• Knock on Someone's Door and Apologize

    You bump into someone. “Sorry.” Your phone goes off when it shouldn’t. “Sorry.” You interrupt someone. “Sorry.”

    These are minor offenses. "Sorry" is fine.

    And then there are times for An Apology:

    ~ You shared news that was given to you in confidence.

    ~ You withheld vital information.

    ~ You broke an agreement. 

    These are more serious offenses. They call for walking over, knocking on the door, and saying, “I owe you an apology.”

    Only the coldest of hearts can reject a sincere apology. You will most likely be met with forgiveness – even tears and hugs. 

    I have never regretted making an apology. It has always gone well.

    In my communication classes, I recomend that people start their day with two questions:

    1. To whom do I owe a thank-you note?

    2. To whom do I owe an apology?

  • Make your Audience your Alternator

    Just as the alternator in a car charges its battery, you want your audience to charge YOU. If your audience is a sluggish alternator, you will soon become a drained battery.

    Audience members don't know it's their job to charge you. Thus, you have to show them how. You do this by coming out from behind the lectern, asking questions from the get-go, talking in terms of their own interests, and getting them involved in some type of paired or group activity.

    Not only does this delightfully raise the energy level, but it solves that dreaded problem of you being "alone up there." When the audience acts as your alternator, you are fully-charged and have comaraderie.

  • Making S*%# Up

    She doesn’t return your phone call. He doesn’t respond to your e-mail. She glances away from you when you try to make eye contact. 

    And now, as my friend Susan put it, you “make s*%# up.” She must be mad at me. I must have offended him. She wants to avoid me. 

    This is normal. When there is a void, our mind needs to fill it. Unfortunately, we usually fill it with s*%#.

    We would be happier if we could automatically think, “She must be busy,” or, “Maybe my e-mail landed in his junk mail,” or, “She must have a lot on his mind.” 

    I have found that more than 90% of the time, the s*%# I made up turned out to not be true. Not even close. 

    Give everyone some slack. It's probably not personal.


  • "Please Hold your Questions 'Til the End."

    Have you ever heard a speaker say, "Please hold your questions 'til the end?" I have, hundreds of times. Here's why that's a bad idea:

    1. People who have a burning question on their mind are distracted and unlikely to fully grasp whatever comes next. Their learning is now compromised.
    2. Unless people write their question down, they might forget what it was. 
    3. When you ask your audience to be silent 'til the end, you create an unnatural relationship. In fact, you prevent a relationship from developing.
    4. You show that you are fearful of something. Losing track? Losing control? Running out of time? Not knowing the answer? Competent speakers have the tools to prevent these possibilities.

    If you are lucky enough to get questions, you may have to "praise and limit." You might say, "I'm delighted that you are so interested! I want to be sure I deliver what I promised, so I'll take one more question now."

    Here is my final argument against "Hold your questions 'til the end." Would you ask the same of a dining companion? "I thought you should know my lunch rule: I will do all the talking until the final five minutes. At that time, you can ask questions or offer your opinion."

    You'd be a very lonely diner indeed! Don't be a lonely diner and don't be a lonely speaker either.

  • They Don't Want to Be There

    Speakers should beware when the organizers of a workshop use the M word (Mandatory) about attendance.

    When people have no choice, there is immediate resistance. And who bears the brunt of that resistance? The management team, of course. But that’s usually not expressed overtly. What is overt is the body language of the participants as they arrive at the last minute and sit in the back row with crossed arms.

    When I’m in front of a group that is suffering from “Mandatory-itis,” I tell this story:

    “When I was eighteen, I worked in the claims department of an insurance company. One day we were told to attend a customer service workshop, but we weren’t told why. ‘Have we done something wrong?’ we wondered.

    My buddies and I had to attend, but we didn’t have to like it!

    About half an hour into the workshop, I noticed that I had dropped my resistance and was actually interested in what was being presented. My friends were too. I am certain that the speaker noticed the shift in our demeanor, and had even anticipated it. 

    So, if any of you are feeling the way I did, I completely understand. Maybe as we get underway, you’ll discover that this information could be useful to you. Let’s begin!”

    This approach is an example of my axiom: “If you can’t hide it, paint it red.” When you do this, the resistant people will probably relax and nod in agreement. 

    On the other hand, if you were to pretend the M situation didn’t exist, the participants would most likely feel that you don't “get” them. Their resistance would become more pronounced and possibly verbal. “Why do we have to be here? We don’t need this.”

    Know your audience. Find out in advance how the event was presented to them. Ask to see the workshop announcement. Find out if it is mandatory. If it is, ask why. 

    This information is your friend.