The Truth about what Happens to Your Brain on Zoom Meetings

Some traditions are powerful, even in their simplicity.


This weekend we celebrated Memorial Day, an annual favorite holiday of mine, as our tradition is to celebrate it with extended family at the beach.


Staring at the ocean, the soft, rhythmic roar of the waves is almost hypnotic, allowing me to step out of autopilot from the daily rat race, and most importantly, get grounded. It gives me the space to:


  • Give thanks and honor all those who have served our country, many of whom made the ultimate sacrifice, so that I can have the freedom and security to pursue my dreams
  • Check my ego at the door, reminding me how small I am in the grand scheme of the universe
  • Take stock of all my blessings, such as a fulfilling career, good health, and a loving family
  • Sit with my thoughts and get back in sync with my goals, values, and what matters most in life.


This last one is particularly important, as we don’t tend to realize how easy it is to get out of synchrony with ourselves and others when our brains are going in too many directions at once. This makes it really hard to form and feel a connection with the very people we’re communicating with in the moment.


Nowhere is this more evident than in the perpetual sense of disconnect we still commonly feel when meeting others in daily video conferences.


But why does that happen?


That’s exactly the mystery we sought to unravel this week on the Speaking to Influence podcast with neurophysiologist and psychiatrist Dr. Jennie Byrne of Constellation PLLC.



If you have theories about why we think, feel and behave the way we do (for better and – *ahem* – for worse) on video calls, Dr. Jennie pulls back the curtain to our brain’s behavior and explains once and for all why it happens, why you can forgive yourself for a lot of your less-than-optimal reflexes and preferences, and how to make the experience BETTER for everyone.


Want a sneak preview? We explored:


  • The real neuroscience of “Zoom fatigue,” (hint: it’s related to our caveman brain’s need to escape hungry lions)
  • How to have more successful virtual meetings (hint: it's about making our caveman brain feel safe)
  • How synchrony plays an essential role in creating the feeling of being connected with other people, and how to strengthen that connection
  • How to make virtual encounters feel more like being in person
  • How to leverage the uniquely equalizing features of video meetings to encourage more even participation and ensure everyone’s voice is heard, regardless of role or position


And so much more!


Listen to the full conversation here or watch the video on YouTube here.


And in case you didn’t have the chance to do it yesterday, don’t forget take a moment for yourself to get grounded again, take stock, and give thanks for all you have in your life too.


Better yet, if you can, thank a veteran or first responder directly.


On that note, for all of you who are or were military service members or first responders and related roles, a huge and heartfelt THANK YOU!

Which is More Intentional: How You Speak or How You Live?

I’ve always been a huge musical theater fan. Show-stopping tunes like “One Day More” from Les Miserables, “The Gods Love Nubia” from Aida, “Defying Gravity” from Wicked, and more recently “My Shot” from Hamilton leave me on the edge of my seat.


But what makes these shows so powerful is not just their ability to have key songs cycle on perpetual loop through my head for weeks on end afterward. It’s the messages that they leave equally indelible on my brain.


Although I only managed to see the recorded version of Hamilton on Disney+, one line that has stuck with me was from Alexander Hamilton (who ostensibly made as many enemies as friends for being so vocal and opinionated) to Aaron Burr (whose motto was “talk less, smile more; don’t let them know what you’re against or what you’re for.”)


At one point, Hamilton challenges him: “If you stand for nothing, Burr, what will you fall for?”


While there was inevitably a ton of artistic license taken in the show overall, it doesn’t change the relevance of the fact that Hamilton’s life – at least professionally – was singularly focused, and intentional.


That’s also why I loved the theme of this week’s episode of the Speaking to Influence podcast , as Kevin Nolan, CEO of Nolan Painting, Inc., drives home the importance of being “abundantly clear about what you want in life, (and living) deliberately.”



Part of living and leading intentionally is reflected in their remarkable Nolan Painting Promise to their customers which has driven their success for over 25 years. It states outright that they will:


  • Start and finish on time
  • Maintain a neat, clean project
  • Handle all the details,
  • Stand behind the work, and
  • Assure the highest quality.


