Posts by: sims

The Best Way To Learn Is Hardly Ever Taught

By on April 4, 2017

The learning technique that science has proven to be the most effective is the one used the least. Spreading out learning over time is one of the most effective strategies. The technique is called “Distributed Practice,” meaning learning is broken up into short sessions. In my own practice as a communications consultant, I offer multiple […]

3 Steps to Stop Stage Fright

By on March 7, 2017

When we have practiced something so well that we no longer need to think about it, subconscious processing systems are at work. We choke under pressure because being in front of an audience is a novel  condition that can thwart the normal brain processing of tasks that are so well learned they have become “automatic.” […]

A Little Taste of Abraham on the Stump: Substance and style from a master communicator

By on February 21, 2017

William Henry Herndon was a law partner and biographer of President Abraham Lincoln.  They were a study in contrasts, opposites in temperament. Despite a poetic streak, Lincoln’s mind was logical, and he longed for the day when “reason, cold, calculating, unimpassioned reason,” would rule the world. Herndon was intuitive; he fancied that he could ‘see […]

The Secret of Good Corporate Training

By on February 7, 2017

Is it time for a better you and a better way to train executives and high potentials? According to Huthwaite, a leading training company, 30 days after a one or two-day training event, participants lose, on average, 87% of the skills they were meant to acquire. Why? Training is an attempt to expand your range […]

Speak to create understanding

By on January 20, 2017

When you talk to people who oppose your point of view, choose your words carefully.   I remind you of Goethe’s quote:  “Every word uttered evokes the idea of its opposite.” The odds are high that those on the other side of the argument will reflexively fasten onto an offensive word, which could cause them […]

You Don’t Need a Personality Transplant

By on January 11, 2017

I believe that scientific medical presentations need to be more dramatic. After all, doctors are talking about life and death. Yet many doctors speak like test pilots: flat as a mashed potato sandwich. It’s the culture of intrepidness, as if all medical professionals were Steady Eddies who stuff fear and face cold, hard facts with […]

Quote-a-Week on Goals, Success, and Power for 2017

By on December 27, 2016

The end of December is a good time to review what you’ve accomplished and set goals for the coming year. Sometimes, it’s invigorating to think about the 365 days that stretch out before us, and sometimes it’s overwhelming to think about doing it all again. Here are some quotes to inspire you this upcoming new […]

Free Trait Agreements with Yourself

By on December 13, 2016

Every now and then a client says they don’t want me to change who they are.   The implication is that any “stage” behaviors I recommend that are outside their comfort zone will make them feel artificial and, therefore, less effective. I understand how they feel, so I try to focus them on the logic […]

Connect mind and body

By on November 29, 2016

Old-fashioned lecture halls generally had one aisle down the middle of the room. And old-fashioned speakers were trained to develop their side of an argument, then give voice to the other side, before coming to their final synthesis. These speakers stood on one side of the stage to make their case, moved to the opposite […]

More proof that eye contact is key

By on November 15, 2016

When researchers from Cornell and Yale Universities tested whether eye contact with the Trix Rabbit influenced choice of cereal, they found that it did. The researchers painted new eyes on the rabbit and had 63 students from a private northeastern university randomly view one of two boxes. On one box the rabbit’s eyes pointed down, […]

20 Quotes that Make You Realize the World Doesn’t Make Sense

By on November 1, 2016

Want to get your rose-colored glasses blown off your nose? Daniel Kahneman is an Israeli-American psychologist notable for his work on the psychology of judgment and decision-making, as well as behavioral economics. He was awarded the 2002 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. He is the author of Thinking Fast and Slow. Listen to his […]

How To Say Your Name

By on October 18, 2016

Just got back from a kickoff meeting for a global IT project. Thirty people were sitting around a big table. One of the leaders of the meeting said, “Let’s all introduce ourselves. Say your name and tell us some things.” Ugh. Another slog through a forest of biographical facts and resume trivia. The first guy […]

80/20 Rule for Public Speaking

By on October 4, 2016

Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923) was an Italian economist who noticed that 80 percent of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the people, and that 20% of the peapods in his garden produced 80% of the peas.  He invented the 80/20 rule, more formally known as the Pareto Principle. It’s now a common rule […]

The Habit that Ensures You Will Sell More

By on September 20, 2016

People are more likely to like your ideas if they like you–as a business person, a leader, and a communicator. I think the best way to get them to like you is to be open and honest about who you are. This does not mean you have to hold your dirty laundry under their noses. […]

Familiarity breeds affection

By on September 7, 2016

Robert Zajonc [ZYE-unts] was an American social scientist who explored the interplay between feeling and thought–between emotion and cognition. He was interested in determining which influenced the other more strongly. On balance, he came down on the side of emotion. He was best known for establishing what he called “the mere exposure” effect. In this experiment, […]

