3 Ways To Inspire Audiences With Honesty

I won’t go into too much detail (because it’s not my place to share for others, only myself) but I get to have a wonderful experience where a group of people talk to others and share some heart wrenching experiences. I was at one such even this past month where I realized that one of the quickest ways to get an audience’s attention is to be honest.

What does that mean though? Telling you to “be honest” is sort of like telling you to write “great content” – it’s a great tip, but there’s no real substance to it. How does one “get honest” with a group of strangers? We don’t really know most of them and it can be an awkward thing to get up in front of people and tell what you might consider to be “too much”.

Here are three ways you can tailor the honesty approach to presenting a topic to a more business oriented audience.

Tell a Story. Give your audience the inside scoop of where your idea or inspiration for an idea came from. Don’t be afraid to tell them that you were sitting on your couch eating ice cream and watching Jersey Shore when it was like a light bulb went off in your head. Share the little things that can make a member of your audience relate to you.

Don’t be afraid to admit you were wrong. Business, like life, requires you to learn lessons along the way. Standing up in front of a group of people can show that you’ve been through the ups and downs, just like they have, but you were able to bounce back. When we’re going through something difficult, we often feel like we’re going through it alone. Hearing someone else’s struggles can inspire in a heartbeat.

Emotion is Passion. Loving something – be it a person, product, discovery – doesn’t make you a bad business person. Why take on a project if you don’t have passion for what you’re doing? Getting up in front of an audience and showing your emotion towards something doesn’t mean anything other than the fact that you’re in the right place.

It’s very easy to get up in front of everyone and be honest, but it’s not a tactic we take to a credible presentation. We think that by admitting flaws or showing how much we believe in a thought or idea is a weakness in front of a group of people. In truth, it could be one of the best ways we have to make a great impression on our audience.

How do you use honesty in your presentations? Do you go all in or do you shy away from putting yourself out there to your participants?

Bonus Abe was the master of honesty, even when he didn't want to be.

Remember: Conference Call Mute Is Never On

It is an inevitable thing that is going to happen on conference call. Someone is going to forget to mute their phone. There are a million stories out there of how people have heard bathroom visits, ordering fast food, or worse. These interruptions are embarrassing, not only for the person responsible, but also for the host of the conference call.

Most conference hosts are diligent about putting the call into lecture mode and participants usually try to mute their conference lines. This doesn’t always happen.

Once, as an operator on a conference, I had the pleasure of dealing with a client who was going to have some high profile people on their conference. The client expressed to me that it was important that there were no back ground interruptions on the call. I explained that all the participants would be muted, but since there would be about seven people on with the special speaker code, those lines wouldn’t be muted. I suggested they use our star feature to mute the call and even had everyone test out the function to make sure the feature worked.

Inevitably, when the call started and one of the high profile guests was speaking, my client’s line was not muted and I suddenly heard the announcement that train #356 to Boston would be departing in five minutes. Having been on a number of operator conferences, I made the decision to mute his line, in order to avoid that playing over these high profile guests. It made me uneasy to have to do that – but I couldn’t risk his conference being interrupted, and this is the exact reason why people elect to have operators on their conference.

Audio conferences can be tricky. They aren’t necessarily hard to participate in but there are a lot of things to remember, and sometimes – it’s the simplest things that we can forget about.

It brings up a great point about being on a conference – always assume your line is not muted, even when it is. Even when you are certain you’ve muted your phone, or you just got the message that your line was muted, you never know when something could happen to unmute. What if your moderator accidentally turns off the feature or you’re disciplining one of your kids, across the room from your phone, and the moderator suddenly opens the lines up for questions.

In an instant the entire conference hears you explaining to your children why chocolate frosting is not an appropriate substitute for paint.

Always assume that your line is live – and it’s a good rule that can apply to audio conferences or video. Assuming that you’re on video will save you from possible embarrassment.

How are you managing on your conference calls? Are you assuming that mute is on, or are you doing things the same way that you would with a conference that was live?

Tell me your embarrassing moment in the comments – and if yours is the one that inspires the deepest shade of red, you’ll win a prize. (Details to come) I look forward to hearing your stories!

Using the ICEPACk

Until today, I had never heard of ICEPAC, but this acronym stands for the steps of creating a great presentation. Whether you have weeks to craft, or get handed the project last minute, this acronym--and the other tips in the article--break down a presentation into easy-made parts.

