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Promote yourselfDo you want to win the recognition and respect that you deserve? To get noticed and taken seriously when new opportunities arise? To have your ideas and contributions valued?

And do you want to do so in a way that is both authentic and respectful?

To promote yourself without being shameless or self-centered…

1. Take responsibility.
You can’t control how people think or feel about you. But you can take responsibility for the impression you make – your reputation – and correct it if it’s distorted or add to it if it’s incomplete.

2. Be yourself.
Being someone other than you are in order to get noticed is counterproductive. You’ll feel like a fraud. And other people will have misgivings about you, which is the opposite of what you want.

3. Do something notable.
Simply doing what’s required, meeting expectations, and showing up won’t get you noticed. And it shouldn’t. You have two options: 1) excel at what you do or 2) exceed expectations and your job description…consistently.

4. Help others.
Be interested in people and their welfare. Introduce them to people, ideas, or resources they will find valuable. Notice their successes and make those successes known to others.

5. Avoid extremes.
Bragging about yourself and your accomplishments turns people off. Downplaying your value and contributions does yourself and others a disservice.

6. Listen more or talk more, depending…
If you talk a lot around others, listen more. Pay attention to them, and they’ll give you their attention. If you listen to others a lot, speak up. Make your thoughts and feelings known. Don’t expect people to read your mind.

7. Tell your story.
Give examples of what you do and of its value. Don’t say, for example, “I’m good at leading meetings.” Talk about a time you lead a meeting well, and describe the (positive) outcome.

8. Practice.
Respectful self-promotion takes practice. Try it and see how it works. Try it again, differently, and make adjustments, if necessary. Allow yourself to fail…and try again.

Don’t be pushy or obnoxious. Don’t talk on and on about yourself. The world already has enough narcissists.

Be the best you that you can be. Develop and use your skills to be of service to others. Let your actions speak for you. And don’t be afraid — at the right time and in the right way — to speak up for yourself.

The ending of a speech — its conclusion — is its most important element.

A speech’s conclusion is even more important than its opening, because it’s what people remember most.

Ending a speech is, also, challenging.

I struggled for years trying to come up with powerful ways to end my speeches. And I often failed. Usually I just sat down. It was as if I had said everything I wanted to say and I ran out of steam.

Don’t let that happen to you.

5 Most Common Mistakes When Ending a Speech

Mistake #1:Popping the Ending on Your Audience

You gotta warn the audience that you’re coming to a conclusion. Doing so regains their attention (which sometimes wanders, even during a great speech) and prepares them emotionally.

It’s not hard to do. A simple, “In conclusion” or “Finally” or “Let me wrap up by…” will usually do.

Warning: Once you signal your intention to conclude, you have to finish talking relatively quickly.

Mistake #2: Ending with Q&A

You can schedule Q&A toward the end of your talk. That’s often a natural place for it. But don’t use your Q&A as your conclusion. (The last question you answer is usually the weakest. And you don’t want to have your audience leaving on a weak note.)

Conclude after you’ve answered the final question. Take a little more time to drive your main points home and to issue a call to action.

“Thank you for your questions. I hope you can see how [or why]…”

Mistake #3: Introducing New Material

Never, never, never bring up a new idea or add new information in your conclusion. This is the time to summarize your main points and hit them home. Introducing new material at this point will only diffuse or dilute your message.

Mistake #4: Failing to Issue a Call to Action

The purpose of giving a speech is to move people to action. Sure, you give them new information, new ideas to consider. Sure, you entertain them (meaning, you engage their emotions and imaginations). But you do all that because, ultimately, you want to get them to do something.

So don’t be coy or vague. Don’t make people guess. Tell them what you want them to do. Your speech up to this point has told them what you want them to do and why they would want to do it. Now give the one more reason — an emotional reason — to act.

Mistake #5: Letting the Audience Down Emotionally

A compelling speech takes the audience through a range of emotions, both high and low. But you don’t want to end on a low note.

End on a high note, not a downer. Appeal to people’s hopes and dreams, their aspirations, their courage, love, or faith, their community spirit or patriotism. Send them out energized, not depressed.

