Mules, Tourists and Converts: Know Your Audience!

Mules, Tourists and Converts:
Know Your Audience!

Two years ago, I found myself in very uncommon and uncomfortable territory: facing an audience who, unbeknownst to me, had little interest in my topic, and even less interest in active participation. Considering the fact that this wasn’t just an hour-long seminar, but a full-day event, we were not off to an auspicious start!

It was my first foray into the world of continuing legal/professional education (CLE/CPE) credit classes for lawyers and accountants**. I had met someone whose company provided the platform to offer and advertise these classes and just needed content providers, so I thought I’d try my material out on this specific demographic. People in these fields are required to log a certain number of credits per year, so I offered my class in December, figuring it would be a good time to catch the procrastinators who needed the credits by year-end deadline; in other words, it seemed like a guaranteed market. But somehow in my research, I missed one key detail: For people to get their credit, the only requirement is that they show up. They don’t even need to be conscious while there... and some people arrived with the full intention to take very literal advantage of that loophole.
Some walked in with magazines, novels, catalogs and other paperwork, or laptops, and never once looked up in six hours. Never even acknowledged my existence. Internally, I was stunned that this was considered acceptable, and even the norm. But once this intention and pattern became apparent — which didn’t take very long — I had a choice to make.

I could let the energy of the room dictate my energy level and just plod through my material, figuring people weren’t listening anyway, or I could “do my thing” the way I always do, and not let my passion for my content be drowned out by the apparent ambivalence of the crowd. In some ways, my emotional intelligence went in a very counter-intuitive direction: I decided to pretend I didn’t notice their aura, and continue plowing ahead, undeterred. And little by little I noticed that three distinct groups emerged, who I lovingly refer to as the “Mules,” “Tourists” and “Converts.”

Stubborn as a mule. Boys on a beach try to coax a recalcitrant animal into action. Photograph, early 1900's. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

The “Mules” came in with one objective and wouldn’t budge no matter what. Now, I can certainly understand having too many past experiences of boring CLE/CPE presenters so that by now they expected to be disappointed, but they weren’t even open to being pleasantly surprised. The message they sent was, “I’m not going to like this, I don’t want to like this, you can’t make me like this, even if I realize there’s something that might be interesting or useful, I won’t let either of us think I like this. To acknowledge that I like this is to admit that you’re right and I’m wrong and that’s just not going to happen.” These are the people in your teams who can (and frequently do) suck the life out of a meeting and kill positive energy.

q57lm44The “Tourists” came in with the intention of being Mules, armed with a day’s worth of materials to entertain themselves while waiting for the clock to show that it was time to leave. But they’d catch a graphic on my screen with one eye, or hear an interesting statistic or funny comment I’d made, and paid more and more attention to the training, almost in spite of themselves. Some of them even engaged in the pairwork and breakout activities. I call them “tourists” because it was as if they had been coerced into buying a ticket for the bus tour, but found themselves actually enjoying the view, to their own surprise. They’d look out the window, listen to the tour guide’s stories, and maybe even snap a few pictures, but they weren’t about to get off the bus and explore at the different stops along the way. These are the people who go through the motions, do their job, but follow the letter rather than the spirit of the law. They lack a sense of ownership in the bigger picture and their contribution to it.

convertsLast but not least, there were the “Converts.” These people may also have come in braced for a typical boring presentation, and armed with alternative entertainment, but realized to their pleasant surprise that their concerns were unwarranted. They decided my information and presentation style was actually interesting and useful, and that active participation would make the total experience that much more valuable all around. They asked questions, volunteered to do demonstrations and actively participated in all exercises. These are your leaders. They are proactive, optimistic, open to new ideas, willing to try different things, and take ownership for their own experience and others’.

I chose to behave as if everyone was a Convert, or had the potential to be one, and I ignored those who were committed to being a Mule; I refused to let the tail wag the dog. In the end, it worked out really well, and the ones who got on board with me made it a really great experience for everyone.

At the end, one guy came up to me with his 6-inch-thick stack of reading material, and said, “I just wanted to show you this: I came prepared to get all sorts of work done while I was sitting here, and the whole day I never touched it! I think this was the best CLE I ever attended.”

