Share the Stage with Confidence

Bill H., a founder of a nutrition startup, asks, “How can I get more comfortable speaking in front of groups, investors mostly? I have my top sales guy do all the talking, but apparently it’s starting to look odd that I don’t “share the stage” with him at these presentations. If I lost him, I’d be in big trouble. What to do?”

This is a common concern for many founders wanting to project strong leadership. I define public speaking as any kind of speaking you do with the public: phone calls, 1:1 or small group conversations. Chances are you could not have gotten this far if you had trouble on the phone or in small group conversation. Keep in mind — listeners really care about the substance of what you have to offer, not how slick a presenter you are. They want to make money, period. It’s true that investors like to work with confident and energetic people, but that is secondary to their main interest.

To take action, I suggest you identify where your discomfort in public speaking breaks down and work to refine that level. This is where a communication coach comes in handy. Are you generally anxious, unprepared, unsure of your content, a poor listener, vocally weak or disfluent, etc. at the small group conversation level?  If so, getting some guidance managing those aspects would be a good starting point. Then, consider polishing up one segment of the larger group presentation that you are most comfortable with. This way you can start “sharing the stage” with your sales guy in a small way. With practice and an understanding of what your audience really cares about, you’ll be able to take over more of the presentation in time.

Need more help with public speaking or presentation skills? I’m happy to help you. Contact me at Rebecca@MindfulCommunication.com

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Managing Your Time: What is Your Day Worth? Part 2 of 3

If money drives you, think about placing a dollar amount on your day equal to the effort and efficiency you put forth. This is one of my clients’ favorite strategies for enhancing productivity and assessing their performance at day’s end.

For example, imagine a day where you put forth your 100% personal best. What dollar amount might you tag to a day like that? $1000, $5000, $10,000? Let’s say $5000.  A $5000 day  assumes that every task on your list gets done, done well and delivered. The next step is to assign, according to the time needed per task, complexity and priority, a dollar amount where the maximum total for the day = $5000. For example:

  • refining a clear description of your business model = $500
  • making 5 cold calls to prospects = $1000
  • clearing your desk and planning your schedule for the next day = $1000
  • sending out the three proposals you’ve been putting off = $2500

Therefore, accomplishing all these tasks would earn you your max for the day ($5000). Consider attaching greater dollar amounts to the most undesirable, but essential tasks on your list.

At day’s end ask yourself : What did I pay myself today? What did I earn? $500, $2000? $4500? Where did I jip myself and how can make more tomorrow?  You can also use a self-rating scale from 1 (total slacking) to 10 (personal best) and resolve the next day to beat the previous day’s rating. If you easily made your quota, perhaps your allotments per task are too generous, or you can fit more into your day and pay yourself more.

Let me know how this works for you! Need help being productive in not so ordinary ways? Contact me at Rebecca@MindfulCommunication.com.   

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Managing Your Time: “Do the Most Good Possible” (Part 1 of 3)

Planning the next day’s activities with inspiration as your guide helps you make better choices with your time. In the next two blog posts, I will share ways of enhancing your performance in more mindful and meaningful ways. These approaches yield improved mental health, satisfaction and productivity for my busy clients. Today’s blog is about planning. No plan or a murky one = wasted time and focus.

Tonight before bed do two things: 1) Ask yourself, “How can I make the most of tomorrow?”  2) Create a specific plan for the next day. Consider the inspiring quote from psychologist Jordan B. Peterson’s best seller The 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos “(Do) the most good possible in the shortest period of time.” So whenever someone tells you “Have a good day,” it’ll take on special meaning.

Planning with the Peterson quote in mind prioritizes the next day’s activities. For each activity list specific points or a breakdown of steps for each. This step will help you estimate the block of time needed for each activity. Use an week-at-a-glance hourly calendar and carve out a reasonable block of time needed for each activity; include any travel or transition time.

You’ll sleep better knowing that you’ve a plan for tomorrow. This way, when you get up, there’s no second-guessing or futzin’ around. Jump right into the day’s pre-set plan.

Here’s an example of how I do the most good possible in the shortest period of time:

6:00-7:00a.m.: yoga warm up=10m (minutes), squats, biceps/pull-ups= 5m, bike intervals= 30m, mat sequence =10m, cool down =5m. I’m psyched and my energy is blazing – that’s good!

7:00-8:30a.m.:  clean up, breakfast, review calendar, quick check emails/ texts, light chores.  Good to go!

8:30-11:30a.m.: Writing. Ch. 2 review, + 2 new sources, + client story, edit Chapter 3, etc. Good work that will eventually help readers do good!