ICEPAC

Interest - If no one cares about a subject, then why bother with a web conference? If they’re supposed to care, then it’s your job to make them care. Think about how your message will affect your participants daily lives and business, and emphasize the more interesting points.

Comprehension - There’s such a thing as too much detail, especially if your participants will get information overload. Keep data to bite sized chunks, avoid jargon, and cater to their--not your--expertise.

Emphasis - The main message is the whole point of your presentation, so emphasize it. Put key information on its own slide. Pause after saying a main point, or even precede it with, “This is important.”

Participation - Getting your participants involved creates more investment on their part. Utilize Q&A often, or ask impromptu, “soft ball” questions. Use the Socratic Method to draw people out, and praise highly when it works.

Accomplishment - For people to be more open to ideas, they have to like the ideas. And the best way of getting them to like ideas is for them to be a part of their creation. With good participation, you’re halfway there, but the web conference as a whole should be satisfying with something completed, decided on, or improved.

Confirmation - This is more than follow-up after the conference, it includes during as well. Q&A throughout is good to make sure you’re on track. And it never hurts to get participants to repeat their assignments so you know they understand.

Try ICEPAC when you create your next presentation and let us know how it worked for you.

How to Debate Effectively and Rationally

Host your next debate via conference call by setting up an account with AccuConference.  Universities receive a 50% discount. 

Today is November 3, 2010, which means that the elections were held yesterday. Now, whether it was a good day or a bad day for you and your political ideals, the results are going to stick around for 2 years. “They” say you’re not supposed to talk about politics; it leaves open too much room for drama and disagreement. In watching the election coverage last night, I saw that a lot of the members of the panels on various news organizations couldn’t have a meaningful debate.

They were rude, inappropriate, and just downright mean to their fellow panelists. I’m a huge supporter of a healthy debate, civility in discussion, and above all, being passionate about what is being discussed. Ultimately, if you’re going to have a discussion, you should be passionate about it, otherwise, what are you talking about? We’re advised not to discuss politics and it’s because of this passion that these kinds of discussion can be dangerous firecrackers waiting to explode.

We proceed carefully on a conference call when discussing something that is controversial or will change the face of our company, like hiring and firing. We shy away from open discussion and the sharing of ideas. Why is that? We are adults and we should be able to have conversations.

The principals of debate are clear but somewhere along the lines we’ve forgotten what it was like to have a civil conversation with others about topics we might disagree with. Here are ten tips to consider before engaging in healthy debate.

  1. Be prepared. Don’t be surprised when the passion from both sides bleeds through.
  2. Let the other person finish. Interrupting the other person makes you look like a jerk.
  3. Be open to accepting another person’s point of view. In order to engage in debate, you must be willing to understand where someone is coming from, even if you disagree.
  4. Consider your response carefully. Think about what you are about to say before you just fire off at the mouth. You can’t take it back once you say it, so don’t say anything you’ll regret.
  5. Have Respect. Have respect for the other person’s opinion, but don’t concede your own.
  6. Listen intently. Healthy debate is not just about making you heard; it’s about hearing someone else.
  7. Try to see things from the other side. Before you respond, consider what the other person has said and what their motivations might be. You don’t have to agree, but everyone is capable of understanding the other perspective.
  8. It should be called conversation, not debate. It should be about discussing opposing points of view and learning from each other.
  9. Answer follow up questions. If the person you’re speaking with asks you a direct question, answer it. They are engaged in the conversation and want to know more about your feelings.
  10. Be passionate, but be polite. Name calling and generalizations only encourage people feel attacked. You can have passion about your point of view, but you should never revert to name calling. You’re not eight and this is not the playground.

Bonus Tip: Shake hands.At the end of every debate, shake hands and take a moment to converse about something that’s not debate related. These conversations usually come up with our inner circles, so once it’s all over, talk about something you both agree on.

Look, debating with a person who opposes your views and an opinion is hard, but when you’re a grown up, I like to think it’s possible to sit down and talk about things with others, no matter what their opinions. Some of the greatest ideas in the world have been born from healthy debate and there’s no reason why we should just not talk about something because we disagree.

Right or Wrong

Sayings and turns of phrase used incorrectly can make you look bad.

People treat us by how we dress and generally present ourselves. On a conference call, when they can’t see us, they judge us by how we speak and what we say. With that in mind, we should look at some common words and phrases in everyday use and make sure we’re saying what we want our participants to hear.

