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6 Communication Lessons from the Presidential Debate

communication lessons

Last night was the first of three presidential debates between Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton. Millions watched as the candidates went head to head on issues affecting our country. But, for those of us in the audience who communicate for a living, we were probably watching as much for the lessons in what to do—and NOT to do—as we were for anything else.

Here are six communication lessons we can learn from watching:

  • Preparation matters: It was clear to most of the viewing audience that one candidate seemed very prepared—while the other less so. When it comes to important events in our careers—big meetings, presentations, negotiations, speaking engagements—we can’t just “wing it.” Taking the time to prepare appropriately pays off when you can confidently deliver your message and handle tough questions.
  • Sometimes, it’s better to say less: We watched several times as Clinton let Trump hang himself by not saying anything. She could’ve intervened, but she waited—and let him go on. This was a strategic move on her part. The more he talked, the more missteps he made. She simply stood by and let it happen. This can apply in a meeting or negotiation, as well—even in written communications. Sometimes, saying less really is
  • Moderators need to moderate: Trump continually interrupted Hilary last night—AND he interrupted moderator Lester Holt. Of course, this is bad manners, but if professionals do this, they need to be reigned in. The moderator’s job is to help control the amount of time each person speaks and not allow anyone to step on others’ time. Holt is taking heat for allowing it to go on and not stepping in more assertively. It works the same way when you’re part of a panel at an industry conference, for example. This should be a lesson to anyone moderating—maintain control of the event.
  • Keep your cool under pressure: If we’re under pressure, sometimes, we crack. We saw this last night, as Trump continually lost his cool, baited by Clinton multiple times. We must remember that, no matter what happens, we need to keep our composure. Don’t let anyone throw you off your game. When Trump stuck to his game plan, he was able to make some solid points. Unfortunately, that was overshadowed by his inability to remain calm to cool-headedly answer questions and stick to messages he knows resonate.
  • Don’t interrupt: Communication 101—try not to interrupt when others are speaking. Yes, sometimes someone will go on and on—and then we may feel the need to try to get a word in edgewise. But, interrupting continually should not be our default mode of operation. It’s rude. Children do it—but they’re children. Professionals shouldn’t operate this way. Keep interruptions to a minimum, if you feel you must interrupt at all.
  • Every once in a while, smile: If you noticed last night, the only time Trump smiled was at the end of the debate, while Clinton smiled throughout. Smiling makes you more likable, more relatable. According to The Definitive Book of Body Language, if you smile at your audience, they’re more likely to feel a connection with you (even if the smile is forced). Struggle with remembering to smile? Put a reminder in your notes.

What communication lessons did you learn from watching last night’s debate?

How to get more bang out of your public relations efforts

Get the most bang out of your PR efforts

If you’re reading this, you probably understand the value of public relations. It’s cost-effective and credible. Its power in winning over prospects to turn them into customers is unquestionable. PR is about telling stories—and even getting others to help us tell our stories. Think customers, influencers and, of course, reporters.

While it’s always been a valuable tool in the marketing mix, in today’s content marketing driven world, public relations has taken on an even greater role of importance as companies seek to fill the pipeline with relevant, compelling material.

When we reach out to reporters with a pitch, we sometimes get the desired result—a story! Or we pitch a speaking gig—and we secure a speaking engagement! Or, maybe we’ve entered our company to win an award—and we win!

But then what? Continue reading How to get more bang out of your public relations efforts

Dr. Roger Blackwell: Three Lessons in Presenting

blackwellThe other day, I had the distinct honor of hearing Dr. Roger Blackwell speak at our Columbus AMA luncheon. Dr. Blackwell is a marketing legend—I won’t go into all his accolades, but you can visit his site and read his bio here: Suffice it to say that he’s written 25 books, The New York Times has described him as one of America’s top business speakers and there’s a building named after him at The Ohio State University. (!)

I’d been looking forward to this event since I invited him to present and, thankfully, he said yes. He’s a long-time AMA member and a big supporter of the organization. I may be one of the few who’ve never had the pleasure of hearing him speak, so I was stoked for our meeting yesterday. And, Dr. Blackwell did not disappoint!

Here are three lessons to take away from his brilliant presentation:

Lesson One: Have a Thread That Ties It All Together

Dr. Blackwell has written a brand new book, “Saving America: How Garage Entrepreneurs Grow Small Firms into Large Fortunes,” that talks about how to bootstrap the economy and how small startups are our salvation. I must admit, I’m not the biggest follower of economics, but his talk fascinated me. “If you don’t know the cause, you won’t know the cure,” is one of his favorite expressions. So, he proceeded to explain his theory regarding the cause of our economic woes.  The way he explained how our upper head strength (= brain) has become more important than our upper body strength (=brawn)—meaning  it now takes fewer workers to do the same job because of technology—by using statistics and examples we can all relate to had the crowd enthralled.

Lesson Two: Your Presentation Style Matters

Add to that his dynamic presentation style—there’s no doubt that this is a guy who CARES about what he’s saying!—and it was a tremendous presentation. Dr. Blackwell came out into the audience—he didn’t stand up on the stage or at the podium. There was an energy in the room.  Although he ran over the allotted time, no one got up to leave…everyone stayed to hear his entire talk. I think he would’ve kept going, had we had more time—and I really wanted him to keep going!