Client sessions fill the remaining blocks of my working day. For you, it may be meetings or important conversations. Either way, just like the above examples, each block should have a series of points or steps specific to that task. This keeps you on track time-wise. Being organized and prepared in this way helps make these conversations timely and productive, which is good for all parties.

Circumstances may shift things a bit, but I pretty much stick to the plan. At the end of the day, I set aside a few minutes to drop a client an encouraging message, well-deserved kudos or a helpful suggestion. That’s adding just a little more good to someone’s day. I’ll be good to myself and set up some reward time for a day well lived – a walk in the woods, piano practice, or a game of table tennis.

A good day starts with planning – a CORE element essential for better focus and follow through. Let me help you build COREage for your goals. Contact me at Rebecca@mindfulcommunication.com  

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Can You Handle the Truth? Accounting For Phone Time

Where does the time go? Why can’t I get more done each day? I want to finish my business plan, but other stuff gets in the way.

Do these complaints sound familiar? If you’re serious about improving your productivity and finding the waste in your day, being accountable for your phone time is a good place to start. Of all the distractions and interruptions we need to control for, smart phones and tablet use rates as Number One!

We typically underestimate the time spent on our phones. As an exercise I ask my clients to write on a slip of paper how many minutes or hours a day they think they spend on their phones and tablets. Their estimate is sealed in an envelope. Using one of the apps below they track the actual time spent on their phones for one week. After seven days their written estimates are unveiled. The estimates are often off by 50% or more! These apps can also tell you how many times you check your smartphone, what apps you use the most, reminders to take digital breaks and help you set limits on phone and table use. You all know that I’m not a big fan of GAGs (Gimmicks, Apps Gadgets) except for the ones that can keep us from over-using them! The truth can be liberating. If you care about productivity, the truth can also motivate you to make needed changes. Check out these links:

Moment – Screen Time Tracker

A Handy iOS Feature

Also read: Become aware of just how much your use your smartphone!

After the shocking reality hits home, you might take the next step and track your reasons for your excessive phone use. In subsequent blogs, I will address the most common reasons and their solutions.

I’m always happy to get your comments and requests for topics. Email me at rebecca@mindfulcommunication.com

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A New Solution for Anxiety: The Alpha-Stim

Perhaps the most common concern my entrepreneur clients report is anxiety and its cousin, insomnia. Founders have every reason to be anxious. In fact, if they are perfectly at ease with their startup, I get suspicious!  For those  new to  entrepreneurship there are constant battles between vision and reality, hope and doubt, deadlines and the worry of having no deadlines at all.  I encourage my entrepreneurs-at- risk to hold off on big, costly decisions until they get a handle on their anxiety. Control over anxiety means:

  • consistently good sleep
  • giving emotion a back seat when solving a problem
  • being able to re-frame mistakes and setbacks and move forward
  • the ability to inhibit impulsive actions and reactions.

Emotional control is one of the four core skills essential to healthy and successful entrepreneurship.

A review of the most helpful of anxiety-reducing activities include: meditation, yoga, exercise, visualization and  mindfulness training etc. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is another fine option, but it requires regular sessions and practice. Others benefit from software tools like The Muse, Wild Divine, Heartmath and other kinds of biofeedback. The usual objections to these approaches include “not enough time,” or “the more I try to quiet my mind, the louder it gets.”

Let me tell you about another safe, effective, well-tested approach for anxiety, insomnia (and depression). It is a form of cranial-electrotherapy called Alpha-Stim. It is a user-friendly, handheld device the size of a cell phone. It requires no practice or effort by the user, and it can be used while doing most other activities except driving.

Moods and emotions are controlled through electro-chemical signals in your brain. When these signals aren’t functioning properly, the hormones and neurotransmitters that regulate your emotions can become unbalanced resulting in an anxious state.

The Alpha-Stim device generates a signal that produces a waveform conducive to calmness and a better state of mind − the Alpha frequency  (8-12 Hz). The Alpha-Stim has been very helpful with many of my clients. For those that notice no change with the Alpha-Stim, other approaches such medications or neurofeedback may be more helpful.

To learn more about the Alpha-Stim go to www.alpha-stim.com or email info@epii.com.

If you are local to the Boston MetroWest area, we offer a personalized Alpha-Stim demonstration and educational session at the Hallowell Center in Sudbury, Mass. If you’d like to make an appointment call 978 287 0810.

 

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5 Steps For Getting to the Point

Time is a constraint for you and those you’re trying to persuade.

The hour of yesterday is the 20 seconds of today. While you prepare to be heard, keep in mind that the average attention span 20 seconds or less!

