Nine Ways to Keep Your Audience Engaged During a PresentationWe recently talked about traits of great leaders and how they communicate in a variety of ways. Some people like charts, others like text, and some are visual.

Good leaders know there is more than one way to communicate and they incorporate all of these elements into presentations.

So how do they keep the audience listening, focused, and engaged?

Bruna Martinuzzi wrote an article on this very topic for Open Forum called “How to Keep Your Audience Focused on Your Presentation.”

The nine tips she offered to help deliver an engaging presentation are:

Remember the 10-minute Rule

Most presenters forget attention wanes after about 10 minutes. When creating your presentation, plan to have a strategic change every 10 minutes then use a different medium to present the next segment. Changes can be anything from showing a video clip, asking the audience a question, or telling a relevant story.

Don’t Forget Multimedia

Vision trumps all other senses. If we add a picture to a message, the message is loud and clear. Text-based slides are not effective in grabbing attention and maintaining it. You can get quality images from sites such as iStockphoto and Fotolia. You can also find a relevant video to help make your points. Multimedia will help break up your presentation into smaller chunks.

Put Bullets in Graphics

Back to the visual. Show some bullets on your slides in a visual way. Try and stand out from the crowd. Martinuzzi suggests using diagrams from sites such as DuarteSlideshop, or Prezi.

Honor the Audience

Switch the focus of attention from you to them. A few ways to do this are asking questions designed to get a verbal response, give them a game or exercise, encourage them to ask questions, or ask polling questions about their opinions. This will perk up the audience and get their attention.

Don’t Just Lecture

Instead of lecturing, Martinuzzi suggests presenting part of your presentation in the form of a mind map. Draw it on a flipchart, and as you speak animate the mind map in your slide.

There is also mind mapping software such as Matchware or Mindjet. Also, lighten up. Telling a few jokes. Being animated or just walking around the room will engage the audience and make them want to hear more.

Connect the Dots for the Audience

Help your audience understand where you’ve been and where you’re headed. If people can see the flow of your presentation, they will easily follow along. Using transitions such as “The first reason was… Now I’ll address the second reason” will help the flow of your presentation. Transitions such as “What does this mean for us?” or “The one thing to remember is…” will help the audience understand why they should care.

Have a Repertoire of Questions

Use questions to keep the conversation going. A few questions to use are “What led you to this conclusion?,” “How would you explain this?,” “How does this tie in with xyz,?” “Could you give me an example of what you mean?,” and “Tell me more.”

Slides are Not Your Speaking Notes

Remember, visual trumps auditory. A lot of speakers continue to use their slides, dense with text, and expect the audience to follow along as they speak.

Avoid Late Presentations

Presenting between 7 and 11 a.m. is the optimal time. If possible, avoid presenting right after lunch.

What tricks do you use during a presentation to keep your audience engaged?

Image: LeWEB12.

How to Deal With A Workplace ComplainerDid you know, constantly listening to a coworker complaining can actually undermine your work?

Listening to too much complaining is bad for your brain in multiple ways, according to Trevor Blake, author of Three Simple Steps: A Map To Success in Business and Life.

In Inc. magazine, Geoffrey James discussed how to turn workplace whiners into productive team members, and Sue Shellenbarger of the Wall Street Journal also offered tips on what to do with a workplace whiner.

Unfortunately, there are many people who would rather complain than take action.

Following are six ways to handle workplace whiners:

Schedule a Conversation

Don’t let a known office complainer interrupt what you’re doing. Let them know you want to hear what they have to say, but you can’t give the matter attention while your mind is on your current task. This will limit the affect the complainer has on your productivity and also conveys a willingness to listen.

Change the Subject

If scheduling a conversation doesn’t work, try changing the subject. Ask the complainer what is going well. Try and get them to focus on the positive instead of the negative.

Set an Agenda

Ask the complainer if they need solutions or they just need to vent for a while. According to James, asking the question, “As we discuss this, do you want me to suggest solutions or do you just need to vent for a while?” will do three things:

Shellenbarger also advises to allot specific, limited amount of time in meetings for co-workers to air their complaints in a constructive context.


