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fun Presentation public speaking

AWE: Acronyms Without Explanation!

HE: That presentation was filled with A-W-E.
Acronyms Without Explanation!
ME: So, it was an AWEful presentation?
HE: Yep. Totally AWEful. I had no idea what was going on!

Hey, it’s a good idea to avoid industry jargon and acronyms.

But if you’ve got to use ‘em, at least explain ‘em.

Don’t be so AWEful! 

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

🔥🔥🔥 Laura coaches executives on Camera via Zoom. When you need to rehearse an important presentation or prepare for a media interview, why not book an online consultation?

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Coaching Education fun public speaking video

What if you have to sneeze in an on-camera interview?

What if you have to sneeze on camera

What do you do when you feel like you have to sneeze during an on-camera interview? Here’s your two step process:

1. Camera off first.

2. Then, hit mute.

Nobody wants to see or hear you as you “ugly sneeze!”

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

🔥🔥🔥 Laura coaches executives on Camera via Zoom. When you need to rehearse an important presentation or prepare for a media interview, why not book a one-hour, online consultation?

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communication crisis Education fun Presentation public speaking web meetings

Zoom Meetings: Prevent BATS IN THE CAVE with 2 simple tips

I’ve been in quite a few Zoom web meetings lately, and I’ve seen a lot of BATS IN THE CAVE, if you know what I mean.

If you don’t know what I mean by BATS IN THE CAVE — it’s when someone is using the camera on their laptop and I can look straight up their nose during the meeting.

Really, BATS IN THE CAVE is not a good look on anyone!

If you use a laptop for web meetings, I’ll give you two tips to help you get rid of that BATS IN THE CAVE look.

1. Get a stack of books. Raise your laptop up so your eyes are level with the camera.

2. Get a sticky note. Attach it to your monitor with an arrow or a smiley face, reminding you to look up and SMILE.

It’s the simple things. You can MacGyver this and still look like a polished professional.

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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 Lynda.com 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.

Categories
fun

Zhooshing up your business language with made-up or unusual words

the word Zhoosh

“Zhoosh”. It’s a word that’s fun to say, but hard to spell.

It has its roots in Polari, the slang language of low creative and underground subcultures. And yet, I used the word “zhoosh” in a client work email last month.

Was I being professional? In the context I used it, it was a low creative risk.

It worked as a piece of flair to zhoosh up an otherwise dry, workaday missive.

As Stan Phelps of Purple Goldfish fame writes:

Wouldn’t the world be a brighter place if we all strove to put a little more zhoosh into the lives of others? Here’s a handful that I’m trying my best to make a small dent in the lexicon of life:

Lagniappe – similar to Zhoosh, a little something extra that’s added in customer experience for good measure. Mark Twain called it a word worth traveling to New Orleans to get.

Plussing – coined by Walt Disney, it’s kind of the verb of lagniappe. The act of looking at something and dong a little more to improve it and make it better by plussing it up.

Flawsom – the art of embracing what’s weird or weak, because our flaws hold the key to what makes us awesome.

Humanware – improving how our brain functions by sharpening our soft skills as we manage ourselves and perceive others.

Diamond Rule – the art of managing yourself under pressure and addressing the needs of others to avoid their triggers.

What unusual, risky, or completely made-up word choices have you used lately in a professional setting? How’d it work out for you?

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 Lynda.com 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.

Categories
fun video

What if you didn’t own a car anymore?

I own a car. When it dies, I may not buy another. In fact, I may never own another car again in my lifetime.

I don’t want to be careless. I’d rather be carless.

This is a shocking statement for a middle-aged Michigan suburbanite to make. For a time, I worked in the auto industry. Almost everyone I know here is dependent on cars for their livelihood. Many even derive their identity and social status from the type of car they own.

A car isn’t what people drive: it’s who they are. 

So how could I say “I’m not buying another car” — and still expect to have friends? Will I ever be invited to parties again?

Sure. From time to time, I say things that upset my friends. We all do.

But when I announce that I’ve had it with car ownership, my friends and colleagues regard me with amusement. They react as if I’ve told them a joke. 

But I’m not kidding. Here’s my reality:

I bought a brand new car in 2003: cash, no note. It’s still in good shape. Today, I mostly bop around town in it. 

I pay $700.50/year in annual car insurance. Between oil changes, repairs, licensing fees, and fuel: that’s another $1K. So I’ll round up and say I have operating costs of around $2K/year.

(Notice how I’m not even counting original costs, depreciation, loss of interest, parking, or storage. If I did, that would be another $2K a year.)

Many would characterize my car situation as “dirt cheap”. But today, I consider my car ownership a luxury. I needed a car in the ’00’s – but do I really need it anymore?

What I’m really paying for is convenience. If I have a whim to go somewhere at any time, I can indulge it.

