Archive for August, 2014

Three very different people types: extroverts, introverts and the very little known ambivert. I find that people have great misconceptions about what people with these three personality types can and cannot do. In general, I hear comments that extroverts do outgoing jobs that involve people and they are very successful, introverts don’t play well with others and they hide in closets, and ambiverts…what’s that?

Introversion, extroversion, and ambiversion are often misunderstood because people believe that the term refers to what people enjoy. However, the term actually refers to the source of energy input and depletion.

Extroverts gain great energy from interacting with people. Other humans are like fuel pumps. The more they interact with other people the stronger they feel. After spending an eight hour day talking to and meeting new people they are so energized that they feel like they could climb a mountain.

On the other hand, if they spend too much time alone they feel the energy draining from their body. After an eight hour day working in a room with no other humans and not a single conversation they feel so drained that they can barely make it to the dinner table before falling into bed exhausted.

Introverts, are the opposite of extroverts. Interacting with people drains the energy from them. This doesn’t mean that they don’t like people. Many introverts function in jobs where investing in people is the primary reason they exist. Pastors, counselors, coaches, teachers, doctors, nurses, etc. No profession or calling is off limits to introverts. However, being an introvert means that after a very fulfilling day of interacting with people they are completely exhausted and need time alone to recharge their personal batteries.

Introverts who work in high human interaction careers are more likely to close their office door and read a book during lunch than hang out with co-workers. Don’t take offense. This is not an indicator that they are not a team player. This is an indicator that they recognize what that need to gain strength to make it through the remainder of the day.  Tell an introvert that they can spend a week in a little cabin in the woods all alone and they will tell you that upon their return they will be ready to conquer the universe!

Ambiverts are an entirely different animal.  These are the ones who both get their energy from other people yet are completely drained by direct human contact.  Being isolated for too long completely wears them out and they have to find humans to bring them back to life.  Ambiverts might tell you that their favorite activity is being alone in a public place.  People watching at a restaurant while dining alone is a comfortable welcoming experience that gives them life. Going to a party means hanging out on the sidelines contently watching as the extroverts work the room meeting everyone.  Just being at the party with other people gives them energy.  But, having to personally interact and have one on one conversations with too many individuals would quickly turn a potentially energizing evening into a night that could leave them completely exhausted.

Whether people are introverts, extroverts, or ambiverts they can all enjoy or dislike the same activities.  All can enjoy being alone.  All can enjoy being with other people.  How they physically and mentally feel after these experiences is where the real impacts come into play.

As a consultant one of the things that I enjoy most is speaking at conferences to help people gain knowledge about various topics that they can take back to their workplaces and implement.

Often, after a session, people will ask for tips about how they can become better speakers. So, I thought I’d use this blog to give some of the tips I often give them…

1 – Connect with your audience – No one likes to attend a boring monologue at a conference! There’s nothing worse than sitting in a 90 minute session and listening to someone talk to themselves.

  • Engage the audience in conversation – Find out who is in the room.  By understanding who you are talking to you will be able to cater your topic to the individuals in the room and ensure that you say the right things to the audience.  Don’t assume that you know who is present just because you are at a particular type of conference.  People from all types of roles attend various sessions.  By understanding your audience you can deliver the correct message.
  • Ask the audience questions – Get them talking and responding to what you are teaching.  Use them to help you teach.  Ask questions that will lead them to the things you want to say so that they become involved in the presentation.
  • Use reflective listening – Not everyone in the room will be able to hear responses so repeat what people say or rephrase it “properly” if they have a near miss.  Use a lot of praise for their input while you are reflecting back their responses and NEVER tell them they are wrong!  Find the one good thing they said and elaborate on that.

2 – Connect with your topic – Remember people follow passion.  If you don’t believe in what you are speaking about neither will the people listening to you.  Don’t ever talk about something that you can’t connect with.  If you aren’t connecting with the presentation you are preparing, come at it from a different angle or pick a new topic.

  • Make sure that you know the topic well enough to speak to it from the hip and to answer questions that you don’t expect to receive from the audience
  • Passion is not learned or researched, it is cultivated.  Believing in a topic goes beyond what you learned from others.  It means that you have opinions that are truly your own and can answer questions from experience.  It means you have formed opinions that you haven’t necessarily learned from someone else or can’t reference in a book.  
  • Be energetic, smile, act like you are enjoying what you are doing and the people in the room will enjoy the session also.

3 – Check your attitude – Do it because you care more about the success of others than your own success.  People are intelligent and intuitive.  They are fully able to discern your motives even when you can’t.  

