How to Pull a Bad Interview out of the Fire

 If you sense a job or media interview is going up in flames, use this trick to refocus the conversation in your favor.

If you sense a job or media interview is going up in flames, use this trick to refocus the conversation in your favor.

Ever had a job interview, media interview or even a key meeting that seemed to go south before it started? Or perhaps strayed off topic mid-way and never got back on track?

Whether it’s a radio interview that dwells on what your new product CAN’T do, or a job interview that focuses too much on your shortcomings, you can still pull it out of the fire with one simple trick.

Just as things are about to wrap say, “If I may, I’d like to add one more thing…”

Then deliver a simple summary statement that succinctly states the point or points you need to make.

By being direct and concise, you’ll recapture the focus of the person on the other end of the phone or across the table. In fact, in most cases, he or she will even write down your key points and—even better—remember them.

This tactic is so effective, I recommend clients write out a summary statement in advance of their interview or meeting, just to be sure they take advantage of this strategy by the end of the conversation.

Here are some examples of how to put this simple trick to work.

To refocus a job interview:

“We’ve talked a lot about my work history, but if I may add one more thing, I’d like to summarize what I think makes me a strong candidate: I have more than two years experience selling ball point pens. I’ve also worked as a purchaser of office supplies. And my other work history, though varied, all shows I’m a fast learner.”

To save a sinking media interview:

“If I may take just one more moment, I‘d like to summarize why our Teeny Tiny Hearing Aid will be successful in today’s market: One, more people than ever are entering their senior years. Two, for today’s seniors, staying vital and connected is a priority. And three, today’s younger people see hearing aids as helpful technology, not something that will stigmatize them.”

And suddenly, you’re back on track.

By the way, this tactic doesn’t only work well for interviews gone BAD. For strong interviews too, a summary statement can be the bow around the package, tying up a great conversation and making it all the easier for your audience to understand your message and more importantly, repeat it.

Give it a try and let us know if it works for you or what else has worked better. For more great ideas and tips for rock solid communication, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @bluestoneexec.

10 Tips for a Great Speech at the Holiday Party

Editor's note: Year after year, this is our most popular post. We're happy to bring it back for a holiday encore. Cheers!

Ah, the office holiday party. It conjures punchlines of poor wardrobe choices and over-served sales reps. But in reality, it's one of the more dignified traditions to survive the modern work world. 

And for bosses, it's a moment that calls for reminding everyone why they're drinking (or at least eating) on the company tab. Rather than viewing this speech as an obligation, bosses should embrace it as an opportunity to set the tone for the coming year with remarks that make the team feel both appreciated and appreciative.

Here are 10 tips for giving a great holiday speech.

  1. Thank them. It's the whole point of the speech and, frankly, the party. If you do nothing else, be sure to thank your team for hard work throughout the year.
  2. Thank the significant others. They've made sacrifices on behalf of your company as well, carrying the load on the home front when the employee travels, works late or misses a teacher conference. And no one more influences your employee's decisions whether it's to stay at the company, volunteer for big projects or gripe about the health plan. Here is a chance to bank some goodwill with the spouses.
  3. Mention milestones. Now's also the time to remind employees of what it means to work for a great company. So mention the firm's important milestones whether it's doubling sales or just staying afloat in a terrible economy. But mention some personal milestones too, like new home purchases, engagements, weddings, births and graduations. Helping employees make the connection between a great job and a high quality of life is worthwhile.
  4. Get specific. If your team is small, mention each one along with something memorable about their year. If the team is large, you may still want to call on a few stand outs----and not just the high billers. Some "fan favorites" might be worthy of a mention too, like the IT staffer who doubled download speed or the admin who engineered the office move.
  5. Highlight successes, say nothing of setbacks. This isn't a company meeting. It's a party.
  6. Be brief. Remember, for them the night is about the party, not the speech.
  7. Rehearse. You might think you can wing it, but you're wrong. Take time to draft remarks and rehearse them----aloud and at least three times.
  8. Don't chicken out. In a weak moment you might think a party doesn't require a speech and opt just to skip it. But don't. There is a reason why companies hold holiday parties, but employees won't think about it unless you tell them.
  9. Speak early. Wait until everyone arrives and has had a drink, but not much longer. You want folks sober and focused on you and after more than an hour or so most won't be either.
  10. Save the cocktails for after. You may think you need a drink to calm your nerves, but you'll be better off without it. Instead, sip a soda until it's go-time, then knock 'em dead. You can bask in the glow of a great speech (and a good stiff drink) the rest of the night.

