Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Musical with a Message

I sat across from my daughter as we watched the musical “Seasons” at the Orlando Fringe Festival. We were impressed with the powerful acting, beautiful singing and the smart messages woven throughout the lives of two women, Hope and Helen, who confronted life’s challenges and faced their fears head-on.

As Hope got ready for her wedding day, she was afraid that she may lose her mother, who was dying of cancer. Helen’s plans for medical school were interrupted by an unplanned pregnancy. She was afraid she’d never fall in love with her new husband and their baby. Both women grew stronger as they confronted their fears.

As a public speaking coach, I see many people who are afraid to stand in front of a group of people. They use glossophobia—fear of public speaking—as an excuse for not developing their brand, their leadership skills or their full potential.

In the musical, Hope and Helen learned that death, birth and marriage are scary. But those experiences brought them unexpected gifts. Hope’s mother lived to see her get married and Helen fell in love with her baby and her husband.

If you are silently suffering from glossophobia. There are three things you can do to face your fears:

1. Decide that you have more to gain by mastering presentation skills, than you have to lose by telling yourself and others “I hate public speaking”.

2. Make change a priority. Make 2014 the year you learn a few new presentation skills. Look for opportunities to practice speaking to small groups of friends or business associates.

3. Think about how your fear is holding you back. If you conquer your fear of public speaking, you’ll grow as a professional, as a leader and a person who has a voice that needs to be heard.

You can recover from glossophobia and conquer your fear of public speaking. I’m pulling for you! If you need more motivation, email me at

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

3 Quick Ways to Win Over Your Audience

Have you ever stood before your co-workers, strangers or friends to give a few remarks or a prepared presentation? Your hands were shaking, your heart was almost jumping out of your chest and your only thought was—“Please let this torture end quickly!”

We’ve all been there…Standing before a group, thinking about how uncomfortable we feel. But all you have to do is flip the script and change your focus. When you focus on your audience, instead of yourself, you both will feel better.

Your audience wants to cheer for you—nobody wants you to be boring, uncomfortable or scared. The audience is rooting for you, so just think of your speech as a talk with a group of friends. You can connect with your audience and ease your nerves if you adopt the delivery style of Chris Rock, Kevin Hart and Wanda Sykes.

Stand-up comedians are a good role model for how to warm up an audience, talk conversationally and make eye contact. If a comedian or a speaker doesn’t connect with their audience, they will “bomb”. But there are three quick ways to win over your audience, connect with them and turn them into your cheering squad:

1. COCKTAIL PARTY CONVERSATION – Talk to your audience like you’re talking to friends at a cocktail party. You don’t get nervous when you’re talking to friends or family, so think of your audience as a group of new friends. Make sure you are sharing information with friends, not “preaching” to them.

2. DON’T STARE AT YOUR PAPER – Be comfortable enough with your remarks so you can talk about them, and glance down at your notes (only when necessary). Make eye contact with the entire audience many times. Don’t stare down one or two people in the audience. Look directly at many faces for short periods of time, rotating around the room, from all sides.

3. EASE INTO THE HEAVY STUFF – Don’t be in a hurry to shove your main points down the audience’s throat. Take time to get to know them and connect with them before you rush into your message. Spend a few minutes (5% of your speech time) building a rapport with your audience. For example, ask a question that requires an audience response; share a funny story; or find common ground (talk about universal experiences everyone can relate to, like the weather).

Remember, to win over your audience, make sure you have a conversation with them; maintain good eye contact; and lead with small talk. When you build a rapport with your audience, they’ll have a stronger connection to you and your message.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Rebounding is Not Just for Basketball Players

Basketball Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman made a name for himself in the NBA by perfecting one skill—rebounding. After playing pro ball for 14 years, he retired as the only man to lead the league in rebounding for seven consecutive seasons. He was known as a rebounding specialist, amassing nearly 12,000 rebounds during his career (1986-2000).

You and I are not professional basketball players, but we can benefit from becoming superstar rebounders in our own lives. We all need the ability to bounce back from adversity and turn negatives into positives. That kind of emotional rebounding keeps you in the game, regardless of how many fouls have been called on you.

In the book, “Successful Women Think Differently,” business coach Valorie Burton lays out a strategy to deal with major setbacks. After events like divorce or job loss we can begin recovering by telling ourselves four empowering messages:

1. This is a major blow, but it’s not the end of the world. I can start over.
2. I made some mistakes and I will learn from those events, so I don’t repeat them in the future.
3. All things work together for good, so I’m determined to come out of this situation stronger and wiser.
4. I’m not the only person to ever go through something like this. Other people have bounced back from similar situations.

If you’re recovering from a bad breakup, it might be tempting to beat yourself up and sulk. But this is the best time to apply Valorie’s strategy. Remember, healing takes time, and we eventually need to move on from unsuccessful relationships. After you have a little emotional distance from the trauma, identify why the marriage or relationship went sour and don’t make those same mistakes with your next mate.

Figure out how you can grow stronger and wiser from this experience. Don’t get bogged down, reliving your mistakes. They are just opportunities you can learn from. Many others have faced similar situations and they eventually bounced back.

I have had my share of challenges, changes and hard times. I have survived divorce, ridiculously high credit card debt and job layoffs. And I can assure you that it’s not the end of the world, I’ve learned from my mistakes, now I’m stronger and wiser because of those tough life lessons. Over the years, I have developed superstar rebounding skills!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Is Rosa Parks Still Relevant Today?

It’s almost been a year since President Barack Obama unveiled the first full-length statue of an African-American in the U.S. Capitol. And this summer I was filled with pride when I saw Rosa Parks’ nine-foot-tall bronze statue for the first time. It is a beautiful tribute to her strengthen of character and determination.

Ms. Parks is the first black woman honored with a statue in the Capitol’s National Statuary Hall. Her refusal to give up her seat on a segregated city bus in Montgomery, Alabama led to a year-long boycott that propelled Martin Luther King Jr. into the national spotlight and resulted in the 1956 U.S. Supreme Court decision banning segregation on public transportation across the nation.

When President Obama dedicated her statue on February 27 of last year, he painted this picture of her legacy:

“Rosa Parks tells us there’s always something we can do. She tells us that we all have responsibilities, to ourselves and to one another. She reminds us that this is how change happens—not mainly through the exploits of the famous and the powerful, but through the countless acts of often anonymous courage and kindness…and responsibility that continually, stubbornly, expands…our conception of what is possible.”

Her historic actions took place nearly 60 years ago, but clearly Ms. Parks’ courage, sense of civic responsibility and vision of a better America are still relevant today. In 2014, I would like to see more lawmakers take courageous steps to end gun violence, more professionals take on the responsibility to mentor our youth and more student athletes with the vision to see that college is more than a stepping stone to the NFL or NBA.

Let’s keep Ms. Parks’ legacy of courage, responsibility and vision alive long after Black History Month ends by stepping outside of our comfort zones armed with:
  • COURAGE: Muster up the courage to take a stand for something. Publicly advocate for a change you want to see in your neighborhood or city. Use your Facebook and Twitter feeds to spread the word about a cause you care about.
  • RESPONSIBILITY: Be a responsible citizen. Volunteer, mentor, exercise your right to vote. I enjoyed teaching middle school students about budgeting and household finance as a Junior Achievement volunteer.
  • VISION: Expand your idea of what is possible. I can envision a female President of the United States and a Democratic governor of Florida! What’s your vision for a better tomorrow?