When communication skills are vital !

Screen Shot 2017-09-20 at 1.26.05 PMRecently, I watched a documentary called Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room and I realised how much a PR intervention may have saved thousands of investors out or pocket and billions of dollars in unassailable debt. In a perfect world, a crisis communication plan early on could have turned Enron into a small company, but into it’s eyeballs in corruption and debt.

Except in real life, for Enron, making money by any means necessary was the name of the game.

Every company that has been caught by the media for corruption has gone through the stages of the issues life cycle. The four stages are

  1. The potential stage: The moment in a business in which something bad might occur.
  2. Emerging stage: The moments in which a triggering event causes a major issue and begins to fester
  3. Current Stage: When the issue develops into something a company cannot control
  4. Crisis stage: When the media gains a lot of traction on the company’s major issues and a made aware to the public, negatively impacting upon a company
  5. Dormant Stage: When the crisis loses traction with the media, depending on how well the crisis is handled determines how long this issue lingers on in the company.

The entire story of Enron is quite complex, here’s a short overview:

Enron was a major energy company founded by Ken Ley and hired Jeffery Skilling and Andrew Fastow to manage the books and the organisation

Enron managed to influence various state governments to deregulate the energy industry. During the time of deregulation, Enron hid all of it’s debt through mark-to-market accounting (failed ventures were seen as assets in Enron’s books), market manipulation and making companies solely to purchase Enron’s debt. The corporate culture at Enron was to make money for the company by any means necessary. They bribed auditors Arthur Anderson to stay quiet on the issue and it was speculated they bribed banks and lawyers. Enron also encouraged citizens to put their retirement funds into the company knowing that the company was a sinking ship.

In 2000, Enron’s stock was selling at more than $90 per share, By the December 2001, Enron’s stock was 26 cents per share, went from 84 billion dollars to bankruptcy in 21 days and citizens lost their retirement money. Arthur Anderson also failed due to corruption and major Enron employees were sent to jail for fraud and other white collar crimes.

Using case studies like this can help anyone working in crisis communication if a similar situation like this arises. Now as a crisis communicator, the easiest and best way to resolve an issue is at it’s earliest possible stage.

The Potential Stage

The Potential stage happened when states were deregulating the industry. This freed Enron to be more flexible with their business practices and increase the likelihood of corruption. Having a trusted professional would have helped by informing Enron of the potential long term consequences of corruption that can come from market deregulation. That way they are aware of the potential situation and may have been more vigilant against potential corruption.

The Emerging Stage

The triggering event was, when Jeffery Skilling became CEO and began implementing mark-to-market accounting. This was what started the cascade of imaginary numbers, artificially inflated stock prices and market manipulations to cover their losses.

The emerging stage is more difficult to pinpoint. The emerging stages would have occoured when Enron hit insurmountable debt. The emerging stage is when an issue starts to spin out of control and it takes a lot of PR in an attempt to stop it. At this stage, there is no chance of Enron (or any company) escaping the damage.

A crisis communicator could have mitigated it by advising Enron to declare bankruptcy and have a PR campaign detailing how and why the bankruptcy occurred and methods of repayment from investors. This may have gotten Enron staff members indicted for white collar crimes, but they whould have been able to reduce the level of bankruptcy and saved workers their retirement money. People may have looked back on Enron far less negatively than people do today.

The Crisis Stage

The crisis stage started when skilling retired from Enron two months before the financial collapse and the crisis peaked when Enron became officially bankrupt. It was at this stage when Enron decided to handle it by constantly denying any wrongdoing and avoiding the situation they set themselves up for instead of admitting outright that what they did was business malpractice.

It is for this reason that people still talk about Enron today. It is also the reason why the dormant stage of the company lingered on for many years. Had a crisis communicator come across and intervened, they could have easily mitigated the damage. The saddest thing is that it could have happened at any time over the ten years the company were active in the deregulated energy market

So, as a crisis communicator, think about these 5 stages of crisis management from the communication viewpoint. It’s an  interesting consideration. 