Political Gesture du Jour

By on August 23, 2016

There was the “Clinton thumb”–which most likely originated with John F. Kennedy. Nixon’s “V for victory” at the helicopter door. Although he used it a few times before 1974. And the “Dole pen”–a prop he carried in his right hand. His arm sustained an injury in WWII. Now, there’s a new political gesture du jour. […]

Speak up and out

By on August 9, 2016

I have recently encountered several people who have been rushed into the emergency room of voice and speech training because their vocal presence is not in optimal health. A CEO of a very successful company has a strong, expressive voice, but none of his employees or clients ever get to hear it because it is […]

Simple can be sophisticated

By on July 26, 2016

It just so happens I have two clients who talk too much in public. Both are extremely bright, and both strive to speak as though they were writing chiseled prose. When in the act of public speaking, they challenge themselves to cover all the bases, approach the topic through three different lenses, and construct clause-laden […]

Add engines or finesse the wings?

By on July 12, 2016

Seth Godin is a remarkable entrepreneur and a prolific and intriguing blogger. I just read his post called Add engines until airborne, by which he means add more power, more advertising, more cost, more horsepower until you get your business to where you want it to go. But his message concludes that finessing the wings […]

Vehemence aids eloquence

By on June 28, 2016

Just got back from a trip to the West coast, where I was working with people at the top of the food chain in terms of their cognitive intelligence. Yale, Stanford, Notre Dame–brainiacs. My assignment? Help them get presence! I skirted that word by simply saying that presence is hard to define, but we know […]

Scientist’s Rx: smile!

By on June 14, 2016

The famous American social scientist, Robert Zajonc [ZYE-unts], explored the interplay between feeling and thought–between emotion and cognition. He was interested in determining which influenced the other more strongly. On balance, he came down on the side of emotion. In one widely reported study, he found that smiling or frowning can alter blood flow to […]

Content, Shmontent

By on June 1, 2016

I am tired of expert speakers.  Content, shmontent.  Everyone is expert in something.  I want a wise speaker. For instance, presentations are not about your data.  They’re about what you think about your data. The Caduceus, the symbol of medicine, makes this distinction between knowledge and wisdom.   One day, the God Hermes was striding across the […]

Got stage fright?

By on May 17, 2016

Speaking with stage fright is like driving with the emergency brake partially on.  Your whole body trembles, your mouth gets hot and dry, you can smell the smoke rising from your armpits, and you can’t get to where you want to go—which is OFF THE FREAKING STAGE! The only way to release the brake, according […]

Don’t Boast

By on May 3, 2016

Whenever you give yourself a compliment in front of an audience, you run the risk of being seen in a negative light. For instance, telling stories about how you won a big piece of business by being a super salesman may be instructive for the audience, but it raises the likelihood that you may give […]

PowerPoint Fatigue

By on April 19, 2016

I’m getting tired of PowerPoint slides.  So are a lot of people. Why? They are another tool that’s controlling us. They are excruciatingly predictable. We tend to use the slides as speaker prompts, not as aids to the audience. An abundance of slides actually communicates the speaker’s insecurity. We devote too much of our preparation […]

An Exercise That Can Make You a Spell-Binding Orator

By on April 6, 2016

I just got off the phone with a client who is working on being more assertive and fluid when he speaks. He complains, and I agree with him, that he starts speaking without knowing where his sentences are heading. Soon he comes to a halt, backs up, and starts again. I do this myself, and […]

Three reasons to look at your listeners

By on March 22, 2016

First, when you look at your listeners (one at a time) you are paying attention to them. People love to have attention paid to them, and are more likely to pay you back with their attention.   Second, when you watch their faces, especially at the ends of your statements, you can see their expressions, and […]

Success strategy: tie the outcome to the process

By on March 8, 2016

Top performers practice what they’re bad at, even though it’s frustrating, and they do it to the point of mental and physical exhaustion. They go until they break down old habits and develop new ones. I believe in this approach–that is, I believe that it’s helpful to people to first acquire a new set of […]

Make a Better Impression

By on February 23, 2016

When it comes to sealing a deal or cementing a business relationship, schedule a meeting. Why? Because research reported in The New York Times by Matt Richtel shows that when you speak to people face to face, they are less likely to misread you or your message. But, if you write the same information and […]

Content is King, But Focus is Key

By on February 9, 2016

When a projector is out of focus, the images on the screen are fuzzy, leaving the viewer uncertain as to what he is actually seeing. His mind darts from blur to blur trying to make sense of the shapes on the screen. But once the projector is in focus and the images emerge crisply, the viewer feels […]

Break out of your shell and make an omelet

By on January 26, 2016

When we are anxious as presenters, we grow eggshells around us. Invisible eggshells. And we live inside them, a little scrunched up, worried about what’s outside those dangerously thin walls. At these times, remember these words: “Omelets are not made without breaking eggs.” –Robespierre “You CAN make an omelet without breaking eggs. It’s just a really bad omelet.” […]