If you’re stuck listening you can do one of two things. Either imagine yourself in a peaceful setting you enjoy, or listen and communicate to the griper you’ve heard what they have to say. Don’t roll your eyes or check your email. Do nod your head. Complainers just want to be heard.

Ask a Question

Ask the complainer if they want your perspective. If they don’t want your perspective, that’s the end of the conversation. If they do want your perspective, phrase your advice from your own perspective by saying, “If I were in your situation, I would try…” If they start coming up with reasons it won’t work, all you have to do is let them know that is what YOU would do. Then end the conversation and get back to work.

Take Action

Getting distance between you and incessant grumblers may be the answer to your problem. Try moving your desk or workstation farther away, if you can. If you think it’s more of a serious problem, let their manager know. There may be mismatch between the complainer and their job. If that is the case, the only solution for both the complainer and the company is reassignment or termination.

Complaining can swiftly become incredibly annoying, so surround yourself with people who bring you up rather than break you down.

How do you deal with the office complainer?

Thanks to stock.xchng for the image

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Seven Tips for Auto Industry Leaders to Earn RespectBeing a leader entails responsibility and respect plays an important role in being successful.

Some think they are entitled to respect because of their position or experience, but you need to earn it rather than demand or expect it.

If you have respect, your team will work harder and longer to help you reach your goals.

Kevin Daum of Inc. provides seven tips to help you be the leader who earns, not demands, respect:

Practice What You Preach

You will lack credibility if you say one thing and do another. Don’t be a hypocrite and practice what you preach. To earn respect, lead by example.

Be On Time

Keep all of your commitments. Being late shows a disregard for others. Time is valuable for successful people so take control of your calendar.


Let your team know the best way to reach you. We are overloaded with ways to communicate from social media, to email, to text so limit your channels and respond within 24 hours if you want to appear communication worthy.

Be Right - Be Comfortable Being Wrong

Do your homework and state well thought-out facts. When information is too scarce to know for sure, take it as a qualified risk. If you’re wrong, own up to it, smile, and be glad you learned something.

Mistakes Will Happen

The Inc. article says if you aren’t erring, you are not trying. It also suggests setting an example for how to shake off a failure and bounce back. Encourage people to experiment and be creative in a safe environment. Know mistakes happen to everyone, even the smartest leaders.

Show Respect and Earn Respect

Earning respect isn’t a one-way street. Whether your team was wrong or right, show them the same respect that you expect from them. You have to give respect to get it.

Help Those Around You

Use active listening skills and really hear what people are saying. If a team member is struggling, provide the support they need. However, be careful. According to Daum, respect is lost when the boss placates habitual troublemakers at the expense of the team’s success. A good business leader knows when to support weak players and when to cut them loose when they aren’t pulling their weight.

To be an effective leader, one needs to earn trust and respect. Respect is not something handed to you, but without it, it would be difficult to accomplish your goals.

How do you earn respect from your team?

Six Ways to Provide Constructive CriticismNothing makes people bristle more quickly than unfair or unsolicited criticism. In a perfect world, leaders would not have a need to criticize employees. Everyone makes mistakes, and everyone has room to improve.

When constructive criticism is required, there are a number of techniques that inspire employees to improve their work, rather than making them feel inadequate.

Geoffrey James, contributor to Inc., offers six tips to effectively criticize employees.

Criticism is a Form of Feedback

The word criticism carries a negative connotation while feedback implies participation of two parties. “A two-way give and take where both people learn and grow,” says James. You learn when you give and receive feedback. When you provide feedback instead of criticism, you and your employee will feel relaxed and receptive.

Don’t Delay Criticism

Criticism needs to be delivered in a way that is clear, direct, and timely. Don’t delay until an employee’s annual performance review.

“Reviews are about salaries; criticism is about developing the employee,” says James. When you pay attention to an employee’s behavior and appreciate their experience, it will help them get into a learning mode.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

If you wait for the right moment to bring up problems to an employee, they most likely will be overwhelmed. Don’t delay criticism; it is best given in real time or immediately after a problem occurs.

