Collaboration Consulting


  • Published Articles

Published Articles by Susan deGrandpre:

"Consider investing in facilitated team building" Mainebiz July 9, 2012.

"Don't stop at the top. Here are three steps for building continuity in your business" Mainebiz April 2, 2012.

Operation Get Charles and Edna Together Again: Five steps to launch the power of spontaneous cause-based collaboration, Employment Times, August 17, 2011

5 Steps to Find and Use a Mentor, HR Times, 2nd Quarter 2011

10 Steps to Engage Your Employees in Times of Change

Are You an Exhausted Entrepreneur?

Be Your Own Audience

Building Leadership from Within: Effective Succession Planning, Mainebiz Momentum Conference, Oct 2010

Developing a Mentoring Program

Don't Leave New Workers to Flounder

Get Your Customers to Complain to YOU

Interrogative Negotiating Strategy

Learning to Grow: Building a mentoring culture at your business
(The link goes to Mainebiz where this article is published.)

No News is Not Good News in the World of Feedback

Organize Your Presentations

PREPARE Presentation System

Prevent Presentation Bloopers

Take your Consulting Career to the Next Level: Five Steps to Find and Use a Mentor, Consulting Magazine, Nov/Dec 2010 issue

Three Steps to Turn Conflict into Successful Change Management

All articles copyright Susan deGrandpre. Please contact Susan if you wish to distribute any of these articles.

10 Steps to Engage Your Employees in Times of Change

Published in "ExecutiveModus"

All change involves discomfort, if not pain. Your employees may be more than a little distracted by what is going on around them. You need them fully on board and contributing to making a success of the changes your organization is experiencing. These 10 steps create an environment of contribution rather than resistance.

  1. Tell them what is going on, continually. Employees need information as a critical tool to focus their work and keep their efforts aligned with your business goals. If you leave them guessing, they will fill in the blanks themselves. When information is missing, the void is filled with misinformation. When information is incomplete, it is completed with negative conclusions.
  2. Tie your communications to the marketplace. Your customers drive the state of your business, so employees need to know how customer activity, or lack thereof, impacts their work.
  3. Assess the current state. What are your employees' attitudes, feelings and assumptions about the business and the changes?
  4. What do you want your employees to know, think, feel and do relative to the change? Where are the gaps between the current state and where the organization needs to go?
  5. What are the most important messages for your employees to hear in order to engage them in contributing to the success of the change? These messages should be geared to closing those gaps.
  6. Tell your employees what is "in it" for them. It is human nature to hear information from the perspective of how it will alter their world, positively or negatively.
  7. Tell your employees what you specifically want them to do, in response to the information. Let them know they are your business's most important asset.
  8. Select carefully the best ways to give the information your employees need. The more complex, difficult, sensitive or important the information is, the more you want to communicate face-to-face, or at least voice-to-voice. Electronic media, newsletters, etc. are not the way to go when your information is impacting your employees and how they work.
  9. Make communication two-way. You have talented and dedicated employees. Give them a chance to give you input and ideas, to share your ownership for success. An old adage says "we support what we help create." If you have difficult decisions to make, let them help. You may discover better solutions than those you would have created on your own. There is little more engaging and inspiring for employees than to know they are sharing leadership of the business.
  10.  Communicate constantly, as an integral part of how you lead. It takes time and energy, but not as much as doing damage control because you left employees to fill in the blanks themselves, feeling powerless.

These steps build trust, initiative, leadership, and collaboration- characteristics that will sustain and grow the strength of your organization and your employees in times of change.

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Are You an Exhausted Entrepreneur?

Published in "Entrepreneurs Community"

You have turned your dream into your livelihood. You have created your business with dedication, energy and expertise. You are working hard to maintain your market share. You are concerned about your employees. You are devoting every waking hour to being a successful entrepreneur. You have so much to do, and no more of you to do it.

Must you limit your business's capacity because you are at your personal limit? What if your employees could help you shed your "do everything yourself" role?

Who have you hired? Are they talented? Do they share your enthusiasm? Do they feel a stake in your business's success? Could they learn from you and from each other? If no, you've hired the wrong people. If yes, you already have the foundation for increasing the capacity of your business through Workplace Mentoring.

Workplace Mentoring is an explicit one-to-one learning relationship between someone who wants to improve job or career skills and someone who can help her do that. This could be a person new to your business, or a person who is experienced. The organization provides encouragement and structure to support mentoring relationships. The mentor is much more than just a "go-to" person. Workplace mentors are champions of learning. The mentor takes a position of high interest and investment in another's development. She wants to mentor. She shares knowledge, encouragement, guidance and feedback about job content and organizational culture. She advocates for the mentee's success.

