Gestures: The “Ricky Bobby” Dilemma

Do you remember the scene in “Talledega Nights” when Will Farrell’s character, Ricky Bobby, was being interviewed on TV and let his hands float awkwardly into the shot for no apparent reason? Have you ever felt the same way? Most of the people I coach tell me the same thing Ricky Bobby said: “I’m not sure what to do with my hands!” Let me offer some assistance.

Gestures, like our vocal inflection, are vital when we’re delivering a presentation. They add emphasis and help the audience understand what we believe is important. Think of your gestures as the visual bold, italic, and underlining of your speech. And there’s probably something in every sentence you say that needs a little emphasis. Adding a gesture of some kind will help make your points.

I have three guidelines for effective gestures. Give these a try as you practice your next presentation.

First, gestures need to be above-the-waist to count. No half-hearted flippy hands down by your legs, please, and no elbows-velcro’d-to-your-side gestures, either. Gestures need to be up where we can see them with air in the armpits.

Second, try one-handed gestures. Use two hands when you absolutely need them, but for the rest of the time, one hand is enough. I think gestures instantly look more natural and relaxed when you utilize one just one arm. I know what your next question is—and that leads me right into point #3.

Third, what do you do with the hand that’s left behind? Plant it somewhere! Rest those finger tips on the top of the conference table or the side of the lectern. Grasp the top of the chair or flipchart easel you’re standing next to. For many presentations, the leftover hand will be busy holding a hand-held mic or remote clicker. And, contrary to many other speaker coaches, I’m a big fan of one hand in the pocket. I think people, especially men, look instantly cool and calm with one hand tucked away. Now, it can’t live in that pocket for the entire presentation, but it stay there for a short while.

When one hand is grounded somewhere touching something, it can instantly relax you. You don’t feel like you’re floating out in space. Then, when you find your groove a few minutes in to the speech, you can let go and have that hand available for gesturing going forward.

So, for all you Ricky Bobbys out there, don’t fret. Try these tricks and you can “shake-and-bake” with the best of them, too!

© Jill Bremer 2017

Test Your Email Best Practices

Here’s a quick True-False quiz to test your email skills:

  1. Three- to four-word subject lines are best.
  2. Subject lines should be changed when topics change.
  3. Including six names in the “To:” box is acceptable.
  4. All caps should never be used in email messages.
  5. The best length for emails is between 50-125 words.

EXTRA CREDIT: The best time to send emails is 4:00 pm.

Click here to see the answers. Hint: scroll to the bottom of the page.

Five Ways to Make a Poor First Impression

“You never have a second chance to make a first impression.” You’ve heard that for years, but there is a lot of truth in it. We size up others quickly because it helps us make sense of our world and feel safe in it. Research conducted by Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital suggests that people judge competence, likeability, trustworthiness, and attractiveness in 250 milliseconds based simply on what they see before them! And good or bad, we tend to cling to our initial judgments of others and view them through that lens for a very long time. So try to always put your best foot forward!

Here’s what not to do:

Arrive Underdressed

It’s hard to lose points by overdressing, but you certainly can by underdressing. As Hamlet said, “The apparel oft proclaims the man.” So, what is yours proclaiming today? How you dress tells the world just what you think about yourself and those you’re with. Why not convey intelligence, respect, and confidence? Do your homework, figure out the dress code, then kick it up a half a notch and choose accordingly. You can always lose the jacket, tie, or extra accessories once you scope out the room, but it’s hard to make those things materialize out of thin air.

Focus on Your Phone

You can only have one quality conversation at a time, so if you want to make a positive first impression, you’re going to have to put the phone away. On silent. Or better yet, off. You never want people to think that anything is more important than the conversation you’re having with them right here and right now. If you must make or take a call, excuse yourself and move away to talk in private. Then return and hope they haven’t moved on to someone more present and personable.

Use Negative Body Language

Our body language is another element that conveys how interested we are in others. Eyes that constantly dart around or focus on the floor, slumped postures, crossed arms, and grim expressions tell others you’re probably bored, angry, depressed, or all of the above. Face people heart-to-heart, make attentive eye contact, smile occasionally, and others will find you fascinating because you found them interesting.

