Obstacles into Opportunities

THIS is what you were born to talk about

Screen shot 2014-09-02 at 12.34.40 PMIt’s been exactly a month since I started working one-on-one with my final group, at least for the foreseeable future, of individual entrepreneurs, executives, creatives, professionals, and thought leaders on their spotlight talks. It’s been a wild and truly awesome ride. Through their collective passion, experience, and expertise I’ve had the opportunity to learn about everything from bodybuilding, health insurance, and ESL to web design, copywriting, and building wells in Africa. I feel like I should receive an honorable PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies soon.

While some of these soul-stirrers have been speaking for a while and just want to up their game, others have not and initially struggled to identify exactly what they should speak about in their first big talk. Because this is such a common source of ‘stuckness’ for emerging and seasoned speakers, I want to share with you one of my favorite strategies for choosing the right “idea worth spreading”, the foundation of any TED-style talk, and the right opening story.

Here’s an excerpt of what I share in greater detail in Your Spotlight Talk, born out of my work with one of my client’s, TEDx speaker Sandi Herrera.

When Sandi and I first started talking about her life and the stories she could share, she was in one of my women’s public speaking programs and she had previously been petrified of speaking publicly. She would get the shakes, her voice would quaver…the whole “I think I’m going to die” negative self-talk loop was…well, constantly on loop. When I asked her to go through her life and identify her stories, a lot of different ones came up. Like most of us, Sandi had no shortage of moments that had brought her to her knees. But she was initially stumped by what she would identify as her signature story for her first spotlight talk.

Truthfully, so was I. So I asked Sandi to imagine all of her key stories in conversation with each other. I wanted her really to picture her life speaking to her, because I wanted her to identify a theme that emerged. When she did everything, and I mean everything, changed.

Sandi realized that every story was about searching for purpose, and that what she was called to do was help children and the educators who work with those children have a means for finding their purpose. The vehicle that had worked for her, and that she would use with them, creating core values.

In the first talk I coached Sandi on she shared her journey to finding purpose. And not an ounce of the old fear was there because everything that poured out of her was exactly what she was born to speak about. Less than four months later, Sandi had founded her own educational consulting and coaching company, Got Core Values, and she applied to speak at the TEDx I co-organize and co-host.

And she was a no brainer pick. She was super duper clear on her “idea worth spreading” – that to transform our schools and school culture, it’s vital to engage school communities in identifying and living their core values. After all, this idea was the impetus for starting her own business.

Let’s learn a bit from Sandi RIGHT NOW. Think about a few of the stories that feel like they could be the start to a spotlight talk, and imagine that they are in conversation with one another.

What are they saying to each other?

What themes keep reemerging?

How have these stories shaped the issues you are passionate about and the work you are doing (or would like to be doing) in the world?

Once you start to see a theme emerge, like Sandi did, see how you can use that theme as your “idea worth spreading”. Here are some examples from a few of my favorite TED and TEDx talks. 

In The power of introverts, Susan Cain discusses how being an introvert has actually given her an advantage, despite how the world is designed around the needs and desires of extroverts.

In Greening the ghetto, Majora Carter talks about how losing her brother to gun violence prompted her to transform the South Bronx.

And in one of my favorite TEDx talks, The shocking truth about your health, Dr. Lissa Rankin shares how her perfect storm led her to reframe how she thinks about health, and how that ‘aha’ changed the way she practices medicine.

Each talk has a core story. And it leads perfectly into her “idea worth spreading”.

What’s yours?

I’d love for you to share your response in the comments on the blog or over on Facebook. Also, if you are moved by how Sandi is revolutionizing the way schools partner with students, via creating school environments and cultures around common core values, I invite you to take the next 5 minutes to click on this link, learn more about GotCoreValues, and contribute what you can.

 

 

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Who are you shacking up with? And what it says about your communication

Influencer Academy ReunionYou’ve likely encountered the idea, “you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with”. For a lot of us those 5 people, or at least the majority of them, are at work. For the first chapter of my life, that wasn’t such a good thing. I worked with smart, creative, generous professionals BUT the majority of us were terrified of a director in our office. And as a result, we constantly walked on eggshells around her. And when she, as she so often did, yelled at us, micromanaged us, or just directed snide comments or facial expressions our way, we would swallow our hurt and fail to speak up.

