have to duplicated and they’d like to see what we had to offer.  We were back in the game.

The Challenge

Less is more.

You do discovery, you learn a lot.  Or, often, you have a lot to say about your product, whether you know what the audience wants or not. How can you possibly distill all that knowledge into three points?!

If you truly have a lot that must be said – categorize.  Organize your presentation into groupings that will help your audience track what you’re saying and get your point.  Use the Rule of Three to Summarize the Categories, not the details. This can be much tougher than it sounds here.  So, discipline yourself to find your path to audience understanding and acceptance, by using the Rule of Three.

3.    A Provocative Question.

Ending with a question, or a rhetorical question, is a sure-fire way to gain attention because questions stimulate our neocortex. As author Dorothy Leeds explains, “Our old brain runs by instinct. That’s the part that animals have. They don’t ask questions. The purpose of our ‘new brain’ is to override and challenge our old brain, and we do that by asking questions.”

The minute you ask a question, listeners are generally drawn to ponder an answer. It’s even more engaging when the question is provocative, or when it touches potentially sensitive areas of our lives.

A truly provocative question will challenge traditions, customs, habits, and ideologies. The most probing questions might generate embarrassment, anger, and resentment.

On the more positive side, creative questions will foster empathy, fresh understanding of a problem, and commitment to action.

But don’t immediately abandon the idea of challenging.  You don’t want your audience embarrassed or angry.  But making them think is invaluable.  One of my very favourite bits of feedback was from someone who’d listened to me give a speech wrapping up their business meeting.  I had ended by giving them a challenge.  To think.  My ending question was, what do you think about?  Do you think?  It had been prefaced with concepts around the power of our brain when we use it, so the question was a challenge but not offensive.  The person who gave me the feedback I liked came up to me and said, ‘My drive home is going to be completely different.  I’m not going to turn on the radio and put my brain on coast.  I’m going to think.’

Here’s an example that combines telling a story, the power of three and provocative questions.

Entrepreneur and CEO Ric Elias had a front-row seat on Flight 1549, the plane that crash-landed in the Hudson River in New York in January 2009. What went through his mind as the doomed plane went down? Here he is describing it in a TED Talk.

3 Things I Learned While My Plane Crashed”.

He ends with a series of life questions, with the most provocative one at the very end: “And more than anything, are you being the best parent you can?”

I challenge you guys that are flying today, imagine the same thing happens on your plane –and please don’t —
but imagine, and how would you change?

What would you get done that you’re waiting to get done because you think you’ll be here forever?

How would you change your relationships and the negative energy in them?

And more than anything, are you being the best parent you can?

The Scariest Provocative Question

If you’re feeling very brave, and for some reason it seems to require bravery, us this provocative question:

“What do you think?”

And then be quiet.

The quiet is the scary part.  End your whole presentation this way; or end segments of it as you present various points and benefits.

Silence is powerful.  Even more powerful is what’s happening inside your audience’s head.  This scary provocative question plus silence might be just the combination to pull out those valuable thoughts.


You can end your presentation in a way that sets you up for success.  Just:

Remember latency and primacy

Do the work to find the right ending technique.

Be brave.

What Do You Think?

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The ABC’s of Resilience at Work

An executive career coaching client in the Toronto area,  who is making great progress toward quite a large goal, wisely realized it won’t always go so well.  So, he asked how to prepare himself for a setback.  Excellent question!

One of my favourite techniques to build resilience and continuing optimism is the ABCDE technique described by Martin Seligman in his book, ‘Learned Optimism’.

We follow the ABC process of evaluating and viewing our situation:  Adversity, Belief, Consequences.    Then we move from our ABC’s onward in the alphabet to D:  Distance ourselves or Dispute our Beliefs. When we DIspute, we have more abc’s to help us remember the process – AEIU (Most of the vowels).  This article gives you an overview of the method.  For detail you can check out Martin Seligman’s book, Learned Optimisim.


A:  Adversity

Situation or event which triggers your negative feelings. Could be almost anything–a cancelled meeting, a frown from a boss, a co-worker gets your promotion, a rejection letter, no returned call, etc.

B: Belief

Your Beliefs are how you interpret the Adversity.  This is about thoughts, not feelings.  Feelings are part of Consequences.