Ask Questions

Don’t try to persuade employees to do things the way you do them. Everyone works in different ways, and your way may not work for them. Instead, ask questions to uncover any potential misunderstandings or miscommunication.

James suggests you ask questions such as:

If you ask these questions, they will help your employees discover their own solutions.

Listen and Acknowledge

James says, “When you listen to an employee and acknowledge what he or she has to say, you learn about the world from that employee’s point of view.”

Often when you listen to someone’s responses to questions, you have at least one “Aha!” moment which improves your own understanding. This allows you to provide much more constructive feedback.

Focus On the Issue, Not the Person

When you provide feedback or criticize employees, remember you are addressing a certain behavior that needs improvement, not the employee. If an employee is late, identify that as a behavior they must work to change.

James says to never say “You’re unreliable! You’ve been late three times this week!” Instead address the behavior like so: “You’re usually punctual, but this week you have been late three times. What’s up?” You will never be able to change a personality, but you can affect the outside behaviors that result from it.

It’s never comfortable when you have to communicate to an employee on how to improve their performance, but it is important. Even as an experienced leader, you might find it difficult to let employees know where they need improvement. However, there are times when constructive feedback is essential to maintain excellence and strong relationships. When criticism is handled with finesse, it can promote growth and improvement.

What other tips would you add?

Image courtesy of Stock.xchng

Four Ways to Improve Leadership CommunicationIt’s impossible to become a great leader without being a good communicator. It’s not just about getting your message out; it’s about having a two way conversation, not a one way message.

In an Inc. article, Jason Fried talked about how he’s taking lessons in Ruby on Rails, a programming framework that powers tens of thousands of websites worldwide, so he can communicate better with the programmers who work for him.

He’s an expert in design and doesn’t speak the same language as the programmers. So he decided it would be smart to learn enough about what they do to communicate with them.

He said, “Learning how to program has taught me I need to explain things more clearly--and not only to machines. I used to assume a lot and rush through things, but now, when I describe something new to someone, I find myself slowing down, breaking the idea down in my mind and explaining it piece by piece. I'd rather be asked to speed up than risk going too fast and skipping over the fundamentals that really matter.”

Most people have to work to develop their skills and strengths. You don’t need to go back to school to learn how to be a better communicator. PR Daily offers some tips to help you hone your skills.

Be Honest and Transparent

Whether the news is positive or negative, it’s best to be forthright, honest, and timely. People appreciate transparency and truth.

Make a Point

Have a clear vision and direction you want your communication to head. Set expectations on what you’re going to say and state your intention or what you want to accomplish to keep your communication relevant and on topic. Be prepared to be challenged though, not everyone will agree with what you have to say.

Build a Connection

Shake people’s hands, look them in the eye, and listen to what they have to say. Find some common ground with your audience whether it’s weather, sports, news, or hobbies. A sense of connection leads to a more receptive listener.

Listen and Ask Questions

To communicate effectively, listen to your audience. What are their concerns? What nonverbal cues have they given you? Know when it’s time to listen and when to talk. Don’t assume your audience knows what you know. When you describe something new to someone, break it down and explain it piece by piece. Fried says if you assume nothing, you have a better shot at making a clear and deep connection.

The best communicators are great listeners and are perceptive in their observations. They are skilled at reading people by sensing their moods, attitudes, values, and concerns.

What other tips would you add?

Protect Your Business in the Event of a Serious IllnessYou can still go to work if you have the sniffles, but if you should become seriously ill, how would you protect your business and keep it thriving? That’s the situation Guarisco Group founder Wendy Guarisco faced when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

At first she feared the diagnosis signaled the end of her small Atlanta-based media relations firm. But, as Lisa Evans reports in an article in Entrepreneur, “Guarisco managed to do what at first seemed impossible—she kept her company running through a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction surgery.”

Guarisco offers some tips for entrepreneurs to consider in advance of a serious or life-threatening diagnosis.

Use the Technology Resources at Your Disposal

Since many of Guarisco’s clients were located in different cities, having to cancel face-to-face meetings wasn't a big problem. Using her smartphone or tablet, she managed to stay in touch with clients even while sitting in the doctor’s office or lying in a hospital bed.

