Using Psychology & Neuroscience to End a Presentation.

science-vs-everything-elseRecently, there has been a lot being written about how to finish a presentation. The only problem is that many of the articles either appear to lack a scientific basis for their suggestions or are based on outdated information from the last century. While much of the older research is still valid, there has been a massive amount of new research in neurobiology and neuropsychology over the past few years that has provided vital new information about how to communicate elegantly to influence and persuade audiences.

In an attempt to rectify this situation, I would like to propose the following points be considered:
– One of the most common uses of a presentation is to propose specific ways for the audience to resolve a specific problem or make a certain decision. It is not enough to merely present a range of options and then let the “clients” decide for themselves which one to choose. Often, The people who use this style of “presentation” then expect their clients to discuss the options available and reach their own conclusions! However, the presenter is usually expected to make a detailed, logical and specific proposal based on a range of different elements.

Presenting options:
1. Some presenters appear to consider that it is unnecessary to present options and, instead go directly from the “problem / challenge”, etc., to their “solution”. The word “Solution” implies that there is no alternative! How often is there only ONE possible response? (Also, do we detect a note of imposition in this word / phrase?)

2. It is recommend that we first offer the client 2 or 3 options (based on the rule of three (1)).

3. The 2 or 3 options might be, for example:
Option a) Do nothing, wait and see what happens in the near future. After a general
description, the presenter should briefly outline the good points followed by the bad
ones.
Option b) The least preferred option: After a general description, the presenter should,
once again, outline briefly the good points followed by the bad ones.
Option c) Finally, the presenter should outline their “preferred· option starting with the bad points then followed by the good ones. (End-loading (2): last in, best remembered.)

Another alternative based on the “double bind” (3) consists of omitting the first option (above) which is usually implicit in any situation and only give the second and third ones.

– Avoid “My professional recommendation” as it implicitly contains many indicators regarding the speaker’s own perception of self-value which might NOT be shared by the audience. Basically, if you have to tell the audience that you are an expert, you obviously are not!
Related to this is the following: “I recommend this option” = implicit in this communication is:
a. I am the source of all wisdom.
b. You need my guidance.
c. Therefore, you  must accept my proposal
The use of “I” in therapy, mentoring and other types of interpersonal communication is normal when a client is taking responsibility for their own actions / feelings, etc. However these are different linguistic “Communicative Activities” (C.A.) and the participants have different expectations, etc., from a business C.A. such as presentations.

Also, It is interesting to observe the reactions of Alpha Males/Females, Negative responders, Power-game players, audience members with hidden agendas, etc., in an audience where these events occur!

– The presenter should avoid using “You” when referring to the audience & “We” when talking about their own organization: These words indicate subconsciously that the presenter sees themselves or their organization as separate “identities” that are neutral & disconnected from the audience in some way and are therefore less involved in the potential consequences of any decision made.

It is much better for the presenter to use we, us, our, etc., from the very beginning of the presentation which implies collaboration, cooperation and shared aims and objectives. It is much more effective to use language like the following: “When we examine this proposal, we can see that it covers all our interests in the following ways…” – followed by a BRIEF synopsis of how. Please note that the words slip through the logical filter between the conscious and subconscious brain and are processed accordingly.(4)

– Ensure that audience are “moved to action” A.S.A.P. (5) It is vital that the audience do something immediately after the presenter has finished their part of the presentation: A discussion of the proposal could be a starting point. However, If you can get the audience to make a specific decision or action to start the ball rolling, it is much more effective. It has proven very useful to finish the presentation with an “Action Plan” which contains the first and immediate action to take and when, followed by a brief outline of the following steps.

I hope that this brief article will help to resolve some of the problems caused by a lack of knowledge,

All constructive feedback would be appreciated.
Sources:
(1) The rule of three:
Suzanne B. Shu & Kurt A. Carlson, The rule of three: How the third event signals the emergence of a streak, (2007). Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 104 (2007) 113–121
Belch, G. E., & Belch, M. A.. Advertising and promotion: An integrated marketing communications perspective. New York: McGraw-Hill. (2001)
Suzanne B. Shu & Kurt A. Carlson, When Three Charms but Four Alarms: Identifying the Optimal Number of Claims in Persuasion Settings available from http://www.anderson.ucla.edu/faculty/suzanne.shu/Shu%20Carlson%20Three%20in%20Persuasion.pdf

(2) End – Loading  &   (3) The Double bind:
Eriskson & Rossi (1975); Bodenhamer, Min & Hall (1999); Xiao (2007); Brown & Miller ( 2002); Rosenbach (2002); Cohen & Giangola (2004); http://grammar.about.com/od/e/g/End-Focus.htm

(4) The Logical filter:
Erickson & Rossi (1974, 1975, 1979); Grinder & Bandler (1981); Murphy (2009); Chang (2009); Gilligan (2013); Lankton & Lankton (2014); Zeig & Lankton (2013)

(5) Move to Action.
D. Ariely & D. Zakay, A timely account of the role of duration in decision making. ,Acta psychologica, 2001

(c) Ian Brownlee, Brownlee & Associates, S.L., Madrid, Spain, 20 december, 2016

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10 Reasons to Retire the Traditional “Company Presentation”.

j0285181

One of the most common forms of Business presentations is that of “The Company Presentation”. The purpose is normally to inform the audience about the history and development of the organization from its foundation to the actual date and to show that it is “stable, reliable, with a long history of X, Y and Z”.

In many organizations, it is often developed, and used, to keep traditional C-Suite executives happy: “We have always done it this way so there is no need to change!”, to ensure continued employment for a “special” employee or on the basis of advice from an expensive communication “consultant”who may be unaware of how people actually research possible suppliers or purchases of products or services.
All too frequently:
1. It is far too long.
2. The content is generic and for general “consumption”.
3. It contains far too many unnecessary details.
4. It is based on data: text slides, incomprensible graphics and irrelevant content and all too often is a mere reading lesson with no added value from the spoken input.
5. It is designed to show “stability”: “we have been here for ages and plan to stay!” which implies that we are trustworthy. However, if you have to ask for trust, it has certain psychological implications.
6. It is used as a tool to try to sell the organization & its products / services to the audience.
7. Its orientation is from the point-of-view of the organization and NOT the (potential) clients.
8. It rarely takes the needs, wants and lacks of the audience into consideration.
9. It wastes the audience’s time.
10. It is, in other words, redundant.

There are more reasons why this type of activity should be buried in the trash-can of history. Among the most obvious are:

Due to the accessibility of the internet, many people these days initially use it to find out about products and services using search engines such as Goggle as the first step in either a possible purchase or sale. Once they have identified potential organizations / products of interest they often:

1. Visit the appropriate web page and identify the key information they need. – If you haven’t got a web page, you do not exist!
2. Check the social networks for more information: complaints, recommendations, professional evaluations, etc.
3. Contact friends, family members and other trusted sources for additional information and/or advice.
4. Visit a retail store if they are looking for a particular product and then possibly purchase it on-line.
5. Download the relevant information from each site visited in order to make detailed comparisons.

In the business world, many people also consult LinkedIn and other sites to find out additional information about the organization or executives mentioned on the web site of the organization.

Here I would like to ask the reader two questions:
1. What experiences have you had with Company Presentations as an audience member?
2. How do you obtain information about products or services?

More information can be found here: Oh no! Not ANOTHER boring company presentation!

Alternative:
If an organization really wants to help potential clients make the “correct” decision – whatever that may be – any presentation should be based on covering the Needs, Wants and Lacks which focus on providing the audience with specific solutions to their problems WITHOUT wasting their time and boring them to death.

Obviously, The company presentation could be useful in the context of a start-up pitch however I propose that there are better ways to present this type of material. However, that will be in another post!

So I would suggest that we really reconsider the usefulness of the traditional Company Presentation in light of how people now obtain information via the internet.

All constructive feedback would be gratefully received.

© Ian Brownlee, Brownlee & Associates, S.L., Madrid, Spain, 5th June, 2016.

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Beating the “Upward Communication Data Loss” Problem.

– Ensuring The Decision-maker get ALL the information –

human-pyramid.1

One of the greatest problems we can have is business is to ensure that we reduce the possibility of “Upward communication data loss”! All too often, it appears that the senior managers that we expected to have in our audience are unable to attend so we have to make the presentation to (or negotiate with) second or third level managers who will be expected to pass the information upwards. Many people naively believe that the message that they deliver during the communicative activity – whatever it may be – will be faithfully reproduced 100% by the person or persons delivering our “message” to the higher level directors or decision makers.

A study that we did a few years ago indicated that possibly up to 60% of the information communicated upwards during a negotiation was lost in transit to a missing superior. We obtained similar results with presentation material. Briefly, the method we used in the study was to contact members of the audience soon after the activity and asked them to identify the key take-away points from the session that they passed upwards. This was then compared to the elements considered important by the negotiator / presenter. The respondents were guaranteed anonymity and that their responses would not be cited as the reason for any remedial action taken.

The sad fact is that frequently there are many factors that can influence this upward communication so it is necessary to consider the following questions:
– Memory: How can we be sure that the person has remembered correctly all of the relevant information or have they consciously or subconsciously filtered some of it out?
– Interest: How can we be sure that the person was sufficiently interested in our presentation to pay attention all the time or at least during the key moments?
– Relevance: How can we be sure that the person is aware of the relevance and importance of all our input to the organization and/or the absent senior manager(s)?
– Motivation: How can we be sure that the person has sufficient motivation to communicate all the information upwards in a clear, concise, structured manner which is a true representation of our communication?
– Timing: If there is a time lag between the end of the meeting and the presentation of the data to the absent boss, the quality and quantity of the information remembered and communicated rapidly decreases.

Some of the other factors could include:
– Personal perception of the presenter (professionalism, honesty, knowledge of topic, etc)
– Is the employee doing the upward communicator “For” or “Against” the proposal.
– Other environmental factors (both internal & external): Did they miss any part of the presentation?
– Hidden agendas: Is it possible that they are against you, your organization, or feels that they have not been consulted about the topic, etc?

These elements are some of the factors that influence the upward flow of communication. However, there are various techniques that we can use to increase the possibilities that 100% of our message(s) arrive intact to the appropriate decision-maker:

1. Ensure that our communication (presentation, negotiation, seminar / workshop, etc) is specifically designed to cover the needs, wants and lacks of our target audience in a clear, concise and honest manner. This should be stated at the very start of the presentation – especially in cultures where Deductive Reasoning is the preferred thinking style.

2. Supply detailed support documents at the end of the meeting.
They should:
– Be paper-based.
– Be in a previously prepared folder.
– Contain all of the appropriate information and copies of the slides used and include additional support data if necessary, etc.

When you distribute previously prepared folders to the audience (always after the session), this serves many useful purposes:
– A sign of your professionalism.
– Provides the basis for a Q & A session.
– When people receive a folder with paper material in it, the Kinaesthetic elements of the brain are activated and the folder becomes psychologically connected with the person who gave it to them, the context, and a range of other factors. If the material inside the folder contains data, it is processed by the auditive part of the brain and the visual images / graphs will be processed by the visual part of the brain.
– It permits the presenter to highlight key messages with post-it notes or other indicators of importance.
– The presenter is capitalizing on the Recency Effect which states that the last information or event is that which is remember most clearly. (Last in – first out!).

In negotiations, the “Yesable Proposal” document proposed in “Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In” by Roger Fisher and William L. Ury.” also provides an excellent structure to use.

Possible the least effective way to reinforce memory (or learning) is to give attendees material in a pen drive or to tell them that “I’ll email you the data!” It appears that frequently, the material is not sent when promised or not downloaded, printed or studied later. Many of our clients indicate that they generally give their children the pen drives to use as they see fit.

It appears logical to never assume that your presentation or communication has reached an absent decision-maker. A study published by the ASTD (as was) many years ago indicated that a very high number of managers actually read support documents from presentations, etc., when travelling on business. This re-reading of the material is another example of a meaningful repetition which reinforces both you as communicator and your message.

In summary, If you don’t consider the possible loss of upward bound information to absent decision makers, be prepared for the consequences.

All constructive feedback would be gratefully received.
© Ian Brownlee, Brownlee & Associates, S.L., Madrid, Spain, May, 2016.

English BLOG: ianbrownlee.wordpress.com

BLOG en Español: brownleeassociates.wordpress.com

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5 Easy Ways to Discombobulate a Presenter.

confusedDefinition: verb (used with object), discombobulated, discombobulating.
[dis-kuh m-bob-yuh-leyt]
– To confuse or disconcert; upset; frustrate: feeling disconnected or unbalanced.
E.g., The speaker was completely discombobulated by the hecklers.

The purpose of this article is to ensure that people responsible for organizing presentations are made aware of some of the problems that can be caused by a lack of psychological training in this area, and its application in the real world, so that they can take appropriate action to ensure that the presentations they are responsible for are successful.

In previous articles in my blog, I have talked about how everyone involved in a communicative event, be it a presentation, training course, meeting, etc., arrives with preconceived ideas and expectations about what will happen, the location, the type of interaction, the people, unspoken norms of behaviour (both verbal & non-verbal) and many other elements. All these are based on their previous experience, knowledge, education, culture, etc. When these expectations are not reached – especially in a presentation context, it can seriously affect the clarity of the communication and the perception of the presenter and their message.

This was brought home to me last week when I attended a series of three presentations in the headquarters of a major telecommunications organization in Spain. The speakers were worldwide Subject Matter Experts in their areas of specialization. I must declare that I am a friend of one of the presenters in this event.

The main discombobulators in this event were:

(1) Room set-up.
– The initial site chosen for the presentations was a “standard format” room: The presenter at the front of the room and the audience in front of them. There was a full range of audiovisual support available and was what I believe to be a typical presentation set up. This is the “traditional” type of room where many presenters have accumulated much of their experience and generally tend to expect this type of venue.

In the case used as an example in this article, the room was perceived as being too small for the expected audience. So, at the last minute it was decided to change the presentation site to a different room which was an unusual design (see image).

pres.room bad setup

To give you an idea of the room set-up

The screen was in the centre of the room with a wing on either side which restricted the vision of the presenter to the audience immediately in front of them, unless they moved so far forward that they were almost among the front row of the audience.

(2) No computer in front of the Presenter, only behind them.
The computer which the presenters were to use was on a lectern at the back of the stage which, had it been used, would have made it impossible for the presenters use orientation, proximity, gaze and other non verbal elements to enhance their communicative competence with the audience. All three presenters decided NOT to use it and as a result they were continually looking at the screen to see what was being shown and not focussing on the audience and reading their non-verbal communication.

There are three possible options to resolve this problem:
1. Have a monitor on the floor in front of the presenter so that they can see the screen easily.
2. Have a monitor suspended from the ceiling for the same reason as in #1.
3. Have a laptop computer on a table placed where the presenter wants it NOT where it is most convenient for the organization. This is the easiest, low-cost option!

(3) Focus on the screen and NOT on the Presenter.
The attitude of the organizers appeared to be that it is the screen that is the be-all-and-end-all of the presentation and that the presenter was a mere adjunct to the material instead of the other way around. This attitude was reinforced by the fact that there were two large screen monitor directed towards the audience located on each wing of the room.
It is the presenter and their verbal & non verbal communication that are the most important parts of the presentation. The content on the screen are known as “Visual Aids” – The word “Aid” should not be confused with “substitute”!

It might be more productive to have the presenter on the monitors instead of their slides!

(4) Wifi / Cloud storage / problems.
There were problems with the wifi system. It appeared that one or more of the presenters had intended to use a presentation located in the “cloud” – However, in the first presentation, the problems were sufficiently serious to interrupt the flow of the presentation and discombobulate the presenter. Based on this experience, it is worth reminding everyone that it is better to take your presentation with you in a pen drive rather than trust that you will have the ability to access it in the cloud.

(5) Timing, Seating & Problem solutions.
The session was scheduled to run from 17:00h to 21:00h. Normally, one would expect a break after each presentation or half-way through so that both the audience and the presenters can relax somewhat, stretch their legs and psychologically process the content / messages communicated during the presentation which generally leads to greater retention of the content. A short break also allows the following presenters to find solutions to the problems they have identified during the previous presentation(s).
As an aside and on a personal note, the seats were also uncomfortable, especially for four hours!

Consequences:
1. The first presenter was walking up and down the width of the auditorium like a caged lion; frequently turning to see what was on the screen, turning their back on one side of the audience and then on the other. In general, their non-verbal communication (gaze, orientation and posture) were not a true reflection of their skills.They appeared to be producing extremely high levels of adrenalin, testosterone which results in lower levels of cortisol due to the stress caused in this environment.

2. The second and third presenters were more anchored in their preferred presentation point which meant that the audience were more focussed on them so that the content of their communication (visual, verbal and non-verbal) entered into their subconscious mind via their peripheral vision. However, it appeared that both presenters were discombobulated by the environment. This resulted in the audience members seated on both sides had greater problems seeing the presenters.

It must be stated that ALL of the Presenter did an excellent job bearing in mind the unexpected and unnecessary problems encountered in the presentation site. I am sure that in a “normal” presentation site where the organizers are aware of, and have taken steps to ensure the correct application of , the psychological elements related to presentations, the presentations would have been much better.

There are many other elements that can discombobulate presenters, trainers, meeting leaders, facilitators, etc., for additional information, please feel free to contact me.

All constructive will be greatly appreciated.

© Ian Brownlee, 8th March, 2016. Madrid, Spain.

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Criticism vs Feedback : They are NOT the same!

business criticismOver the past 25 years, I have frequently noticed that there appears to be a tendency by trainers, coaches and other “Talking Therapy” specialists to confuse the meaning of these two terms and to use them interchangeably. I propose that this usage is incorrect and the purpose of this article is to clarify the use of these two commonly misused words.

Criticism

It is important to note that the dictionary definition of the word “Criticize” is one thing while in the real world where we all live it is something else because of the implictions communicated by our verbal and non-verbal communication based on our experiences, values and so forth.

It usually occurs when someone has not met the, often unspoken, expectations of another person. The receiver is usually expected to have read the mind of the other person, known what was expected by/of them and then (deliberately) not complied. The intention of criticism is NOT to help or improve the receiver, but more to induce a feeling of guilt in them for their actions. The criticism and its cause is often repeatedly used by the supposed “victim” as a way to continue chastising the receiver for their behaviour as a form of emotional blackmail.

Frequently it appears that both the verbal and non-verbal communication of the critics are at opposite end of a spectrum: At one end is that of a “Victim” and at the other end is that of an “Aggressor”. It is not unusual for a person to move along this spectrum from their starting point as a victim who, moved by their emotions, move along the scale to become much more aggressive.

The verbal language of a victim is often:
– Full of emotive language.
– Questioning (“What did I do to deserve this?” or “How could you do this to ME?”).
– Blaming / accusing (“Because of you XYZ has happened!” or “You always do this!”.
– The word “YOU” is used frequently.
– The speed of speaking is often slower.

The Non-verbal communication of a victim often includes, but is not limited to:
– Hunched shoulders.
– Lowered head.
– Gaze directed downwards.
– Protective gestures / postures.
– Changed orientation.
– A desire for proximity, etc.

As mentioned above, 0n occasion, the communication may be that of someone being aggressive or so angry that they are willing/wanting to physically fight.

Their Verbal communication often involves among other elements:
– A raised voice.
– Violent / aggressive or foul language.
– A higher register.
– A faster speaking speed.

Their non-verbal communication usually includes:
– Standing upright.
– Threatening postures.
– Fists clenched.
– Rapid gestures.

