The #1 Skill of a Great Presenter

The Wedding Singer Paradox

I have been told that when I stand in front of an audience and deliver a presentation that I appear confident and unfazed by the size of the group I am speaking to. I think this is true because of four things:

  1. I know the topic really well.
  2. I have studied and practiced and I am ready to deliver.
  3. I am energized and excited to share with the audience what I know
  4. I am completely aware that I could be wrong – i.e. there are other smart people in the room!

By being competent and prepared and knowing that I have what it takes to deliver this message, I am confident and energized. By keeping in mind that there are other smart people in the room and I might not know everything there is to know on this subject, I infuse enough humility to ward off the appearance of arrogance that many speakers adopt as they grow in their expertise.

The Wedding Singer Paradox

So, with all that said, why did I waiver when asked to sing at a friends wedding this past weekend? Isn’t singing just another form of public speaking which I DO FOR A LIVING?? Yes and No!

Yes, there is an audience. Yes, I am prepared. Yes, there is a message to deliver. But, NO, it is not the same as doing a standup presentation. Why is that? Because singing is a skill that you either have or you don’t have. Everyone can speak, some better than others, but we all speak. Singing is judged! (think Reality TV shows). There is no “America’s Got Speaking Skills” TV Show, is there??

The Greatest Skill of All

Fortunately, in my early public speaking days I had a coach observe me and provide me feedback. What he shared with me changed my life as a professional speaker and this weekend, made even singing for people an enjoyable event. The greatest skill that I think a professional speaker (or an amateur singer) can possess is to remember that everyone in your audience is tuned to the same station – WII-FM (“What’s In It For Me”). They are not there to evaluate how you look, or sound, or how smart you are, which is where my brain instinctively wants to go. No, they are there for bigger reasons than YOU.

As I arrive at every venue where I will speak (or sing this past weekend) I arrive early enough to walk the room and ask myself, what is my message for this audience today? What nugget can I give them that will help them grow and be better? In the case of the wedding song, as much as I want to give a good performance and for everyone to be in awe of me and my talent, I forced my brain to think about the bride and groom and that this was their special day. No one, not one person, was there to see me sing. So I asked myself, what is the message of this song as it relates to the couple at the altar? What truth could this song provide to the 100+ people in the audience?

As the couple moved to light the unity candle and I walked to the microphone to deliver the song I had one last thought – let this be meaningful for those that need this message today. It’s not about me.

It’s Not About You!

The beauty of developing this skill is that after the performance you don’t have a need for people to flock to you and tell you how great you did. Although some will, and that feels good, it’s not what’s important. It’s not about the song, or my skill. It’s about the message and adding value to the lives of the people who were in that room on that day.

Keep your focus off of you and you can do amazing things in front of audiences of any size….whether your are speaking or singing.

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W.A.I.T. – Why Am I Talking?

Tips to Increase Your Influence Through Effective Communication

As a general rule we all talk too much and don’t listen enough! If your first thought is that this is not about you, keep reading, it’s especially about you (and me).

Now, I am a professional speaker; it is my job to speak. But that is when I am on stage. What I am talking about here is when we are with others in a one-on-one or one-on-small group environment. It is so tempting to jump in and hijack the conversation. Whether you are in sales or in parenting, speaking less and listening more is ALWAYS good. BTW, if you are in parenting you are especially in sales.

Master Communicator? Me?

I was once at a business reception and I was speaking with a colleague I didn’t know that well. I asked three questions about their professional history, what they loved about their role in the organization and what they valued most in their work and personal life. I was interested in learning more about them and I enjoyed the conversation very much. As we parted ways the colleague told me I was a great communicator. But wait, they did all the talking!

I would like to provide some tips on how you can perceived as a master communicator when others are doing the talking.

Why Am I Talking (W.A.I.T.)?

People care about three things, themselves, their victories and their challenges. If you are talking about yourself, you are not talking about something in the top three of what they care about. The truly outstanding communicators among us have figured this out and direct their conversations accordingly.

