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March is National Essential Tremor month – How do tremors impact public speakers?

Essential tremor is a neurological disorder that causes involuntary shaking – often of the hands or arms.

Speakers with essential tremor (ET) might gesture to the audience and notice that their extended arm begins to tremble. Or they might use a pointer to highlight something on a slide and find their hand begins to shake.

ET can also impact a speaker’s voice.

I’ve known speakers who became self-conscious of their tremors and avoided public speaking assignments. Some avoided asking questions during meetings. Others sought jobs where they didn’t have to present.

Everyone has the right to speak. Everyone has the right to convey their expertise. It’s called inclusion.

If  you have a colleague/relative/friend who deals with tremors, maybe now’s a good time to discuss National Essential Tremor month. Information is power. Don’t let essential tremor derail a career.

Joan’s tech tips: Don’t introduce a speaker by reading from your phone

Perhaps you’ve seen people introduce speakers by reading from their phones. Perhaps you think it might be okay for you to do, as well.

It isn’t okay. It isn’t okay at all.

I’ve seen phone-readers lose their place, scroll nervously, mispronounce names, fumble with phrasing, bend their head down to see the screen, squint to read the small type, forfeit all eye contact, miss what’s going on in the room.

Audiences don’t like any of this.

Phone-reading might be easy, it might be fast. But it isn’t okay.

Your audiences deserve better. So does your speaker.

An occasional series of quirky tech tips for writers, speakers, teachers, entrepreneurs, execs … and pretty much anybody who has to communicate for a living (which is to say, almost all of us)

Can You Say a Few Words? by Joan Detz

Includes: How to introduce a speaker

How to cut a speech – when you don’t want to cut any of your favorite points

A colleague wrote that he was having a hard time cutting a too-long presentation. He had put in all the points that mattered to him – and he didn’t want to cut any of them.

Later in his speechwriting process, he read It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It  (St Martin’s Press), and he began to look at the topic from the audience’s point of view. What would they want to hear? What would they expect to learn?  What would they need to know?

Most especially: How long would they be willing to sit for an after dinner lecture?  

Once he looked at the topic from the audience’s viewpoint, it was pretty easy for him to cut away the unnecessary material.

 It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It by Joan Detz

“I’ve found all of Joan Detz’s books to be highly useful, but this one may top the list because it has a few topics not covered in her other books.”

Joan’s tech tips

An occasional series of quirky tech tips for writers, speakers, teachers, entrepreneurs, execs … and pretty much anybody who has to communicate for a living (which is to say, almost all of us)

This, from author Anne Lamott:

“Almost anything will work better if you unplug it for a few moments … including you.”

Consider this a reminder to unplug yourself sometime today. Even a few minutes without sitting in front of a screen or squinting down at your cell will refresh you. (Honestly, do you have any idea how much a bent neck can hurt posture?)

PS … Anne Lamott is one of my favorite writers. I buy all her books. Read one sometime.

The quote of the week: from a news conference

The quote of the week comes from Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson [speaking at the Chicago Police news conference on the arrest of Jussie Smollett]:

 “I just wish that the families of gun violence in this city got this much attention, because that’s who really deserves the amount of attention that we’re giving to this particular incident.”

 Well said.  

The best communication advice anyone ever gave me

More than a decade ago, I did a presentation on public speaking for Columbia Women in Business – a club for graduate students at Columbia Business School. With more than 400 members, CWiB is one of the largest organizations on Columbia’s campus.

My presentation went well.

Afterwards, an attendee came up to thank me for the communication tips I offered. Then she added: “I’d like to return the favor by giving you a tip of my own.”

Here’s a summary of the insights she shared with me:

Women who change their opinions on a topic often face a unique blow back. Whether in business or politics or medicine or education, women are likely to get public criticism when they change their views.

Maybe they supported something 5 years ago, but they don’t support it now. They get labeled “flip-flop” or “indecisive” or “wishy-washy”. And what do they do? They often respond with apologies. “I’m sorry. I regret that choice” or “I’m sorry. I wish I’d made another decision.”

Apologies have their place – absolutely. But many women apologize way too often.

Better?

If criticized for changing your position, consider this simple honest statement: “New information presented itself.”

When new information presents itself, wise people listen. Wise people keep learning.

When new data shows a better way forward, wise people make fresh decisions.

“New information presented itself.” Memorize this short statement. You’ll convey truth and confidence – in just four words.

Gratitude to the wise audience member who shared  this with me…

Reading a lot over the holidays? Do some meaningful networking

If you’re reading a terrific article or book, why not follow that writer on Twitter, or connect with that author via LinkedIn?

It’s a great way to let writers know you appreciate their work. And it’s a great way to build your own writing network.