NOTE: Some people use the phrase “Positive criticism” in an attempt to soften their message which is still basically based on the concept of meeting expectations. The belief is that by using the word “Positive”, it somehow negates the negative perception of the word “Criticism”.
E.G., “You did much better than I expected!”
(Expectation: you were going to do it much worse!) This begs the question: How badly was the critic expecting the person to be?

Criticism usually appears to based on emotional reasons rather than logical ones. It also tends to come from family members, friends or people who feel that they have a “special” relationship with the receiver which gives them the right to make these types of comments. In other words, it is frequently based on assumptions!

Some example of “Criticism” are:
– “You only care about yourself!”.
– “I did not expect that from you!”.
– “You sound like you are full of yourself”.

Feedback:

The objective of feedback is usually to provide meaningful, relevant and useful information designed to help someone improve in a specific area.

“Negative Feedback” is used to correct undesired behaviour by pointing out what was done badly and the implications of continuing the same activity and ‘providing a definite plan for improvement.

The alternative is known as “Positive Feedback” and is designed to reinforce desired behaviour by recognizing exactly what has been done and encouraging its future use in appropriate contexts.

While many people like to give feedback, quite often it is based on the giver’s own perception, values and experience which might not be valid or appropriate. This often occurs in a business context where a Senior Manager might dictate the norms of behaviour expected- for example, in a presentation – and insist upon compliance: “My way or the highway!” even though science or logic disagree with his ideas.

Examples of feedback include:
– “To make your presentation even better next time I would ….!” (Specific advice)
– “While replying to certain comments it might have been more advantageous to do X, Y & Z”.

To be effective, feedback:
– Should normally be given by a specialist or someone experienced in the area being dealt with.
– The language used should be emotion-free, based on data, clear, concise, and limited to the area being discussed.
– Needs to be given immediately after the event has occurred. If delayed, it loses value.
– Should always be based on observed behaviour and never on reported behaviour or mind-reading.
– Must be given by a person who is properly prepared. The Critical Incidence Log is a very useful tool to use. Clck here to see the relevant article.

The structure and procedures used in providing feedback differ if one is giving it to correct undesired behaviour or to provide help to improve someone’s skills with positive intent. This article is only concerned giving the latter type of feedback.

When talking about feedback, it is interesting to note that there are basically three types of people to consider when giving it.

1. People who prefer their own Internal feedback:
These people do not normally need to receive feedback from an outside source based on external evaluation sheets and so on. They implicitly trust their own feelings and evaluation of their own behaviour. They KNOW when they have done a great / terrible job and respond accordingly. They tend to reject feedback in general.

2. People who need External feedback.
Other people need to receive feedback from outside sources to validate themselves & their actions / behaviour. These can be written evaluations, face-to-face interviews or any other formal or informal type of feedback. A simple hand-on-the-shoulder combined with a “Well done” from the boss or other “authority” figure will function as reliable feedback for them as will a detailed analysis of the end-of-course reports from a training session or the annual performance appraisal. They are also more comfortable with a formal, schedule feedback session and tend to react positively to feedback.

3. People who need both Internal & External feedback.
These people tend to vary the type feedback they require based on the context of the activity, the audience, their knowledge, experience and skills related to the activity.

When to ignore feedback:
There appears to be some unwritten rule that when one is given feedback, it is important to pay attention to it and automatically apply it in similar situations or contexts. However, there are times when it may be less productive to apply it and MORE productive to ignore it. Some examples of time when the application of feedback should be considered are:
– When the person giving the feedback is not a specialist or has not received specific training in the area.
– Only one person gives the feedback: You can never please everyone so if only one person is “unhappy” or gives this feedback, maybe it is ONLY their perception.
– Outside factors – often unrelated (the giver is having a “bad hair day”!)
– Hidden agendas of the feedback giver: the desire to belittle the receiver, etc.
– Unknown factors that influence feedback.
– Not all feedback is well-intentioned.
– Not all feedback is “true”.

A clear understanding of the difference between criticism and feedback is vital in today’s world and our daily life: from parents educating their children who often need feedback but only receive criticism to teachers / trainers or business people in a work context or “Talking therapy” specialists such as coaches, NLPers, psychologists, psychiatrists, etc.

In training courses given by Brownlee & Associates, we normally videotape ALL the participants TWICE so that they are required to prove that they have learnt the material covered: the first time they are required to use the material and then they receive feedback from their classmates and the trainer, after being given time to apply the feedback, they are videotaped again. The second videos are not reviewed on the course but each student receives their on DVD which contains both activities for self analysis at home.

It is VITAL to remember that there are many cultures where feedback and criticism are frowned-upon and great care must be taken not to offend the receiver.

All constructive feedback will be gratefully received.

© Ian Brownlee, Brownlee & Associates,S.L., Madrid, Spain, December, 2016

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6 Common Interviewing Problems.

Interviewers with excellent rapport.

Interviewers with excellent rapport.

In general, the purpose of an interview is perceived as being to obtain information from one person by another person who asks a series of questions in a logical sequence to reach a specific objective.

This definition might equally be applied to coaches, psychologists, psychiatrists and other “talking therapy” practitioners. It also applies in business to certain roles in the Human Resources, sales & marketing departments, etc.

One group that might not fit into this definition are Politicians of all nationalities. All too often, their specific (and unspoken) objective is (usually) to NOT answer the questions asked and only push the responses that their platform / party want.

Obviously, there are many excellent interviewers who are highly-trained, professional and well-versed in the skills and techniques necessary to fulfil the task to perfection. However, having seen many interviews & interviewers in different contexts, countries and cultures, it appears that the principal errors of many interviewers appear to be those indicated below:

1. Extended, complex and unclear questions.
Possible the most common error appears to be that the interviewer has not prepared clearly defined questions that are drafted in such a way that leaves no doubt about what is being asked. Many interviewers often enter into long and complicated preambles before actually reaching the crux of the matter instead of getting straight to the point. How can someone be expected to answer a vague, badly-structured, convoluted question clearly? Often the resulting response is unclear, inappropriate or “unrelated”to the question asked.

2. Not quantifying the response.
There appears to be a tendency NOT to quantify the response required by asking for very specific details such as: “What three things would you…?” or “What is the specific timetable for XYZ in the next month?”. This omission means that the response can be as long or as short as the respondent wants.

3. Using “double binds”.
The “Double Bind” involves feeding the respondent with two possible options or two possible responses / solutions: E.g., “Should the government do XY& Z or AB & C?. It is generally much more effective to ask “What exactly should the government do?” (then stop talking, and gaze silently at the respondent until they answer).

4. Not asking follow-up questions.
It seems that many interviewers prefer not to ask follow-up questions or are instructed not to – especially if touches an area that might be polemic in some way. One way to do this is to use an echoic response of the response to the question as a bridge into a follow-up question designed to extract more detailed information.

5. Fear of alienating or “offending” the interviewee & the possible consequences.
This is often closely connected to the previous point: Frequently the interviewer fears that if they are too “professional” (read “pushy”) in trying to get more detailed answers, the subject might refuse to collaborate with the interviewer, their organization or bring about unexpected and undesirable consequences to all those involved.

6. Not using reflective Communication (both verbal and non-verbal).
If an interviewer wants to establish rapport rapidly with the interviewee, it is vital that they learn how to “pace” and then “lead” both the verbal and non-verbal communication of the subject. When the interviewer “paces and leads”, they are psychologically creating a collaborative effect in the subconscious of the other person which means that they will tend to feel more comfortable and be more willing to open up more. When the spoken and non-verbal communication are different, they tend to induce a conflictive perception in the subconscious mind of the interviewee. It is vital to note that people reflect back the subconscious perception that they have of the other person.
A simple test to discover the degree of rapport between people is to observe their non-verbal communication. If the rapport level is high, the body language will be very similar and if rapport is low, it will be very different.

Consequences of the points indicated above:

When the interviewer has not prepared clear & concise questions, frequently it results in the interviewee not answering the question asked and diverting the topic to the area that is their main interest.

Frequently, the results obtained are that the answers may be evasive, confusing, incomplete or inappropriate because the respondent has had to listen to, and mentally process, all the “waffle” that preceded the question while also trying to prepare a relevant response.

When the “double bind” has been used, the tendency is to reflect back the last option mentioned by the interviewer – This is known as an “Echoic” response and often indicates that little real thought has gone into the response.

Conclusions:
Every interview has a purpose and it is up to the interviewer to determine what their objectives are – collaborative or conflictive – and choose the most appropriate techniques to reach their goal.

All too often, the interviewee is unjustly classified as being “difficult”, “evasive”, “uncooperative”, etc., due to the lack of skills and / or preparation and behaviour of the interviewer rather then recognizing that the interviewer often shares a large part of the blame for this perception.

For additional articles on Questions please follow these links:

Dealing with Questions during a Presentation. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p2guX2-dE

“An elephant in the Room” # 3 : Avoiding Unacceptable Behavior in Presentations.
Short link: http://wp.me/p2guX2-2w

Direct vs Rhetorical Questions in Presentations. Short link: http://wp.me/p2guX2-68

The Traditional Selling Cycle Vs the Modern Buying Cycle of the 21st Century.
Short link: http://wp.me/p2guX2-T

B&A Specialized Training Course:
Advanced Questioning Techniques:
The Meta Model Vs. The Milton Model.
(Also available in Spanish)

Training Courses for Specific Target Groups:
– Senior Management in both national & International organizations.
– “Talking Therapy” Specialists: Psychologists, Psychiatrists, Coaches, etc.
– Journalists, radio & television interviewers.
– HR professionals (recruitment, selection, generalists, etc).
– Sales and Marketing Specialists.
– Health Care Providers.
– Lawyers, Negotiators, Mediators & Arbitrators.
– Generalists: Any one who needs to be able to delve deeply into the area of questioning.

For more details, please contact Ian Brownlee at brownleeassociates@gmail.com or telephone (+34) 91.526.2505.

All constructive feedback would be appreciated.
© Ian Brownlee, Brownlee & Associates, S.L., Madrid, Spain. November, 2015.

Posted in Advanced Communication, Cursos, General Communication, Leadership, Meetings & Teleconferences, Negotiation, Neuro Linguistic Programming, Sales, Training & Development | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

So You Want to Present Like Steve Jobs?

(2)Ian.Blog.june.2014While many people seem to view Steve Jobs as the best presenter ever, I do not necessarily agree with this opinion. He undoubtably had a “spark” that many people try to emulate and few achieve. However, in order to better understand Steve Job’s success in presentations, it is important to examine the context where they take place; the techniques used; the structuring of the communication, etc.

Context:
Whenever an event was scheduled for Steve Jobs, it was always well publicized in advance to potential attendees who were psychologically prepared to be positive. You could say that the had been “primed” beforehand! His presentations appeared to be based on knowing audience expectations and then playing to them. I assume that Apple used “product registration” data from purchasers of products to send invitations to selected buyers, reporters & specialist writers, and other influential people. The people invited often tended to be people who have had great experiences with apple: one might call them “apple-addicts” who had purchased Apple products – often waiting in line for hours in order to be one of the first purchasers of a new product or being the first to pre-order a new one or who were the first to publish the press releases from Apple. These Apple-addicts are often known as “innovators”- they MUST always have the latest model; they get bored quickly and like to change frequently. For that reason the presentations were very visual with minimal written text, fast-paced and segmented in elements of “short” duration which involved frequent mental “changes in activity” which increases attention.

The previous elements lead to the members / attendees belonging to an “elite” group who tend to attend ANY Apple event with a “Pro” attitude instead of a “wait & see” one. When one is in an environment where they majority of people are “Pro” (or “anti”) a person / product / person, etc., it is normal for many people to adapt to the behaviour of the group which leads to an increased sense of belonging. The psychological term for this phenomena is “Group think” or “Group dynamics”. In summary, Steve Jobs was literally “preaching to the converted”.

Some of the techniques that he used include the following:
As soon as he appeared on stage – dressed informally and looking somewhat like a “geek”,, there was usually a standing ovation, cheering and signs of “hero worship” which he actually reflected back to the audience by also clapping, doing victory gestures and he frequently made a humourous comment which was followed by more laughing / clapping which, in turn, reinforced the rapport. Since I have not attended one of his “performances”, I have no idea if this audience response was orchestrated or not. I have, however, viewed many videos of his “shows” in researching this brief article and am using the You Tube video “Steve Jobs Introducing the original IPad” as a typical example of his presentation style.
As an additional tactic to gain rapport, he often used communication designed to elicit an “echoic” response from the audience: frequently saying things like: “Isn´t this great”, “fantastic”, “Wow”, “Cool!”, etc., which was reinforced by simultaneous congruent non verbal communication which was often reflected back to him via some kind of confirmatory, or echoic, response from the audience. He tends to remain more or less static and thereby capitalizes on the “Spatial Anchoring” effect: Putting himself and the image on the screen into “Focussed vision” or close “peripheral vision”. He does not go “walkabout” around the stage and instead used controlled movement.

On occasions, his opening comments related directly to the emotional part of the audience’s subconscious via their shared knowledge, experiences, perceptions, hopes and dreams and which most people would accept as being true. On occasions he reinforced the emotional elements of his communication through the use of metaphors and stories which are usually remembered for the emotions created and not for the details included in them. He also used personalized anecdotes which resonated with the audience to further reinforce the similarities between himself and the audience members which increased the level of rapport even more: “He is like us… we are like him”.

Another one of his favourite techniques appeared to be the use of the “double bind” where he continually contrasted Apple’s “crap” competitors / products with Apple & their products. He usually talked negatively about the competitors first and then talked positively about his product.
An additional technique that he uses is that of “Meaningful repetition” which is where he repeats the good points and build upon them in a ways which links the elements in functional memory.
This is also seen in the structure that he uses: The position today (negative) Vs What COULD be or what IS: the future with “Apple” (positive).

Another element that he uses is that of “Future pacing” where he takes the audience into a bright, rosy future where everything is perfect and he & Apple are the providers of success in this brave, new world. This works very well when he has effectively and elegantly “paced” the audiences’ experience and they believe, or agree, 100% with what he is saying or has said. There are certain Ericksonian hypnosis techniques that involve the use of “Future pacing” in hypnotic interventions.

Steve Job’s use of gestures to reinforce verbal content were very congruent. The gestures were predominantly Kinesthetic and typical hand gestures included : drawing out / extending; balancing “X” Vs “Y”; out-of-self, etc. As well as using “Open” gestures to appear to occupy more space, using expansive gestures to produce testosterone / adrenaline which, in turn, produce more self-confidence, energy, etc.

The Structure used in the Ipad launch presentation:
– He starts in the past then provided “updates”: past action taken and consequent results. All based on simple yet understandable data and linked to clean, simple photos which served to both validate his product and the audience’s responses.
– He then talks about the position today: How the past has led to today’s success. Once the audience have a clear understanding of the position today, he leads into an analysis of the specific problems that are being encountered by users today. The specific example that he uses in the cited video is that of the need for a device that can used to fill the gap between a Phone and a Laptop. He then proceeds to investigate what is required to satisfy these needs and presents one possible alternative: a Netbook which he then proceeds to discount and actually laughs at and the audience join with him in the idea of a netbook being the answer! One alternative out so what is left?

In order to provide a second alternative (a double bind) He then moves on to another section: His / Apple’s proposal to fill this gap which is where he presents the new IPad: basing this part of his presentation on what is needed, he presents the characteristics in such a way that it is obviously the best way to fill the gap!

What is interesting is that during this part of the presentation, he makes great use of spatial anchoring as mentioned previously and his physical presence is ALWAYS closely associated (subconsciously) with the image behind him.
When he moves on to the demonstration part of the show, he becomes very “Kinesthetic” in that he sits down in an easy chair close to the screen (again spatial anchoring) which serves as an example of the ease-of-use of the IPad. The perception is of comfort and usability anywhere and everywhere, and the ability to do whatever you want to with no fuss or bother.
Once again he uses “Meaningful repetition” by frequently repeating the phrase “That simple!” over and over again.

The next area he covers deals with a complete description of the product: he focuses on both the visual and kinesthetic elements of the Ipad. This then leads into the technical details that might be of interest for the auditives in the audience who are interested in the details. He does not overlook the “Green Credentials” related to Apple and this product in particular and he finishes this part of his show talking about the Support available from Apple via the App Store.

The penultimate phase of his presentation consisted of a group of various App suppliers promoting special apps for Apple IPad. Some chose to show their apps while seated which subconsciously linked their app with the concept of comfort and ease-of-use while others did it standing up.

The last past of his presentation was dedicated to the additional benefits available to buyers of the product which, as any great salesman knows, is a key element in “closing” the sale. “Not only do you get X, Y and Z, but you also get A.B. & C.”

To summarize, If you have a long history of producing cutting-edge world-class products with a universally recognized organization to support you that are both “accepted & recognized” by everyone AND you are either an innate natural communicator or are capable of appearing to be so, then you may have the basis for trying to emulate Steve Job’s success.

Take away tips to help you achieve your dream:
1. Have a “primed” and “Pro” audience available.
2. If you can include “product-addicts” &/or innovators, even better.
3. Learn to elegantly use the various communication techniques mentioned in this article.

Remember! This is NOT the way that I would recommend that you do a structured business presentation to senior management in Europe or Asia.

All constructive feedback would be appreciated.

© Ian Brownlee, Brownlee & Associates, S.L., Madrid, September, 2015.

Posted in Advanced Communication, General Communication, Neuro Linguistic Programming, The Art & Science of Presenting in Public | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reflections upon Completion of a Training Project in Manila

mall of Asia

Mall of Asia, Manila.

Jeepney

A Jeepney

I have just had the pleasure of delivering our course, “The Art & Science of Presentations for Marketing & Sales” to 10 batches of C-suite Executives, Senior Managers and their subordinates (in groups of 10-12) in one of the leading companies in the Philippines.

This article will initially deal with the project context, content and feedback from the clients which will be followed by a detailed list of practical learning points and advice for overseas trainers.

Training Context
Trainees were being prepared to make excellent, effective & highly professional presentations to the Company’s “target audiences”: C-suite Executives, other company employees & potential and actual clients / suppliers in addition to government organizations (both national & international). The focus was on formal, structured and concise communication within the ambit of the marketing & sales areas of the organization.

Based on the participants’ feedback, our course differed from other training courses because of:
– The practical application of NLP, psycholinguistics, psychology & kinesics to developing and delivering excellent presentations.

– The importance of congruent verbal and non-verbal communication as a sign of the presenter’s self-confidence which enables them to control both themself and the audience.

– The focus on the use of the key elements of non-verbal communication by the presenter as an additional element of persuasion and the effective reading & interpretation of the audience’s non-verbal communication.

– The practical skills and techniques of choosing, structuring & presenting data by focussing on a range of concepts such as “less is more”.

– The focus on the application of simple psychological concepts which can be applied to structuring the presentation to clearly communicate key messages to ensure understanding, memorability and facilitate decision making.

– How a clear understanding of the audiences’ background,  expectations and needs, wants & lacks are half the battle in ensuring that the intended message is clearly understood by the attendees.

– The role and application of “Limitation Factors” upon presenters to ensure that the presentation gets to the point and does not waste the audience’s time.

Participant’s post-course evaluations indicated that: Agree %
1. The topic was relevant and will be useful in the company and my area of responsibility 100%
2. The speaker was knowledgeable about the topic and was effective in facilitating the group. 100%
3. The activities were effective in achieving application of learning & promoted interaction. 100%

Other Trainee Comments from Post-course Evaluations indicated that the programme was – Structured; Interesting; Easy to absorb and well worth the time invested.

