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It’s Never Too Early (or Late) to Learn a Firm Handshake

Published on May 3, 2013, by in Uncategorized.

Have you ever shaken hands with someone who had 1 of the following?

  • the limp fish: you do all the work, their hand lies still in yours
  • the vise grip: wants to show you how powerful they are & is willing to crush your hand to do so
  • the finger tipper: only gives you their fingers to shake, little or no palm involvement
  • the over-eager beaver: pumps your arm repeatedly, possibly won’t even let you get away


Like it or not, you can probably admit that the above handshakes tend to influence your first impression of the people using them, and not in a good way.  This is why, when I teach the interviewee side of interviewing, I make sure to test a person’s ability to meet or greet their interviewer and if needed, help them improve it.  So, do we have to wait to be heading to an interview?  How early can we learn this?

My kids were with me last week for “Take Your Child to Work Day.”  So, I tried to think of what I teach adults that they could also use as a young audience that would be good for them.  It occurred to me that although generally friendly and not allowed to be rude, my kids do get a little shy and slightly awkward when they meet people, especially adults.  So, I decided to teach them how to properly greet people at either 1st meeting or seeing them again later.

For adults and kids alike, the “why” this is important is the same.  People get an immediate (and often lasting) impression of you from the way you reach out to or respond to them.  The main pieces to practice are also the same.  Please note: these are based on American culture, as some other cultures have different, even opposite customs and expectations.

1. Make eye contact – direct, not down or to the side, or past them, shows confidence and respect

2. Smile – one of the most universally (across most cultures and/or countries) positive Non Verbals, shows confidence and liking

3. Use a firm handshake – interlocking thumb webs, not weak, but not too strong, shows confidence and assertiveness

4. Articulate your words – clear, not mumbling or dropping off volume & always USE THEIR NAME, shows confidence and respect; “Hello Helen, it’s nice to meet you.” or “Hello Helen, it’s nice to see you again.”

Here are videos of my boys (4 seconds each) showing what they learned in their Take Your Child to Work Day lesson.  It’s valuable at every age.  If you aren’t doing all 4 of these things yourself, it could be hurting your credibility and therefore worth making certain you become accustomed to them!

1st Grader Greeting Video

4th Grader Greeting Video




Be Concise.

Published on August 1, 2012, by in Uncategorized.


When Communicating:

  • Make it simple.
  • Make it memorable.
  • Make it brief.

What’s your dream?

Published on June 30, 2012, by in General Posts.

Have you ever held in your very hands a dream realized?

It was a very emotional moment, opening the box that contained the first “proof” of my book that I spent three years writing.  Seeing the cover that my friend Stacy designed, seeing my name as the author, seeing the testimonials and picture on the back was simply amazing!  I was holding the product of so much planning, time, energy, effort, and even love.  I was struck all over again by the humbled feeling that it was only possible because of all the people who trusted me to help them with their public speaking, which provided stories for me to help others through the book.  No one who knows me well is surprised to hear that I cried.

What has been so much fun that I had not expected is how excited OTHER people have been about my book – friends, family, colleagues and even strangers.  I’ve literally received pictures from people who took a photo of the book in THEIR hands and sent it to me saying, “It came!” or “Got my copy today!”  People have called, emailed, and texted me that they ordered or got theirs or got one for both their spouse and themselves, or one for each of their kids.  I even had a very nice lady who sat next to me on an airplane buy one from me and she remarked, “I’m so excited!  I can’t wait to read it AND I get to sit by the author.  I got the best seat on the plane!”

Also, folks have already begun sending the notice to others, Facebooking, Tweeting and emailing the link, which is really helpful so that more people who might want it now have access to it.  People keep asking when they can get theirs signed, where I’ll be speaking, and when I’ll bring books to events.  I’ll probably never leave home without it again!

So, if there’s a project you’ve envisioned, an accomplishment you’ve always wanted to do, a dream of your own, please state it out loud.  Tell others, ask for help, make a plan, get started, even if it’s merely a small step in the right direction and then keep moving forward.  Because there’s no feeling quite like dreaming about something, making it happen and holding it in your hands!




To Write or Not to Write? That is the Question.

Published on May 22, 2012, by in General Posts.

“I’ve thought about writing a book – how did you get started?”

Many people have asked me this in the last few years when they find out that I’ve written a book.  Some people even shared with me that they’ve already been writing one as well – either just pieces here and there or they “have a book in their head.”  Some of them have ideas for business books, some plan to write about their lives and others describe very creative fiction plots.  This has made me realize how many people have their own stories to tell and has made me eager for them to give the rest of us access to their fascinating tales.

My answer to how I got started is that my husband and then a few others suggested it.  Originally, it did not sound appealing to me as I usually consider writing to be tedious.  However, they mentioned it because my process for public speaking had already helped so many professionals that they figured it could benefit even more people if I would write it down for others to use.  For me, that was reason enough to do it – to reach and affect a wider audience.

Getting started is often the hardest part, which might be why many people have thought about it, but not done it yet.  Clearly there are many ways to do this and different things work for different people.  I got advice from several sources and took much of it.  I listened to free teleseminars for authors on creating a Table of Contents, writing, self-publishing and marketing a book and talked to those who had already done all of these.