Of course, during the height of her treatment (three days of hospitalization), Guarisco had to bow out of her media relations work, but afterwards she resumed conducting business while recovering from surgery.

Inform Your Trusted Clients

Many business owners might feel the best course of action is to conceal news of an illness from their clients. With her most trusted clients, Guarisco chose otherwise. She let them know about her diagnosis and, as Evans notes, “(she) credits her honesty with keeping all of her clients throughout her illness.”

“Most of my clients are like family and they knew from the get-go what was happening,” Guarisco says. She did withhold news of her condition from newer clients, informing them instead that she would be away for a few days.

Explore Your Options for Financial Assistance

As a business owner, Guarisco lacked the comprehensive health benefits she’d enjoyed years before while working for a large company. She was very concerned about how to cope with the costs of her treatment.

A nurse in her plastic surgeon’s office suggested she could access emergency Medicaid. Doing a little research, Guarisco discovered with breast cancer, aid for mastectomy surgery is granted based on the diagnosis, not income levels. She urges entrepreneurs to research options for financial support, “even if you think you might not qualify.”

Put a Contingency Plan in Place

The primary lesson Guarisco took away from her experience was this: Plan for disaster before it strikes. She’s since hired extra staff members, and keeps them updated on all clients.

“If one of my assistants falls ill, the other can step right in because they’re up to speed,’ she says.

Learn to Delegate

Like many entrepreneurs and business owners, Guarisco found delegating “the hardest thing I've had to wrestle with.” When she was hospitalized, she had her husband answer the phones and email, as well as pitch stories to the media.

She now understands the critical importance of letting go of control. “Having help frees me up to think about the big thoughts as the business owner,” she says.

There's only so much you can do ahead of time to prepare and protect your business. But if you take the necessary steps now and know where to go for help, that will save you time and energy if something unexpected happens.

What’s your contingency plan in the event of a serious illness or accident?

How to Manage Email OverloadA huge problem for business leaders is the abundance of email we receive. We can spend half our day sifting through our inbox which ends up leaving us tired, frustrated, and unproductive.

When we constantly check to see what is in our inboxes, it drives us to be distracted. It’s difficult not to look when you hear that ping sound or see the mail icon in your dock.

Dmitri Leonov wrote a guest post for Venture Beat and he provided a list of tips to help busy people manage their email.

His number one rule is: Don’t make clearing your inbox your top priority. He says, “When you let other people set your priorities, you’re not in control of your time, and this should be a deal-breaker for entrepreneurs.”

You Won’t Respond to Every Email

Be comfortable with the fact that some emails will never get a response. The more emails you send, the more you will receive. Do, however, respond quickly and clearly to those who need your attention or input.

Set Priorities

If you feel compelled to clean out your inbox, take a step back and ask yourself, is this the best use of my time? If you can’t find anything that will grow your business, then spend time on your email.

Leonov says, “It’s completely ok if on some days ‘clearing the inbox’ is in your top five to-dos. In fact, eventually it needs to be.”

According to Leonov, we spend 28 percent of our time on email but when we think about our priorities, email isn’t one of them.

Set up a prioritization system within your inbox. It could be something as simple as:


Three More Principles to Remember:

Email was designed as a tool to help us communicate more efficiently. Ironically, it can do just the opposite.

Email overload is a reality in today’s business world, but there are ways to manage it. Everyone will have a different approach, but if your approach isn’t working for you, try these tips.

How do you cope with email overload?

Image courtesy of Stock.xchng

How to Deal with the 'Bully' ClientBully clients think if they push their weight around, they’ll get what they want. Sometimes it works because small businesses don't know how to handle them. But, when you let a customer bully you, you’ve lost their respect and set yourself up for a relationship of further abuse.

“Unfair customers scream at airline, hospitality, and event personnel routinely,” says Baron Christopher Brown in an article on SmartBrief on Leadership. Bullies cross the line and bully your business model. “When their cash and time become desperate, some customers (clients, patrons, or members) can transact irrationally, even awfully.”

