Archive for the ‘Facial Energy’ Category

Does Obama Give People the “Evil Eye”?

Your facial energy can have enormous impact, even at the highest levels.

In fact, White House staffers allegedly are joking about President Barack Obama’s tendency to give people the “evil eye.”

I’m not sure how much stock to put in this story because it was reported with no attribution on the conservative news/gossip blog “Drudge Report.” But we pass on the story simply to highlight the impact of facial expressions.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with giving someone the “evil eye”.

But make sure that you know you’re doing it.

A CEO once asked me to work with one of his in-house attorneys. “He’s pissing off our clients,” the CEO told me.

When I met with the attorney,  I immediately saw the problem.  When he spoke, he always gave you a nasty squint. He was unintentionally giving everyone the “evil eye.”

When I showed him what he was doing, he was surprised and immediately fixed the problem, reserving the nasty look for special occasions.

I’m glad Obama gives people the evil eye. It’s a valuable tool in the communication skills arsenal.

I just hope he’s using it with a purpose and not accidentally.  yw6jn287zh

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Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

Lesson in Voice Energy from a Harmonica Dude

I’ve started dabbling in the harmonica.  And the interesting thing about learning something new these days is that you quickly learn that YouTube is a wonderful resource. 

In my websearching, I’ve run across an interesting fellow named Adam Gussow, who is a blues harmonica player as well as an English Professor at Ole Miss.  He is apparently the most prolific uploader of free YouTube instructional videos on the harmonica.

To my mind, he is also a poster-child for the power of vocal passion to get listeners excited about an idea.  The video below is an introductory video for raw beginners. 

For reasons that aren’t completely clear to me, many harmonica videos are delivered from the musicians’ cars.  In this video, Gussow is also seated in his car. 

His excitement about the harmonica is positively contagious.     It just goes to show you that to get people excited, you don’t need PowerPoint. All you need is your voice, some passion, and a harmonica.


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Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

How Do You Make Eye Contact Over the Telephone?

In a workshop the other day, a participant asked “How do you make eye contact over the telephone?”

I love that question.

Of course, you can’t make eye contact over the telephone. But in today’s “conference call” business environment, connecting with your listeners in a personal way can be a challenge.

The most important key to connecting on conference calls is energy.  You need to make sure that you’re projecting energy into the telephone.  The technology can mute your enthusiasm and make you sound flat.

We tell people to gesture and smile as they speak.  In fact, many people put mirrors on their desks to ensure that they’re energized.

I’ve said it before and I suppose I will again. “People can hear your smile.”

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Thursday, May 14th, 2009

A Sales Pitch from My Son

“Do you have ten bucks?”

That was the sales pitch from my son Elliott the other day.  Apparently, it was his day to bring donuts to one of his classes.

I was sitting in our little office/computer room when he walked in and delivered the pitch with all the enthusiasm that you would expect from a too cool 16-year-old.

Talk about the apple falling far from the tree. Good grief.

“If you ask like that?” I said. “Absolutely not.  Now if you’d like to come in and try again and really try and sell me, then I’d be happy to reconsider.”

Elliott walked out of the room and returned.  This time he smiled (actually he was suppressing a laugh) and said, “You know I’ve been asked to bring the donuts to class tomorrow. It’s something that all the kids do.  We were going to stop at Dunkin Donuts on the way to school. Could I have some money for that?”

He made such a light-hearted and fun appeal that I was genuinely happy to help out.

“Of course,” I said, reaching in my wallet for the money. “Here you go.”

Just another day in the life of a sales presentation coach and dad.

Enjoy your weekend.

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Friday, April 24th, 2009

It Takes Work to Present “Naturally”

The public speaking blogs have recently had a lot to say about the importance of being “natural” when you speak. 

Indeed, one of the most common pieces of advice for speakers is “Speak to the audience like you’re having a beer with them.”  It’s advice I give all the time.

But the idea of “naturalness” is a little deceptive. When you’re standing in front of a room of listeners, you don’t feel natural. In that circumstance, you don’t feel like you’re having a beer. 

So what do you do?

First you need to know your material cold. If you don’t know what you’re going to say extremely well, then you’re not going to be able to come across as “natural.”

Next, you need to exaggerate the energy, giving more facial and vocal energy that you’d otherwise use “naturally.”  For most people, that exaggerated style will come across as “natural.” That exaggerated style will overwhelm the anxiety and come as highly connected. It won’t necessarily feel “natural” to the speaker. But it will look natural to the audience.

And it’s better to look natural than to feel natural.

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Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

Want to Sound Better on Conference Calls? Get a “Sales Mirror.”

If you want to come across better on conference calls, you might considering buying a “sales mirror” for you desk. These are the mirrors that call center employees often put on their desks to ensure that they’re smiling when they’re talking to customers.

The idea is that the smile on your face is reflected in your voice. 

 Here’s an advertisement for a “PC Mirror” that you can attach to your computer.  The ad claims that these mirrors increase sales among call center employees from six to 16 percent.

I can’t vouch for the accuracy of their study. But I do believe that on conference calls people can hear your smile.

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Friday, April 10th, 2009

How to Win Sales Presentations with a Heavy Accent

People with heavy foreign accents often ask me what they can do to become better communicators.  Of course, accent reduction coaching is an option. And we recommend it when your accent is so severe that people have trouble understanding you.


But you can be a great presenter even if you have a heavy accent.  You need to speak with energy and focus.


Consider Freddy N., one of the leading accounting software sellers in the southeastern United States. A first-generation immigrant from Vietnam, this wonderful seller has a very heavy Vietnamese accent. His accent is so severe that he probably could use some remedial accent reduction coaching. I’ve recommended it to him.