Remember: Creative networking on social media isn’t about getting loads of followers or scoring high numbers of connections. Creative networking thrives when you build meaningful bonds.

Think “meeting talented writers” … not “getting my numbers up”.

I’ve met terrific writers this way. Try it.

What’s the point? Why give a presentation unless you make sure you’ve got an audience?

Example:

Four panelists presented for 30 minutes then opened the session to Q&A. These were good presenters from respected organizations.

They had prepared their remarks well and deserved a good crowd. Unfortunately, the session began with only 10 attendees in the room. Latecomers “swelled” the audience to 18. And guess what? Most of the attendees had work connections with the panelists.

In other words, the panelists put in a lot of time and effort, only to have their  key messages reach almost nobody. What’s the point?

FYI: I checked their Twitter accounts. Not one of the panelists had written any tweets to promote this program.

Equally interesting: Not one of the panelists tweeted after the program to help their messages reach a bigger audience.

Why go to all the trouble to give a presentation unless you can get your message across to a good audience (either live onsite, or later online)?

How to give a presentation in English … when English is your second language

I’m pleased to give public speaking tips to English-as-second-language speakers in this Business Venezuela magazine. (The article appears in both English and Spanish.)

Te invitamos a leer Nuestra Edición Digital N# 360 2018 “TOP 100 COMPANIES” 20 Años presentando el mejor ranking de negocios en Venezuela.

To read my featured piece click here.

My LinkedIn profile has never included the word “resilience.” I plan to add it now.

On June 22, my condo was destroyed by a building fire. My salvageable belongings were boxed into storage, and I moved into temporary housing. I remain in temporary housing.

That’s the short story.

The long story is that it’s been an eye-opener – and not a good eye-opener, I might add.

The disaster was started by a kitchen fire on a floor above me. Word went out, a cardboard pizza box had been placed on a stovetop. The rest is history.

A long, expensive, stressful, time-consuming, and frustrating history.

Resilience gets me through. Resilience – and a fair bit of stubbornness, I think.

I stood on the sidewalk, taking videos as I watched the smoke pour out. I thought my heart might break as I watched the scene unfold, but that did not stop me from documenting the scene.

As soon as firefighters let me back into my condo, I took videos of water streaming down the walls … photographed the buckled ceilings … recorded the sound of water raining from vents into buckets (honestly, when I closed my eyes, it sounded like a bucolic waterfall in some pleasant woods somewhere – except it wasn’t).

Disaster crews put an abatement process in place, knocking down walls to dry out the space. Much of my office was dumped into black garbage bags.

I’m monitoring the rebuild process. Smooth, it is not.

If you know me well (and many of you do), then you already know how the writer in me would research every stinking detail of the building fire that made my condo unlivable and turned my whole life upside down.

In the months since I was displaced from my home, I’ve researched residential fires. I’ve talked with insurance agents, real estate agents, fire fighters, safety professionals, public adjusters, physicians, and – most enlightening – other victims of residential fires.

Here’s what I’ve learned: Fires happen a lot. They happen far more than you might imagine.

Also, they’re pretty much needless. They never should have happened at all.

True, you’ll hear the occasional dramatic story about a lightning strike, but the culprits are more often mundane: smoking in bed, toasters gone awry, driers gone haywire. And, yes, insurance adjusters know all about pizza box stove fires.

Here’s what I want you to know about fires: They happen fast and move even faster. If you value your life, your family, your pets, your financial records, your medical records [go ahead, just try reconstructing your whole medical history!], your college memorabilia, your books, your grandmother’s portrait, the latest draft of your great American novel … you need a plan.

If you’re self-employed, you REALLY need to think about the consequences of a fire. Your livelihood depends on it.

  • Review your insurance and see if you need to upgrade your coverage.
  • Get referrals from friends/neighbors/relatives who needed to use their fire insurance. What advice can they give you?
  • Keep important documents in a safe. Buy multiple safes.
  • Organize client files. Keep them handy in case of a quick exit.
  • Backup. Backup.
  • And ask yourself, “If I lost my home to fire tomorrow, where EXACTLY would I go to live/work?” The time to identify options for good temporary housing is now – not when you’re forced to. It took me several tries until I could find a solution that worked.

Final thought:

My previous blog post talked about the injuries I sustained from a hit/run driver back in November 2017. At the time, many of you wrote to express your concern and to send good wishes. Thank you so much. Your caring words meant a lot. I am making a recovery, but the hit/run injuries were serious and still present complications.

Combine the November 2017 hit/run crash with the June 2018 building fire, and it’s accurate to say: Within the past year, I’ve paid a terrible price for actions that were entirely outside my control.

Resilience keeps me moving forward.

Writers must write, and speakers must speak. I’m taking a lot of notes, and I intend to do both.

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