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

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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"


Daily Archives: May 12, 2017

Introvert V. Extrovert: How much does it REALLY matter?

Introvert V. Extrovert: How much does it REALLY matter?

Photo credit: dierk schaefer via Visual Hunt / CC BY

 

When doing an activity that puts you in the spotlight, it seems a given that your personality will have a pretty significant factor in whether or not you enjoy it and how much effort it takes to succeed at it.  When it comes to public speaking, most assume that extroverts are naturally more inclined towards this activity. Those spotlight loving social butterflies have a natural edge when taking the microphone. Introverts, with their quieter, shyer natures, would presumably have to make herculean effort to face down a crowd of people and monologue for 30 minutes.

Or is it the introverts, with their capacity for preparation, detail, introspection, and careful expression, who have the public speaking advantage?

The arguments as to who has the edge change a lot. Some people claim that introverts require vast preparation and memorization while extroverts can simply wing it. Others say that extroverts are out of luck because of their flighty tendencies, while those deep thinking introverts are more likely to captivate the audience with their ideas. Right now, being introverted is somewhat fashionable, and so the prevailing argument as to who makes the better speaker is leaning towards that type.

The problem is that none of these arguments – nor any of the typecasting baggage attached to them – are helpful when working on your speaking skills. Out of all the individuals and groups I have coached and trained in speaking and presentation technique, I have never seen a correlation between aptitude for public speaking and personality type. I’ve watched introverts and extroverts alike shine like diamonds or become shaking messes when speaking to an audience.  Nor does personality type indicate if a speaker prefers the intimacy of a small group or the dynamic energy of a larger audience. These are individual perspectives and experiences that vary widely even among people with similar personalities.

There is one area in which notions of personality type do seriously impact public speaking: in making excuses. With predictable frequency, introversion and extroversion are invoked as excuses to avoid doing the work and taking the risks demanded by public speaking. I’ve had people claim that they can’t speak at a conference or present without a lectern (read: safety shield) because they are introverted.  Others have said that they can’t speak more slowly or can’t restrict themselves to one focused topic because they are extroverts. I’ve also had people present the excuse that to change their public speaking approach or mannerisms wouldn’t be ‘true’ to their personality type, even when those mannerisms get in the way of their ability to communicate with a crowd.

Whenever a pop psychologist assigns certain skills and characteristics to introverts or extroverts, a veneer of credibility is given to these sorts of excuses. We feel justified protecting ourselves from the inherently uncomfortable practice of developing their speaking skills.

But regardless of personality type, public speaking is difficult – full stop. It is a demanding thing to do. Creating a presentation with laser focus and then keeping your brain on task while at the microphone takes huge concentration and discipline. Putting yourself on stage to face potential rejection is nerve wracking – orientation towards introversion or extroversion doesn’t change this. The thing that does make public speaking easier is practice, application, persistence, and guts – none of which are the sole property of any one personality type.

Public speaking isn’t an act of personality – it’s an act of art, of sharing, of instruction, and of performance. Some speakers love the aesthetic part of the speaking; they like playing with words and crafting meaning through tone and expression. Others get a rush from the performance, from feeling and working with the audience. Still others are primarily focused on sharing and instructing – they want to help spread their knowledge or ideas, and public speaking is the best way for them to teach what they know.

CLICK TO TWEET: #Speaking isn’t an act of personality, it’s an act of art, sharing, instruction, & performance. #communication

Skilled speakers obsess less about their personality and more about their talk. They do the hard work necessary to deliver a great presentation. They engage deeply with their content, thinking about it, experimenting with it, practicing and crafting and honing it. They form emotional connections with their audience, deliver deeply thoughtful presentations, engage in entertaining storytelling, and make people laugh, think, and look at the world in new ways.  They are willing to take the risk of discomfort or rejection or failure in order to deliver their message to their audience. And they do this regardless of their introversion or extroversion.

Introvert? Extrovert? It doesn’t matter. Don’t use a label as an excuse. You have something to say, and if your need to say it is strong enough, you’ll push past whatever it is you believe is holding you back.

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.