Shake Hands Like a Limp Fish

…or a wet noodle or a bonecrusher or fingers-only princess style. Yikes! Your handshake sets the tone for whatever follows. Don’t gross them out with a handshake that creates questions instead of confidence. Offer your entire hand, move in until web meets web, grasp firmly, shake lightly (no pumping!), then release. Add to that a smile and eye contact, along with something pleasant like, “Hello, it’s nice to meet you.”

Having Nothing to Offer

Here’s another reason to do some homework ahead of time. Research the people you’ll be meeting as well as their companies, industries, and current issues. Prep some questions and insights you could share that would demonstrate your interest in them and knowledge of what’s going on in their worlds. But you can’t be all business either. Prep for lighter conversations, too. Books, movies, sports, theater, food, museums, and travel are all fun topics for small talk, so be ready to share your experiences and recommendations.

Need feedback on the impressions you’re making on others? We have training and coaching programs that can help! www.theedgeexecutivecoaching.com

© 2017 Jill Bremer

 

Dining Etiquette: When to Talk Business

Americans love to combine food and business. Whether it’s breakfast, brunch, lunch, tea, cocktails or dinner, we enjoy merging these two activities and eating while we also brainstorm ideas, finalize deals, nurture relationships, even make hiring and promotion decisions. Here are some tips for handling the business conversation properly.

If you’re meeting over breakfast, you’ll need to get down to business quickly, perhaps even before you’re seated at the table. People usually can’t linger over a long breakfast, so get the discussion going while you’re standing at the hostess stand or even on the way to the restaurant.

When meeting over lunch, it’s best to wait until all parties have ordered. People often need more time to read through this menu (compared to breakfast), so don’t interrupt their decision-making process with business talk. Otherwise, the orders will be delayed and lunch will run late for everyone.

When you’re combining business with dinner, it’s proper to wait until the dessert/coffee course before bringing up the issues at hand. In some cultures, it’s taboo to talk business at all over a meal. They use these settings purely for building and solidifying relationships, not to talk shop. But stateside, if you do want to talk business, wait until the final course. Of course, if your guests bring the subject up earlier, take the cue that it’s okay to talk now.

Final Tip: When you’re the host, be sure to choose restaurants that take reservations, so you can respect your guests’ time. 

© 2017 Jill Bremer

Build Your Visibility

Feeling a little invisible at work? Looking for ways to stand out and distinguish yourself from the crowd? It’s difficult to create a strong executive presence if no one knows who you are or what you do. Here are some strategies for building your visibility: 

Daily – 

Nurture your network by making one non-required contact each day. Make a call or send a note.

Weekly – 

For the required meetings you go to, ask what you can bring or how you can help, like taking the meeting minutes.

Find out if there are other meetings you can attend outside of your department. You’ll benefit from other perspectives and can build your business acumen and value to the organization.

Monthly – 

Attend events in your industry both large and small. You can reap different rewards from each.

Volunteer for your professional organizations and be more than a good volunteer, be great. Consider volunteering first for the membership committee. You get to know everyone and can serve as the master connector. 

Search out the associations your clients belong to and go to those meetings, too, to stay current on happenings in their industry.

Arrive early to any meeting, if you can. It’s a prime opportunity to introduce yourself to the board members and speaker. Volunteer to help them with setting up or with the registration table.

Quarterly – 

Get your name in print. Write for trade publications, op-ed pieces, client newsletters. 

Consider attending an event outside your industry. Be the only one there who does what you do!

Annually – 

Attend at least one conference in your field. Conferences provide valuable relationship-building opportunities and can bring you national and international visibility.

Do a presentation or panel discussion at the conference. Opportunities abound for those who can deliver a solid presentation. 

Additional Ideas – 

Volunteer for a special project or task force.

Chair a committee (and chair it well!)

Develop a diverse network of people, including people from all areas within your organization. Be the person who knows where to go to get answers.

Adapted from “It’s Your Move: Dealing Yourself the Best Cards in Life and Work,” by Cyndi Maxey and Jill Bremer.

Pin It on Pinterest