For years I have been interviewing very different types and sizes of businesses that have discovered similar direct and side benefits of "people teaching people" as a critical part of business success. Mentoring develops the mentee at faster rates than standardized training. It also develops the mentor's leadership skills. Mentees and mentors take mutual responsibility for their success and the organization's success.

By definition there is no cookie-cutter approach to mentoring. Each of the businesses I've spoken with has evolved its mentoring process according to the organization's and learners' needs. The mentoring content is significantly different in each business. I have discovered, though, that all of these businesses have fundamental components of mentoring in common. I call these the Six Building Blocks of Successful Workplace Mentoring:

  1. Evaluate people's strengths, needs and aspirations individually.
    We learn uniquely. No two people bring exactly the same qualities to a job. The development process is much more effective and efficient when it is shaped to the individual.
  2. Create opportunities to learn on the job.
    We learn by doing. Use the workplace as the classroom. Learning is retained at a higher level when just-in-time and directly applied to the work.
  3. Define teaching and learning roles.
    We learn with clear expectations. Set clear goals and responsibilities for the mentoring process, including content and pace. Review and revise continually to reflect progress.
  4. Give direct feedback.
    We learn with encouragement. Mentoring is a two-way process. Both people need to exchange feedback, with emphasis on what is working well, openly and continually to stay on track with each other and the learning goals.
  5. Measure learning.
    We learn when we build on success. Set incremental measurements, both formal and informal, to give the mentee and mentor frequent, meaningful marks of success.
  6. Reward the team effort.
    We learn when we feel energized. Imbed a culture of mentoring by recognizing mentee and mentor efforts and successes. Make it rewarding and fun to teach and learn.

I challenge you to choose one person in your business to mentor. Create a plan with that person using the Six Building Blocks of Successful Workplace Mentoring. Watch your mentee rise to the occasion and grow towards higher responsibility. Mentoring works.

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Be Your Own Audience


Published in "Ezine"


Find a mirror and be your own audience. The best way to make sure you are physically and verbally presenting yourself the way you wish to be seen and heard is to actually see and hear yourself.

It is ideal, of course, to video yourself practicing your presentation. But we do not always have access to that equipment when we need to practice.

Find a mirror, and give your presentation. You are your audience.

Your stance and gestures should enhance your message. You want the audience to see that you are confident, friendly and comfortable.

  • Are your shoulders relaxed?
  • Arms at your sides or slightly in front of you?
  • Gestures natural?
  • Facial expressions natural?

Eye contact engages people. When you make eye contact with an audience member for a moment while you are speaking, you are including that person in your presentation.

  • Are you looking at your audience?

You want your audience to hear every word and feel your enthusiasm.

  • Are you speaking at a moderate pace?
  • Are you saying your words clearly?
  • Are you using natural inflections in the pitch of your voice?

You want your audience to understand what they are hearing.

  • Are you using jargon-free language?
  • Are you avoiding acronyms and initials?

People get distracted by "um", "uh", incorrect grammar, slang expressions, overused phrases. You want your audience to focus on your message, not your mannerisms.

  • Is your speech free from distractions?

When your "audience" - you - can answer yes to all of these questions, you only have to remember when you are in front of your real audience. You know you can deliver a great presentation, because you've already seen and heard yourself do it!

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Developing a Mentoring Program

Published in "HR Times"

Congratulations! Business is growing again. You are getting ready to hire new employees. You have a careful hiring plan in place. You will attract and win the best of the best candidates. Do you have an equally careful plan to orient and develop your expanding staff? You have successfully managed the struggles of a shrinking organization. Your organization has likely retained employees with much experience, and high performance has become the norm. How can Human Resources help keep performance high while bringing new people on board?

Problem: Training classes build the necessary baseline of knowledge,but what happens next? Is the new employee truly ready to do the job? Probably the work she or he will do is too complex to be fully learned in training. The organization’s values and culture certainly are too complex. Do supervisors have time or the expertise to bring every new person up to proficiency as quickly as needed? Probably not.

Solution: Create a workplace-mentoring program. Recruit your experienced people to share their knowledge and thoughts towards bringing out the best in new employees, asap. Your organization does not need to wait while new people figure out on their own how to use their strengths and improve their weak areas.

Workplace mentoring is an explicit one-to-one learning relationship between a person who wants to improve job or career skills and a person who can help him or her do that. Mentors are much more than “go-to” people. Workplace mentors are champions of learning. Mentors take a position of high interest and investment in another’s development. They want to mentor. They share knowledge, encouragement, guidance and feedback about job content and organizational culture. They advocate for their mentees’ success. The work organization provides encouragement and structure to support mentoring relationships. That support establishes a culture where mentoring and being mentored are business as usual.

