Who is Hank Walshak? Hank Walshak, founder, owner, and CEO of Walshak Communications, Inc., is a communications consultant, executive presentation coach, and author. He focuses on helping knowledge entrepreneurs in small and mid-sized businesses and their owners create expertise-related content to differentiate themselves as experts. Read More

When A Word Is Worth a Thousand Pictures

Last month, I went to my dermatologist – to discuss the results of a routine body scan. I’ll call him Dr. Flesh to keep his true name anonymous.

For no particular reason, I was feeling up, the kind of up when all’s right with the world. After checking in, I took a seat and leafed through a copy of Newsweek and Time.

But not for long. The admin assistant called, “Mr. Walshak,” handed me the file with the doctors notes about my  past visits and motioned for me to accompany her to one of six waiting rooms.  ”The doctor will be with you shortly,” she said as she closed the doctor on her way out.

Curiosity bettered me as I sat in wait. I  opened the file and leafed nonchalantly through this and that. And then BANG! I saw the word you never want to see or hear at a dermatologist’s office. Read more »

Why Did Cain Suspend His Presidential Campaign Instead of Withdrawing from It?

So, why didn’t Cain withdraw from his presidential campaign instead of suspending it?

In our hearts of hearts. we know he’s been vanquished. The number of accusations brought him down.

Yet, in this context, to withdraw from the campaign carries an overtone of backing away and admitting defeat. But to suspend his campaign, leaves the door open linguistically for a potential return, even though we know that’s not going to happen. 

And the media oblingingly furthered this little meme by using it oft and anon.

In essence, Cain softened his description of his exit from the campaign stage, by following what I call the Latinate Rule: To soften an utterance, use a word that traces its etymology from the Latin. Such words come off softer to the hearing and reading.

Another example: During the Vietnam War, the foul deed of killing someone, was uttered as to “terminate with extreme prejudice” (with three, Latinate words.)

In this case, Cain used suspend from the Latin, “suspendere,” meaning to hang up, as in suspenders.

Make Your Presentations Gaffe Reslient

People reacted quickly to Governor Perry’s recent gaffe, when he couldn’t remember the last of three things he’d change as president. Predictably, late-night hosts milked the incident for all the laughs they could. For my part, I felt embarassed for the guy. More on this later in this blog.

For now, let me say that as a speaker and presentation coach for experts, I’ve experienced my share of gaffes and have consulted with many before and after their untoward experiences. 

Who of us hasn’t experienced getting jolted off key by a blooper? You know what it’s like. You’ve spent hours going over your stuff. Practicing your moves. Noting the words you want to emphasize. Memorizing your opening and conclusion. Even asking the questions you could be asked and rehearsing your answers. 

These preps are standard, but to take your presentations to a higher level, you need to make them gaffe resilient.  First off, ask yourself this: What could happen during your presentation that could cause you the most embarassment? Then think through your answer to this: How will you recoup your poise  if this happens? 

This is where you test your true mettle. The truth is that gaffes can happen, no matter what we do. We can prepare for them, but when they occur, it’s important to use them as springboards to demonstrate your professionalism, to rise above the embarassment, and to reconnect with your audience.

Here are three steps I recommend to to recoup when a gaffe happens:

Slow down. When we flub, we tend to feel anxious and want to correct the situation with all possible speed. Instead of rushing, downshift. Go slower. Read more »

The 6.5 Things Lady Gaga Teaches Us About Marketing

She’s been called bawdy, bodacious, craven, obscene, outré, not to mention lewd, lascivious, unconscionable, and  fame-seeking. To her fans–the little monsters–she’s Mother Monster, divine, heaven sent, never to be outdone, the love of their lives. But up to now, nobody has called Lady Gaga the marketing master mind that she is. So, I’ll do it. She’s a marketing mastermind.

 Once you see beyond the zaniness and outrageous costumes like the meat dress and stage blood, the over-done make up and the bouffant, multi-colored hair, you’ll realize that the Gaga lays down her marketing genius with every performance she gives. She’s truly a stand-alone wizard. For starters, consider these 6.5 marketing lessons she teaches:

 1.    Occupy the scarce space in your prospects’ and clients’ perceptual map: Moving in the scarce, conceptual space separates Lady Gaga from every other pop singer today. Nobody’s like her.

 The marketing  lesson: If you’re a business owner, entrepreneur, consultant, or coach and not moving in your scarce space, you’re either moving in someone else’s space or a commodity space. Aargh. That makes it difficult for customers, clients, or prospects to figure what makes you and your business different from your competition. If you’re in the kingdom of commodity, buyers can always get it for cheaper somewhere else.

 2.    “Step away from the formula”: These are Gaga’s words not mine. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is formulaic about Lady Gaga, her voice, her songs, her costumes, and her acting. She never fails to step away from the formula.

 The marketing lesson: If you use hand-me-down ways to describe what you do, you’ll sound like same-ol’ same ol. What’s the point of that? If your marketing reflects formulaic, ho-hum words and concepts, you’re well on the way to becoming well, too predictable. Walking down this path leads right to the like-everybody-else zone, also known as the zone of commodity.

3.    “I’m always obsessing about the concept.” Again, these are Lady Gaga’s words not mine in her interview with Debbie Harry in the September 2011 issue of Harper’s Bazaar. Read it if you get the chance. With every song Lady Gaga writes, she obsesses about the concept the song will convey to her audiences.

The marketing lesson: Pay keen attention to the concepts you communicate, because the people who purchase your goods and services buy into your concepts first before they buy into what you market and sell. Read more »

Got Presentation Anxiety? Breathe It Away

In my speaking coaching with executives, I find that they are often surprised when I show them how diaphragm breathing can help to allay presentation anxiety and preserve their vocal quality.

Actually, babies know how to breathe this way naturally. If you look at a baby sleeping on its back, you’ll see its little belly going up and down – a good example of diaphragm breathing.

Diaphragm breathing helps to manage anxiety because it slows our breathing apparatus and our physical and mental systems. When we get nervous, stress rises in the body, and breathing moves up into the higher chest. We tend to hyperventilate and may breathe up to 18 or 24 times a minute. The voice lightens and we can easily run out of breath when speaking.

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Hello darkness, my old friend …

Who can forget Simon and Garfunkel’s lyrical masterpiece? Listening to this song recently, I thought about how silence relates to effective presentations.

Silence means many things to different people. But when you’re presenting, silence in the form the pause is your friend.

When I coach executives on their presentations, I often find they have a difficult time mastering the art of the pause. They may be good at talking and filling air time, but using silence to build in pauses escapes many. We’re great at filling space with words, but not as adept at using the other side of the coin – periodic silence in the form of the pause — to recapture audience attention.

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