Fast forward almost a decade, and I spend a lot of my professional time showing emerging through senior leaders how to have those difficult conversations so many of us feel ill prepared to have. Sometimes the stakes are low – like the other night when I had a mini-reunion at the High Roller with some women from my first Influencer Academy cohort, and we asked for separate checks from our server. Other times the stakes, and emotions, are much higher. A client yells at us over a scheduling snafu that was as much his/her fault as ours. Until the last few years I would have shook internally during that kind of experience, kvetched about it to a loved one, and never said anything beyond what my face telegraphed in the moment. Now, I take a deep breath, focus on what I need to communicate to be in my integrity, sculpt the message, and deliver it with compassion – for me and the other person who is clearly going through some “stuff”.

This fear and sometimes lack of certainty about facilitating difficult conversations shows up in our public speaking as well. So much so that in one of my videos for my upcoming Your Spotlight Talk program (yes, the program has been renamed – more on that in a future post), I show one of the most common mistakes aspiring TED-style speakers make when shaping their “idea worth spreading”. It’s trying so hard to be liked that they don’t argue effectively for their idea(s). Here’s a snippet from the video where I show participants how to fix the problem – and you can apply the advice whether you are expressing an idea publicly or interpersonally.

Imagine, I’m giving a spotlight talk on why we need to vaccinate our children. Controversial? These days, you bet. This is one of the most polarizing issues facing families today, perfect for us to play around with.

If I were giving this talk, it would be natural for me to be concerned that I might offend some people in my audience. Therefore, I could be tempted to say something like, “Vaccines are important in combatting preventable diseases.”

But really? It sounds like I just plucked that off of Wikipedia. This is hardly a unique viewpoint. 

And having a distinct viewpoint is important. It’s what makes you, you. If you are an entrepreneur, it’s what makes people gravitate your way. It’s what makes your clients become raving fans of you. And in the speaking world, it’s the root of having your idea and your talk go viral.

So let’s revisit the statement again. “Vaccines are important in combatting preventable diseases.”

Whenever you sense you are playing it safe with an idea, ask yourself what you really think about it. What you would say to your partner or your best friend if you were sure nobody else was listening.

If I were to do that with this hypothetical example, what could come out of my mouth might be something like, “Years from now our children, and our children’s children, will look back on this time in history and say, ‘mom’. Or ‘grandma’. Shame on you for allowing unsubstantiated societal fear to undermine your responsibility to protect us from one of the most preventable threats…life-threatening childhood disease. Because of your fear, diseases that were essentially eradicated like whooping cough and measles killed hundreds of babies like us.”

Okay, now THAT’s a viewpoint. One that, if articulated like this, would likely turn off a lot of people in your audience.

That is NOT what I’m instructing you to do. Rather, once you identify how you really feel, then, you can sweeten it up by asking yourself, “How do I communicate what I really believe from a place of compassion so that those who disagree don’t feel like I’m belittling their perspective?” 

If I were to do that with this hypothetical viewpoint, I’d say to myself, “My goal is to show people how I am choosing reason over fear, and invite them to do the same.”

So, my message could sound something like this.

“I take every decision I make for my daughter VERY seriously. And I try to always choose reason over fear. While a red or swollen leg, fussiness, or even a low-grade fever aren’t fun, I know from the stories my grandma shared with me growing up neither is a disease like polio. I have a responsibility to the pioneering women and men before me who worked to virtually eradicate diseases like polio, and whooping cough and measles, not to let their efforts have been in vain.”

How does THAT sound to you?

Even if you don’t agree with this hypothetical viewpoint, you have to concede the perspective is clear. And by choosing a bit of storytelling and painting the picture with less polarizing language, I am better able to connect with audience members across the vaccination spectrum.

What I want for you first and foremost is to surround yourself with people who are committed to stepping into necessary, difficult conversations when such opportunities arise. Remember, your efficacy in this area is determined by the habits of the people closest to you.

And second, I want you to know how to express potentially polarizing ideas with compassion. To do so, always remember you’ve got to get clear on how you really feel. Then, make sure you communicate from a place of compassion so that even people who don’t agree with you can at least listen and consider what you have to say.