Mentoring dovetails with training to boost the learning curve and then sustain development beyond the basics. Mentoring is targeted specifically at the learner’s needs and uses the actual workplace as the classroom. The content is directly applicable and just-in-time, so retention is higher. Although there is expense in the cost of the mentor’s time, it is an investment in longer-term productivity. Typical costs incurred by new hires include repeat questions, high error rates, re-work, and customer complaints. A mentor can anticipate such problems and course-correct efficiently. Mentors may need help in prioritizing and managing time, keeping in mind that leaving a mentee to flounder is very unproductive. Businesses that use workplace mentoring find that learning curves are sharper when the learner is mentored. A great side benefit is that mentors learn leadership skills.

Guidelines for Human Resources to follow in setting up mentoring as an onboarding process:

Gain the support of supervisors and managers. They are integral parts of the mentoring process, even if they are not involved at a detailed level.

Select mentors. Mentors should be experienced employees who want to champion the success of the less experienced. They do not need to know all of the answers, but should be able to help the mentee learn what other resources are there. They should be patient, and able to shift their approaches to match the ways the mentee learns most effectively.

Define the role of the mentor. It can be confusing for new employees to have both a supervisor and a mentor. Define to whom they go and for which issues. Determine if the mentor will have formal input into the new employee’s performance reviews. Decide what issues between the mentor and mentee should be confidential to them, and what issues should be shared with the supervisor. Approximate the time frame for the mentoring process. Communicate all of this to the mentor and mentee.

Teach mentors how to mentor. Experts do not necessarily know how to teach and give feedback. Their technical and cultural fluency are second nature by the time they are selected to be mentors. Mentors should feel confident and competent at setting and measuring goals, giving and receiving feedback, and tailoring learning experiences to the unique mentee. Human Resources typically provides this type of training, to align with methods already in place in the organization.

Structure mentoring. Build a workplace mentoring system for consistency. The following “Six Building Blocks of Workplace Mentoring” are the commonalities I’ve discovered among organizations that use mentoring as a key strategy.

1. Evaluate people’s strengths, needs and aspirations individually.

We learn uniquely. No two people bring exactly the same qualities to a job. The development process is much more effective and efficient when it can be shaped to the person. What are the requirements for success? Where is this person strong? Where can this person use development?

2. Create opportunities to learn on the job.

We learn by doing. Use the workplace as the classroom. Learning is retained at a higher level when just-in-time and directly applied to the work. What are activities that will give this person a chance to use strengths? What are activities that will give this person a chance to improve?

3. Define teaching and learning roles.

We learn with clear expectations. Set specific goals and responsibilities for the mentoring process, including content and pace. Review and revise continually to reflect progress. How will you and your mentee move the process ahead?

4. Give direct feedback.

We learn with encouragement. Mentoring is a two-way process. The parties need to exchange feedback, with emphasis on what is working well, openly and continually to stay on track with each other and the learning goals. How can you deliver feedback that your mentee hears? How can you get feedback for yourself?

5. Measure progress.

We learn when we build on success. Create incremental measurements, both formal and informal, to give the mentee and mentor frequent, meaningful marks of success. Where are you and your mentee going and how will you know when you’ve gotten there?

6. Reward the team effort.

We learn when we feel energized. Install a culture of mentoring by recognizing mentee and mentor efforts and successes. Make it rewarding and fun to teach and learn. What is in it for people to be mentors and mentees? Why would they want to do this?

Lastly, provide a forum for mentoring mentors. It is a new role for your experts, and they should have the same individualized attention they give to their mentees. This can be as simple as a monthly luncheon forum where mentors share experiences and suggestions. And, of course, Human Resources professionals are natural choices to mentor mentors.

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Don't Leave New Workers to Flounder

Published in "Portland Press Herald"

In today's economy, business owners and managers are more challenged than ever to generate top productivity from their employees. Yet after carefully choosing an employee to fill a position and providing basic training, managers often leave that person to flounder. Floundering equals lost productivity. ''Qualified to do the job'' does not necessarily mean complete proficiency.

Typical costs incurred by new hires include repeat questions, high error rates, re-work, and customer complaints. An experienced employee, working side-by-side with the inexperienced, can anticipate problems and course-correct efficiently. A number of successful Maine businesses have found that the following steps create faster learning curves beyond basic training:

Evaluate New Employee Strengths, Needs and Aspirations Individually

We learn uniquely. No two people bring exactly the same qualities to a job. The development process is much more effective and efficient when it can be shaped to the person. The hiring process includes a general evaluation of strengths and developmental needs to get the person started. Some businesses find it is most effective to do another assessment a few months into employment after observing how the person actually works.

  • What are the requirements for success in this position?
  • Where is this person strong?
  • Where can this person use development?

Assign a Mentor/Guide

A mentor or guide can be anyone who wants to share experience with a less experienced person. The content may range from job skills to communication skills to long-range career development. The key characteristic of a good mentor, in addition to expertise, is eagerness to champion another person's success. The mentor is more than a go-to resource. This is an ongoing relationship during the learning curve. This short-term investment of the mentor's time results in long-term productivity gain. A side benefit is that mentors develop leadership skills while they impart their experience.

