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Your Communication Needs An Oil Change

By Blog, Communication

It’s time for an oil change!

The best way to make sales in your business is to talk about it. The proven way to get a promotion in your job is to work hard but also talk about your plans, what you envision and what you do. If you want to improve your relationship with your wife, then you need to talk with her. Is team building a problem for your company? Talk about it.

Do you get it yet? The common thread? Yes, it’s communication.

Communicating ideas, influencing others, connecting and creating alignment are core skills for nearly any situation you can imagine. Yet, it’s one of the skills most people, businesses and business owners take for granted.

“I can already speak. Why do I need to work on talking?”

Recently, I attended an event where there was a panel discussion. There were 8 participants on the panel and a moderator. The moderator asked questions initially, however she began to take some questions from the audience for the panelists.

As the panel continued, there was a gasp or a groan from the audience every time a certain panelist took the microphone. The audience’s reaction was loud enough and I could swear he heard it. But, it didn’t seem to make any difference in how he responded.

Here are some of the communication faux pas he made that day:

1. He made it all about him. Every time he took the mic, he name-dropped and spoke about all the great people he’d met and worked with. (Although most people began to wonder how any of the people he mentioned could stand to work with him) No matter what question was asked, it seemed he wanted the takeaway to be how great he was.

2. He rambled and rarely answered the question. I’ll give him credit. He was a storyteller. He could definitely spin a tale. But, the journey he kept taking us on was not the direction we were intending to go. This continually confused the audience and the audible grunts seemed to say, “Oh boy, I wonder if there is any way to get back the last 6 minutes of time I just wasted listening to this guy.”

3. He didn’t listen. There were times the moderator attempted to jump in when he paused to take a breath. However, he barged right back in, intent on completing his soliloquy. There was throat clearing. His name was called a few times. But, he just kept going until he decided he was done. Definitely a bold approach. Not productive, but bold.

4. He was unnecessarily loud. If the other panelists were +75 decibels, he was a +140 db. There were a few moments where his statements were profound. However, by the time you had an opportunity to pick them out, he’d blasted you with another name-drop or an ear-splitting pronouncement. I get it. Sometimes you need to be loud. But in this case, there was no variation. He was not monotone. But he also didn’t hear the echo he was creating in the hardwood room.

5. He didn’t connect. Sure, he looked around the room. And he sometimes glanced back at the moderator. But, in addition to the other alienating elements of his responses, he never looked to connect with any members of the audience physically, emotionally or intellectually. He was saying words for the sake of saying them.

Ultimately, at the end of the event, his name came up quite a bit. He was remembered and he was memorable…for all the wrong reasons.

He talked. But, he didn’t influence. He didn’t persuade and he definitely didn’t connect. He WAS confident though, blindly confident.

Although this example might be extreme (and true), it’s still a common occurrence. Presentations and even casual conversations are not often prepared for. It’s because we focus so much on the content and not enough on the way the content is transferred.

What about the oil?

Imagine you are going on a trip with three friends. You map the journey. You get enough money for the trip. You call your friends and work out the time. But, you never think about the vehicle. So, you begin driving in an old vehicle where the oil hasn’t been changed in 2 years nor has there been a tune-up.

Sure, the people, the destination and the money are fine. But, the vehicle isn’t. You may not make it.

Communication is the same. The information is important. But, you have to prepare the vehicle to get it there safely and effectively.

Isn’t it time to quit making communication assumptions?

Instead, take time to learn about how to deliver your messages confidently, credibly and clearly.

How To Get Your Virtual Audience To Respond

By Blog, Communication

Zoom meetings, Webex session, and Go-To-Meeting meetups have been here for a long time. But recently, they’ve become much more of a necessity. And because of this, we’ve had soooooo many more meetings.

So, on the one hand… “yay, we don’t have to drive to attend all these meetings.”

And on the other hand, “Hoo boy, another virtual meeting.”

The sheer volume of meetings is challenging. Even worse, many virtual presenters have not taken the time to figure out how to create an engaging virtual experience. So, the current snapshot of virtual attendees is staring into the screen, blank look on face, possibly tapping away on a mobile device. And that’s when they turn on the camera. Ouch!