The trainer:
– Had a way of asking questions which removed the stress & nervousness of participants.
– Was able to clearly point out areas of improvement of participants.
– Actively handled and resolved weaknesses.
– Had a high energy level.
– Engaged participants from the beginning.

In every course, the same message was delivered to the attendees from both senior management and the trainer: “You are senior managers and it is your responsibility to actually use the new skills acquired on this course and ensure that your team members also apply them – Lead by example!”.

The Senior management from the President downwards provided 100% support at all times and were the “White Knights” of the project. The client has apparently created a precedent by investing so much time, energy and resources in this training project and providing training in cascade so that manager can ensure that the skills and techniques taught are consciously applied by all their staff.
Post-course assistance was provided in ensuring that the skills and techniques are applied so that there is a clear R.O.I.

Ian working with a group.

A group doing a Peripheral Vision exercise

edited mentoring

An in-course Mentoring session

Ian posture exercise

A group doing a “Posture” exercise

bell tower posture

A group doing a “Gesture” exercise.

I also had the pleasure of doing a four-hour interactive training session on “N.L.P. for Trainers” for approx. 70 in-company trainers – at one time! – which looked at using a range of different Neuro-Linguistic Programming techniques & skills in the training & development area including, but not limited to, stage skills, material design, interpersonal communication, etc. Due to the fact that the participants were all trainers, there was a great willingness to participate in a wide range of practical activities and absolutely no self-consciousness about “performing in public” so a great time was had by all!

Learning Points for Trainers:

Feedback:
All of the trainees were expected to provide feedback on the presentations of their companions in each group. In the first groups, which were made up of C-Suite and Senior Managers, the feedback was, in general, precise, to-the-point and designed to help the receiver improve their second presentation. Some of the C-Suite and other senior staff gave feedback which anticipated that of the trainer. In each course we had a “Presentation Panel” where 3 attendees were chosen to provide detailed feedback for presenters and then the other trainees were given the opportunity to provided supplemental feedback. After each presenter, the panel members changed.

The later groups, which were generally lower level managers, were generally less willing to provide “real” or constructive feedback to their companions, even when there were glaring deficiencies in the first presentations. This, of course, meant that the trainer had to provide more extensive feedback. However, in certain cases, some trainees were mentored during the time given to apply the feedback given to them about their first presentation before presenting it a second time. This mentoring often involved helping trainees who had less practical knowledge of PowerPoint or had not applied specific techniques in their presentation.

Interruptions during the course:
Almost all of the trainees dedicated 100% of their attention to the material taught on the course. However, some were distracted by SMSs, phone calls, etc., which meant that they often missed key components of the course and this obviously affected their practice presentations. In order to prevent this happening, the trainees were told at the very beginning of the session that they should turn off their mobile phones and check them during the breaks. With continual offenders, they were finally give a choice: either leave the course and then explain to their boss why they had left or turn off their phones until the coffee / lunch break! All chose the latter option!

Other learning points for international trainers who may be working in the Philippines:
1. Check with senior management about whether they want European or Asian style feedback.“European” appears to be much more direct while “Asian” tends to be more circumspect and “softer”.

2. Find out about the organization’s dress code expectations for trainers & consultants.

3. Be open and relaxed about yourself and you’ll get the same from the Filipinos.

4. Be honest and specific when giving feedback. At the start of each course, clearly differentiate between “criticism” & “feedback”.

5. Take detailed notes about what happens in the training room.

6. Prepare an end-of-session report for each group upon completion of the session using the notes you have taken.

7. Provide the criteria & rationale used for your evaluations of students in your reports.

8. Provide a brief end-of-project summary report giving basic details of the sessions and the results obtained.

9. Be prepared to have in-company trainers in your sessions observing / helping you.

10. Do not be mercenary! Trust your client and they’ll trust you.

11. Watch your language – certain words are frowned upon while a synonym is acceptable.

12. Investigate norms of Filipino non-verbal communication BEFORE you go.

13. Be respectful of, and interested in, the language, culture and history of the Philippines and do not make unnecessary comparisons with your culture.

Other key points:
1. Give frequent breaks during the course as people habitually tend to drink a lot of water. I recommend a 5-minute break every hour.

2. Some people use Apple Mac computers which often tend to have problems with projectors. The solution that worked for us was to disconnect any internet connection and then connect the projector. Normally windows-based laptops seem to have no problems!

3. Apparently Filipinos eat 5 times a day and when they are happy or sad – 7 times! Be prepared to have a lot of great food & drink in the training room.

4. It seems that flipcharts with white paper are not that common in the Philippines so let your client know well in advance that you will need one (or more!) And the appropriate pens.

5. Wall outlets in the Philippines accept American-style, 2 rectangular pin plugs and not the round, 2-pin European style.

6. The traffic in Metro Manila can be incredibly bad. Get a decent hotel as close as possible to the training site to avoid the interminable traffic jams. I stayed at the Ascott Makati – You can read my evaluation on Trip Advisor – which was normally a 20 minute drive from the training site – except on Friday nights!

Some final recommendations:
Anyone working in Asia should consider adding some sort of extra “Added Value” element over and above what is included in the training contract as it is normally greatly appreciated and highly valued by the client.

I was fortunate enough to arrive a couple of working days before the courses started and was able to meet, and get valuable advice from, my contacts in the organization before starting the training which added to the success of the project. Anyone involved in doing training should consider arriving a couple of days early to get acclimatized and also have time to get to know the organization and people that they will be working with.

I am looking forward to going back to the Philippines as it was a memorable, stimulating and rewarding experience working with the organization, the trainees and all the other Filipinos that I came in contact with.

All of the comments in this article are based on my own personal experiences and perception & might be different for other people.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

© Ian Brownlee, July, 2015.

Posted in Neuro Linguistic Programming, Sales, The Art & Science of Presenting in Public, Training & Development | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Presenting to Small vs Large Audiences.

j0402960Note: all of the comments in this  article are also applicable to trainers.

As a regular part of our job, we are expected to present to audience of different sizes that might range from a “mini-group” of 1-2 people up to hundreds or even thousands of people. It appears that some people tend to treat their audience in difference ways depending upon the size of the audience.

I would propose that it is more efficient to follow one simple set of procedures when dealing with a group on any size.

I shall examine the characteristics of the two group sizes and then suggest ways to ensure that the message that is being sent by the presenter is the same message that arrives in the subconscious mind of the audience.

Characteristics of small groups:
– There often appears to be confusion about the purpose of the activity: Some people seem to think that they are attending a meeting (possibly with slides) while others believe there will be an actual presentation. Since these are two totally different communicative activities, the norms, expectations and behaviour of both the presenter and the audience are different in each one. If the purpose of the activity is not clearly known by the audience beforehand, problems could ensue.

– Group sizes tend to be less than 12 people which has various implications for how we handle the event. It appear that the bigger the group, the easier it is to control the audience members.

– If the attendees have been “invited” to attend the event instead of being sent by their boss, they often tend to be more motivated and interested in the topic. However this motivation can often cause them to try to participate more to show their interest!

– The audience members expect the presenter to be “one of them” and validated either by professional status / qualifications, title / position in the organization, etc. This expectation could lead to the attendees adopting an informal attitude to the activity which can be shown in many different ways. Some of which are; using smart phones, tablets or laptops during the activity; having parallel conversations; leaving & reentering the room, having off-topic discussions and so forth. We recommend that the participants are asked to remove all electronic devices from the tables until the meeting / presentation is over.

– Frequently there appear to be various “Decision-makers” in the group which implies that they are possibly knowledgeable about the topic being presented and therefore want to share their knowledge, experience and opinions with others attendees and, on occasions, drive the decisions made in a certain direction. Frequently, these people think that they have the “right” or “duty” to interrupt the presenter just because of who they are. The do not consider the adverse effects of their intervention: The presentation lasts much longer than planned; the presentation gets sidetracked to other topics; the audience get bored and disconnect, and so on.

To avoid this problem we recommend that the newest / youngest members of the audience contribute their ideas first and then the older, more experienced attendees make their contributions with the Meeting Owner being the last person to make their comments / contribution.

– There are occasions when there is a “Presentation Pirate” present: someone who thinks that they should be doing the presentation; they know more than the presenter; they want to score points in front of the group or have a hidden agenda which they want to play out. We recommend that this type of person is dealt with via the use of  a range of “man management” techniques such as “echoic responses”; relevancy challenges; “Speaker shifts”, etc.

– Many attendees want to actively participate in the development of the activity which results in there being changes which turn the presentation into a discussion and can mean that the presenter loses control of the activity; the “presentation” lasts much longer than planned; the communicative objectives of the presenter are not reached and the professional image of the presenter may be damaged.

– In summary, the lack of a formal statement about expected norms of behaviour can make it difficult for the presenter to control the group – especially if the presenter is not properly trained in “man-management” techniques. All too often the presentation / meeting turns into “Anarchy” where everyone ends up doing whatever they feel like -except participate actively in the event!

Recommended responses with small groups – “Prevention is better than cure”:
– Provide a written guide to expected “norms of behaviour” before the event.
– Use Man-management techniques such as “echoic responses”, etc.

Characteristics of Large groups: large group in auditorium
– There is usually a wide range of knowledge / training / interest /motivation about the subject.
– Normally, the group size is limited by the size of the presentation site.
– There tends to be a tacit acceptance of the standard norms of behaviour for groups of this size.
– The audience expect to have little participation.
– The audience often expect presenter to be “distant” both literally and psychologically.
– They generally expect a “Q & A” session at the end of the presentation.
– Usually they expect informative content.

Once the speaker / presenter can get over the fact that there are a large number of people looking at them and expecting to be either entertained, educated or bored-to-death, they are actually much easier to work with than smaller groups!

Some suggestions for dealing elegantly & effectively with ALL groups irrespective of size.

Always Stand up to Present:
Reasons for NOT presenting while sitting down:
1. When seated, your body produces less adrenalin = less authoritarian tone of voice.
2. Your energy level goes down = the communication is less “animated” & interesting.
3. Your low energy level can be felt by, and subconsciously affects, the audience.
4. When seated it is more difficult to direct your message & energy at the “Power” & the influence(s) = they are blocked by the furniture:
5. The topic becomes “heavy”, more “serious” and less memorable.
6. The audience do NOT have to “look up” at you. This place them in a position of “equality”.
7. When standing your become the professor / Teacher/ Specialist” = more power & control.
8. Sitting often leads to deviations or side-tracking from the original topic.
9. Sitting often leads to excessive questions and interruptions.
10. Your Non Verbal communication becomes more restricted & constrained.
11. You stop being a presenter and often become a mere “computer operator”.
12. Frequently you pay more attention to the computer & your notes than to the audience.
13. Often you are perceived subconsciously as being “entrenched” or defensive.
14 Overall the communication is perceived as LESS convincing, interesting & memorable.

Present from beside the screen.
The following article deals with a closely related topic:
“What is Spatial Anchoring in Presentations and Training?” Short link: http://wp.me/p2guX2-bI

If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always gotten! (NLP Presupposition) Get out of your comfort zone, do something new and watch the reaction!
For more practical information about how to present elegantly and effectively, visit my BLOG: ianbrownlee.wordpress.com

© Ian Brownlee, Brownlee & associates, S.L., Madrid, Spain. 1st July, 2015

Posted in General Communication, Leadership, Meetings & Teleconferences, The Art & Science of Presenting in Public, Training & Development | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Elegantly Managing Customer Complaints.

complaining in shopWhen people are complaining they often develop a different and more aggressive personality. This article will discuss professional ways to handle customer complaints and calm the angry customer.

A customer complaint might be described as a gift from the client to the organization as it is an opportunity for the company to rectify a problem and, at the same time, strengthen customer loyalty. It is better for the customer to tell the company about his problems than for him to stop buying from us without telling us why (A.K.A., voting with their feet!”). A true test of a company’s commitment to service quality is in the way it responds when things go wrong. TARP, a firm specializing in customer service research found: “Customers who complain and have their complaints satisfied are more likely to purchase additional products… than are customers who have experienced no problems with the organization or it’s products.”

Do not try to manipulate the customer’s perception by calling a problem an “incident”. If your salary does not arrive in your bank account every month…for you, is it an incident that you can not pay your mortgage or is it a problem?

The Five-step Technique to Placate an Angry Customer:
1. Acknowledge the emotion                        Complaining in airport
2. Acknowledge the problem
3. Sympathize
4. Apologize
5. Offer Alternative action

Psychological Points
1. Find out exactly why the customer is angry?
It is possible that their aggression covers their fear that they are going to be attacked and blamed for the problem? Have you ever met a customer who calmed down when they were told that they were right to call or send for us? Normally there is a strong need for reassurance behind their aggression. Once the customer knows / feels that they are not going to blamed for anything, they are easier to deal with. If possible, or appropriate, move the customer into a quiet area where other customers cannot hear the conversation. Ensure that the complaint receives priority over other matters.

2. Acknowledge the problem in a constructive manner.
Saying “Oh, we often have that problem with that product” sends the wrong message to the customer. Saying this, effectively indicates to our customers that we know that we manufacture and sell bad products. In other words, you are not defending the company, you are being disloyal to the company and your colleagues.
Say something like “Let’s see how we resolve this quickly for you” – The “we” makes it a collaborative effort to find the best solution, not an individual, possibly imposed, one.

3. Sympathize do not EMPATHIZE.
Tell the customer that you understand their feelings and would probably feel the same as them, if the same thing happened to you. Indicate that it is normal to feel this way and that the inconvenience is unforgivable. When you empathize with someone you “feel their pain / frustration, etc.” which can impede you from actually helping them. This leads you to the next step…

4. Apologize
Only apologize for the inconvenience of having the problem and being forced to contact customer services – nothing else. Focus more on solving the problem now than the apology itself. Do not overdo the apology as repetition can often reinforce the memory of why the apology was necessary which is counterproductive.

5. Offer Specific Actions to resolve the situation.
Saying “I will see if I can get something done for you!” implies that the whole company is inefficient except for the speaker and (s)he has the power to fix everything. It may create a marvelous impression for the speaker but not for the organization.
Once you know EXACTLY what the problem is, work out the solution with the customer. They will often have in mind a solution to their problem and would normally appreciate being asked. If they ask for your solution to the problem, present at least two choices. By putting the solution you prefer last you may influence them to your way of thinking (this is based on the concepts of the double-bind and end-weighting).

Do not promise to “TRY” to find a solution: the word is usually interpreted (subconsciously) as being a lack of commitment to the action. It is better to use “I will do my best to…” or “I will do all that I can to…” or a similar phrase which indicates that the commitment is there but there might be other factors which might intervene in the action.

Always take the customer into a brighter future once the problem is solved: “We are sure that when the problem is solved, you’ll be happy with the result.” Avoid using “If” because it indicates that there is a possiblity it will NOT be resolved – use “when” instead – this indicates that the matter WILL be resolved, the only question is when.

Avoid Letting the Customer’s Aggression Make you Defensive

1. Never ever attack the Salesperson.
It is very easy to do, but remember that they are colleagues and deserves our support because their efforts help to pay our salaries. Defend the sales person. Find out who it was by asking “May I ask exactly who it was?”. Use the person’s name: “What exactly did Pete promise you?” Using the person’s first name personalizes them and makes it much more difficult (psychologically) to attack them. Asking for direct evidence of EXACTLY what they said gives you something to defend.

2. Never attack the product.
The product is where the money comes from to pay your salary. Defend the product. Put the product in perspective and measure it against other products in the same price range/field – not against an unspecified ideal. Did the product fail to meet established claims or the customers perception. Put the problem in perspective. No product lasts forever and maybe their’s has lasted longer than normal. Draw attention to the good points that are special or specific to this product.

3. Never attack the company.
Bring the company close to the customer. Continually reframe the situation:
A. Focus their attention on the group that actually processes the orders/dispatches them, etc., rather than on the multinational aspects of the company.

B. Instead of blaming the company or department for the problems, focus on the good points of the company. If we tell our customers the bad points of the company, we are giving them reasons to go to our competitors. In other words, we are working for our competitors, but without a salary from them. Never say that most of the staff are on holiday / having lunch / in a meeting / sick, etc., as the customer does NOT care about the reasons why the organization can’t or doesn’t respond – all they want is a solution!

C. Never say: “Oh, it is the warehouse again, they never check the orders properly.” Instead say: “I’m sorry, but the product is so popular that occasionally mistakes occur in the urgency of meeting customers’ needs.” Always be positive instead of negative in your responses!

4. Never attack the customer.
Either by verbal or non-verbal language. The customer does not buy our products because of how they work, they buy them because they provide the results they want by covering their needs, wants and lacks. Always make them feel good for having the excellent taste to purchase our products and the good sense to immediately contact customer services when the problem occurred.

5. Work for a resolution to their problem.
It is often easy to tell the customer how you will solve his problem, but frequently you are dependant on other people to carry out the solution. Make it your responsibility to ensure that the promised action is carried out properly and on time. This is a hallmark of good customer service.

6. Ask for feedback on what has happened.
Once the problem has been solved check  with the customer to ensure that they are happy with the result. Then, if appropriate, arrange to contact them a second time as a “follow-up” to the first contact. When you resolve the customer’s problem it will improve the working relationship.

DO:
– Listen to the customer
– Let them give you a full description of the problem.
– Make clear, concise notes: name, contact details, dates, product, etc.
– Apologize for the problem.
– Accept responsibility for RESOLVING the customer’s complaint.
– Fulfill your commitments.
– Set a call-back time and stick to it.
– Whenever possible, make the first move. Do NOT leave it to the customer.
– Say “All we have to do is decide what must be done…and if it is possible, we will do it.
– Offer two possible solutions for resolving the problem.

Avoid:
– Interrupting them.
– Automatically accept responsibility or liability – It might not be the company’s fault!
– Jumping to conclusions before you have ALL the facts.
– Talking down to, or attack, them in any way. E.g., “You must have done…”
– Allowing their bad temper to make you lose your’s!
– Appealing for sympathy by justifying your position. Phrases like “OH, we have a lot of people off sick this week” or “We have just changed the system” only make the person angrier.
– Thinking that the client wants your excuses, they want RESULTS.
– Using logical argument with an angry client. It usually makes them angrier.

Remember, it costs more to gain a new customer than it does to retain a current or old one.

See the following blog posts for more detailed information:
– Dealing with angry people : 12 most common mistakes 1.
Short link: http://wp.me/p2guX2-1k
– Dealing with angry people : 12 most common mistakes 2.
Short link: http://wp.me/p2guX2-1p
–  Dealing with angry people : 12 most common mistakes 3.
Short link http://wp.me/p2guX2-1C
–  Dealing with angry people : 12 most common mistakes 4.
Short link: http://wp.me/p2guX2-30

Sources of Graphics:
Complaining in shop: workpulse.io
complaining in airport: cxcafe.maritzcx.com

© Ian Brownlee, Brownlee & Associates, S.L., Madrid, 28011, Spain. June, 2015

Posted in Advanced Communication, General Communication | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Laser pointers are NOT magic wands so…..Pointers, be gone!

Harry Potter wandAs a professional presenter and presentation skills trainer & mentor, it is depressing to see how many presenters do not dedicate sufficient time to the proper preparation of their presentations – even if it might mean the difference between their organization growing or closing, succeeding or failing.

