communication content ideas public speaking storyfinding

4 ways to develop a culture of storytelling at your organization

How can you develop a culture of storytelling at your organization?

Four quick tips:

1. Meetings: get into the habit of starting each meeting with a story. Ask for others to share stories.

2. Contests: you might have an “employee of the month” contest: why not try a “employee story of the month” contest?

3. Channels: if you use Slack or Team, open a channel to capture and collect stories.

4. Conferences: when you go to conferences, go with the intention of collecting industry and other stories you hear.

How else do you develop a culture of storytelling at your organization?

Laura Bergells is a professional story finder. She writes, coaches, teaches, and speaks. Check out her online courses at LinkedIn Learning.

If you’re a LinkedIn Premium or member, these courses are free! If you’re not a member, you can either become a member or buy each of these classes à la carte

communication design

Do we need business cards any more? Really?

I’m going to save a tree. I’ll stop handing out business cards.

Do we really need business cards anymore?

I find that when I go out to meet people, I’m more inclined to exchange LinkedIn information. Other people I know exchange electronic contact info to stay in touch. 

When someone tries to hand me a business card, I usually try to ward them off. I know I’m only going to throw it away later. It seems like a waste.

My compromise solution for next year is to only order a few cards. If someone demands one and I deem it necessary, I can hand one out. I’ll keep an eye on how many I hand out, and try to whittle it down to zero.

I’m thinking business cards may just be a bad habit that I need to break for the new year. Business cards seem like a holdover habit from a bygone era.

Or is there a compelling case for business cards that I’m not grasping?

Laura Bergells is a professional story finder. She writes, coaches, teaches, and speaks. Check out her online courses at LinkedIn Learning.

If you’re a LinkedIn Premium or member, these courses are free! If you’re not a member, you can either become a member or buy each of these classes à la carte.

Coaching communication crisis Education video

Don’t let cold hands stop you from writing: try Voice Typing

Sometimes, voice typing can come in handy for really unexpected reasons!

It’s October 1, and it’s freezing. My poor fingers are now cramped from typing in a cold room all morning.

Google Voice Typing to the rescue! I’ll open up Google Docs, activate voice typing, and talk through a first draft. 

Google Voice Typing within Google Docs comes to the rescue of cold, cramped hands!

I can always go back in and edit this first draft with my fingers later. But for right now, I’ve got deadlines to meet. I can’t let cold hands stop me from writing!

There are three other great reasons to use voice typing instead of finger typing for a first draft:

  1. You talk faster than you type. With voice typing, you can increase your total word count.
  2. You shut off your internal editor. When you talk, you resist the temptation to edit yourself as you’re talking.
  3. You reduce distractions. You’re not goofing around on social media or opening up another tab on your browser. You’re talking.

I find myself using voice typing a lot now. I get 97% accuracy with no special equipment. I just use the mic that comes with my $320 laptop.

No big whoop. In the olden days, you needed a special microphone and pricey software. Now, you can probably just use equipment you have on hand.

Voice recognition is getting better all the time. It makes sense.

Think about how many of those Google Home devices have been in use over the past year. Or how many times people use their Android devices to say “OK, Google” — then use their voices to issue a command.

Google is drawing on an enormous amount of data to be able to understand a wide variety of voices. I expect Google’s accuracy will only get better over time.

Cortana and Alexa and Siri? If they work for you, great. But they don’t work for me.

In my experience, Cortana, Alexa, and Siri are far slower and less accurate than Google. And this makes sense: these services aren’t drawing from the vast amount of voice data that Google continues to collect.

If you haven’t checked out voice typing in a while, give it another try. You may find that it works better than you ever expected!

(And as the weather gets colder, I’ll probably use voice typing even more.)

Are you a voice typing fan? Why or why not?

Laura Bergells is a writer and instructor. Check out her online courses at LinkedIn Learning.  You can also find Laura on Twitter and at YouTube.

Laura Bergells writes, coaches, and teaches. Check out her online courses at LinkedIn Learning.  You can also find Laura on Twitter and at YouTube.

Signup for LinkedIn Learning

Coaching communication Presentation public speaking video

Power posing debunked: the truth about power poses

Some people feel scared or nervous before they deliver a speech. To gain confidence, they might go somewhere private right before they speak and strike what’s called a power pose.

This is a broad, expansive gesture like putting your arms over your head and looking up. It’s a classic pose of someone who just won!

Someone who’s victorious. A champion!