  • If you want to speak at conferences just to advance your career, you aren’t ready to start quite yet.
  • If you want to speak at conferences just to get popular or famous, you aren’t ready to start quite yet.
  • If you just want to make money, or sell books, or network, look smart, or feel important, you are not ready.
  • If you want to see people learn and grow and are willing to give a part of yourself to help them become successful, you are ready.

4 – Check your slides – Slides are meant to be a reference point during your presentation but there is an art to using them properly.  They should not over power you and they should not frustrate your audience.

  • Use fewer words – Your slides should only contain very short bullet points with key words.  Too many words on a slide are monotonous and frustrating.  People feel compelled to write down every word on the slide and they stop listening.  Fewer words make it easier to cater the presentation to the audience in the room.
  • Speak to the correct content on the slide – If you don’t this will make some people extremely frustrated and they will focus on the slide waiting for you to cover the content.  They will feel cheated because you aren’t talking about what the slide promised.  
  • Don’t skip over slides during the presentation.  People feel cheated when they see you breeze past slides.  If you don’t intend to use the slide, hide it from the presentation.
  • Use fewer slides – People came to hear a presentation not to see a slide show.  Only have slides for the absolute key points you want people to walk away with.  If you can use images to send those messages, use them.  People retain images longer than words.
  • Don’t forget to give proper credit to people, books, websites, etc., where you got images or ideas. 
  • Don’t forget to create an introduction slide so people will know who you are.
  • Don’t forget to give your twitter, linked in, and other social media contact information so people know how to contact you.

5 – Watch the clock – There is nothing more frustrating than a speaker who runs over time and doesn’t finish his presentation!  

  • Plan ahead.  Conferences have a very strict schedule and will tell you exactly how much time is allowed for your presentation.  You will not be allowed to violate the time box.  If you have too much content for the time box, re-plan and remove some.  If you don’t have enough, either add content, an interactive exercise, or figure out how you will fill the space.  Be very careful if you plan to fill the space with a question and answer segment.  If you aren’t experienced with engaging the audience with this type of activity and can’t pull conversation out of them you may find yourself trying to fill a lot of dead space.
  • Know which slide you need to be on at critical points during the session and work to the clock.  If you are moving too quickly, slow down.  Engage the audience more.  If you are moving too slowly, don’t interact quite as much.  Make sure to manage the time box well so you finish the entire session on time.
  • Don’t forget to plan for introductions and for closing – Make a quick introduction and tell people who you are and why you are talking to them.  Begin with a  “What I’m going to tell you”.  Then, after you’ve told them what you came to tell them, conclude with a wrap up of “What I just told you,” to make sure that they really got the point.  

6 – Watch your words – What you say is as important as how you say it when you are presenting in a professional setting.  People pick up on tone as well as attitude.  Remember, the reason for presenting at a conference is to help people learn new skills.  Some of the things you are talking about will be completely new to them so be careful to speak in a way will not frustrate someone at an advanced level while allowing intermediate and beginner level attendees to still keep up easily.

  • Explain your acronyms – Not everyone in the room will know all of the industry terminology so when you use insider words define them within the context of the sentence the first couple of times you use them in a way that doesn’t make people feel like you are talking down to them.  Those who know the words will just be in agreement but those who don’t know them will be very thankful that you are helping them learn and keep up with what you are talking about.
  • Don’t use all of the sophisticated or overly educated words in your superior vocabulary to prove that you are the smartest person in the room.  Instead, use a common language for the education level of the average attendee in the session.  If you speak beneath the average attendee, people will be offended because you aren’t intelligent enough to teach them.  If you speak above the average attendee, people will feel like you are talking down to them and won’t receive the message.
  • It may seem elementary but using swear words in a professional presentation will detract from your survey results. Don’t do it!  Just don’t do it.  It may make you feel powerful but it makes you look unprofessional.

7 – Review your abstract – Often times there is a large gap of time between when an abstract is submitted and the actual conference.  Be careful to ensure that what you cover in the conference actually delivers on what was promised in the abstract.  Conference attendees decide which sessions they will attend by reading the abstracts provided in the program.  If you change plans and don’t deliver what they expect they don’t get the value from your session they were promised.  Regardless of how good your session may seem to you, if an attendee came to hear specific information or to learn a specific promised activity and had known you were not going to deliver what was promised they may have chosen a different session.  Attendees pay $150-$3,000 registration fees plus accommodations to be at conferences and many have to take vacation days.  It is always okay to deliver more than what was promised in the abstract but if you fail to deliver what was promised too many times your reputation in the industry will suffer damage.