Nelson Cumming is an enthusiastic business blogger with AdrienneMcLean.com with a keen interest in Marketing and PR.

Adrienne McLean DTM – SpeakersTrainingCamp International Instructor and the Founder of The Speakers Practice – Adrienne specialises at The Speakers Practice helping clients to confidently deliver presentations for maximum impact for sales presentations, pitching to Investors, promotional presentations etc.

Adrienne has been training presenting to camera programs since 2012 and has been coached by Lou Bortone – US Video Marketing Expert.

 You can contact Adrienne on adrienne@thespeakerspractice.com.au or ring on 0414 367 960.

The Importance of Communication when the Business is attempting to adapt to Change.

Let’s get you out of your comfort zone. Instead of talking business, let’s start with a little philosophy. A man called  Heraclitus, an ancient Greek philosopher said “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man”

Change cannot be avoided. Yes, you can resist it for awhile, but change is like going on a train: You can hop along for the ride or it will pass you by. Skip too many trains and you will never get to your destination. This kind of philosophy applies to a business when undergoing change.

A lot of times it is hard to move into new waters but here are a couple of tips to help your business through change for the better.

1. Understand the Big Picture

Instead of losing yourself on where you want the business right now, start thinking about where you want the business to be several years down the track. That is your map, the place you want to be.

Your vision is the map and the change are the directions. While the directions may look daunting, you will understand that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and hopefully that will motivate you to keep going.

2. Be Positive

If you have a negative attitude, you tend to worry about failure. If you are negative about the change, you have already failed. If you have a negative attitude, your employees may become Mr. Sad, Mr. Angry or Little Miss Trouble themselves.

People don’t like working with others if they have a negative attitude and they will resist change, making it more likely that your change initiatives will not succeed.

Maintaining a positive attitude to change leads to the likelihood that employees will be more accepting of that change. Fearing change is normal, but accepting that fear is key and finding positivity within yourself is likely to influence your employees towards the changes you set out to make.

You know you have succeeded with change if the employees turn into Mr. Happy and Little Miss Sunshine

3. Communicate to others

It’s very easy for a boss or an owner to be locked up in a room and send a form email to employees about the changes you intend to make and hope the change occurs outside the confines of the office.

Form letters are good at making sure everyone gets that message, but it can be bad for the lack of two-way communication. Make sure people can ask questions about your change initiatives and make sure you can answer them. Talk to other people who have undergone a similar process and what they have experienced.

With the flow of information, people become more informed and therefore make better decisions. While change is being implemented, it can make the process easier when everyone is informs and on the same path.

4. Don’t Give Up!

Determination is a great quality in business. If you follow step 1 in the guide and look at the big picture, not giving up is an invaluable tool to change not only in business but in life.

For example, if I wanted to lose weight and gain abs, I know that if I exercise regularly, perform abdominal exercises with a healthy diet, I can achieve that in about 4-6 months. However, if I quit after the first exercise session, I will never get the abs I want.

Similarly, in business, if you know the right strategy to achieve your business goals, you have to know that the change is not always going to be easy. As a matter of fact, it might suck. However, if you have determination, you will have a better chance to get through the hardest parts of the change and you may be able to achieve your business goals.

The Bottom Line

I believe that the attitudes towards business (and corporate culture in general) come from a top-down approach. What the CEO thinks, feels and acts will seep down all the way to the bottom of the employee working totem pole.

That is why these tips are about attitude and organization. If the times are a changin’ and you can adapt to it in your mind and your actions, your coworkers will likely go through the change in the workplace a lot easier than a company who fear change and believe it is the enemy.

Nelson Cumming is an enthusiastic business blogger with AdrienneMcLean.com with a keen interest in Marketing and PR.