  • Who in the organization has strengths in the areas of the new employee's developmental needs?
  • Who enjoys teaching others?
  • How can the organization support the mentor's taking time to help?

Create Opportunities

We learn by doing. Use the workplace as a classroom. Learning is retained at a higher level when occurring just in time and directly applied to the work. This is particularly valuable for teaching problem-solving and other ''gray'' areas of the work.

  • What activities will give this person a chance to use strengths?
  • What activities will give this person a chance to improve?
  • How will you and your mentee specifically move the process ahead?

Define Teaching, Learning Roles

Many managers make the mistake of assuming that employees understand exactly what to do from their job descriptions. We learn best with well-defined expectations. Set clear goals and responsibilities for the mentoring process, including content and pace. Review and revise continually to reflect progress, and rely on the classic SMART goal-setting model:

Specific: What exactly is the goal? Who? What? Where? How? Why?

Measurable: What quantity and quality measurements will best indicate progress?

Aligned: Is the goal lined up with the larger organization's goals?

Realistic: Are there sufficient resources? Does the mentee have the capability?

Timed: What is the timeline? Dates? Frequency?

Give Direct Feedback

We learn with encouragement. Feedback is a two-way process. Both people need to exchange thoughts openly and continually to stay on track with each other and the learning goals. Emphasis on what is working well helps energize the learner to work through the struggles. We learn best when we build on success.

  • How can you deliver feedback that your new employee hears?
  • How can you get feedback for yourself?

Reward The Team Effort

We learn when we feel energized. Install a culture of mentoring by recognizing mentee and mentor efforts and successes. Make it rewarding and fun to teach and learn.

  • What is in it for people to be mentors and learners?
  • Why would they want to do this?

Don't let your new employees flounder. Every business, regardless of type or size, can help employees learn faster by giving them individualized attention. These steps ensure productivity during learning and even beyond.

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Get Your Customers to Complain to YOU

Published in "Ezine"

A classic rule of thumb: If customers are happy with you, they tell four other people. If they are unhappy with you, they tell 10 other people. Too often they walk away from your business towards your competitors. You want those customers to complain to you, and give you a chance to make them happy. Learn how to show you care.

A classic story: Leon Leonwood Bean sent out his first 100 pairs of Maine hunting boots. 90 came right back with stitching problems. He not only fixed them, he also gave full refunds, gained 90 fiercely loyal new customers, and built a legacy on customer complaints.

Here are four steps to get your customers to complain to you. You can make or break customer relationships at each step.

ASK for complaints before you think there is a problem. Complaining directly is hard to do, believe it or not. Most unhappy customers will disappear silently, except for telling those 10 friends. Customers complain when they care about doing business with you, or when they are truly furious. Help them complain to keep their loyalty. How? Ask for the good and the bad. Collect feedback as a norm, at every contact. Ask face-to-face. Post comment cards prominently. Offer incentives to customers to give feedback. Thank your customers for that feedback.

LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN. This complaint is a gift from your customer. Let your customer know you are on her side and you want to understand. Apologize and empathize. Nothing will lose that customer faster than resistance. Explaining without empathizing sounds like resistance, and like your business cannot deliver and does not care. Thank your customer again.

ASK for input to the solution. What does the customer think will make it right? Taking action before you know what the customer wants leads to wrong solutions. Agree to your customer's reasonable request, and offer to exceed it. Dazzle! Thank your customer again.

ACT. If you do not follow through, you compound the original complaint. Do what you said you would do. If your action is not visible to your customer, tell her what you did to prevent future problems. Let the customer know her comments helped you make your business better. Thank your customer again. Maybe she'll be so pleased by now she'll tell her 10 friends how great your business is!

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Interrogative Negotiating Strategy

Published in "Negotiations Training Institute"

Once upon a time... A tale.

There were two sisters and one orange. Each wanted the orange for herself. After much bickering and unpleasantness, they decided the only fair resolution was a 50-50 compromise. They cut the orange in half. One sister made orange juice and threw away the rind. The other sister made orange bread from the rind and threw away the pulp. Each sister half-won and half-lost. The orange was half-wasted. What could have happened if they'd tried to negotiate?

What is negotiating? It is an interactive decision making process where both negotiating partners meet their interests. It is a type of presentation that requires particularly careful preparation because we anticipate differences of perspective or opinion, perhaps even conflict. An effective negotiating process, in fact, helps prevent conflict. The desired outcome is a meeting of the minds with a mutually agreed-upon plan of action.

