All posts by andy

How to Make a Winning Impression in Seven Seconds

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We form an impression of someone within seven seconds of meeting. During that time, we gather a variety of verbal and non-verbal cues that bring us to a conclusion: likable or off-putting, professional or amateurish, confident or insecure, leader or follower.

At Dardis Communications, we teach you how to convey a leadership presence and reflect your best self, speaking as clearly as you think. This is not a predetermined skill set; it is eminently coachable. And it all begins in those first seven seconds, where a handful of small, seemingly simple measures make a big difference.

First, you must look the part. A leader looks presentable and must have a polished presence.  Our eyes scan all these details within a few seconds and we read into them.

Second, smile. A bright, genuine smile expresses a wonderful blend of confidence and appreciation, generating positive feelings that can form someone’s first impression of you.

Third, pair that smile with direct eye contact to establish a connection and convey honesty.

Fourth, offer a firm handshake. It’s easy to overlook the power of a handshake because we’ve done it a million times, but this indispensable step involves physical contact, reflects confidence and speaks its own greeting.

Would you like to learn more? We invite you to attend one of our public programs of Leadership Presentation & Image Skills. We’ll explore the crucial and interrelated roles of eye contact, body position, facial expressions, volume, pace, inflection and word choice. Whatever your skill level when it comes to communication and image, we’ll give you tools and techniques to help you reach the next level.  Register today: or call 515-208-0459.

Give a Better Wedding Toast

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You sip your water, grab your champagne and take the microphone. The din in the room softens, and eyes turn to you.  Now what?

When you’re charged with making a toast, preparation is key, but often overlooked. Off-the-cuff seems to be the current style, and it almost always flops.

June is the most common month to marry, and chances are you’ll find yourself at a wedding soon. With brides and bouquets comes a barrage of speech-making, much of it poorly executed – the rambling host, the over-served best man, the father of the bride at a loss for words.

Unfortunately, these blunders extend beyond the ballroom. They also occur in professional settings of any size: an office party, corporate dinner or an evening entertaining clients.

Dardis Communications offers training in public speaking, including toasting, to transform any tongue-tied client into an effective elocutionist, but observing the following tips will put you well on your way to perfecting your toast this wedding season.

1)      Prepare. One of our public speaking experts on our team deejayed weddings during college. Now certified as a corporate etiquette and international protocol consultant, he draws on his experience for perfect examples of terrible toasts. The biggest mistake? Insufficient preparation. Notes jotted on a napkin between the wedding and reception do not count as planning ahead.  Your thoughts need a roadmap. Write a draft at least one week before the event to provide plenty of time to rehearse and tweak phrasing. Planning your speech in advance will not only produce a better speech, but it will help you relax and deliver your remarks with a natural cadence.

2)     Be confident. Preparation helps you properly view toasting as an opportunity, not a burden. It’s an easy way to make a great impression. Even if public speaking terrifies you, don’t start a speech with a line to lower audience expectations, such as “I had nightmares about this moment” or “I’m not very good at this,” even to draw a sympathetic laugh. To display fear at this moment detracts from your honorable efforts to prepare and overshadows your thoughtful words. Instead, make eye contact with your audience and the subject of your toast and use note cards to stay on track.

3)     Keep it short. A toast is not a Shakespearian soliloquy. A welcome toast can be two or three lines; a toast given by the best man or maid of honor need not exceed three minutes. Toasts for business events should be to the point. Time your speech when practicing.

4)     Stick to the plan. Consider the case of the well-prepared best man, armed with note cards. He stood from his seat, reached into his jacket and retrieved his speech. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he said, “I’d like to share some words about my relationship with the bride and groom.” He paused to glance at his notes. “But you know what? I think I’ll just wing it.” He ditched the cards and proceeded to tell embarrassing stories that snowballed into a rambling mess. Whether he later realized it or not, he made a poor choice. Some may think extemporaneous speeches sound more natural or that winging it creates a more heart-felt presentation. Rarely is that reality. The well-chosen and well-rehearsed phrases of a prepared speech will always flow more smoothly than lines made up on the fly.

5)     Respect your honorees. At a wedding, toasting is an opportunity, entrusted to the speaker by the newlyweds, to publicly celebrate the event. It should not turn into an embarrassing story or string of inside jokes. This sort of speechmaking is prevalent in comedy films, but it’s only funny because it’s awkward. Toasts need not be humorous to be memorable, especially if that’s not your style, and a captive audience does not give you permission to test out a stand-up routine. Importantly, don’t rely on “liquid courage.” Moderate what you drink before your toast to ensure your composure and make sure there’s enough in your glass to raise at the end.

In sum: Be prepared, be brief and be seated. Honor the newlyweds or guests of honor and wish them good will, health and prosperity with poise, letting your words reflect the esteem with which you hold them. A well-prepared toast will go far in setting the stage for a successful event. Cheers!

Take Action!

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We all know that results are derived from action, but, too often we get stuck in inaction due to a number of reasons. The trait that successful entrepreneurs possess is a daily commitment to fulfilling the goals they set for themselves and their companies. Every day you must be willing to step out of your comfort zone and take care of what you know needs to be done. For some people this daily commitment means picking up the phone and making calls to prospective or current customers, no matter what. For others, it means sourcing suppliers for new products, meeting milestones and deadlines as part of a project, or implementing changes in procedures.