I’m so excited that hundreds of you have already signed up to be on the VIP List for Your Spotlight Talk. In the program you will be treated to several hours of videos and digital downloads making it breathtakingly simple how to identify your “idea worth spreading”, sculpt your stories and evidence to argue for your idea, get booked to speak, and slay any self-doubt and public speaking wonkiness so you can consistently deliver a TED-style talk with maximum impact. Whether you are looking to speak at TED-style events, professional associations, or conferences, this is THE program for you.

If you haven’t done so already, hop on over to the Coming Soon page, enter your name and email, and be among the first to learn both when the FREE pre-launch video training drops and when special VIP pricing for the DIY, virtual program is available.

 

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The Virus That Changed My Life…for the Better

Alexia Vernon and Daughter on LaptopsSome days my professional life looks like this. More often than not, my daughter and I are sprawled out on her playmat between my coaching sessions and events. And other days, I find myself crying in bed during one of the precious moments when she’s sleeping or napping, and I surrender to frustration over something related to the backend of my business.

This summer I’ve added several people to my business team, and yet I was nevertheless thrown completely off balance when a few weeks ago I realized that my Influencer Academy website was infected. And this particular virus was sending mobile users to an ap for pornography. So not cool. Definitely not what I mean when I tell people I run a women’s empowerment program.

This virus was a bad one; something that my team couldn’t correct. I learned on Facebook that somebody else had the same thing happen to her business site. I reached out, and I got connected to the EXTRAORDINARY Nikole Gipps (That Super Girl!). And super she is. Nikole got to the source of the infection, but more importantly, she identified that my hosting was horrible. My back-ups were inadequate. And that for the scale of my upcoming Your Spotlight Talk launch, she let me know that my server was not prepared to handle the anticipated volume of traffic. To sum up, she and her solutions…added.

The tears quickly cleared. And I got back to playing with my daughter on her playmat when she woke up.

It’s easy when we get sick, whether we have a viral or bacterial infection or just feel exhausted or overwhelmed by what’s going on in our life or work, to ask, “Why me?!” I used to hate that question, but now I realize it’s a good one as long as we make it a genuine question and not a rhetorical one.

“Why me?” might be to save you from a bigger problem down the line.

“Why me?” could be to introduce you to a fabulous person you otherwise wouldn’t collide with.

And “why me?” sometimes is totally random. Nevertheless, it’s an opportunity to practice responding with calm rather than crazy when we encounter the unexpected.

Because of this experience, I feel so much more at ease announcing that my Your Spotlight Talk program “Coming Soon” page is now live. In my first digital training program, leaders, entrepreneurs, educators, and other thought leaders like you who know you have an idea that can create positive change in the world, will learn step-by-step how sculpt it into a transformation call to action and get on stage to share it.

To get yourself on the VIP list for the program, and to be notified when the free video training for the program goes live, drop your name and email address on the site.

 

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I’m Retiring, and Here’s One Last Chance to Work One-on-One Together

2012-05-25 12.08.49Effective September 1, 2014, I will no longer be taking on one-on-one speaking and leadership clients.

I intend be spending more time in Hawaii, as this picture suggests, AND I’ll be focusing on scaling my Influencer Academy here in Las Vegas as well as bringing it to companies around the country. I’ll also be launching a variety of virtual and low-residency public speaking programs. Before I share the why, and a special last opportunity to nab some one-on-one Lex time, if we have been coaching together know that we can continue our work together through November 2014. And I’m happy to facilitate connections to other coaches in my niche for your ongoing development.

I adore the people I’ve had the privilege to coach since beginning my coaching journey as a student at Coach U in 2007. I always thought the most powerful work I would do would come from these intimate professional relationships I’ve cultivated. I’ve been a catalyst for women and men moving from middle-management into senior leadership, for entrepreneurs using public speaking to begin and scale businesses, and for professionals who have needed a safe developmental space to fine tune their pitches, strategies for negotiations, and difficult conversations with significant others and loved ones. What I’ve seen through my group programs over the last few years, though, is that some of the greatest learning, growth, and results comes from the groups I have built. Plus, continuing to do one-on-one coaching has meant that I have gotten in my own way of developing some of the projects I know can bring my work to thousands of people throughout the country, in even more meaningful and interactive ways.

Over the last 2 years, most of my one-on-one coaching has centered on public speaking. I’ve supported close to 100 individual women and men as they’ve birthed their signature talks, keynotes, and company trainings. I know this is one of my gifts–helping thought leaders find the stories, structure, style, and speaking gigs to scale the impact they are making in the world.