Adrienne McLean DTM – SpeakersTrainingCamp International Instructor and the Founder of The Speakers Practice – Adrienne specialises at The Speakers Practice helping clients to confidently deliver presentations for maximum impact for sales presentations, pitching to Investors, promotional presentations etc.

Adrienne has been training presenting to camera programs since 2012 and has been coached by Lou Bortone – US Video Marketing Expert.

 You can contact Adrienne on adrienne@thespeakerspractice.com.au or ring on 0414 367 960.

What are Investors looking for in Pitches?

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Entrepreneurs and Startups have such great ideas, they are highly skilled in so many ways and they are wanting to change the world. There is the reality that it takes funding to change the great idea into reality.

So it becomes really important for the Entrepreneur to be successful when going through the pitching process with getting the necessary funding they need to make their dream into reality.

The delivery of the Pitch becomes the interface between the Entrepreneur and the Investor looking for great ideas that the Investor can make a good return on.

What are the important elements of the Pitch ?

1. Clarity – The individual delivering the pitch needs to have absolute clarity over each segment of the business proposal. Being able to articulate easily the design, formation and undertakings of the business is sound preparation for putting together a pitch.

2. Pitching Requirements – The Pitch must give all the information that the Investor needs to make an informed decision – to atleast talk further with the Entrepreneur if not make an offer.

The areas that need addressing are:
Identifying the problem the business is addressing?
What is the solution?
How big is the market?
How the business is going to make profit?
What is the business model?
Is there Proprietary Technology?
Who is the competition?
Marketing Plan- How are sales going to be achieved?
Team – Who is needed and on the team?
Money milestones – what are you going to spend and achieve?

3. The Delivery of the Pitch is important – if the Entrepreneur doesn’t display passion about his own product – then why would anyone else?  Preparation, practice, easy to read slides and a polished performance are all going to have a significant impact on the success (or not) of the pitch.

Overview:

The whole package is important – information, delivery and clarity. Speaking to Investors and getting them to commit capital to your business idea is challenging but will reap great rewards – especially if you are prepared and have a polished presentation.

Adrienne McLean DTM – SpeakersTrainingCamp International Instructor and the Founder of The Speakers Practice – Adrienne specialises at The Speakers Practice helping clients to confidently deliver presentations for maximum impact for sales presentations, pitching to Investors, promotional presentations etc.

Adrienne has been training presenting to camera programs since 2012 and has been coached by Lou Bortone – US Video Marketing Expert.

 You can contact Adrienne on adrienne@thespeakerspractice.com.au or ring on 0414 367 960.

Interview techniques for getting that Job!

photo-1459499362902-55a20553e082Interviewing is one of the most stressful activities imaginable for many people.  It’s a long process – you have to find the right job to apply for, then go through quite a process to get your resume to the key people, get short listed and finally if you’re lucky get onto the interview list. So by the time of the interview , it can be quite emotionally challenging already before setting foot in the interview room. One thing is for sure, by feeling more confident with interviewing skills this will help.

Most people don’t feel confident because they are not adequately prepared.  Here are some easy tips to help you become more prepared and to nail every interview you go to.

1. Research the company

  • What does the company do?  What are their major products and services?
  • Who are their competitors?
  • What opportunities and challenges are ahead of them (and how you can help)?
  • What is the press is saying about them (a quick Google search or search in your local paper can tell you that).
  • What is the “word on the street” about them?
  • What is their financial position?


2. Research the interviewer

  • Do you know someone who works in the company?  Find out what you can about the interviewer and drop little hints throughout the conversation that shows you’ve done your research.
  • Look them up on Linkedin to familiarise yourself with their background.
  • See what Google has to say.
  • Look at their Facebook account (if it’s public).


