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Should I be worried when I am described as ‘professional’?

Should I be worried when I am described as ‘professional’?

Should I be worried when I am described as ‘professional’?

I used to have a boss who taught me to look a little deeper whenever somebody described our company as “very professional”.

Why? Surely that’s a positive thing, right?

Well, yes, being professional means that you did everything right, there were no mistakes and everything was flawless. Most people would be happy with that.

Then again, someone like a hitman would also be stoked with that definition of their work.

When you are in the business of giving people experiences or dealing with them at a personal level, you want to make sure that ‘professional’ doesn’t mean clinical.

You should also be asking…

Were they engaged?

Did they feel heard and recognised?

Did they get what they needed from the experience emotionally and mentally?

Thankfully, most of the time when I look a little deeper, people are having meaningful experiences. It’s often more a case of them not being very creative with language so they just go with “very professional”. However, it’s always worth checking in with them.

Photo by Tommy Roca from Pexels

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Not Jumping to Conclusions and Firing Early

Not Jumping to Conclusions and Firing Early

Not Jumping to Conclusions and Firing Early

Last week I received an email from one of my son’s teachers. It was a group email sent to parents of children who had not even attempted, let alone submitted, an assessment item.

Now, my very first reaction was heavily influenced by the fact that technology has been a bit of an issue at home with that same child of late. So my internal dialogue was saying something like “I’ve had about enough of this. I’m going to tell this kid a few home truths and that phone is gone until he gets his act together.”

But then my rational side started to weigh in on the conversation making the point that, yes, the phone has been a problem at home, but for this kid to not even attempt an assessment was absurdly out of character.

So I resolved to get his side of the story first and sent a quick reply back to the teacher thanking them for letting us know and assuring them we would look into it.

Five minutes later, I received a reply from the teacher apologising because we had been accidentally added to the email. In fact, Karson had not only handed it in but was probably looking at an A for his assignment.

Obviously, I was relieved that I had considered a different (and rational) perspective to my first reaction and sent that reply email. I guess as much our ‘gut reaction’ can be spot on at times, we also need to remember that our initial responses can also be clouded by lots of things as well.

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Communicating Effectively While Wearing a Mask

Communicating Effectively While Wearing a Mask

Communicating Effectively While Wearing a Mask

The two great challenges of verbal communication in the COVID era are speaking on camera and speaking while wearing a mask.

I recently had a customer service interaction where I almost took something the wrong way because I couldn’t see that the message was being delivered with a smile! What’s more, I am sure I am not the first person that has happened to.

So with that in mind, I’d like to offer a few tips to help ensure your verbal communication is understood as intended when hampered by wearing a face mask.

When it’s critical, learn from surgeons

Think of a surgeon in an operating theatre where everyone is wearing masks and clear, timely communication is paramount. When you need to be understood the first time, use unambiguous language.

When emotions are involved, you can be more descriptive though

Imagine someone wearing a mask and consider the difference between how the following statements might come across.

“That’s a nice dress.”
“Oh wow! I really love your dress.”

Use what you have to maximum effect

To convey emotions consider slightly exaggerating your vocal variety, hand gestures/body language, and facial expression through your eyes and forehead. To be understood, we may need to enunciate more and speak a little more slowly.

Finally, simply be aware of the limitations

Sometimes it’s really a matter of being aware that our wry smile or our cheeky grin are not visible. As much as we might intend to be light-hearted, we might just have to accept that we need to choose our words more carefully so people don’t take them the wrong way.


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Pushing Past the Fear of Being Judged

Pushing Past the Fear of Being Judged

Pushing Past the Fear of Being Judged

This topic certainly cut close for me because it is the number one reason I have not gone after some of my goals in the past. It is the number one reason I have played down my own ambitions and desires. It is the number one reason I have stayed quiet and let others take the spotlight when I know I could do a better job.

I have literally said out loud that I didn’t want things that I actually really did want. The sole reason I did it was to avoid judgement.

Some of the thoughts I have experienced include:

What If I put myself out there and others look down their nose at me and ask who the hell I think I am?

What if they look at my work and laugh at me?

What if they pick me apart and find something they can use against me?

It would be great to say that none of those things ever happened. But the truth is that when you start putting yourself out there, people will notice and some of them will look for reasons to shoot you down. All of the above are actually not ‘what ifs’, they are all things that I’ve experienced and are all things that I’ve allowed to affect me more than I should have.

Yet here I am still plugging away and most importantly, learning how to deal with it to the point where I now feel that I can grow my business without fearing other people’s judgement.

Here’s a few things I have learned:

Make an effort to be less judgemental yourself

I am not preaching from the high ground here. I am human like everyone else and find myself daily having to consciously override a natural tendency to make judgements about others without knowing all the facts or really, anything about their story.

However, the good thing is that once you start making this conscious effort, and being fairer to others, the things that you are most self-conscious about start seeming less daunting. 

Don’t buy in to people’s BS

In business, when you see or hear people using complicated language and buzzwords to describe what they do and you find yourself thinking things like “They must be smarter than me”, remember, that’s the idea. The intent is to protect their piece of turf by making what they do sound more complicated than it actually is.

The irony is that themost successful people get that way by discussing what they do in a way that i seasily understood and resonates with people. So rather than fear the judgement of people whose existence relies on smoke and mirrors, make what you do accessible by simplifying it for others.

Find your unique value

Our own fear of being judged largely comes from comparing ourselves to others in our field. So, wanna know one way to not compare yourself to others and feel less judged? Make yourself incomparable.

We have a habit of noticing other people’s strengths and comparing ourselves on those items. Instead, identify YOUR strengths and put them out in to the world.

Be okay with others’ opinions

This is similar but slightly different to popular mantras such as “I don’t care what others think of me’ or “What other people think of you is none of your business”.