Bullying customers are dishonest and verbally abusive, but customers with high-expectations know what they want.

It’s important to know the difference because while bullies don’t pay well, high-expectations customers do. Plus, they are generally honest and civil.

“In my view, honest, courteous and well-paying customers are always right. Deceitful, manipulative fiscally bullying customers are always wrong,” says Brown.

So how do you deal with these bullies? Brown provides some advice.

Tips to Deal with Bully Clients

Confront Deficiencies

Brown suggests business owners confront four transactional deficiencies:

What may entice a bully is a combination of perceived weaknesses of a business and evadable transaction policies.

“In my experience, chaotic, sloppy, unprofitable organizations routinely exude evidence of multiple transactional deficiencies simultaneously,” says Brown.

Create a Strategy

Once you've identified the deficiencies and established you aren't a punching bag, create new transaction strategies and proficiencies. Make sure you have a transactional policy and guidelines in place. Also, put legal, accounting, and business strategies in place.

Realize your strengths and ask yourself why you do things a certain way. If it’s because it’s always been done that way, it’s time to reassess the task at hand. You need to have  concrete reasons for doing things a certain way. That  makes it easier to say no to customers who try to pressure you to change your business.

Communicate and Implement the Strategy

A strategy isn't any good, and won't be successful if it’s not communicated to those who will implement it: Your employees. Train your front-line employees to maintain the boundaries you set.

When a company stands up for itself as a team, bully clients either disappear or change their ways. Confrontation isn't fun, but when you stand up to bullies, you make sure your business stays on course. Don't let your plans get pushed around by people who don’t have your best interests in mind.

Have you had an ongoing bully client? How did you handle it?

Leadership Includes Saying NoFor some business leaders, prioritizing yourself can be a big challenge.

A lot of people have a hard time saying “no,” but that one word is very powerful. It’s one of the most useful skills leaders need to develop, especially when it comes to living a more productive and healthy life.

The value of their time is one of the hardest things for some leaders to learn, and safeguarding it means you have to say no and be constructively selfish.

Always trying to please others can get you into trouble because it takes your focus away from things that really need your immediate attention.

What Does “No” Do For Leaders?

“Saying no to unnecessary commitments can give you the time you need to recover and rejuvenate. Saying no to daily distractions can give you the space you need to focus on what is important to you. And saying no to temptation can help you stay on track and achieve your health goals,” said James Clear, contributor to the Buffer blog.

Mary Jo Asmus, contributor to Smart Blogs on Leadership, has some tips on how to say no in order to be more effective.

Take the time to get organized.  Asmus suggests setting aside thinking time to remind yourself what is most important for you to lead your organization. If there’s an area you need to focus on, that should be your priority. The other to-do’s on your list can be delegated or placed at the bottom of your list.

Know your “no.” Keep a list of things you have pending so you are aware of everything you need to get done. Then, Asmus suggests using whatever system you have at your disposal and log everything you’ve been asked to do or think you need to do, both in the short and long term. Then check your list regularly. Do your tasks match your organizational mission and values? What’s the urgency of the request? Is there a delegation or learning opportunity for someone on your team to be responsible for some of the items?

You’ll most likely find some things you don’t need to do and other items that can be delegated. You have to let go of some of the control because you can’t do it all on your own.

You’ll get push-back so develop a strategy to communicate your “no.” There will always be people on your team who think their item is urgent and needs your attention or who think if you’re gone, the world will fall apart. It won’t, they can handle it, but sometimes they just need a push. Be honest with them about your priorities and get them to think on their own. Ask them, “What do you think?” It’s a frustrating question, but it will get them to start thinking about their problem before they come to you for a solution.

Reassess your “no’s.” This is more of that thinking time mentioned earlier. “Regular thinking time is a requirement to be deliberate in working through your list to get to the ‘no’s,’” says Asmus.

Too often people are afraid of saying “no.” However, it’s better to say no than not respond, or say yes but not deliver.

Do you struggle with saying no? How do you cope with the problem?

Image credit: vlauria via Flickr

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