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Coaching communication crisis Education public speaking

Face it: you need to fake it. Authenticity is not all it’s cracked up to be.

Authenticity isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. To show our care and compassion for others, we often need to put aside our feelings.

There are higher truths that need to be served. Ask a mother whose child has fallen off a swing set. The child is bleeding and crying.

Does the mother give in to her worst fears? Does she start weeping and screaming? Nope.

“You’ll be OK, sweetie. We’re going to take a quick ride to the emergency room! Won’t that be exciting!”

In business, we often find ourselves in situations where we need to be brave. We need to show confidence we don’t feel.

Let me share three situations where this can happen:

  1. A novice speaker feels terrified. She’s never stood in front of a group of professionals before. She has wonderful knowledge to share, but she has butterflies. 🦋 She feels so nervous, she’s scared she might throw up.

  2. A seasoned pro feels confident. He’s stood in front of groups a zillion times before. Minutes before a critical speech, however; he learns of a grave personal tragedy. 💔 Heartbroken, he feels like bursting into tears.

  3. A mid-career pro is on stage, wowing the audience. Suddenly, an alarm sounds. A flurry of text alerts go off, advising everyone in the room of a weather emergency. 🌪️The on-stage performer is so afraid, she feels like fleeing.

When “being authentic and keepin’ it real” means puking, crying, and/or running away — you’ll want to consider other options. If you feel afraid: it’s 100% OK to muster up courage and instead show confidence.

A one minute video, where I offer a little pep talk to a nervous speaker…

If you’re standing in front of an audience, you’re in a leadership position. Your fear can spread like a contagion. For the good of your audience, you can’t risk starting a panic by acting on your worst fears.

You need to show courage. You need to be brave.

It you want to be self-deprecating, you can call your real bravery ‘fake it ’til you make it’. That’s cool. I get it. I think it’s a shame, though…

Social pressure forces you to re-frame your “real bravery” as “fake confidence”.

…but I see you. When you say ‘fake it ’til you make it’ – I know who you really are. You’re my favorite kind of person.

You’re brave. When you feel scared, but carry on with confidence – that’s almost the dictionary definition of courage.

Hardihood?

So let’s say you’re faking confidence…does this mean you’re an impostor? In a word, no.

I know social pressure can be a monster, though. You’ve probably heard voices say “fake” anything is wrong and bad.

Social conditioning may have laid a vicious head trip on you. It’s an ugly voice telling you any display of confidence needs to be “real” not “fake”. It’s this dreadful and simplistic notion of:

“fake always bad; real always good!”

News flash: sometimes, real confidence can be a real disaster. Further, a wellspring of heartfelt self-assurance is not likely to magically radiate out of a real expert who is suddenly thrust into a completely unfamiliar situation.

It’s why experts practice and drill. It’s why we rehearse and edit. It’s why we put ourselves in new and challenging situations.

We need to develop more than a shallow “just be authentic” form of self awareness. How can you “just be yourself” if you don’t really know yourself… or how you might act in unfamiliar situation? How do you work with authentic “fight or flight” instincts that might not serve you well?

Thoughtful, introspective people choose continuous learning. They’ll often pick an environment like a classroom or workshop to build experience, knowledge, and confidence.

Smart people don’t sit around and hope for confidence to magically appear when they need it the most. They go out of their way to develop and nurture it with training and practice.

Consider these three learning scenarios where almost everything is fake:

  1. In beginning public speaking classes, we practice physical exercises in a friendly environment. When we work on techniques and gain experience speaking in front of others; we start to feel less afraid. 🦋
  2. In speech workshops, speakers receive feedback. They may decide to tweak their content structure and word choices before going public. Editing and coaching often improves messaging.  ❤️
  3. In crisis communication sessions, we drill on worst case scenarios that have yet to happen. We role play to be mentally, physically, and emotionally prepared to face tough challenges. 🌪️

In each case, we’re not being 100% authentic. The classroom is a simulation, not reality. Through learning, we build confidence.

When you’re navigating through difficult and complex issues, be aware of nuance. Instead of a clinging to simple gut-level truisms; consider serving a higher truth.

Courage.


Laura Bergells is a writer, teacher, and a #LinkedInLearning author. Check out her courses on Crisis Communication and Public Speaking. New this month: Establishing Credibility as a Speaker.

