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Appearance of Leadership

Look like a Leader

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Round and round, Dundee, a small grey mare, followed Tuffy, a large, brown gelding.

Or so it seemed.

As a crowd of EAL participants watched, a question was presented: which horse was the leader? The participants were quick to pin point Tuffy, the brown gelding, as dominant. After all, he was trotting at the front of the twosome.

However, as time passed, with closer observation, someone exclaimed:

“Hey, wait a minute. She’s not following him. She’s pushing him around!”

Appearance can Deceive

Who’s the LeaderWhich was indeed the case. Dundee is dominant over Tuffy.

Do appearances matter? It appears they do, when making first impressions.

There are obviously certain things that we as individuals cannot control when presenting ourselves visually: our race, gender, and height, for instance.

After the EAL session, participants were asked why they initially assumed that Tuffy was leading. Aside from his obvious position in front of Dundee, participants pointed out that his large size, his dark colour, and his gender (male), initially lead them to believe that he was the more powerful out of the two. Obviously, Dundee being small, white and female didn’t affect her ability to boss Tuffy around (you go girl). But, nevertheless, a certain judgement was made about her based on these things.

In 2016, Allure conducted a national survey of 2,500 people to uncover truths about the importance of appearances. In one startling finding, 64 percent of people admitted that the first thing they noticed about a person when first meeting them is how attractive they are. And half of the participants thought that appearances define us significantly or completely. These facts might seem obvious, or disheartening, or perhaps boring, but they nevertheless confirm an unignorable truth: we live in a judge-and-be-judged world.

Thankfully, some autonomy still remains on our side of the court, when shooting to make a good professional impression, even if there are things about our appearance that we cannot change.

Whether we’re applying for a corporate position at a prestigious law firm, or a hip, new writing job at an up and coming magazine, the key to making a positive visual impression isn’t necessarily to try to force ourselves into one mode of presenting yourself. It is to pick up on what certain modes of dress mean in different environments, and to discern which is appropriate to adopt for a position you are vying for.

“If you know that you’re applying at a traditional firm meaning any law firm, accounting firm, government agency, healthcare or financial services firm, dress the part, all the way!” says Liz Ryan, CEO/ founder of Human Workplace, in an article for Forbes .

Conversely, Ryan notes that “many creative firms and some start-ups turn up their noses at people who dress traditionally on their interviews.”

“They say ‘It’s not our culture to wear suits and ties, and anyone who wants to work at our little, funky firm should understand that.'” she says.

Ultimately, work attire is like a costume at a theatre performance.  It is simply a tool that can be used to convey certain connotations to our peers. How we choose our attire is up to us, and the specific environment that we work in.

Two participants in this particular round penning exercise were from the HR department of the same company; and they spoke about how this small part of the workshop affected their perception of their specific jobs.  One thing they were responsible for was preparing up and coming managers for their first management roles.  And counselling them on how to achieve that position.

They decided they were going to spend time with potential managers talking to them about the importance of dressing as if they already had the role they want.  Because we all have preconceived notions of what a leader looks like.

The horses taught a lesson that hit home harder than articles often can.

Dressing for the job that we want to land may seem arbitrary, be we at the interview stage or in the office, applying for a promotion. But, appearances do matter, whether we are conscious of judgements or not.


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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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What You Should Know About Corporate Coaching

Corporate development is an important aspect across all organizations. One of the most effective approaches to helping corporations develop their employees is corporate coaching. Coaching methods focus on the learning process, making sure the individual is involved in finding the problems, helping devise solutions, and then applying those solutions to fix the problems. This hands-on approach makes it easier to retain the information acquired throughout the corporate coaching process. It is self-learning that leads to a deeper understanding with the guidance of a corporate coach.

A Corporate Coach Encourages

The main function of a corporate coach is to encourage the learner to learn on his or her own. This helps with the acquisition of new job competencies because the learner develops more effective learning skills. By becoming more proactive, he or she can learn from practically any experience on the job. Coaching is most effective when the following are done:

  • Support the corporation and its individuals with changes in performance. The congruence with the mission is increased.
  • Provide the needed support to enable each individual employee to experience a transformation.
  • Support the corporation’s development of future leaders through enhancing the ability to think strategically, provide vision and direction, speed up change, motivate employees, preserve integrity, encourage teamwork, promote a strong sense of being valued, and deliver results.
  • Help develop methods to address certain challenges or an area that is repeatedly problematic.
  • Facilitate and support a corporate culture that values creativity, learning, and continuous improvement.