I don’t have to think or plan. I’m paying for the privilege of being mindless: for the illusion of being able to go wherever I want, whenever I want.

But $2-4K a year? It seems excessive.

I work out of my home office. Most of what I do and where I go is within 2 miles of my home. I walk almost everywhere. Further, technological advances are changing the way I think about car ownership.

For most client work, I use online tools. We meet using Skype and Hangouts: or Zoom and BlueJeans. That’s a giant change from 2003, where most client meetings and work needed to be in person.

I avoided renting a car for business travel this year. Not once so far! (Fingers crossed.)

For some meetings and events, I still need to be physically present. For example, I can drive to and from one client’s office in 22 minutes. A bike takes 40 minutes. The bus? 84 minutes — but only when it’s on time. (The bus is almost never on time in my home town of Grand Rapids.)

Further, I can only take the bike or bus on mild days. I can’t show up to client meetings covered in rain, snow, or sweat. Getting to the airport for out-of-town work? It requires a car service: taxi, limo, Lyft, etc. 

While I use my car for some trips — I find myself using it less over time. In 2016, I drove it a total of 3,104 miles. In 2017? I drove 2,604 miles. 

So if you’re like me and would prefer not to own another car: let’s do a thought experiment. What would happen if my reliable old car stopped working today?

I wouldn’t buy another. Rather, I’d bike more. I’d walk even more than I already do. I’d use ride services like Lyft more. 

I’d probably invest in an electric bicycle, to give me an assist as I go up more hills. Until autonomous ride-hailing becomes reality, I’d rent cars for out-of-town business trips. I’d also use public transportation more. 

Without a car, I’d be less thoughtless and spontaneous. I’d be more thoughtful about planning my time and trips. 

I’d probably have to buy more goods online. This means saying bye-bye to monthly trips to Costco. (This popular online warehouse is a 26 minute round trip drive from my home, but it’s 2+ hour trip by bus. Over an hour of that bus trip involves walking to bus stops. With heavy parcels? Costco’s free snacks are nice, but a big warehouse in the middle-of-nowhere-with-a-huge-parking-lot? That model’s not gonna work in my near future.)

Socially, I know some friends would be upset by my lack of car. My curtailed spontaneity will be inconvenient for them.

Other friends are supportive. In a small town in Michigan in 2018, I suspect “going carless” would generate some gossip.

But in a short time, gossip will stop. And soon, going carless will be seen as normal. Everyone will be doing it. 

When more people stop buying cars, neighborhoods change. Public transportation improves. Communities plan infrastructure with walking and biking in mind.

People will say “hi” more. Health improves as people bike and walk more in fresher air. Small neighborhood businesses spring up and thrive on popular walking/biking routes.

Am I wrong about some of these positive aspects of giving up on car ownership? Am I dreaming?

Will we soon see significant social, economic, and environmental changes brought about by the decline of car culture? Or do people love the idea of cars too much to give them up, no matter what the costs?

I dunno. I still can’t figure out what we’ll all do with all our empty garages and parking lots. Build the next great technology, I guess. Or start a grunge band. I like to tinker and experiment, so maybe I’ll do more of that. 

How do you feel about the mere idea of giving up your car…for good? Does it fill you with thoughts of dread and anger? Or do you have a more sunny view of your carless future?


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

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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?”

“Probably.”

“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.

Categories
Coaching Education fun Presentation public speaking

What are you doing with your face + body during a team presentation?

Being a part of a team or ensemble can be fun and uplifting. And for the audience, a great team is a joy to watch.

Ask any sports fan. They’ll tell you this is true.

In contrast, let me describe the on-screen action I saw in a recent online group presentation. Maybe this will sound familiar to you:

Two guys fiddled on their phones while one colleague talked. Then guy #2 started talking.

Guy #1 and #3 started playing with their phones. When guy #3 talked, a woman seated at the conference table rolled away and faced the door.

Let’s pretend the content of this meeting was strong and the information was outstanding. What did the non-verbals say?

distracted

Hot. Mess. 

You guessed it. This was not a great team showing.

Each person focused solely on their own personal performance while speaking. They barely acknowledged the others in the room.

My guess? They didn’t know what team role to play while they weren’t speaking.

That’s not a team presentation. That’s a series of individual performances.

If you’re not talking, you’re still presenting. You need to be active and engaged in a team presentation.

What role should you play in a team presentation when you’re not talking? It depends.

Huddle with your the team before the show. In general, there are two non-speaking roles:

1) cheerleader or 2) observer.

cheer leader

What do I mean by cheerleader? What role do cheerleaders play?

By cheerleader, I mean when one of your team members is talking, you look at them. You focus on the speaker and give them your energy.

You smile and nod when it’s appropriate. You make it clear to the audience that you think the presenter is a genius.

You give your team member your undivided attention and full support. That’s what I mean by cheerleader.