The benefits of good negotiating are:

Increased trust and respect. Both negotiation partners openly exchange thoughts without judgment, accusation or hidden agendas. Best mutual outcome. Both negotiation partners win. Solutions are well thought out and meet the interests of both.

Excellent long term customer relations. We are most comfortable with people, personally and professionally, when we are confident that we can work out our differences. Customers stay with businesses that have their best interests at heart.

The Interrogative Negotiating Strategy is a system for planning and conducting all types of negotiations. Family members have different ideas about where to travel together this year. People we work with have different ideas about what is best.

Why interrogative? James Thurber said "It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers." We negotiate because there is no mutually obvious answer. We have to examine a scope of considerations to arrive at the best solution. We have to ask the right questions and generate creative possibilities. This four step strategy asks questions to get to the heart of negotiating quickly, positively, creatively and decisively.

Step 1: What is your interest? What is your negotiation partner's interest?

The most successful negotiations consider the interests versus the positions of the negotiating partners. "Position" means what you want. "Interest" means why this is important to you. Negotiating from "position" is a good way to start conflict immediately. Witness the Orange Sisters - "I want that orange!" "No! I want it more than you do!" Had they asked "Why?" there would have been an instantly obvious solution and two completely happy sisters.

Step 2: What are the matches? What are the gaps?

It seems intuitive to begin a negotiation with points of disagreement, or "gaps". After all, the gaps are what we are negotiating about. We tend to assume the similarities need no discussion. Therefore our stance with our negotiating partner is off to a contentious start. When we examine "matches" first, we are likely to discover that we have many shared interests. We are largely on the same side of the fence. Now we are partners who can examine the gaps from a base of commonality.

Step 3: What are the possibilities? What are the limitations?

When we move from gaps to solutions, we limit our thinking to the obvious. In this step, brainstorm without solution. Again, start with the positive - possibilities. Build on the matches. Be clear about limitations. Do not set the stage for unrealistic expectations.

Step 4: What are the action options? What are the criteria for choosing? What actions to take?

Still brainstorming, what are all possible actions? Evaluate those actions in light of your and your negotiating partner's interests, i.e. your criteria for choosing a solution. A selection grid with your interest criteria across the top and actions down the side gives you a clear visual to narrow and select your actions. Prioritize the criteria. Now you can select the action items that satisfy the most important criteria.

At the end of this process, you and your negotiation partner have mutually decided on a solution satisfying both of your interests. All you have to do is take the actions you have selected. You may want to set a time to follow up with each other, to make sure all is going according to plan and to tweak your solution as needed.

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No News is Not Good News in the World of Feedback

Published in "Ezine"

No news is not good news in the world of giving feedback. It is just no news.

"I read your report. Thank you. I appreciate the time you put into it," Mabel says, stopping at Mary's and John's desks, and continuing on her way back to her office. Mary and John just spent a week analyzing target market demographics, and submitted this report to Mabel, their supervisor, yesterday. Mary and John exchange perplexed looks. Mary, ever the optimist, concludes "The report must be what she wanted, or she would have told us it isn't." John, a pessimist, remarks "The report must not be what she wanted, or she would have told us it is." Thanking Mary and John was polite and gracious. It made them feel valued. They have no feedback, though, on what to keep, stop or start when they do their next analysis. Mary might be inclined to approach it exactly the same way. John might want to change their approach entirely.

Businesses cannot afford to have employees spending their time and energy trying to figure out if their work is effective or not. These three simple steps will take the guesswork out of performance feedback for your employees. Mary and John would be much clearer on the quality of their work if Mabel had given details.

  1. Give specific observations. Describe the behavior or product and exactly why it did or did not work.
    Mabel could say "The bullet format is quick and easy to read. The full-color graphs make comparisons clear. That will help our customer see at a glance why she should do business with us. The audience for this report is not familiar with the acronyms mean. That will cause the sales team to have to spend time translating. You worked overtime, and that made it possible to meet a critical customer deadline."
  2. Plan together to keep strengths and make improvements. Your employees probably have excellent ideas.
    Mabel could say "Can you fix the acronyms today? How will you incorporate the bullet format and graphs into your next analysis? You're becoming skilled with graphics. Are there advanced classes you'd like to take? Do you have other ideas to impress our customers?"
  3. Offer support. You probably have resources to help your employees succeed even further.
    Mabel could say "How can I adjust your workload so you don't have to work overtime for every analysis? I'm going to show your report to the executive team so they can see how professional your work is. What else can I do to support you?"

Mary and John will know just how to proceed with the next analysis. Detailed feedback sets the stage for excellent performance.

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Organize Your Presentations

Published in"Ezine"

Don't wing it. The more important your presentation, the more your must organize. Rambling thoughts send audiences' minds rambling rather than paying attention to what you are trying to get across. We've all walked out of presentations wondering "What was the point of that?"