Or they might stand with their hands on theirs hips while looking up. Just like a superhero! Strong, confident, large and in charge!

And these kinds of expansive poses are a form of warm up exercise. You can gain emotional energy from putting your body into these types of postures that make you feel more powerful.

Huddling and crouching? Those are classic postures we adopt when we feel scared or submissive.

Huddling and crouching poses send a message to your brain to feel afraid. Using broad gestures sends a message to your brain to feel confident.

And while the science on power posing isn’t exactly clear right now, consider this: warm-up exercises have been a part of theater tradition for a long, long time. That’s because the warm up exercises you perform off stage can help you project the emotional energy you want to portray onstage.

Power posing is actual a riff on an old acting technique. It’s a simple but powerful warmup exercise. And it’s one that’s worth trying.

After all, when you’re performing on stage or in front of a camera, you need to put out about 25 percent more energy than you might do in a normal, everyday conversation.

If you’re just being ‘yourself’ on camera — and you don’t project a little more emotional energy that you normally would, you’re probably going to come across as lifeless and flat.

Actors often do warmups before they go on stage.

Professional performers know it’s way easier to come down from an amped up emotional state than it is to try to ramp up to a heightened emotional state.

So if you don’t believe in the science of power posing, why not take a centuries old tip from the world of acting and performance?

Get yourself a ritual. Try some warmups before you hit the stage.

Look at it this way. You have nothing – zero – to lose.

And best of all, you might be delighted by the results you achieve with a few simple warmup exercises before your next speech or presentation. Give them a try. Let me know how power posing works out for you.

Laura Bergells is a writer and instructor. Check out her online courses at LinkedIn Learning.  You can also find Laura on Twitter and at YouTube.

Laura Bergells writes, coaches, and teaches. Check out her online courses at LinkedIn Learning.  You can also find Laura on Twitter and at YouTube.

Signup for LinkedIn Learning

Coaching communication Presentation

Don’t create a false sense of urgency

I got a special offer in the mail on Saturday. It was marked “Urgent”.

I felt puzzled. After all, the mail isn’t an urgent medium. The postal service takes its time.

But I skimmed the letter, anyway. It offered me 20 bucks if I would do a thing.

I don’t even want to know what the thing is. I read a few paragraphs and got bored. I shredded the letter.

A few moments later, I got an email from an organization marked “urgent”. I read a few paragraphs of babble, then deleted it.

We all know the score by now. Messages marked “urgent” aren’t urgent.

Twenty bucks of “free” means I’m going to become an indebted servant to some corporate scheme that’s going to drain my resources and patience for years. And if it takes someone 3 paragraphs to get to the point, there’s no urgency.

If it’s really urgent, you don’t say “urgent”.

You say “fire”. You scream “get out”.

I don’t need corporations creating a false sense of urgency for me. Children are being separated from their families. People are being rounded up in the streets. We’re surrounded by matters of real urgency.

Marking something “urgent” means it’s “urgent” for them to make money. It’s not urgent enough for your immediate response.

You’ve got better things to do with your life.

Laura Bergells is a writer and instructor. Check out her online courses at LinkedIn Learning.  You can also find Laura on Twitter and at YouTube.

Coaching communication

My one (really obvious) tip that can make you amazing at reading body language…

You’re a bit psychic. You may not know this. But you can forecast the near future pretty well.

For example, you can look at a stranger’s face as she walks toward you in a crowded airport. With one wordless glance, you know where she’s going next.

In a split second, you’ve analyzed her facial expressions and body language. Expertly, you navigate around her as she travels to her intended destination.

Oh, you don’t know whether she will be going to Bangkok or Paris. But you know that stranger is going to walk to the left as she passes you.

That’s why you walked to the right. You avoided collision as you both made your way to your next destination.

Perhaps you perform small actions like these hundreds of times a day. You read people. You glance at their body language and facial expressions.

You gauge intentions. You make split second calculations as you navigate through time and space.

You do all this without words. You don’t think twice about it.

It’s too ingrained. Too basic. Too obvious.

Or is it?

Your ability to understand other people without them saying anything?

It’s actually amazing.

And your ability to communicate without using words? Also amazing.

Yet we often dismiss or ignore this kind of nonverbal communication. We take it for granted. And when we ignore it– we can get into big trouble.

We’ll stand at a crosswalk, absorbed in our phones. Our faces and bodies aren’t signaling our intentions to passing motorists. 

