Starting an Effective Q&A Session

This is a follow-up to an earlier post I did on “Creating an Effective Q&A Session”. In my earlier post I focused on making sure you have clarity on the question. I advised waiting until the full question is asked. Another consideration I made was to repeat the question so that everyone, including you is clear before you respond. Here is the link to that earlier post.

http://joelsweeney.com/2016/04/handle-question-and-answer-sessions-like-a-pro/

I received some feedback on my LinkedIn feed. The gentleman pointed out another aspect to consider. Getting the Q&A started can sometimes be challenging. The audience is not forthcoming with any questions and this can create an awkward pause. His suggestion, which I agree with, is to always have 3-4 canned questions that you can use in those situations. You could introduce the question by saying “Here is a question that I get asked quite frequently”. State the question then proceed to answer it. By this time the audience usually has a few of their own questions. If not use another of your canned questions to remove any awkwardness.

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Sowing the Seeds of Success

I have been a proud contributor to the CAST (Community Advancement Strategic Team) for over two years. The CAST is a group of approximately 10 individuals facilitated by Barry Lewis Green. Barry poses a question each month and the members respond either in text or video. Barry then compiles the submissions and posts them to his blog.

Here is the question for April 2017

They say April showers, bring May flowers (whoever “they” are)… so if we understand the metaphor of showers as the preparation for the flowers… what habits or practices or advice do you best recommend for sowing the seeds to any success? In other words, what rituals or practices do you use to best prepare yourself for opportunities and challenges?

Here is my video response to the question.


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The Greatest Compliment I Was Ever Paid

The greatest compliment I was ever paid was when someone asked my opinion and actually took the time to listen.

Oral communication is a giving and receiving process. It is important that listening is an active part of the process.

This is true for all forms of oral communication, whether you are speaking to one or two people or an audience of many.

Whatever the size of our audience they will communicate with us both verbally and non verbally. Unfortunately we don’t typically put a lot of effort into listening to the non-verbal messages, particularly if we find ourselves speaking to a group of people.

Some speakers believe that because they are speaking they don’t have to listen. If you are speaking to a large audience often the only communication you may get from them is non-verbal. So it is important to keep that in mind and learn to ‘listen with your eyes’.

By listening with your eyes you will get a chance to read the nonverbal messages being sent by your audience.
 
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Can Speaking Anxiety Be Age Based?

The suggestion that speaking anxiety is more intense for a young person than it is for an older person was suggested to me a few days ago by young person in his early twenties.

I having been thinking about it and I believe that the level of speaking anxiety is not determined by age. There can be situational anxiety where individuals find some speaking situations more intimidating than others. ie speaking to your peers, speaking at the wedding of a close friend or family member. speaking to a large audience, etc.

I have been teaching, training and coaching on public speaking and presentation skills for over twenty years. I have dealt with a wide ranges of ages from late teens to late fifties. I have not seen any evidence that would suggest that anxiety levels are age based. One could argue that the reverse might be true. The older you are the more entrenched the anxiety could be.

I have dealt with individuals of all ages who had intense anxiety and did not find one with anxiety more limiting than another.

There is no magic pill or secret formula for managing speaking anxiety. It requires commitment to doing the work. The good news is that if you are committed you can create the perception of confidence long before you actually have the confidence.
 
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Eliminating ums and ahs

A big challenge for many speakers is reducing and ideally eliminating ums and ahs or other comfort words and phrases when they speak formally. The use of these can be a sign of nervousness and a need to bridge awkward moments or just a bad habit.

Either way they can be controlled. Comfort words and phrases are very common when we speak informally with colleagues, friends and family. In these situations they are not a big deal. In more formal speaking and presentation situations they can be very distracting and make us look ill prepared and not as professional as we could be.

The secret is to focus on the craft of speaking utilizing the various tools that are available to us, eye contact, facial expression, vocal variety, etc. Put your energy into something constructive.

Take time to rehearse and think about your delivery. The more prepared you are the more deliberate you will become when you speak or present.

Use video to record your presentation. Then review it to reveal if you are using comfort words and phrases. Just listen to the audio to assess your performance. You will still need to look at the video to help refine your overall delivery.