One of the techniques virtual presenters or facilitators can use to get the audience to respond is asking questions. The challenge is this…what if you ask a question and crickets, no one answers?

This crickets phenomenon tends to occur for two reasons:

  1. The audience is disengaged and hasn’t been primed to respond,
  2. The question comes out of nowhere, and they don’t know what to do.

The audience needs to get familiar with the presenter and connected with them. Even if the presenter/facilitator is known to the audience, there is a “warming” period for every virtual meeting. For some audiences, it is 2 minutes, while for others, it may be 15 minutes.

A great way to begin connecting is by asking low-pressure questions like:

  • Where are you logging in from?
  • What department are you with?
  • How many calls have you been on today? or Who has been on the most calls today?

By asking a few questions at the beginning of your session, the audience is subtly informed that this will be an interactive session. Get them used to responding. If you begin by telling them your name and then immediately tossing information at them, they are immediately programmed to tune out. 

PRIME your audience by repeating an expected behavior early in the session.

Here’s another important step. Right before you ask the question, PREPARE the audience by telling them what you are going to request.

“Please type this answer in the chat for me.”

You can do this immediately after asking the question as well. The most important thing is to do it. If you don’t, some audience members will wonder whether they should unmute, or type or be looking for a poll or some other feature. Be clear about what you expect from your audience. They are looking for this.

As a presenter, it’s also helpful to sit in the seat of the audience. You may be presenting information, and the audience member may want to take some notes. As they are typing on their computer or writing in a notebook, they are looking away from the screen. I know…how DARE they! Seriously, this isn’t a bad thing. They are involved. This is not much different than if they were taking notes during a live presentation. The slight difference is that they now need to re-engage with a device to interact with you. So, prepare them for this. 

As you are speaking, a simple preparation statement like, “Ok, place your fingers on the keys, and get ready to type the answer to this question in the chat.”

This lets the audience know a question is coming and they can begin to mentally transition.

PRIMING the audience and PREPARING the audience will up your engagement factor quickly when running virtual sessions. As you structure your online meetings and presentations, look for opportunities to PRIME and PREPARE as early in the session as possible.

How To Set Up Your Space For Virtual Presentations

By Blog, Communication

We’ve gone virtual! Do you remember the days when ‘virtual’ meant everyone needed to hop on a telephone conference call? You passed the number around, logged in, and waited. Then the email came…you know the one.

“Hey Jim, I’m trying to get into the meeting. What’s the right meeting ID? Am I even on the right line?”

That used to be the norm. But, things…they are a-changin,’ and Zoom, WebEx, GoTo Meeting and MS Teams are now your conference room. You probably didn’t think about your home office or your dining room as needing to be professional before. But, as meetings and presentations online become more prevalent, they require a different level of treatment.

Here are some items to consider as you set up your space for virtual meetings and presentations:


As a virtual presenter, lighting is one of the most crucial elements of your presentations. The best rule you can follow is:

Keep all light sources in front of your face.

You can get outstanding lighting results without spending hundreds of dollars on pro lighting. A ring light or an LED light is an excellent investment. As you think about your setup, consider the windows. Where are they? Is it possible for you to set up your space, so the windows are in front of you? If not, having them on your side is the next best option.

What about the overhead lights in the room? If you can do without those, great. Lights from above tend to cast shadows on certain parts of your face or make the top of your head appear a bit more…well, shiny.

Light sources in front of you, whether fluorescent, incandescent, or LED will give you a better result.


You may be having some trouble finding a top of the line webcam. Or the prices may be so ridiculously marked up that you aren’t willing to spend a dime. Well, there are several solutions.

First, you may have a webcam built into your computer. Most computers do these days. If you are attending a meeting, a built-in webcam is fine. Many of them do a decent job. However, there are a few limiters.

a – the quality on built-in webcams sometimes has lower quality,

b – if the camera is integrated, you lose the ability to adjust angles or distance without impacting your ability to reach the keyboard comfortably and see the screen,

c – limited ability or inability to zoom and/or focus.

The second option you have is using a DSLR you may have lying around. This is an excellent option from a video quality perspective. The challenge is that you may have to purchase some additional connectors, a capture card, and additional software to get it working how you would like, depending on the camera brand and tier.