  1. Dare to be Dumb – do you really know everything there is to know about everything? I didn’t think so. Why not ask questions even though you think you already know the answer. It is in listening to the answers others provide where the learning occurs. Learning about the subject, perhaps, but more importantly learning about how they think and feel about the subject.
  2. Master the Pause – it is so tempting to wait for the other person to take breath and mistake that as our invitation to dive in. When someone stops talking, master the pause. Allow a few seconds to elapse to ensure they have completely finished their thought. It is amazingly refreshing to be speaking with someone that is not trying to jump in all the time. Be that person.
  3. Don’t top someone’s story – I am very guilty of this one. I am a highly experienced global traveler. I have been to 40+ countries and I have a ton of stories and experience. When someone starts talking about some travel experience they have had it is really easy for me to say, “That’s nothing compared to the time I…..” To increase my influence with others I am working hard to say, “That must have been harrowing, tell me more.” Let others have their story. If they ask you about yours, got for it, but in most cases they don’t care as much about your experience as they do about telling you their experience.
  4. Ask yourself these W.A.I.T. questions:
    1. Is this the time to share? Is what I want to share on topic? Don’t divert the conversation away from what they are speaking about just because, “that reminds me of a time when…”
    2. Is it my turn to share? See item #2 above. Are you mastering the pause?
    3. Is what I want to share going to add to or subtract from what they are sharing? The temptation here is to divert the conversation from them to you. Item #3 above should keep you grounded here.
    4. If you do interject, be concise. Add value and then shut up.

How you communicate with others had an enormous impact on how much influence you have with others. Improve your communication, improve your results by increasing your influence.

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When Was the Last Time Someone Brought You Bad News?

5 Indicators of Highly Approachable People

Some years ago, as the father of teenagers, it occurred to me one day that all I was hearing from them was the good things that were happening. There were no challenges, no issues, and no bad news. About the same time I was leading a team of sales people who were exhibiting the same communication characteristics. It then occurred to me that teenagers and sales people have a lot in common. What both groups seemed to have forgotten is that I was once a teenager and I was once a sales person. There are issues, there are challenges and there is the occasional bad news.

If people are comfortable sharing the bad news with you then you are more than likely an approachable individual. If not, then perhaps one or more of the following five indicators of approachable people is keeping you from deep and meaningful relationships.

Approachable leaders, whether leading at home or at work, engage their followers at a high level and increase their performance and their results.

The 5 Indicators of Highly Approachable People

  1. Authenticity – approachable people are real people. They don’t pretend to have it all together when they don’t. They don’t perform for others, they are comfortable just being themselves with all the good and bad that comes with that.
  2. Consistency of Mood – It’s tempting to over celebrate the good and over condemn the bad. If you exhibit large mood swings people will avoid doing or saying anything to “set you off”. Mind the gap between stimulus (someone sharing bad news) and your response. If there is little or no gap you are reacting not responding and that almost never goes well.
  3. Confess Mistakes – I was wondering why teenage son did not confess his mistakes to me when it occurred to me that I never confessed my own mistakes to him (or anyone). I seemed perfect and the last thing anyone wants to do is confess mistakes to a perfect person. While I wasn’t meaning to come off as perfect, I was trying not to seem weak, and that’s what I thought mistakes said about me. Sharing mistakes opens the door to what Dr. John Maxwell calls, “Failing Forward”. Once we began to share openly we could help each other to learn and grow from every mistake.
  4. Ability to Forgive – people who are not forgiving of the shortcomings of others will not do well in the drive to be more approachable. If you ask for forgiveness and easily forgive those who have wronged you, then you do not allow walls to be constructed between you and others.
  5. Others Oriented – if all of life is about you, then you are not an approachable person. Approachable people value others and make them feel valued. If you put other people first then it becomes easy to celebrate with those who celebrate and mourn with those who mourn. Someone else being successful does not take anything away from you.

Bonus: Mind Your Face – Smile more! People are drawn to people who greet them with a smile!

When you increase your approachability you will increase your influence with others. Increasing your influence will increase their desire to engage with you in whatever you are trying to accomplish. Higher engagement equals improved performance equals better results.

