NEVER Assume When It Comes to Your Presentation


Posted on 25th February 2012 by Kristin Arnold in Group Interaction |Interview |Questions |Set The Tone |U R #1 Visual

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Last night, I attended the Phoenix Business Journal Women in Business Awards Program.  450 men and women gathered to celebrate the success of 25 women who are leading the way in the Phoenix area.  Held at the historic Biltmore Hotel, I was thrilled to meet so many influential women.

Why?  After 20 years of facilitating high level meetings, I still don’t see a huge influx of women in the boardroom.  I won’t go into why (I’ll share that for another post!), but I will share that I was proud to see our community embracing these women.  As the publisher announced the name and read a short bio, the award recipient reached into a bowl and drew out a question to be answered – and then answered it!  Most of the comments were genuine, heartfelt and superb advice for anyone (man or woman) who aspires to be a leader.  One woman actually said, “World Peace” in a nod to the Miss America Pageant!  All in all, it was a truly enjoyable evening and I will plan on attending next year.

Although…..I hate to admit it.  I was disappointed at the same time.  Each of these lovely women were in the front row and were not called up onto the main stage to answer the question.  I understand why, as one woman quipped, “Glad I didn’t have to wear a bathing suit for this!”.  However, the award recipients were standing in the dark, with a small halo of light shining from behind them from the main stage – where they should have been.

Even the keynoter, Renie Cavallari, had to artfully dance from the right to the left of the mainstage during her presentation.  Why?  Because the multimedia projector (which was on a center table) was ON the entire time!  If Renie spent any time center stage, she was illuminated with the bright red scrolling, the name of the event, and the event sponsor logos.  When I chatted with Renie later (she is also a member of NSA), she had “assumed” the audio/visual (A/V) people would have blanked the screen.

It really was no big deal.  Renie is a pro and she didn’t let this little snafu bug her one bit. Lesson learned for me is to NEVER assume.  Think through not only the content and delivery of your speech, but the little things that impact the ability of your audience to see you and hear your speech.

One of the ways I try to remember these kinds of things is to have a pre-event packing checklist.  Fellow blogger and author of Confessions of a Public Speaker, Scott Berkun has an even better one here.  Use these checklists as a guide; better yet, develop your own!

What kind of things do you have on your checklist? 

New Webinar Series – Vote Now On What Do You Want to Learn


Posted on 12th January 2012 by Kristin Arnold in Polls |presentation skills |Questions

You asked for it and now I’d like your help.  Based on client feedback, I decided to conduct a quarterly webinar to help you continue to develop your teams.  (See what happens when you do a little business planning?)  Beware of what you ask for as the 2012 Extraordinary Team Webinar Series is coming soon!

I intend to schedule a webinar in March, June, September, and August of this year.  As far as topics go, I could talk for days about teamwork, but we’re only looking at a 45 minute webinar!

So here are some titles/topics I was thinking about, and would like to have your opinion as to what top four webinars you would not only be interested in attending, but would actually sign up!  2012 will be complementary, as I’ll be getting the kinks out of the system.  I’ve done a few, but I wouldn’t exactly call myself an amazing webinar presenter – yet.

TeamSpeak: Words to Use or Lose to Inspire Better Teamwork

Boring to Bravo: 10 Tips to Make Your Presentations Extraordinary!

Beyond Consensus: 3 Little Known Secrets to Achieving Solid Agreements Among Your Team Mates

A Team Leader’s Toolkit for Handing Difficult People

The Do’s & Don’ts of Teamwork & Collaboration: 5 Critical Skills to Take Your Team to the Next Level

Are you a Light Bulb or a Flame Thrower?  How to Manage the Inevitable Conflicts in Teams

Team Player or Spectator?  3 Critical Insights to Building a High Performance Team

Go Beyond the Ordinary: 5 Critical Decisions Every Team Leader Must Make

Any other topics/titles you have in mind?

Thanks for voting now on your top topics and helping me crowdsource the best titles/topics for 2012!  You have until Sunday, January 15th to let me know.  Thanks a bazillion!