For more ideas check out In Conclusion: When to End a Speech and How to End a Speech.

Three Presentations PMs needProject managers — like most leaders — get things done by getting other people to do them.

A project manager’s responsibilities include overall management, but he or she is seldom directly involved with the activities that actually produce the end result. PMs oversee any associated products and services, project tools and techniques to help ensure good practices. In addition, they are responsible for recruiting and building project teams, and making projections about the project’s risks and uncertainties.

Project managers are strategists and communicators.

They give presentations at various times and for different reasons to customers and clients, to upper management, and to team members.

The Three Presentations Every Project Manager Needs

  1. Promote
    Program Managers make presentations to promote an idea, service, product, trend, development, or organization. They provide information and insight about that idea, etc.  in order to attract people’s attention, to gain their interest, and to build support. The goal of a promotional presentation is to motivate the listeners to take some action that will advance the PM’s goal.
  2. Propose
    Program Managers make presentations to seek the buy-in, support, or approval of relevant stakeholders for a particular project. PMs require authorization to act from their own leaders (internally) and/or from prospective clients. The goal of a proposal presentation (sometimes called an oral proposal) is simple: to get those in authority to say “yes” to what’s being proposed.
  3. Update
    Program Managers make presentations to communicate information about a project’s current status — its progress, problems, and opportunities — to relevant parties and to recommend next steps. The goal of a project update (also called a status report) is to keep people informed and to gain their input and approval for necessary changes.

What other presentations do you think Project Managers need?

Photo Voice, which seeks “to create participatory photography programs that achieve meaningful improvements in the lives of participants,” defines public advocacy as:

Seeking to affect a change in public opinion or attitude and through doing so to prompt a change in behavior that will bring benefits for a community or group. Public advocacy can also increase pressure on decision-makers to take action or make policy change.

Over the years I’ve worked with any number of organizations involved in public advocacy, helping them create and implement a communications strategy and a message to further their causes.

I enjoy working with public advocacy groups. I’m often humbled by their dedication.

Because leaders speak — or should speak — primarily to influence audiences and to inspire them to take action, leaders can learn a lot from public advocates.

Three Public Speaking Lessons for Leaders from Public Advocates:

1. Speak about what matters to you.

Social advocates and real leaders speak about issues that they themselves deeply believe and care about.

Conviction and caring are the foundation of any compelling speech.

How can you convince others to care unless you first care…and care deeply. You don’t have to cry or shout or beat your chest, but you do need to let your passion show.

2. Tell stories.

Stories engage an audience’s imaginations and emotions. They make a cause personal and real and specific. They have the power to change people’s mindsets and, more importantly, to move them to action.

Find a story that illustrates the problem you’re addressing and the cause you’re advocating. Refine that story. And tell it again and again and again.

3. Take a stand.

As an advocate — whether you’re speaking for a cause or for a business — it’s not your role to be impartial. Yes, you have to be fair and factual and honest. But your job is stake out a position and to defend and promote it in every way you can.

Don’t be timid or shy. Leave no doubt in your audience’s minds what you want of them and why.

Real leaders, like public advocates, address issues that matter both to themselves and to a wider world. They seek to benefit that wider world. And they throw themselves heart and mind and soul into that effort.

Try it and see how it works for you.

Rhetoric is the skillful use of language in speaking or writing in order to influence how people think, feel, and act.

Rhetoric is neither good nor bad in itself. Its legitimacy is determined by how it is used (honestly or deceptively) and for what end it is used (for good or for ill).

The deceptive use of rhetoric is nothing new, certainly not in politics, nor is it limited to any particular faction.

Karl Rove’s comments “questioning” Hillary Clinton’s mental health are the most recent example. (For an account of his tactics, check out the Atlantic piece, “Why Karl Rove Uses Dirty Tricks: They Work.”)

I would like to take a page from Rove’s playbook as a lesson.

A Common Technique of the Rhetoric of Deception

Make a malicious statement so that the idea, image, or phrase you used becomes part of the public discourse.

Continue Reading…

Whether you’re selling a service or a product. Whether you’re a solo entrepreneur (a coach, consultant, freelancer, sole proprietor) or a major corporation. You have to show the prospective client or customer why they should choose you.

