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Did you know that speaking well equals more money? According to a post this year in Forbes’ online magazine, “fewer grammar errors correlate with more promotions.” I was sent a link to this great article by my sister and fellow blogger, Karissa Wright of Simply the Good Life — a kid-friendly educational site that just so happens to teach a lot of the same soft skills that I do, only directed at parents. (Check out her most recent post, as of this one, detailing back-to-school time management tips.)
Forbes details how being well-spoken translates to success: Studies show that people who speak and write well in the U.S. are promoted more quickly in their chosen career paths. Poor English usage lowers your credibility and makes you seem sloppy, uneducated and unreliable.
So, what do you do if language isn’t your passion or a part of your innate skill set? Does that mean you’re doomed to be left behind?
Some good news is that mastering the English language is yet another soft skill that can be learned, for native and non-native speakers alike. Here are some tips to improving your grammar both verbally and in print:
1. Identify your common mistakes. It’s hard to know what to fix if you aren’t aware you’re using certain words or phrases incorrectly in the first place. Start with some questions you’ve always had (“I know there are three ways to spell ‘there,’ but I don’t know when to use which”; “how do I use the word ‘whom’?”) and check with the experts on the correct usage.
2. Look it up! When I was growing up, every time I asked my dad what a word meant, his reply was, “Look it up!” Although I hated hearing that initially, I grew to love our family dictionary and even asked for a pocket-sized one of my own for my 11th Christmas. (In our teen years, my sister Karissa bought me a reverse dictionary as a Christmas present — and we were both thrilled!) Today, I keep the Dictionary.com app on my phone and on my tablet, so I’m never without a resource at my fingertips.
Words and word usage can be found in the dictionary, but what about rules like comma placement, other punctuation and those elusive dangling participles? Where we used to turn to reference books on these subjects, too (another prized book gift was my full set of Strunk & White’s rules that I asked for and received as a high school graduation present), our friend the internet has put this information only a click away. In addition to numerous university websites on writing rules, such as the one linked in this paragraph, there are other helpful sites and apps you can bookmark or load for regular use. Dumb Little Man’s Tips for Life shares a slew of grammar resources, plus easy-to-read articles that help you remember the rules they contain. My hero, Grammar Girl, shares her take on the now-outdated Strunk & White’s Rules of Style, which for years was the Bible of grammar usage. She shares a lot of other helpful and memorable tips, too. Mac has the Grammar App, and for androids there’s English Grammar Book. Find your favorite resource or look at multiples sources as needed.
3. Practice. Once you identify and look up your grammar and vocab questions, don’t forget to start putting them into use in everyday conversation, as well as using them to punch up your résumé, LinkedIn profile and other social media pages. Reading aloud can also help you retain and understand these rules, especially if English isn’t your first language. Even if it is, practice reading aloud to improve your enunciation. This is also a great exercise for improving public speaking.
In my former blog, Beyond Talk, I posted regularly about what I term WOWs and POWs — Words of the Week and Phrases of the Week. Check out some old (but still relevant) posts to see if there are words you can add to your vocabulary.
I believe that everyone deserves—and needs—a personal motto. This is so much more than just a slogan to get you by. It’s truly an affirmation statement, made in your own language, that can literally help change your brain chemistry to give you a boost of confidence exactly when you need it. With multiple mottos, you can get through any situation to speak and think with confidence. Here are the steps I walk my clients through each time we create a custom motto for them. See how they can work for you!
Step 1: The Initial Needs Assessment identifies what areas of communication you wish to work on (professional, interpersonal, written, verbal, cognitive/thinking), as well as the issues that challenge your confidence—everything from emotions to mental health or developmental disorders to visual/audio impairments to simply lowered confidence.
Step 2: In consulting with your Communications Coach Kealah Parkinson, you have the opportunity to walk through the BMT Index™ and discover exactly what your body feels, what your moods and thoughts are in the moments when your confidence is adversely affected. This exercise has the added benefit of triggering muscle memory and brain signals that begin to create the same physical, emotional and mental cues you receive in such moments of lowered confidence. No guesswork needed!
Step 3: The coaching process continues with an in-depth conversation about the thoughts you have at these times. By sussing out the “thoughts behind the thoughts,” Kealah helps you define your “anti-motto.” In other words, this is the primary thought that undermines your confidence.