Examples include

‘I’ll never get that promotion.’

‘My boss doesn’t respect me.’

‘I’m going to be fired.’

C: Consequences

Consequences are your feelings and things you did.


‘I was too stressed to work.’

‘I snapped at my co-worker.’

‘I didn’t sleep.’

D: Disputation |Distraction

There are two main ways suggested to deal with these consequences, distract yourself from such thoughts, or, for a longer-term solution, dispute with the beliefs, using one of the following techniques:


A Alternatives

There are usually a number of alternative explanations for what has happened, but people often adopt the most negative one. As yourself whether you could explain what has happened in another way


When your boss frowned at you: ‘My boss must have had a bad morning.’ Rather than ‘My boss doesn’t respect me.’

E Evidence

Often negative beliefs are unrealistic. Show yourself that the negative belief is wrong, by asking whether there is any real evidence for what you’re thinking.


‘My boss is frowning at everyone today.  It has nothing to do with me.’

‘I had an excellent meeting with my boss last week.  And we’ve had no negative interactions since.  So, it’s not me he’s frowning at.’


I Implications

Even if a negative belief is correct, it’s not the end of the world. People can often make things seem a lot worse than they actually are, by expecting themselves to be perfect. Sometimes it’s just a matter of accepting that we might have a small flaw – without forgetting also have a lot of good points as well.  You can think of Implications as What’s the worst that could happen?


‘My boss actually is frowning at me.  Because I did a bad presentation yesterday.  And it wasn’t my best.  But we have a good relationship and one hiccup won’t destroy that.  I’ll talk to her about it and make sure she knows it won’t happen again.’

And sometimes it’s possibly a bad situation.  Everything doesn’t come up roses all the time.


‘I am going to be laid off.  But what’s the worse that will happen?  I will cut back on expenses and put serious effort into job hunting.  My experience in this job will help me get another one.  This sort of thing happens.’

Often, having a plan makes a negative situation bearable.


U Usefulness

In some situations, it’s better to think pragmatically than being caught up by negative beliefs. Rather than thinking ‘there’s no way out of this situation’, it’s better to think ‘how can I attempt to get out of this situation?’

My personal mindset that helps comes from an exercise I did at Grail Springs Wellness Retreat.  We were told to toss a rock into the lake, and think of throwing away a negative thought.  I threw away, ‘What if I can’t?”  I went one step further and replaced it with the thought, ‘How Will I?’  I’m amazed at how much and how often that helps.

And let’s remember the value of stress.  If you’re worried about losing your job, you might be driven to fix what needs fixing or finally make a move to get a new job.  Stress drives us and often it’s the only thing that gets us moving.


E:  Energization

One is energized, and should indeed try to actively celebrate, the positive feelings and sense of accomplishment that come from successful disputation of negative beliefs. Disputation and Energization (celebration) are the keys to Seligman’s method.

This is where you take time to think about the positive feelings, behaviors, and actions that could or do follow from having a more optimistic outlook.



Practice this technique on slightly stressful situations.  As you practice, the techniques will become second-nature for you.  You’ll be able to pick which one of the elements you need to use in a particular situation.  By building this resilience muscle, you’ll be prepared with a tool to help you remain optimistic and be resilient when you run into a significant setback.







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Brave at the Front of the Room – Tell a Story


A father was walking with his son through the woods.  The boy was young – maybe 4.
As they walked, they came upon a large log across their path.

The boy looked at his father and said, “Dad, do you think I can move that log?”

His dad said, “If you use all your strength, I think you can.”

So the little boy went up to the log.  He pushed. And pushed.  He shoved. And grunted and pushed some more. 
He gave one more mighty shove!

And he couldn’t budge that log.

So he looked up at his dad and, sadly, said, “Dad, you were wrong.  I can’t move that log.”

His dad said, “Just give it one more try.”

This time the dad pushed with his little boy; and together they quickly got that log out of their way.

The dad looked at his son and said,

“See.  You could move the log. 
You just weren’t using all your strength.  You didn’t ask me for help.”


This is what teamwork and collaboration are all about.

I’d like to collaborate with you here, on the topic of using stories in presentations.