But he has never had the coaching.


I probably wouldn’t go to the coaching either if I were doing as well as Freddy. Why bother?


One reason for his success is, ironically, that he is a very effective communicator. He is amazingly energetic in his somewhat broken English. He smiles constantly and he exudes real enthusiasm about his product.


Freddy brings that passionate attitude to every conversation. He is a high energy, fun guy to be around. During every presentation, he brings that fun guy to the pitch.


He also does a nice job of keeping his message focused.  He keeps his message to a few key points. While he is generally tough to understand, his three messages always come through loud and clear.  That focus, combined with his first-rate energy, makes this gentleman from Vietnam, who speaks mediocre to poor English, very effective in sales presentations. Indeed, he is very effective when most native English speakers are not very effective at all.


Freddy and other passionate sellers understand that the products and services are often indistinguishable to their competition. That means that the key distinguishing factor isn’t the product. The key distinguishing factor is the person attached to the product.

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Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

How to succeed in a job interview

The New York Times today has a story about 75,000 layoffs announced yesterday worldwide.  And there doesn’t seem to be any way to spin that in a positive light. That’s just scary.

But for those folks who are now finding themselves without work, I hope that they will take the chance to do more than just polish off the resume and start the grind of interviewing for positions.  Interviews are a fine chance to work on honing communication and selling skills. And nothing will make you more successful in winning jobs and, just as important, succeeding at the job once you’re hired.

You need to improve both what you say during the interviews and how you say it.

In terms of what you say, it’s important to talk to prospective employers about your skills in terms of the value you provide.  You should enter an interview with a value statement followed by a plan to provide that value.

Here’s an example. I worked last week with a gentleman who had been laid off. He was a computer systems consultant. When I asked him what he did, he went into a long complex explanation of his expertise. I stopped him and asked him to tell me in simple terms the value he provided to a company.  After much discussion we settled on this, “I help design payroll systems that will save your organization money.”  

From there, he went on to lay out a simple plan for the value he provides.  He said there are three steps. First, he analyzes the existing system. Second, he prioritizes the challenges in light of business needs. And third, he executes a solution. He then had stories illustrating how he did each of the three steps. When prospective employers hear such clean explanations, they are able to say, “Wow, this person knows how to communicate.”  It’s impressive and unusual.

Another part of  preparing what to say in an interview is to prepare a list of questions you expect to get and rehearse the answers. We advise our clients to come up with no less than 20 possible questions.  Make sure that you’re ready with short answers, not long rambling explanations.  If someone asks you the time, don’t tell them how to build a clock. And make sure that you find a way to use the questions to tell the overall business value that you provide along with your plan for executing that value.

Next, you have to work on how you deliver your messages.  Most important is energy.  Most people speak in a rather flat monotone. But we urge people to interview with energy, smiling, gesturing and displaying excitement about the opportunity. Speak to your interviewer like you’re talking to a close friend about something you’re passionate about.  That style connects you with your friends. It will help you connect with prospective employers.

Layoffs stink and they’re frightening. But they also give you a chance to focus on how you present yourself and your value.  If you’re without a job, take this opportunity to hone how you present your ideas. You’ll enjoy the benefits long after this hard time has passed.

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Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

Public Speaking Tip From Woody Allen

Yesterday was Woody Allen’s birthday and it reminded me of how you don’t have to be a wonderful “orator” to be a highly effective communicator. What you do need, however, is to learn how to be a highly animated version of yourself.

The idea is to speak to your listeners like you’re speaking to a good friend during a highly animated dinner conversation.

The opening sequence of Allen’s Academy Award winning classic “Annie Hall” is a perfect example. Allen is vocally and facially animated.  Yet he’s not trying to be anything but himself.

Allen is no orator. But he’s no less effective in his own way than Barack Obama.



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Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

You Don’t Need To Change Your Personality to Be A Great Speaker

“That doesn’t feel like me.”

Those are the words of a CFO of a software company. I was coaching him recently in preparation for a presentation to an industry trade group.  I had just had him present on camera and I had been urging him to “ramp up the energy.” 

And it felt strange. He said he didn’t feel “normal.” He was worried that I was asking him to change his personality for the purpose of the speech.

So the question is this: Do you have to change your personality to be a great presenter?


But you do have to learn how to “be yourself” in a setting that is uncomfortable to most of us.

The question is what does it mean to “be yourself.”

I think “being yourself” means learning how to turn on your own “best style” at will. Your “best style” is that energetic style that you have when you’re speaking to a close friend, you’re relaxed, and you’re speaking with high energy about a topic you’re passionate about. For most people that is a very nice and attractive style.

The problem is that it is hard to turn on that style when you’re standing in front of a group of people. You don’t feel relaxed like you do when you’re speaking to a close friend.

So how do you turn on that style when you’re speaking with a large group?  You exaggerate. You crank up the energy intentionally, forcing yourself to smile and gesture in the same way that you would if you were relaxed.

I’ve seen this work over and over again.

Let’s go back to our CFO. I had asked him to exaggerate his energy as he delivered the presentation he was planning to the trade conference.  He said he felt awkward. “That doesn’t feel like me,” he said.

“Remember that you said that,”  I said.

Then I played for him the tape of him delivering the presentation.

“Wow,” he said. “That doesn’t look as awkward as it felt.”

In fact he looked great. He admitted that was how he spoke to his friends when he was relaxed.

You don’t need to change your personality to be a good speaker. Rather, you need to exaggerate your style so that your listeners can see your true personality.

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Monday, November 17th, 2008