Whatever the content of your presentation, there are a few basic elements that give logic, interest and clarity.


  • Attention-getting statement. You capture the audience's interest, or not, within the first few seconds of your presentation. What story, bit of humor, quotation, etc. will engage them immediately? The attention-getting statement should be relevant in some way to your topic and audience.
  • Purpose statement. Set your audience's expectations right away.
  • Overview. State your main points very briefly.


  • There should be no more than a few main points in an average presentation. Choose your main points for maximum impact, using your Purpose statement as your frame of reference.
  • There should be no more than two to three sub-points per main point. Keep it simple to keep the audience's focus.


  • Summary statement. Review the main points.
  • Closing statement. What memorable statement will keep the audience thinking about your presentation?

Using questions:

  • Think about how you want to engage the audience. Do you want to ask them questions? Do you want them to ask you questions? At what points in your presentation do you want to interact? Questions are excellent tools to understand and connect with your audience. Plan how you will use audience interaction to enhance your presentation and still stay on track.

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PREPARE Presentation System

Published in "Ezine"

Every communication with another person is a presentation. We have been giving presentations all our lives. We start off with only a few presentation tools. As babies, we cry, laugh, gurgle, make faces - but, we get our point across. As we age we add language, knowledge and reasoning. Our presentations become more important as our lives become more complex. Remember how many factors you had to consider the first time you convinced your parents to loan you their car to go out with friends on a Saturday night? No doubt, you prepared thoroughly for this presentation because you really wanted it to work.

The greater the importance and complexity of the presentation, the more thoroughly you need to plan.

If you are going to chat over lunch with a friend, you don't need to prepare your "presentation" at all, of course. If you are going in front of a potential customer to sell them on what your organization has to offer, you must invest considerable time to make your presentation flawless.

The PREPARE Presentation System is a useful guide whenever your presentation requires elements of planning. The PREPARE steps are applicable to one-to-one, small and large group presentations alike. You may use only some steps for less formal presentations, all steps for the more formal. It is a checklist to help you make sure you will give confident presentations that have the impact you intend.

PREPARE Your Purpose: Audiences are not generic. They can vary widely in terms of information they already know, what they think of you, how they currently operate. Analyze your audience to make sure you are not telling them what they already understand or missing something they need.

  • Who is your audience? Consider the demographics of your audience. Age, gender, cultural influences, type of business, etc. can make a difference in how your audience receives your presentation.
  • What is your offer? What are the needs of this audience and what are you offering? Be specific - this is the core that focuses your content.
  • What do you want your audience to know, think, feel, and do? Address each aspect specifically. You may want your audience to understand the technology you offer. You may also want them to feel excited about and buy a new product. This defines your ideal outcome.
  • What do they already know, think, feel, and do? This includes identifying any preconceived ideas, skepticism or hidden agendas. This step helps prevent being surprised by your audience.

PREPARE your Persuasion Points: Based on your Purpose, how will you influence them to respond in the way you want?

  • What information do they need? A common mistake is to overwhelm by giving too much information. What are the most relevant facts, figures, trends, etc. that will give the audience the knowledge they need to understand what you can do for them?
  • What are the benefits? How will their investment help them be more successful? The audience needs to know what is in it for them.
  • What examples? Give the audience a clear picture of how others have used and benefited from your offer.
  • What will the audience lose if they do not choose your offer? Remember the "Got Milk?" ads? You don't want to be stuck with a dry cookie in your mouth and OH, NO! NO MILK! You NEED that milk! Will your audience be less competitive without your offer? Lose money in the long run? Why do they NEED your offer?

PREPARE Your Presence: Dale Carnegie said "People buy people." You are the face of your company, product and service to the audience.

  • Are your visuals easy on the eye and uncluttered? Your visuals should be easily readable from the back of the room. Limit each slide or flipchart page to a few bullets, particularly if you are displaying numbers. Bright colors should be used sparingly and only as highlights. There should be minimal and subtle movement of screens, bullets and objects in PowerPoint presentations. All pictures should be relevant to the topic.
  • When do you want the audience to focus on the visuals? When do you want your audience to focus on you? When you want the audience to look at your visual, step to the side of it. When you want them to look at you, place yourself front and center, and make eye contact with the audience. If possible, turn off the visual when you want attention on you.
  • Do your handouts match your visuals? This is particularly useful if your technological tools fail!
  • Is there space on handouts for note-taking? We process information better when we can put it in our own words. We also learn more as we use more of our senses. Make it easy for the audience to see, hear and write.
  • Is your body language relaxed and non-distracting? 50% of what we communicate is through body language. Look natural.
  • Is your tone enthusiastic and engaging? Tone conveys 30% of our message. If you do not sound excited about your offer, no one else will be.
  • Are your words clear and compelling? Since words only convey 20% of the message, make sure you choose them carefully for maximum impact.