So…I will be taking on 10 people this August, from around the country, who want that one last chance to develop or dial-up their speaking careers with me through one-on-one coaching. And I’m doing it at the best price I’ve ever offered for a public speaking/training coaching package.

Here’s what my 10 future speaking supernovas will receive individually through our time together.

  • 4, 45-minute, one-on-one coaching sessions conducted via Skype or phone to develop your speaking/training topics and content. Note: All sessions must be completed by October 31, 2014. (Value – $897)
  • An action plan to get you speaking in your desired markets within 90 days. Whether you are an entrepreneur, HR or business leader, educator, or creative, I’ll share with you the specific opportunities that align with your goals-and how to make them a reality. (Value – $197)
  • The copy and design of a professional speaker one-sheet to get you booked. (Value – $497)
  • A customized pitching template for you to submit yourself to speak/train at TED-style events, conferences, and companies. (Value – $297)

Total value of this coaching package – $1888

ONE TIME ONLY PRICE – 2 payments of $547 or 1 payment of $997.

 

Do you want to be considered for 1 of these 10 spots?

Simply send an email to “Info@AlexiaVernon.com” with “I’m ready to speak” in the subject of your email, and we’ll schedule a time to chat in the next 7-days to see if we’re a good fit to jam together this August-October.

Hear from a few of the people whose lives have soared as a result of our public speaking work together.

Toshia Shaw HeSince speaking at TEDx, I am no longer afraid to approach any speaking opportunity or stage. Within 1 year of speaking at TEDx, I have been a beacon of hope for other sex violence survivors, seen an increase in my life-coaching business, and even secured a top speaking agent.  What I know now is that I deserve to be on a stage, to tell my story, and that there are no limits to where I can go as a speaker. I have been able to transform dreams into reality and that wouldn’t have been possible without Alexia’s exceptional speaking coaching.

Toshia Shaw

Founder of Purple W.I.N.G.S., behavioral health expert, sexual health educator, change agent, and TEDx speaker

 

Christina AmbubuyogWorking with Alexia was phenomenal! Even though I was coming from a background facilitating workshops and classes and I was comfortable teaching in front of groups, I definitely wasn’t fully comfortable speaking in front of an audience. I knew I wanted to “find my voice”, get cozy in my skin while on stage, and weave in the ability to tell stories for greater impact with my message. Alexia provided me with all that and more. What I love and appreciate about Alexia is that she gives you very detailed ways to make new changes and enhance your natural communication style. Knowing how to reshape those old habits while claiming what’s already great about how I communicate has really helped me feel like I already got this, now it’s just about good old practice. Thank you Alexia! I feel like I truly have a voice now.

Christina Ambubuyog

Founder, ILoveIntuition.com and TEDx speaker

 

Stef YTWTI was nowhere with my speaking prior to joining Alexia’s program. This wasn’t due to lack of ideas, talent or skill – it was because I had for YEARS ignored my desire to speak in front of an audience. Alexia saw that desire in me – and through her ability to meet me exactly where I was, helped me create a tour de force talk that is a full on 100% expression of who I am.

Alexia’s coaching style is the perfect blend of compassion, professionalism, expertise and cutting edge tools. She guided me to create a talk that bolstered my confidence in myself, lifted my spirits, and benefitted my business. Professionals I deeply respect called my talk “amazing,” “profound,” “funny,” “honest,” and “moving.” 

Speaking at Alexia’s Mastery was a game changer because it felt like I had finally stepped into my calling – I re-claimed a piece of me that was missing from my career and business. Alexia’s program helped me recognize anew the value I bring to my business, my clients, and the world.

Stefanie Frank

Content Strategist, Writer, Speaker

 

Adria DeCorteI used to rely on PowerPoints or notes and ramble a lot when speaking in public. Throughout her public speaking program, Alexia gave me actionable pointers that I was able to take and immediately apply for huge results in my performance and confidence. She is detail-oriented, and her advice is spot on. With her guidance, I advanced ten times faster, including getting my first live on-air TV interview. On the first day of her program, my speaking was awkward and rehearsed, and I felt embarrassed and phony afterwards. Three months later, at our final performance, I was able to look into audience members’ eyes while I spoke and feel a true connection. Family and friends in the audience later told me they were blown away by my delivery and clarity of message. I finally feel like when I speak it’s about more than just remembering words. 