Give it a try and let us know how it works or what else might work better. For more great ideas and tips for rock solid communication, check out our blog "Let's Be Clear,"visit bluestoneexec.com, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @bluestoneexec.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen, Please Welcome….Me!

When I first started speaking in public, I had a rather lofty image of how each engagement would begin: I’d be summoned to the stage with thunderous applause as a beaming host detailed the many reasons I was perfectly qualified to be the day’s expert.

Screeeeeeeeech. That's the record player scratching as reality sets in.

As well-meaning as hosts typically are, more often than not, they fall woefully short in priming the audience for their guest speaker. If left to their own devices, most hosts will print your bio off your website and read it verbatim, boring the audience with too much unrelated detail and never mentioning information that’s actually relevant.

Not only does this kick things off in an underwhelming fashion, it deprives the audience of context they need to get the full benefit of your remarks. Worst of all, it can throw you off balance during one of your most critical moments: your open.

There’s a better way. Next time you’re invited to speak, take these preemptive steps to ensure your remarks---and your audience---get the intro they deserve:

  • Well before your talk, take a few moments to write your own brief (brief is key) introduction, customized for the speech you are giving and the group to which you’re giving it.
     
  • Don’t wait to be asked, but rather email the introduction to your host ahead of time, indicating that in the past, hosts have found it helpful to have introductory remarks prepared for them.
     
  • Just to be safe, on the day of the event, bring with you three copies of your introduction, printed in at least 20 point font so that anyone can read it well, even on the first pass.

You’re not out the woods yet. If you arrive at your venue and realize no one plans to introduce you at all, recruit someone from the audience: your host, a friend, anyone with the slightest bit of charisma (or even a pulse) to help you out. (Here’s where those extra copies come in handy.)

Finally, if you MUST introduce yourself (yes, it happens), don’t do it right off the bat. Instead, begin your remarks exactly as you planned with the killer open you so carefully crafted and rehearsed. Then, just before you launch into the heart of your talk, pause and say “Let me take a moment to tell you about myself and why our hosts have asked me here today.”

Next go into a short version of your intro that offers just enough info to give you the credibility you need. Though not ideal, this should allow you to keep your remarks mostly intact, while earning extra points for style under pressure.

Give it a try and let us know how it works or what else might work better. For more great ideas and tips for rock solid communication, check out our blog “Let’s Be Clear," visit us at bluestoneexec.com, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @bluestoneexec. 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wingman: Your Secret Weapon for Speaking Success

 Just as one pilot supports another during a dangerous mission, your Wingman can protect you from distractions.

Just as one pilot supports another during a dangerous mission, your Wingman can protect you from distractions.

Strong speakers know an important element of a great speech or presentation is focus. Speakers who can block out distractions and zero in on the audience are more likely to be engaging, interesting and effective.

And yet, more often than not it seems there’s a concerted campaign underway to distract the speaker from the moment he or she arrives at the venue. The host wants to clarify something about the introduction. A guest is clamoring to point out a mutual acquaintance. The AV tech has questions about technical needs. On top of it all, there are legitimate business leads that deserve attention.

How can a speaker possibly concentrate and make final preparations when there are so many other demands for attention?

Enter the Wingman.

No matter the size, formality or venue of an event, if it’s a performance that matters, the Wingman is the answer.

A Wingman can be male or female. Your Wingman might be a colleague, might be an intern, or in some cases, might even be your boss. But in this role, the Wingman’s number one job is to manage logistics, shield you from distractions and do whatever it takes to make you look good.

Think you’re better off flying solo? Consider these ways the Wingman can help:

Before your talk: The Wingman can help you get to the location on time and looking your best, set up and run your technology, run interference with clingy members of the audience, and work the room for leads while you focus on your impending remarks.

During your talk: The Wingman can take photos of you speaking, solve unexpected technical problems (or enlist someone who can), quash distractions like a vacuum in the hallway, and if necessary get the ball rolling with Q and A.