PREPARE Through Practice: Know what your presentation sounds and looks like before you are in front of your audience. Find practice partners who will critique your presentation objectively.

  • Does your timing allow for your presentation and audience interaction? As with any well-planned meeting, a presentation should begin and end on time.
  • Will you use notes? Notes that list your key points and indicate timing will keep you on track.
  • Do your practice partners hear your messages in the way you intend? If there is a chance for the audience to misunderstand, they will. This is a make or break factor.

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Prevent Presentation Bloopers

Published in "Presentations Training, Baker Communications"

Once upon a time... A synthesis of real-life presentation bloopers.

There was a presenter who knew her subject cold - a true expert. Naturally, she was chosen to deliver a sales presentation to an important potential customer group of 50. The afternoon before the event, she loaded the standard charts and graphs on pricing onto her laptop for a PowerPoint presentation. Thinking the slides looked a bit dull, she colored the backgrounds red, yellow and green. For additional interest she made the slides replace each other by alternately fading, zooming left, right, up, down. She added twirling leaves in the borders, colored to contrast with the background. She was ready. This was going to be a piece of cake.

The audience is seated. She says "Good morning," turns on the projector and sees a sea of faces bathed in psychedelic light, eyes squinting. She squints, too. She cannot quite make out the numbers on the lap top screen. Not wanting to turn her back completely to the audience in order to read from the large screen, she steps behind it and peeks her head out, neck craned. She starts reading and explaining the numbers. As the audience's eyes begin to accustom to the light show, they try to keep up with the numbers the presenter is launching through. They scramble through their briefcases for paper to take notes.

They miss an entire screen. The presenter notices that no one is paying attention to what she is saying because they are all madly writing notes. She steps in front of the screen, still talking, everyone still intently copying numbers on their scraps of paper. How to capture their attention? She begins to wave her arms around to punctuate her points, she speaks faster and yells her words. This does distract them. As 50 pairs of eyes turn to hers, she gets nervous. She cannot think of the right word. She loses her entire train of thought. She decides to just keep talking until she finds it again.

Mercifully, somehow, she gets to the end of her presentation and asks for audience questions. "That was all pricing information. Your competitors charge less. What are the benefits if we invest?" "What are examples of how your product works for your other customers?" "How will you tailor your service to our unique needs?" "Why are you are better than your competitors?" "What would we lose if we go to your closest competitor?" With five minutes to answer these questions, unprepared, she wonders what she could have done differently.


PREPARE your Purpose
PREPARE your Persuasion Points
PREPARE your Presence
PREPARE by Practice

Preparation = Relaxed Presentation
Nervousness and lack of preparation are directly proportionate to each other!

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Three Steps to Turn Conflict into Successful Change Management

Published in "Ezine"

When workplace change happens, conflict happens. People have different hopes, fears, perspectives, and ideas about how they might survive, and even thrive. They are not just pretending these differences in order to be controversial. Everyone wants the best, according to their own definitions. People are in disagreement, teams fragment, discord erupts or goes underground. It can be tempting to ignore, or dictate solutions. Leaders are responsible for dealing with change and conflict both. "Stop it or else..." is not an answer.

Conflict and cooperation are both created when people have different views. Conflict occurs when people think they are correct, and others are wrong. Cooperation occurs when they synthesize their differences to create a better outcome. True conflict resolution is the bridge between the two, and is a process of building trust. People learn how to prevent future conflicts by working thoroughly through their current conflicts. They gain confidence that they can openly negotiate differences. They learn to pool their differences to create strength. They incrementally build a culture of contribution through appreciating and seeking out each others' perspective. In an environment of change, contribution is particularly necessary.

Leaders can use these three time-tested steps to help conflicting people contribute to making change successful vs. undermining it.

  1. Interview the conflicting parties individually. Giving each person involved in the conflict the opportunity to share thoughts confidentially gives them the message that their ideas count. A private and objective ear helps them think through and articulate their perspectives. That alone can lessen the conflict. Gather each person's perspective on the impacts of the change, and how they think it can be successful, or at least less painful.
  2. Identify the conflicting parties' interests. The most effective conflict resolutions consider the interests vs. the positions of the people in conflict. "Position" means what they want. "Interest" means why this is important to them. It seems intuitive to begin this process with positions, the points of disagreement. After all, those are the source of conflict. Therefore our conflict resolution is off to a contentious start. When we examine interests first, we are likely to discover that we have many similarities. We are largely on the same side of the fence. We want the changes to bring success to us and our organization. We are partners who can examine the differences from a base of commonality. We begin to see how we could pool our differences to make the changes work for us.
  3. Encourage and reward the courage to resolve conflict. Even highly effective conflict resolution can take the stuffing out of us for a while. We need to know that our intents, our efforts and our results are understood, appreciated and supported. If our process was rough and bumpy, at least we tried. Identify how these differing perspectives could contribute to making the changes successful for individuals and the organization. Set clear, incremental and achievable goals for both process and outcome. Measure frequently, and celebrate what is working before examining the need for further improvement or raising the bar. Seek opportunities to team people together based on their differences. Give them shared accountability and shared credit for success. They will have clear reason for making changes work for themselves and the organization.