Effective Corporate Coaching

For corporate coaching to be effective, trust needs to be established between the coach and the corporation. The two become strategic business partners that enter into an agreement and create a safe learning environment. The coach models effective behaviors and engages the client through feedback and active listening. Throughout the process, the corporation’s employees can establish goals, and design and create action plans. This is done by first raising client awareness about what is happening within the business. This changes perceptions, which can result in the development of answers to some very powerful questions that can stimulate new ways of solving problems.

Is a Corporate Coach Right for You?

If you are wondering whether you need corporate coaching, the answer is that you probably do. When you feel that there is a need to improve performance, self-appraise, become more effective, and identify strengths and weaknesses, you can benefit from having an outside perspective that can help further develop the business.

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Love Your Career

Your Career and the Harvard Study on Happiness

Do you believe there is any relevance at work to the Harvard Study on Happiness – the longest study on happiness ever done?  Many people don’t.  But if you’re one of those people you just might be missing a sure-fire way to get more out of employees or to enjoy your career more yourself.

The study’s formal name is The Harvard Study of Adult Development; and it is one of the longest and most complete studies of adult life ever conducted. The study followed two cohorts of white men for 75 years, starting in 1938.  The researchers surveyed the men about their lives (including the quality of their marriages, job satisfaction, and social activities) every two years and monitored their physical health (including chest X-rays, blood tests, urine tests, and echocardiograms) every five years.

The study’s current director, George Vaillant, has said that the study’s most important finding is that the only thing that matters in life is relationships. A man could have a successful career, money and good physical health, but without supportive, loving relationships, he wouldn’t be happy (“Happiness is only the cart; love is the horse.”).  In a TED talk, he shared three important lessons learned from the study as well as some practical, old-as-the-hills wisdom on how to build a fulfilling, long life.

So, what does the Happiness Study tell us?  From the TED talk transcript:

  1. People who are more socially connected are happier.
  2. Quality of relationships matters more than quantity.
  3. Good relationships don’t just protect our bodies; they protect our brains.

Do these apply at home but not at work?  Let’s see how they might apply to your career, and then look at some mini case studies.

  1. People who are more socially connected are happier

No matter how great the company, you have to have work relationships.  Why?  Because you can’t be happy without them; and you can’t be productive and successful in your career without being happy.  This is counter-intuitive for some people, but studies have shown success doesn’t drive happiness.  Happiness drives success.

Home office is a way of life for many workers now.  Where it used to be resisted by management, it’s now often a strategy for controlling cost and so embraced.  Elaine worked from home for many years; and loved it. Except for one job.  She thought she didn’t like the company.  Or had outgrown the job.  Finally, she realized why:  she wasn’t interacting with people.  The division she was in was not successful so there were few client meetings or even calls.  There was no local office.  Elaine was isolated at work and transferred that unhappiness to the job itself.  Once she realized the cause of my unhappiness, Elaine made some very basic changes.  She started a program of visiting current clients to learn how they used the company’s products and to offer help where needed.  She also requested and received permission to join teams working on the outskirts of what would be considered her job. Elaine discovered she liked her job just fine!

We often can and must take responsibility for our own unhappiness at work. We know how important relationships are, so one great way to increase happiness at work
is to find ways to regularly interact with people at work.  While quality is even more important than quantity, some people contact is critical to happiness at work. 
And as we know, happiness leads to success and productivity.

2. Quality of Relationships matters more than Quantity

It’s not enough to interact with a lot of people in our work.  The fit with your co-workers and clients matters even more.  So, as a career coach, I help a client examine the quality of relationships.  But what happens when you have to work with someone you just don’t like?  That’s a tough one.  There are lots of articles written on how to work with someone you don’t like.  I like the work of Byron Katie:  Loving What Is.  It’s not easy, but it has worked wonders for many people in tough situations.

Karen had come to Canada from the UK to work for a small company based in London.  She’d loved the job when she worked in the London office.  But in the Canadian office she ran into a couple of problems.  One named Luc, the other named John. They didn’t believe they should collaborate with Karen.  They had their jobs and had no intention of wasting time “doing hers”.  Karen’s enjoyment of her job plummeted.  She was thinking of leaving the company and returning home, even though the cost of moving to Canada had been high.  Her new Canadian bosses could see her declining satisfaction but were at a loss as to how to hold on to her.  Then Karen found a friend at work.  Jim was collaborative and fun to be with.  He helped out when needed and gave her the guidance any new person needs.  She bounced back to her normal state of loving her job, and continued to work in Canada, much to the relief of her bosses.