Through Alexia’s exercises and insightful feedback, I’ve evolved my message to reflect my true calling and found the confidence and know-how to pitch myself as a speaker. I spoke at an event the day after our program final performance, and, thanks to everything I learned in the program, I was able to craft a 10-minute speech with a single day’s preparation and perform it authentically, from the heart. I knew I was finally inspiring others when the host called me a “powerful speaker”.

Adria DeCorte

BodyLove Wellness Coach and Speaker

 

Samantha CunninghamAfter working with Alexia I have found confidence as a leader and public speaker. Previously I was timid, vulnerable and insecure with my wording, topic, posture and voice.  I evolved by taking her course and learning how to uncover attributes about me that I did not know existed based on stepping out of my comfort zone. I have given multiple presentations in front of groups larger than 40 since I worked with Alexia. I FINALLY feel comfortable with myself and presentations. Alexia connects with her students and makes sure they are successful and feel comfortable about their speaking.  

Samantha Cunningham

Account Executive, Robert Half Technology

 

Get yourself on my lengthly list of success stories.

Simply send an email to “Info@AlexiaVernon.com” with “I’m ready to speak” in the subject of your email, and we’ll get a call on the calendar.

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I Did a Bad But Brilliant Thing!

Introducing the Women of Step Into Your Moxie Mastery

Introducing the Women of Step Into Your Moxie Mastery

I want speakers to succeed. And sometimes, when I’m in an audience watching one stumble, I’ll do something to help him or her shine.

A couple of weeks ago I was part of a group that was interviewing principals for funding. Each principal had about 20 minutes to share the story of his or her school and how some bucks and community volunteer power could help. When the final principal presenting came into the room, I could feel her nervousness. I could also feel her desire. I wanted her to be the one our group selected. There was just one big ole problem. She had what I refer to as “tense face”. Her lips were tight, her jaw muscles contracted, and although she was painting a compelling story within the first 2 minutes I could see she was losing the room.

It was time for a smile smackdown. I wish I could say I did something really sneaky and slick, but I didn’t. While yes, I probably did manipulate the funding outcome for this woman did wind up getting a near unanimous vote from my group, I didn’t say a word. I just started to smile and make eye contact with her. She began to direct more and more of her pitch to me, and within a few minutes tense face was gone. And she now felt comfortable looking around the room as she had reenergized it. She was telling stories about her students with more ease and at certain moments outright abandonment. She was laughing, her hands were moving, and she was endearing herself and her school to everyone in the room.

And it all happened because of a smile.

You can use the technique of smiling, with your mouth and your eyes, whenever someone is presenting an idea and getting in his or hew own way of high impact delivery by allowing seriousness to trump playfulness. It disrupts whatever judgy self-talk is going on and lets the person redirect focus to the audience. People perceive speakers who smile and appropriately use humor, particularly in their examples and storytelling, as more effective, honest, and credible. Help a sister or a brother out by smiling, and increase your enjoyment of the presentation as a result.

Of course you can also apply this information when you communicate. By remembering that what you say is never about you, it’s always about the people you are seeking to impact, it reminds you when you dial-up the fun in what you say and how you say it that you also are enhancing the impression you have on your audience.

Want to see some speakers who do this well? Take a peak at the women in my most recent Step Into Your Moxie Mastery group as they share their signature talks.

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How to Find Your Words When Your Boundaries are Violated

Fake DiaperMy dad recently came for a visit, and during his stay we went out for many meals with my almost 6-month old daughter. While she is pretty chatty just like her mother, overall she fairs just fine. Actually, a little too fine. She loves flapping her big baby blues at whomever she sees. As a result, she is a magnet for unsolicited baby touching.

During the dinner when this picture was taken (yes, K is wearing a makeshift diaper held together with a changing pad liner – a story worthy of its own blog post), one overzealous grandma came over to our table and began to fawn over my daughter. While I’ve gotten better with my germaphobia and no longer go into shallow breathing whenever a stranger crosses the unspoken two foot barrier around my girl, my heart did start skipping beats when the woman got close enough for K to touch her chin.

“Oh sweetie,” I muttered quickly, “Mind your manners. Let this lady have her personal space.”