1) Know your Objective, don’t just start talking! Research shows that in the first 7 seconds people make approximately 11 different judgments about your worthiness to be heard.

Ask yourself – What do I want to achieve? Why do I want to have that conversation? Have one objective in mind – stick to one objective only. Don’t sidetrack to other related topics or you come across as unsure, unfocused and wishy-washy.

2) Write down your bullet points first in simple and direct language. Now, create a brief sentence with each major talking point. Listen to yourself and edit out redundancies, empty words like “really, great, stuff, uh” and other fillers. Edit out repetitive words like “like, I, really, right,” etc.

3) Use a Good Hook is a headline that grabs attention.Ask yourself, “What is the single best statement or question that will get me to my objective?” A hook is a statement that satisfies a need, one that is  contrary to common experience, a worry, or is the best interest of the listener:

Beets cure insomnia

Did you know reading the wrong way can make you stupid?

What is the best kept secret of Fortune 500 companies?

What is the most unusual, exciting, dramatic, humorous part of your message? That will help shape your hook or opening line.

4) If you’ve hooked your listener, they will want to hear more.  The Body of the message should build a case. It should answer – Who, What, When Where, Why, and How. No more than one sentence for each.

5) Ask for the Action you want them to take in the Closing. It’s your bottom line. What do you want your listener TO DO? Set up an appointment? Get some time off? Invest in your company? Buy your book? Is there a time limit? “The deadline is 3:00 this afternoon,” or “Our sale ends tonight at midnight.”

Crisp articulation, a pleasant sounding voice and vocal dynamics give power, certainty and charisma to your message. Annoying vocal/verbal tendencies (hoarseness, mumbling, too soft or too loud, an unintelligible foreign accent, etc ) can distract a listener from your content.

Practice your “20 second or less” commercial. Start with your main point (one sentence hook or idea in a nut-shell) and support your point with 2-3 main supporting facts. Have more facts ready, if folks want to hear more. Rehearse and record your 20 second message. Try it out on a friend. Get feedback.

Need help getting to the point? Contact me at RebeccaShafir@gmail.com to set up a personalized 30 minute phone training session. 

 

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Four Points for Follow Through

Whenever I feel like stalling on a project, telling myself that I have plenty of time to finish it, or that today is not a good day for that sort of thing, I consider four points:

  1. the value I place on the project (respect, money, time-sensitivity, etc)
  2. the outcome I need to produce; what does “good enough or “near-perfect ” look like?
  3. how lousy I’ll feel if an emergency pops up that stalls this project even more, and
  4. the satisfaction I’ll experience when it’s completed.

As you approach the New Year, take a look at what project or projects you have in queue and consider these four points. Take your highest value project and parse out the steps needed to complete it, or to make greater headway on it, over the next 2-3 weeks. Schedule a reasonable amount of time every day to put in some effort toward this valuable project. It may be 15 minutes, it may be 2 or more hours a day, but consistent attention to it will bring you closer to the finish line.

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Are You Wading in the Shallows?

Sorting all your tasks into the categories of Urgent, Urgent and Important, Important etc. can be maddening, time consuming and open to interpretation. Reportedly, this approach is helpful to many who can make many clear distinctions between tasks and act accordingly. But for most of my creatives and inventives, the two bucket approach (deep and shallow) is working better.  According to Cal Newport, the author of Deep Work, we can sort our tasks into 2 fairly distinct categories. Deep tasks are those with high-payoff work requiring sustained concentration. Shallow work tasks are the low priority busy work tasks that make us look, but not feel, productive.

When I meet with clients who are short on tangible productivity, we’ll study their to-do lists from the previous week and find that about 80% of what was accomplished was shallow work and 20% was deep work (Pareto lives on!). The idea is to turn that around to 80% deep and 20% shallow. As an entrepreneur, what tasks will yield the most payoff, toward your goal? Those are the deep tasks (researching, planning an important presentation, accounting work etc) that require the most concentration and least distraction. These tasks completed will get you closer to your goal. Shallow work is necessary work, but it is easier, more enjoyable and less important to the bottom line. Because of our weakness with concentration and focus we tend to spend more time in the shallows.

In subsequent blogs I will share my solutions to the concentration and focus problems that keeps us wading in the shallows. But for now, clearly identify your deep and shallow tasks and see where you’ve been spending your time. Next, schedule your days around a core of deep work, with the shallow activities batched into smaller bursts when your energy dips or as a reward for getting the deep work done. If you’re short on time (no kidding!), I highly recommend reading the summary and analysis on Deep Work, for a more “in-depth” understanding.

