Articles by Ellen Dunnigan

Hit the Floor and Give Me 20! – Is Business Coaching Right For You?

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Many of us associate a coach with ear-splitting whistles, rope burns and the occasional awkward moment in the locker room. But a coach in in the corporate world means advancement and development.

According to a July 2011 American Management Association survey, almost half of companies surveyed use coaching to prepare their employees for a promotion or new role. While half of those companies restrict their work to upper management, four of 10 make them available to anyone in the company.

Coaching’s three most common uses, according to the survey, include leadership development, remedial performance improvement, and optimizing strong contributors. Most coaches meet with executives in person or by phone, either every other week or once a month for about a year, though they increasingly are available for emergency consults.

In a Fortune article about coaching earlier this month, Indianapolis-based WellPoint makes coaches available to about one-fourth of senior leadership. A company liaison typically recommends a few coaches, and then the individual chooses the best match. The company views hiring a coach as an investment in people identified as very solid performers.

With a $200 per hour fee common among coaches, is it worth the money? According to the article, companies are still struggling with how to measure its effectiveness. Some use 360-degree-feedback before and after sessions to look for changes in behavior or relationships. Others rely on evaluations from both the subject and his superior.

The clash of high achieving personalities, and yes even egos, sometimes get in the way. It is not uncommon to work with one and then depart for another.

What do you think? How could a coach help you? Would you hire one to play devil’s advocate or help you develop in another way?

Ellen Dunnigan
Accent On Business
(317) 218-5115
ellen@accentonbusiness.net

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7 Tips to Quell Nervousness Before a Speech (That Don’t Include Jumping From the Window)

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

The fear of speaking in front of 5 or 500 people is shared by virtually everyone and cuts across all professions, social classes and leadership levels. There are lots of reasons why this fear wells up and seems to choke our confidence and vocal chords. But this blog post isn’t about the problem – it’s about the solution!

How do we not only overcome this fear, yet give a top notch speech at the same time? Here are 7 non-pharmaceutical (and non-alcoholic) ways to help you focus on giving a top-notch performance

1. You Rock!
Remind yourself that you know this information better than anyone else, that you’re well prepared, and that your audience needs this information. Say it to yourself again and again! Don’t let negative thoughts enter your active mind space. C’mon, say it like you mean it: “I know this better than anyone else, I’m well prepared, and these people NEED this!”

2. Know your topic and audience
Doing your homework and research will calm you down really quickly. Understanding to whom you are talking and including relevant and enlightening information in your speech will be cement yourself as an authority. Who knows? Maybe they’ll even invite you back!

3. Practice aloud – even if it’s a 30 second introduction
Writing a speech and giving a speech are two very different things. You will naturally find yourself changing, refining or improving your content once you speak aloud. Go ahead and make the changes as you speak, and at some time confirm your changes, stick with them, and begin practicing the same version over and over again until you feel confident about your presentation.

4. Always warm up
Warming up your body and voice at the beginning of an important day or right before a presentation will dramatically open up your body, gestures and vocal range. Five minutes of stretching, deep breathing, and reminding yourself that you ROCK will make you more at ease.

5. Don’t apologize, or say you’re nervous
Remember – people want you to succeed. If, in a lame attempt to relate to the audience, you say you’re nervous, they’ll no doubt notice it. While your mind may be racing in the three seconds that tick by as you approach the podium, the audience isn’t even paying attention. Why tell them that you’re nervous or say “sorry” for something as a way to get their attention?

6. Hold the microphone with your non-dominant hand
If you are given a microphone, hold it in your non-dominant hand so that you can gesture freely with the hand you normally write with. You will feel much more comfortable physically if you follow this simple advice.

7. Hire a presentation coach
If you have a very important presentation coming up or if your livelihood is connected at all to your communication skills, consider hiring a professional coach – top athletes would never enter a competition without the support of the best coach they can find.

OK, I’ll admit there are probably more than 7 ways to quell the nervousness and near-panic you are feeling. Frankly, if you just do two or three of these steps, you’ll be on your way to a better presentation. What tips for settling down and giving a great presentation have I missed? What works for you?

Ellen Dunnigan
Accent On Business
(317) 218-5115
ellen@accentonbusiness.net

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5 Things You Can Do Right Now To Improve Your Next Presentation

Monday, September 19th, 2011

Apple Founder and CEO Steve Jobs is loved and skewered by many. Love him or hate him, that’s what happens when you take chances and share provocative opinions. But few would argue that

Jobs is a masterful presenter. And though he’s naturally talented and gets technology to do some magical things with the wave of his wand, he also practices over and over and over to get it just right. There have been many articles written over the last decade especially take a peak inside this magician’s tophat. I came up with five “Jobsian” tricks you can adapt to make your next presentation a little better without spending hours and hours in front of a mirror.

1. Record your speech using your smartphone’s voice recorder or video camera
Play it back. Take note of lines that sound mumbled or need emphasis. Go over this and make changes immediately. Visually are you smiling? Are you engaging with the audience?

2. Plan in the analog world
We may exist in the digital world, but prepare in the “old world” of pen and paper. Brainstorm, sketch and draw on whiteboards. Graphic designers who work in PowerPoint rarely open the software program as the first step in creating a presentation. They “storyboard” their presentation before transferring their ideas to a digital format.

3. Introduce an antagonist
In every classic story, the hero fights the villain. The same holds true for your presentation. In 1984, the villain was IBM. Before Jobs introduced the famous “1984” Macintosh ad to a group of Apple salespeople, he created a dramatic story around it. “IBM wants it all,” he declared. Creating a villain allows the audience to rally around the hero–your product or your strategy to take on a challenge.

4. Obey the ’10-minute’ rule
Neuroscientists have found that the brain gets tired after 10 minutes. In other words, no matter how engaging the speaker, audiences will tend to tune out after approximately 10 minutes. If your presentation lasts longer than 10 minutes, break up the content with video, demonstrations or audience participation. Don’t give them time to get bored.

5. Make numbers meaningful
Big numbers should be put into context. If 220 million units have been sold to date, place that number into context by saying it represents “X” percent of the market. Break it down even further — and take a jab at the competition — by saying a competitor is “pulling up the rear” with its lower market share. Large numbers must be placed into a context the audience can understand.

Enough about Steve. What about You? What are some weaknesses, or strengths, in your speaking abilities? What have you learned or what’s holding you back from improving?

Ellen Dunnigan
Accent On Business
(317) 218-5115
ellen@accentonbusiness.net

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Six Steps to Speaking

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

Want more speaking gigs? There are three reasons for not getting enough offers:

1. No one knows you’re out there.
2. Your topics or services are not needed.
3. Buyers don’t believe you’re good enough.

Here’s a great Six Step Strategy for increasing your opportunities to speak:

1. Tell everyone you meet and every person you know that you are a highly and continuously trained speaker on the subject(s) of “x”, and that you are seeking opportunities to speak.

2. Seek out and meet event and meeting planners, large company VPs of HR and Sales, and non-profit organization directors.

3. Speak for free anywhere locally, especially to churches, networking organizations, Kiwanis, Rotary, Lions, and other associations. Use this as time to hone your message and your delivery skills.

4. Share your information in articles and blogs on your own website and on the sites of others as a guest writer.

5. Get better at public speaking. Believe in continuous personal and professional development.

6. Seek out and become an active participant in highly practical speaker services.

Ellen Dunnigan
Accent On Business
(317) 218-5115
ellen@accentonbusiness.net

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