We often hear presentation advice that says – Use Stories.  I wholeheartedly agree; but it’s not always easy to know:

  • What Types of Stories to Use
  • Where to Find Stories
  • When to Use Them.
  • How to Use Them 


What Type of Stories to Use

Taking stories from your own experience works extremely well.  Sometimes these can be directly work related and sometimes more indirect.

Here are examples of both.


  1. A Lost Horse

In a presentation about Business Communities, I told a story about my horse. As hard as you might find it to believe that a horse story could be relevant to business communities, it was.  And I had positive response to it.

A few weeks ago, I lost my horse.  Who loses a horse?! 

I was riding with a group, but I was alone on a path when another rider galloped by. 
My horse loves speed so off he went with them.  I didn’t.  I was on the ground. 
And then he just disappeared.  For hours and hours. 

Everyone in the riding club looked for him.  People stayed late into the evening walking through woods, calling his name.  And I started getting messages on my phone from people I didn’t know were searching.  Many of those messages came from people I didn’t know.  One person and her daughter walked through woods until well after dark, shaking a bucket of feed.  I hadn’t seen either of them in years.

A fellow-rider had posted the situation online, (on his phone in the woods! Technology is great.) on a Lost Pets site. And the Community rallied. In less than an hour, hundreds of people heard about the situation and went out to help.  They cared.  And they stepped up.  That’s a Community.  Whether you’re a community helping each other find a lost horse, or find a lead for your business. 

tuffy-foundI found Tuffy the next day, after 23 hours lost.

 Because of help from our Community.






  1. A Found Weekend 

One of my favourite presales consultants had come to our presales team from implementation consulting.  She didn’t have any presentation experience; but, her background meant she brought a unique and powerful strength.  She had a wealth of real-life stories about how our customers were successful with our product. I watched her in one of her very first presentations.  A little while into the presentation, a member of the audience asked her a question about payroll, which she was involved with from her implementation days.  She told a simple story that totally engaged the audience.

I just recently had the best phone call from a customer in the same situation you’re describing.  When I’d started the implementation, she had worked several weekends in a row.  When I asked her about that, she said, “That’s just this job.  It’s ruining my home life.”  In order to process payroll, she had to do hours and hours of repetitive, manual work.   You know how that is.  (Here the audience enthusiastically agreed.)

We implemented the software and I went back to my job with other clients.  Just last week she called me and said, “I just had to call and say thank you.  You gave me my weekends back!”

How’s that for a benefit statement?


Where to Find Stories

Your stories can come from almost anywhere.

The story I used to open this article came from a TV show; and they got it from an old parable.  As you hear stories, or see events in everyday life, use them in relevant ways if they help make your point or clarify your presentation.

For the software world, I really like real-life implementation stories.

After the Presales Consultant in the payroll example told that story, everyone on the team learned it and used it where appropriate.  The story doesn’t have to be exclusively yours.  A great thing to do with a big presentation, is call in your extended team and get their stories.  Get permission to use customer names and references to go with them if at all possible.

Here’s a very important point – these real-life stories have to actually be real.  I’m not advocating making up ANYTHING.  Parables, obvious fiction, metaphors – these aren’t real-life stories but they can be extremely valuable as the Walk in the Park was for me.  But real life must be real.


When to Use Stories

Stories are useful throughout presentations:

At the beginning of a presentation, a story can set the scene for the audience and create a tone for your presentation.  A story is more engrossing than, “Good morning.  Our agenda today is.”  That might be your second sentence, after a story has grabbed your audience’s attention.

Emphasize key points and strengths throughout your presentation with stories.
The Lost Horse Story was used well into a presentation, when the topic of Business Communities was the focus.  The Found Weekend Story came up as a question made it relevant.

A story is often a powerful and neat way to sum up a presentation.  It can be a close that brings everything together and prevents the problem of a presentation just drifting to an end. The Boy and His Son Story has been useful at the very beginning and at the very end of presentations.


How to Use Stories

All these stories should be planned.  If the presenter has a plan that includes Payroll Efficiency as an example of her product’s benefits, then she should have planned to include that story to emphasize the real-life impact of the benefit.  This can be done on many if not all key points.  It is possible to tell too many stories in one presentation, though!

Practice.  A LOT.  Presenters who are not experienced using stories often tell them either too quickly or too slowly.  Memorize your story.  Reading a story seldom works as well as telling one.