Insights as NSA President


Posted on 27th October 2011 by Kristin Arnold in Engaging Mindset |Group Interaction |Humor |Opening Activities |PowerPoint |presentation skills |Questions |Set The Tone |Speaking Trends |Stories |Uncategorized

It’s been a few months since I handed over the gavel of the National Speakers Association.  Oddly enough, most people expected me to go through PPD – post-presidential depression – a second cousin to post-partum depression.  I keep waiting for the funk to set in, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.  I’m just so excited about reconnecting with clients and re-engaging into the business!

Upon reflection, I thought I would share a few of my “insights” while serving as NSA President for the past year.

  1. Never check email after dinner or 7pm, whichever comes first.  Even the slightest nuance, idea, or member concern will rattle around in your head throughout the night.
  2. It’s the People.  I am often asked, “What’s the best part of being president? Hands down, it’s the people I have met.  Learning from and leaning on people who have been there before you, who are going through the same trials and tribulations, and helping those who are traveling the road you just traveled.
  3. Experience Matters.  I was chatting with a speaker who said his area of expertise was on leadership.  I innocently asked, “So what have you led?” and he told me it was none of my business.  I then discovered he had never managed nor led any organization!  Nothing beats experience when talking about your area of expertise.  Some call it practice what you preach.  I call it “eat your own dog food.”  If you talk about it, you should not only practice those same principles on and off the platform, but it should be so ingrained in your MO, your DNA, or tattooed on your rear end like one of my clients who manages assets.  You think I’m kidding, she actually got a tattoo on her ass…ets!  And I went and got myself a heap of experience at NSA when it comes to strategic planning, facilitating our board meetings and building a team!
  4. We are living in the Era of Engagement.  People want to contribute – to provide input, to comment on what’s happening in their world.  As professional speakers, the more we can ask for the audience’s contributions and comments up front, the better we can create an event that really connects with our audiences – and that they will want to keep the conversation flowing long after the presentation through blogs, listservs and discussion groups. Social networking is all about starting and keeping communities connected and the conversation flowing.  We haven’t even begun to tap into the possibilities to connect with our clients, prospects, and with the entire world.
  5. Keep It Small, Focused and F2F.  So here’s the curious thing.  When 9/11 hit in 2001 and then when the global economy crashed and burned in 2008, the prognosis for the meetings industry was well, not so great.   Theoretically, all of the meetings were going to shift to the virtual world.  But that has NOT the case.  What has happened is a global trend toward fewer meetings, smaller meetings and with the content more tightly focused.  The value on these face-to-face meetings has become much higher as people are investing their time specifically in order to meet face to face.  Meetings are also becoming smaller in number of attendees physically present, with an extended reach beyond the four walls of the meeting.  These hybrid meetings include streaming video and content discussions running at the same time as the actual event so people outside the room can participate in real time.
  6. The world is indeed flat.  We are living in a global economy.  NSA-US is  the world’s largest and oldest association dedicated to the art and business of professional speaking.  It was a pleasure to travel around the nation and the world representing the NSA-US – and seeing just how much we have in common..
  7. Leadership is not about immediate gratification.  Especially with a volunteer association steeped in tradition, suffice it to say that you won’t see immediate results.  It is the long term progress to our strategic plan that keeps us focused and motivated, providing even greater value to our members.

I am thrilled with the progress NSA continues to make on behalf of our members, and I will hold dear the memories, experiences, and relationships with my speaker buddies.  And, I am equally excited to get back to “work”!


I thank you for the tremendous opportunity to serve you and represent you throughout the United States as and world.  See you in Anaheim soon!




Words Matter


Posted on 15th October 2011 by Kristin Arnold in Engaging Mindset |Facilitation |presentation skills |Questions |Set The Tone |Uncategorized |Word Choice

Words matter – at least that’s what my dear friend and colleague, Pamela Jett says.  (Full disclosure: It is also the name of her communication training and consulting company!).

It’s true.  The words you use to describe any change you want to see on your team, in your organization or with your clients makes all the difference. Especially the words leaders use to cultivate a cultural change in behavior.  Leaders may use a “hinge”: a word or words that capture the essence of the change.  Here are some examples I have run into lately with some of my clients:

Game Changing Innovation.  What does that really mean?  It meant one thing to the Leadership Team, and yet when you talked to the frontline, they had a hard time getting their arms around the concept.

