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 / 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"

Category Archives: Confidence

5 Books To Boost Your Speaking

5 Books To Boost Your Speaking

Photo by gpoo on Visual Hunt / CC BY



As you get into the swing of the season and start tackling your Christmas shopping, I’d like to lend you a hand with my top recommended books on becoming better, bolder speakers and communicators. 

I love giving books as gifts. Giving someone a book that you think they’ll love is like sharing a little piece of yourself with them. Plus, if both of you read the book, you can then compare thoughts on it afterwards.  

So if you are hunting for a gift for someone who is building a career or business, or who loves language, or who wants to share a message with the world, or just who just wants to be a better communicator, I’ve got a list of books that may fit the bill. 

The books below look at communication from different angles; some are full of practical tips for specific tasks like arguing, speaking, or negotiating. Others provide the inspiration we sometimes need to keep putting our message out in the world. They all explore factors that affect our communication, whether verbal or non-verbal.  

None of these listings are sponsored. I’ve read and re-read all of these titles, and am recommending them because I love them and find them useful in many areas of my life. And I think that you or someone on your Christmas list will also find them interesting, helpful, and practical in your/their life as well. 

Without further ado (and in no particular order), here is my list of 5 Books That Will Boost Your Speaking! 



1) Thank You for Arguing, Third Edition: What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About the Art of Persuasion – by Jay Heinrichs. 3rd Ed. Three Rivers Press, 2017. 

Core topics: Rhetoric, persuasion, public speaking, language 

Buy this for:  Anyone. Seriously. 

If anyone asks me about my most recommended book on public speaking, this is it. I’ve purchased more copies of this book than any other because I keep forgetting them on airplanes, at people’s houses, and in random office buildings. I’ve managed to hold on to my current copy for a while, and it’s dog-eared and covered with marginalia. 

There’s a good reason I love this book so much: it’s a useful, accessible, and entertaining treatise on rhetoric and persuasive speech. Jay Heinrichs produced a magnificent volume, with easy-to-understand information on rhetoric and how it applies in daily life, plus great activities to help you get a grip on the strategies and skills. This book will improve your speaking and your writing, and help open your eyes to persuasive strategies being used on you. You’ll laugh, you’ll learn, you’ll persuade. 

This laugh-out-loud book will boost your persuasive skills in ways you never thought possible. #communication #rhetoric @jayheinrichs Click To Tweet


2) The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly? – by Seth Godin. Penguin, 2012. 

Core topics: Resilience, personal development, business, creativity 

Buy this for: Creatives, artists, entrepreneurs, or anyone putting in the long, hard work required to create something big (be it a career, a business, a vision, a piece of art, an athletic feat, etc.).  

Most of the books on this list are about how we talk to others. This one is more focused on how we talk to ourselves, especially as creators, makers, and artists…and yes, you are an artist. 

I could recommend nearly any of Seth Godin’s books, but this is the one that’s really speaking to me at the moment. It’s both an inspirational guide and a reality check. The Icarus Deception takes an honest look at the work and mental fortitude needed to make our art (Godin’s definition of art is broad: “the act of a human being doing generous work, creating something for the first time, touching another person”). 

Godin’s words are encouraging and uplifting, but challenging. This book contains no vapid affirmations, but an honest examination of the mental and emotional work necessary to create and pursue our art. It empathizes with our struggles, but also pushes aside the excuses we invent to get ourselves off the hook. It acknowledges that this work is hard, but that there’s also so much we can do and must do in order to bring our gifts to those who need them. 

To me, this book is like a wise friend who first gives me a comforting shoulder to cry on, then says “enough excuses” while shoving me out the door and in the direction of my ambitions. I’ve both read it and listened to the audiobook many times, and I return to it whenever I need a shot of comfort and encouragement along with a really good kick in the ass.  

We are all #artists & this book gives us the encouragement and the kick in the ass we often need. #entrepreneurs @thisissethsblog Click To Tweet


3)Executive Presence: The Missing Link Between Merit and Success – by Sylvia Ann Hewlett.  HarperCollins, 2014. 

Core Topics: Leadership, influence, business & careers, public speaking 

Buy this for: Leaders, entrepreneurs, people who are advancing in their careers, people wanting to improve their leadership skills or influence at work, those interested in speaking and presenting with greater presence and impact 

Image counts for a lot in our careers and businesses, regardless of your industry or profession. The impression we give to others can make the difference between getting a promotion or being overlooked, of getting a plum assignment or being sidelined for the umpteenth time. Presence, and its close cousin Charisma, fascinate me. They’re among the key tools and features of exceptional speakers, have a measurable impact on our lives, yet are hard to capture and define. 