You can find Laura on Twitter and at YouTube.

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Education Presentation

I don’t attend conferences where speakers don’t get paid

I give up. Starting today, on #EqualPayDay — I won’t pay to go to business conferences where speakers don’t get paid.

The conference organizers will pay for the room and the food. But they won’t pay speakers for crafting and delivering content? The conference venue makes money — but the speakers don’t?

It makes no sense to me. But, still, I’ll hear unpaid speakers say,

“No, wait. I get paid. I get paid with exposure, experience, and connections.”

Goody for them. These privileged people don’t need actual money. They don’t value their content. So they’re leveraging their privilege to gain even more privilege. In so doing, they’re blocking  a more valuable perspective from ever reaching the audience.

I don’t want a privileged person to take a job from someone who needs money. And who could use those valuable connections. And who actually has something rare to tell me.

Why would I support a privileged person taking a job from someone who cannot afford to speak for free?  By taking an unpaid engagement, the privileged person silences the voices of people I want to hear from the most.

People with something valuable to say are worth more than the crudites or coffee. If conferences won’t give speakers that respect, I will.

Starting today, I’ll ask if speakers are getting paid. If they aren’t, I’ll ask if the venue or organizers are getting paid. If the venue is donating the space — I’ll consider going.

But if the venue is getting paid and the speakers aren’t? Pass. I won’t support it.

Follow the money. Who’s making bank on unpaid labor?

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Education fun PowerPoint Presentation

Do you want me to bore you?

Tiger Yawning

“I can bore you to death with a couple hundred PowerPoint slides for the next hour, or we can have a discussion and make this fun and interactive,” said the speaker.

Seriously. Those were the first words out of his mouth. The audience of around 50 just sat there, including me.

After about 5 silent and stunned seconds, I was the first to speak.

“Let’s make it fun and interactive,” I said.

“Oh, good,” said the speaker. “I was hoping someone would say that.”

He flipped off the projection unit that showed the title page of his slide deck. He began interacting with the audience. He held our attention for over an hour. I walked away learning quite a bit and enjoyed the give-and-take between speaker and audience members.

But it left me wondering. Why would he give us a choice? And why would anyone choose the boring option?

 

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Coaching crisis Education video

Team Building & Crisis Communication Fundamentals

I hope you never experience a crisis. But when you do, be prepared.

Introducing Crisis Communication Fundamentals, my latest online course. It’s available now in the Lynda.com content library.

Crisis Communication FundamentalsI felt inspired to write this course because I’ve watched people struggle to figure out how to communicate when something unexpected and unpleasant strikes their organization. My aim is to reduce the panic that people can feel when something goes wrong.

When you take a little time to prepare, you’re on your way to learning how to communicate calmly, quickly, and confidently. My hope is that this course will help you drill on the fundamentals in a way that engages and inspires your crisis communication response teams.

You can take this course alone, or use it as a team building or class exercise. Watch the videos, download the exercise files, and complete each step-by-step activityIf you’re a PR or communication professor interested in the flipped classroom approach, try reviewing this course to see if it will work as part of your lesson plan. 

And even if don’t think you’re involved in crisis communication, think again. I recently published You Might Be in Crisis Communication — And Not Know It.  At some point, everyone experiences a crisis.

It helps to think through how you’ll respond; not just as an individual, but as an organization. Take some time to prepare. I hope you can prevent a bad situation from becoming worse — and that you’ll feel prepared to respond with confidence.

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Blogging Education Presentation social media

Why sign the photo release?

Stock photos pretty much suck. Perhaps they had their time and place, but their moment has passed.

After a few years of looking at your friend’s photos on Instagram and Facebook, your eyes have been accustomed to seeing real people doing real activities. In contrast, stock photos of people faking their emotions doesn’t quite resonate with you anymore.

We know cheese when we see it, and we don’t like it.

Over at WebInkNow, the wonderful writer David Meerman Scott blogged about browsing the web to research senior living centers for his father. The facilities that used stock photos of elderly people on their websites didn’t speak to Mr. Scott. He preferred sites that featured the images of real people.

Naturally. I seriously prefer real people to stock photos, too. No question.