After your talk: The Wingman can help you engage important leads, shield you from less important contacts, and pack up your materials while you’re basking in the glory of a great speech. Maybe most importantly, the Wingman can later can provide you with feedback so you can be even more effective next time.

How you use your Wingman is up to you. The only requirement of the job is that he or she can put you at ease and help you look great when it’s your turn to shine.

Give it a try and let us know if it works for you or what else has worked better. For more great ideas and tips for rock solid communication, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @bluestoneexec.

How to Nail the “Morning After” Call

 A follow up call to a reporter can be a tricky thing. Here are some ways to make sure it goes well.

A follow up call to a reporter can be a tricky thing. Here are some ways to make sure it goes well.

It’s always nice to follow up with a reporter after a story runs or airs, especially if you’ve established a rapport and want to keep it going. But those “morning after” calls can be tricky and if you’re not careful, unravel a lot of good will.

A follow up call to a reporter can be a tricky thing. Here are some ways to make sure it goes well.

In newsrooms where I’ve worked, reporters welcomed calls from sources saying thank you and offering feedback on the story. Often those calls helped fortify the reporter-source relationship. But once in a while they had the opposite effect, making the reporter think twice about trusting the caller as a future source or worse, prompting negative coverage the next time around.

Here are some tips to on how not to blow the morning after call.

Don’t complain about the tone of the story without specifics: If you do, you’ll annoy the reporter, gain nothing and be written off as a whiner.

Instead, bring up any actual errors or significant imbalance. Be clear about whether you think the issue needs correcting now or simply for future stories. And be sure it’s significant enough to even mention. As much as reporters pride themselves on accuracy, they don’t appreciate nitpicking.

Don’t thank them for making your side look great. Reporters strive for accuracy. If you caught a break and came off better than deserved, don’t gush. The last thing you want is for the reporter to second guess the charitable portrayal or worse, overcompensate by burying you the next time.

Instead, thank the reporter for a FAIR story. “Fair” may seem like lukewarm praise to you, but fairness is the Holy Grail to journalists.

Don’t forget that you are talking to a reporter. Just because one story ran, doesn’t mean another one isn’t already or couldn’t soon be in the works. Don’t use bad language, badmouth someone or confess to anything you’ll later regret.

Instead, be professional.  And know that everything you say is still on the record.

Don’t ask for anything. Most reporters are extremely busy. If you want to stay in their good graces, avoid asking for copies, reprints, raw tape, or anything else that requires administrative legwork that someone else can better provide.

Instead, give something. No, don’t send an actual gift. But you can offer something of value: their next story. Pony up a fresh and worthwhile story idea or provide a heads up on something coming down the pike and you’ll lay the foundation for a beautiful relationship going forward.

Give it a try and let us know if it works for you or what else has worked better. For more great ideas and tips for rock solid communication, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @bluestoneexec.

Why You didn't Get Quoted

 Wondering why you didn’t get quoted after your last interview? You may have Unquotable Executive Syndrome.

Wondering why you didn’t get quoted after your last interview? You may have Unquotable Executive Syndrome.

A few months ago I met with an executive from a large bank who was frustrated that his boss’ repeated media interviews almost always had the same disappointing outcome.

“Is he wandering off message?” I asked. “Giving up company secrets?”

No, my pal responded. The problem was, he rarely made the story at all.

Ah. Unquotable Executive Syndrome.  It’s a widespread malady, usually afflicting higher level executives.

Unquotable Executive Syndrome is the result of a failure to articulate messages in a way that resonates with the reporter and in turn the reporter’s audience.  There are three specific mistakes executives make that almost guarantee they’ll be cut from the story. Here they are, along with some corrective measures to prevent Unquotable Executive Syndrome in the first place.

Mistake #1: Talking too much. Ironically, the more anxious an executive is about an interview, the more likely he or she is to blather on once it starts. Sometimes the reporter only gets in one question before the exec launches into a filibuster, running out the clock. By filling the silence, interview subjects might feel they’re in control. But if the reporter doesn’t get what he or she needs, everyone’s time is wasted.

Remember the interview is a conversation, not a monologue. Responses should be complete, but not exhaustive. Shoot for 30 seconds for a video response, 45 seconds for radio and 60 for print. Live audience answers should be about 60 to 90 seconds. And all responses should always include a message.