The 5Ps : “Previous Planning Prevents Poor Proposals”.
This phrase is one of the most important phrases that any presenter should follow 100%. If the presenter is NOT properly prepared, they should not waste their time and that of the audience: they should find a reason to not make the presentation. People are not stupid – they know when a presenter has not prepared properly and has just grabbed an old presentation and adapted it (“done a cut & paste”) so that they have something to present.

One of the ways of identifying if a presenter has prepared properly is whether they use a laser pointer to identify key elements on each slide. If they need a pointer, it is a sure sign that they have not prepared sufficiently.

The Benefits(?) of using a laser pointer:
– The presenter doesn’t have to prepare the presentation in detail. After all, the presenter can “point out” with the laser pointer what is important on each slide.

Bad points:
– It shows a lack of respect for audience because if the presenter had prepared properly, they would have prepared a better way to highlight important information.

– The presenter´s non verbal communication (N.V.C.) is not directed towards the audience but more towards the screen. Specifically:

– Orientation : In order to use a laser pointer the presenter has to shift their orientation from the audience towards the screen. However, if the presenter wants to convince or engage the audience, it is important that their orientation is towards them. Frequently, as a consequence of a shift in orientation, presenters can see audience members using their tablets, smart phones or laptops during the presentation. This can be interpreted in only two ways: (1) They are bored or not engaged by what the presenter is saying and are not educated or respectful enough to hide it or (2) The presenter has lost psychological control over them. This occurs when the presenter is not oriented towards the audience and reinforcing their orientation with posture, gaze and gestures.

– Gaze: In order to effectively and elegantly control the group it is vital that the presenter reinforces their orientation with gaze. Instead of merely finding a friendly face to focus on, the presenter should know who the “Power”. “Influencers” and the “Hot bodies*” are and direct their attention principally to those who matter: the “Power” & the “Influencers”. The presenter should not merely “scan” the room which results in increased levels of adrenaline. It is far better to focus on one person and deliver a couple of phrases to them and then move on to another person. NEVER go from one person to the next person sitting beside them as the audience soon pick up on the presenter’s style and know when the presenter will look at them again! ALWAYS go around the room randomly – EXCEPT when you want to focus on delivering a “special” message to the “Power” or an “Influencer”.

– Proximity: When the presenter change their orientation and gaze, they are also changing their proximity (psychological & physical) which means that the audience tend to disconnect more easily from the presentation and makes it easier for them, psychologically, to start using their communication devices.

– Gestures: Many people suffer from nerves when presenting and often have shaky or trembling hands. This shakiness is accentuated when the presenter is trying to focus on a small spot on the screen and also trying to explain its importance. What do they focus on – the laser pointer & it’s target or what they want to say? This can be very distracting for the audience and also says a lot about the presenter.

It is a sad fact of life that whatever a presenter looks at, and points to, ends up being what they talk to. The effort of making sure that the pointer stays centred on the target means that it becomes the focus of attention. When the presenter is speaking to the screen, it may also cause listening problems for some audience members.

When the presenter CORRECTLY applies all of the above-mentioned elements of N.V.C. in a presentation, they combine to ensure that the totality of the verbal and non-verbal communication is congruent and directed towards the audience and not towards the screen which, in turn, reinforces the value of the presenter and his message.

If anyone has doubts about any of the elements mentioned above, the solution is simple: try each element in their next presentation and observe the results and then consider their implications.

An alternative and more effective technique to using a laser pointer: “Directionals”.

What exactly are “Directionals”?
Their purpose is to clearly draw attention to key elements that the presenter believes that the audience need to consciously focus on without sacrificing the presenter’s N.V.C. and losing control of the audience. In addition, it enables the presenter to:
– appear modern & up-to-date with the latest, most effective communication techniques.
– indicate that the presentation has been meticulously planned.
– show their respect for the audience.

Directionals are created using the different shapes that can be found in PowerPoint under the “insert” tab. The shapes we prefer are usually found in “Basic Shapes” or “Arrows” although other shapes can be used.
– The presenter chooses one specific shape and place it around the area to be highlighted – ensuring that the format of the shapes is appropriate. (Examples are given below.)

The shape should then be animated in such a way that the audience, who are looking at the screen, are drawn to the moving object and focus on it and where it stops. (Examples below.)

The use of “Directionals” is based, in part, on the fact that when something is static or unmoving, it does not attract undue attention. As soon as a static object starts moving, attention is drawn to it. Think about the design & use of camouflage clothing: when a soldier is wearing camouflage and does not move, it is difficult for the enemy to locate them, but as soon as they move they are much easier to see. In presentations, we have all had an audience member stand up and walk towards the door. What do the other attendees do? They usually stop listening to the presenter and follow the person as they leave the room!

Directionals: Personalized animations:
Here are some of the directional animations that we use. There are, however, an almost unlimited range of possibilities available in PowerPoint.
Enter + appear = poor – if a direction just “appear” without movement, it is often overlooked.
Enter + Bounce = good
Enter + Emphasis = good
Enter + Increase = good
Enter + Spin = good
Important elements to consider:
– Pronounced movement – Ascend / descend, etc. without being done to excess.
– Maximum time of animation: 2 seconds.
– Minimum line thickness: 5 (in Arial)
– Maximum 5 Different “Directionals” per slide. Recommended: 3.
– Line colour appropriate to the background colour of the slide.

Summary:
In order to ensure that the presenter is using all of the key communication elements in their interaction with the audience, it appears obvious that using a laser pointer, while being an easy option for the presenter, is NOT an effective way of using their N.V.C. to enhance the delivery and memorability of the message.

Your feedback on this article would be appreciated.

* “Hot bodies” have absolutely NO influence over the decisions made and are there merely to make the audience bigger).

© Ian Brownlee, Brownlee & Associates, S.L., Madrid, Spain. February, 2015.

Posted in Advanced Communication, General Communication, The Art & Science of Presenting in Public, Training & Development | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

7 Points to Consider when Firing Someone.

Being-firedWhile this article is written with the HR professional in mind, the contents are applicable to anyone who is required to fire an employee.

Situation:
Mike is a member of the Human Resources Department in a multinational company and has been tasked with terminating the employment of an employee. This was the first time that he had been required to do this task and he felt sure that he could handle it easily, elegantly and professionally. He made sure that he had all the relevant HR documentation and that it was right up-to-date. He called the employee into his office and, in an attempt to prepare the ground, started with a little bit of small talk as a way to ease into the difficult part of the conversation. After a couple of minutes, he started into his prepared speech by explaining the situation of the organization, the effects of the current economic situation and various other factors that had led to their meeting. Before reaching the part of the conversation where he actually told the person that their services were no longer required by the organization, the employee had anticipated what was coming and started weeping softly while appearing to physically deflate into the chair. Mike immediately felt bad, offered some tissues and that was when he lost control of the situation: the employee started using every emotional trick to avoid what was coming – they started by talking about the stress and strain of being the only breadwinner in the family; the number of people who depended on them for food and shelter; their old and frail parents who needed constant care and the ongoing medical bills and so on. Finally, Mike could take no more and said that he would see what could be done and would contact the employee later. You can imagine the rocket he got from his boss when he told him that the task had not been done!

Once Mike left his bosses office, he sat down and did a detailed self-analysis of what had happened and what he could learn, and apply, from this experience and this is what he discovered:

One main learning point was that it appears that most people have an idea when the possibility of their dismissal is high in their organization and that they might be in line for the axe so they often have little compunction in preparing a detailed strategy to delay or avoid the event.

Points to remember with a straightforward dismissal:
1. Always be well prepared for the dismissal. Have all the relevant data and documents available for the meeting. If you have a “Critical Incidence Log” available, make a copy of the relevant pages (See this BLOG article) so that they can be shown, if necessary, to the employee.

2. The decision has been made, often by a person in a more senior position, and you have been chosen to carry it out. It is a difficult task and is usually only given to someone perceived as been able to carry it out professionally and elegantly.

3. It often boils down to a simple choice: you dismiss the person or both of you are out. If the person tasked with the dismissal in unable to carry out the task, it can adversely affect the career prospects of the person and, in the worst of cases, lead to their demotion or even dismissal.

4. This particular activity is NOT a discussion. It is NOT (normally) a negotiation. It IS the communication of one simple message. The objective of the meeting is clear: To ensure that the employee understands that they are no longer employed by the organization. The person should not get involved in a discussion with the employee as this tends to give them the hope of a reprieve. It must be noted that different “rules” apply if a “Negotiated Exit” negotiation is being conducted.

5. Psychologically, little or no lead in is much better – Get straight to the point and give the bad news first and then whatever “good” news exists. This structure uses the power of the Primacy & Recency effect: With the primacy effect, people tend to remember the first time more than repeated events &/or the beginning of an event more than the central part. The Recency effect indicates that people tend to remember the last time or piece of information more clearly than that done or given beforehand. The “good” news might include more favourable terms and conditions of separation, assistance with a new job search, a written reference or anything that the organization offers in terms of post dismissal support.

6 Many people feel that it is better to empathize with the person. The problem with empathy is that it implies that one shares the same feelings and emotions of the other person. When I have to fire someone, I do NOT want empathy which could prevent me from carrying out the task at hand. I need to understand how the person probably feels but I look for neutrality: I have a task to perform and have to do it ethically & professionally.

7. Stages in the dismissal interview:

The initial response of the employee is usually highly emotional and follows the “The five stages of grief” developed by Kubler-Ross (Kübler-Ross, E. (1969)). There is usually a gradual shift from the emotional responses to a calmer, more logical state of mind where rational conversation is possible.

The stages that Kubler-Ross posits are as follows:

– Shock / Denial: There are usually acute and observable changes in both the employee’s verbal and nonverbal communication, etc. There may be a short silence while the person mentally processes what they have heard, they often slump down in the chair and, once it has sunk in, start using language like “It’s a mistake!”, “You can’t do this to me!” or “No! No! No!”, “Why me? It’s not fair!”; “How can this happen to me?”.

The best way to respond to this stage is to say nothing and let them show their feelings and emotions. It is often useful for the HR person to identify and name the emotions being shown by the employee and to state that they understand them. However, do not start arguing with them or trying to soften the news.

– Anger / fear: Due to the complex physiological response involving adrenaline, cortisol and testosterone the employee often gets increasingly more agitated / angry (raised voice, aggressive body language (facial expression, posture, orientation, proximity and gestures, etc.), which may make them appear aggressive and/or threatening. Their language often takes the form of “How could you do this to me?” “I’ve dedicated my life to this organization!”, “What’s going to happen to my family?”, and so forth.

It is vital that the H.R. person does NOT reflect the employee’s verbal or nonverbal communication in any way.  For more information about how to deal with angry people, please see the links at the end of this post.

– Rationalization / Bargaining: This stage involves the employee starting to accept the situation and trying to find rational reasons, for them, for what has happened: the current economic climate; the sales of the organization, etc. This is shown by the use of language such as “I should have expected it!”, “I know the company has problems”, etc. There is frequently a stage where the employee attempts to negotiate a delay in the dismissal: “If I work longer hours… / take less pay / work part-time, would that change the situation?” etc.

Since this stage seems to be relatively short, it is generally better to let the person work through the elements by themselves and not say anything. Frequently, the person will then move on to the next stage when THEY are ready to deal with it.

– Depression: Language: “What am I going to do now?”, “I feel totally useless!” “I should have studied more when I had the chance.”, “ ”It always happens to people like me!”, etc. This is often shown as the verbal expression of feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness. This is usually accompanied by slower speech and body movements.
This stage often lasts quite a short time as this is when & where the employee shows that they have started accepting the new situation and all that it implies.

– Acceptance: This is the stage where the employee has accepted the situation and is now in a more rational state of mind as shown by the uses of phrases like: “O.K., If I have to go, what is the next step?”.
This is where the HR person should start talking about the technical details of the dismissal.

If relevant or appropriate, we could add two additional steps to the last stage, in this context, where the HR rep and the employee develop:

– A detailed action plan: This may include outplacement services or other help to adjust to the new situation. “The company will help you to…”

– The employee agrees to initiate the first steps contained in the action plan. “You have an appointment at 9:00h with an organization who will provide you with outplacement support. Will you go?”

Other points to bear in mind:
– Choose a place which is isolated, calm, comfortable, enclosed.
– Make sure that you will not be interrupted: people, phone calls, etc.
– Sit down before saying anything and avoid conflictive postures.
– Sit on one side of the person:
– If they are right-handed, sit on their left-hand side.
– If they are left-handed, sit on their right-hand side.
– If you sit on the other side of the table it can be subconsciously perceived as a conflictive situation where each person is “entrenched” behind the table.
– Closely observe their nonverbal communication: If you can change their negative body language (posture, etc.), they will change their mind: if they are sitting in a closed, defensive posture do something to change this posture – offer them a sweet or glass of water, etc.
– Avoid language like:
Try (Indicates a lack of commitment): It is much better to use “I will do what I can…”
Negative orders: “Don’t worry!”. Use positive language instead – “Trust us to…”, etc. (The human brain, in order to understand a negative order, must first  do the positive version)

Conclusions:
– Firing someone is a difficult task to perform elegantly. It requires the HR person to appear to be cold-hearted or cruel. However, it is a fact of life that this occurs, life is often unkind and someone has to do this specific task.
– If the person doing the firing knows how the employee is probably going to react, it makes it easier to be prepared to respond appropriately for each step/reaction during the process.
– It is vital that person doing the firing is able to remain emotionally disassociated from the task they are performing. Once they become emotionally involved, the task becomes much harder.

Your feedback on this article would be appreciated.

Sources:
– Kübler-Ross, E. (1969) On Death and Dying, Routledge, ISBN 0-415-04015-9

Links to articles about dealing with angry people:
Article 1.
Article 2.
Article 3.
Article 4.

– Photo: Forbes magazine. Pssst: Want To Know If You’re About To Be Fired? 2013/19/04

© Ian Brownlee, Brownlee & Associates, S.L., Madrid, Spain, 15th December, 2014.

Posted in Advanced Communication, General Communication, Leadership | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Psychology and Use of Bullet Points in Presentations.

© Copyright 2012 CorbisCorporation(In this article I will only refer to presenters / presentations. However, most of the information also applies to trainers and training courses)

Unfortunately, one of the most common types of slide found in presentations and training courses is that of the “Bullet Point” : A list of long, often complex sentences which the presenter believes or hopes will help communicate their message effectively. Frequently, the presenter insists on reading each bullet point aloud (A Reading Master Class!) Which is often seen as insulting the audience’s intelligence and the presenter seems to go outside the written text which can confuse the audience. More often than not it is a crutch for the presenter instead of an aid for the audience. Even worse, it is often used with a dark blue background and white or yellow letters which is a great way to get the audience to disconnect from the presentation (link to the article )

Also, It is often shown as an “Open Show” slide where all the information is presented at one time. This is a big problem in a presentation as anything that is projected onto the screen immediately takes precedence over what the presenter is saying. The audience have to read, and understand, everything on the screen BEFORE the can pay attention to the presenter.

It is important to remember that the use of PowerPoint is to produce “Visual Aids” which are designed to help the audience to clearly understand a complex topic. They are NOT designed to act as a substitute for the presenter. As our survey results indicate that 88%  of audience members disconnect from presentations when it turns into a master class reading lesson. (link to the article).

It is the Presenter’s job to “control” the audience during the presentation and this includes their conscious and subconscious mental processes.

Social markers vs content:
Please read the following and identify the main message of the communication:
– Open the door!
– Would you please open the door!
– If it’s not too much trouble, would you please open the door!
– I would really appreciate it, if you could do me a favour and open the door!
– I know we have only been together for a short time today. However, I would really appreciate it if you could, whenever it is convenient for you, stand up and open the door.

Obviously, the message is “Open the door” in all of them. Apart from the first one which is the most basic and clearest one, all of the rest of them have what are known as “Social Markers”. These show the speaker’s perceived status relative to the receiver. The first one is from the absolute power to a lowly subordinate. The last one is from a very subordinate person to the person perceived as the most powerful: The longer the social marker used, the higher the status of the receiver.

End-weighting
In a post-graduate study that I undertook many years ago, investigated exactly what audience remembered with information listed as bullet points and our results showed that, in general, if the first point was memorable for some reason, the audience remember the concept. The degree of recall decreased with each successive point. The audience did, however tend to remember more clearly the last 2 or 3 points. This is another example of the primacy / recency effect in action.

Priority of the writer vs the reader
Task: Before continuing reading this article, Rapidly write down the five things that are most important for you in a relationship:

I am sure that you have written the most important one first and then in descending order of importance. Possibly, the last one or two are of much less importance the first ones. This has a very serious effect in presentations: The writer/presenter’s order of importance is usually from the most important to the least important while the reader will focus on, and remember most clearly, the last ones. Also, implicit in a bullet list is the relationship between the elements in the list which may, or may not, be clear to the audience.

In English & Spanish and many other languages, the main content of the communication is usually at the end. In spoken communication, we have the examples shown above.
Where is the main content of a written communication:
– in a paragraph – at the end.
– in a scientific communication – at the end (the conclusions)
– In a Detective story – at the end (Identification of the criminal)

Animation
In order to use bullet points effectively, it is highly recommended that the presenter animate each one to appear when they decide to show it: they then decide for how long the audience will see it and they also decide when it is time to move on to the next point. Finally, it forces the presenter to talk about each point in a way which the audience can follow. In this way the presenter is controlling the subconscious mental processes of the audience and it also allows them to elegantly make their presentation longer or shorter depending upon the time available: A.K.A. “An Accordion Presentation”.

By “Animation” I mean that the material just “appears” – it does NOT appear as moving text, nor letter-by-letter, nor with sound, nor undulating or any other fancy type of distracting elements.

Capital vs Small letters.
It is vital that the orthographic rules of the language are followed in presentation slides exactly the same as if we were writing a report or other document. There in, in my opinion, NEVER any reason to write complete sentences or paragraphs in block capitals – even for titles.

Letter size
The minimum size for letters should be 28 point (Ariel). If the presenter wants the audience to be able to read the text easily.

Deletion of redundant words
Do NOT write complete, complex sentences. Instead, write the key words that will pique the audience’s curiosity about what you are going to say and therefore make them listen and pay attention in order to understand the message completely. Consider them as a “hook” to catch the subconscious mind of the audience.
“We will increase sales by 20% in the next quarter (Q4) after the launch of our new product” (BAD)
vs
“Sales (Q4) + 20% : New product.” (Good)

The use of the latter type of text creates a situation where the audience members are required to perform a mental “hypothesis formulation / resolution” activity: Since they have very little information, they have to hypothesise about the meaning of the text and then listen to the speaker to find out if their hypothesis is correct. This means that the audience are mentally participating in the presentation which obviously increases their involvement and retention.

As you can see, there is much more to using simple “Bullet Points” in a presentation. There are alternative ways of communicate which are more effective and that will be the discussed in a future article.

Your feedback would be appreciated.

© Ian Brownlee, Brownlee & Associates, S.L., Madrid, Spain, September, 2014.

Posted in Advanced Communication, The Art & Science of Presenting in Public, Training & Development | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Dealing with questions during a Presentation.