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Mindful Listening: 5 Steps to a Better Business in 2018

Mindful listening in the workplace saves time and money, improves productivity and creates employee AND customer loyalty. It is one of my four core skills that every founder needs to succeed. The holidays are a perfect time to connect better with your co-workers and customers, so apply any one or all of these mindful listening methods for a more prosperous 2018:

1)  “Set your mind” first thing every morning to focus.

Before you’re flooded with interruptions, set aside the first 5-10 minutes to close your office door, sit quietly with hands resting on your lap and breathe. Attend only to the feeling of deep inhalation and exhalation. When other thoughts creep into your consciousness, acknowledge them, let them pass for now and get back to the breath. Settle down the internal noise. After about 15 settling breaths, keep your eyes closed for the last couple minutes, and imagine the day as you would like to see it unfold. What, if you could accomplish it, would make you feel satisfied with your day?

2)  Create a ‘listening culture’ in house

Offer employees a Monday morning 8:00 a.m. bagel hour as a connecting, brainstorming new ideas and solutions without fear of reprisal. No idea is crazy. Talking through ideas that appear to be out of the ordinary will stir up the creative juices in team members.  Encourage top levels of management to be present whenever possible. Reinforce each person’s contribution.

3) Tell back what they said.

Paraphrasing is an old active listening technique, but we’re reluctant to use this powerful tool because we’re not good at it. Paraphrasing or telling back what someone said, in your own words, offers your speaker opportunities for clarification. It also saves you and your customer a lot of time, because with paraphrasing you get the message straight from the get-go.  On your way to work, get practice at telling back in your own words what you hear. Listen to a podcast. After about 5-10 minutes, pause the podcast and tell back ALOUD what you remember as much as possible. With practice, you’ll be able to WOW your customers with your conscientiousness, concern and efficiency, which is what customers LOVE. Paraphrasing aloud or silently to yourself during your practice helps to burn in information you want to remember – you’ll be smarter for it!

4) Don’t deny a complaint.

When customers complain, try to hear it as code for I’d really like to continue to do business with you. But, here’s a problem I’m having that can only make your company better. Complaining customers are a key component to your marketing department. This is where paraphrasing comes in handy. You don’t have to agree with them to be a good listener, but you do need to appreciate their reality.

5) Get them talking. Forget yourself!

Just like at the movies, forget yourself. To get customers and co-workers talking, ask open-ended questions like, “What are your objectives?” or “How could we do better for you?”  Allow the speaker to pause between thoughts. Let your curiosity take over your tendency to interrupt, give advice, judge their statements. Let their facial expressions, gestures and tone of voice tell you how they really feel about the product or service. You won’t learn anything from hearing your own movie again and again. Read more about the movie mindset in my book “The Zen of Listening.”  

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Creativity Cautions

As an entrepreneur, I bet dollars to donuts that you love to engage in other creative endeavors well beyond your startup. Creativity is our lifeblood, but if not controlled, it can interfere, deter or sabotage your startup’s velocity. If you look back at my previous blog, A Morning Ritual, Not A Morning Retreat, it points out how an over-the-top morning ritual saps energy and adds more distraction. Instead of a morning ritual being a mind and body warm-up for a day of exceptional productivity, many of my clients, uberly creative, report indulging too much time and energy in their morning rituals. They are told, in addition to working out, to meditate, journal, drink their over-priced energy drinks and resist their email, and act on their creative yah-yahs before getting to work. Well, let’s get real here. We know how jump-starting those creative juices first thing in the morning may help one solve problems in their business or see things from another angle. But if you find that acting on your muse as part of your morning ritual a bit too musifying, here’s what you can do.

Creative activity can seep into your morning and bleed into your objectives for the day no matter how good of a time manager you are. Set an alarm for 30 minutes, an hour or reasonable time slot for creative flow. I rarely boast, but when it comes to managing my time, I’m awesome. HOWEVER, when I sit down to practice piano I tend to lose track of time; I require occasional clock checks to stay on schedule.

Creative endeavors tend to be so fun and joyful, that when it’s time to shift to work mode, it can take the smile out of “file” and the grin out of “call in” and the smirk out of “paperwork.” The to–do’s we avoid end up looking worse in comparison to our hobbies.

Don’t give your hobby a bad name. Try making your creative activity a reward for getting important tasks completed, either from the previous day or for an end-of-the-day incentive. Instead of hiding from your to-do’s, you’ll eagerly cross them off the list as quickly and efficiently as possible because your creative endeavor awaits!  Using creative activity as a reward versus a distraction streamlines the transition from the creative activity to the to-do’s. You’ll relish your creative activity so much more if you earn it!

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