I wanted to snatch her out of my husband’s arms, but my desire not to embarrass him or this woman got the best of me.

When the woman responded, “Oh no, this is exactly what I wanted. She senses that I’m a grandma and love babies,” I thought to myself, “Oh crap. Well, at least it’s not flu season. I’ll just have to rub some extra Thieves oil on her feet when we get home.”

I hated that I was letting my boundaries be violated. But because I had missed my opportunity to establish them just as they were being broken, I figured I just needed to suck it up and recalibrate now that the window for polite conversation had closed. The problem with surrendering like this, though, is that in addition to feeling like crap your boundaries just get broken in more and more places until words are finally necessary. And usually by this point, they aren’t pretty.

The handsy grandma began to stroke K’s face. As K made a beeline for the woman’s fingers (meaning they were going to be made into teething toys in less than 15 seconds), my dad who was sitting across the table from us rather forcefully said, “P-L-E-A-S-E, we’re eating. Get your hands off the baby.”

As I’m sure you can imagine, a supremely uncomfortable 30 seconds or so ensued for everybody. My husband and I froze. The woman got defensive. And K sensed the tension and started leaking out of her diaper.

I teach how to facilitate difficult conversations so that they are daring ones, and yet I still can be my own catalyst for epic fails in this department. As I was reminded in this incident, when you are not direct the moment a boundary is violated, you just set yourself up for a more difficult conversation later on – whether you are the one having it or, as I was, are a bystander in it.

Here’s what I know for sure, even as my behavior is striving to catch up to my cognition.

There is ALWAYS a way to be direct and delicate when a boundary is broken.

Had I simply said compassionately, “We are teaching our daughter not to touch or be touched by strangers,” the situation would have been resolved. No need for my dad to intervene on my behalf. No potential shame spiral for the woman. Maybe spillage out of our last diaper would have been avoided. Maybe?

What gets us, particularly women, out of our power and into paralysis in such moments is our inability to reconcile our desire to say what we want AND protect the relationship on the line. Even if that relationship is with someone we’ll never see again – a lot of us don’t want to anger another. Or in my case, be the cause of someone else’s embarrassment.

When a boundary is broken we need to immediately ask, “What do I want? And how do I say it with compassion – for myself and my needs and for the other person?” 

When we ask these simple questions, rather than an action-inhibiting one like, “Can I just blink my eyes and make this go away?” we honor our needs by finding the way to communicate them directly. And as a result of making it easy for the other person or people to understand what we want, we diminish the potential for future discomfort down the road.

 

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I Got Schooled During My Pedicure

toesLast minute appointment cancellations used to drive me bonkers. As a new mom, they now are my excuse for impromptu self-care. During one such incident last week when I was already on the road, I decided to use Yelp to identify the closest nail salon.

Within 15 minutes my feet were soaking in a foot spa. The man performing my pedicure asked what I do, and rather than go into all the facets of my work, I settled on, “I teach public speaking.”

Oh, that’s easy, the pedicurist said.

I joked that he better not tell that to the people I work with. Then he asked, People really pay you for that?

Okay, I was intrigued. While my ego could have gotten the best of me, I was curious how this gentle, twentysomething Vietnamese man had come to a place of such confidence with public speaking.

Andy, as he finally introduced himself, explained to me: In my country we don’t have fear of public speaking. We look at everyone in audience as family. When you speak to family you feel safe. You don’t change your voice. You speak like you. And the people you speak to lean in if they can’t hear you and everybody understands.

I asked Andy about the situations where he does feel fear, and he quickly shared, my U.S. Citizenship test. I take it in one month, and I’m worried I won’t get enough answers right.

I don’t know if you’ve ever had a conversation with a stranger where you felt like time just stopped. Where you knew you were meant to collide with person before you so that you could help each other gain insight. Then, the exchange was over. You both went on your merry way. And you knew instantly you were no longer the same. Your consciousness had palpably shifted…for the better.

I learned 3 key things from my unexpected hour with Andy.

First, as I would go on to share with the women in my Step Into Your Moxie Mastery that same night, practice the “family rule.” When you look out at your audience, see your loved ones in their eyes. It really does help quell the jitters.

Second, when you speak in front of an audience, don’t change your voice. So often we adopt an unnecessary affectation when we speak publicly. We put a strange emphasis on certain words. Or breathe shallowly in pursuit of throwing our voice a greater distance. Let the pomp and circumstance go, and just have a conversation.