Of course, my role as presenter in that context is different than that of someone leading a team, where you probably can’t fully ignore the Mules. But you can recognize who falls into each group and find ways to address whatever issues and challenges stand in the way of anyone’s “full conversion.”

Had I known about this dynamic in advance, I probably would have run the event differently. On the other hand, as the expression goes, the best person for the job is often the person who doesn’t know what can’t be done, as this day proved to be true. But overall, knowing who your audience is and what their motivators are before you show up is a huge advantage to being an effective communicator and mastering the 3Cs of Vocal Executive Presence: Command the room, Connect with the audience, and Close the deal.

So I ask you: who is in your audience?

**Note: Since then, I have done many other programs for professionals in the legal and financial fields and have had a blast with everyone there. But I understand the unique nature of that particular CLE/CPE context, and now I know it’s simply not my target market — another incredibly valuable piece of audience information everyone needs to know!

Happy Women’s Equality Day!

Happy Women’s Equality Day!

August 26, 2015, was Women’s Equality Day, and this year marks the 95th anniversary of that turning point in US history when women won the right to vote. Given the current buzz about upcoming elections, whether Donald Trump makes a good candidate or just good television, whether or not President Obama giving his “blessing” to Joe Biden (should he choose to run for the Democratic ticket) is the equivalent of giving his endorsement, and all the other noise in the field, it is critical to listen to what is being said, and just as importantly, take action, adding our own voices to the fray.

Women like Susan B. Anthony (with whom I proudly – if wholly coincidentally – share a birthday) are credited for spearheading the movement, fighting as suffragist and abolitionist throughout the latter half of the 1800s and into the 1900s for all people, regardless of gender or race, to have the right to vote and more.

When election season rolls around, there’s one election-oriented term that really bugs me: the concept of “women’s issues,” for the sole reason that, by implication, it means that there are issues that are decidedly NOT for women. It’s as if people think women are so myopic or self absorbed that they only care about issues that reflect their own bodies, salaries or children. I don’t know about you, but I care about what the stock market is doing; I care about immigration; I care about what we do with the military; I care about prison reform… Those are “women’s issues” because they’re my issues too. And for that matter, issues like women’s healthcare, early childhood education and pay equity won’t ever be successfully resolved until they are just as seriously viewed as “men’s issues.” The discussions need to be inclusive if they are going to be fruitful.

So it is up to each of us, male and female, to make our voices heard. To contact our local, state and national representatives and make sure that they understand our positions and do the job we elected them to do. If we don’t, then we have no one to blame but ourselves when they fail to represent our interests.

For those whose cynicism has taken over and who doubt whether their single vote would really make a difference, I offer this: the only guarantee you have for sure is that if you do not exercise your right to vote, then your vote certainly will not count. If you choose to silence yourself, to give up your power, I guarantee someone else will quickly volunteer to speak for you.

So let’s honor the years and the lives that were given in the fight to give us all this right to let our voices be heard and counted. Find your voice. Prepare to cast your vote. Happy Women’s Equality Day!

Podcast on Your Authentic Voice in Business

Podcast on Your Authentic Voice in Business

Hi everyone!

I’m excited to be the featured guest on J V Crum III’s Conscious Millionaire Podcast today. It’s a top-rated podcast with coaching and strategies on how to make big profits and a big difference as a conscious entrepreneur! But even if you’re not officially an “entrepreneur” per se, JV and I have a great time discussing the importance of communication as a part of leadership, and how to do it in a way that is authentic to who you are, while still effectively reaching the ears, mind and heart of your audience.

JV and I had such a great response about six months ago when I first was on his show, he asked me back and that’s what’s coming out today. I’m honored to be included among guests such as Chris Brogan, Michelle Patterson, Adam Urbanski, Dame D C Cordova, Greg Reid, and Dov Baron. If you want to make a difference in your job, no matter what it is, scroll through all the topics in Conscious Millionaire; I guarantee you’ll find information that is crucial to your success and happiness.

Click here to listen now:

Read all the Show Notes

Enjoy the podcast, and feel free to drop me a line with your comments. I welcome your feedback!

Here’s to your success,

PS: Here are other links to the show:



iTunes Link to subscribe

Sticher Link to subscribe

Milestone: 1 Million Views on my TEDx Talk!

Milestone: 1 Million Views on my TEDx Talk!

