Author Archives: Phil Stella

Slay the Impromptu Dragon!

Has this ever happened to you? Maria arrived at work early, got a cup of coffee and settled into tackling her highest priority task of the day. When, out of nowhere, her boss Tony approached her cubicle and asked the question that strikes fear in the hearts most of employees, ‘Hi Maria … you busy?’

Without waiting for an answer, he indicated that some of the executives from Glitztronics were in for a project status review meeting. Andy, the team lead, had just called in sick, so Tony asked her to fill in and do a five-minute quickie overview for them … right now. ‘After all’, he said, ‘you’re the senior member of the project team anyway.’

Instant stress, panic and fear would overtake most people in a similar situation. They couldn’t say no, but would be terrified that they’d blow it and look foolish in front of their clients … and their boss. Not Dragon-Slayer Maria … she’s a real pro at workplace presentations.

Impromptu presentations can be the workplace communicator’s worst nightmare … if you let them. But, having a ‘what if’ plan for just such emergencies can save the day.

Here’s what Maria did to Slay the Dragon:

First, she took a deep breath, smiled at Tony and told him she’d be happy to help out with a tone of confidence, even appreciation.

Maria then asked him what three or four brief talking points he wanted her to discuss and who specifically would be in the room.

She jotted down some quick notes and followed him down the hall.

Tony briefly introduced Maria, indicating she was filling in for the absent Andy and turned the meeting over to her. And she had them at ‘hello’.

She welcomed the clients, said she was delighted to give them a brief project status and discuss its background, current activity and next series of milestones.

Then, Maria did a very smart thing … she asked them if that agenda worked for their needs and if anyone had any specific questions they wanted to make sure got addressed.

Since she hadn’t even seen Andy’s slides, she didn’t use any.

She simply did a brief review of the project and asked if they had any other questions. In her quick summary, Maria thanked them again for the opportunity to work with Glitztronics and said she looked forward to their next meeting.

So, you can all learn from a pro like Maria and Slay Your Impromptu Dragon. Have a basic structure in mind that can quickly adapt to most any topic and quickly decide on content points and support facts as you walk down the hall. Project confidence, enthusiasm and enjoyment, especially if you’re faking it, and never let them see you sweat.

Hey … it worked very well for Maria. She got applause from the clients and glowing comments from Tony, who didn’t forget her stepping up at performance review time. 

The Fear Factor Revisited

(As an executive presentation coach, the most useful and valuable skill I can share with anyone is how to manage their Presentation Anxiety. So, consider this KISS version of a longer piece a holiday gift from me to all of you.) 

How many of you experience pain when you deliver presentations at work? How many hate speaking in public? I see a lot of hands up, so let’s briefly discuss five simple strategies for managing your Presentation Anxiety. Read More »

Time to Make-over Your VM Greeting

I’m getting  really tired of ranting about this issue in ‘Communicate ‘Confidently!’. Unfortunately, the problem still exists and I wonder if I’m the only communicator who cares. So, here I go again … and don’t try to stop me.

Talk about making a good first impression! Often, the first exposure your customers, prospects and colleagues have of you and your business is what they hear in your voice mail greeting. Is it caller-centric, clear, focused, helpful, lively and professional? When was the last time you listened to it?

If you’re not sure, call in and hear what they hear. If you like what it says about your business values, style and personality… fine. Leave it alone. If not, it might be time for a make-over. Read More »

Mastering Holiday Event Small Talk

(With many business groups holding holiday parties or events this month, it made sense to re-run this piece on small talk – timing is everything. Best wishes for successful schmoozing!

A reader recently asked about using small talk at networking events or meetings. My simple response – just say ‘NO’ to small talk. It doesn’t help you that much. Go for ‘Big Talk’ instead. The rest of my rant … Read More »

Surviving Q & A

As workplace presenters, you have two basic strategies for handling audience questions – holding them until the end or handling them anytime. Both approaches work, but each has some disadvantages. 

There also are two hybrid strategies that involve the best features of both approaches. So, here’s how you can easily survive Q&A and even enjoy the process. Read More »

Five Simple Phone Tactics to Overhaul Your Image

Most small businesses facing the challenge of improving their image in the marketplace are starring at major investments of time and money. Properly planned and launched, those investments can earn significant positive results.

But what about the rest of us with similar needs but no deep pockets to pull all that off? Are we doomed to endure the mediocre or amateurish image we’ve created by what we’ve done or not done since we started our businesses? Read More »

Long Live Word Power! Always Break the Rules

Strike out against oppression – there are some rules of grammar you can and should consider break if you want to enhance your routine workplace writing and write free!

I hated traditional grammar in school like most people … and most writers. So, I routinely break some time-honored practices today just to have fun, flaunt my sense of independence and creativity and get back at Professor Gwendolyn Apostrophe-Dingleberry for all her abuses in 11th grade English class. If only she could know that I earn some of my living as a professional freelance writer and executive writing coach, she’d turn over in her grave in Grammar Hell. Read More »

Make One-on-One Meetings Work

Management-staff one-on-one meetings should be a regular component of any organization’s Performance Management system. They allow for maintaining professional relationships and providing constructive ‘Plus/Delta’ feedback.

‘Pluses’ are an employee’s specific tasks, accomplishments or behaviors that are working well and adding value that should be continued or even expanded. ‘Deltas’ are not negatives but specific changes in activity or methods that will improve results. Usually the change is doing less of something that isn’t working or stopping it completely, or doing more of something that would work better. Read More »

Connect with Class

Have you ever gotten an email like this? ‘Hi Phil, Tony Grosso suggested I contact you. I’d like to meet with you to network and discuss my job search. Let me know some good times to get together. Regards … Chuck Upton.’

While harmless enough, concise and clear, Chuck could have been much more effective, efficient and engaging.  He could have indicated: Read More »

What if You Are the Best Choice?

Last month, we discussed some strategies to consider when you realize you’re not the right choice for a product or service that your prospect needs. It earned lots of positive comments and some people even indicated that they had never even thought about some of the strategies mentioned. 

So, this topic should be obvious – What if your business IS the right choice?’ Some of the brief 10 steps will be obvious, too, … but, some won’t. So read and heed. Read More »