Read? Who Has Time to Read??

A Reading Plan the REALLY WORKS!

As I travel and speak to audiences around the world I always ask them about their personal development plan and how they are investing in themselves so they will be equipped to invest in others. Most people tell me they know they should be doing that, but they don’t have time. I was guilty of saying the same thing until I became intentional about investing a few minutes EVERY DAY in a reading plan that would help me be better in the areas of my interests. It changed my life!

When someone asks how they can get started reading, here is the plan I suggest:

A Reading Plan that Works

First, decide on the area(s) of your interest and choose a book. (You can also find podcasts, blogs, TED Talks, YouTube, etc. But keeping a book going will never let you down). I chose leadership, sales, coaching, personal development and team building because those are the areas where I speak the most. You can do a search for title on Amazon or ask an expert in your area of interest for a recommendation.

Second, set an Irreducible Minimum (the minimum you will do in a certain area every day that cannot be reduced). For your reading habit I suggest 2-pages a day. How often? EVERY DAY! Does that mean weekends and holidays? Ah yeah! Every day! Warning: Do not set high goals for reading, you will get behind, get frustrated and quit. A small, ridiculously small, goal that can be accomplished EVERY DAY will encourage you to keep going!

Third, decide how you will do your reading and make the necessary arrangements. I use a multifaceted approach:

  • Buy a physical book – I love real books and I have an amazing library, however, this is problematic for me because of my travel. Books get heavy and I usually want to have more than one with me. ((I like because my Prime membership gets it to me fast and free, but there are other retailers)
  • Buy a Kindle book (or get the Kindle app for your device) – eBooks are the rage. Prices are less than physical books, you can access them immediately, you can read them on a variety of devices, and they are easy to highlight and take notes. (I actually bought a physical Kindle because when I read on my iPad with the Kindle app I was distracted by all the other things my iPad can do, like email and web-surfing. The cool thing is that no matter which device I use, when I pick up the other one I am synced to my furthest read position.)
  • Buy an Audio book – I am a BIG fan of this. I consume the majority of my books via audio. This way I can “read” while I drive, fly or walk. I can listen to books while I cut my grass or paint that room my wife would like me to paint. I use You can get a free book at Audible if you want to try it. I buy a subscription that gives me a number of credits to download books to my phone when I am ready for a new one. One credit = one book.)

Fourth, execute! Read your two pages a day, every day. If you only read the two pages, it’s a win, you are done for the day. However, if you read more than two pages then it is bonus reading and it is a bigger win for you. This can be life changing, if you do it.

A Note About eBooks and Audio Books

Kindle and Audible are both owned by Amazon. When you buy the audio version you can also buy the Kindle version and the two will stay synced. Let’s say you listen in the car on the way home from work. Then after dinner you grab your Kindle or Kindle app and open the book, the device will ask you if you want to move forward to where you were listening. Amazon calls this WhisperSync.

Also, about highlighting and note taking; When using the Kindle or Kindle app you can highlight a passage (like with a yellow highlighter) with your finger. You may also type in a note of your own any time you like. When you do this, Amazon captures that highlight or note in the cloud and saves it to your Personal Kindle Highlights Page. Simply go to, click on Account & Lists, then click on Your Content & Devices. Every book you read should have a line item there that contains ALL your highlights and notes. In the past I would yellow highlight in a physical book and then have to go back and capture those highlights if I ever hoped to use them again. Now I underline with my finger, go to Amazon and find my highlights, copy them and paste them into Evernote (the free filing cabinet app) so now they become searchable. I never have an excuse now on not being able to find a note from a book I once read.

I usually start with an audio book. If it is spectacular and I know I need to dig deeper I will order the Kindle version. If after completing the audio and Kindle versions I still want the book for my library I might go on Amazon and by the hard copy. When the Amazon box shows up in the mailbox I can hear my wife asking me, “How many times did you buy that book??” Oops!

What do you do to keep your reading habit alive? (Comment below)

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