5 excuses scientists use about presenting–and why they’ve got to change their thinking

By on January 12, 2016

I am working with a pre-clinical group in the pharmaceutical industry. They need to win approval for promising new compounds to be tested in humans, and I am helping them put together a presentation to an in-house committee. If they get the green light, the project moves forward. But if it’s not approved, it’s scrapped. This is […]

Guest Blog by Jonathan Li, President of The Expressive Leader

By on December 29, 2015

The first time I spoke in front of a group, my hands were shaking and my legs were trembling. “G-g-g-g-good morning everyone,” I stuttered my opening.  “Today I will talk about…” This was a terrible experience, and it motivated me to overcome my fear of public speaking. I read books, I watched TED talks, and […]

Last Friday in New Jersey: a story about stories

By on December 16, 2015

Last Friday in New Jersey I got up at 3am to take part via WebEx in a training program in London.  The program was about storytelling.  I was invited to discuss the architecture of stories, and encourage participants to tell their own personal stories. No surprise to me, one guy spoke right up and said […]

Maybe Size Does Matter

By on December 1, 2015

In his wonderful TED talk, Rory Sutherland points out the high cost of the EuroStar bullet train from London to Paris. It cut only about 40 minutes off the trip. Instead, he suggests it would have been cheaper to hire the most beautiful male and female models to walk the aisles of the old train serving free […]

Don’t forget or confuse your purpose

By on November 17, 2015

One of the most common mistakes we make is that we forget what we’re trying to do. Most people can identify with that moment when you find yourself peering into your guest room closet or turning on the light by the hot water boiler, and you have no recollection as to why you ventured there in […]

On playing possum and peacock preening

By on November 3, 2015

When a possum is threatened, he contracts into a ball, while bears do the opposite.  They stand on their hind legs to make themselves look bigger. Chameleons change color and remain perfectly still, while peacocks expand their tail-feathers to assert their dominance. It happens in the animal kingdom, and it happens to us when we get anxious, […]

The Right Way to Give Praise

By on October 6, 2015

Praise a child for being smart and you give her a self-concept that can be ruined by her B-minus. From that moment on, she may choose to play it safe, lest she lose her precious identity as a smartie. But praise her for effort, and in spite of failure, she is likely to persist, since effort is what […]

Upgrade from good to great presentation skills

By on September 22, 2015

I believe that there are two kinds of presentation skills. One kind helps make the speaker look good. The other kind helps the listeners understand and believe in the speaker. Many presentation coaches work with a speaker to “package” his or her delivery–to make him or her look good to the audience. Packaging is important. Good […]

10 Things “The Donald” Does Well

By on September 8, 2015

Forget about policy. Forget about the debate on whether or not he’s a narcissist or an egotist or both–a misguided missile with delusional certainty or a potential and dangerous strongman who will clean up the mess and make America great again. Let’s talk about his public speaking. 1. No script. He speaks from the heart. […]

The Best Way to Showcase Your Smarts

By on August 25, 2015

Are you trying to impress a client, get a job, or close a deal? Then skip the emails and pick up the phone or schedule a meeting. New research reported in a recent New York Times article shows that “text-based communications may make individuals sound less intelligent and employable than when the same information is […]

Everybody’s doing it–but nobody wants to talk about it

By on August 11, 2015

Clinton and JFK did it. I bet Michelle Obama and Matthew McConaughey and Tim Cook do it. (They’ve been singled out as being especially good at it this year.) I’m guessing that Trump probably doesn’t do it as much as he should. And, according to The New York Times, more and more people–CEOs and everyday […]

6 Surprising “Don’ts” for Leaders

By on July 27, 2015

Breaking the rules doesn’t always mean that you’re breaking bad. Sometimes it pays to do the opposite and forego common sense. Great leaders don’t always act serious. It’s easier to persuade and influence others if you’re fun to listen to. Great leaders spice up any serious review of the issues with stories of their own experience. […]

21 Paradoxes of Presenting

By on July 14, 2015

Isn’t there enough to do when you’re preparing for a presentation? Besides the obvious, you’ve got to navigate the delicate balances below: Be brief, but take your time. Be yourself, but fill the room. Be confident, but show your vulnerability. Relax, but use your nerves. Demonstrate your expertise, but speak their language–not yours. Appeal to […]

Make Data Sing–Learn from Hans Rosling’s TED Talk

By on June 30, 2015

I like to see people use data effectively–to make complex information clear and compelling. And, I like to help people plan out this data and incorporate it into a talk. It’s not easy to do, but in the hands of researcher Hans Rosling, it’s deceivingly simple. In this TED talk, watch how he compares households […]