You’re not waving pompoms. You are sending positive energy to your team member so they deliver a better presentation.

You’re also sending a great non-verbal message to the audience. Your body language puts the audience at ease.

When you pay attention to the speaker, so does the audience. When they see you smile and nod, they’re more likely to mimic your behavior.

But cheerleader isn’t the only position you can play. You can also be an observer.

observer watchdog
Watch, Dog.

What’s an observer? What role do observers play?

The observer looks at the audience and picks up on their non-verbal cues. Hey, did somebody look confused when your speaker said something?

Or if it’s an online presentation, did someone write in with a question or comment? The observer watches quietly, and sometimes takes notes.

The observer can feed the speaker with questions after he or she finishes speaking. Observers often positively rephrase any parts that may have caused confusion.

For example,

“That was great, Laura. I especially liked that part where you said ‘just because you’re not speaking doesn’t mean you’re not presenting.’ To me, that means I’m not going to check my phone or otherwise check out mentally while you’re talking. I’m on your team, so I’m going to give you my attention. Good advice!”

See what the observer did? The observer was active and engaged. The observer supported and reinforced the speaker’s message.

If one of your team members or co-presenters is talking, give that person your support. You may be a cheerleader or an observer, but decide ahead of time what role you’re going to play when you’re not talking.

Then, act your part. When you’re giving a team presentation, be mindful of what you’re doing when you are not speaking.

team presentation

Go team!


Laura Bergells is a writer, teacher, and a LinkedIn Learning course author. Check out her courses on Crisis Communication and Public Speaking.

Laura has decades of experience as a business communication coach. She has a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and leads workshops on effective communication. You can find Laura on Twitter and at YouTube.

Categories
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. 

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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.

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Coaching fun public speaking

Impostor Syndrome is not the problem. Expert Syndrome is.

Apparently, I have Impostor Syndrome. An estimated 70% of us do.

Even so, I don’t feel I should write this post. Who am I to write about my own experience?

I don’t even know how to spell it. Is it Imposter Syndrome? Or is it Impostor Syndrome?

E or O?

That’s the essence of Imposter Syndrome. I always feel someone else knows more than me, even about my own life experience.

I’ll research to the point of ridiculousness. I feel like a giant fraud, at all times.

But my Impostor Syndrome? It’s totally reasonable.

I know millions of other people must be more talented and knowledgeable than me. That’s basic math.

My accomplishments? I got lucky.

I was born into a family that loved and supported me. I was born into a social system that gave me advantages. That’s basic Sociology.

If you try to sooth me by saying, “But you work hard!” — I will reply, “Hard work is irrelevant. Zillions of people work harder than I do. They weren’t as lucky as me.”

I know this. I will not be soothed. I will not be convinced of my worthiness.

Also, I’d rather not be labeled with any kind of syndrome. But if I had a choice between Impostor Syndrome and Expert Syndrome, I’d pick Impostor Syndrome. Some cool and accomplished people have Impostor Syndrome.

Tom Hanks? Maya Angelou? Sonia Sotomayor?

Shoot. I’m in good company.

So why is it that I’m frequently targeted with a blizzard of self-help articles on how to overcome Imposter Syndrome? My Impostor Syndrome has some positive outcomes. It fuels my self-deprecating humor. It inspires me to appreciate and respect the contributions of others. It motivates me to keep learning more.

In contrast, what about all those know-nothings who seem high on self-importance? Why aren’t they being hammered with articles to help them overcome their Expert Syndrome?

Check out these search results: that’s some kind of disparity in self-help volume.

expert syndrome doesn't exist

It turns out, Expert Syndrome isn’t even real. It seems I made the term up in a fit of pique. Expert Syndrome doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry. Instead, it’s called the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

That’s not phrase parity. I’m gonna continue to call it Expert Syndrome, by cracky.

Because no offense to Dunning or Kruger, but people instantly know what I mean when I say Expert Syndrome. You see it everywhere.

If someone with Expert Syndrome browses an article about a topic, they feel they’ve earned a Ph.D. on the subject. If they do an hour’s worth of mediocre work, they update their resume with their accomplishments — then alert the media. They might be tone-deaf, but they believe they can win American Idol.

I crown myself

Buoyed by overconfidence and entitlement, people with Expert Syndrome actually think they understand topics deeply or do things well. They feel they possess an incredible wealth of experience, talent, and knowledge.

But they don’t. They’re delusional.

It sounds hard to believe, but someone can demonstrate a long track record of failure – and still project confidence. And often, the public will overlook their obvious lack of knowledge, talent, and experience. Instead, they’ll fall for the swagger.

Expert Syndrome is a huge problem for organizations. People with Expert Syndrome interview well. They write impressive résumés. They display the charm that wins over recruiters, interviewers, and hiring managers. When they fail at work, they get promoted: because in our culture, outsized confidence often trumps lackluster results.