A third option is using a device most of us have…a smartphone. You can either log in to your session on your smartphone, then log in again on your computer, appearing twice in the virtual session. A more elegant option is using a virtual cam app, like EpocCam, to wirelessly connect your phone’s camera to your computer and virtual platform. There is a free version of EpocCam, which works well. You will have to deal with some ads, though.

The fourth option, as mentioned at the top of this section, is to grab a webcam. There are a gazillion webcams on Amazon. You won’t go wrong with a lot of them. However, for streaming, I’d recommend a Logitech cam. You can’t go wrong with the C922 or the Brio. At a slightly lower price point, you can check out the B525 or the C930e.


Again, as with the web camera, most computers come with a built-in microphone. Despite the convenience, there are a few limits. First, the integrated mic will pick up much more background noise. Unless you happen to have your lips right by the computer, there is the possibility for a lot of sound interference on it’s way to the mic. So, you will do better to plug in an external microphone.

There are a few types of mics. Headset mics, like the Logitech H390, will get the mic input close to your mouth. But, it’s a headset, and moving around is cumbersome if it’s wired. If wireless, latency, or lag, is a possibility. Condenser mics, like the Blue Yeti, will do a great job of lowering some of the room noise and picking up the sound in front, but it also has settings which will allow the pattern of pickup to be varied. This means, if you have multiple people in the room, the Yeti can be set to equally pick up the sound from each person as long as they are equidistant from the mic. Blue also makes some other great mics like the Snowball and recently, the Yeti Nano. Dynamic mics, like the Samson Q2U or the Audio-Technica ATR2100, are cost-effective microphones that do a great job of picking close vocals while ignoring the majority of the background noise. The mics are built to pick up the sound in front of them and not “around” them.

Having an external microphone creates more flexibility and more quality in your sound.


You may not be able to build out a professional broadcast studio, or your organization may not be able to sponsor a rockstar setup. However, paying attention to a few setup details can make an enormous difference in how your audience receives your message. Your goal is to have the message stand out while minimizing distractions. 

When you are intentional about some of the background details your audience might never pay attention to, it allows you to come across as a more polished presenter and communicator.



How To Keep Your Audience Connected To Your Message

By Blog, Communication

He had a lot of energy and he was interesting.  There were even a few moments during the 7 minute speech where he had the audience laughing.  I could hear them on the video.  Honestly, it was a good speech.

But, there was one thing I noticed.  He kept pacing back and forth the entire time.  This stood out to me because I noticed how much the camera operator had to move the camera during the video.  My screen just kept moving left to right, right to left, left to right, right to…the entire time.

If the camera person kept having to do this with his camera, what was it like for the audience?  Did they get dizzy?

The man on the stage giving the speech was me.  I was watching myself give a talk to some high-school students.  A friend of mine sat in the audience with my phone, recording the talk for me.

I was shocked at the amount of movement, not because I wasn’t supposed to move.  It was just quick, abrupt and a LOT.  I’d rush to one side of the stage, then quickly do a military pivot and move back to the other side.  It went on like this for the entire speech.  Yes, I was energetic.  But, I imagine that vocal energy added to my pacing may have made it a bit overwhelming.  I was filling up just watching the replay.

Pyschologist, Dr. Sunna Jung, shares that pacing is, “a behavioral signal to tell yourself that you’re too overwhelmed.”  She also notes it can be a “form of distraction in the moment to calm yourself down.”  As a speaker, being calm is important.  Coming across as confident is critical for the tone of your message.  However, the distraction mechanism of pacing also causes the audience to be distracted.  Remember, they are trying to connect with you.  So, constant pacing causes them to have to chase you.

Should you stand still like a robot in the middle of the stage or the room?  No, of course not.  Instead, move with purpose.

Keeping Them Connected

Here’s an example:

Let’s say that you are in the center of the stage and you say, “I’ve got three quick points, I want to share with you.”

Move to the right side of the stage (your right, their left).  Then begin, “Point number 1…”

You are now subtly anchoring that point to that side of the stage.  You might even add on by coming back to that side in a later reference to the point.