Roger is a highly experienced product manager in a multinational company in Europe. Last week, he was making a PowerPoint sales presentation to the management committee of a potential client who appeared to be very interested in his product. He felt that he had prepared the presentation to perfection and had high hopes of convincing the client to sign a contract. Soon after starting his presentation, one of the client’s team asked Roger a question which was answered in the following slide. However, not wanting to offend the questioner, Roger gave him a brief yet concise answer, but to his amazement, his boss jumped in to “clarify” his response and then another of the client’s team asked the boss a question about his response while another member of the client’s team started arguing with a companion and things went downhill from there.
Roger, for all his experience in presentations, was at a loss about what to do: shut up and leave them to it or try to elegantly take control of the situation. Finally, using verbal man-management techniques such as “echoic responses” and various non-verbal techniques he was able to get the group back “on-task” and focussed on his presentation. He did, however, tell the audience that he was sure that he had anticipated most of their questions and included the answers in his presentation and then ask everyone to write down their questions and promised to answer all of them at the end of the presentation. He informed the audience that this was to ensure that they finished in the allotted time as he knew that they were busy people. From that moment onwards, things went more smoothly. Roger decided that this was the last time that this would happen!

Points to remember;
– In this article, we are assuming that the presenter has really done their homework and knows in detail the Needs, Wants and Lacks of the audience and their organization.

– Not everyone is equal in a presentation. There are “Powers”, “Influencers” and “Hot bodies”. The “Power(s)” matter the most, then the “Influencers”. The “Hot Bodies” are often there just to fill the room and usually have NO say in the final decision.

– Some people have hidden agendas and will see a presentation as an opportunity to show how much they know or score points with bosses, etc. and the best way to do this is to ask questions either to the presenter or other audience members.

– If you accept, and answer, a question during the presentation, whether it is relevant or not, you are setting a subconscious precedent for more interruptions.

– If people have the opportunity to ask questions, many will focus on their own specific interests or worries that might not be shared by other members of the audience.

– Answering a question is often interpreted as a presenter’s way to initiate a dialogue with the audience (in linguistics this is known as “turn taking”: you ask me a question, I answer you and look at you and this can be interpreted as “I expect you to continue” so the original questioner does so).

– Answering questions and entering into dialogues often leads to a deviation from the topic & this, in turn, may often lead to boredom and disconnection for the rest of the audience.

– The time used to deal with questions consumes the time available for the presentation. Most Decision-makers are normally busy people and have heavy schedules so wasting their time is generally not appreciated!

– By postponing questions, you are showing that you are different from other presenters because you have the confidence & skills necessary to clearly present what the audience Needs, Wants and Lacks in a clear, structured and elegant manner and the ability to answer their questions when they have seen the entire presentation.

– Many presenters do not expect questions during their presentations and when they occur they are unsure about how to respond appropriately which frequently results in them having a “mental block” which impedes them from giving the correct answer or makes them waffle on without actually answering the question. A worse case scenario is when the presenter give an incorrect or inappropriate answer.

– Answering questions can often lead to a loss of control of the presentation by the presenter as indicated in the situation at the beginning of this article.

We recommend that In order to be able to legitimately ask for questions to be held until the end. All, or most of, the following conditions be met. The presenter:

– is giving a business presentations of 30 minutes duration or less (e.g. 15-20 minute presentation followed by a period of question time). Note: many international organizations are now limiting internal presentations to 10 minutes or 10 slides!

– is providing a presentation that is intended to communicate specific information to the audience in the most direct, concise and economic way possible.

– has done their homework, clearly understands the right message to be delivered in order to meet the audience’s need2, wants and lacks.

Interactive questioning directed by the presenter, discussions, and other more participative activies can be useful in the following situations:
– where the presenter cannot meet the criteria listed above.

– when longer presentations are conducted (‘meeting with slides’). These usually consist of a massive deck of PowerPoint slides which are usually data or text-based and read aloud by the presenter to the audience. for more information please follow this link: https://ianbrownlee.wordpress.com/2012/10/08/direct-vs-rhetorical-questions-in-presentations/

– when the presenter reads the audience’s non-verbal communication and determines that there is unrest or dissonance with the message, and it becomes important to determine the cause, rather than have the rest of the message lost because simple misunderstandings are not addressed; and

– when other types of “presentation” are being delivered (e.g. a longer lecture, workshop, etc.) which obviously should be the most interactive possible.

Preparation:
– Ensure that you know the Needs, Wants and Lacks of the client in THIS presentation.
– Identify the “Power(s)”, “Influencers” and “Hot bodies”.
– Anticipate possible questions from the “Powers” and “Influencers”.
– Incorporate the answer to these questions in the development of the presentation. Rhetorical questions are extremely useful as ways to get the audience to participate mentally without interrupting the presenter and the flow of the presentation. They also “personalize” the presentation by providing the presenter with the opportunity to show their knowledge of the problems / worries of the audience in a controlled manner.

At the very beginning of the Presentation:
– Inform the audience that you believe that you have anticipated possible questions and have incorporated the answers into the presentation so that the answers are given within a specific context.
– Ask the audience to make a note of their questions and that at the end of the presentation, you promise to answer all of them. We recommend using a phrase like: “We know that you are very busy people so I would appreciate it if you could keep all you questions until the end of the presentation. In this way, we won’t get sidetracked and we’ll finish on-time”.

With this structure we are using both the Primacy effect and the Recency effect to influence our audience. (Primacy: recognizing that they are “busy people”. Recency: “not side-tracked …finish on time”).

When you get asked a question, we suggest the following verbal responses in conjunction with the appropriate non-verbal communication using posture, gaze, orientation, proximity and gestures:

1. Congratulate the questioner:
By using one of the following types of “social markers” you are showing respect to both the person asking the question and the question itself.

Examples of possible social markers:
“That’s a very interesting question…”
“Thank you for that question…”
“That is an excellent question.”

2. Link with a coordinating conjunction: NOT “BUT” use however, nevertheless, etc.
It is important to avoid the use of the word “but” as it devalues everything that precedes it. Use the recommended alternatives.

3. Postpone the answer:
It is vital to postpone the answer to ensure that your response is correct. Remember… If you say something during the presentation it is believed to be correct. If you incorrectly answer a question, it is very difficult to change the response later!

Possible alternatives that can be used to postpone the answer are:

– “I am going to talk about this in detail in the next slide. So if you don’t mind waiting…?”
– “We are going to look at this area in two minutes. So you’ll see the answer in context.”
– “We will examine this in detail later in the presentation and all your questions will be answered then.”
“We will discuss this in depth at the end of the presentation as it is a complex topic and requires time.”

4. ALWAYS, ALWAYS,ALWAYS, Comply with (3):
Always answer when you said you would. This postponement give the presenter time to collect their thoughts, consider what is the most relevant response and how to incorporate it into the presentation at the appropriate time.

If you have asked audience members to hold their questions until the end, make sure that you ask the people who indicated that they had questions are asked what their postponed question was.

NEVER answer a question immediately, ALWAYS postpone it.

Conclusions:
Many people are afraid to postpone questions in a presentation because of a fear of offending the audience. This seems to be a cultural phenomenon and certain nationalities appear to be more concerned with political correctness and less with ensuring the efficacy of their communication. However, what is worse, asking for questions at the end of the presentation or having a group of busy top level decision-makers involved in a Question and Answer session DURING the presentation which extends it’s duration and possibly wastes their valuable time?

Consider your answer to the following questions:
1. If there is a discussion between audience members or with the presenter, what does the politically correct presenter do?
2. If the presenter has 30 minutes to make their presentation, will answering questions during the presentation help them finish on time?
3. What is more important, keeping the whole audience happy or only one person?
4. Does the presenter answer a question immediately when asked even when the answer is actually covered in detail later on in the presentation or do they postpone the response?
5. Generally, how important is it for the audience to see the whole presentation before they ask questions?

The purpose of this article is to propose that presenters consider a new way of dealing with questions that ensures that they achieve their communicative objective in the most elegant and professional manner possible bearing in mind the time restraints imposed by the organization.

© Ian Brownlee, Brownlee & Associates, S.L., Madrid, Spain. 24th March 2014

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2000-2012 International Presentation Skills Survey Results.

notebookglassesAs communication consultants and trainers, Brownlee & Associates have noted an ever increasing need for presentations skills training in both national and international organizations over the past 14 years. In this study, we wish to provide our audience with points to consider when giving their own presentations, evaluating other presenters or providing training in this area.

In Brownlee & Associates, we define a Presentation as a short (15-20 minutes), unidirectional communicative activity dealing more with concepts than excessive details and that goes from the presenter to the audience and should NOT involve direct questions/answers to or from the audience.  This can be, and often is,  followed by another activity known as a “Meeting with Slides”.

The traditional “Meeting with Slides” is a longer (40-120 minutes), more detail-focussed, omnidirectional, verbally participative Communicative Activity which some people mistakenly call a “presentation” and usually includes questions/answers from audience members to/or from the presenter and frequently involve a detailed analysis of financial data using templates.

Many trainers and presenters tend to mix the two elements together into what they call a “a presentation” which is often responsible for causing many of the problems identified in this study. In B&A we believe that it is much more logical to give a structured overview first and then, if necessary, go into the detailed analysis afterwards. Obviously, once the audience understand the global context and structure of the presentation, it is much easier for them to understand the data and focus on the data in the given context.

These two communicative activities mentioned above have different rules of behaviour, audience / presenter expectations, different purposes and frequently, different ways of presenting the information.

This study has focussed only on communicative activities that the respondents considered “Presentations”. However the results can also be considered relevant to “Meetings with Slides”.

Objectives:
The initial objective was to identify the main causes why audience members disconnect and stop paying attention during presentations so that Brownlee & Associates could train our learners in the most appropriate ways to avoid these errors  and provide a greatly increased communicative effectiveness to our clients. We defined “disconnection” as being when the person stops listening; starts having parallel conversations (with the person sitting beside them); starts checking emails; starts using their laptop (or tablets) or any other activity that impedes them from playing close attention to the content of the presentation.

We defined “disconnection” as being when the person stops listening; starts having parallel conversations (with the person sitting beside them); starts checking emails; starts using their laptop (or tablets) or any other activity that impedes them from playing close attention to the content of the presentation.

Dates of Studies:
1. August, 1995 to December, 2002. (Inclusive)
An initial study with users of OverHead Projectors (O.H.Ps) and pens was conducted between 1995 and 2000 mainly in Spain, France, Italy, USA, England with 1,200+ respondents. The presentations were given in various languages. This study served as the basis for theone being presented here. The results from the first study were similar to those obtained in this one.

2. January, 2002 to December, 2011. (Inclusive).

The data in this study has been collected from users or receivers of presentations made with various versions of PowerPoint (97, 2000, XP, 2003, etc).

General respondent profile:
Ages ranged from 24 to 60+ years old.
Employed in a range of organizations including multinational health care, medical devices, telecommunications, mass consumer products, food & drink, consultancy, car hire, etc.

Respondents’ positions: From President, Managing Director, Senior Directors down to employees in Sales, Marketing, R&D, Quality control, I.T., Technical posts, etc. Also included were other professionals such as Doctors, Scientists, Lawyers, etc. In fact, anyone who needs to communicate effectively via presentations both within their own organization or with external audiences.

Presentation Frequency: All respondents attend or give a minimum of three presentations per week to both internal and external audiences and frequently present in more than one language.

Nationalities: Spanish, English, American, French, Italian, Australian, Japanese, Chinese, South Korean, Canadian, South African, Dutch, Swedish, Mexican, Columbian, Argentinian, Peruvian, Brazilian, Portugese, Cuban.

Methods used:
– Structured feedback activities as part of a Presentation Skills course.
The initial stage of this study involved using an individual exercise dealing with this topic on every Presentation Skills training course in both English and Spanish given by our organization. The trainees responses were noted on a flipchart and then investigated in-depth during the following feedback session where the results were prioritized in order of importance. The feedback notes from each course were then evaluated and added to the corpus of information. We then identified 31 key areas that appeared frequently in the responses obtained from our students and used them in the second stage of this study.

– Bilingual paper-based questionnaires.
The second stage of the study consisted of the development of a bilingual survey (in English and Spanish) in both a paper-based format and for use on the internet using the 31 items randomly ordered and identified as being causes for disconnection. On the questionnaires, each statement was rated on a scale from 1 to 10.  #1 indicated Total Disagreement (absolutely NO annoyance / problems or disconnection) and #10 indicated Totally inAgreement (great annoyance and immediate disconnection).Whenever possible, the questionnaire was followed-up by random structured interviews.

– Internet-based questionnaires.
The same structure as the paper-based questionnaires without any follow-up interviews.

The structured feedback activities, paper-based questionnaires and the internet based questionnaires continued in parallel during the course of the study.

Total number of Respondents in this study:  3.785

Results: The results below show the percentage of respondents who “Agree” with the statements and disconnect rapidly or immediately when the indicated situation is encountered (7-10 on the valuation scale).

I disconnect when…
– The presentation is too long.    72%
– The presenter does not finish in the time permitted.    72%
– The presenter does not give a guide to the areas that will be covered during the presentation. 73%
– The presenter speaks in a monotone for the whole presentation.    74%
– The language used is technical or the presentation is too technical.    76%
– The presenter reads the text written on the visual aids aloud and adds little extra information. 77%
– There is a lack of visual material to help understand the presentation.     77%
– The presenter only looks at one person and ignores the rest of the audience.    78%
– The audience have not received any information about the presentation beforehand.    80%
– The presenter turns his back on the audience..    81%
– There is an imposition of ideas by the presenter.     83%
– The presenter separates himself emotionally from the audience.    83%
– The presenter does not mentally involve the audience in his presentation.    84%
– The presentation is complicated with too much detailed information.    85%
– The presentation does not have examples that the audience can relate to.    85%
– The presenter speaks too quickly.    85%
– The presentation site is inappropriate or has problems of heat, light, smells, columns, etc.    87%
– The presentation is text-based & the presenter only reads the transparencies to the audience. 88%
– The visual aids are hard to read. letters too small, background / foreground colours clash.    91%
– The objective of the presentation is unknown or has not been explained to the audience.   94%
– The audience can’t see the transparencies.    95%
– During the presentation there is unnecessary repetition of insignificant / unimportant information.    97%
– The Message that the presenter transmits is unclear. 98%
– The presenter answers questions from the group and goes of at a tangent thereby extending the duration of the presentation.        99%
– The presentation clearly does not have a structure.    99%
– The presenter has obviously not prepared for the presentation.    99%
– The data that the presenter uses is not linked properly to other known data.    100%

Note:
We are well aware that there are often organizational or cultural elements that affect the structure, method of delivery, and interpersonal roles in the presentation context and recognize that not all the elements in this study will be applicable to everyone, in every context or in every country.  If the results of this study make you reevaluate what you have been doing, the study will have served it’s purpose.

Conclusions.
The results indicate that while many organizations are investing a lot of time, money and resources in providing presentation skills training to improve both internal and external communication, it appears that their investment often fails for the reasons indicated above.

It is clear that when the audience is bothered by certain ambiental factors, something that was done or not done or certain behaviours of the presenter, this feeling will result in a disconnection between the listener and the presenter and their presentation which will affect the quality of the communication, the degree of impact and memorability of the activity and the achievement of the objectives of the presenter.

We believe that if one wishes to ensure that there is an effective, fluid and professional  communication when presenting both internally or externally, it is vital to ensure that many other factors such as those indicated above are considered in order to reach the desired objectives.

Next Steps.
On the basis of this study and the massive changes that have occurred in the area of interpersonal communication over the past ten years, we decided to review the questions asked and obtain new data from February, 2012.  to date which will be published in due course. Initial results indicate similar responses to those indicated above.

© Ian Brownlee, Brownlee & Associates, S.L., Madrid, Spain, February, 2014.

Bilingual web page (English & Spanish) – http://www.brownlee-associates.com
Spanish Blog. brownleeassociates.wordpress.com

Posted in Advanced Communication, General Communication, Survey Results, The Art & Science of Presenting in Public, Training & Development | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Deficient Customer Care and what you can do about it.

© Copyright 2010 CorbisCorporationBackground:
It is interesting how negative personal experiences with an organization can make you reconsider different areas of our day-to day work experiences and reactions. The following case has made me focus on what we can do when deficient customer service directly effects us.
Four years ago, a family member purchased a second-hand Mercedes Benz A Class (2005 model) from an employee of an authorised dealer for M-B in Madrid, Spain. The car had been serviced by the M-B dealer and the log book showed that all the required maintenance has been carried out properly. The car was always garaged and had never been on bad roads. In August, 2013, with only 74.000 Km of use, the car’s automatic gear box broke down and badly damaged the car’s transmission which resulted in a bill for 1.484,83 euros just for the repair of the transmission. The gear box was, fortunately, covered by a special policy with our insurance company which covered the cost of the replacement gear box. Obviously, the damage to the transmission would NOT have occurred if the gear box had not been defective and caused the breakdown.

Action taken:
Since the car had such a low milage, The family member & I immediately contacted the M-B dealer in Madrid and asked if it was normal for one of their cars to break down with such a low milage and did they think it appropriate that the client should have to pay for the repair when it was obviously a manufacturing defect. After all, one does not expect a M-B to break down after such a small amount of use! The response from the Customer Service Department of the dealer & M-B Spain was basically “Bad luck, the guarantee has expired…so…, not our problem!”

While MB were acting in accordance with their legal rights, the response created a sensation that M-B’s customers were of less importance than their bottom line profits.

NOTE: The staff  in the dealer’s repair centre / workshop were professional, courteous and understanding & did their best to help us at all times. They actually refused to let the Insurance company remove the gearbox to have it repaired somewhere else. It was the dealer’s & then M-B’s German Customer Service Dept. Responses that let the whole organization down.

We then contacted M-B international Customer Service in Germany by email and by telephone to find out if this was something that was “normal” with M-B cars. The response was polite and the same as that from the dealer which was basically: “Bad luck, the guarantee has expired…so…, not our problem!”.

We then contacted other “quality” car sellers (BMW, Audi, Honda and 6 others) and ask them what their response would be to this situation and all of them agreed that NO quality car should have a gearbox problem with such a low milage and said that they would have responded in a totally different way to M-B.

What were the learning points from this event:
For the organization

Just because a company says that “customer care is important”, their actions speak louder than their words. To put it bluntly, there are times for organizations to : “Either put up or shut up!”

Many organizations are so arrogant that they feel that they can treat customers badly and that they will accept this bad treatment. Which is a serious error: many customers vote with their feet, tell their friends about the bad treatment which results in the company losing customers that they never know that they have lost! (see the reference at the end of this article)

Many organization never think about who they might be dealing with or the power to influence others that a customer might have. Normally, the more expensive the product, the greater influence the buyer may have!

There are ALWAYS exceptions to the rule which means that any organization which is inflexible in the application of it’s Customer Service policy is heading for disaster. There is ALWAYS someone who has the power to authorize the exception, but many Customer Service Staff are “afraid” to take a complaint to a higher level: That is why the C.S. policy manual exists!

What might seem reasonable and logical to a “normal” person who has paid good money for a product and have certain expectations about quality, durability, post-sales support, etc,. is often perceived as being unreasonable by member of the C.S. team because of the indoctrination received from the organization.

Anyone working in Customer Service should read the article mentioned at the end of this article as it provide valuable input on how their response to a complaint can affect their business (and possibly their own jobs!).

Latest updates:
June, 2014, problems with the petrol gauge: 4 days in the garage, collected the car, got halfway home and had to return with  the same problem!

One week later, the same problem again and back to the dealership!

July, 2015, same problem as indicated above: the petrol gauge. Now, it appears that the battery is responsible however a search on the internet indicates that this is a common problem wih many models that is known to Mercedes Benz but it appears that they can’t / won’t fix it. Their solution is to sell you a new battery for $280 to solve the problem.