Be Creative.  Use stories that you might not think are about business.  See the possibilities all around you.

Use Your Strengths.  For example, if Humour is a strength, that’s a great type of story to use.  If Empathy is a strength you can definitely find stories to fit it.  In addition to Signature Strengths, consider the Found Weekend story.  The presenter wasn’t an experienced presenter.  But she had a strength that made her presentations powerful.

Use Other People’s Strengths. Like the little boy moving that log, call on others when needed.  If you don’t have any stories, spend time talking to people who do.  Research your topic and your audience.  When you find a story that suits and enhances your presentation, use it.  Even if you didn’t live it.

Remember Your Audience is made up of People. They have children, pets, weekends just like you do.


Be brave at the front of the room.  Tell Them a Story.

See More Stories about Being Brave at the Front of the Room:

No one Else

What do you Think?

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Be Brave at the Front of the Room Part 2

Part 2

Years ago, in an excellent course my team and I learned some great presentation techniques. Two of them almost never got used; apparently because the presenters were uncomfortable with them.  Let’s have a look at them, the reasons we hesitate to use them, and the power when we do.


1)      No One Else

2)      What Do You Think?


We’ll look at Number 2 here.
(This article is written in context of a presentation, or demonstration, done for the purpose of selling.)


Years ago, in an excellent course my team and I learned some great presentation techniques. Two of them almost never got used; apparently because the presenters were uncomfortable with them.  Let’s have a look at each of them, the reasons we hesitate to use them, and the power when we do.


2) What Do You Think?

This technique is a second-level closing when you want to continue discussion after a presentation or demonstration.  When you’re finished your presentation, ask the audience, “What do you think?”

The toughest part of this one is keeping quiet.
The second toughest part is keeping your team quiet!


We just aren’t comfortable with silence. But what a great opportunity to get immediate, uncensored feedback.  If you didn’t have rapport during the presentation you may not get a fast response to this.  and sometimes someone will say we need to digest & renew before we comment.  That’s fine. Also might be informative.


So why don’t presenters ask this question?  I believe it’s the same as the reason we don’t say “Only We”:




We fear these things happening:

  • What if no one says anything?
  • What if the answer is negative?


If no one says anything you can prod a bit – ask the project leader or senior person in the room.  If there’s absolutely no response, it’s OK.  Nothing works every single time.  But give it time!  The audience doesn’t like silence either.  They’ll probably try to fill that silence with an answer.

If the answer is negative, you have important information you didn’t have before.  Most people won’t give you negative feedback in public; but, if there is negative feedback coming, you WANT to be able to address it in front of the whole audience, usually.  Handling objections is a key part of selling; so you’re probably able to handle it.  If not, you can get back to them.  But get back to everyone.  This is much better than leaving your presentation happy, only to learn there was a big problem you didn’t get a chance to address.

What can we do to make us confident asking this question that is a potential source of valuable information?

  1. Do the necessary work.
    Be prepared to handle objections.
    Anticipate what those might be, by truly knowing your audience’s needs, requirements and current situation ahead of time.
    Objection handling is a skill itself.  Your sales management may already have given you tools to build that skill.  Use them.
  1. Strategize as a TEAM
    When preparing for the presentation, set a strategy with the other people involved in the presentation or opportunity.
    Tell them you’re going to ask the question.
    Plan how each team member should respond to silence or a negative response.
  1. Know Your Strengths and Use Them
    Maybe Bravery is one of your Signature Strengths.  Lucky you in this case.  You’ll find this question easier than some others will.
    If Bravery is not high on your Signature Strengths, maybe Creativity is.  Then find creative ways to ask the question; and more important creative ways to handle the possible silence or negative feedback.

    Take the Via survey here and learn your signature strengths and how to use them.


Be brave at the Front of the Room.  Find out what people think.  It can be extremely useful information.


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Be Brave at the Front of the Room Part 1

Years ago, in an excellent course my team and I learned some great presentation techniques. Two of them almost never got used; apparently because the presenters were uncomfortable with them.  Let’s have a look at them, the reasons we hesitate to use them, and the power when we do.

1)      No One Else

2)      What Do You Think?

Read More

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What Do I Love to Do?