One of the best ways to do so is to talk about differentiators or discriminators. (The terms are used pretty much interchangeably.)

I’ve written before about the benefits of selling a proposal by emphasizing what makes you and your approach different. (See Compete on Differentiators, not on Price or Quality.)

Now I’d like to define what I mean by a differentiator or discriminator, and to explain how best to create effective ones.

First, a definition of terms.

A differentiator or discriminator is 1) anything you are, have, do, or use that 2) differs from what the competition is, has, does, or uses, and 3) produces a benefit the customer wants.

There are four elements you need to explain, demonstrate, or prove:

1. What is it?

What exactly is the thing or attribute that makes you different?

It might be your people, their qualifications or expertise. Or your facilities. Or your processes. Or your tools and technologies.

Don’t assume that everyone understands what you’re talking about. Explain, define, or demonstrate it, if necessary.

2. How is it different?

Is it different in kind (it’s completely new and unlike anything else)? Or quality (it’s markedly different)? Or number (we have more of them than anyone else)?

3. How does it benefit the customer?

Just because it’s different doesn’t mean that it’s better or that the customer will want it. Show them how it will help them achieve, solve, improve, avoid, or fix something easier, faster, or cheaper.

4. How do you prove it?

Back up your assertions with third-party evidence or testimonials. Don’t say “we have a great reputation” when you can say “we’ve been awarded best small business in Charlotte for the past three years by the Chamber of Commerce.”

IstockphotoGuest blogger: Cathy Bolger, Ph.D.

There are five key conflict management strategies: Postpone, Enforce, Accommodate, Compromise, and Explore.

Most people have a most preferred and least preferred strategy when handling conflict. What are yours?

1. The Postpone Strategy involves delaying discussion until a later time. At that time, you may need to adopt one of the other four strategies to manage the differences. Choose the Postpone Strategy when:

  • there are heightened emotions around the issues
  • you don’t have all the information needed

Continue Reading…


Christopher Witt —  July 24, 2013


The Rule of St. Benedict, a book of precepts written 1,500 years ago by Benedict of Nursia for monks living communally, begins with that simple word: Listen.

The entire phrase is “Listen and incline the ear of your heart…”

Listening is a good way to begin just about any venture, not just a book of precepts.

Listening is about paying attention…in a certain way, with a certain attitude, and a certain commitment. It’s about paying attention or, as Benedict writes, “inclining the ear of your heart.”

What makes it so difficult to listen with the ear of our heart?

The Enthronement of the Ego

Ego is the part of us that thinks we’re in charge of our identities, our lives, our fates. Left to its own devices, the ego thinks we’re in charge—or should be—of other people and of the universe itself. Ego is a little god, a tyrant, a spoiled child.

Ego is about being in control.

It requires constant vigilance and aggression, since so many things (our own inner conflicts), events, and people keep asserting themselves. And, because control is an illusion, the ego requires a great deal of denial.

When we listen with the ear of our ego, we hear only what we want to hear and disregard the rest.

We listen to confirm what we already know and believe and value, never allowing ourselves to learn something new, to be challenged, or to change.

The heart (sometimes called the self or the soul) is the place where the intellect and emotions, thoughts and desires, dreams and aspirations, meet. It’s the wider, deeper self that can’t be strictly confined, that doesn’t define its individuality as different from and in opposition to others.

When we listen with the heart, we let go of the pretense that we’re in charge of ourselves, must less of others. We let go of our agenda and expectations. And we open ourselves, well, to who knows what.

(The author Steve Pressfied has a related piece, The Ego and the Self, that is well worth reading. And, while you’re at it, you might want to check out his book, The War of Art.)

The Need for Speed

We’re all busy. We’re always behind. So the natural response is to speed up.

And all our efforts to do more with less only confirm the Red Queen’s maxim: “It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.”

Many activities can be sped up, but listening isn’t one of them.

The only way to hurry listening is to hurry other people—to interrupt them, to convey our impatience, to ask them to cut to the chase—which isn’t listening at all.

To listen with the heart, we have to slow down.