3. Know how to answer their questions

  • Statistics show that people who “win” interviews take between 30 seconds to 2 minutes to answer a question.  Anything less than 30 seconds is not thorough enough, anything more – you’re waffling – no matter how interesting you might think you are, an interviewer loses attention (and patience) after about 2 minutes.
  • Prepare your answers in advance.  Get a list of Behavioral Based Interviewing questions from the Web (there are loads out there and most interviewers don’t put a lot of thought into their questions so you’ll find 80% of what they will ask you from one of these lists of questions), choose 10 questions that you might ask if you were interviewing you for the role and write out your answers. 
  • It’s very important to write your answers out so you can recite the details comfortably in a stressful situation.
  • It’s also important to answer these questions with real, live examples of what you’ve done in the past and not what you would do.
  • Know your strengths and your weaknesses and don’t try to spin your weaknesses into strengths.  There is nothing worse than drawing a blank to this question.  It’s one of the most common questions asked and being unprepared for it demonstrates a total lack of preparedness.
  • Don’t try to spin your weaknesses into strengths.  Very few people do this well, it’s trite and inauthentic.  After all, everyone has weaknesses, no one is perfect. 


4. Know how to ask your own questions

  • Companies find out as much or more about you by the questions you ask them than by how well you answer theirs.
  • Challenge yourself to ask questions no one else may have thought about.  Business related, thought provoking questions.  Pre prepare based on your research.
  • Ask the interviewer about their background, people love to talk about themselves.  It may also give you insight into the company culture.
  • Determine the qualities you want in a boss and ask them questions about how they would handle situations.  Interviewing is a 2 way conversation.


5. Don’t let nerves get the best of you!

  • Prepare the night before so you know what to wear, where you are going and where your notes are.
  • Make sure you’ve got the name(s) (spelled correctly!) of the people you’re meeting!
  • Show up early!
  • Make sure you ask for a glass of water (don’t bring your own bottle) so that you can stall or pause as you’re structuring your answers!


6. Make a great first impression

  • With a great smile, direct gaze and firm handshake.


7. Follow up

  • Ask for the job (even if you don’t want it, you can always turn it down later!)
  • Send both Email and Snail mail thank you notes.
  • Give detailed feedback to your recruiter including positives, negatives, your interest on a scale of 1 – 10 and how the opportunity compares to any others you may have in the pipeline.
  • Follow up with the company 1 day after they tell you when they will make their decision or take the next step.

Adrienne McLean DTM – SpeakersTrainingCamp International Instructor and the Founder of The Speakers Practice – Adrienne specialises at The Speakers Practice helping clients to confidently deliver presentations for maximum impact. You can contact Adrienne on adrienne@thespeakerspractice.com.au or ring on 0414 367 960.

8 Blogs to follow on Public Speaking

There are many blogs on Public Speaking and Presentation Skills. When developing your skills in this area, you will encounter many teachers who will influence your journey. Here are my favourites who are my teachers, I’ve met or followed on the web. photo-1470145318698-cb03732f5ddf

1. No-Choke Zone Blog… by Sue Gaulke    http://www.successworksusa.com/resources/blog/

Interesting , topical and valuable information on where Presentation Skills can and do have an impact. Expert information on the skills required and approaches that can be used. Worth following! Sue Gaulke is a Presentation Skills expert. Sue is the founder of SuccessWorksUSA and the creator of the SpeakersTrainingCamp presentation skills program – been presented to the US and Internationally for over 30 years. 

2. Manner of Speaking – John Zimmer

John Zimmer goes into detail with speech writing and devices used to create a speech. This is an interesting blog to follow – thought provoking and constructiv advice. See – https://mannerofspeaking.org/author/mannerofspeaking/

3. Darren La CRoix   http://stagetimeuniversity.com/toa

Being a Toastmasters World Champion of Publc SPeaking , Darren has developed skills to create impact with his presentations. Following Darrens blogs and video will help deveop skills in selling as well as promoting and presenting with skill.

4.  Nancy Duarte | www.duarte.com/blog

This blog is all about building communication skills esoecially how creating speeches works and what to do to create impact. Nancy Duarte is a communications expert and influencer.