And third, and in my opinion most importantly, remember that how you have overcome fear in one facet of your life can be applied to other areas where fear is surfacing. I asked Andy how he can take what works for him in public speaking and apply it to his test preparation, and he chuckled at the obviousness of it all. I connect each question to something in my family, and then I remember the answer.

I would have never thought of that as a memorization strategy, but I’m sure it will work for Andy since thinking about his family allows him to tap into his strength and get out of his own head.

What are areas in your life where you have overcome fear? How can you apply what worked to other contexts where fear is getting the best of you?

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Did He Really Just Call Me a ‘Slow, Stupid B*tch’?

Alexia Vernon Step Into Your Moxie

Moxie Camp

That’s the question I kept asking myself as I drove out of the Whole Foods parking lot over the weekend. To be fair, I was definitely backing out of my parking spot slowly. (When you load your groceries on top of a stroller in the trunk of your Prius it blocks most of your visibility. So I had decided to do quadruple checks over both shoulders to ensure I didn’t hit anyone or anything as I pulled out.)

My windows were down, as I allowed the initial stink from my AC to blow out, and during my final head check over my left should I locked eyes with what appeared to be an 80-something man.

He also had his windows down. And I heard him scream at me, “Hurry up you slow, stupid b*tch.”

I replayed the incident the majority of my twenty minute drive home. While part of my wanted to laugh at the multiple layers of humor surrounding the fact that an older adult pulling out of a handicapped space at Whole Foods on a Sunday was suffering from a serious case of the snarkies, his use of the word “stupid” was really bumming me out.

I was fine being called “slow.” I’ve been called the “b” word before – and accept that it’s the downside of having a strong point of view. But “stupid”? That’s the insult that stung.

And I’m glad.

When I was a women’s studies student at UNLV, one of my professors shared during a lecture that she once asked her husband, “Which do you think I am more – beautiful or smart?” She knew she had married the right man when he said “smart,” although to be fair the stakes weren’t all that high for her since she was pretty foxy too.

At the time, a couple of my friends sitting next to me whispered, “I would be heartbroken if my husband said that to me.” But I agreed 100 percent with my professor. I have always wanted first and foremost to be recognized for my ideas.

While I can brush off most criticisms, if you want to really hurt me, insult my intelligence. I’ll apparently still be recovering half a week later.

As I wind down the first year of Influencer Academy, I find myself asking this of my women a lot. “What do you want to be recognized for?”

It’s not my business whether one’s answer is “pretty”, “funny”, “philanthropic”, “transformational”, “smart”, or anything else. But…it is my business, my life’s work, to ensure that people are clear on their answer and use their influence in all areas of their lives to present themselves as such.

In my early career I wasted a lot of time getting in my own way of who I wanted to be seen as. While I was pretty successful in high school and college at owning my ideas, irrespective of the cost, by the time I was in my mid-twenties I was terrified that people wouldn’t like me or I wouldn’t get promoted if I said what I really thought. It was shortly after I discovered TED talks as a public speaking professor that I realized I had a lot of “ideas worth spreading.” And if I allowed fear and ego to stop me from sharing them, I was never going to be the person I aspired to be. I would never make the impact I knew I was put on this crazy planet to make.

So now I ask you. What do you want to be recognized for? And how are you ensuring that you use your influence to solidify this identity in the heads and hearts of the people in your company and community?

Please let me know.

Leave a comment. Or send me an email.

Decide that you are ready to become the person you know you can be.

Posted in Adult Learning, Coaching, Leadership, Women's Issues | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Here’s Why You’re Not Closing

IMG_2489There are two key reasons why smart people with good ideas, products, or services don’t close. The first–they don’t ask correctly. Or as is often the case, they don’t ask at all.

After working with my Influencer Academy women on pitching, I have recently realized that the second problem is one that doesn’t get enough discussion. Until today. And it’s failing to ask the right questions to get the person, people, or company you are trying to get commitment from to realize s/he or they are a ‘yes’ before you ever have to ask.

In one of our role plays, which I’m going to be a little vague in outlining as I know there are people reading this who will be participating in Influencer Academy next year, the cohort was broken up into teams of four. Each group was charged to develop a pitch for a new book launch for a famous client.