Edgy.  What does that really look like?  Edgy has two sides of the same coin: a healthy, intense trend-setting vibe – but can also be seen as touchy, irritable, or intolerant.

Lean.  What’s the goal? Cut to the bone, anorexic lean or optimum body mass?  And what’s driving the diet?  You’ll take different strategies depending on the answer….

Unfortunately, you can’t assume that everyone has a common understanding of these words – especially in the context of the organization.  Each person brings their own experiences, biases and nuances to the word – and interprets the meaning differently.  As you use these hinge words, take the time to make these crucial words come alive.  Try to:

Expound.  Explain the meaning of the words in as much detail as you can.

Examples.  Provide examples to demonstrate the meaning of the words.

Analogy.  Tie it to a completely different concept with similar characteristics.

Demonstrate.  Show them concrete ways they can contribute.

Sometimes, you have to slow down in order to speed up to make the change happen.  It is well worth the investment of time to get everyone on your team and in your organization singing off the same sheet of music.

We have become masters of teasing out the common understanding of these critical hinge words in our high stakes meeting facilitation services and our presentations as a mainstage conversationalist.  Give us a call to find out how!



Ask Engaging Questions During Your Presentation


Posted on 5th October 2011 by Kristin Arnold in Engaging Mindset |Group Interaction |Humor |presentation skills |Questions |Speaking Trends |Uncategorized |Word Choice


One of the most powerful ways you can connect with your audience and begin a conversation is by asking an engaging question – and then be silent.  Wait for the answer.  If you suffer the silence for one or two seconds, and look like you are expecting a response, someone will answer you!

Many speakers get nervous and answer their own question (otherwise known as a “rhetorical” question), which severely limits interaction.  They might ask a series of rhetorical questions where they don’t get, nor were they expecting a response.  Then, when they poll the audience (a show of hands, please), they wonder why people don’t raise their hands!

Most audiences get confused.  Do you want an answer or not? If you want an answer, pause and listen for the answer.  If you are going to poll the audience, ask the question and model the behavior you are looking for.  For example, “Who here…” and while you are asking the question, raise your hand high in the air.  This sends a clear signal that you are expecting those people who will say “yes” will raise their hand with you.  Moreover, you are the one person in the room who can see all the results, and enquiring minds want to know.  Share the results in the form of a statistic: “That looks like thirty folks, so that’s 10 percent of the group.”  Or, if you want to make it a tad bit funny, be more precise, even though it is obviously a best guesstimate:  “27 folks agree, and that is 13.3 percent of the group.”

Speeches are Back…


Posted on 1st March 2011 by Kristin Arnold in Polls |presentation skills |Questions |Set The Tone |Speaking Trends

Or so says Peggy Noonan in a Wall Street Journal article this weekend.

Contending that “the speech as a vehicle of sustained political argument was killed by television and radio.  Rhetroic was reduced to the TV producer’s 10-second soundbit, the correspondent’s eight-second insert, ” she asserts that the Internet is restoring rhetoric as a powerful force to connect with the American public.

Why?  Because anyone can go online and view the video and or a transcript of the speech and see for ourselves what was actually said.  Noonan points to two cases: Gov. Mitch Daniels and Gov. Chris Christie, as well as the plethora of speeches on YouTube and  TED conference speeches.

She exhorts our politicians to “settle down, survey the technological field and get serious.  They should give pertinent, truthful, sophisticated and sober-minded speeches.  Everyone will listen.  They’ll be all over the interwebs.”

Wish I could be so optimistic.  We still live in a Twitter-world where everything is boiled down to 140 characters to get the public’s attention – in order to inspire then to search for more meaning.  Why would I want to listen to a sober speech if there isn’t something that grabs my attention?

Sorry, Peggy.  I usually agree with you, but in this case, I think you need both.  The substance AND the sizzle.

What do you think?  Take our monthly poll just to the right of this posting!

Embrace Technology During Your Presentations


Posted on 30th November 2010 by Kristin Arnold in Polls |PowerPoint |presentation skills |Questions |Speaking Trends |U R #1 Visual

shutterstock_189835049Newsflash:  You no longer have to stand in the dark.  Any multimedia projector packing at least 2500 lumens has enough candlepower to project a visible image in a brightly lit room.  You should know this by now, but oddly, many people still stand in the dark while the PowerPoint plays on.