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Susan Co-Hosts MYOB

Bernard Mohr and Appeciative Innovation, platform for change When you just fix problems, you just get fixed problems. When you mine strengths, you get creativity and innovation. Bernard Mohr, co-founder of Innovation Partners International, is a miner of strengths. Listen to his compelling stories of organizational successes through Appreciative Innovation. I’ve used appreciative approaches for years, directly influenced by Bernard’s work - it gets excellent results over the long-term. 

Jean Maginnis: Putting Maine on the global map as a center for creativity. Jean Maginnis had a vision while riding her bicycle. That vision became the painted oil tanks by the Jetport. She launched the Maine Center for Creativity six years ago, with an international art competition to design the tanks. She has just recently been named one of the top ten economic movers and shakers in Maine by Mainebiz. She talks with Debi Davis and me about how MCC is putting Maine on the global map as a creative hub.

Randy Judkins: Creativity, beyond skill, is what differentiates people. It seems that most people in Maine have seen Randy Judkins in action. He is a well-know and highly skilled juggler, clown, comic, teacher, entertainer, corporate speaker- his skills go on and on. His skills aren’t what have made him so successful for so long, though. He says creativity and connection are what differentiate people- skills are just the context. I’ve known Randy for a dozen or so years. He is funny and serious at the same time. Share the fun and learning we found talking with him.

Have you ever encountered an arrogant leader? Or, have you ever found yourself behaving arrogantly? (I know I sometimes have!) Stephen Jenks and Fritz Steele have written a book "The Arrogant Leader." They describe arrogance, the difference between arrogance and confidence, how to deal with arrogance in others, and yourself.

Have you ever encountered a leader who is the antithesis of arrogant? Sandy Wyman, owner and President of Tidestone Solutions, is such a leader. She grows her business and exceeds customer expectations by hiring highly talented people and mentoring  them to help her lead.

Writing articles and blogs gets you known as an expert. But what should you write about, and how should you write it? Jeff Pike, the owner of Business Writing Solutions, is an editor and ghost writer. He talks to us about how to position our businesses through writing, and why it might be  good to use an editor or even a ghost writer.

Meet John Stass, owner of Katahdin Studio Furniture. John is not only a fine woodworker and designer, he is an astute business person. Katahdin Studio has enjoyed success and even grown in these challenging economic times. John and his two staff members, Caleb Pine and Steve Anderson, create amazing new offerings and evolve the business continuously. John talks to us about how he succeeds, even though his products are "luxury" items.

Susan, Debi Davis and Cathy Renault, Principal of Innovation Policy Works, discuss Employee Engagement: Getting each of your employees contributing their brilliance to your competitive advantage. Engage employees by setting clear goals, paying close attention to each person, helping each to measure their own results, and ensuring the resources they need to succeed.

Cathy Renault, Principal of Innovation Policy Works, talks to Susan and Debi Davis about Creating a Culture of Creativity. Every organization must innovate to survive, never mind thrive. Cathy has a Black Belt in Innovation Engineering, a highly effective approach for doing that.

Michael Morin, Senior Trainer at TC Hafford, is Susan's hero. He waterproofed her basement, which she thought was hopeless. Now she loves the rain. Hear Mike teach us about "Everything Basement-y." New homes can be prone to even more moisture problems than old ones. Mike gives tips for staying dry.

Learn about motivation and change when Susan and Debi Davis interview Orlando Barone, of Barone Associates. What is etiquette and why should business people care? Susan and Debi Davis interview Andrea Pastore of Etiquette Solutions.

Susan interviews Ross Lasley, The Internet Educator on "Dot com 101" and David Lee, Human Nature at Work on  "7 Questions that lead to increased Productivity".

Facilitated teambuilding works!

"Do 'young people today' have good work ethics?" Hear Susan discuss this on WLOB's Mind Your Own Business program. (Be patient - takes a bit of time to load.)

Susan talks about workplace mentoring on WLOB's Mind Your Own Business radio program.

Click Mind Your Own Business radio to listen to all of their programs.

Jim Bouchard, of Think Like a Black Belt, interviews Susan about Workplace Mentoring in this PowerPOD Broadcast!

David Lee, of Human Nature at Work, interviews Susan about mentoring as a valuable onboarding tool.

Listen to Susan talk about getting the job you want - 3 criteria. MYOB - Mind Your Own Business radio.

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