Quality of work relationships is more important than quantity.  Yes, two co-workers were making Karen’s life difficult; but having one good friend who was also a great colleague totally balanced out the negativity of John and Luc.

Don’t let the negativity of some people totally overwhelm you.  If we can find a work buddy, a good quality relationship can turn a bad situation completely around.
Work on those tough relationships, too.  Byron Katie’s methods in her book “Loving What Is” can help.  But a strong relationship can give you the strength to keep going!

  1. Good relationships don’t just protect our Bodies; they protect our Brains.

If we aren’t happy enough at work our brains aren’t going to do all we need them to do.  And we may end up missing too much time to be optimally productive.  It can hurt to be unhappy.

Claire worked in Edmonton for a Toronto-based company.  In part because she didn’t feel part of a team, she had performance problems that resulted in a Performance Improvement Plan.  One hint her manager may have had that she felt lonely at work was the fact she took her family with her on sales trips.  No doubt unhappiness had something to do with the poor performance; and being on a PIP definitely made her unhappy.  She began having small accidents – a sprained ankle, a broken finger.  She also suffered from several bouts of the flu and cold.  In a coaching session with her manager, she said she realized her unhappiness was probably causing the physical problems.  And she decided she’d be better off in a work environment where she was able to be happy.  For her, she needed to be with people she felt she had more in common with.  So, she left the job that she had been desperate to hold on to.  And has been very successful in her career elsewhere in a different industry, working with people who share her business interests.

Sometimes you just can’t be happy in a job and the answer is to leave.  There is no job or company that works for everyone, no matter how much many others love it.
And if one company doesn’t work out for you, another one surely can.  If you find yourself exhausted, getting a lot of colds, or just with a lot of aches and pains,
stop to wonder if your job, or your coworkers, is making you sick.

Can you think of times when you had a strong relationship with someone at work?  And can you remember how that helped?  If you have some good examples, please comment.

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The 5 Levels of Leadership Coaching

Become the Best Leader You Can Be

You may be asking yourself, as a leader, what do you want to do to bring yourself and your team forward? Then again, you may have an idea of where you want to go, but you may be uncertain about how to get there. To answer these questions, leadership coaching may be exactly what you need to identify your talents, strengths, and to create the scenarios needed to be an effective leader. This could be a game changer for you.

Whether you are unsure of where to start or you already have a plan, it is good to have help from corporate coaching Toronto area business leaders turn to when determining their next steps. Yes, the future can be frightening because of the unknown, but leadership coaching services can help you advance your role as a trusted person of authority.

Coaching Leadership Helps You Progress

It is imperative to evolve so you can advance as a leader. The fact is that staying where you are can result in a lack of development on a personal level. The world around you is going to change and you need to change with it, which can help you move up the ladder of authority.

The role of corporate coaching is to help you create an action plan and develop clarity about what to do next, as well as provide you with resources that will help you move in the desired direction. It also means understanding the five levels of leadership so you know what you are striving for. Those five levels are:
1. The entry-level position of leadership is the lowest position. When in this position, you want to strive for the next level so that you can work your way to the top.
2. The permission level of leadership is the level in which you are still looking for permission to lead. Treat people as individuals with value, and you will get their permission.
3. Production is the third level and is a very important part of leadership because the producing leader is someone who knows how to get things done and will build a lot of credibility because of this.
4. People development is the fourth level, and it involves developing others into leaders so that more is done.
5. Pinnacle is the highest level and the most difficult to achieve. Factors for getting to this level include longevity and the willingness to invest one’s life into the business and the employees for the long term.

Is Corporate Coaching Right for Me?

All in all, leadership coaching can accelerate your journey along your career path.

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Role of Business Coach in Increasing Productivity

Increase Productivity with Outside Perspective

What do you do when productivity starts to wane?  It is imperative to implement a good strategy to get things back to where they are supposed to be. One strategy is the utilization of a business coach. Finding the right professional coach is important.  That person can provide you with the tools that you need to motivate and empower your staff, which can lead to their desire to work harder toward producing more.

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Presentation Skills Training: 7 Do’s and 5 Don’ts

Good Presentation Skills Can Knock It Out of the Park

A good presentation can go a long way toward getting the result that you want. Presentation skills training can change the perception of those you are presenting to because the presentation is exactly what they want. It’s when a presentation is boring or too long that you start seeing people pulling out their smartphones, yawning, or staring off into space. This is not how you are going to get results.

Presentation skills training and management skills training can go hand in hand when you are in a leadership position and you want to make sure that those within your staff giving presentations do so in the most engaging way possible. These can be internal or external presentations.

