Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Create a distinct, consistent image

Whether you own a retail store, an online enterprise or a professional service business, your image is crucial to your success. It is what draws in your target customer or client. And, when you─or your designer─create that image, it must be used consistently throughout all your marketing materials. This includes business cards, mailings, website and blog, stationery and order forms.

There are 7 design elements to consider:
1. Color─limit to two to three
2. Typography─or fonts─limit to two to three
3. Graphic elements─limit any design elements, such as lines, logos, graphic devices to three
4. Style of art─be consistent. Clip art makes it tempting to use a variety, but you must be consistent. Use a line drawing? Continue to use a line drawing.
5. Size of promotional piece─will vary dramatically, of course, from piece to piece. An unusual size is better─not based on an 8 1/2" x 11" sheet. And bigger is perceived as better.
6. Paper─considerations include elements such as recycled? Elegant feel? Inexpensive?
7. Grid─the layout used in your promotional pieces sends a message. Formal? Informal? Restricted? Easy to use?

Whatever you choose, you'll want to change no more than two to three elements in any given piece to maintain consistency. You'll notice I show two logos for my business. I use the outline version on the top when it will be printed by me or a client. The orange version uses up too much ink! The orange version works on a blog post or something less likely to be printed.

And there's another issue. I remember receiving a mailing from a bank and tossing it because I assumed they were soliciting me for another credit card. Turns out it was MY credit card statement; but I didn't recognize it because they had changed their name and logo. You guessed it! They had to absorb a number of late charge fees because most of their customers did the same thing. In design─and in the eye of your audience─it's crucial that you be recognizable and memorable to your target customer or client.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Do you speak too quickly?

There's a good chance you do─it's nearly epidemic today! You can get a variety of unwanted reactions from your listeners. They may think you want them to HURRY UP and decide you're rude. Or, they may succumb to emotional deafness─the inability to hear or comprehend what we're saying. You may have experienced this when someone YELLS at you, or stands too close or swears at you. Aggressive people use these ploys to intimidate and while the speedy talker may not intend to, they can cause the same reaction.

Check yourself and see how you do. The following passage is 140 words in length. The average speaking rate of Americans is 125 – 150 wpm. Read it out loud as though you were speaking to someone ten feet away—building in the appropriate pauses. You’re aiming for it to take you a minute to read the paragraph. Time yourself and see how you do:

There is no set rule for the rate of speaking of individuals. Some people can speak at a rate of one hundred ninety words per minute and be clearly understood, while others must speak as slowly as ninety words per minute to achieve the same understanding. Most experts feel, however, that there is more to be gained by speaking slowly. They have decided that a rate of about one hundred forty words per minute is a safe rate. The main disadvantage of speaking too fast is that you cannot be understood easily. Speaking too fast has other disadvantages. Your audience may get the impression that they are being pressured into something. In addition, they may get the impression that you are very rushed and concerned with time. To be really understood, we recommend that you speak slowly.

It's a hurry up, hurry up world and sometimes we need to slo-o-o-ow down rather than speed up so we can be heard─and understood.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The very essence of unconditional love

Today Margaret Smith would have turned 92. I've known her since the moment I was born and always as Pinky. She died this July. Pinky gave me─and by generously giving it to me taught me─unconditional love. In this picture, we are at a party celebrating her 90th birthday. Since she suffered from macular degeneration, her daughter asked me to read the cards she had received the day before. Cris had been reading cards to her for weeks─and fighting back tears just as I did that day. You see, Pinky touched many of us with her warmth and love.

My Dad and Pinky's husband met in college and she and my Mother became life-long friends. Pinky hosted the shower for my Mother when she was expecting me! As is true of many good friends, they couldn't have been more different. My Mother was exuberant and always wanted to help people improve, grow, learn. Pinky was calm and wanted you to know you were wonderful─just the way you were. I am who I am because they were both in my life. Those dearest to me know of Pinky because they receive my unconditional love. Well, that's what I intend to send their way! We are all always growing. To whom can you give unconditional love? Someone will cherish you for it─for their entire life.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

How to Develop and Deliver Programs that Engage Your Audiences and Produce Results!

Join me on October 5, 2011, in the Bellevue area for Train-the-Trainer: How to Develop and Deliver Programs that Engage Your Audiences and Produce Results! Call Jan at 206.328.0080 for more information or email (Just copy this lo-o-o-o-ng email address and drop it in the To: line or click my name to the right, then click Email under Contact.