For the client / “victim”

1.    Ensure that you have a legitimate complaint. For example, if you car has 300,000 km or more on the clock, you have to expect that there will be problems sooner or later.

2.    Make the complaint, in writing, in the dealership where you brought the vehicle as soon as possible after discovering the problem. Give them time to respond to your complaint. A professional and ethical organization will respond rapidly while others will keep you waiting in the hope that you drop the complaint.

3.    If there is no response to your complaint in 10 working days, increase the pressure: – Contact the National Sales Manager, General Manager or other senior directors. Often they tend to be “unreachable” or “unavailable” to mere clients, but try all available means to reach them. If there is no immediate response from anyone you do reach, wait for 10 days and then contact the people in the European or International Head office with copies of all your     documentation, etc., with copies to all the senior managers.

4.    Put your bad experience on the internet: social networks such as face book, linkedin, twitter and other open forums.

5.     If possible, put your complain on the internet in as many language as possible – the more the better. If you can do it in Mandarin Chinese, even better as many producers or sellers of luxury and EXPENSIVE goods are trying to get a market share there! Put your complaint on the Chinese social networks, too.

6.     Tell all your friends, family, colleagues, clients, etc., about what has happened; what you have done and what responses have been received from the organization.

7.    Always let the organization know that you are publishing your problem which gives them another opportunity to respond to your complaint.

8.    If, after trying all of these steps, you still have no satisfactory response, contact local and national consumer protection organizations – with COMPLETE details and documentation of the communication between you and the organization.

9.     If you thing you really do have a valid & legitimate complaint, persist with it.

NOTE:
– Never threaten the organization in writing or verbally.
– Never use inappropriate or offensive language in writing or verbally.
– Never exaggerate, tell lies or omit relevant data.
– Never get angry and respond viscerally.
– Always keep a copy of ALL the documentation that they send you and you send them.
– Record any phone conversations – make sure that you get the name of the person that you are talking to – They will probably record your call so it is fair for you to record them.
– If the problem is resolved, always update the status of your complaint on EVERY site you have posted on.
– Be persistent but “educated”.

To avoid future problems:
1.    Check the internet before spending money on anything. Look for complaints about the company, it’s products and their Customer Service or support services.

2.    Ask friends, family, colleagues about their experiences with the company / products / customer Service, etc., before buying.

“Caveat Emptor” may be true in many cases, but NOT always.

The content of this article is based on personal experience and any additional feedback / comments would be gratefully received.

The following article may prove useful in your negotiation with a problematic Customer Service Department. Basically, it states that “As a rule of thumb, four out of every five customers who complain but receive satisfactory treatment remain loyal. Moreover, these customers may tell up to ten or twelve other people of their positive experience. Every dissatisfied customer, by contrast, will typically share his or her experience with double that number.”

https://www.bcgperspectives.com/content/articles/retail_marketing_sparking_connections/

SPARKING CONNECTIONS
Best practice benchmarking of customer relationships and retail marketing
A Joint study by The Union of the Electricity Industry – EURELECTRIC and The Boston Consulting Group (2000)

(c) Ian Brownlee, Brownlee & Associates, S.L., Madrid, Spain, January, 2014

http://www.brownlee-associates.com (bilingual web page – English & Spanish)

Graphic from: corbisimages.com

Posted in Advanced Communication, General Communication, Negotiation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

15 Ways to Work the Room Elegantly in a Meeting or Presentation.

discussion two groupsOne of the most common problems I have observed in many meetings & presentations is that many people do not appear to know – or are not interested in – how to ”work the room” elegantly in order to network more effectively. Here, I am talking about both speakers / presenters and members of the audience! Many audience members merely enter the room, look for a place to sit and then start playing with their smart phones, ipads / tablets or laptops and drift off into their own little world until the event starts. Many speakers / presenters do little more than set up their equipment (if necessary), and like the audience members, do their own thing until it is time to ”perform”.

It is vital to remember the purpose of these types of events is to communicate with PEOPLE from the very beginning. I do not mean from the moment the “owner” of the meeting calls everyone to order or the presenter takes his place, I mean from the moment that people start arriving in the room – that’s when it becomes a communicative activity.

These days, it is not enough to be an expert in your chosen field, you also have to be able to communicate this expertise to everyone in order to progress along your desired career path. This requires visibility and one way to obtain it is through elegant and effective presentations and another way is through the construction of an effective and wide  network of fellow professionals that know and trust you.  For this reason, one should always take advantage of every opportunity to expand your network and meetings are a great way to do it.

Some people become very nervous or self-conscious in these contexts and prefer to avoid introducing themselves for fear of rejection or “putting their foot in it” by saying something silly or inappropriate, however it is important to remember that many other people also suffer from the problem and they appreciate someone else making the first move! Be a leader, not a follower!

1.    Arrive early if presenting or running a meeting. Get everything arranged the way YOU want it, set up your equipment (if necessary) and then get ready to greet as many people as possible!

2.     If you are a member of the audience or meeting participant: Enter the room, stop in the doorway or just inside the room, look around to see who is there, find a place to sit & put your stuff down and then start networking!

3.     Rapidly greet the people you know well already – focus on the unknowns! You WILL have time to talk more with the people that you already know later.

4.    Look for people that look interesting – for whatever reason – and walk straight up to them.

5.     Approach groups of two or three people use their Non verbal communication as a guide to whether you can join them or not.

6.    Take the first steps, if you appear friendly and open, people will normally reflect your behaviour back to you!

7.     Give your name & job. Then ask the other person about themselves – nothing personal!!!

8.     Introduce people that you already know to people that you have just met so that they can extend their networks, too.

9.     Circulate around the room – do NOT sit down and do your thing or stand up and become a wallflower!

10.     Have lots of your business cards easily accessible and share them out. Get business cards from new contacts cards whenever possible. Actually read both sides of the card as soon as you receive them – it is perceived in many cultures as a sign of respect!

11.     During the meeting / presentation sit beside people that you do not know. Always introduce yourself to the people sitting to the left and right of you!

12.     Do not initiate conversations during the event, but you can respond – briefly!

13.     During coffee breaks, change-overs, etc., continue networking.

14.     Never complain about anything (speaker, ideas, installations, etc.) – if something is bad, remain “neutral”  – you never know who you are talking to!

15.     Beware of the cultural norms governing introductions: in Spain, kissing on both cheeks is common while in other countries it is frowned upon! Check out what is permitted BEFORE the event.

While it often common for some people to feel inhibited in certain contexts and many may find it difficult to initiate communication with unknown people, it is important to remember that the other participants are there for the same reasons that they are. This means that there are certain shared interests for everyone present which provide a real and valid reason for someone to start the communication. So, why don’t you take the first step?
In addition, it is generally recognized that an extended network can be of great benefit to all its’ members by providing a great source of information for those who need it!
If the first time is difficult, the second time will be much easier and the third time even easier and from then on you should have absolutely NO problems. Remember: Practice Makes Perfect!

(c) Ian Brownlee, Brownlee & Associates, S.L., madrid, Spain, January, 2014.

Posted in Advanced Communication, General Communication, Meetings & Teleconferences, The Art & Science of Presenting in Public | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Present before Negotiating? What a Novel Idea!

negotiation1In this article, I am working on the premise that prior to the negotiation stage of any deal, there is an initial selling stage: in other words, first there has been some sort of “sales” process – whether it is selling a product, concept or service – which has led the potential “purchaser” to the stage where there is either an overt or covert agreement to proceed to the negotiation stage which will deal with the terms and conditions to be met and are necessary for each part to receive what they require in exchange. Therefore, one might say that selling and negotiations are two completely different stages and should be treated as such.

Having been involved in negotiations worldwide for more than 30 years, I have noticed that in a great many cases there is a tendency for many negotiators to feel that the objective(s) of the negotiation is clear for all sides involved. This is, unfortunately frequently untrue and this incorrect assumption frequently leads to unexpected and undesirable consequences during the negotiation where undeclared expectations or perceptions can cause unnecessary conflict.

In order to ensure that all the parties involved in the negotiation start with a clear idea of “our” team’s starting point, perceptions, expectations, etc., we recommend to our clients that, prior to entering into the negotiation, they make a short, clear and concise presentation to the other parties involved in it, thereby ensuring that, for their part at least, there is the perception of transparency and goodwill.

The fact that you have prepared a presentation of this type is usually taken as a sign of your seriousness regarding this negotiation and shows your level of preparation which can, in many situations, give you a strong psychological advantage over less well-prepared interlocutors!

Stages of the presentation:
The first part should involve an overview of  what has been accomplished by both parts that has led up to this negotiation: Previous meetings, studies performed, problems identified, alternatives studied, the specific proposal that is going to be the subject of this negotiation. Etc., with the focus always being on the positive elements rather than the negative.
The objective of this first stage is to provide all the participants with a short review of what should be “known information”*  and helps to create a psychological “Yes  Set” in the minds of the participants. So that they become used to the idea of being in agreement with you. It also provides you with the opportunity to verify that your ideas and recollections are shared by the other parties.
We recommend that this is NOT treated as a multi direction / multi person discussion, but as a unidirectional presentation – You to them!

The second stage of the  presentation should capitalize on the psychological advantages obtained in the first part to lead the other parties into more problematic areas. It has proven useful to do this part as a presentation rather than a discussion in that once each step has been presented, the other side have a complete overview of how we perceive the negotiation and how we could achieve a win-win outcome. This part could be based on the elements outlined in “Getting to yes”** by Roger Fisher which include:
– Talking about Interests***:
– Ours: We should talk openly about what our interests are in this negotiation with the focus being on how our interests can also help them to achieve their interests (as we currently perceive them). We believe that it is useful to actually provide the other participants with a written copy of our interests which will usually be perceived by them as yet another display of our transparency which frequently leads to reflective behaviour from the other side – If we do it first, it serves as an example for them to follow.
– Theirs: We then present (briefly) what we believe to be their interests at this time with the  promise that we will revisit them later to check what elements may be added, deleted or modified. The emphasis is on the benefits that they want to obtain. The other side would also be given a printed copy of this list.
 – Shared: Presenting a list  showing our shared interests which have brought us to the negotiating table. This list is that should enable us to work together to achieve mutual benefits and serves as a reminder of why we are seated at the table should problems be encountered. Once again, a printed copy should be given out for future reference.

Once these two areas have been covered, we then move from the presentation mode into the discussion part of the process where we would go more deeply into the three areas mentioned above to modify, if necessary, each area to reflect the real interests of each party and to ensure that everyone involved has a clear understanding of what interests are involved, their importance in the negotiation and how we will all use them to achieve a successful outcome.  The objective of this part of the exercise is to show transparency in our way of thinking and behaving during the negotiation.  Also, we are involving the other side in a collaborative task to help ensure the success of the negotiation while creating a precedent for resolving problems “together”. In addition, when the interests have been agreed, it is much more difficult for the other side to suddenly decide to change their interests which have been the basis of the whole negotiation up to that point! Finally, if the negotiation is blocked at some point, it is always useful to remind the other side of the list of agreed interests and ask them how this fits into their interests!

After the previous stage and when agreement has been reached by both parties on their interests and the shared interests, many clients have also returned to the Presentation Format to present the areas of “Creative options” by presenting a range of options that are all directly linked to the expressed interests of the other party: “We have option XYZ which directly covers your interest for ABC by providing XXX”. Whenever, and wherever, possible we recommend that both sides look for elements that “Dovetail”: Cheap for us and high-value for them or vice versa.
We have to directly and clearly link all our options to their interests as we should never assume that the other side are able to do so – what is clear for you might not be so clear for someone else.

They then link these “Creative options” to “Objective Criteria” which serves to validate them. It is important to make it very clear that these are possible Options NOT Proposals. It is vital that we have Objective Criteria which validates our proposals and reduces the risk of emotional responses.

There are bound to be some occasions / contexts or topics when it might not be possible or desirable to apply the techniques mentioned here for a multitude of reasons. However, as a general rule, we have found it to be of great use in achieving mutually beneficial outcomes when working on two or three-party negotiations.

While this type of activity is new, different and requires additional time and effort from the negotiator and their team, the results more than justify this extra preparation.

* For more information, see this article: The Three Key Structures of Effective Communication.  Short link: http://wp.me/p2guX2-bC

** R. Fisher, W. L. Ury, B. Patton.: Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving in. Houghton Mifflin, 1992.

*** For detailed examples, see these articles:
1. Applying Dovetailing in a Union Negotiation – A Practical Example. Short link:
tp://wp.me/p2guX2-1v

2 Dovetailing in Negotiations; Human Resources Case study. Short link: http://wp.me/p2guX2-1y.

© Ian Brownlee, Brownlee & Associates, S.L., Madrid, Spain, 2013.

Posted in Advanced Communication, Negotiation, Training & Development | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Changes in communication over the last 60 years and their significance today.

school 1950I have spent most of my working life involved in research, teaching, training & being involved in communication-related areas in a range of different countries and have an innate passion for observing what is going on around me. Instead of merely relying on scientific studies for knowledge, I prefer to observe closely, question, consider, re-observe, re-question, reach conclusions, prepare material, test, monitor and review instead of blindly accepting generalized or extrapolated scientific studies in MY area of expertise. classroom.2013

These are some of  the most important changes that I have noted in communication over the last 40 years.

Up to and including the early or mid 1960’s, in many countries, generally our main methods of mass communication were either by books or other written communication; radio; face-to-face spoken language. If you compare school books used in the 1950’s & 60’s to those in use today you will find them radically different: Today’s books are much more visual: colours, images, etc; less dense, and generally more “attractive” to the user.
Also, how many of us, as children, remember sitting at home listening to our favourite radio programmes and how many readers have not had that experience but instead remember watching their favourite kids programmes on the T.V.! In brief, we could define our communication then as being very “Auditive” – see below for a definition.

In the mid 1960’s, with the unprecedented expansion of television: colour vs black & white, more channels, etc.  and, in the 70’s,  the invention of “portable” video cameras & recorders with the first “format” war between Sony (Betamax) and JVS (VHS), there was a massive increase in the amount of visual material available on television and commercially – all available and easily stored on videotape for use later. In other words, the world was becoming less “Auditive” and more “Visual”.

In the 1980’s, home computing entered our lives. Sinclair launched the ZX spectrum computer which brought cheap computing to the masses and created a revolution in the world of computers: ever increasing memory size, capabilities, reduction in costs, etc., with all that that entailed for our channels of communication. The result was a world even more “Visual”.

In the 1990’s, Palm launched the Palm PDA which was the first Personal Digital Assistant that allowed people to store and retrieve all kinds of information: addresses, data, photos, music, calendars & appointments, and so on in a pocket-size device and was a precursor of what was to come in the following years & decades.

From 2000 onwards, we have had an amazing growth in methods of communicating rapidly and effectively: Internet, multichannel tv, video conferencing, webinars, etc. Which has brought us to where we are today – a world which is predominantly “Visual” with all that this implies.

Some other points to consider (in no particular order):
It might prove useful for you, if you consider the implications for each one of them.

Please think about the quantity and types of devices we have for accessing visual material at home. How many TVs, video players, DVD players, Digital video recorders (DVR), gameboys (or similar), laptops, tablets, PCs, smart phones, etc., do YOU have in your house? Who uses them the most?

– There is now access to visual material via smart phones, tablets, laptop PCs, wifi access everywhere, satellite TV, DAB radio, etc., All of these with software designed to increase access to whatever  we want, anywhere, anytime and which can be updated “Over The Air” (O.T.A.) By the owner of the device or the programme producer.

– There appears to an increase in video-conferencing (both “talking Heads” style like Skype and “telepresence” professional systems), due, in part, to the fact that many people prefer to be able to see the other participants in the conversation. Skype (and similar systems) is successful because many devices have built-in video cameras and permits “video-chat” between users while being very easy to use.

– It seems that teleconferences are still popular for virtual teams for their relatively low cost. While cheaper than video conferences, there appears to be a decrease in their use due to the lack of the visual element and dissatisfaction by many users / participants.

– It appears that many people tend to use smart phones, tablets or laptops to entertain themselves while travelling on planes, buses & trains instead of reading “real” books, magazines & papers. What do YOU do while travelling – read a book? Read an ebook? Use a tablet / Smart phone for music or videos? When was the last time you read a newspaper on a regular basis?

– There have also been great changes in teaching materials and techniques in schools & universities. While the traditional “Chalk & talk” professor is still around, many organizations are using much more participative (and interesting) ways to educate students such as case studies and other small-group tasks.

– There is an amazing increase in offers for training & development through the use of on-line courses, seminars, and web sites dedicated to specific types of communication skills.

– It appears that attention spans have markedly decreased over the years due to the influence of visual information. After all, if one picture is worth a 1000 words, why read the 1000 words?

– There is a never-ending stream of video games and devices to play them on for both children and adults. How much time do your children spend playing video games instead of doing other things?

– The incredible growth of social networks such as Facebook, YouTube and similar sites have created a tendency for people to share visual imagery (photos & videos, etc) – especially with younger people.

I could continue with this list. However, I hope this will start you thinking about other elements we could add to it.

I would like to propose that if we apply research from Neuro Linguistic Programming, linguistics and psychology to the process of communication and its changes over the last 60 years, it can greatly enhance our understanding of how we can improve it by applying new & relevant concepts.

In addition, I would suggest that many of the scientific studies done in the area of communication between the 1950’s and 2000 need to be re-evaluated due to the changes discussed in this article.

Very briefly, Neuro Linguistic Programming posits that:
– Everyone has three “Representation Systems” (R.S.) which dictate how we interact in, and with, the world that surrounds us. These R.S. are named : Visual, Auditive & Kinesthetic (also known as: V.A.K.)

– We all also have a preferred, subordinate and less-developed representation systems that we use as appropriate either in our work environment or, alternatively, outside of it. No one is ever 100% V, A or K. – we use each system as, and when, we need it. However the preferred one is the one that we use most frequently and feel most comfortable using.

In this article, the term “Visual” , “Auditive” or “Kinesthetic” refers to people who appear to have this as their preferred Representation System.

A brief, and very general overview of the characteristics of each Representation Systems as applied to communication:

– Visuals: – considered to be around 78% of the population –  This is due to the prevalence of visual input nowadays: Television, video, internet, etc. In general, they are not too worried about change as they live with it every day. They have the capacity to adapt to new ideas & methods more or less rapidly. They do, however, tend to have problems following all the detailed elements required in the implementation of detailed change; new systems, internal & external compliance, etc. They tend to use visually-oriented language: Look, see, visualize, etc. Frequently they are in jobs such as marketing & sales or positions which require creativity. They tend to make decisions rapidly, often without having all the data.

For this reason, many young children are often classified as “educationally challenged” or “Academic Failures”, etc. When we consider that the first few years of life of a baby are dedicated to learning via predominantly visual input and by “playing” as well as not having to worry about eating and obtaining the creature comfort such as clothing and shelter: everything is, or should be, provided for them. We can see that young children would tend to prefer using the visual and kinesthetic channels as it is all that they have known!. However, one day they are taken to a new place, separated from their mothers, put into a group with other children of a similar age and start having to obey the instructions of an unknown adult –  the teacher in school! Soon after starting their school life, they are asked to start thinking & processing information logically & sequentially in terms of reading & writing, etc. This is the children’s introduction to the world of the Auditive: some children adapt more easily than others – especially when influenced by their parents. As we all know, parents are role models for their children ; what the parent’s do, the kids will do so if the parent’s don’t read, the kids won’t!

