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.

Overcoming Speaker Panic: Six Tips

Not long ago, while attending an industry conference I bumped into a smart, professional woman I know. She asked what tips I had for people, like her, who panic when they speak.

"Just power through it," I said. "We all get nervous."

"No, not NERVOUS," she said. "I don't get nervous. I PANIC. I'm petrified. My throat tightens, I get cold sweats, my skin gets blotchy and I feel like I could faint."

Oh. That's different.

We're all a little uneasy when we speak, or at least we should be. Often, merely stepping into the spotlight triggers a burst of adrenaline that manifests itself as nervous energy. That's just our body's way of helping us rise to the occasion. For most, the stage fright wears off once we settle in. 

But for others, the reaction and recovery time are far more severe. For those poor souls, public speaking isn't just unnerving. It's debilitating. 

If you suffer from severe stage fright, a professional speaking coach is likely the surest route to success. A speaking coach can address your specific anxiety and customize a plan to help. Consider interviewing a handful of coaches to find one whose style is a good fit. 

In the meantime, there are strategies you can try on your own. Here are a few of our favorite tips for overcoming speaker panic:

1) Speak as often as you can in low-risk situations.

Make a toast at a dinner party. Stand and speak before immediate family. Lead a meeting or speak at a non-work function. No doubt, those situations bring anxiety too. But they provide a safer environment for gaining confidence. 

2) When preparing your remarks, mentally divide your material into small sections. 
The Open, the Product Overview, the Case Study, the Pitch, the Close. When it's go-time, you won't feel as if you're crossing a raging river, rather stepping from stone to stone until you're safely on the other side.  

3) Rehearse. Out loud and repeatedly. 
I know, initially practice may seem to make things worse. But keep at it. In the end, every minute of rehearsal translates to greater confidence on stage.

4) Physically calm yourself before you speak.

Fifteen minutes prior, step into the restroom and take three or four "cleansing breaths," by fully inflating your lungs, then slowly and completely emptying them. Or try the "power pose," holding your arms high above your head for two full minutes (so long as you don't feel dizzy.) Both cleansing breaths and the power pose send biological signals that stem the physical symptoms of panic.  

5) Begin with a story to create a personal connection. 

This is always a good idea, but particularly for the panicked speaker. By telling a story, you'll create a connection with the audience, then sense their approval and start to calm down. Practice your story beforehand to ensure it's relevant, succinct and on point. 

Finally my favorite tip:

6) Forget about you; worry about them.

When I get too spun up before a speech, I step aside and imagine one person in the audience who desperately needs to hear what I'm about to say. Maybe my remarks will save them money or time or even their job---but they need this. Suddenly my self-consciousness falls away and I'm focused squarely on making a personal connection and driving home key points. Better still, if I fumble or lose my place, I get right back on track, knowing my audience is counting on me to pull it together.

Yes, speaker panic is a real and often debilitating condition. But the good news is, it's also curable. Follow these tips and remember you're in good company. As Mark Twain said "There are only two kinds of speakers in the world. 1) The nervous and 2) the liars."

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 Facebookor follow us on Twitter @bluestoneexec.   

A Bluestone Special Event: "Outclass the Competition" June 5, 2017 at 6:00 p.m.

Bluestone Executive Communications is pleased to debut its new business etiquette program at a special event offered in conjunction with the world-class Townsend Hotel on Monday; June 5, 2017 at 6:00 p.m. in Birmingham, Michigan.

"Outclass the Competition," will cover critical business manners, essential social graces and fine dining etiquette---all of which will be offered over wine and an exquisite meal. 

The program will equip professionals of all levels with with the confidence and class to make the most of every business and social interaction, even amid the changing rules of today's digital age.

We hope you'll join us for this unforgettable evening, hosted by Bluestone's Certified Etiquette Instructor, Danielle Kovachevich.

For more details or to register for the program, please visit the link below or email us atinfo@bluestoneexec.com.

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/outclass-the-competition-tickets-34696429956?aff=es2

Can't join us for the program but would still like to learn more about etiquette coaching and other programs and Bluestone? Please email us at info@bluestoneexec.com.

Bluestone Executive Communications provides a range communication consulting services to help professionals be more impactful in both high-stakes situations and their daily work. Bluestone's lengthy client list includes major corporations, associations, non-profits and government bodies across North America and beyond. Our offices are located in beautiful downtown Birmingham, Michigan, though we serve clients wherever they need us. For more about Bluestone Executive Communications, visit bluestoneexec.com.

Facing Your Own PR Crisis? Better Get Your Story Straight

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Good public relations practices are scalable. The same strategies that can help a global company navigate an epic crisis can hold true for individuals fighting to manage their own bad news---like an untimely departure.

None of us likes to think about losing a job. But if the day comes when you find yourself packing that cardboard box, here are three PR moves to help keep your image in tact while you regroup.

Get your story straight. Sure, you’ll want to vent to your personal inner circle. But before you share the bad news much further, come up with a narrative about what happened and what you want to see happen next.

Regardless of the reason for the separation, you should be able to frame it in terms that highlight your professionalism. Most importantly, you want to draw a picture in which the listener can see you moving on to even better things.

No matter the circumstances, resist the urge to paint yourself as a victim, even if you are one. People feel sorry for victims, but they don’t hire them. Instead summarize the situation and emphasize what YOU are doing to take control of your future.

Get Some Good Buzz Going. Once you have your story straight, start spreading it. Reach out to as many people in your network and their networks as you can---and not just people in positions of power. In fact, while people high up the food chain can be very valuable at helping to close a deal, they are not as useful at the front end of a job search when you need to dig up leads. Make the rounds electronically or better yet in person. Ask for informational interviews to learn about new companies and get the momentum going. All along the way, let folks know you’re interested in new opportunities and would appreciate them keeping their ear to the ground for you. You’ll be surprised by who in your circle turns out to be helpful.

Malign No One. Talking ill of someone else only calls into question your character, not theirs. So take the high road when it comes to speaking about your former company, supervisor and colleagues. If you can’t say something nice about them, focus instead on the opportunities you were given to grow and do good work. You’ll win points for graciousness and professionalism---and you’ll be that much closer to your next great thing.

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, visit bluestoneexec.com, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @bluestoneexec.