Leadership Marketing Personal

I’m just saying…


I love Texas. Although I wasn’t born here, I got here as fast as I could. My family landed in Wichita Falls, down the road a piece from where I live now (Dallas-Fort Worth).

Today I’m fixin’ to tell you some things about giving a speech. Here are some handy-as-sliced-bread and smart-as-a-hooty owl speaking tips.

Just because a chicken has wings don’t mean it can fly.
Everyone can talk, but that doesn’t necessarily equate to an effective presentation. Outline your main points and practice your speech out loud (more than once) prior to the day you’ll speak.

This ain’t my first rodeo. Make sure your audience understands how you know so much about your topic. Are your observations based on personal experience? If not, cite credible sources to support your contentions.

She speaks ten words a second, with gusts to fifty. More words, uttered quickly, can impede the speaker-audience connection. Speak clearly and concisely to enhance understanding.

Don’t leave your audience as confused as a goat on AstroTurf. Make your speech fine as frog fur.

Leadership Marketing Personal Writing

Speaking and eye contact. Does it matter?

Writers write to communicate. Speakers speak for the same reason. So doesn’t it make sense that an article or blog post could be “converted” into a speech, word for word?

the eye

The short answer is no. Reading a manuscript doesn’t make it a speech (at least not a very good one). So why do so many speakers “read” their speeches? Laziness? Lack of preparation? Fear? The presenter just doesn’t know any better? As an audience member, I may not know why the speaker is reading, but chances are I’ll be tuning out shortly. An effective presentation engages listeners, and eye contact is one of the best ways to do that. Here are some top-of-mind tips to enhance eye contact.

  • Prepare and practice. Develop a clear statement of purpose and organize your main points. Use note cards, not sheets of paper. Rehearse your presentation out loud — more than once. Look up, not down.
  • During your presentation, scan the room. Don’t focus on a single audience member, or zero in on a spot above their heads at the back of the room. (Student speakers have told me this “looking-over-their-heads” advice was given to them — I disagree).
  • If you’re using visual aids such as PowerPoint, don’t turn your back to listeners and read from your slides. It’s okay to glance at your visual, or even turn sideways, but reorient yourself to face the audience.

Tune in later for more on how to improve your speaking skills and confidence.

Leadership Personal

Job search stories from the front line

sorryLooking for a job isn’t all that amusing, but there’s no need to cry. Humor runs rampant as part of job search — for instance, the responses you get from companies after you’ve applied for one of their once-in-a-lifetime jobs. Breaking the bad news to an applicant has taken on a decidedly clever flair. Here are some examples:

After careful review of your application, we found that your qualifications were not the best match for this job opening. Often, we face the difficult decision of turning away many promising candidates, so we hope you’ll take this more as a reflection of the intense competition rather than of your qualifications.”

I’m all about competition. And is “best match” kind of like

Your information was evaluated against a very competitive group of candidates and we opted not to move forward with your application at this time.”

So will you “move forward” with my application next week? Maybe?

Now it’s time to get back to work. Maybe I can help organizations craft their “no thanks, good luck” notes to applicants who didn’t make the cut.

I’m available.


Let’s stop punting the issue

Football“Troubled but talented.” That’s what some are saying about Greg Hardy, the former Carolina Panthers DE just signed by the Dallas Cowboys. But that didn’t stop the Cowboys from signing him, in spite of the baggage he brings with him to “America’s team.”

Hardy was convicted of assaulting and communicating threats to his then-girlfriend last summer, although both counts were dropped after the accuser failed to show in court. The Carolina Panthers decided not to re-sign their former player. The Cowboys expressed an interest in Hardy along with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and when the Bucs opted not to pursue him, Dallas signed him.

The NFL will probably suspend Hardy for a few games. Remember, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell (finally) spoke out about domestic violence following a number of high-profile cases around the league.

These events have sports reporters, football fans, Cowboys aficionados and just about everyone in Dallas (and around the country) expressing their points of view on this topic. Dallas Morning News columnist Jacquielynn Floyd penned an insightful commentary on Hardy’s signing. Dale Hansen, sports anchor for ABC’s Dallas affiliate WFAA, shared his thoughts yesterday.

Whether it’s in the NFL or elsewhere, the discussion around domestic abuse should continue.


Angels with tails

WaylonThe dog-human connection is powerful, even life-changing. That’s no surprise to dog lovers! And Canine Companions for Independence (CCI), a non-profit organization, facilitates this relationship in a magical way. They match people with disabilities with highly trained assistance dogs, raising and training four types of dogs — service dogs, skilled companions, hearing dogs and facility dogs. Canine Companions provides dogs and services free of charge.

