Public speaking, presentation, and communication coaching and training for professionals and businesses

Spending more time worrying about your speech than working on it?
Sign up for my newsletter and get a free download for strategies and techniques to vanquish your nervousness! Plus, you'll get my latest articles and announcements I only send by email.
I pledge to be 100% spam-free. You can unsubscribe at any time.

CLASS ANNOUNCMENT: Registration for the Winter 2015 Group Class Public Speaking for Beginners and the Truly Terrified is OPEN!

This year I am running two classes of my 8 session public speaking course. This challenging fun, intensive course will enable you to overcome your anxiety, unleash your voice, and create presentations that will capture your audience's attention.

The Tuesday class meets every two weeks from January 26 to April 26, and the Wednesday class meets every two weeks from January 20 to April 20.

Make 2016 the year you finally become the speaker you need to be! Register online now!

Click here to register for the TUESDAY class

Click here to register for the WEDNESDAY class

Full course descriptions are on the registration pages. You can also contact me at 780-966-2401 to register over the phone.

Have questions? Call me at 780-966-2401. I'm happy to discuss your speaking goals and class details!


Lauren's Blog

Thoughts, insights and ramblings on communication, public speaking, and what makes our work and businesses tick


Your Six-Step Holiday Party Survival Guide!

Your Six-Step Holiday Party Survival Guide!

Photo by ramseymohsen on Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC-SA

 

Welcome to the most stressful small-talk time of the year! If you are among those who are biting their nails down to the quick with worry over how you are going to survive this year’s enforced get-togethers, fear not.  I’ve created the definitive guide to surviving holiday party small talk, whether you are trapped at a mandatory office party or white-knuckling it through a family feast.* 

 

1) Be a social butterfly 

With the exception of very small parties (eight people or fewer), you won’t be able to talk to everyone for a very long time.  Use this to your advantage! While flitting from conversation to conversation may sound exhausting, it gives you the unparalleled opportunity to say as little as possible while still appearing festively social.  

Rule 1 for Surviving Holiday Parties: Be a Social Butterfly #Christmas #FamilyMeals #CompanyParty Click To Tweet

 

2) Don’t gossip about anyone there 

This is a difficult rule to follow (especially once people start getting into the boose…see Rule #5), but it returns dividends.  Gossiping about people present at the same holiday festivity means you need to be constantly watching to see if they are coming near. It also leads to phony politeness when the gossipee does show up. Don’t kid yourself – people know when you’ve been talking about them, and nothing breeds awkwardness faster than an obvious and sudden shift in conversation. 

Rule 2 for Surviving Holiday Parties: Don't gossip about anyone who is at the party #Christmas #FamilyMeals #CompanyParty Click To Tweet

 

3) Avoid controversial topics unless you are 100% positive that the other person agrees with you 

This is a golden rule of peaceable conversations. Don’t get into an argument about religion with your cousin. Don’t get into a debate about opposing political views with your co-worker. Don’t get into the merits vs. faults of the Keystone oil pipeline with your brother-in-law.  

If you don’t know that the other person shares the same opinion as you, just don’t bring it up. Holiday parties are not the time to demonstrate your well-thought out views and opinions. 

But Lauren, you say, Uncle Bob/Mary from Accounting is going to start talking about politics/religion/how to carve a turkey! And it drives me CRAZY! 

Yes, and when they do you move on to Rule #4… 

 Rule 3 for surviving holiday parties: Avoid controversial topics unless you are 100% sure the other person agrees with you. #Christmas #FamilyMeals #CompanyParty Click To Tweet

 

4Don’t take the bait 

You might not be able to prevent someone else from bringing up a warhead of a topic, but you can control your response to it. The best way to avoid the bait is avoid all meaningful response. Make soothing mooing noises (“Ooh? Mmmm. UmHMM!”) and ask them neutral questions like “and where else have you heard that?” Then smile blankly while letting their words go in one ear and straight out the other.  

To do this successfully, you need to keep your tone of voice relentlessly pleasant. Use the Builder’s Beige of vocal inflections. Then, once the person has spouted off and starts to get bored, change the topic (see Rule #6 for suggestions!). 

Do not allow the level of controversy in any conversation to exceed that of what makes for a good interior paint colour or whether or not Malbec lives up to its hype. 

Speaking of wine… 

Rule 4 for surviving holiday parties: Don't take the bait! #Christmas #FamilyMeals #CompanyParty Click To Tweet

 

5) Moderate your booze intake 

I know what you’re thinking: killjoy.

Seriously, though, this one is big!

One drink takes away the edge.  Four drinks take away the filters.  Don’t take away your filters. They will serve you far better than the buzz you’ll get from whatever mediocre wine is being served.  I cut myself off after one glass (okay, two). 

Rule 5 for surviving holiday parties: Moderate your booze intake (you'll thank me later, trust me). #Christmas #FamilyMeals #CompanyParty Click To Tweet

 

6) Plan ahead and embrace the bland 

This rule pretty much encapsulates the previous 5 rules, but it`s so important that I gave it its own spot.  

Make blandness your friend. The goal is to survive the partynot to be the most interesting person there.  Being the most interesting person usually comes with a side-dish of regret. Instead, do a bit of pre-planning and come up with a raft of the dullest, most canned conversations on which you may safely float.  