The pitches were creative. They were confident. They were a fit with the client’s culture. But…and this is a big but…the groups pitching spoke 80-90 percent of the time during the pitch and few if any questions were asked of me, who was playing this dream client. As a result, each group was trafficking in quite a few assumptions and had to work unduly hard to “convince me” that they had the best proposal.

Afterward, when we debriefed, each group confessed that they knew they should ask questions but they just weren’t sure which ones to ask. Or they worried that if they asked too much they would come across as unprepared. And I get it. I’ve self-talked my way into over talking rather than asking questions many times in my career. Yet what I know without a doubt — from pitching, being pitched to, and coaching people and organizations on their presentations–is that when people have the opportunity to speak out loud where they are coming from, what they care about, what they fear, or what success will look like and mean for them, the act of speaking their truth organically binds them to the person or people doing the asking. Plus, those asking know where to focus their proposal to make it as relevant and sexy as possible.

If you struggle like many of my Influencer Academy women did with identifying the right questions to ask, here are a few of my favorites from Alan Weiss and the Summit Consulting Group.

  • What is the ideal outcome you’d like to experience?
  • What results are you trying to accomplish? What will these results mean for you/your organization?
  • What harm [or problem] would working together alleviate?
  • What is the scope of impact (on employees, customers, vendors)?
  • How important is this to you?
  • In this past, what has occurred to derail projects like this?
  • What, if anything, do you additionally need to hear from me?
  • Is there anything at all preventing our working together at this point?

There are likely some subtle shifts you would need to make to these questions for them to be appropriate for you. Nevertheless, having questions like these in your pocket and ready to pull out when trying to move people to take action with you are paramount to getting them to ask you to partner before you ever have to.

If you use questions as part of your pitch strategy–whether you are in the business of selling ideas to your employees, coaching or consulting packages to individual or group clients, or widgets to warehouses– what are some of your favorites? Please share them in the comments below so that we can enhance one another’s pitching and sales success.

 

Posted in Coaching, Communication, Marketing and PR | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Focusing on Mistakes is a Good Thing

IMG_2222One of the best things about being a learning and development professional is…wait for it…learning and developing. I’ve been tweaking my curriculum on persuasion for my Influencer Academy and Step Into Your Moxie Mastery women and to do so have been reviewing my notes in one of my favorite books, Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive. One of the 50 ways is to focus on common errors when coaching, managing, and training.

Many of us opportunity-centered folks don’t do this. Whether we are espousing our best practices or actively developing our people, we focus on what we want rather than on what doesn’t work. The problem with this is that we don’t let our people encounter the mistakes they are likely to make. As a result, they aren’t able to identify the behaviors and skills to avoid or at the very least troubleshoot potential pitfalls. They also miss out on an opportunity to develop their critical thinking skills to apply what they are learning in other situations. Doing the right thing may feel easy in a conversation or a role play, but often it isn’t as easy when real situations unfold.

One of the most interesting example of this approach I discovered when conducting interviews for 90 Days 90 Ways: Onboard Young Professionals to Peak Performance. A trainer for a chain of hotels shared that rather than just teach or role play good front desk customer service, he went online to find negative TripAdvisor.com reviews of his properties. Then, he showed the reviews to his staff and used this as an opportunity to discuss what went wrong, why it likely happened, and gave his people the opportunity to role play alternative conversations that better served their guests. As a result, over the next year those nasty TripAdvisor.com customer service complaints went way down.

How can you adapt this strategy in your work?

As I think about how to empower my Influencer Academy women during our final 2 months together, I’m committed to creating case study/role playing opportunities for us to explore what has gone wrong before imparting how to do the “right” thing.

Are you interested in learning more about the unique, hands-on Influencer Academy leadership development program? If you are in Las Vegas, you can meet the women of the current cohort and enhance your ability to access funding, secure sponsorships, and build high-level partnerships at this Friday’s luncheon, Raising the 4%. There are a few tickets left.

Applications are now being accepted for the 2014-2015 Influencer Academy cohort. If you know that this is your time to strengthen your ability to coach, negotiate, persuade, present, and facilitate. To pursue an aggressive and achievable career development plan that lets you make more impact in your company and community. To build lifelong friendships with an extraordinary group of heart-centered women. Then please, apply now.

 

Posted in Adult Learning, Coaching, Leadership | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment


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