Step 4: In a unique coaching experience, you are guided to embrace this negative belief and find its positive equivalent. The new positive and believable thought becomes your very own customized motto, or affirmation statement. As a final payoff, you get the opportunity to use your motto in action and experience the biochemical shift this statement makes on your body, moods and thoughts.
Step 5: Take your motto into your work world and home life, and start speaking with confidence!
Find Your Motto. Speak Your Truth. Grow Your World.™
Do you struggle with your 30-second commercial? A lot of business professionals do. Knowing all you know about your business’s capabilities and the many client markets you serve, it can be incredibly difficult to pare that down to a few key sentences that fit into a less-than-one-minute window. And to make those sentences attention-grabbing? Well, that’s darn near impossible!
But there is a simple formula you can apply — in three easy steps — to make the message of your 30-second commercial, or elevator speech, catch the attention of your ideal client. That formula, along with some necessary background information you’ll need before you begin, is outlined below. Follow this, “The Perfect Formula for the Perfect 30-Second Commercial©,” to create your own ideal micro-message to sell yourself and your business in person.
Background: Before you can follow the 3 steps outlined below, you must know some background information about yourself, your business, and your perfect customer. This includes assessing your confidence level (authentic confidence acts as a magnet to attracting others to listen and take you seriously, as well as to want to work with you); identifying your company’s unique position in the marketplace, so that you continue to speak to the differences between yourself and your competitors; and knowing the ins and outs of your ideal customer. Specifically, what problems do your ideal customers face on a daily basis? The more you can narrow down all this background info, the more easily you can use the formula below to concoct your perfect 30-second commercial.
Please note, this formula applies to the more formal 30-second commercial often used at networking functions and in other group business settings. For a more conversational elevator speech, the same principles can be applied, but need not follow the order below verbatim.
Step 1: Ask a question that grabs the attention of your ideal clients by speaking directly to their problems. Starting off with a question flips the usual 30-second commercial formula (name, title, description of work) on its head. This makes you stand out from the crowd. Also, rather than trying to hook the entire room, you engage your ideal client in a silent dialogue with you, so that they feel as if you are speaking solely to them. This is exactly what you want your 30-second pitch to do.
Step 2: Introduce yourself and show how you can solve your clients’ problems successfully. Again, you continue the conversation you’re having with the clients and customers you want to cull from the room.
Step 3: End with a strong call to action — a line thatcleverly drives your message home and adds to your brand by enticing those ideal clients and customers to act immediately.
I consider my own 30-second commercial to be perfect for me. The proof lies in the outcome: I can’t count the number of times that an audience member walks up to me at the end of an event where I introduced myself in this short amount of time, saying, “You were talking directly to me! I need to hire you,” and then instantly books an appointment with me to learn more, shortly thereafter becoming an ongoing client. This is precisely what an effective elevator pitch does, and it’s exactly what yours will do when you apply the formula above.
By simply adding a few more follow-up questions to step 1 and elaborating on my contact info, I turned my own 30-second pitch into an on-air radio commercial, doubled in time to 1-minute. For a sample of a pitch using this formula, hear it here: SPEAK YOUR TRUTH
Summary: It’s third quarter time. How have you met your goals for the year? Check out today’s post on two POW Phrases of the Week, mind maps and vision boards, to learn not just new terms, but new tools to help you succeed.
It’s POW Phrase of the Week time again. And the two POWs I’d like to share are also excellent tools: mind maps and vision boards. I’ve been tweeting a lot lately about vision boards (not to mention doling them out as assignments to my coaching clients). I’ve even started a new vision board for some of my own personal goals.
Not familiar with a vision board? Check out this article with a great explanation, DIY how-tos, sample images, plus some great inspirational quotes by my fave guru Tony Robbins.
As the article explains, vision boards are great ways to creatively envision your goals and bring them top of mind. The more attention you give your goals, the more likely you are to focus on them—consciously or sub-consciously—and bring them into your life. And when it comes to goal-setting, you can’t get more pragmatic than use of a mind map.
So, what’s a mind map? Click here to read a basic overview that also lists some of the many uses, then check out my favorite template to share with clients below.