Mistake #2: Not answering questions. The premise of any interview is that one person asks questions and the other answers, or at least addresses them, even if they’re not pleasant.

While it’s acceptable (actually imperative) to bridge or transition from an answer to a message, it’s not OK to ignore the questions and spew message after message with disregard for the interviewer. Interview subjects who do will at best be cut from the story. At worst, they’ll find their entire evasive interview uploaded to YouTube for public ridicule.

Mistake #3: Being boring. By far this is the most pervasive cause of Unquotable Executive Syndrome. It’s typically observed in executives who are so afraid of straying from their messages that they come off like robots programmed only to recite industry jargon and clichés.

Reporters need sources who bring to life the key points of stories with interesting, memorable language. They don’t want forgettable rehashes of predictable positions. Of course, “getting real” on the fly is more than a little dangerous. The best course is to prepare ahead of time with three or four messages and a number of “message enhancers” for each. Message enhancers include colorful language, short stories, personal examples, quippy one-liners, meaningful stats, contemporary references or pithy analogies.

Executives who load their interviews with interesting message enhancers will almost certainly guarantee a spot in the story—and likely more stories in the future. Even better, they’ll be quoted on message and in ways that resonate with the reporter’s audience. And after all, isn’t that the whole reason for investing time and money in the interview in the first place?

Give it a try and let us know if it works for you or what else has worked better. For more great ideas and tips for rock solid communication, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @bluestoneexec.

The Right Way to Read a Speech

 It’s possible to  READ  a speech and still have impact. The trick is making eye contact at just the right times.

It’s possible to READ a speech and still have impact. The trick is making eye contact at just the right times.

We all know that when delivering a speech it’s always best to learn the material cold and deliver it from the heart. But let’s face it: For busy executives with frequent trips to the podium and little time to prepare, that’s not always an option.

So today I’m giving away the best tip I know for connecting with your audience while READING a speech. Ready? Here it is:

If you must read a speech, make it infinitely more impactful by looking up NOT in the middle of each sentence, but rather at the beginning and, more importantly, the end.

That’s it. Sounds simple enough, yet it’s actually counter-intuitive and requires practice to pull off. But for anyone who doesn’t have time to internalize a speech or simply can’t, mastering this technique for reading remarks is the next best thing.

Here’s why.

In normal conversation, we typically stack the most important words at the ends of sentences and when we speak them, if it’s important, that’s when we’re sure to make eye contact. But somehow when we put ourselves behind a podium, that natural inclination gets flipped and our delivery comes out exactly opposite, depleting our words of impact and making us appear disconnected or insincere. Maybe worse, if we read the way most people are inclined, no matter how great our speechwriter is, we’ll squander every good line by breaking eye contact at exactly the wrong time.

Not convinced this subtle difference matters? Compare the two approaches reading one of the best speech lines ever, borrowed from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s. “I Have a Dream.”

First, the wrong way:

(Eyes down) I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation

(Lift eyes) where they will not be judged by the color of their skin

(Eyes back down) but by the content of their character.

The impact of the sentence is almost completely lost when we drop our eyes while delivering those critical last few words.

Now try reading for impact:

(Eyes up) I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation

(Eyes down) where they will not be judged by the color of their skin

(Eyes back up) but by the content of their character.

What a difference! We’ve made a connection at both the start of the thought and at its inspirational end. It’s as if that sentence takes on all new meaning!

And we can pull this off without memorizing the speech. We simply use the least important part of the sentence—the middle—as an opportunity to glance down, catch our place and gather up the words that will drive our point home.

Though making this adjustment requires practice, the effort is worthwhile. After all, connect with the audience and we’ll win their hearts, we’ll spread our message and who knows? We may even change the world.

Give it a try and let us know how it works or what else might work better. For more great ideas and tips for rock solid communication, check out our blog "Let's Be Clear," visit bluestoneexec.com, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @bluestoneexec.   

What Would Dylan Do? Alternatives to PowerPoint

What Would Dylan Do? Alternatives to PowerPoint

A few months ago I attended a professional event at which I knew a well-respected and charismatic CEO would be speaking. Sure enough, he started things off with the stage presence of a stand up comedian and quickly had us all laughing and leaning in.

But then it started: The dreaded PowerPoint presentation.

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