– Auditives, approximately 12% of the population, tend to have the greatest resistance to change. They love structure, systems, rules, checklists, etc. If it has worked for years, it is difficult to convince them of the need for change. They usually have jobs that require detail, analysis, data, etc. The tend to use auditive- oriented language: Examine, discuss, analyse, study, etc. They tend to have great problems making decisions because they always seem to need one more piece of information. They also tend not to trust their emotions. They love to read “real” books, not electronic ones and usually carry one with them wherever they go.

– Kinesthetics (considered to be about 10% of the population) generally need time to adapt to, and accept, changes. The word “kinesthetics” often includes emotion, touch, taste & smell. They need to feel safe with the planned changes. Everything is black or white, love or hate! For them, the most important part of their work, for them, involves their contact with other people. Everything is evaluated on how it feels to them. They take a long time to make a decision and will not do so until it “feels right”. They tend to use more emotive language: feel, rough, soft, bitter, etc. They are often in people-centred jobs such as nursing; the caring professions such as psychology, physiotherapy, etc. Many sports people, professional chefs, sommelier, hairdressers,  Perfume “noses”, etc., also usually have a kinesthetic preferred system. Many politicians tend to be kinesthetics (reference….)

To personalize this, I am a visually preferred person at work. As a trainer / professional communication, I need to be constantly observing, and reacting to, the verbal and non verbal communication of my audience or interlocutors to ensure clarity in the communication. My subordinate system is kinesthetic in that I tend to respond viscerally about what needs to be done – I do not go into a deep analytical study of how to respond, I just do it! My least developed system now is Auditive: I prefer to obtain my information by a whole range of different sources instead of just depending on written texts.  Having been a university professor for many years, I was, by necessity and training Auditive. When I moved into consulting, I had to become more Visual in my learning / teaching styles.  At home, I am a Kinesthetic preferred, Visual subordinate and Auditive less developed.

(For more information about NLP, please Google it!)

What does all this mean for us today in our communication with others?

1.     As expert communicators, we need to have more knowledge about our own preferred Representation Systems and the skills necessary to use different ways to identify the Representation Systems of our audience: learners, friends, family members, colleagues, etc., so that we can communicate effectively and elegantly with them.

2.     Our learners need to learn how to use the knowledge of Representation Systems as part of the communicative process in the personal & professional lives.

3.     Excellent communicators MUST understand of the needs, wants and lacks of the audience. (See this article for more information: shortlink:http://wp.me/p2guX2-9I )

4.     For effective communication to occur, it is vital that visual material is elegantly linked to auditive input: both verbal &/or  written as well as kinesthetic elements which create an emotional response in our audience.

5.     All learning material should ensure that all the activities and exercises incorporate the use all three representation systems – V.A.K..

6.     If we rely solely on Auditive communication such as written texts or purely oral input, we are depriving our audience of the opportunity to learn through the other representation systems.  ALL communication should be designed

7.     The excellent trainer, presenter, teacher or communicator is one who is expert in providing a “globally accessible message” whatever the preferred learning styles of the audience.

8.    Anyone who hopes to become an excellent communicator in whatever field of endeavour MUST learn how to observe how the learners or audience respond to what they do and react in the most appropriate manner.

Health Warning: This article might cause some people to have an apoplectic fit!
There are people who will take umbrage at the content of this article and probably cite page after page of detailed studies (from the last century or earlier in this century and trying to take one , or various studies  and try to apply it/them globally!) to prove me wrong instead of dedicating an equal amount of time and effort to prove me right! For them, I would be considered a radical who should be burned at the stake for even daring to question the value of scientific studies! Let me be clear: Recent scientific investigations dedicated to the study of  a specific  hypothesis applied to a specific target group, in a specific context, in a specific place and with a significant number of participants to create validity are excellent and useful in THOSE SPECIFIC contexts.

I hope this article has given you food for thought about what you are doing and, if necessary, some ideas on how to improve your communicative skills.

Your feedback would be appreciated.

© Ian Brownlee, Brownlee & Associates, S.L., Madrid, Spain.  November, 2013.

Posted in Advanced Communication, General Communication, Neuro Linguistic Programming, Training & Development | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Not again! The same old story!” – 5 steps to take someone from the past to the future

© Copyright 2012 CorbisCorporationIt appear that a common occurrence both in our business and professional lives is that someone keeps bringing up a perceived injury from the distant past and chastises us with it – even if we were not responsible for it. An example of this might be a client  who, every time we see them,  insists upon telling us about something that another employee of our organization did to them XYZ years ago – they actually appear to be reliving the incident and all the emotions that they felt at that time. Another example might be that of a family member who continually reminds us of the time when we were 5 years old and we pushed them off the swing which resulted in them breaking their arm and having to go to hospital.
Years of observation and experience indicate that arguing with people in this context serves no useful purpose.  Their logic seems to be common to that found in many other contexts: If you argue with them, there must some kind of reason for you to so, so by arguing with them you are validating their argument. If you do not argue with them, you are accepting and validating their argument! Basically, you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t! I have always believed that it is better to do something different to avoid this situation.

Having suffered this situation personally for many years, I finally decided that I was fed up with always being the guilty party in the other person’s drama so I developed this brief and simple model to deal with this specific problem. The great news is that it worked and has been tried, tested and worked for many clients who followed the steps indicated below.
So here is how I resolved the situation for once and for all….

Step 1. Recognize what has happened in the past: “I realize that we have had a problem in the past”
It appears that many people who use this type of communication to blame others feel that their interlocutor does not really understand that the problem was a serious one for them and that subconsciously they want some open recognition of this “fact”. By using this structure you are:
1.    Personalizing the roles: “ I realize that we...”
2.    Providing the desired recognition that a problem existed (for them!).
3.    Contextualizing it into a past event which is now finished by the use of grammar and choice of vocabulary (“have had a problem…in the past”).

Step 2.  Apologize for what happened: “For the last time, I want to apologize for what happened”.
Linguistic note: When using this phrase, it is vital that you have a short pause between the words “time” and “I want…” and that there is a stronger stress on the word “last”. In this way we are marking out these words for processing by the subconscious mind through the use of an embedded command which are great at bypassing the conscious mind to place ideas directly into the subconscious.

For many people, all they really want is a sincere apology from someone – not necessarily the person who caused the problem – so that they feel that finally, they have been vindicated for their hurt feeling. By using this structure you are:
1.    Indicating directly and elegantly that this will be the last time that this matter is raised by them.
2.    Personalizing the apology…”I want to apologize…” WITHOUT going into details of the what was done or why!
3.    Providing the (generalized) apology that they think they deserve.

Step 3. Recognize the emotions related to what occurred: “I understand how you must have felt when this occurred”.
Often people appear to feel that nobody understands or appreciates had badly their feelings were hurt – often by a person (or organization) that they loved, trusted, respected, etc. The stronger emotional link with the person or organization responsible, the greater the perceived injury!
By using this structure you are:
1.    Indicating that you “understand” (on a logical & unemotional way) their feelings. This does not mean that you accept that their feelings  were correct or that you are empathizing with them…only that you understand!
2.    Limiting you acceptance of their feelings to only that specific incident & moment and nothing else.

4.  Equal the emotions: “I am sure that I would have felt the same as you”.
In general, it appears that most people like to feel that other people are just like them and that if someone else had experienced the same situation, they would have felt exactly the same way.
By using this structure you are:
1.    Indicating what your probable response would have been in a similar situation.
2.    Showing that their response was not incorrect…then!
3.    Using the past tense to indicate that the activity is over.

5.  Lead the person into the future: “Let’s go forward and see how we can make sure that this never happens again.  Will you work with me on this?
With this part of the intervention, we are taking the person’s mind set from the past into a joint leap into the future together and creating a mutual search for solutions to ensure that there is no repetition of this event in the future which should proved psychological security for them. We then ask for their active collaboration in this task and the usual answer is an affirmative.
By using this structure you are:
1.    Changing the roles involved in the situation from individuals into a joint shared task by using phrases like:
– “Let’s go….”
– “See how we…”
– “work with me…”
2.    Offering to accompany the person towards a more productive & useful future.
3.    Asking them to contribute their ideas about how to avoid the same situation in the future.

NOTES:
–     In this model, we are taking control of the situation & communication from the very beginning of the interaction.

–    This is NOT a dialogue. It is NOT a discussion. NOR is it an argument. It is a continuous flow of content with one objective: to resolve the situation elegantly and permanently. The moment you start a question / answer session, the intervention becomes a discussion. See the drawbacks outlined in paragraph # 2 above. Also, asking questions is a great way to ensure that the person starts to relive the incident and all the attendant feeling and emotions of that particular moment. Do you really want to throw more fuel on the fire by getting the person to relive everything again?

    The structure used has been found to be the most effective one to ensure that the information is processed subconsciously so that the desired result is achieved. We go from the past to the present and then forward into the future.

–     This technique uses the idea of the primacy and recency effect. The first sentence uses primacy to mark the context & topic of the conversation. The last part of the model uses the recency effect to take the person from their past orientation into an improved future where similar situations will not happen again.

–    Occasionally, if there is a long period of time between seeing the person, you might have to repeat the intervention or, alternatively, draw the person’s attention to the previous time they had started the same conversation. My usual response is something like: “Remember the last time we discussed this, we agreed that it was resolved so … (+ change of subject)

The complete uninterrupted text.
“I realize that we have had a problem in the past.  For the last time, I want to apologize for what happened. I understand how you must have felt when this occurred. I am sure that I would have felt the same as you. Let’s go forward and see how we can make sure that this never happens again.  Will you work with me on this?”

While this technique might appear to be too simple and easy to be effective, you could consider it to be an “Aspirin solution”! Why continue being on the receiving end of these comments when you could try something that works? If you have tried to end this situation before and have not been successful, why keep doing the same thing? A presupposition of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) is that “if you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always gotten!” Another of the key concepts of N.L.P. is “When you see it, you’ll believe it and when you believe it. you’ll see it!”

As Richard Bandler once said “The human brains works much better than you think” after he had removed a phobia from a patient in trance with one simple order: “Phobia, be gone!”
Remember: The Aspirin Solution is often the best!

Your feedback on this technique would be gratefully appreciated.

© Ian Brownlee, Brownlee & Associates, Madrid, Spain, October, 2013.

Posted in Advanced Communication, General Communication, Meetings & Teleconferences, Neuro Linguistic Programming, Sales, Training & Development | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

12 + 5 Advanced Telephone Techniques.

angry man on phoneIn this article. the term ‘Client” includes both internal & external clients and we believe that all of our clients deserve to be treated respectfully and professionally.

It is important to remember that the telephone is the first and main means of communication with the company and is therefore of vital importance in ensuring that any client who calls is kept happy. In addition, the telephone is an extremely intimate method of communication: who do YOU let get close enough to you to speak into your ear…I am sure that it is only close friends and family. This psychological & physical closeness mean that using the telephone correctly is an integral part of excellent communication.

12 tips.
1.   Give a polite, and sincere greeting: “Good morning + name of organization.” or “Good morning,+ name of organization + your name + speaking.”.
By giving the salutation/greeting first, followed by the name of the company/department (and your name), It lets the caller become accustomed to your style of speaking and facilitates comprehension. In addition, it helps the listener, psychologically, by making them feel comfortable and unthreatened which increases the effectiveness of the communication. It also allows the telephone line connection to connect properly.
Importantly, it permits the caller to identify the company/department or individual which provides the caller with additional psychological security.
It is also the most important piece of information that the client wants to hear. In English (and many European languages) the most important information usually comes at the end of the sentence. This is known as “End-Weighting”. If you give the name of the company first, and then the greeting, the greeting becomes the most important piece of information!

2.     Put a smile in your voice. This is known as the “Verbal Handshake”. Since you can not see the caller and they can not see you, they will judge you, and the company by the only sensory input they have – the sound of your voice over the telephone & the way you deal with them. About 55% of the information you give or gain every day in face-to-face communication comes from non verbal communication. 7% from the actual words used and 38% from the paralinguistic input: Timbre, tone, volume, stress, intonation, etc. This means that working by telephone the participants lose 55% of the information and have to rely solely on what they hear so there is a greater sensitivity to aural input, but there is also a greater degree of psychological uncertainty about what is happening because the listener can not use his eyes to get additional information.

3.     Speak slowly” clearly, be helpful and sound friendly. If you sound friendly,  the caller will “reflect” this attitude back to the person they are speaking to. Even if you do not feel happy or friendly, you must sound friendly when speaking on the phone – especially to clients. The tone of voice is very important. As mentioned above, people are much more sensitive to aural/oral input when they can not see the person they are speaking to. Recent studies have shown that a deeper tone of voice tends to be perceived as being more attractive, professional and “caring” than a high-pitched tone. Think of Barry White’s voice: deep, throaty and very kinesthetic!

4.     Speak naturally. If you have an accent or dialect, speak slightly more slowly. If you do have an accent. do not worry about it. Accent can sound at attractive and provide the speaker with a personality. In addition, There is an old saying “You can take the person out of their country but you can’t take the country out of the person!”

5.    Research shows that after 5 rings the clients’ become more and more irritated. In addition, there is often the perception that time seems to pass more rapidly when people are “hanging on”: a one-minute wait can seem like 2-3 have passed. This is usually reflected in the caller’s attitude towards the person who (finally) answers the phone. The longer a person has to wait, the angrier they become. As a consequence, when clients are angry they do not listen to reason or act “normally”.

6.     Do not say “Just one minute, please” or ‘Hold on one minute, please”. These are meaningless phrases to the unseen caller. Where are you going? What are you doing? How long will you be? Is there a definite reason for you to be away from the phone? It is better to keep the client informed about the reasons why you have to leave them holding on. When you return, thank the caller for holding on and apologize for the time spent waiting (if appropriate).

7.    Always let the caller answer your questions. Never assume anything!  Listen carefully to the client and then consider what they have said and the implications for them and, more importantly, the company. Then feed back what the caller has said removing all the negative or emotional elements to check (and show) that you have understood what they have told you. If in doubt, ask questions to clarify!

8.    Do not interrupt the caller (especially if they are angry). If you are talking, you can not be listening. One way to make an angry client even more angry is to interrupt them, argue with them, and the greatest sin of all: try to talk over them.

9.     Never put an “open” phone down on your desk or cover the mouthpiece with your hand as some phones are more sensitive than others and frequently pick up comments which damage the individual and/or the company. Always use the mute button on the telephone.

10.     When calling outside the company, do not just ask for the secretary of Mr. Smith. Ask the switchboard operator of the company for the name of the secretary and use it when you talk to her. Psychologically, it puts you in a much more powerful position and it also creates a very professional perception of you.

11.     Do not move on to another task, or call, until you have completed the first one. Finish writing one message / report / note, etc., before you move on and deal with the next.

12.     Consider how callers feel when being bounced around from extension to extension so help them when transferring their call. For example: give the name of the person they are being transferred to, and/or their extension numbers and job titles when possible. In this way, the client knows what is happening at all times. The information about where they are being redirected to reduces uncertainty for them.

Additional tips:
–    NEVER say “Can I help you?” ALWAYS say “How may I help you?” – this answer usually tells you the caller’s preferred representation system (V.A.K.) Which tells you how to respond most appropriately to their communication.
–     NEVER hold two conversations at the same time. ALWAYS focus on the person on the other end of the phone.
–     NEVER transfer the call to someone who “may” be able to help. ALWAYS Find exactly the right person!
–     NEVER say “They are at lunch”. This phrase indicates that the whole department shuts down at lunch time which implies a lot about how the organization perceives the needs of the clients and how to meet them! ALWAYS say the person is not available at the moment and offer to have the correct  person call them back later.
–     NEVER use scraps of paper or rely on your memory when you have a message to deliver. ALWAYS have a telephone message pad beside the telephone and USE it!
–     NEVER start giving detailed information immediately you start speaking to the caller. ALWAYS give them time to get accustomed to your speaking style.
–     NEVER say that an error is not your fault or blame someone else. ALWAYS remember:  Forget blame, the caller usually wants you to provide a solution!

Dealing effectively and elegantly with people by telephone is a difficult task and requires training and dedication. Every caller is different and MUST be treated in a way which is appropriate to them.

Putting time limits on calls, have boards showing number of calls waiting, average waiting time, etc., only serve to induce stress in the people dealing with incoming calls and reduces the possibility that the caller will be dealt with in the most appropriate manner.
ALWAYS remember the famous phrase: “If you look after the client, the client will look after you!”
And the corollary: “If you DON’T look after your client, there is ALWAYS someone willing to do so!”

© Ian Brownlee, Brownlee & Associates, S.L., Madrid, Spain, October, 2013.

Posted in Advanced Communication, General Communication, Meetings & Teleconferences, Training & Development | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What is Spatial Anchoring in Presentations and Training?

ndcmanSome “Professional Communicators” mistakenly tend to feel that walking around the stage is the best way for them to “get in contact with the audience” and, at the same time, subconsciously burn-off excessive adrenalin.  However, this can cause certain problems for the audience. This article is to provide the reader with information about spatial anchoring, it’s relevance and practical use to presenters and trainers and those who wish to develop or improve their advanced communication skills

Anchors are an NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) term for something that acts as a trigger that creates a specific response or reaction in the mind and/or body of someone. For example, consider how you feel when you hear that “special” song that marks a special moment in your relationship with your other half.  The song can be considered an anchor for the reaction your body or mind produces of that “special moment”. Another example is that of Pavlov and his dogs!
There are many ways that anchors can be used both in a clinical setting and in a business one so I shall focus solely on Spatial Anchors in the indicated business contexts.

Spatial anchoring
This occurs when a specific place becomes anchored in our subconscious as having a special meaning or significance: One example might be our childhood bedroom where we felt protected, loved, surrounded by OUR things, and with many happy memories, etc. Every time we go into our old bedroom, the old feelings  automatically return! Another example is when we have had a car accident. Afterwards, every time we approach the scene of the accident, we have a reaction: fear, caution, etc.

As a trainer or presenter, I ALWAYS set up spatial anchors © Copyright 2008 Corbis Corporationfor my communication by conducting the first few minutes of the presentation or training from one specific point – usually close to, and in front of – the screen so that my physical presence (image) is psychologically linked to my verbal input and the image(s) displayed on the screen. This takes advantage of both Focussed and peripheral vision which is known to increase retention of material. This static location is known as the “Presentation Point”. One thing that I NEVER do is wander around the room talking, looking at the screen, etc., while I am training or presenting. There are various reasons for this:
–   The Australians have a great phrase for this – “Going walkabout”. to wander through the bush or (Informally) to be lost or misplaced or to lose one’s concentration. (thefreedictionary.com). I want my audience focussed on me and the task at hand – and nothing else!

–     Constantly moving does NOT anchor anything in the audience members subconscious minds therefore nothing is perceived as being memorable and is easily forgotten.

–     The constant movement may be interpreted by the audience as a sign of the presenter’s or trainer’s insecurity which could subconsciously reduce the perceived validity of what is be communicated or result in a loss of control of the situation by the presenter or trainer.  Examples of loss of control include: people using Ipads/ tablets / laptops /smartphones; parallel conversations, people “off-task”, etc.

–     If you are constantly moving, how can you observe the audience’s reaction to your communication and adapt your delivery accordingly? It is widely recognized that Non-Verbal Communication (NVC) is an integral and vital component in influencing other people. The main elements being posture, gaze, orientation, proximity and gestures.  It is vital that the presenter is continually reading the NVC of the audience AND controlling their own NVC, too.