If your eyes glazed over at the mention of lumens, then hold on to your seat because the Luddite in you isn’t going to like this: You should know the capabilities of every type of technology in the room.  At the very least, you should know how to turn the projector on/off, sync up your computer, and advance your slides using a remote control.

For example, If 90% of your audience has cell phones (common enough these days), then let the audience know how they can use their cell phones to respond to a poll or feed questions to you. If you are brave, project the feed onto a screen behind you (this is called a “twitterfall”.  Ain’t that cute?) so all can participate in the “back channel” discussion – the conversation going on in the room while you are speaking.  [Note:  I was just quoted in article about this at – check it out here!]

Can’t make it to the meeting due to a volcanic dust cloud covering European airspace?  Skype it in – but only if you are extremely comfortable using the technology.   That means practice using the technology – not just once, but a few times.  Oh, and have a backup plan for ANY technology that you intend to use as good ol’ Murphy might have different plans for you!

Change This: 15.5 Ways to Make your Presentation Go From Boring to Bravo


Posted on 9th September 2010 by Kristin Arnold in Engaging Mindset |PowerPoint |presentation skills |Questions |Set The Tone |Stories |Task Individuals |U R #1 Visual |Uncategorized |Visuals/Props

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I received a call a few months ago from the folks at  Turns out they wanted me to write a “Change Manifesto” on making presentations more engaging and interactive.  Now that’s a good fit!

As part of 800-CEO-Read, they found out about my new book, Boring to Bravo and wanted to highlight the topic.  They only do five business books per month, so this was quite the honor.

So download it here – it’s free – and let me know what you think!

Engage vs. Interact


Posted on 13th April 2010 by Kristin Arnold in Auto Responders |Engaging Mindset |Questions

Was trolling through the TED talks (great place to view short, insightful and interesting presentations on a variety of topics), when I ran across Tony Robbins ‘ presentation about the invisible forces that drive our behavior.

Tony is known as a hugely engaging and interactive motivational speaker.  But TED limits the presentation to only 18 minutes (he went four minutes over BTW – you don’t see that happen very often!) when he normally consumes 50 hours (his own admission).  In this presentation, he was very engaging for the first five minutes, and then ventured into the interactive space by polling the audience with an intriguing question: “How may of you have failed to achieve something significant in your life?”  After the hands went up in the air, he said, “thanks for the interaction.”

By encouraging a small degree of participation, he tangibly shifted the mood in the room. If you continue to listen to the video – whether you agree with what he said or not – the mood in the room became lighter.  He continued to interact with the audience when they “filled in the blank” to a question.  Robbins came into the audience and hi-fived Al Gore.  He had a bit of spontaneous reparte with the audience – including a bit of laughter. He used an autoresponder asking them to say “Aye!” if they agree.  He used more interactive techniques – not only connecting but conversing with the audience.

Question:  Are you just engaging your audiences or are you engaging AND interacting with your audiences?

Questions to Mingle BEFORE Your Presentation


Posted on 10th April 2010 by Kristin Arnold in Questions |Set The Tone

I was at the Arizona Chapter meeting of the National Speakers Association today with Naomi Rhode, CSP, CPAE and Glenna Salsbury, CSP, CPAE.  I always learn something from these meetings, and today did not disappoint!  Both of these pros shared some of their best questions they ask the participants as they mingle before the presentation begins.

Naomi often asks, “What has become crystal clear to you in the last year?” or “What are you happy about today?”  Glenna asks, “What’s really important to you about the topic we are speaking on today?” or “What are you most excited about today?”

As an introvert, my personal favorite is an easier lob:  “What brings you here today?”  Chat with as many friendly faces as you can.  Introduce yourself.  Shake their hands.  Thank them for coming. Get to know their names.  You are not only establishing rapport with the audience, but you are also gathering information about them that you can incorporate into your presentation.  Then, during your speech, you can refer to them by name and even repeat what they said.  Just watch them puff up with pride when you mention their name!

Question: Do you mingle with the audience before your presentation?  How do you start the conversation?