For non-linear thinkers and planners, especially those with ADHD or any ADD-like thinking, mind maps are excellent ways to capture ideas as they occur and (most importantly) act on them. You can write a speech, article or other presentation using a mind map, too. From the linked article above, here’s a beautiful and creatively hand-drawn version:
© KiKi Productions, Inc. 2012
Summary: Do you have the soft skills it takes to compete—and win—in today’s business world? Find out what soft skills are and how to get them today.
This week’s WOW is really a POW—a Phrase of the Week: soft skills. According to its Wikipedia definition, soft skills refers to a specific set of abilities that are often innate, but can be learned. Let me repeat that: these skills can be learned. They just may take more time to learn than your traditional hard job skills. What’s the difference between “hard skills” and “soft skills“? Great question! So glad you asked.
Hard skills are things like typing, data input, computer programming, computer program usage, even memorizing sales scripts. They’re the day-to-day duties you list in your résumé that help you land the job—or the ones you learned and practiced while on the job. Soft skills, by contrast, are things like crafting an appropriate email message that resonates with your client; training others to use company-wide computer and data systems; and incorporating the bottom line points of a sales script into your own, authentic language. They are the little extra flourishes you put in your résumé’s objective or cover letter to ensure you land the job (and get along with your co-workers and employers)—things like “people person,” “great listener” and “works well on a team.” Here’s more:
1. “Soft skills are personal attributes that enhance an individual’s interactions, job performance and career prospects” and are “broadly applicable both in and outside the work place.” (Wikipedia)
2. “Screening or training for” these types of skills “can yield significant return on investment for an organization.” Studies have proven this to be true. (Wikipedia et. al.)
3. It’s been suggested they’re more important long-term than hard skills, or the occupational skill sets that can be more readily taught and learned—and even remembered by rote. (Wikipedia, KiKi Productions Inc. Communications Coaching et. al.)
4. Whereas “hard skills” are typically related to one’s IQ, soft skills relate to your EQ, or your emotional intelligence quotient. (Wiki, KiKi)
5. Some of the top soft skills that employers look for can be found in this article. (AOL Jobs)
Here are a list of soft skills that I teach my clients daily:
creative problem solving
strategic thinking/enhanced focus
team building/team goal setting
personal goal setting & achievement
time management/effective appointment setting
Join me in the campaign to add this fabulous phrase, soft skills, to the dictionary—or at least the open/slang dictionary at Merriam-Webster.com. Click the link, submit the phrase and credit the article or blog entry of your choice!
And to add some much-needed soft skills to your own repertoire and résumé—or to improve your soft skill set—consider working with a coach like me or other communications coaches. Google the search term or contact me to begin your journey to personal and professional improvement.
© KiKi Productions, Inc. 2012
Summary: Meander through my musings to learn a holiday word about, well, words…
This week is like a personal springtime. I’m feeling myself slowly coming back to life like a seedling unfurling into a flower.
Last week, after trekking around the Midwest the week before to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with family, I found myself with some unwelcome symptoms: a fever (most dreaded), aches, chills, congestion and worst of all a sore throat—something no communications coach ever wants, especially going into a full week of coaching sessions. I tried to offer phone sessions to my clients to keep the germs to myself and the communication rolling, but it was murder on my voice and throat. I scrapped that short-lived solution and went to the doctor. Diagnosis: strep throat.
My holiday vacation was suddenly extended by way of infection. And my intent to blog was prolonged as I spent most days rescheduling clients from the couch.
Does all this sickness talk seem like persiflage to you? If so, I made my point: Traveling the day before Thanksgiving, my husband and I listened to old recordings of Jean Shepherd’s radio show—Shepherd of “A Christmas Story” fame. What a writer! Of the many vocabulary words to choose from in his rhetorical radio ramblings, the one that caught my attention the most was the word about words … specifically about filler words that mean little and say lots, persiflage.
It’s defined as frivolous banter. Shepherd’s usage was “little brother persiflage” to describe his brother’s dinner conversation; not as important as his own childhood dialogue on what he wanted for Christmas.
Look up persiflage here. And pardon mine, please. Let’s blame it on the lingering infection.
© KiKi Productions, Inc. 2012