15 Concise Strategies for Improved Communication (Book)

15 Concise Strategies for Communication

“Whether you are a beginner or have reached a roadblock, this book speaks to busy professionals who want concise communication strategies for work, public speaking, and social situations.  These strategies include how to manage stress, conquer fear, communicate like a leader, sell, listen, evaluate and think critically.”

So starts the back cover of 15 Concise Strategies for Improved Communication, a collaborative effort of 12 authors, all members of PowerTalk Toastmasters. Yes, I am a contributing author, with a short chapter, “Virtually Speaking: Presenting Online.”

Not only can this book provide you some nuggets of communication insight, it can also serve as inspiration for the budding author within you.

The driving force behind the book, Jewel Pickert, had never published a book, and taking on the task of trying to coordinate a collaborative effort added an additional layer of challenge. I told her right up front that I wasn’t a fan of books with several authors, but having self-published a few times, I provided some initial direction, and she shepherded the process, learning many skills along the way.

It was a win-win situation! The contributing authors are now published authors, if they weren’t before. Jewel, with her new-found experience, already has three additional books in the works! Having published works will increase professional credibility, and might garner some income, both from book sales and from possible speaking engagements.

Get the book and consider how you might either collaborate or write your own!


The App I Use in Almost Every Presentation

The app I use in almost every presentation is . . . a clock app.

All it does is tell the time in really BIG digits. That’s all I want it to do.

When you are presenting as a keynote speaker, or doing a breakout session or a workshop, the ending time of the presentation is what is critical, not the overall time. Sometimes a session starts late, or a speaker before you may run long and you have less than the planned time to speak. You don’t want to be the one who messes up the schedule!

Many rooms do not have a clock, and many organizations do not provide a timer. Of course, you could go “old school” and place a watch on the lectern or a nearby table, but why not just use your phone?

In order to end on time, or a couple of minutes early, I keep an eye on the clock and adjust my content and the audience activities as I speak.  If I am running fast, I might allow the audience more time to interact with each other, or I might add in a  story. Conversely, I can take out somethings if my time is compressed.

The app I use is Big Clock HD (iPhones and iPads only).  Although it costs $0.99, it is well worth the small investment! I’d love to hear what non-iPhone users use! (I did a search and found some Android apps such as Giant Clock).

Big Digital Clock App

If you prefer a count-down clock, one app that I have used for practicing is Presentation Clock (pClock), also a $0.99 app on iTunes. The numbers countdown and change colors at times you choose (for example, Green at 30:00, Yellow at 5:00, Red at 0:00).

Never go over (or terribly under) your time again!

Don’t Just Create Your Presentation . . . Create an Experience!

Audience Experience Wordle

You want to create an experience for your audience, one that engages and makes a difference, right?

One way you can do that is to create a tailored experience for your audience. This does require a little extra work than giving the same canned presentation to every group. The good news is that you don’t typically have to create a 100 percent custom presentation for each audience. Many topics will have a broad application, with material that you have refined through presenting to many audiences. Just a few tweaks can make all the difference.

I propose that you have a process for making your presentation a tailored experience for your audience.

Here is a graphic that outlines my 4-step process for creating an audience experience:

Presentation Process


1. Event Purpose
2. Learning Objectives
3. Audience Research
4. Experience Design

The first three steps, the Event Purpose, Learning Objectives and part of Audience Research, are accomplished primarily through conversation with the meeting planner and, usually, a pre-program questionnaire (sometimes I send it to the meeting planner, but often I go through it verbally–Click here for a copy of my pre-program questionnaire).

I basically want to know their “WHY.” Why would my presentation be important to the event and to the attendees?  What would they like the outcome to be? I also ask the meeting planner for contact info for 4-8 attendees, representing a cross-section of the audience.

I then conduct informal interviews over the phone (arranging the time via email) with the 4-8 attendees to gain insight and sometimes content for the presentation.

Typical questions:

  • Tell me a little bit about what you do . . .
  • What are your biggest pain points [related to topic]?
  • Have you used [topic of presentation] or what is your experience with [topic of presentation]?
  • What would you hope to gain from my presentation? What would make it a home run for you?

Once I have completed, or mostly completed the first three steps of the process, I am ready to design the experience for the audience.

Often, I will use pictures of the people I spoke with (usually obtained from their profile pics on LinkedIn) and quotes from them on some of my slides. Sometimes I will invite one of the people I spoke with to tell the audience an example that was uncovered during the interview (I check with the person ahead of time if that is OK). Depending on the topic, I may use information I find on the attendees’ websites.

One easy graphic to change up for different audiences is that of a “Word Cloud” of relevant terms for the audience as related to your topic, such as the graphic at the top, made with Wordle. You just paste in some text, writing some words multiple times to make them more prominent. For the top graphic,  I typed “Audience” seven times, “design” four times and “insight” twice. Wordle is a fun way to tailor your presentation, but it’s not the only way!

How can you tailor your presentations for your audiences?