Passing motorists don’t know how to interpret this. They don’t know what our next move will be.

That’s because we’re not using our bodies to signal to the world around us. Instead, we’re using our faces and bodies to communicate to another world – a digital world.

The digital world is much (much) less urgent. 

We almost always get in trouble when we ignore communication fundamentals. This morning, I read a headline:

Honolulu is the first big US city to ban phone use at crosswalks

I actually read this headline out loud, while shaking my head.

“Not a bad idea” said a colleague. His face, 4 meters or so from mine, was buried in a mobile device.

Got that? He didn’t gauge my feelings on the subject. He responded to my words without looking at me. He didn’t see me shake my head.

“Is it a good idea?” I thought. I stared at him and arched an eyebrow with skepticism.

The Honolulu scenario is too Orwellian for my tastes. I like the idea of safer crosswalks. But I don’t like the idea of ‘distracted thoughtpolice’ issuing tickets for ‘distracted thoughtcrimes’. Surely there must be a better way to help people.”

That’s what I was thinking. But my colleague? He never looked at me to read my expression.

He had no idea I was ruminating on Orwell and the thoughtpolice. He kept staring and poking at his device. I grinned and shook my head at the irony.

I doubt issuing him a distracted thoughtcrime ticket would help our situation. Nonetheless, I could tell by his body language he wasn’t really interested in the headline or my feelings on it. I let it go.

The skeptical raise of my eyebrow? My ironic smile? The shake of my head? My colleague’s disinterested tone and bent head?

All minutia. Subtle little gestures with little long term impact or significance.

Or might they mean more than that?

Could missing day-to-day nonverbal cues like these threaten our chances at survival? Perhaps not with the immediacy of an oncoming car.

But over time, these minute miscalculations can erode the strength of our relationships and our communities.

But we can increase our body language competency with one simple tip:

Look up.

Seriously. That’s it. It’s the first obvious step we can all take to become amazing at reading body language.

Look up.

Sounds too basic, right? Give it a whirl, anyway.

Try being present. Notice the nuances.

We all communicate more than we know without even trying. And we all understand more than we know without half-thinking about it.

So think about it. (At least start by half-thinking about it.)

You’ll never know what you’re missing if you don’t look up. You might miss an oncoming car.

That would be great.

But by looking up, you can also gain a more powerful understanding of the emotional context of the life you’re living. Don’t miss out.

Look up.

Use your eyes from Establishing Credibility as a Speaker by Laura Bergells

Laura Bergells writes, coaches, and teaches. Check out her online courses at LinkedIn Learning.  You can also find Laura on Twitter and at YouTube.

Signup for LinkedIn Learning

Coaching communication public speaking social media video

Beware the false dilemma! How to pivot away from either-or questions…

Consider these four questions. You’ve seen headlines like these in your social media feeds:

  1. Who suffers more: Alzheimer’s patients or Alzheimer’s caregivers?
  2. What’s more important: presentation content or presentation delivery?
  3. Office work or remote work: which is better for productivity?
  4. Why would anyone need to go to college when they could just take online classes?

Media outlets that depend on advertising dollars often like to post false dilemma questions like these. They do it with the aim of “increasing engagement” or “starting conversations.”

A casual reader or viewer might not even care that deeply about the posed question. But once they’ve responded by picking a side – uh, oh!

They’ve entered a trap.

Once people answer one way or the other, they might feel as if they have to defend their position. Sometimes, they’ll even fight with people who selected the other side of the either-or equation.

You know what happens next. Fights draw crowds.

With one simple either-or question, the media outlet that posted the question used an agitation technique. Deliberately posing a false dilemma question to ‘increase engagement’ is propaganda.

Often, the intent is not to inform or educate. The true aim of the false dilemma question is to agitate, confuse, and/or polarize.

Keep your eye out for these kinds of questions. You’ll see and hear deliberate agitation techniques all the time.

Some polarizing questions are posed innocently, but most are deliberately designed to agitate. They create pointless fights and arguments. They prevent any kind of substantive progress.

Increased engagement? More like “increased agitation”.

And it’s not just media outlets who use this technique to cause fights or draw crowds. Sometimes, you’ll be presented with an either-or question in everyday work or personal situations.

Let’s say you’re presented with a false dilemma question in real life. Unlike social media, you can’t choose to not participate. How can you answer it without helping to create an unstable and contentious environment?

Sometimes, you can’t say nothing. You must respond. If so, you might like to try a classic, 2-step pivoting technique.