Good preparation will go a long way towards reducing and eliminating your comfort phrases.
 
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What is Having the Greatest Impact on Oral Communication?

Effective oral communication has been impacted in recent years by the proliferation of texting. It wasn’t that long ago if we wanted to communicate with someone the preferred method was oral communication. Quite frequently, in today’s world, the preference is to text.

This creates a couple of problems. First the written word is frequently misinterpreted. There is a tendency to use short cuts and emoticons to convey messages. Often the wrong word is automatically substituted and we have hit send before we realize the difference. Secondly, because we are not using oral communication as frequently as we used to we, as a society, are losing some of our skills.

Texting is a great tool and used in the appropriate way it can be very effective. I think the problem is that we revert to texting when oral communication is clearly the better alternative.

Oral communication is like any skill, it needs to be practiced in order to be refined and effective.
 
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Does Being Grateful Make a Difference?

The short answer is ‘Yes!’

This post is inspired by a good friend and colleague, Steve Foran. Steve has studied gratitude for several years. He has known for a long time the impact it can have at a personal level.

A few years ago he took it to a new level when he started studying the impact of gratitude in the workplace. How it can make a difference on things like complacency, entitlement and low productivity.

In July of 2016 Steve challenged me to start up a personal gratitude journal. I confess to missing a few days. Not that many when I look back over the months. One of the things I am impressed with is how easily I can now come up with three things to be grateful for each day.

The other thing I have discovered is that you can find things to be grateful for even in things that we would typically think of as negative. It could be a life event, a challenge or a workplace problem. It all comes down to how we look at the situation and ask ourself what can we glean out of it? What character traits can be positively impacted? What learning can I carry forward?

I encourage you to check out Steve’s website www.gratitudeatwork.ca
 
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What’s in a Brand?

I recently viewed a video by Jeff Walker on branding. I am a huge fan of Jeff and have been following him for several years. I also attended one of his PLF Live events in Scottsdale, Arizona a couple of years ago.

Jeff’s video resonated with me. He made some great points and inspired me to share a bit of my own perspective on branding.

Many of us are solo-entrepreneurs. We have an expertise, a product, a message, etc that we feel is beneficial to our target market. How we engage and market our target audience and how we deliver our product and service are part of our brand. How we present ourselves is also part of our brand.

In this video blog I share a few of thoughts on the importance of ensuring that we are being true to our brand in everything we do. In order to do that we have to recognize that our brand is much more than some marketing materials.
 
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The Apple Has Dropped – Now What?

In my last Joel’s Minute I posted on this cliche. Unfortunately you can’t say much in the span of a minute.

This phrase really resonated with me and I wanted to expand on it more. So I have decided to deviate from my usual focus on speaking/communications related content to share with you some additional thoughts on this topic.

Having said that the message here is very applicable to how we handle setbacks in our quest to be better speakers, presenters and communicators.

The core message is that we can’t undo what has happened. We can only take the lessons learned from it and look for the ‘silver lining’. Spending time lamenting about what has happened achieves nothing.

It really comes down to our attitude. Life is 10% what happens and 90% how we react.

How are you reacting?
 
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Are There Different Types of Speaking Anxiety?

I was asked this question a couple of weeks ago. My initial reaction was to say ‘no’. I have since given it some thought and I still think there are not different types. However there are different levels of anxiety that are generated by different situations.

A good example would be doing a presentation to our peers. For many this can be quite daunting and can cause increased anxiety. Another example could be audience size. Some people might be comfortable speaking to an audience of 30 or less yet will experience heightened anxiety when speaking to a much larger audience.

The importance of the occasion can also trigger increased anxiety. It is a prime reason why people are so nervous talking at the wedding of a friend or family member. Peer impact is also a part of this.

Speaking to a different audience can cause anxiety to climb. I have seen this quite frequently with teachers. They speak every day to a group of 30 or more students. They don’t think twice about it. It is part of their job. Yet many teachers are intimidated when called upon to speak to a similar sized group of non-students. It could be at parent assemblies.

So while I still believe there are not different types of anxiety, there clearly are different levels of anxiety that are the result of a variety of speaking situations.

Check out my December 2016 video posts for ideas on how to manage your speaking anxiety, regardless of the situation.
 
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