Although planning is a key component in providing you clarity in what you want to accomplish and the general direction you will take, it isn’t action. It is only through action that you will ever accomplish anything of significance. Only action will get you to where you want to go.

So what are you waiting for?

Connect with Visuals

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Steve Jobs was widely known for his great presentations. In fact, his unveiling of the iPhone® in 2007 is considered by many to have been one of his best presentations ever.

Jobs was particularly well known for building his presentations around powerful visual aids. He knew that slides are most effective when they tell a story rather than convey information, so his visuals were simple, elegant, and image-based. They complemented and reinforced his message, and they didn’t compete with him for his audience’s attention.

You don’t have to be Steve Jobs to give a great presentation, but you do need great visuals. They convey a powerful message about your ideas and your brand, so it’s essential to get them right. Following are some pointers to make sure that your slides connect your audience with your message.

Keep it simple. Don’t lose sight of the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”   More often than not, when you use simple, image-based slides to support your message, your audience can better grasp the information you’re communicating.

Remember the 5×5 rule.  Focus on condensing your slides to no more than 5 bullets per slide and 5 words per bullet.

Break it down.  When you have to communicate complex data or large chunks of information, avoid putting it all on one slide. Instead, summarize the information, split it up over several slides, or rely on a handout.

You’re the presentation.  Your visual aids serve one purpose:  To support your presentation.  Stay consistent with the slides and make sure they don’t detract from your message.

Make it Stick!

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Did you know that people receive 40 billion sensory inputs every second?  Our memory takes a lot of mental resources!  Unfortunately, people can only consciously deal with four things at a time and can be easily distracted. What can you do as a presenter to help prevent memory disruption, minimize what people have to remember, and all the while ensure a successful presentation?  Here are some tips:

  • People can remember things they see (visual memory) better than words.  Use images with or instead of words on slides.
  • Don’t just tell, rather, show people through examples, stories or exercises.
  • Try not to interrupt people if they are learning or encoding information.
  • Give people frequent breaks if you want them to remember information.
  • If some of the information is important for people to remember, plan to repeat it several times during your presentation.
  • If you want people to remember information accurately, provide them with a summary handout after the presentation for them to refer to later.

When it comes to working memory, remember that less is more! 

Communication Resolutions for 2013

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The confetti has settled, and the champagne bubbles have fizzled. It’s back to the grindstone and time to get down to the business of 2013 and achieving those resolutions. What better topic to resolve to improve than your communications!  So without further ado, here are our 10 Communication Resolutions for 2013.

{ Express Appreciation }  Before diving into a conversation, make a point of thanking the other person for their time.  Also, compliment or recognize any positive contributions they are making.  Appreciation and praise can go a long way towards building relationships.

{ Connect }  Connect on a personal level.  Even in a professional situation, there may be some personal interests in common:  hobbies, sports, children, etc.  A real sense of connection makes a difference in the tone and outcome of the current conversation and most likely future communications too.

{ Keep it Real }  In a world of e-mail and smart phones, it can become easy to hide behind technology. Direct communication can provide both parties the opportunity to explain themselves and seek immediate clarification.

{ Solicit Feedback }  Ask for input and feedback to confirm you have a mutual understanding of what has been communicated.  This has a dual effect as it makes the other person feel that they have been heard and understood.

{ Focus on the Result }  What are you hoping to accomplish?  It’s important to figure out what result you are after before you start the conversation.  That way, you can direct the conversation and remain on point.  And, your desired outcome helps you to determine the flow of conversation.

{ Follow-up }  Be clear about what actions will be taken and establish accountability.  Always try to end your communication in a friendly manner and reiterate your thanks.  Productive communication involves respect, consideration, awareness and clarity.

{ Stay Positive }  Maintaining a positive attitude is critical to productive communications.  Remain constructive rather than negative when expressing concerns.

{ Watch Tone } There’s a difference between being assertive and being aggressive.  You can be confident and direct while having a calm and cooperative tone.

{ Be Aware of Non-Verbal Cue }  Watch body language.  Lack of eye contact, distractions, sighing, or fidgeting are signs of restlessness or impatience.  When you notice these signals, it’s a sign that the conversation is not going to be as productive as it could be.

{ Listen & Learn }  Maintaining a good level of communication isn’t always easy, and you need to be prepared to learn from your mistakes.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help or to seek out the assistance of a communications coach.

Clear & Concise Communications

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Have you found yourself listening to someone talk for 10 minutes and been completely lost as to where they are going with the conversation? People who are indirect with their messages tend to hint at things, give mixed messages and avoid getting to the point. Unfortunately, failing to communicate effectively can potentially undermine your ability to build and advance personal and professional relationships.

The next time you engage in a conversation, rely on these tips:

Organize and clarify ideas in your mind. This should be done before you attempt to communicate these ideas. Choose three main points, and keep your communication focused on them.

Be clear. Make it clear what your intended purpose is from the outset. People need to know in advance what you expect from your communication.

Communicate eye-to-eye. Eye contact establishes rapport, helps to convince people that you’re trustworthy, and displays interest.

Be attentive when listening. Listen actively. When you are talking, you are not learning.  Furthermore, you will be able to gauge how much of your message is getting through and whether or not it is being received correctly.

By relying on these points, the other party’s needs are uncovered, but maybe more importantly, you are seen as attentive and actively engaged in listening. As a result, the relationship begins to build because the other party feels understood.

Need help being more clear and concise?  Register today for our public program of “Leadership Presentation & Image Skills”:

Listening Skills

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