As you complete point #1, pause and let the idea sink in.  Transition to the center of the speaking area as if you are preparing to deliver the next power-packed piece of content.  Once you arrive, plant yourself and say, “The second point I’d like to share is…”

Again, as you complete point #2, pause, then transition to the left of the stage.

“The third and final point…”

You’ve done several things here.

First, you’ve physically anchored them to three areas and associated three points.

Second, you’ve honored their normal style of reading and information reception, left to right.  (Assuming this is a western audience)

Third, you given them space to separate ideas and process them.


Speaking from a stage or from the front of a room can be unnerving.  But your job isn’t to transfer that nervousness to the audience or show them how hard it is to be up front.  Your job is to clearly and confidently connect with them, showing them you see, feel and hear their problem.  Then you can show them your solution to the problem.

About The Author

Robert Kennedy III is a professional speaker and author. He speaks and writes mainly about leadership and communication. Connect with him on TwitterInstagramLinkedInFacebook or on his speaking website,

2 Phrases That Eliminate Authority & Influence

By Blog, Communication

Your words are powerful. They mean what they mean but they also mean what you may not think. OK. That was a little confusing. Do you see what I mean?

Have you ever had a conversation where you thought you said something and the listener received it very differently than you intended? The words were the same, but in the transmission process, something got added.

The good news is you can temper this with a bit of awareness. You can add clarity and confidence to your speaking by eliminating certain phrases which tend to diminish your message.

There are many examples. However, I want to focus on two.

In my opinion…how many times have you heard this added to the beginning or the end of an argument? I was in a meeting where a discussion was taking place. One of the participants had been sitting and observing for some time. Now, he felt compelled to add something to the discussion. He opened his mouth and delivered a poignant, wise and well-thought argument. But, then he paused and added…in my opinion.

What just happened? He added a caveat. He essentially said, “I could be wrong here but…

They hung on his words until the very end. But, he added those three words and you could see the room shift. They nodded and then went back to the discussion.

Adding “in my opinion” focuses the response on the speaker and not simply on the statement.

Leaving that out allows the listener to hear the statement without thinking about the speaker’s source. The statement becomes one of authority instead of appearing contrary. Removing “in my opinion” adds boldness to the overall delivery of the statement.

The second phrase is ‘Well, I think that…’

This phrase also subtly creates a focus on the speaker and their thought process instead of the allowing the words to stand powerfully on their own.

Say the following sentences out loud.

From what I can see, it looks like a blue sky.

Well, I think the sky is blue.

The sky is blue!

Do you hear the difference? The third sentence is authoritative. It stands. It doesn’t drive the listener into the thought process of the speaker. The sentence stands on its own as factual.

Think about two people. The first enters a room, then makes a statement. After making the statement, he begins to offer additional arguments defending the original statement. He spends 10 minutes defending himself even though no one has challenged him.

The second person enters the room, makes a statement, then simply sits quietly OR she turns and exits the room.

Which person made a stronger impact? If you were here in the room with me, I willing to bet you said the second person. Their statement stood on its own and caused you to ask in your mind, “What’s next?”

This is speaking with AUTHORITY and confidence.

As a speaker, you are a conduit. You carry a message that stands on its own. You support it with stories and ideas which bring it to life. But, you allow the audience to claim it as their own by forming their own pictures around it. While it may seem counterintuitive, if you claim the message before they do, you minimize connection as well as authority.

State the message then allow them to decide what to do with it instead of deciding what to do with you!

5 Reasons Organizations Must Get Presentation Training

By Blog, Communication

It was an important roll-out.  The team had spent weeks putting together the timelines, the assets, and answering all the questions they could think of.  Now, the only thing left was presenting it to senior management.  The team chose Sarah, the person who knew the most about the proposed system, to present the idea.

There was one problem, however.  Sarah was scared out of her mind.  And when she went into the room to present, it showed.  She fumbled with her clicker and her papers.  Her sentences rambled.  The red showed clearly on her face.
When she left the room, she broke down in tears because she had blown it.

Maybe every presentation isn’t high stakes or this dramatically terrible.  But, this is a true scenario more often than most companies would admit.  Whether it’s a high stakes sales presentation, new business pitch, or laying out a new strategy, the success of the business is dependent upon influence.  This means confident, clear and credible presentations.

