The Human Touch

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Covering the latest trends in Mobility, Cloud, Security and Open Source, I just wrapped three Tech Conferences in three weeks.

There were rows and rows of vendor booths, days filled with sessions and workshops – I led a session on “Negotiations,” for example – from which participants could learn and get information.

Learning doesn’t have to be boring.  Any topic can be made interesting and engaging.  As someone confided in me after my particularly boisterous and lively – by design – session ended,

“People come to conferences hoping to have fun!”

And that’s what stood out to me the most.  In spite of all the high-tech talk, the real value sprang from gathering people together with other like-minded people.

One evening, I attended a dinner with a variety of interesting people including some top IT educators from CompTIA, Skillsoft and Netcom.  The dinner organizer, Teresa, put together lists of fun and funny questions to move our conversations away from strictly business, to the more human side of life.  It was a blast.

At one of the other conferences, the organizers rented out Wrigley Field, the historic home of the Chicago Cubs as well as the long-clinging hopes since 1908 for another World Series win.

We met Hall of Famer Billy Williams, had our picture taken with Cubs mascot, Clark, walked around on the actual outfield, and even could have a turn at bat.  I took advantage of each of these opportunities, laughing and joking with my fellow conference goers as we stood in line.  When it was my turn, I promise I really connected with the ball.  Okay, it was a foul fly, but for me that counted!

My ball-bat connection wasn’t the only one that counted.  I connected with some very terrific people doing some great work.  Great conversations forge friendships that can lead to business opportunities.  Look for me to begin to roll-out some communications training courses on-line soon through a partnership with a tech-educator I met.

As I always say,

“Great communications equals great relationships.”

People connecting with other people.  As my three conferences demonstrated, face to face still trumps Instagram, Snapchat, Periscope, you name your social media tool of choice.  They may start virtually, but at some point, most communications, like relationships, will need to be solidified in person.

Be it at a meeting or a conference or whatever.  We still like the human touch.  Thank goodness!

Copyright 2015 Gina London.  All Rights Reserved. 

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7 Communications Steps to Making Your Organizational Change a SUCCESS!

Communications is the key to the success of any organizational transformation or change.

Time For Change

This week I was interviewed as a communications expert to be part of a university’s upcoming interactive textbook on business.

Students will read a variety of case studies, answer a quiz about how they would theoretically handle the described situations and then watch a video from an expert who gives their take on what the realities are.

I’ll keep you posted when the book comes out . Until then, here’s a sneak peek on how I explained the importance of a putting an input-gathering communications and messaging plan in place before any organizational change is announced or implemented.

Change communication is a whole area of study in of itself.  If you don’t have time for that, here are some quick and important considerations to bear in mind!

1. The communications plan is the foundation of any change.

If the foundation isn’t laid properly, the whole change campaign will collapse.  This results in extra, unplanned and not-budgeted time and resources that will have to be dumped into the change project – to try to rebuild the foundation.  The change outcomes will likely never be as strong as they could have if the plan had been executied right the first time.

And yet, communications strategies are too often overlooked. Executives may think successful change rests on the simple merits of the change itself. But that’s wrong. Information alone is not enough to convince and persuade employees that the change is in their best interest.

2. The number one thing is to allocate the proper time.

Your “transformation lag,” as some businesses call it, is at least an 18-month process before the “official announcement.”  The trouble occurs when the change announcement is made first and then the buy-in is attempted.  Successful change happens in the opposite order.

3. Developing the proper messages around your change idea is critical.

This should never be done in a vacuum.  The person or small confidential team that develops the change idea – MUST spend time writing out the benefits and positive reasons behind this effort – and prepare for EVERY possible objection AND then craft positive responses to them.

But that’s not enough – the messages must be tested… 

4. So, identifying stakeholders – in tiers – is next and this requires the most delicacy and protocol.

You’re essentially building a political outreach campaign. What’s the number that you need to win?  Different than elections, you’re going to strive for more than 51 percent for your victory. You want to get as many people on board – before you make the official announcement.  This all must be done in the proper order.  Think of concentric circles.  Protocol is key here. You must be careful NOT to offend anyone in this process.

Your first tier of stakeholders is what we call in campaigning, the “Influencers.” Like the name implies, they have to have a lot of clout and influence among identified next tier stakeholder groups.

Depending on the type of change – you can also consider influencers who are  “Third party advocates.” Here, think of a major vendor or client or board member who may not be part of your organization ,per se, but who is respected, well-known and influential anyway.

Test your messages with this group and gather intel and responses from them. Incorporate their feedback.

5. Stakeholder fan out.

Next come the other tiers as dictated by their levels of influence and respect, size, etc.  You’re doing all this in the “message testing” phase –and while you’re doing that, you’re gathering their input, showing them you value them, and re-calibrating your message if you need to. And! getting all important pre-roll-out buy–in!

The goal here is that by the time you roll out whatever your change is, you have critical mass of stakeholder buy-in – you have vetted your message and benefits, objections properly – that you will have success.

6. Campaign roll-out rewards.

Your change campaign doesn’t end there – you can’t make the announcement and walk away. You should also have a calendar of milestone small reward moments built in.  Incentives to encourage implementation.   This is the test drive area.

7. Over time, you can institutionalize the change.

Be ready with the frame work for writing the change into manuals, handbooks, whatever.. but this comes after success in the previous steps.

For Change Communications to be successful, you must devise a two-way street.  Getting stakeholder buy-in on message and benefits early, BEFORE announcement and implementation may seem like a lot of work, but it will dramatically increase your rate of success – and that saves time and money!