The Primacy of Action

Because there’s so much to do and so little time, it’s no wonder that action gets such high marks. Just don’t sit there, we’re told, do something.

Listening is, of course, doing something.

Listening is an action, but it doesn’t look like it. It looks passive.

To listen with the ear of the heart, we have to keep the ego at bay. We have to tune out distractions. And we have to pay attention to all the ways people communicate (by words and omissions, silence, facial expressions, gestures, posture). That’s all hard work, but it’s the antithesis of mindless action.

To listen and incline the ear of the heart and who knows what you might learn, what other people might say, what might happen.

You can take the listening quiz and test your listening skills.


Only Connect!

Christopher Witt —  June 25, 2013

Only Connect!Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon.
Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted,
And human love will be seen at its height.
Live in fragments no longer.
Only connect…
–E.M. Forster, Howards End


A speech is all about making connections.

What you talk about (your topic), how you understand it (your frame), what you say about it (your message), how you say it (your delivery) changes, of course.

There are no end of different things you can speak about.

But whatever you are speaking about, a speech is about making connections.

It’s about connecting…

  • Data and information to form a coherent idea
  • Disparate and mutually contradictory ideas to create a new synthesis
  • The known with the new
  • People’s heads (understanding and imagination), hearts (emotions and values), hands (actions and behavior)
  • Individuals with each other
  • Speaker and audience

Making connections is a way of combatting the twin evils of our time: ignorance (and the prejudice and intolerance that it breeds) and loneliness.

There’s more happening in a speech than you think. So never undervalue what you might accomplish when you speak.

Last week I attended a funeral for my nephew, a sweet kid who died tragically and way before his time. Contrary to my expectations, I found the funeral and the rites surrounding it a moving and powerful source of comfort.

Two friends of my nephew shared reminiscences and a priest gave the eulogy. They did a fine job, which got me to thinking about eulogies and what they can teach us about speaking in general.

Here are five elements or characteristics of a eulogy that apply to speeches in general.

  1. Intention
    When giving a eulogy, what matters most is your intention. Your aim is, or should be, to offer comfort. How you comfort those who grieve will differ, of course, depending on the person who has died, the circumstances, the people left behind, and your own gifts, relationship, abilities. But as long as you sincerely intend to provide comfort, you’re on the right track. Your intention also matters in every other speech you give. Your aim will differ from speech to speech, but you always need to be clear about what it is. And you audience needs to know what it is. Why are you speaking to them? Why do you care? Why should they care?
  2. Stories
    You can’t give a eulogy without telling stories. You just can’t. You are, in essence, telling the story of the person’s life or, at least, telling a story of the person’ life and imbuing it with meaning. Likewise, I don’t see how you can give any kind of speech without telling a story, at least one. (See How to Tell a Story.)
  3. Emotions
    At a funeral people’s emotions, which may span the whole gamut, are right up front and central. And it’s easy for the eulogist to connect in a powerful way with the audience. It’s not so easy to do that in other speeches, especially in the corporate arena where people are more guarded. But you still have to engage people’s emotions if you want to affect them. (As a verb, affect means, “have an effect on; make a difference to.” As a noun, affect means, “emotion or desire, esp. as influencing behavior or action.”)
  4. Community
    At a funeral, you’re not just speaking to individuals. You’re speaking to a community, to people who share a common bond, to family, friends, colleagues. In other speeches, you will have a greater impact if you think of gathering the individuals who are assembled into an assembly, a community of people who have something in common — a shared concern, a joint venture, similar values. A good speaker addresses each person as a unique individual and, at the same time, forges a sense of commonality among the audience as a whole.
  5. Humility
    If you’ve ever spoken at a funeral, you know how daunting of a task it can be. How can you possibly do justice to the person, those who mourn, and the occasion? You can’t. And that’s okay. You do what you can, as best you can. And you do your best to keep your ego out of the way. You’re there to comfort others — that’s your intention, right? — not to call attention to yourself. The same is true of giving a speech. When you let your ego get in the way, you’ll trip yourself up. But if you humbly do the best you can, you’ll do better than you expect.

What do you think? What lessons from eulogies can you apply to speeches in general?

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