In Executive Presence, Hewett does an admirable job of capturing and defining the different characteristic of presence. Through reams of detailed research, she’s able to articulate what gives people that aura of power and respectability we seek in our leaders. Hewett looks at details like comportment, assertiveness, style and grooming, speech and voice, appearance, empathy, social awareness, and more. This creates a very complete composition of the je ne sais quoi of those with true executive presence. While some of these topics might seem trite, I can assure you they aren’t. The topics that Hewett raises are things my own clients have worked with me on and agonized about. Hewett treats these subjects with the seriousness they deserve. 

This book is a must-read for anyone looking to advance in their career, enhance their leadership skills, or make a more impactful and favorable impression on those they meet. 

You need to cultivate your Executive Presence, and this book shows you how. Outstanding! #business #leadership @SAHewlett Click To Tweet


4) Ask For It: How Women Can Use the Power of Negotiation to Get What They Really Want – by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever. Bantam, 2008. 

Core Topics: Negotiation, women, business & careers 

Buy this forwomen entering the workforce, building their careers, dealing with tricky situations, or who need a bit of help boosting their confidence and pursuing what they really want. 

Ask For It is a book that every woman should have on her shelf. Negotiating is a crucial life skill that eludes many women. For many – myself included – it brings to mind hardball tactics, win-lose scenarios, or uncomfortable interactions and embarrassing rejections. Unfortunately, when we women don’t engage in negotiation, we can lose big in everything from our careers to our personal lives. 

Babcock and Laschever address how negotiation differs for women than for men. Our pro-social, cooperative inclinations, along with social pressures and expectations, means that we often need to take a different approach to negotiation situations than men would. The authors are up front about what makes negotiation so tough for so many women, and offer practical solutions for overcoming negotiation barriers. 

But don’t mistake the slant of this book as one that’s soft on strategies, tactics, demands, or outcomes. Far from it; Babcock and Laschever draw on their years of researching and training negotiation to create a robust approach that teaches us how to ask for – and get – more. The Negotiation Gym exercises at the end of the book are especially good, and I’ve used them myself to strengthen my negotiation muscles. 

The skills and mindsets taught in this book have strong parallels to the mindsets and techniques needed in non-negotiation communication as well. That’s part of the reason why I like it so much. It can help women become better speakers and communicators overall. 

A must-have book. Empowers #women to become more courageous and skilled in asking for what they want. #negotiation #business @sklasch Click To Tweet


5) The Handy Communication Answer Book – by Lauren Sergy. Visible Ink Press, 2017. 

Core Topics: Communication, public speaking, rhetoric, business and social communication 

Buy this forProfessionals, students, leaders, entrepreneurs, anyone wanting a useful and timely reference for their communication pain points. 

Of course I wasn’t about to leave my own book off this list! Released earlier this year, this is your ultimate reference book for anything about communication. I wrote it to be a communication coach on your desk, something you could reach for whenever you had a question like “how can I make my argument more convincing?” “how should I bring up this delicate topic with my co-workers?” “what the heck am I going to say in that speech I need to give at Bob’s retirement party?” Or even “when was the first postal system created?” 

(Ok, so not many people will ask that last one, but there’s a lot of interesting things to be learned in the history of communication, so I go over that as well). 

I cover communication history, rhetoric, business communication, public speaking, social communication, communication technology, written communication, body language, voice and anatomy, email, and more. There are analyses of famous speeches, and I even give you speech templates and sample speeches that you can adapt for when you are called to the podium. 

If you or someone you know would benefit from having my years of experience, research, expertise, and deeply geeky insights regarding communication at hand whenever you need it, this is the way to go. 

This book is a #communication coach you can keep on your desktop. #business #publicspeaking Click To Tweet


Now go forth, complete your Christmas shopping, and make the people on your list wiser, happier, and better communicators! 


If you’d like to purchase any of these books, consider clicking on the titles in this post and ordering them via my Amazon affiliate link. You’ll be helping support this blog. 


Is there a book that you would especially recommend as Christmas gift? Click here to tell me about it on Twitter, or share it with us on Facebook!


Help your friends tackle their own Christmas shopping conundrums – share this post on your favourite social media channel using the share buttons on the left!

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.