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: Uncategorized

The Twin Killers of Business Communication

The Twin Killers of Business Communication

Managers, business owners, and professionals of all stripes take note – there are killers lurking in your communications. They undermine your words, cast doubt on your trustworthiness, and make people question your judgement. They can create breakdowns in communication between team members, between departments, and most certainly between your business and your customers.

The killers’ names are Inconsistency and Incongruity.

Are you afraid? You should be!

 

These two killers feed off one another, creating a rat king of confusion that shakes the trustworthiness of your words. They cause stress, confusion, and uncertainty among the people you are communicating to, whether you are communicating through words, action, or (usually) a combination of both.

Click to Tweet: Inconsistency & incongruity create a rat king of confusion that can kill your communication.

Inconsistency and Incongruity are cousins – related, but not quite from the same family.

Inconsistency happens when “standards” are applied in a non-standardized fashion. It happens when the voice and tone of communication varies so much that readers or listeners have no clue what to expect and no way to predict how they should interpret a message’s subtext1. It happens when communication is sent out willy-nilly with no way to predict when, where, or how a communication may take place.

Incongruity happens when what you’re communicating doesn’t make sense – it doesn’t fit or match with other things related to it, like a vegetarian who goes big game hunting. Incongruity occurs when a business communicates values that clash with one another.

 

An excellent example of these two communication killers comes straight from Facebook HQ and their odd, unpredictable enforcement of community standards in relation to nudity.

Recently, Facebook banned a photographer for posting a gallery featuring unclothed models standing behind mannequins – the kind of plain, plastic mannequin torsos you see on display in a clothing store.

The Facebook community standards state that “we remove photographs of people displaying genitals or focusing in on fully exposed buttocks. We also restrict some images of female breasts if they include the nipples [. . .]. We also allow photographs of paintings, sculptures, and other art that depicts nude figures.”

The photographs that were removed fell within the guidelines of allowable content. There were no exposed genitals, no nipples, and the photographs would fit into any reasonable definition of “art”. Yet they were removed, and the photographer banned from posting for 30 days.

The inconsistency is obvious: they clearly communicate one set of standards, but don’t apply those standards in a predictable way, meaning that “nudity” is really whatever they define it depending on the moods and whims of the people enforcing the standards. The subtext is that

There is also huge incongruity here. The community standards define what is considered “decent” on Facebook. An art project featuring non-sexualized images of women without any exposed genitals or nip-slips is unacceptable, but crap like this is totally OK2. Few people would argue which post takes a more liberal definition of “decent.” This is the vegetarian going big game hunting.

Inconsistency and incongruity can kill your business communication because they foster mistrust and cynicism among anyone who is listening to you. We’ll all slip up and make mistakes on this front every now and then, but if these communication killers crop up frequently, then you’ll need to revisit your communication standards and strategies. Take a hard look at your messages and actions overall and ask yourself the following questions:

What are your business’ values?

What are your business’ standards?

Do the values and standards reinforce one another?

Does your business communicate those values and standards in both your words and your deeds? (Do you do walk the talk?)

If there is doubt, disagreement, or discomfort in your answers to any of the above questions, you can be certain there is inconsistency and/or incongruity in your business’ communications. If this is the case, ask yourself the following:

What message am I really sending by allowing this inconsistency/incongruity to exist?

Click to tweet: What message am I really sending by being inconsistent or incongruous?

Step out of your own head for a moment and try to answer that question from the point of view of your audience. Don’t assume your audience – be they your team members or your clients – sees things your way or has the same context or viewpoint as you. Look at it with fresh eyes. Ask others what they think.

Find those twin killers, and create a strategy and framework for dealing with them. It might be something simple, or it could end up being a major strategic project. Don’t shy away from the work – your credibility and trustworthiness depends on it.

_______

  1. Subtext is the message running in the background, behind the literal words that are being said. It’s what we’re seeing when we “read between the lines.” Subtext is loaded with meaning, such as emotional meanings and implications, and it’s strongly subject to interpretation. There is always, always
  2. If you don’t want to click on the link, here’s a description: it’s a video promo for a spring break at a dirt sports track. It features close-ups of nubile buttocks in barely-there bikinis twerking, bumping, grinding, and rubbing up against one another.

 

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Want more communication insight? Click here to check out my new book, or contact me to discuss how I can help you improve your business’ communication.

Fearless

  “Fearless,” “bold,” “brave,” and other variations are descriptions lots of people assign to professional speakers. People have called me those things, and I’ve heard lots of other speakers described that way. I’ve just come off the rush of the most incredible conference I’ve ever attended, the annual Canadian Association of Professional Speakers convention. I… 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.
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