I’m so grateful that you are reading my essays. I write inspirationally about better communications, business and life empowerment. If you would like to read regularly, please click ‘Follow’ (at the top of the page) and feel free to also connect at LinkedIn, via Twitter, Facebook and at GinaLondon.com

Copyright Gina London 2015. All Rights Reserved. 

Practice. Hard work that’s worth it.

Here in Italy, this is the first full week of elementare. Italian schools skip kindergarten, so at still five-years -old, Lulu has abruptly jumped from preschool to first grade.

First day of first grade here in Tuscany.
First day of first grade here in Tuscany.

“There’s so much work now.  I liked materna (preschool) better!” she has told me.

“But it takes hard work to get better.  It’s worth the effort!” I advise.

If you have taken the time to write an audience-worthy speech with captivating and simple slides, you need to make the effort to practice your presentation.

Several times.

I know a consultant who says she will rehearse a new keynote speech about twenty times before giving it.

Gina’s practical practice tips.

Read your script out-loud.   Don’t simply read your script to yourself and then glance at your slides.   Practicing out-loud is a great opportunity to adjust your wording, add in more active verbs and colorful adjectives if it’s within your personality – to help create imagery for your audience.  Did you write the way you speak?

Now Stand-up.   If you’re going to present standing up, you better practice the same way.  Look out toward an imaginary audience.  Look away from your notes.  Make broad, wide gestures.  Click through your slides.

Memorize your Introduction and Closing.  Some consultants caution against memorization because they don’t want their clients to forget a word on presentation day and freeze.  But I urge you to memorize not only the words of your first and final paragraphs, but also the intent. Once memorized, rehearse these words with the proper feeling  and comprehension – don’t just recite them by rote.  That way, you’ll have a strong beginning and finish.

Practice in sections and completely  It may be helpful to pull-out a difficult section and repeat it several times to make sure you don’t forget a data point and stumble on presentation day.  But don’t forget to practice your full presentation in real-time.  When I was in the TV news business, we would sometimes record my report and send it out the satellite for stations to use later.  It was called a “look live” – which means I presented just as if I were live – not stopping if I slightly tripped on a word or phrase.  Run through your complete presentation, from beginning to end.

Record and play back.  There is no substitute for watching yourself.   Set up a flip cam or your phone and hit record!  Imagine you’re the audience watching your presentation for the first time.  Are you engaging and memorable?  What can you do to make yourself that way?

You will learn the flow of your slides.  You’ll hear where you need to tighten up your words and make your points stronger.  You’ll see your facial expressions and gestures. Practice is a great thing!

Success in presentations, like school, takes hard work!
Success in presentations, like school, takes hard work!

Author Ray Bradbury backs up what I said to my young daughter when he said, “I know you’ve heard it a thousand times before. But it’s true – hard work pays off.  If you want to be good, you have to practice, practice, practice.”

If you have a video of a presentation you made, email it to me. I’ll give you a free evaluation!

Baci, 

Gina

Four presentation habits you should NOT learn from Lulu.

When it comes to creating a more engaging presentation, one of the most important ingredients not to forget is emotion.  You’re presenting to an audience of people and no matter what information you intend to share, you’ll do it better if you connect with the humans in your audience in some caring way.

I often point to the  heartfelt passion of my five-year-old daughter, Lulu.  Yesterday, I shared four speaking tips you can learn from her.

Here’s Lulu telling the story of The Three Little Pigs (in case you didn’t catch it yesterday)

But since she is only five, her passion is also unfiltered and unchecked.  And so, now, here are the equally important four speaking habits of Lulu, that you should not do.

Rascal Lulu
Rascal Lulu
  1. Ramble. Lulu doesn’t rehearse before she tells a story, she just goes! That means she meanders. A lot. One technique is to use anecdotes and stories to illustrate and enforce your main points.  Whatever the technique, make sure your audience knows where the important nuggets are. Unlike Lulu, a good presenter doesn’t ramble.  He or she rehearses and edits. A lot.
  2. Maintain a single, rapid-fire pace. When Lulu talks, she has one speed: turbo.  Her words tumble out in a breathless river.  Don’t do that.  Vary your pace like a musical score.  Slow down to emphasize a point. Speed up when you’re in an exciting or compelling illustration.  Think like a composer, not like Lulu.
  3. Use “Potty Talk.” Right now, Lulu thinks it’s funny to blurt out the word kaka – not the large New Zealand parrot the dictionary describes, but the Italian (and in plenty of other languages too) slang word for well, poop.  It may crack her up, but it never gets the reaction she’s going for from the adults in her audience, aka me, her mother.  Be a grown-up.  Don’t reduce yourself to comments or jokes that can be construed as dirty, racist, or misogynistic.
  4. Don’t know when to stop. If you would keep listening, Lulu would go all day. She loves to hear herself speak.  Don’t do this! Know when to stop.  Keep it succinct.  I once wrote a lovely twenty-minute speech for a successful businessman who was about to have an entire section of a university named in his honor.  He spoke marvelously for twenty minutes, then veered off into a rambling detour for another hour!  The audience’s eyes glazed over and shifted uncomfortably in their seats. It was a disaster.  Leave your audience wanting more, not less.

If you combine yesterday’s four speaking Lulu habits that you should do, with today’s four that you most definitely should not, you’re on your way to becoming a more dynamic and engaging speaker.

Do you have a recorded presentation or speech you’d like me to see? Email it to me at GinaLondon.com. I’ll review it for free!

 Great speaking with you!

Gina