Today I’m celebrating a milestone I’d like to share with you: My TEDx
Talk, “Want to sound like a leader? Start by saying your name right”,
published almost exactly a year ago, just passed the million viewers

I’ve learned a lot in that year, about everything ranging from voice
to web popularity to marketing and more. Naturally, I’m very proud and
honored to have given the talk, and I’m even doing some mentoring work
behind the scenes for TED, which has been a thrill. But in hindsight,
if I could do my talk over again, there are some things I’d have
changed (and not just my wardrobe, as some commenters perhaps
rightfully but rather ungraciously posted…talk about people with
nothing better to do!)

Word choices, cadence, anecdotes and the like are all details, large
and small, that change the impression you and your message leave on the
listener, and there are some details I still think I could have done
better. But the ability to reflect on your work and simultaneously
appreciate what was well conceived and executed, and still take an
objective eye to decide what you’ll do differently and better next time
is an essential skill that ensures continued growth, and the likelihood
of getting to, or staying at, the top of your game, and being a true
leader in your world.

If you haven’t seen it yet, I invite you to watch the talk and share
your thoughts. I know each one will help me hone my craft. And for
those of you who have seen it, I happily and humbly thank you for
helping me reach this exciting milestone.

And to everyone — here’s to creating your own unique and authentic
sound of leadership!

Today, April 16th, is World Voice Day!

Today, April 16th, is World Voice Day!

It’s an opportunity to celebrate the amazing instrument that connects us to virtually every other person on the planet (and no, I’m not talking about the Internet.)

The voice is one of those things we take for granted until it fails us, whether a case of laryngitis due to overuse/abuse, an illness, or anything else. Here are a few tips to take care of your voice so it can take care of you:

  1. Drink plenty of water! It’s important to keep hydrated. Caffeine and alcohol have the opposite effects and the voice can suffer so limit those options and stick with healthier options.
  2. Avoid dairy before a speaking eworldvoicedayngagement – including a simple phone call or meeting. Dairy (which I love) can cause excess mucous/phlegm, so unless you want to continually be clearing your throat, stay away from them too. Citrus can help counter those effects, so add a few drops of lemon juice to your water to give it a little zing.
  3. Breath support is key. Check your posture: are you a perpetual sloucher, whether standing or sitting? If so, you aren’t getting a full breath of air, which is the “fuel” for your voice. It has a negative effect on volume, clarity, endurance (you’ll run out of breath easily), and increases the likelihood of “vocal fry,” that annoying crackling sound that makes people sound indifferent or insecure. While men and women, old and young, commit this faux pas, women get the brunt of the bad “rap” for it, even influencing hiring decisions.
  4. Use a microphone when possible. Plenty of us decline to use a mic when it’s available, declaring, “oh, I have a big mouth, I don’t need it!” But more often than not, you’re wrong: acoustics of the room, audience members with undeclared hearing impairments, and our own unrecognized tendencies to trail off at the end of sentences, or speak loudly enough to be easily heard by ourselves but not by those toward the back of the room, are all landmines that sabotage our ability to be heard… or we try to compensate for all those things and PUSH our voices to be heard by everyone. But then you’re practically yelling, and without breathing from the diaphragm (see point 3 above) you’re just straining your vocal cords, and that causes the very problem we’re trying to avoid!

So remember these simple tips and practice them regularly to make sure your voice projects the best image of you!
To good vocal health and communication,

The gift of your voice

The Gift of your voice

Hello everyone! I am so excited to unveil my newly redesigned website, complete with this blog where from time to time I will share observations, tips and techniques, advice and inspiration regarding the power of the voice, and how to make your vocal impact. In other words, how to use your voice in a way that gets your message through to the ears, minds, and hearts of your listeners.

As we begin this new journey together, I wanted to share a quote that I think encompasses my wish for you:

“A voice is a human gift; it should be cherished and used, to utter fully human speech as possible.”
― Margaret Atwood, Second Words: Selected Critical Prose

Read more

Voice and Character

Voice and Character

“There is no index of character as sure as the voice.” ― Benjamin Disraeli

Truer words were never spoken. Whether you are already in a leadership position, on some rung midway up the corporate ladder, or right out of high school, wondering what direction your life will take, the way you speak is going to influence your current success and future trajectory. Read more