Today CCI is building a new training facility at the Baylor Scott & White Health Kinkeade Campus in Irving, Texas, thanks to a generous grant from the Baylor Health Care System Foundation. I’m proud to be a volunteer for CCI’s new North Texas Chapter!

The CCI – Baylor Scott & White Health partnership is a winning combination. If you’d like to lend a hand (or raise a paw), volunteer opportunities are available!

Meet Waylon, pictured here. He owns CCI puppy raiser Jeff LoParo.

Marketing Personal

A fresh look at the brand-new year

The new year brings new challenges, new opportunities, new hopes and fears.

Yes, even fear. Whatever you choose to call it — fear, anxiety, distress, worry, dread, panic — it’s a sense of foreboding you try to push back or away completely. Maybe you try to understand it. I’ve tried. Somehow I thought if I could analyze the sensation enough, it would somehow disappear. It hasn’t.

So I’ve realigned my fear. The feeling doesn’t need to vanish. I can choose to look at it differently. Assimilate it. Redefine it. Embrace it, if necessary. Transform it into positive energy to inspire change and movement. I’m choosing transformation.

New Year 7

It’s so long to the “what-ifs” and hello to new places, new people, new relationships, and renewed confidence and job opportunities. You were okay, 2014, but I’m moving on.

Here’s to 2015.

Leadership Personal

A leader is…

When I read Rob La Gesse’s recent LinkedIn post, Random Thoughts on Leadership, I thought about my career and work experience, and began reminiscing about some of my former managers.

Great leaders final
To me, the best bosses are smart leaders who value you as a person and co-worker. They challenge and motivate you to do your best work. They listen to what you have to say, and even if they don’t agree, you come away knowing you had a fair hearing.

They value communication and don’t shy away from tough conversations. They’re fair. Leaders are invested in their employees’ success.

A great leader sees you as a colleague with the skills and talents to complement their knowledge and experience. Teamwork is more than a word to them. They encourage, applaud and model the behavior.

A true leader is fearless. They’re someone you want on your side. They’re always learning, and expect you to do the same.

I’ve been fortunate to work with some awesome leaders and managers. And I’ve worked for others who weren’t leaders, lacking many of the attributes I just described.

Rob’s observations on leadership are thought-provoking and inspirational. “They taught me the art of humanity,” he said. I couldn’t agree more.

Leadership Personal

Still in the fight

This week my nephew Capt. Derek Herrera retired from active duty with the Marines. He was awarded a Bronze Star for combat valor at his retirement ceremony at Camp Pendleton. He was accompanied by his wife Maura and service dog Shaggy. And he was walking even with a bullet lodged in his spine, thanks to the recently FDA-approved ReWalk robotic exoskeleton.

Derek was wounded in Afghanistan in 2012 by a sniper’s bullet in the Helmand River Valley of southwestern Afghanistan leading his special operations team, paralyzed from the chest down.

Today Derek is CEO of Ruckpack. RuckPack® is a concentrated liquid energy shot of essential vitamins and minerals, without caffeine. He is also completing his MBA from UCLA.

Derek’s story is captured thoughtfully in this article by Gretel Kovach, U-T San Diego military affairs writer.

Photo courtesy of U-T San Diego.
Leadership Marketing Personal

Don’t ever walk away

I'm done 3

I could be referring to several things here (don’t run away from something fearful, or be brave, for instance). But what I’m talking about relates to speakers. Presenters who conclude a speech without a closing statement, leaving audience members hanging. (Worse yet, speakers who use “the end” as their final declaration.)

If you’d like listeners to remember your talk, wind it up with something memorable. What’s the most important thing you’d like people to keep in mind? Feel? Is there something you’d like them to do now that they’ve heard what you have to say?

A planned, well-constructed, this-is-the-last-thing-I’ll-say and it’s worth remembering concluding statement can inspire reflection and action. Deliver these words forcefully. Deliberately. Powerfully.

Bottom line, have a concluding statement. Don’t walk away without one.


How to create compelling content

Levi reads

I’m a writer and speaker always on the lookout for great ideas to improve my skills. Today was a splendid day for inspiration.

I read an awesome blog post from Sonia Simone, co-founder and chief content officer of Copyblogger Media, “What to Look for in a Professional Content Writer.” She clearly distilled the most important characteristics of a content professional, suggesting an organization should search for a writer with the creativity, insights and confidence to drive business.

Look for a writer whose work is interesting, funny, smart, perceptive, and convincing. Look for someone whose writing you just like to read.

Some have it and some don’t. Insist on hiring the one who does.

Also, a savvy content specialist must be able to connect with various audiences, tailoring copy strategically to grab attention and keep it. One size doesn’t fit all.

This post – all of it – is well worth reading.

Thanks, Sonia. Thank you, Copyblogger. I love writing and learning.