Do You Actually KNOW What Your Strengths Are?

Here’s a little personal story about using our strengths and doing what we love.

I went to a seminar with Roz Usheroff probably a decade ago.  One exercise she gave me stays with me today.

I talked to 5 friends or peers and asked:

What would you come to me for advice on?

Every one of the 5 gave me almost the same answer:

I’d come to you for help with people situations.
I was working as a presales consultant at the time; and a sales rep I worked with a lot told me this:
“I already do it.  Sometimes I take you to a meeting just to get your read on people.  Often you get an insight I’d never have. I still do my due diligence but you’re almost always right.  It’s helped a lot.”

I spoke to my boss (I was managing a team of 22 presales consultants) and asked:

If you only had me for 6 months, what would you use me for?  I told him he could think about it and get back to me; but he said he could answer right away:

“I’d find a team running around like chickens with their heads cut off and I’d send you in to fix them.”

Two things stand out for me from this exercise:

I was delighted!  Obviously the ability to understand people and use this ability in team management was something I cared about.

It showed me a strength I have.  And it highlighted that I was doing what I loved – working with and understanding people, preferably leading a team of people.  Now I’m still using that strength, in a different context, with my coaching practice.

So here are a couple of things this makes me think about:

  1. When we use our strengths we do our best.
    We hear this all the time.  This exercise helped give me clarity on a strength I didn’t really think about.  It’s great to use your strengths, but can we be sure what they actually are?  You can do this exercise – it’s great.  And you can take the VIA Strengths Survey:
  1. Do what you love.
    I think sometimes this makes us believe we have to be having play-type fun all the time. For some of us, we seem to think that means working anywhere but in an office, doing something exotic or unusual, working at what we now consider a hobby.  But it doesn’t mean that.  When we use our inherent strengths, we tend to love whatever we’re doing.


What do you do in all areas of your life that show one or more of your strengths? 


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Growth vs Fixed Mindset

Three Common Misconceptions about a Growth Mindset

Carol Dweck’s work on Growth vs Fixed Mindset has gained significant following.  It’s relevant to every aspect of our lives, including our work lives.  But she’s found many of us are taking too high-level a view; or are just getting it wrong.

A Growth Mindset helps us be much more successful than we would be without one.  It’s an excellent example of the power of Attitude over IQ.

Here’s an excerpt from a HBR worth reading:

Individuals who believe their talents can be developed (through hard work, good strategies, and input from others) have a growth mindset. They tend to achieve more than those with a more fixed mindset (those who believe their talents are innate gifts).

…three common misconceptions:

  1. I already have it, and I always have.
    People often confuse a growth mindset with being flexible or open-minded or with having a positive outlook — qualities they believe they’ve simply always had. My colleagues and I call this a false growth mindset. Everyone is actually a mixture of fixed and growth mindsets, and that mixture continually evolves with experience. A “pure” growth mindset doesn’t exist, which we have to acknowledge in order to attain the benefits we seek.
  2. A growth mindset is just about praising and rewarding effort.
    This isn’t true for students in schools, and it’s not true for employees in organizations. In both settings, outcomes matter. Unproductive effort is never a good thing. It’s critical to reward not just effort but learning and progress, and to emphasize the processes that yield these things, such as seeking help from others, trying new strategies, and capitalizing on setbacks to move forward effectively. In all of our research, the outcome — the bottom line — follows from deeply engaging in these processes.
  3. Just espouse a growth mindset, and good things will happen.
    Mission statements are wonderful things. You can’t argue with lofty values like growth, empowerment, or innovation. But what do they mean to employees if the company doesn’t implement policies that make them real and attainable? They just amount to lip service. Organizations that embody a growth mindset encourage appropriate risk-taking, knowing that some risks won’t work out. They reward employees for important and useful lessons learned, even if a project does not meet its original goals. They support collaboration across organizational boundaries rather than competition among employees or units. They are committed to the growth of every member, not just in words but in deeds, such as broadly available development and advancement opportunities. And they continually reinforce growth mindset values with concrete policies.

It’s hard work, but individuals and organizations can gain a lot by deepening their understanding of growth-mindset concepts and the processes for putting them into practice. It gives them a richer sense of who they are, what they stand for, and how they want to move forward.

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