However I also decline to routinely sign photo releases. I recommend that others decline, as well. Nursing homes and day care facilities will often try to slip in a photo release in the stacks of papers you must sign for a parent or child to enter their programs or receive needed services. If you don’t sign, they will often try to pressure you to do so.

Don’t do it.

The stock photo models make money for their work. Why don’t your parents and grandparents? Why don’t your children?

Many facilities are learning that stock photos aren’t cutting it anymore. They want to use your child’s image. They want an image of elderly parents and grandparents.

And they want to use them for free.

Is exploitation of free labor really the way to go? How is exploiting the image of your loved ones demonstrating client care? And if it’s all so innocent, why slip in a photo release in the middle of umpteen other forms that need to be signed strictly for the care of the client?

I suspect nursing homes and other facilities rely on our naivety about paid creative work. This is becoming an all-too common abusive practice, worthy of education and discussion.

Categories
Education social media video

Yes, But It Was Only a Quiet Two Million

YouTube 2 million

Back in 2007, I quickly tossed up a YouTube instructional video. It took me about a half hour to make the 4:46 minute video.

Today, the video will reach its 2 millionth view.

But it’s not a viral video. It’s not hip or trendy. It didn’t get a big spike in viewership and then go away. It was meant to be helpful, and at least a few hundred people a day still watch it.

And I still receive a ‘thank you’ for posting it almost every day. Those thank-yous have often been real day brighteners for me. 

Thanks for watching. And thanks to the 4K+ who “liked” it. Thanks to the thousands of friendly commenters — I understand that’s a rarity in YouTube comment land!

And thanks to new clients who hired me — just because they “liked my style” or “liked my voice” on the video! Who knew?

It’s a different world than it was in 2007. What tiny little thing will you do to today that might quietly ripple into 2020 and beyond?

Categories
Coaching Education

Why do you need a building to get an education?

A few weeks ago, I went to tour the new Seidman Business School Building on the downtown GVSU campus. Reports say the new building cost around $40 million.

Wow. All that money for a business school building! Accounting, economics, finance, management, marketing — fields like that.

You know, the kind of topics people all over the world are learning online. Not in buildings.

The Seidman building is huge — four floors — and richly appointed with artwork and sumptuous furniture. I took the elevator up to the top floor and worked my way down. On every floor I walked from one end to the other, exploring a few rooms, and marveling at the museum quality artwork in the hallways and conference rooms.

When I left the building, my pedometer registered over 3,000 steps. And I have very long legs.

Like I said, huge building. Shockingly so.

Even more shocking: all this new space, and no new faculty. And only one of the floors was devoted to classrooms. The rest were offices, meeting rooms, study rooms, computer rooms, break rooms, copy rooms, and washrooms.

I can’t say for sure, but I think I saw more washrooms than classrooms.

It reminded me of a giant cruise ship. So well appointed. So opulent. So grand.

I’m walking through the open vastness, smelling the new building smell, and all I can think is,

“This reminds me of the Titanic.”

As Mark Cuban recently blogged in Will Your College Go Out of Business Before You Graduate?,

Why in the world are schools building new buildings? What is required in a business school classroom that is any different from the classroom for psychology or sociology or English or any other number of classes?

Like Cuban, I believe that colleges can offer educational value to students. The question isn’t whether young people need to go to college, but whether that college will be in business by the time students graduate. And whether colleges are making smart, sustainable decisions about how they provide value to students and society.

Are giant buildings like these really necessary to get an excellent business education? Especially since online learning is where the future of business education lies? Is racking up enormous student debt to pay for this four year cruise ship experience worth it?

It’s past time for colleges (and students!) to ask tough questions.

  • How does a giant cruise ship of a building provide educational value to a four year business student?
  • How much effort has the college devoted to understanding how to deliver excellent learning opportunities in online environments?
  • How else can students get the same or superior educational value for a fraction of the cost of a traditional 4 year education?
  • How does amassing enormous college debt while in your twenties enrich the lives of students and our society?

I graduated from GVSU. I even taught as an adjunct there. I hope it sticks around for a long, long time. I hope students learn and grow and accomplish great work.

I hope GVSU is not too big to fail. I really hope it’s not the Titanic.

I hope it only looks that way, for now.