When I hear people say things like that, it suggests to me recklessness and a lack of consideration. I prefer to say “I’m okay with others think of me whether it be good, bad, or indifferent.”

Saying the same thing but from a different perspective. The difference is that framing it this way empowers you to focus your energy on the ‘good’ and let the bad and indifferent go.

Learn to distinguish constructive criticism from criticism

When you start putting your voice out into the world, there’s going to be some push back. There’s nothing you can do to stop it so you need to learn how to know what is worth paying attention to and what you should just let pass right on by.

If somebody has constructive criticism to offer, firstly they will be qualified to offer it because they have been on the same journey. Secondly they will generally approach you in an amicable way and engage you in a conversation.

If somebody just wants to criticise it is rarely ever about you. It’s usually about making themselves feel better about their own shortcomings by putting someone else down. Research shows that if you pose a threat to someone else’s ego, they are more likely to judge you negatively regardless of your actual ability.

Learn to sort the gold from the garbage – and don’t go playing in the dumpster.

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3 Ways Improving Your Speaking Skills is Like Making a Cake

3 Ways Improving Your Speaking Skills is Like Making a Cake

3 Ways Improving Your Speaking Skills is Like Making a Cake

1. It can get messy…and that’s ok

Everyone knows that when you make a cake you’re supposed to end up with a messy kitchen, otherwise you’re not having fun in the process right?

When you first start making an effort to improve your speaking skills it will often involve discomfort as you try to adopt a new mindset, learn to organise your content, and use your vocal variety and movements in ways that might seem strange at first.

Like anything, it will take time and practise and there will still be times when it won’t go smoothly. That’s okay.

One of the main purposes of doing a workshop or course, or having a coach, is to have the opportunity to try new things and mess up in a safe space where nobody is going to judge you.

2. There are some must-have ingredients

When you make a cake you need to add certain things like eggs to bind the other ingredients, milk to add moisture, and baking soda to make it rise. When you eat the cake, you can’t see these individual ingredients but you know they are there.

Likewise, effective speaking involves a combination of things that you might not be able to isolate individually but they need to be there.

For me, those ingredients are mindset, content, delivery and audience analysis.

If you don’t address your mindset, you can end up being overwhelmed by your nerves. What if you don’t make sure make sure the content is right? Or your delivery is underwhelming and you don’t take time to understand exactly what your audience needs? These are all things that can bring down the final product.

3. There needs to be a method to it all

When you make a cake not only do you need the essential ingredients, you also need to follow a process, aka a recipe, to get the desired result.

When improving your speaking skills, a good strategy will bring together all the essential ingredients to produce the desired outcome.

For me, that outcome is speaking with confidence and clarity, and connecting with your audience.


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Content or Technique? The Best Way To Step-Up Your Speaking Game

Content or Technique? The Best Way To Step-Up Your Speaking Game

Content or Technique? The Best Way To Step-Up Your Speaking Game

What’s the first thing to work on if you want to improve your public speaking?

Short answer

It depends on what your current strengths and weaknesses are.

Long answer

If starting from scratch most people focus on things that relate to their delivery such as managing nerves, voice, gestures and other body language. Indeed, much of the public speaking and presentation training out there is focused on performance technique.

The problems with a technique-only approach are:

  • Most people don’t have the skills to properly apply the techniques
  • It ignores the substance of the message

When people ask me to evaluate their speech, they are often surprised if I start with how they can improve their content instead of their delivery.

Here’s why sometimes that’s where you need to start…

If there is a problem with WHAT you are saying, you have huge problems before you even get started. 

The most common problems with content are:

  • Trying to cram too much information into the time allowed
  • Too much ‘cold’ information such as facts and figures, not balanced out with ‘warm’ content such as stories and examples to illustrate points
  • Lack of structure
  • No organised material – trying to ‘wing it’ and either rambling aimlessly or getting completely lost for words
  • The presenter actually has little knowledge of what they are speaking about
  • There are large gaping holes in the presenter’s argument

When the wheels fall off a presentation, it’s more often than not because the speaker has not connected with the content themselves, they haven’t considered their content from an audience point of view, or they straight up have no authority on the topic.

If you know what you are talking about and you have solid well-planned content, that in itself will give you more confidence when it comes to your delivery.

So, what about delivery?

Content and delivery are both important. However, so is the way you prioritise them…

If you are a paid professional speaker there is an expectation that you will deliver a polished performance. For everyone else, audiences will forgive a lot of flaws as long as you are giving them good information they can understand and relate to (content first got it?).

However if the flaws in delivery become a distraction from the message, then you have a problem.

The most common issues with delivery are:

  • Lacking enthusiasm – if you’re not interested in what you’re saying why would anyone else be?
  • Overly animated – trying too hard
  • Trying to imitate other speakers they have seen rather than being themselves
  • Speaking too fast
  • Speaking too loudly or too quietly
  • Excessive use of fillers – ums and ahs
  • The presenter talks to their PowerPoint slides instead of to the audience

Once we’ve dealt with those issues, we can then start looking at a range of basic tips that are within the abilities of the average person to help enhance your delivery and add impact to your well-structured message. These might include:

  • Using pauses for effect
  • Purposeful gestures
  • Varying the rate of speech and volume of your voice
  • Eye contact
  • Using visual aids, such as slides, for a purpose

These are simple things that can be very effective and that most people can master with a little practise – without being concerned with taking on a lot of performance techniques and trying to be someone they’re not.

So when it comes to effective public speaking, content and delivery are both important. However, so is the way you prioritise them…

Figure out what to say first, then concentrate on how best to say it as the best possible version of yourself – not like a bad actor trying to be someone else.

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