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"


Category Archives: Fear

The Mighty Reframe

The Mighty Reframe

Photo credit: Tortured Mind via Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-SA

 

For several years, my son went to a wonderful daycare. The staff were caring, he had friends to play with, lots of walks and visits to nearby playgrounds, field trips, lots of learning, and just about anything else a preschooler could want in a day. He loved that daycare and enjoyed his time there.

This September, he started kindergarten. He’d no longer be going to daycare, and would be leaving behind a familiar place and people he loved. I was worried about how he’d deal with the transition, about saying ‘goodbye’ to the staff one last time, about what would happen when it sunk in that he wasn’t going back and probably wouldn’t see the other kids again.

When that Last Day came, my son seemed to take it all in stride. As he was leaving, he told the other kids and the staff that he’d be going to kindergarten now. He gave them big hugs, and raced out the door as usual, no tears, no fuss. I, meanwhile, waited for the shoe to drop.

A few days after the Last Day, we drove past his daycare while out running errands.

“Mom,” he piped up from the back seat, “is daycare locked or open?”

“It locked right now, sweetie.”

“Okay.” He paused. “I hate that daycare.”

I paused, shocked. He spoke entirely without malice and as matter-of-factly as though he was saying “I like crayons,” or “gas stations smell weird.” Still, though, I was taken aback that he spoke that way about a place that he previously always loved.

“Don’t say that,” I admonished him without thought. “That daycare was a very good place for you. You had a good time there!”

“Yeah, but now I hate it. I don’t go there anymore. I go to kindergarten. I like kindergarten.”

I was mildly upset by this declaration. After all, my son is normally a very loving little chap and for him to declare that he hated daycare seemed unusually nasty of him. Still, I didn’t make a fuss over it and instead just changed the subject.

This scene repeated itself over the next few days. He would ask a question about daycare – whether it was locked or open, what the staff were doing, what the other kids were doing – and then declare that he hated daycare.

Several days later, a realization struck me. He was reframing.

Reframing is a particularly useful technique I teach people who are anxious about public speaking. My clients and participants learn to manage that anxiety by consciously changing how they perceive the sensations. They learn to look at the physical feelings, such as the pounding heart or fluttering stomach, differently. When giving the talk, they make a point of relating to their audience differently, of seeing their role as a speaker differently. To make this work, you have to repeatedly remind yourself of the new way you are perceiving things, the new way you are choosing to ‘frame’ the experience in your mind.

This is a very conscious action – it takes repetition and effort to bend your brain towards a new way of looking at these situations. And this is exactly what my son ways doing, albeit in the blunter, slightly feral way that is to be expected from a 5-year-old. He was consciously choosing to see his daycare in a different light, not as something he couldn’t have but instead as something he didn’t like and didn’t want anymore. This gave him the mental resources to handle the difficulty of separating from a place, from people, and from friends who had been part of his daily routine for over half his life.

Maybe it’s a marker of my naivety as a young parent that I didn’t figure this out earlier (he is, after all, my first kid). But this realization helped me appreciate how capable kids are at developing their own coping mechanisms. It also reinforced to me how much we choose our reactions by choosing our perceptions.

While I wouldn’t recommend the black-and-white, sour grapes style of reframing my son used, he did a pretty good reframe for his limited experience and emotional vocabulary. And it’s a pretty good reminder for us as adults that we can make a difficult thing easier if we put in the effort needed to see it through a different frame. If a 5-year-old can do it, so can you.

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?
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