First are words that are similar, but mean different things in different contexts. A common one of these is saying “further”--as in “further than I can run”--instead of “farther than thirty miles”. The difference is that farther goes with actual, measurable distance.

Along those lines, when you mean to say something is less than a specific number, you say “fewer than ten”. Alternatively, you would say, “You have less than me.”

A sneaky one is between “bring” and “take”, and it all depends on what direction the thing is going. If you are going to a party, you are taking the wine. The hostess of that same party can say that you are bringing that wine to her.

My favorite is the subtle “infer” and “imply”. If someone suggestively says something, they are implying. If we draw a conclusion from their statements, we are inferring.

What about phrases that we use almost without thinking? For example, some people say that they need to “hone in on a solution” when they actually mean to say, “home in”.

Or when they say that something is “different than” something else, it’s more correct to say it’s “different from”.

Less is more in so many things, and the same goes for speaking. One such way is to drop the “of” when combined with “outside”. It’s not that the dogs are “outside of the house”, they are simply “outside the house”.

I hope these speaking and usage tips will “raise the question”--not “beg the question”--of your verbal habits, and help you vocally put your best foot forward.

The Monsters Guide to Public Speaking

The Monsters Guide to Public Speaking

Halloween is this weekend and with it comes scary stories, fright nights, and a lot of things you don’t see every day. It’s the one time of the year that ghosts and goblins can come out of their hiding places. Since they only make one public appearance a year, they like to make it count and offer some valuable insights into the realm of public speaking – what works and what doesn’t.

Zombie

Eating brains does not translate into a warm and friendly greeting to your guests.

Instead, arrive at your event about an hour early and shake hands instead of eating brains—oops, I mean breakfast. Introduce yourself and find out more about what brought people to see you speak and what they would like to know more about.

Ghost

Be transparent and friendly.

Standing up in front of a group of people can be intimidating. It will help you as the speaker to relax along with your participants if you are humorous, friendly, and open with your audience.

Witch

Don’t be afraid to dazzle with a little magic.

Unless you are presenting in Salem, MA, somewhere between 1692 and 1693, your audience would probably like a little flash and dazzle. Since you only have about two minutes to grab their attention and keep them interested for the whole presentation, don’t be afraid to open the presentation with a splash.

Frankenstein

Don’t walk like a robot.

Frankenstein makes an excellent point about the importance of being able to move fluidly around the stage. When you move, you’re forcing audience members to pay attention and notice you. Otherwise, you’re just going to be a droning and unmoving piece of furniture on the stage. The more comfortable you are with being in front of a group, the better.

Vampire

Give them something to sink their teeth into.

In the end, if you’re not talking about something that matters, you’re not going to get a great response. Be sure that the content of your presentation or topic is relevant and intriguing, and offer clear ways for your participants to be involved during and after the presentation.

Hope you enjoyed that insight from the people who know what it’s like to make one public appearance a year. You have to come out swinging; otherwise, you’ll end up six feet under.

Have a safe and happy Halloween!

But Um, Like Actually... You Know?

Everything in moderation, and this includes words. When we speak, there are silences, breaks, and pauses that many people fill with filler words. I myself once had a problem with “in any case.” I don’t know how long it was until I noticed I was saying it a lot, but once I did, it was maddening. I can only imagine how it bugged other people.

A huge filler word used primarily by teens is “like”. They can pepper a simple sentence with “like”, sometimes where it’s more than half the words used. “Actually” is another filler starting to gain widespread usage, and there’s always a “you know” lurking nearby.

“But uh” is relatively new to the word filler scene, and it’s gaining strength. Out of the blue last week, I found myself filling up a conversation with “but uh”. So just like “in any case”, I made sure to stop. If you’ve noticed a particular word or phrase filling your sentences, you might be curious about how I managed to banish the space fillers.

Now if you’ve already identified a filler, you’re doing great. But if unsure, ask a friend or record a conversation. Even better is downloading and reviewing the recordings of your last few conference calls. Once you’ve spotted the filler, a) take notice of each time you use it, and b) try to choose a different word when you’re about to say the filler.

The best habit to form, however, is one of silence. When pauses occur that normally you would have filled, just let silence happen. Not only will it vastly decrease the use of fillers, but your words as a whole will have more gravitas and power.

Tell us your filler word in a comment.

The Patterns of Preparation

The Patterns of Preparation

I talk a lot about public speaking and how you can get yourself prepared as well as the approach you’re going to take. One of the things I am the most vocal about is how getting up “in front” of a crowd is no different than standing on the other side of a conference call. You’re still being heard by a large group of people and you’re still being listened to intently, with your audience members hoping that you will add some value to their current plans.

