Strategy. Innovation. Brand.


Long before you step onto stage, you should lay out your persuasive objectives and create a plan to achieve them. The posts in this category help you step through the process.

Three Things Not To Do

Yesterday, I wrote about four ways to be unpersuasive — in the broadest sense. Today, let’s narrow the focus and talk about three things not to do in public speaking. These are behaviors that I see all too frequently and they detract from your effectiveness and your persuasiveness. (For my tips on three things you should do, click here).

  • No ned to apologize.

    Don’t fumble around — I see far too many presenters using the first five to ten minutes of their time fumbling around with their technology. As you’re trying to find your PowerPoint file, I’m reading your desktop — and I often find some very interesting tidbits. Show up early, make sure everything works, and be ready when the audience shows up. Even more radical — give a presentation without using PowerPoint. That simplifies everything.

  • Don’t apologize — if you apologize for yourself, you undercut your own position. If you don’t take yourself seriously, why would anyone else? You have a right to be there. Step forward and seize the moment.
  • Dont forget the housekeeping — the most important housekeeping items are to agree on the time and on how you’ll handle questions. If you’ve misunderstood how much time you have (or if your audience’s schedule has changed), you may have to adjust your presentation on the fly. Always double check what the audience expects of you in terms of time and feedback.

You can learn more in the video. Speaking of which, this is a good opportunity to acknowledge again that I started this video series when I was still an executive at Lawson. When I retired, Lawson very graciously permitted me to use the videos to build my own practice. I certainly appreciate it.

Strip My Gears and Call Me Shiftless

I used to be proud of my ability to focus. When I was a software executive, I could identify my top priorities for the day and focus on

Geared up?

getting them done. That sometimes meant that I turned off my phone and ignored my e-mail. I had an assistant who could run interference for me. Sometimes, I hid in an office where my colleagues wouldn’t expect to find me. I could focus for several hours at a time — maybe even an entire day — and just get stuff done.

Now that I’m a consultant with multiple clients, I’m constantly shifting from one topic or task to another. I can’t hide from my boss to get stuff down. I am the boss. I can’t very well hide from my clients. If they can’t find me, they don’t pay me. I feel like I randomly shift from one topic to another, from one client to another, from one task to another. Like an old car, I’m worried that the constant shifting will strip my gears.

What to do? Here’s what I’ve figured out. I’d love to hear your suggestions as well.

  • Multi-tasking doesn’t really work — I can’t do multiple things at the same time. I need to tuck myself away and focus on getting one thing done.
  • It doesn’t much matter what you do first — when I need to do multiple tasks, I used to agonize about which one to do first. Which one would make the best use of my time? I could waste a good half hour trying to decide what to do next. Now, I just roll a dice, pick the task and get to work. Just pick one.
  • Just finish one — I try very hard not to let Task B interfere with Task A before I’ve finished Task A. Shutting down a task and re-starting it both take a lot of time. It’s more efficient to just finish something.
  • Don’t check messages mid-task — I like to check my e-mail. I always expect to find something exciting. Rather than checking it randomly, I’ve trained myself to check only after I’ve finished a logical task. It’s my reward.
  • Have a plan, even if you can’t stick to it — I always start the day with a plan of what I want to get done. I may not be able to stick to it, but I always have a mental image of where I am compared to plan.
  • Give myself little rewards — when I complete a task, I give myself a reward. That could be as simple as getting another cup of coffee or taking the dog for a walk (she always makes me happy). Knowing that a reward is coming up give me an extra incentive for finishing something.
  • Say no — I do turn down clients from time to time just because I know I’ll have too much work to do. The first time I turned down a new client, it was very hard on me. Surprisingly, it gets easier.

Strategy: What Wouldn’t You Do?

In many ways, strategy is simple. Yet we often want to make it more difficult and more complicated than it really is. We want it to sound powerful and provocative. We want to inspire our employees and investors with eloquent phrases and motivational messages. But strategy, in itself, is not inspirational. You can create inspirational messages about your strategy but the strategy itself simply says, “we do this; we don’t do that”.

Be sure to separate the messaging (and the inspiring) from the strategy per se. A simple way to clarify your strategy is to focus on what you don’t do. By clearly defining what you don’t do, you can save yourself a lot of time and grief. You can invest that time into doing a better job of what you do do. That’s inspirational.

Learn more in the video.

Group Behavior – The Risky Shift

If you’re shot down behind enemy lines, would you rather be alone or in a group of colleagues? According to research from the U.S. Air Force, your chances of survival are better if you’re alone. That may seem counter-intuitive but groups — especially temporary groups with fluid leadership — often shift toward riskier behavior. Individuals tend to make fact-based decisions that often result in better outcomes.

In other words, an individual makes more conservative decisions. Operating alone, he or she focuses on and assesses the situation. In a group, members assess each other as well and may make decisions based on group dynamics rather than facts and evidence. This is what Robert Cialdini calls “social cues” — we look to each other for cues on how we should behave rather than making a hardheaded assessment of the situation.

To effectively lead groups, you need to understand how group dynamics and social cues can change your behavior. You may “go with the group” even if you feel uncomfortable with their decision. Watch the video — you might be surprised at what you would do if you find a man lying unconscious on the streets of Manhattan.

Establishing trust with the audience

The Greeks called it “ethos” and said that’s it’s the most important element of persuasion. If the audience trusts you, they’re likely to accept your argument — no matter how illogical.  If they don’t trust you, they’re likely to reject your argument — no matter how logical. So how do you establish trust?  Find out in the video.

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