Politicians failing the ‘what’s in it for me?’ test

Politicians have been criss-crossing Canada in a national election campaign. But according to one university student, they’re missing a big point. When asked for his opinion on radio, the student replied all the leaders ever talk about is themselves. Their campaigns were the ‘I’m-better-than-the other-guy’ variety. The student’s basic complaint was they never answer the …

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Was Blackberry boss right to pull plug on interview?

An interesting mix of reactions to the BBC interview with the boss of Research in Motion (RIM), where the RIM executive pulled the plug on the interview because he didn’t like a question. Opinion on online sites was divided. There was a fair amount of criticism of RIM’s co-chief executive Mike Lazaridis for refusing to …

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Harper’s weird but effective debate strategy

The English language election debate was televised last night in Canada. Four political leaders debated the issues of the day but one dominated, because of his body language. Conservative leader Stephen Harper stuck to conventional political debate wisdom – speak to your audience not your opponents. Each time he was challenged or asked a question, …

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Assert your way to success and health

assertive or aggressive

Time to ‘fess up. Are you assertive? Or are you aggressive? Some people think they are acting assertively when they are really being aggressive. And some people think if they assert themselves others will interpret their behaviour as aggression. There’s a world of difference between assertive and aggressive, so let’s start with a definition. Assertive …

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Helping students overcome presentation fears

by Halina St James

One of the many things commerce students have to do in university is make presentations. For many it’s a nerve wracking experience. So hats off to universities who give their students an advantage by bringing in a presentation skills coach.

One such school is the Ron Joyce Centre for Business Studies at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick.

I just spent time with a first year commerce class there. The students have to make three presentations, which account for 30% of their final mark. They do group presentations of four people. Their professor, Peter Sianchuk, says many struggle to overcome nerves or shyness.

Halina St James with Peter Sianchuk
Halina with Peter Sianchuk and a lot of snow outside the Ron Joyce Centre for Business Studies

I gave the students the basics of my Talkitout™ Technique, and some strategies for powerful presentations. Then I talked to them about the experiences of some of my clients, like advertising companies, who regularly make group presentations.

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Lessons from the Dragon’s Den

The  Dragon’s Den team is in Nova Scotia, auditioning for the show. Dragon’s Den is the successful reality TV show (CBC) where budding entrepreneurs pitch their products and ideas to a panel of business moguls who can crush them or bankroll them.

Podium’s Halina St James asked producer Molly Duignan what tips she had for people wanting to be on the show. Molly’s advice is good for anyone making presentations.

Dragon's Den producer Molly Duignan
Dragon's Den producer Molly Duignan

First, she said, remember, Dragon’s Den is a television show. It has to be entertaining. It’s the same when you’re making a presentation. You need to inform your audience but you also need to entertain them. Bring your presentation to life with stories, and changes of emphasis and tone.

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Oscar speeches: the best and the worst

Last night’s Oscar awards gave us a chance to examine contrasting styles of acceptance speeches.

If you make any sort of presentation or speech as part of your job, there are lessons for you from last night’s show.

Colin Firth

Two of the best speeches were from Colin Firth (best actor, The King’s Speech) and Tom Hooper (director, The King’s Speech). Firth had a simple opening (“I think my career just peaked”) and maintained a gently self-deprecating style through his speech. He warned the audience “I’m afraid I have to warn you that I’m experiencing stirrings somewhere in the upper abdominals which are threatening to form themselves into dance moves,” and ended with “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some impulses I have to attend to backstage.”

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Hook your audience with your first words

hook your audience with your opening words

When I spoke at the Rotary Club of Halifax, Harbourside, a man asked if the ‘old rule’ about public speaking was still valid. He was referring to the “tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them,” structure. I’ve written about this before, but it’s worth repeating. …

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Don’t be a cultural colonialist

make an effort to understand diversity

Years ago when I taught English as a Second Language, I touched a Thai student’s head. He was deeply offended. Another of my students, a wealthy Iranian teenager, would constantly snap his fingers at me when he wanted my attention. This time I was offended. How we move, act and gesture is very important as we …

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