–     Constant movement makes it difficult to effectively handle different elements in the group: The Powers, influencers & hot bodies (for more details on these groups please see this post)

–     There are other, more effective ways to burn-off excess adrenalin caused by the stress of presenting or training that do not provide non verbal information about the mental state of the communicator.

–     I want to avoid giving my audience members “tennis neck” by making them repetitively turn their heads to follow me as I move around the room.

As a presenter or trainer, I want the audience to link:
1.     The visual aspects of the training or presentation (me + images on-screen: focussed & peripheral vision) with

2.     My verbal language and the brief text elements written on the screen.

3.     The emotional elements that are created by the communication.

An example of spatial anchoring that I use in training sessions is that I stand for the first 10 to 12 minutes which is when attention often starts to decrease …. and then move and sit on the corner of a table near the audience to tell them an anecdote, a short story, answer a question, etc. This change of activity ensures that attention will rise once again when we return to the presentation or training. Once this has been done a couple of times, the audience will have learned subconsciously, that when I go to the corner, they can put down their pens, kick-back and relax a bit and know that what is coming is not “pure” content. Once I stand up and move back to my presentation point, they know that some form of “content” is going to follow so concentration and note taking will probably be required. The same applies to the use of a flip chart: when I move to the flip chart, the students learn that what I am presenting is something that is not contained in the training manual and requires them to take special note of the information.

Another example of spatial anchoring is that of having one specific place where only BAD news is given and another place where only GOOD news is given. If you are sacking a group of people give the bad news from one specific place and then move to a totally different place to talk about the “good” (?) news such as out-placements, support, etc.

One of the greatest problems that many speakers have today is that of the lectern: That horrible (usually) wooden thing that stands between the presenter and the audience so that the presenter looks like they are in a trench with only their upper body sticking up and the rest of their body safely protected from the audience. Another problem with lecterns is that they are usually fixed in place which means that all type of news – good or bad – are given from the same point which means that if the same audience has received presentations in the same place, they probably have subconscious anchors (either positive or negative) based on previous experiences. I prefer to use a low table placed where I decide is the best place to hold my laptop instead of the lectern. in this way, I avoid all the problems indicated above. Also, I refuse to let someone or something determine the success or failure of my task (presentation or training) as my reputation and future depends on my success.

In summary, It is time for trainers and presenters to pay much more attention to the importance of their non-verbal communication with groups by using all of the available techniques to ensure that their message arrived elegantly, effectively and memorably. The elements dealt with in this article will, I am sure, cause many inflexible or traditional trainers / presenters to feel threatened as it required them to consider – and maybe break – the habits of a life time. As a famous, and true, NLP presupposition says:
“If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always gotten!”
Is it time for YOU to change?

© Ian Brownlee, Brownlee & Associates, S.L., Madrid, Spain, September, 2013.

Interesting note:
Spatial anchoring is also used in other contexts, too:
In infant & junior schools where teachers tend to have “punishment” locations such as “The naughty chair” or standing in the corner.
By many parents who tell their children to “Go to your room” when they have been naughty.
In some Asian countries, in a business context, spatial anchoring is used to show an employee’s relative position in the company hierarchy. Desks near the door or front of the room = lower status. The Director at the back of the room and far from the door.

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The Three Key Structures of Effective Communication.

“A genius is capable of making the complex simple.
An idiot is capable of making the simple complex!”

Having been involved in communication skills training for many years, I am constantly amazed at the general lack of knowledge about how to logically structure communication, whether it be in a presentation, meeting, negotiation, tele- or video-conferences, emails, etc.
Many people these days still think that it enough to string a collection of ideas together and then discharge them towards the audience and hope that some of them will stay in the audience’s mind at the end of the activity.

There are three basic structures that we (should) use when communicating EFFECTIVELY with others and which help determine the success or failure of our communicative endeavour:

The first, and most vital element, is the concept of: Known to Unknown.
All of our communication should be based on explicitly linking information that our audience consciously or subconsciously “know” and accept, to lead them to a clear understanding of the new, or unknown, information that we are going to communicate to them.
In a presentation context, this would involve the presenter clearly and rapidly demonstrating to the audience, from the very beginning, that they understand the audience’s actual real-world situation and are going to present possible solutions to handle the current situation or problems.
Using the structure of “known to unknown” also helps in the creation of a “Yes Set” in the subconscious mind of the audience which helps in forming a tendency to accept that the presenter’s ideas and proposals are correct!
In a more general context, I am sure that when we phone the office or family members, the first thing we do when they answer the phone is identify ourselves (providing known information) and then asking for unknown information (Has anyone called? Any emergencies? Any news?, etc). This is something that we do instinctively so why not doing in other contexts?

“Never overestimate your audience’s knowledge and never underestimate their intelligence.”  (Glenn Frank, 1887-1940)

general.specificThe second concept is that of going from “The General to the Specific”.
This could be represented visually as a funnel which serves to limit & constrain the amount of information given at each level from the wide open top to the tip of the funnel.

There appears to be a tendency for certain types of communicators or presenters to jump straight into really specific and detailed information without having considered, or used, the first concept indicated above: “Known to unknown” which places the communication within a known context. In addition, they apparently assume that (in no special order):
– The audience members have the same basic interest in this detailed data that they have.
– The audience are capable of, or interested in, understanding / analyzing the detailed data and its implications.
– The audience need to know that the presenter has the data thereby proving that they are professional, valid, conscientious and trustworthy interlocutors.
– The audience want to (waste?) invest extra time in detailed analysis of the data.

We always ask one simple question: Why not just give the key points during the presentation and put the details in support documents and hand them out at the end of the presentation?

In a marketing presentation, the presenter could start briefly with the global or general overview, move on down to the national situation and then focus down even more to a more specific geographic location such as a state or county followed by an even more reduced context such as a city. In medical presentations, presenters can take the data down to the level of a specific hospital.

The third and final concept is that of going from “The Simple to the Complex”.

Many people seem to believe that their own ideas are as easily accessible and understandable by others as they are to themselves! Unfortunately, this is often not the case. I am reminded of a case of a friend’s new born baby… to him, it was obviously the most beautiful creature even to be born on this planet. However, to friends and family, it was actually quite ugly; small, purple, wrinkled, with gigantic hands and feet and looked like a new-born frog! However, once our friend started pointing out each of the individual “beautiful” bits of his son and linked them to family members that we knew, our perceptions changed – because he went from the simple to the complex to show the overall beauty of his son.

This process involves starting with the most basic or simple elements of any idea or product and gradually adding and linking elements, step-by-step, to build up a complete pictures of what is being discussed.

PowerPoint has proven to be a very useful tool in structuring elegant & effective communication by allowing communicators (presenters, trainers, negotiators, etc) to apply the structures mentioned above in a user-controlled step-by-step sequence which takes the audience’s needs, wants and lacks into account while achieving the speakers communicative objectives.

These concepts are applicable to all of our communication as mentioned above. While it may take extra effort to prepare the material for the communication, the investment in time & effort will pay off in improved results because you are applying psychology to the structure of the communicative event.
Many people seem to feel that fast communication = effective communication. However, this is an error that frequently leads to unclear communication which, in turn, may lead to a failure to reach the desired communicative objectives.

We usually have ONLY one opportunity to deliver our message to our audience so it is of paramount importance that the message arrives EXACTLY as we intend it to. There are NO second opportunities! So a clear, logical and precisely-structured communication is one of the key factors in ensuring that we meet our communicative (business or training) objectives.

© Ian Brownlee, Brownlee & Associates, S.L., Madrid, Spain, August, 2013.

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The Handshake: Not Just a Greeting, more a Power Game!

Since Non verbal communication should always be discussed on the basis of three key elements: Culture, Context and Cluster, this article is written with the following areas in mind:
Culture: European, North American, Australasian and other areas that share similar cultural characteristics.
Context: Business meetings.
Cluster: In addition to the handshake, we are assuming that there is appropriate gaze; orientation, proximity and posture as expected in this context.

Please note that people usually shake hands instinctively and without prior planning or consideration of the potential psychological consequences so we have to consider other elements of the communication before reaching any conclusions about them.

Nowadays, in a great many cultures we use the handshake as a way of welcoming or greeting a person. This handshake comes from the old tradition of showing ones strength via the use of arm-wrestling where the winner is the person who has their hand uppermost – in other words, they literally have “the upper hand.”
how-to-arm-wrestleWithin the business context, when shaking hands there are six main ways of offering the hand and each one has implicit psychological meaning & interpretation:

somos21.     The “normal” handshake where the hand is offered at 90º to the body and is subconsciously perceived as a handshake between equals. It is a neutral interaction where neither person presumes to be superior to the other or seeks to dominate them.

2.     The spear: This is when a person offers their hand palm down towaHorizontal handshakerds the other person – like thrusting a spear towards them. In Spain, it is like the final thrust used to kill the bull in a bullfight. People who use this type of gesture tend to be somewhat egotistical and like to dominate others. If the other person accepts this style of handshake, it means that their palm will be face upwards and they are subconsciously accepting that the other person literally has “the upper hand” and that they are subordinate to them! The solution to this behaviour is to take the hand and IMMEDIATELY turn it into the “normal” handshake position.

glove handshake3.     The Glove: This is where one person puts their left hand on top of the “normal” handshake thereby trapping the other person’s hand. It is another way of showing who actually has “The upper hand”!

4.    The double glove: This is the response to the previous item (the glove) The Double glove handshakeperson who has their hand trapped places THEIR left hand on top of the other person’s left hand and thereby assumes the status of the person with the upper hand!

hand on upper arm

5.     Hand on bicep: Some people, especially kinesthetics, like to shake hands with their right and, at the same time, use their left hand to firmly grasp the right biceps of the person they are talking to. This action allows the kinesthetic to actual feel, and share, the physical power of the person and also indicates that they have the upper hand as it is, literally, above the hand of the other person.

6.    Hand on shoulder: The final category is when one person places hand on shouldertheir left hand on the right shoulder of the other person. It may, in certain situations, be perceived as kindly or paternal however in business it may be perceived as indicating that this person literally has the upper hand.

Frequently, this converts into a power game. People start at, for example, number 2 and then each participant may escalate the “game” to the next level.

NOTE:
NEVER shake hands with anyone that you do not want to interact with such as door-to-door salesmen, beggars, Religious fanatics, etc. The mere act of shaking hands with someone instantly personalizes them and makes it psychologically much more difficult to break off the conversation.

It is vitally important in today’s competitive world that business people are aware of the psychological implications of their non verbal communication – from the VERY beginning of their interaction with other people. Remember: You NEVER have a second opportunity to create a first impression!

(C) Ian Brownlee, Brownlee & Associates, S.L., Madrid, July, 2013.

Some images have been supplied by:Freedigitalphotos.net

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Istanbul: Touts, Tips and Levels of Rapport.

turkish rest tout

Turkish Restaurant Tout

This article was written during a working visit to Istanbul, Turkey. in June, 2013. There is a mixture of topics that I hope you find interesting & useful.

Tout:
Definition (verb) : To describe or advertise boastfully; publicize or promote; praise extravagantly.
E.G., a highly touted restaurant.
Definition (noun) : A tout is any person advertising, promoting, or otherwise discussing a commercial business (often without disclosing that they are being paid to do so).

In this brief article I intend to discuss six different areas:
1. Dealing with touts.
2. Levels of rapport.
3. Avoiding being ripped-off with a common technique.
4. Tipping.
5. Turkish wine & beer.
6. The Grand Bazaar.
7. Foreign exchange.
8. Public Transport in Istanbul

One of the things that I love about being an international consultant is that I have the opportunity to travel to different countries and observe & study, at first hand, the different communication styles in a wide range of both business and personal contexts. I have just had the experience of working is Istanbul, Turkey,  after an absence of more that 35 years. It is still a fantastic, fascinating and complex city which combines the old and the new. However, I have seen an interesting and yet disturbing change in the communication styles with foreign tourists which may adversely affect the overall perception of the city.

1) Dealing with touts:    

Galata Bridge Restaurants

Galata Bridge Restaurants

In the main tourist areas of Sultanahmed and the Galata Bridge, there is a great deal of pressure to sell and a vast range of competitors selling the same products so there is now an un-ending stream of shop & restaurant touts (all male) pestering tourists with one objective: get you into their shop or restaurant and spend money. There are also street vendors who try to sell you their products. They all possess a whole range of tactics that tend to “violate” our culturally imposed “Levels of Rapport” (see below). Many people find it difficult to respond appropriately to the often relentless pursuit of these touts & sellers – especially if you appear to be an easy “victim”.

The tactics that these touts tend to use vary depending upon their foreign language skills. Many of them in the main tourist areas appear to be multilingual while those in less popular areas tend to rely on a very basic vocabulary to try to “sell”.

In general, the steps the touts use tend to follow these basic stages:
Step 1: Identify your nationality (often based on stereotypes) & language used.
Step 2: Pretend previous contact via the use of first names: In rapid fire succession, they use the most common first names used by your nationality to try to get you to respond on a personal level!
Step 3: If the previous steps do not detain you, they move on to the “Direct body block / confrontation” they will physically block you passage to try and divert you into their shop or restaurant!
Step 4: They try to shake hands with you. This physical contact is used to personalize & humanize the tout and makes it much harder to resist their spiel.
Step 5: The penultimate stage is the “Hand in front of your face”: they will approach the potential client and (aggresssively) raise their hands, palms towards you in an effort to stop your progress, make you pay attention to them, and follow their instructions!.
Step 6: The action of last resort is for them to physically take your arm and literally try to pull you into their restaurant or shop! What would you do in your country if someone tried this technique on you?

Techniques to use against them.
– The best & easiest technique is to totally ignore them.
– If with someone else, continue talking to them.
– Avoid giving ANY verbal response: (no jokes or “smart” comments) as it encourages them to apply greater pressure.
– Continue walking without deviation from your course.
– Avoid reading the menu / taking a flyer or business card, etc.
– Never shake their hand or have any physical contact with them as this personalizes them in your subconscious mind.
– Do NOT look back at them afterwards.
– in summary, keep them at 0% rapport (see below).

NOTE: Many of these techniques can also be used against door-to-door sales people (mobile phone service providers, energy suppliers, etc)  or anyone else that you do not want to interact with.

2) Levels of Rapport.
There are various methods of classifying the levels of rapport that are possible. This is the model that I feel is both simple and accurate.

Sample situation: We are at a bus stop early in the morning, other people join the queue waiting for the bus. We do not know anyone and no one knows us. There is no rapport with anyone.
(Other situations might include our first day in a new gymnasium, the first time we use a local swimming pool, etc.)

At the most basic level we have 0% Rapport:
– We do not look at them or acknowledge them in any way. For us, they do not exist.

At the next higher level we have minimal rapport (which might occur after a couple of days of seeing the same person every day)
– We look at them and possibly nod our heads &/or smile: we recognize that they exist and that we are sharing a similar space. We probably do not talk to them.

The third level of rapport may be reached after a few more days of “contact” with the person.
– At this stage we initiate, or respond to, non-intimate & neutral verbal communication: the weather, the delay between buses, or any other topic which does not include intimate personal information, just facts & information. We might exchange names at this level.

The fourth level of rapport can occur after a period of time at the previous level.
– At this level we start to open-up a little bit more. We subconsciously feel that we have a “connection” with the person and we tend to reveal more personal information and expect to receive the same kind of details from the other person. This might include ideas & opinions (both positive & negative) We tend to look for similarities between us and them.

At the fifth level we have rapport that includes the expression of feelings & emotions. I am like you. we are similar.

The sixth level deals with authenticity & congruence: I am being sincere & honest and I accept you and am being myself when we interact.

Full 100% rapport occurs when we have a close & harmonious relationship; a high level of trust & empathy and mutual understanding.

3) A common rip-off technique so Beware!
One of the most common tricks used to rip-off tourists is called “The Confusion technique” and consists of the salesman talking about prices in Euros (or any other currency) and then suddenly changing to Turkish Lira and talking about, for example, 50 TL vs 15 Euros (fifty vs fifteen). There are many words that, (especially when mispronounced by non-native speakers of English,) may sound the same but are spelled differently and mean different things. In addition, the sellers tend to have strong accents which adds to the difficulty of understanding them. Finally, to top it all off, they start using a calculator while talking to the potential buyer. There is so much going on visually, verbally and physically that many people get confused and end up paying too much for their purchase. It is a joy to observe from afar but hell when you are involved in it!
Recommended Solution: As soon as the charade starts, leave or accept the consequences.
Alternative Solution #1: Recognize the game and play by YOUR rules and only work in one currency.
Alternative Solution #2: Stay and play mind games with the salesman and “may the best player win”.

4) Tipping in Istanbul:
Many restaurants are now adding a 10% service charge to the restaurant bill without informing the client until the bill comes. Pay it if you feel the service has been worth it. If it has not, don’t!
There is too much competition for clients for the restaurants to become upset if you do not want to pay the service charge.  Normally, people leave what they feel is appropriate. Only Americans leave 15% or more. It appears most other nationalities leave much less.

5) Turkish wine & beer: 
Wine and beer are available in most restaurants that cater to tourists. However, in restaurants close to religious buildings alcohol is not usually available.  Turkish beer is very good. Turkish wine is  expensive for the quality provided. A “Cheap” bottle of wine costs around 40,00 euros. Most wine is a mixture of different grapes which produce some interesting taste sensations. There is a drinkable Merlot (called ANGORA) available for around 40,00 – 50,00 euros! If you are a serious wine-lover, we recommend that you buy your wine in the duty-free in the airport before you leave.

6) Avoid The Grand Bazaar:
It is one of the worst places to be besieged by touts and all of them promising that they “don’t haggle” as their prices are fixed and fair!  If you enter the bazaar at door 7 and walk straight through it and leave at door 17, in the shops in the street in front you can find the same products much cheaper – with little or no haggling.

7) Buying Foreign exchange.
Buy your Turkish currency when you arrive in the country. Buying it before you leave your own country can cost you a lot of money: in Spain, for example, the bank exchange rate plus commission can cost you up to 18% of the money you change! In Spain, avoid Bankia! The rate in Istanbul airport is NOT the best one available so wait until you arrive in the centre of the city and then use an authorized money-changer.

Public Transport in Istanbul is Great Fun!
We took taxis twice in Istanbul. The first time was organized by the Hotel and both the trip and the price where as agreed. The price was based on the taximeter which showed 15 TL and that is the sum we paid. However, on the return trip, we decided to catch a taxi at the taxi rank in front of the museum we had visited, we asked the first taxi driver for a price and he quoted us 30 TL. We then asked the second driver who quoted us a price of 25 TL. We then approached the third driver and offered him 15 TL as that was what we had paid to arrive at the museum. With an expression of disgust on his face, he agreed to take us back to our hotel for that price. However, when we arrived back at the hotel, he rudely told us to get out and sped off. Obviously, he did not like haggling (& losing)!
However, in the city there is a great network of trams that are excellent: clean, rapid, and reasonably priced. (3 TL per trip). We recommend that if your hotel is a bit outside the main tourist areas, you find out where the closest tram stop is and that you use the tram network in your trips around the city. They are a great way to see the city!

I hope the tips given here help you to enjoy Istanbul and avoid some of the inconveniences & problems of the city.

Your feedback would, as always, be appreciated.

© Ian Brownlee, July, 2013.

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