For example, let’s say a public speaking student asks me, in front of class:

“For our next class presentation, tell us. What’s more important: content or delivery?”

Since the student is asking an either-or question, I might use a pivot statement.

I might say, “I wouldn’t frame the question that way.”

Then, I say how I would frame it. Then, I answer that question.

And my answer? It’s almost never either-or. It’s almost always both-and.

For example, I might say,

“I wouldn’t frame the question that way. Content and delivery are both important, so you need to work on both. Don’t forget – you need to make a connection with your audience.”

Remember that two step process:

  1. Use the pivot phrase “I wouldn’t frame it that way” to politely reject an either-or, false dilemma scenario;
  2. Proceed with framing a both-and response.

Let’s see how this 2-step technique might work in a TV interview. Pretend a reporter asks a doctor:

“Who suffers more, Alzheimer’s caregivers or Alzheimer’s patients?”

The doctor might recognize the false dilemma from media training and say:

“I wouldn’t frame it that way, since both groups suffer in their own unique ways. Nor should we try to make suffering some sort of competition. Instead, I’d rather use my time here today to address what we can do to ease the suffering of both patients and their caregivers.”

Well, done, doctor!

And now, I’ll give you two brief exercises to try on your own. Now that you know to recognize a false dilemma question when you see one, practice answering this either-or question:

“Which scenario is better for productivity: office work or remote work?”

Try using the two-step technique to answer. (Here’s my take on the subject…no peeking until you’ve answered on your own!)

And now, here’s your last exercise. Answer this oft-asked question:

“Why would anyone need to go to college when they could just take online classes?”

Go ahead. Once again, formulate your own answer.

Here’s my 11 second pivot response to the Classroom v. Online learning question.

Learn to recognize and respond appropriately to inflammatory and polarizing questions. Life is seldom an either-or scenario.

Your life is bigger than “either-or”. Your life is almost always “both-and”.

Laura Bergells is a writer and instructor. Check out her online courses at LinkedIn Learning.  You can also find Laura on Twitter and at YouTube.

Coaching communication Education fun Presentation public speaking video

Lose your fear and learn to present on-camera

Three years ago, I organized an online web conference. At the request of an organization, I interviewed three of their Subject Matter Experts to get background information for a presentation.

The following photo is a re-creation of what I saw in this online meeting:

Uh-huh. That’s right.

For almost the entire interview, I stared at a close up of one man’s ear. After a few minutes, I told him he might want to adjust his camera.

“Oh, sorry,” he said. I then got an extreme close up of what appeared to be his hairline. 

“Is that your neck?”


“I think I preferred your ear.”

“Oh. OK.”

For the next hour, we all looked at his ear. 

My interview subject never saw his audience. He never looked at the camera. We could see his ear twitch a bit as he talked, but that was about it.

Let me be clear. The expert with the wiggly ear?

He’s brilliant in his field. He had wonderful information to share. And he’s also a delightful person.

He simply didn’t know anything about presenting on camera. It was his first time, and he was too intimidated to tell anybody he didn’t know what he was doing.

He thought he could fake it. And in a way, he was right. 

We were a friendly group. We didn’t judge our colleague too harshly.

We were in a time crunch, so we smiled and went on with the meeting. And after all, we all knew the guy was a genius.

But I also know he’s doing much better now. Post-meeting, he took some good-natured ribbing and sought help.

He learned more about delivering online presentations. And of course, he continues to gain valuable experience.

There are plenty of tips available to help you improve your own online video performance. Here are six of my favorites: they’re all available through LinkedIn Learning:

1. Successful video conferencing tips

2. Developing your on-camera presence

3. Setting up your home or office filming environment

4. Wardrobe and makeup tips

5. Lighting tips

6. Tips for on-camera body language and posture

This sort of specific information and advice can help get you going in the right direction with regard to your next on-camera presentation. Think you don’t need help? That it’s no big deal? 

Your audience was raised on TV or online. We have expectations for how people look and perform on a screen. You may be warm and wonderful in person – but how do you come across on camera?

We were all kind to “ear guy” — but you don’t always have the luxury of being in front of an audience who loves and accepts you no matter what crazy thing you do. You’ll want to learn and practice some of the basics before you present to employers, clients, key stakeholders, and the public. 

You probably don’t think of yourself as a film star. But if you’re asked to present on camera, guess what? 