5.  Patricia Fripp | www.fripp.com/blog

Patrica Fripp is a Presentation Skills coach specialising in sales training – these blogs are business based and discuss presentation skills from the work place needs. Interesting and useful with approaches that can be implemented.

6. Craig Valentine  http://www.craigvalentine.com/blog

Story telling and the way to create a captivating story is Craig Valentines speciality – breaking down how to prepare a speech that works. Interesting tools and advice

7. Lucy Cornell Voice Coach  http://www.voicecoach.net/blog

The use of the voice is important in delivering presentations – Lucy Coornell s a Voice specialit and her blogs are how the voice impacts on presentations. Useful and thought provoking.

8. Steal the Show Podcast – by Michael Port  http://stealtheshow.com/podcast/archive/

Here’s a wealth of information on delivering of presentations – discussions and interviews on every topic around delivering of presentations and public speaking. Michael Port has developed a significant resource on Presentation skills.

To conclude:

Read, listen and watch information on Presentation Skills. It will give you a great background. The secret is though (and its not really a secret) the way to build presentation skills is to go out and do as many presentations as you can. Then, test out and implement some of the advice to discover how to really connect with your audience.

Adrienne McLean DTM – SpeakersTrainingCamp International Instructor and the Founder of The Speakers Practice – Adrienne specialises at The Speakers Practice helping clients to confidently deliver presentations for maximum impact. You can contact Adrienne on adrienne@thespeakerspractice.com.au or ring on 0414 367 960.

Developing Confidence in Public Speaking ( is a Personal Development journey)

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Speaking in front of people can be daunting. No matter what size of group, the nerves start, the negative self-talk is almost shouting at you to stop plus you see all these people looking at you waiting to listen to you.

These’s alot of pressure, what can you do to build your confidence?

1. First, you have to be brave and get out of your comfort zone. Developing Public Speaking skills is an incredible personal development journey – you will keep learning and learning – it is not always easy but the rewards are incredible. Just be brave and take the opportunities that come your way.

2. Start believing in yourself. You CAN DO IT! You need to have POSITIVE SELF TALK and if that negative voice is there push it away and concentrate on the POSITIVE!

3.Keep a track of what you are saying to your self. Watch out when it is going negative and reword what you are saying to build yourself up.

4. Prepare early and know your speech very well. Preparation is really important – if you know your topic, what the message is that you want to convey, have all your equipment working, it all has a big impact on how you present yourself.

5. Nervousness is something we all face , some more than others. If you do get nervous, then preparation is really helpful, practise is also essential. Catching yourself with negative thinking is important. Saying positive, encouraging words to yourself, finding ways to relax before a presentation, taking deep breaths before stepping in front of the group, find a way to manage your nerves – the rewards will be there for you.

6.  Building confidence to speak in front of people means you need to get used to speaking in front of people. Do some training, join a group you are interested in and participate. Get  practise, participate as much as you can, this really helps with getting you feel comfortable in front of a group.

7. You need to go and give your presentations. Find places where you can practise. In the work place, get comfortable with short presentations in front of managers, staff and clients. Community groups, P and C, Rotary or Lions Club. Work on a topic you are interested in and find venues to present this – it could help the community – become an expert in your field of interest.

8. After you have given your speech, no matter how big or small, CONGRATULATE yourself. Always keep in mind how far you have come, how well you did and how many people you spoke in front of. That will be an amazing boost to your confidence to speak in front of people.

Good luck, as you get used to speaking in front of an audience, eventually you will enjoy the experience and be the confident person you want to be.

Adrienne McLean DTM – SpeakersTrainingCamp International Instructor and the Founder of The Speakers Practice – Adrienne specialises at The Speakers Practice helping clients to confidently deliver presentations for maximum impact. You can contact Adrienne on adrienne@thespeakerspractice.com.au or ring on 0414 367 960.