Here are the Top 5 best pieces of advice I received and used:

  1. Read other books – doesn’t have to be targeted research on your topic, just notice how other writers’ styles work, how they’ve laid out information, and what you like as a reader when YOU are the audience.
  2. Know your readers/audience – to whom are you writing?  Business people, parents, folks who like romance novels or mysteries?
  3. Write something every week at a specified time on your schedule.
  4. Do NOT try to edit as you go, just get it written first.
  5. Have others read it to get feedback from real people, but then invest in hiring a professional editor/proofreader or both.

If you have stories in you that you want to tell, chances are there will be people who want to read them.  So, I say – Go for it!  Decide who your audience is and write!


Silence is Golden

Published on April 11, 2012, by in General Posts.

“How do I stop saying “Um” during presentations?”

This was another question I received from a reader in the last week and many people have asked me this over the years.  It is one of the most common frustrations for speakers because they worry that fillers such as “um” will make them sound less organized, credible and polished.  So if you have experienced this – you are not alone.  The good news is that whatever your choice of “filler sound” is – um, uh, you know, etc., you can reduce it, also decreasing the distractions for your listeners.

Any delivery habit you don’t want, you can practice the other extreme to do less of it, even get rid of it altogether if you care enough to do so.  With fillers, the opposite is silence.  So, you can practice using ridiculously long pauses.  It can help to have others listen to you practice or videotape yourself.  Note where your fillers were.  Then practice putting LONG pauses in at those spots.  And I mean uncomfortably long, anywhere that you had originally used a filler.  This bumps your comfort zone to widen gradually and you realize that you CAN pause.

Remember the following:

  • Pausing to choose your next words is natural, sincere & less distracting.
  • This is not 1 on 1 conversation, you are the speaker and have the floor (most audiences won’t interrupt you, won’t take your pause as a turn-taking cue).
  • If you are not uncomfortable with how long your practice pauses are, it will not stretch your comfort level as much or as quickly.
  • You can remind yourself in your actual note cards to (“Pause”). (Use parentheses for “notes to self” so you don’t read them out loud).
  • This could take 4-7 times of practicing one speech and doing it for your next 3 or 4 speeches but as you get better, it will get easier.

You might improve slowly at first but when your awareness and comfort with pausing increases, you’ll realize it’s starting to work which will make it worth continuing to improve and then you’ll get much better.  You can even get to the point where you use pauses strategically for emphasis!  Mainly, reducing your fillers will make it easier for your audiences to listen and for you to reach them.


Good for the Group vs. Good for the One?

Published on March 31, 2012, by in General Posts.

“The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few…or the one.”  - Spock

Picture this.  You’re speaking to a group.  One listener asks a question.   You’re not sure the rest of the audience will be interested in the answer.  How do you handle this tactfully and get back on track?

This excellent question was posed by Amy in the comments on the last blog post.  It is something I’ve been asked by many others.  Most speakers and teachers appreciate the interest that audience members exhibit when asking questions so they want to reward that behavior, yet not take too much group time for information that might be very specific to only one individual’s circumstances.

When this happens, try these:

  1. Unless you are quite certain that no one else will have this same question, ask your audience, “How many of you are also wondering this?”
  2. If 1/3 or more of the group are curious, go ahead and answer throroughly for the whole group because it’s worth their time (needs of the many).
  3. If merely a handful are interested, give a brief answer and move on quickly (needs of the few).
  4. If the person who asked is the only one (needs of the one) OR the answer really varies widely depending on the situation, here’s an option for what you could say.

“Great question, Amy.  Let’s touch base after the session so I can find out a little more context, which will help me give you a more valuable answer.  So, when we’re thinking about ___ (fill in blank with topic prior to question)…”

This wording accomplishes:

  • complimenting the listener for being willing to participate
  • respecting the listener by wanting to give them increased attention & value vs. putting them off
  • moving immediately back into the flow for the rest of the group and yourself

Mostly, remember to be flattered, not flustered.  Questions, more often than not, indicate that you are engaging your listeners and of course, it’s all about them!


It’s All About You!

Published on March 28, 2012, by in General Posts.

As it turns out, there have been many people who told me they didn’t want to start their own blog because it felt somehow arrogant.  I thought the same about doing my own.  The strange thing is, I have never felt that others are conceited because they write a blog.  On the contrary, I assume they have interesting things to say and are putting themselves out there and I think, “Hey, good for them!”

Because I’ve seen so many people succeed by improving their public speaking, and I’ve been honored to help them do that, I wrote a book on my program.  Yet, when it came to blogging, I wondered, “Who am I to write a blog?  Why would people want to hear what I have to say?”  When voicing this once, my friend Mel said, “But you think they’d want to read a whole BOOK of it?”  Ahh, touché, my friend.  Mel is supportive of my writing both the book and the blog, but was making the point that obviously it takes less time and commitment to read a blog and it could spark interest in the book.

You would think this would have been my turning point, but alas, what finally did it for me was realizing I have to practice what I preach just like I try to do in other communication.  I tell all my clients this about public speaking – “It’s not about YOU!  It’s about the audience.”  This is a mindset that changes people’s presenting in a profound way that tips, strategies, and even practice cannot.  So, that’s what I plan to do with my blog after this introductory post.  I’m going to make it about YOU, the reader.  I’m going to answer questions that you ask me and discuss topics you suggest as best I can.  And when you don’t send me ideas, I’m going to talk about things that other folks have already asked or expressed interest in that would help the majority of readers.  So, welcome to the Leaders Speak Blog where it’s not about me, it’s about you!

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