Who should attend?
Anyone who wants to engage their audiences when they deliver programs will pick up all kinds of great ideas during this workshop. In-house trainers who create curriculum, facilitate training sessions and design or lead webinars, eCourses or teleseminars will take away ideas they can put to use immediately.

Lots of feedback
Participants will have a number of opportunities to make short presentations and receive feedback from both the trainer and the other participants.

Terrific take aways
Besides all kinds of keepers, participants will receive a complete 29-page workbook and suggestions for finding more material online and in reference material.

After the course, participants will be able to:
• Design a training that meets the needs of participants
• Apply the principles of adult learning to make sure their key points stick
• Structure a presentation that is compelling and easy to follow
• Reinforce their training programs with appropriate visuals, props and activities
• Project a confident, professional delivery style that engages their audience
• Handle questions comfortably and effectively and deal with confrontation

Here’s what past participants have said:
“Thanks, Jan! I really enjoyed your workshop and learned a lot. It was nice to be with such a supportive audience while performing something where I felt so nervous, anxious and uncomfortable. Every mini-presentation seemed a little easier as the day went on with all the helpful information and feedback I received. Great class!”

“Jan is one of the best presenters we have ever brought in for this sort of training. She is clearly an expert in her field and is also very passionate about what she does. She found a way to deliver feedback (even when not necessarily positive) in a non-threatening but constructive way. I actually know I will utilize many of the lessons she taught me today in my everyday life.”

Be sure to be there!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Are you giving out blank business cards?

Of course not! So why do so many people send emails with an incomplete─or missing─signature? Your signature is your online business card. Here's your checklist for what to include in your signature:
 Name
 Your company─many include a logo. Just be sure it doesn't take forever to download!
 Company tagline─if you have one
 Your title, if appropriate
 Phone number─and extension, if appropriate
 Fax number─if relevant to your customers or clients
 Mailing address

And, include a link to your company’s website. Most know this by now, but just in case: most software recognizes URLs by the http:// at the front. It's just safer─and easier for the recipient─to include the http://

Here's what my signature includes:

Jan M. McLaughlin, CSP
Your Communication Connection
helping professionals create positive responses
T: 206.328.0080
Check out our blog:

Of course, mine is in color and has a few different fonts, but you get the idea. Don't waste an opportunity to connect with your customers and clients. Be sure to include your online business card in your emails!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

How do you sound?

Most of us don't like to listen to our voice─so we don't. Yet, our voice has a huge impact on those we are hoping to influence whether we're communicating one-to-one, leading a meeting or making a presentation. So, be brave. Listen to your voice. Here's the homework assignment I give participants in my workshops:

1. Listen to your voice mail message
2. Rerecord your message
a. When you’re not smiling
b. And when you are smiling!

And listen to each of them. I assure you, you'll want to save the message you recorded when you were smiling!

Next time you leave a message—and have the option—play it back. That is exactly how you will sound to your customer or client. How do you sound?

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Support...we can’t survive without it!

Sometimes support is just a hand─or paw─to hold! Many of us need to be able to vent─or talk to someone─to survive. Forming formal Venting Partners provides a venue to allow you to vent appropriately—out of ear shot of customers or team members—and with an end in sight. It’s a good stress reducer and eliminates frequent complaining—which wears everyone down.

First you and someone agree to be venting partners. When you need to vent, go to your partner and ask if this is a good time. They have the prerogative to set another time agreeable—or convenient—to both of you. To start, the listener says,

“OK, go!”

After one minute the listener says, “Stop”

Then, the listener asks my favorite question,

“Do you need another minute?”

If the answer is yes, the listener says, “Go!”

Interestingly, many of the people venting don't need another minute because they have received the complete attention of their venting partner. Note: this means the partner is not multi-tasking!

After another minute, listener says, “Stop.”

There are some important guidelines:

Venting partners focus on:
• Giving their partner their complete attention
• Making eye contact and otherwise showing they're interested
• Acknowledging their partner's feelings─showing empathy

Venting partners do not:
• Interrupt
• Give unsolicited advice
• Tell their partner to calm down
Hoover or vacuum up the other person’s feelings

When the venting session is over, both must let go of whatever was discussed. There, wasn't that a lot better than listening to a coworker complain over and over and over again about the same person or issue? Thought so!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Marshall Goldsmith recommends Feedforward

Marshall Goldsmith is one of the most respected executive coaches in the country and he graciously shares his ideas and techniques. Today I led a workshop for directors at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle called Leader as Influencer and once again facilitated a technique Marshall calls Feedforward.