It’s not only a personal failing, it’s a cultural one. Organizations that value braggadocio are top heavy with people who lack knowledge, ability, empathy, and understanding.

And that’s one reason why there are few self-help articles directed at solving Expert Syndrome. There’s no target audience. A person with Expert Syndrome won’t recognize themselves — so they won’t even feel tempted to read it.

I'm drunk on self-importance

Society provides no incentive for those with Expert Syndrome to seek help. Instead, they are often rewarded for their behavior.

That brings us back to Impostor Syndrome. The 70% of us who have it? We might be the only hope to end the scourge of Expert Syndrome.

We need to take an ironic first step: we need to pretend we have confidence. When it comes to displaying confidence, we actually need to become the impostors we think we are.

I know you won’t do this for you. You’re probably not much of a “personal gain” kind of person.

But maybe you’ll fake confidence to help others. We need talented and thoughtful people. We need people with empathy and insight. We need to work with people who are actually aware of the simple fact they don’t know everything.

That’s why you need to at least pretend to be confident. If you don’t, we might have to continue to work with insufferable blowhard know-nothings.

So don’t be selfish about this. Embrace your Impostor Syndrome — and learn to fake confidence.


Laura Bergells is a writer, teacher, and a #LinkedInLearning author. Check out her courses on Crisis Communication and Public Speaking.

You can find Laura on Twitter and at YouTube.

Categories
communication fun

When businesses thank you for your patience, they’re treating you like a dog — one of Pavlov’s dogs.

I often act patient, even when I don’t feel it. I’ll bet you have, too.

We’ve been conditioned.

Let’s say you been on hold with customer service for what seems like forever. One of the first things the phone rep might say is “thank you for your patience.”

They’ve been trained to say it. But you?

You’re not feeling patient. You’re feeling the exact opposite of patient.

“Thank you for your sarcasm,” you want to reply. But don’t.

Because that’s not how we’ve been trained to play the ‘thank you for your patience’ game. The rules of this social situation say “You can’t be authentic. You must pretend to be patient.”

So you sigh, choke down your fury, and move the conversation forward. You’re also aware the ‘thank you for your patience’ game took another 3 seconds of your time. This further erodes your already frayed pretend-patience.

The patience game is oh-so tedious. You’d rather not play it, but what can you do?

Always a dog, tugging a rope

The other day, I saw a sign attached to a velvet rope. A business was training customers to snake through a queue to get to three harried customer service reps. The sad little sign read — you guessed it:

“Thank you for your patience.”

But few people looked patient. Most looked annoyed and/or weary.

Some looked resigned to their fate. These more placid people had whipped out their phones and were amusing themselves while they waited.

But you? You have some degree of emotional intelligence. You know ‘resigned to your fate’ is a far different feeling than ‘patience’.

The sad little velvet rope sign could have more truthfully read,

“You might be waiting in line a long time. Management would appreciate it if you could resign yourself to this fate.”

Why don't you thank me for my patience one more time?

Businesses who ‘thank you for your patience’ plan to inconvenience you. They know in advance they have a problem. They could have invested in resources. They could innovate. They could choose to handle your issue promptly — but they didn’t.

They decided it’s cheaper to make a sign. Or it’s easier to tell a frazzled front-line employee to utter some clichéd words in an attempt to soothe you into compliance.

“Thank you for your patience” relies on behavioral conditioning. It’s a blatant attempt to cow customers into acting in a way that’s not authentic.

It’s Pavlovian. You hear “thank you for your patience” – and you might actually simmer down for a few seconds. You know it’s not the front-line rep’s fault. You want to snap — but you probably won’t.

Not yet. But all that’s changing.

You might not have to play the ‘thank you for your patience’ game too much longer. Some new signs are cropping up. Your natural, authentic impatience is being recognized and rewarded.

  • Wait in line at a movie? Or download it instantly from home?
  • Wait in line for returns? Or download an app?
  • Go to the store? Or have the store come to you?

Industry leaders in customer service are putting out new signs. All these signs say:

“Thank you for your impatience. You’re inspiring us to innovate as fast as we can.”

Consequently, your behavior will change. You will find yourself losing an enormous amount of patience with businesses that thank you for your patience.

You will not be loyal. You will not comply. You will not be obedient.

But for the moment, you might still have to work with a company that relies on you to fake some patience. Take heart. These companies might not be around much longer.

Until they’re gone for good, play your own game. Count how many times you hear and see ‘thank you for your patience’ for the rest of the year. Note the businesses that have invested in this Pavlovian practice.

Then, see how much longer they last. Maybe our impatience will finally be rewarded.


Laura has decades of experience as a business communication coach. She has a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and leads workshops on effective communication. You can find Laura on Twitter and at YouTube.

Check out her courses on LinkedIn Learning: Crisis Communication and Public Speaking.