Being on a conference call doesn’t always take the pressure off – sometimes, it can put more pressure on. Gone are the non verbal cues you can give people to let them know that you’re enthused or excited and say goodbye to making eye contact with people in your audience to engage them in the conversation.

The way your audience processes your information is going to be different and the way you deliver the information has to adapt, but most of the time, the stages leading up to the presentation are always the same. I read this great post from Michael Hyatt called “The 10 Psychological Stages of Public Speaking” about how his brain processes the emotions leading up to a presentation.

Take a look at these, it’s pretty interesting and I very easily relate, especially to number 5. I feel a bit like everything is going to be horrible, like I’m going to get completely tongue tied or have one of my strange moments where my brain just completely stops working. (Usually, my main focus is to not do this horrible awkward laugh thing that I do.)

The point is that no matter what you’re about to do, most of us are naturally nervous when con something like public speaking, and there’s no major difference between planning for a live conference or for a conference call.. It’s not just you. Maybe the way Michael puts himself out there will be a way that can help you get over those jitters.

Thanks for the honesty Michael!

Office Conference Etiquette

When conferencing from your desk, there are a lot of things that can be in your way or on your mind, even though you’re trying to conduct some business, and when you’re lost in your full-steam-ahead mindset, you could be bothering the others trying to work beside you. Here are a couple of ways to be polite the next time you have to take a conference call from your desk.

  1. If at all possible, take your conference call in a private area, even if all your conference rooms are filled. Not only will this cut down on the possibility to disturbing your neighbor, you’ll also be separated from your distractions like IM, email, and even Angry Birds. Let the people around you know you’re going to be on a conference. Tell your buddy at the desk beside you that you’ll be on a conference for a little while, so you may not be as fast to respond to emails or IM.
  2. Resist the urge to put the call on speaker phone. The people around you weren’t invited to your conference call, so they don’t need to hear it. If you want to be hands free, do that by a headset instead of disturbing your cubicle buddy.
  3. Speak in a normal voice on the conference. Just because it’s a conference call doesn’t mean that the ability for your to be heard has decreased that much. Speak in your normal voice in order to be hear.
  4. Make a funny sign to hang on your cubicle wall to let everyone know you're on a conference. Monsters and zombies are pre-approved by yours truly.

Having a conference call from your cubicle can be a bit of a distraction to your every day work environment. We’re used to getting up and going into conference rooms and being able to block out everything, but that’s not always a possibility, so we have to be able to keep ourselves focused, as well as not disturbing our buddies.

MagicJack Blocks Conference Calls (UPDATE)

A few months ago, I let you know about the problems that some of our customers were getting when they were trying to connect to our conference services with MagicJack. The basic rundown is that we were told to simply email them to request that the phone numbers be unblocked. It has not turned out that easy and we wanted to update our customers on where we stand in the resolution.

  • We contacted MagicJack via email, as per their request, to ask our numbers be activated. In response, they asked for some additional information, information that applies to VoIP providers, like an IP address. Since we are not a VoIP provider, we do not have that kind of information to give them.
  • For a brief period in time, MagicJack customers attempting to dial in on one of our toll free numbers were being blocked, but those issues were resolved within 24 hours of letting our contact know.
  • MagicJack has let us know that an interconnection is required in order to proceed but since we are not a VoIP provider, we’re not able to connect to them in such a manner. Their response is “Unfortunately, if we cannot interconnect there is nothing I can do”.

What does this mean for you as a MagicJack subscriber trying to use AccuConference?

Unfortunately, this means that if you’ve been experiencing this interruption in trying to connect to AccuConference, for now, you will continue to get this message. MagicJack has provided no additional information on how we can resolve this, simply stating that we can’t interconnect, therefore, we cannot resolve the issue. We are continuing, on our side, to try to work everything out, but it doesn’t seem like it’s understood we are not a VoIP provider, so we cannot give them what they want to fix the problem. There’s no other solution for us.

For the time being, our hands are tied, but that doesn’t mean yours are. If you’re a MagicJack customer, please feel free to contact their customer service department and let them know that the numbers are being blocked. You can also file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission by visiting their website and clicking on “Internet and VoIP”. This will file a complaint with the FCC for “unlawful advertising” while the FCC is continuing to work out regulations and rules for VoIP providers.