To move to the next level, we constantly need to solicit feedback from our peers, reports, friends and family. I had the honor of hearing Marshall speak at the National Speakers Association convention and bought his book, What Got You Here Won't Get You There. You'll find the directions for Feedforward there as well as at his website.

I encourage you to put Marshall's suggestion to work. You can use Feedforward when a group gathers or you can ask for feedback on a less formal basis. Marshall says the only question that works is: "How can I do better?" It can vary with the circumstances and become more specific, for instance: "What can I do to be a better colleague at work?" It's certainly a question I'm asking myself, my colleagues, friends and family, "How can I do better?"

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Coach for encouragement, not punishment!

As we headed into a series of communication and customer service workshops for the entire staff of an organization, we kicked off the series with a session for the managers. A critical focus of the workshop was to review their coaching standards. Everyone has a card with Coaching for Praise on one side and Coaching for Improvement on the other. I'll focus on the former in another post.

Mark Twain said, "Habit is habit, and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time." Coaching involves a lot of coaxing, encouraging and supporting. We need to plan for that conversation, first by examining our intent. We do that by thinking about what we need to say to the person and why we need to say it. Then we can proceed with the steps:

1. State our observation. Ask yourself, "What specific, observable behavior can you describe?"

2. Ask for their perspective. And ask yourself, "What can I say to make it easier for them to ask questions? How can I get some brainstorming going─using open-ended questions?"

3. Restate the standard and be specific—is it from their job description, customer service or organizational standards or policy?

4. Offer support—help them create an action plan and schedule opportunities for feedback as they make progress.

5. Encourage—what can you say to encourage them? Think of their criteria—what motivates them. And, of course, follow up!

Two final thoughts: We need to think about our nonverbals─how we will look and sound as we're giving this feedback and encouragement. And, we need to avoid judgment, which comes out with phrases and words such as: "I didn’t like…" "I have a problem with your attitude." And the little word, BUT!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Live up to our children's expectations

I was at my computer preparing for a program the next day entitled Communicating from Strength... and maintaining your sensitivity to others. The course explores the differences among communicating in a manner that is assertive, aggressive, passive or passive-aggressive. Then I noticed that the memorial in Tucson was about to begin. As President Obama began to speak, and I heard the reaction from the crowd gathered, I immediately went to my television to watch those present reacting to his words. I encourage you all to watch the speech. He honored everyone who was lost that terrible day and encouraged us as a nation of people. Here are some of the quotes that I quickly wrote down:

"Talking with each other in a way that heals, not wounds." Those who communicate aggressively and passive-aggressively aim to wound.

"Sharpen our instincts for empathy." The key to understanding one another is empathy.

"Listen to each other more carefully." Listening is the greatest gift we give one another.

"Nurture our relationships with those who are still with us." Oh yes, such a reminder about how fleeting life can be.

"Making sure we align our values with our actions." Do we walk the talk?

"That we live up to our children's expectations." I thought of the dear children in my life─three of whom are pictured. I'm sure everyone listening thought of the children in their lives. Those who had just lost their precious daughter─the parents of nine year old Christina Taylor Green─stood up and applauded as our president closed his remarks with that phrase. Our highest goal: to live up to the expectations of the children in our lives.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Understand your learning styles to engage your audiences

An understanding of our preferred learning styles helps us be a better presenter. We tend to teach in the same styles in which we learn. This means we can fail to engage some of the people in our audiences. Traditionally educators referred to three basic types of learning styles or modal preferences: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Most of us tend to use one of our senses more than the others to process information─and to use different learning styles for different tasks.

Howard Gardner took this further and developed a theory of Multiple Intelligences. He identified or defined seven intelligences:
• Linguistic/verbal
• Visual/spatial
• Auditory/musical
• Logical/mathematical
• Kinesthetic/hands on
• Interpersonal
• Intrapersonal

You can take a quick, self-scoring self-assessment and discover your preferred intelligences or learning styles. Gardner has since added two more intelligences: Naturalist and Existentialist.

You'll find slightly different terminology─and the addition of the Naturalist─in another assessment.

Self-awareness is important in the world of work and the world of life. The more we know, the more effectively we can adapt our style to positively influence others. And, as a presenter, engage them. Once engaged, they learn, they buy, they buy your ideas!