Lesson Three: Leave Them Wanting More

This got me to thinking, if you’re a passionate presenter, perhaps it doesn’t matter if every member of your audience is into your topic. If you CARE about what you’re saying, then the audience will follow your lead and care, too! So, the next time you present, try to inject some passion into your presentation. I’m still thinking about Dr. Blackwell’s talk and am sure it will stay with me for days. He definitely left his audience wanting more.


Happy Cinco de Mayo! To Celebrate, Here Are Five Takeaways From My Weekend at the AMA Leadership Summit

This weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the American Marketing Association Leadership Summit in Chicago. Along with great networking and the chance to bond with my fellow board members, I learned some things. Here, in no particular order, are my top five takeaways (there were lots more, but I chose five in honor of Cinco de Mayo!):

1)      Don’t skip the prep work for your next presentation—if you’re trying to just “wing it,” it probably won’t go very well. Good presentations don’t just happen – they require lots of preparation. Rehearse and practice, either in front of someone or even just on your own. As our presenter mentioned, he rehearses in front of his dogs if no one else is available!

2)      Keep your audience in mind. If you’re trying to reach millennials, a luncheon might not be the best timing for an event. They prefer events after work, so try a happy hour or dinner. And, they don’t want to hear about topics related to social media, which is something they already clearly understand. Try something related to how to move up in their career or maybe a topic about how to better work with the C-suite.

3)      Don’t overlook the importance of visuals in your presentations. Add compelling visuals to draw attendees’ attention, versus adding more text. Text-heavy slides aren’t as memorable as showing the audience a visual that will stay with them. Then, talk about the topic—you don’t need to include all your points on a slide. We’ve all heard, “A picture speaks a thousand words,” so try incorporating this into your next preso.

4)      Don’t be afraid to ask. This is actually one I’ve I learned before I went to the summit and shared, because the power of the ask is one we sometimes overlook. You won’t know if you don’t ask, so don’t be afraid to reach out, even if it’s a “cold” contact. What’s the worst that can happen? They may so no…if so, you move on. But, they may say yes—then, you have a “win”! Not to mention a new contact.

5)      When trying something new, be sure you’re building on a solid foundation. That could include having a strong team in place, financial security and some programs that are already working well. For example, if your program is in dire financial straits, it’s not the time to try a risky, expensive new idea. On the other hand, if you have some cash in reserves, it may be a great time to experiment with something you haven’t tried before.

Pleased to Announce Upcoming Speaking Gigs

If you want to learn more about PR, here are two upcoming opportunities to hear me speak on PR Tips and Tricks:

On Feb. 22, I’ll be presenting as part of COPEC University at Indiana Wesleyan University. This is an all-day event that’s open to the public. Here’s a link to all the sessions being presented that day–my sessions are at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.:

Cost is $25, including breakfast and lunch. For a discount code to save $10, contact me. 

Also, I’ll be presenting at ECDI March 27 at noon–for more information, visit

This is free to ECDI members and $25 for non-members. 

Look forward to seeing you at one or both of these events!

Spring is here—is it time to “freshen up” your ideas about PR?

Ah, the flowers are coming up, the weather is getting warmer and all thoughts turn to spring! With spring comes spring cleaning. Maybe it’s time to freshen up your PR initiatives, as well.

What are some fresh ideas you can bring to your public relations planning? Here are some thoughts:

 Have you tried a press release lately?  Yes, press releases are one of the best tools for PR, yet they’re often over-looked. Releases are great, because they’re cost-effective and can be leveraged in a number of different ways. You can issue a release via a paid or free service to create links to your site and get visibility. You can pitch the release directly to reporters who may be interested in covering the news. Your sales team could use the press release in their efforts. You can post the release to your site. You can share the release as in your content marketing efforts via social media channels like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. And those are just a few ideas to get you started.

Have you booked a speaking engagement? Speaking is one of the best ways to increase visibility and be seen as the “expert.” Many organizations need speakers for their meetings and conferences. While these are generally unpaid speaking gigs, the benefits you’ll reap in the form of visibility can really help your business, product or service get on the map. You can publicize the speaking engagement before, during and after the fact to get the most visibility from it. Again, using this as content on your social media platforms is a great idea. And those at the event may try to book you for another event or even purchase products or services from you.

Have you considered an award submission? Many industries and publications have awards programs that you can enter, some at no cost. What does this get you? If you win, you can publicize it with a press release and once again, blast it out via all your social media platforms. You can also post the win on your site (some awards come with an icon you can use). Awards create credibility that lasts forever. Think of the Oscars—Tom Hanks will forever be known as “Academy-Award Winner Tom Hanks.”

Have you started using social media? If you have yet to start leveraging this valuable yet free tool to reach out and drive traffic to your site, you should start today. Starting small and focused is OK. Pick one platform—I recommend LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook—to start and develop some ideas to post. Or re-tweet or share others’ content. See my blog post here about social media for small businesses for more ideas.

Those are just a few ideas to get you started on “freshening up” your PR as part of your spring cleaning this year. For more ideas, be sure to follow me on Twitter, @PRisUs, visit my Facebook page, , or watch the site for upcoming blog posts.