So, why do many companies fail at this?  In some cases, training exists.  But, rather than interactive, performance-based training designed for muscle memory, the participants sit in a room answering questions and taking notes.  While this may fill the quota, it doesn’t improve the skill set or give better results.   Employees need to know how to present more than just information.  They also need to know how to access their innate abilities to tell stories, influence and connect effectively.

There are many reasons why training in public speaking and presentation skills is important for any organization. But, I will share 5 top considerations:

1. It makes them better at selling.
Your company sells a product or a service.  While you hire salespeople hired to win new business, internally, teams need to influence each other and/or management to create more efficiency. Ironically, many salespeople lack training on HOW to present.  Rather, they are told WHAT to present. Customers connect to the WHO and the WHY first before they will connect to the product.  In an article on redesigning the auto industry, Jamie LaReau, predicts we will need product presenters rather than salespeople.

While the outcome may be sales and revenue related, in order to get there, presenters must have the ability and skill to connect.

2. Finding a hidden company/department spokesperson.
The person who presents is quite often the person who knows the most or the person who is the least scared. Not very good criteria.  Is everyone equally skilled at presenting?  Is that even possible?  Maybe not.  But, with the right training, you will find a diamond or two in the rough.

I presented for a company recently and one participant mentioned she rarely presented because she was always told how soft-spoken she was.  She believed this was a hindrance to her presentation.  But, when we began working on what she could do to connect with her audience using her already built in superpower, she came to life.  Her thoughts were crystal, and she became animated about her content.  Soon after the workshop, I received an email from her team proclaiming her the official department presenter.  Her ‘soft-spokenness’ was an asset used to help her audience lean in.  And she actually learned to project better because she was now more confident in her skills.

3. Improve employee confidence.
More confident employees are more decisive employees.  Decisive employees are willing to take more risks and in an age where innovation is a must, risk-taking is a leadership mandate.  But when employees are not sure whether their voices can be heard, the confidence factor decreases.  So, when an organization says, “Hey there, here is a way you can increase the likelihood of your voice being heard and also upgrade your influence,”, employees tend to listen.

Public speaking and presentations give immediate feedback from a captive audience.  While much of the immediate feedback is non-verbal, it is still impactful enough to make a difference.  Imagine an employee who feels like she can communicate effectively with c-suite and entry-level alike.  This is a confident employee who knows that her words and how she presents them can make a difference.

4. Establish authority, improve reputation and credibility.
A well-prepared presenter can establish rapport, authority, and expertise with an audience, large or small.  But, a company with well-prepared presenters, plural, establishes itself as a company who identifies great talent and also equips its people to be passionate about its products.

As a child, I remember vacuum cleaner salesmen coming through my house quite a bit.  The products were always good, and they seemed to do amazing things. However, we never purchased…until the 3rd time a specific company came to us.  We’d seen the presentation twice before but we took special note of how the company armed its presenters.  My dad was a pastor and so he had a special affinity for well-presented messages.  This company was consistent with the excellence of presentation and we paid nearly $1000 in the 80’s for a vacuum cleaner.

Did my parents buy only because the presenters spoke well?  Maybe not.  But, they gave us a glimpse of the product quality by showing us the care they took in their presentations.

5. Increase retention.
Employees need…no, they EXPECT their organizations to invest in their development.  If their development needs are not being met, expect them to look elsewhere.  Recently, I trained a department of an organization. Of the 10-12 people in the room, 4 confided they were secretly looking elsewhere because the company didn’t provide them any training.  Until my workshop, some hadn’t received any training in the 2 years they had been employed.  One mentioned how much he enjoyed the presentation and communication training.  However, he wanted to make sure the managerial staff and the executives were also registered to take it.

His words were, “I know I’m getting better because of this.  It says something if your workers are getting better but you’re not doing it as well.”


People want to get better and organizations benefit when they help their people get better.  But, as Jim Collins mentions, organizations should go past good to great.  A great organization which employs the right training will produce great employees and great results.

Learn more about 3C Presentation Training for your organization.  Help your team present their ideas with confidence, clarity, and credibility.