Avoid talking about anything of substance. Talk about the weather. Talk about the health benefits of walking. Muse over gas prices, local craft markets, or whether pineapple or strawberries are the superior fruit on the party platter.  

Don’t wear lampshades, whip off your shirt, or lead conga lines. Remember: the internet never forgets, and people will post those pictures.  

Be polite, sip your diluted cocktail, and smile as you count down the minutes to your escape. 

Rule 6 for surviving holiday parties: Plan ahead & embrace the bland. #Christmas #FamilyMeals #CompanyParty Click To Tweet

 

Follow these six simple rules, and you’ll be able to coast through nearly any holiday gathering with your dignity, reputation, and sanity intact! 

 

*Yes, this is tongue-in-cheek, but only slightly. Big parties freak me out. Stick me on a stage in front of a few hundred people? No problem – I got this. Stick me in a room of 30 with a drink and hors d’oeuvres in hand? I turn into a bundle of nerves and forget what I’m supposed to do. 

 

What are your holiday party survival tips?  Share them with me here on Twitter or over here on Facebook! 

  

Did you enjoy this article? Don’t keep it a secret – share it using the tweetables above or the social share links to the left. Good Christmas cheer will be sent your way! 

News, Developments, and Upcoming Talks/Events

  • See me in action at Nerd Nite November 26 at the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton, AB! How To Lose Friends and Manipulate People: The Fine Art of Bamboozlement (title may change depending on my caprice). Click here for ticket information and to learn more about Nerd Nite.
  • Currently in development - my online digital course "Masterpiece Presentations: Your step-by-step method for creating high-impact presentations"


Monthly Archives: April 2017

How are your emails doing?

How are your emails doing?

Has anyone ever told you “don’t take this the wrong way, but…”

Where did your head immediately go upon hearing that statement? I’m willing to bet is was not to a place of productive objectivity.

Email seems to require the “don’t take this the wrong way” disclaimer more than any other form of communication. For many of us, email is the communication method we use more than any other during our workday. And considering how inundated with email we tend to be at the best of times, that leaves a lot of potential for taking things the wrong way.

Whenever we read or write something, we insert tone. Even if you think you are the most objective, neutral writer or reader in the world, you have mannerisms and context that affect the way you “hear” written words. And while you may think that the tone of your words is obvious, you can neither predict nor control the tone perceived by the person at the other end.

On top of misunderstood tone is our tendency to be more aggressive when communicating through a computer. There is something about that protective shield of the screen that lets our inner a**H#!^ out. With email, even nice, measured, even keeled people can be quick to anger. Whether or not we then react by sending a knee-jerk response (emphasis on “jerk”) or simply seethe with irritation for the rest of the day, our reaction to irritating emails can be disproportionately heated.

When dealing with email, a simple question can help get you back on track if a snippy tone or aggressive demand marches its way across your screen:

How can I make this interaction positive or productive?

Click to tweet: How can I make this interaction positive or productive?

It’s a straightforward question that can resolve a whole host of issues. If your main goal is to make an interaction positive or productive, you’ll start to look for ways of working with the person on the other side of the screen rather than butt heads with them through email exchange. Anger, hostility, or imagined offense can’t co-exist with positivity or productivity, so focusing your attention away from the negative and towards the productive can help you salvage the situation.

There are other questions you can ask yourself to keep a clear head about the email you send as well as those you receive.

If you are sending an email, ask: Would I say this to the person’s face?

It can be tempting to say what is on our mind, but you still need to ask “How can I make this interaction positive or productive?” If you wouldn’t say what’s in the email to the person’s face, it is unlikely that you are generating a positive or productive conversation. If you aren’t sure, try reading your email out loud so you can actually hear the words on the screen (what comes out is sometimes a revelation).

If you are receiving an email, ask: what useful information or questions are in this email?

When reading email, keep your focus on the useful parts of the email and gloss over any nasty tone or rude words. Try to read it with a relatively neutral voice. Don’t add inflection or tone that you are not 100% certain exists. If confronted with an overtly rude email, print the email and black out every word that does not productively contribute to the conversation. Then, only reply to the parts of the email that are NOT blacked out.

Also, never respond to an insulting email immediately. I fully realize that this is an obvious piece of advice, but it’s easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment and rap out a inflammatory reply. Take several minutes to cool off, and always, always ask yourself – whether you are writing or reading an email – how can I make this interaction positive or productive?

You’ll be amazed at how well that question can decompress a lousy email!

 

Want some more email tips? I’ve devoted an entire chapter in my book to email! Get your copy of The Handy Communication Answer Book today, flip open to Chapter 5, and start doing email right!

The Handy Communication Answer Book is available through all major online retailers and is in a bookstore near you. Click here to view or order it on Amazon.

Confidence Isn’t Dominance

Confidence Isn’t Dominance

This post is an excerpt from a project I’m currently working on: The Little Book of Big Confidence     Here’s a pernicious myth about confidence:  Confident people are dominant. Utter hogwash. It’s easy to think that dominance indicates confidence. After all, people who speak louder than others, or take up all the space, or… Continue Reading

Spending more time worrying about your speech than working on it?
Sign up for my newsletter and get a free download for strategies and techniques to vanquish your nervousness! Plus, you'll get my latest articles and announcements I only send by email.
I pledge to be 100% spam-free. You can unsubscribe at any time.