7 Things to Do During a Presentation

Effective presentation skills mean being able to do the following:

  1. Identify the problem that the listeners are facing. In other words, identify their pain. By identifying their pain, you can get their attention. You have identified something that is causing them a problem, and now you are going to tell them about how you can fix it. State their concerns so they know you understand and identify with them.
  2. Self-edit by giving the information the audience is looking for. You could talk about yourself and your company all you want, but you are going to bore with some of those details. Give information that is going to pique their interest and then take them on a journey.
  3. Don’t start talking about things out of order. It can be easy to get ahead of yourself. Pace yourself, and you will get to certain points when it is time.
  4. If you are using PowerPoint, don’t splash a lot of words across the screen. Minimizing the text minimizes the distractions. Slides should supplement what you’re talking about because you don’t want to read to your audience as if they are children.
  5. Relate to the audience through personal stories. This is an important part of presentation skill development because you can learn how to tell your stories without being too windy.
  6. Make sure you rehearse by yourself and in front of others. This will help you become more comfortable with the presentation.
  7. Make sure you ask if anyone has any questions and answer them well. Your presentation doesn’t have to fall flat. Make sure you have contact information so you can follow up.

5 Things to Avoid During a Presentation

Some of the things that you will learn to avoid during a business presentation are:

  1. Don’t tell jokes if you’re not funny. Nerves can cause you to tell bad jokes. Focus more on delivering valuable information. Sometimes the truly funny jokes come naturally.
  2. Don’t try to pull a big stunt during the presentation. Instead, talk about what you have to offer.
  3. Don’t read your slides, or you are going to make your audience feel like they are in a classroom rather than a business setting.
  4. Don’t leave your personality out of the presentation. People need something to relate to, and your personality is it.
  5. Don’t forget that people are going to ask questions. Prepare yourself for them. Encourage them.

When you consider these tips, you can have a more effective presentation. With the help of presentation skills training, you can knock your presentation out of the park and make a great impression. That impression can prove profitable for you.

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Career Coaching

The 1 Negative Thing You Need from a Career Coach

Career coaching is far from just resumes and LinkedIn profiles. It isn’t even just a Clear Vision or Action Plan. You also need some alligators biting at your heels. A good career coach will help you keep ahead of those snapping jaws.
I adhere to a solution-based approach to career coaching. That does not mean we only look at positive outcomes and assume you’ll be motivated to act on your action plan. Studies and history show that, in fact, you’re much more likely to take action if you’re avoiding something BAD rather than moving toward something GOOD. This is part of our inclination to loss aversion.
Loss aversion refers to people’s tendency to strongly prefer avoiding losses to acquiring gains. Most studies suggest that losses are twice as powerful, psychologically, as gains.
Think about these scenarios:
You’re currently in a pretty good job. You’ve been there a while and it’s comfortable. You have a desire to advance your career and think you could do that by finding a better job.
Will you conduct an energetic, focused job hunt?
Career coachingThe great majority of the time we will just stay in a good job. Rather than go through the effort of searching for a new but better job. It’s easier to stay in the current job. There’s risk in looking. What if my boss finds out? It’s so much work. I’m really busy right now, so I’ll do it later.
But now consider this. You’re currently in a pretty good job. You’ve been there a while and it’s comfortable. Someone just told you that your boss is thinking of firing you.
Will you conduct an energetic, focused job hunt?

Career coaching

Loss Aversion theory suggests that you are twice as likely to conduct a job hunt under the second scenario. Because the risk is high and strongly felt.

We all know people, and maybe have been there ourselves, who stayed in a job for way too long. They were too busy to job hunt or make an effort for a promotion. Until they were afraid they were going to be laid off. Then they brushed up their resumes, started to network. So they were in panic mode which can lead to some unfortunate choices, including job choices.

Part of a good career coaching relationship should include a clear awareness of what you lose by not executing your action plan. A good coach and a good coachee will spend a lot of time determining which problem has to be worked on and creating a very clear vision for the desired outcome. They will also be very clear on the implications of not taking action. The more negative those implications are, the more likely you’ll make a change.

Reframing scenario 1 can make staying in your comfortable job. What are the negative impacts of staying where you are? Unsuccessful children because you can’t afford to send them to university? Feeling unsuccessful at your upcoming high school reunion? Another frustrating meeting where you aren’t heard? There’s a reason you’re considering a career move. Your coach can help you remember those alligators at your heels.

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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?

  • 0
power of silence

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.



I observed Aileen's unique ability to identify and capitalize on opportunities that evoke tremendous growth for her participants/clients, while keeping grounded in practical results and applications.

~ JAK Director HR

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