You’re a video star now, my friend. It may be a low budget production from your home office, but who knows? One low budget presentation could have enormous business stakes…or at least lead to previously unheard of opportunities. (It happened to me.)

Prepare yourself. We’re all video stars now.

If it hasn’t happened to you already… it’s going to happen soon. We’ll all be presenting more on camera in the future.

See you online!

Laura Bergells is a writer, teacher, and a LinkedIn Learning course author. Check out Establishing Credibility as a SpeakerCrisis Communication and Public Speaking.

Coaching communication public speaking

Fashions change. Fundamentals don’t.

In the 1990’s, I worked for a company that changed its dress code. We went from business formal to business casual.

Employees accepted this change readily. I felt like I got a raise, because my dry cleaning expenses almost disappeared. And the comfort of ditching a suit for the dark jeans, tee-shirt, and blazer combo? Whee!

Last year, I read about a relaxed dress code at Goldman Sachs. In the same year, I heard the controversy over bare arms.

The buzz about “well, what do I wear now?” hums and throbs with a fair amount of regularity. Why, I wrote a blog post on this topic in 2011. I touched on it in another post in 2012.

In 2017, I did (more than one) workshop and consult on the topic of “Establishing Credibility as a Public Speaker“. In it, I answered the “what do I wear?” question yet again.

In 2018, I filmed a course for LinkedIn Learning titled “Establishing Credibility as a Speaker“. In this 2:35 minute video, I discuss the whole “what do I wear” concept in more detail.

For the past few decades, my advice hasn’t changed that much. Bottom line?

Fashions change. Communication fundamentals don’t.

And guess what? I suspect my 2017-era advice still be apt in 2027 and beyond.

Know this: your non-verbal communication impacts your credibility as a public speaker. As you face your audience, think about your fashion choices.

How will your fashion choices help support your message and intent?

Sometime you’ll want to blend in. Other times, you’ll want to use your fashion choices to stand out…or to make a stand. Depending on your message and intent, dressing provocatively may help you establish credibility and inspire change more than playing it safe.

What do you think? In 2037, will I be dispensing the same “what to wear” advice? Or will we have evolved beyond judging others on their appearance?

Laura Bergells is not a fashion expert. She’s a writer and teacher. Check out her courses on Crisis Communication and Public Speaking. The above video is an excerpt from a 2018 course, “Establishing Credibility as a Speaker“.

You can find Laura on Twitter and at YouTube.

communication fun

🔥 Are you tapping into the red-hot octopus power of emoji? 🐙

On a personal note, friends have texted me the octopus emoji over the past year. Same deal with the fire emoji.

These are inside jokes. They make me smile.

The red hot octopus emoji? They help me bond with my friends. 🐙🔥

But what about using emoji in business? How well are businesses using emoji to communicate? Is emoji use in business even appropriate?

Over the past year and a half, I reached out to two huge international brands on Twitter to get help from customer support. Both brands quickly resolved my issues and answered my questions.

Problems solved! Hurrah!

Both of my big-brand customer service Twitter responses were helpful, positive, and upbeat. But here are the final words from each:


Note how one giant brand responded with an emoji: the other didn’t. The customer service rep with the monogram ^MF literally put a face on what was previously a faceless text relationship.

How is that supposed to make me feel? How well did each brand communicate with me?

Big companies are supporting emoji use in business communication. Many leaders in communication believe it can help support their brand promise.

Appropriate emoji use has become a part of corporate brand guides as well as business communication training programs. For the first time this year, I even found myself pitching emoji use in client marketing copy.

(The client said “yes”. And we’re off and running…)

Think of emoji as a new and nuanced form of punctuation. If you’re writing for modern people, how might you communicate more effectively by writing with emoji?

After all, real people use emoji in their day-to-day messages. Companies want to seem approachable and likable to their customers.

Organizations want to put a face and a feeling to what might otherwise be a perfunctory relationship. You’ll see big brands support emoji use — and develop guides for what is and isn’t appropriate for their brand.

You’re going to see more emoji use in business communication. Keep an eye out for it.

How does your company support the use of emoji in business communication? And if they don’t — why not?

For a quick (3m 36s) tutorial on using emoji and emoticons in business, check out this video on #LinkedInLearning. 


Laura Bergells is a writer, teacher, and a LinkedIn Learning author. Check out her courses on Crisis Communication and Public Speaking. If you’re a writer, check out Scrivener Essential Training.

You can find Laura on Twitter and at YouTube.