Each of these action steps is a direct manifestation of that philosophy that every choice and action must be intentional. And each statement in that promise is something that his employees can articulate explicitly, and mean it.


It's about consciously shaping our lives, careers, and relationships through words and actions that allows us to leave a meaningful impact and create a legacy that lasts.


Even his 24-hour influence challenge is about how to get “abundantly clear” on what you want.


It’s making intentional choices, taking intentional steps, and speaking intentionally and decisively … and it all starts with writing a letter to yourself.


You can listen to the full conversation here or watch it on YouTube here.

Why and How to Take the (Verbal) Road Less Traveled

Do any of the following sound familiar?


  • You thought you hit reply… but actually hit reply-all
  • You agreed to help someone with something before realizing exactly what you just committed yourself to doing
  • You said something to someone, and instantly realized it sounded different (and much better) in your head
  • You rambled on and on in the answer you gave (in conversation or email), and realized later that most of what you said was utterly unnecessary


The list goes on, but I’ll spare your cringe-reflex.


A few applications like Gmail or WhatsApp allow written messages to be deleted or unsent, at least for a few seconds. But when you’re speaking to another person, once the words are out of your mouth, you can’t put them back in.


We've all been on that road far too many times, wishing we had taken a different path.


Fortunately, on this week’s episode of Speaking to Influence podcast, Karen Mangia, President & CSO of the Engineered Innovation Group, shared three key steps (“The Three Ps”) to avoiding those moments of massive regret.


1. PAUSE – Write a draft then put it away for a while and revisit with fresh eyes later before hitting the “send” button, or wait until you’re calmer before confronting someone about whatever displeased you.


2. PONDER – Ask yourself some key questions before you hit send, such as


a. Do those thoughts truly need to be expressed?

b. How should they best be expressed?

c. Do they need to be expressed right now?

d. Do they need to be expressed by you?

e. Is it better to send an email, text, pick up the phone, or walk into their office?

f. Who else should or should NOT be copied?

g. What impact do you want it to have, and what do you think the impact will be?

h. Was the sentiment and intention clearly communicated?


3. PRIORITIZE – Your to-do list is huge… but don’t get lost in the weeds. Ask yourself:


a. What needs to get done first?

b. What information is most important and should be included?

c. What could and should you omit?



Karen was a veritable fount of knowledge. In our conversation she also covered:


  • The importance of defining what success looks like for each one of us in order to achieve it
  • How changing your story changes your results
  • How to connect with the other person in every conversation
  • How to avoid falling into bad habits of lecturing others instead of listening
  • Why and how to take a moment to listen to yourself.


And if that’s not enough, she shares her six-step formula for paving the way to take the charge out of difficult conversations. The acronym to help you remember the formula? SCI-PAB.


Oh – you wanted me to tell you what SCI-PAB stands for? You’ll have to tune in to the episode, or watch it on YouTube here – enjoy!

How Many Changes is TOO Many?

Imagine a conversation with your point person just a day or two before one of the biggest presentations of your life. As part of their last-minute notes, they share some details about who would be in your audience, and how you’d be required to accommodate them:


  • A large percentage of your audience would be visually impaired… so you’d have to orally describe 100% of whatever was on your screen so they didn’t miss anything.
  • Another large number of people would be hearing impaired and there would be NO sign language interpreter, so anything you planned to say would have to be scripted out, in its entirety, on your slides, from which you would need to read verbatim; no ad libbing allowed
  • There would also be a large number of people logging in remotely, along with a full house in-person
  • … oh, and I forgot to mention that this was nearly 20 years ago, loooong before video conferencing and the whole “hybrid” concept was part of almost anyone’s reality.


(Did you have to read that twice to confirm what you read?)


Now, I’ve always been a pretty confident and competent presenter, but if I’m being honest, this scenario would stir up some major feelings of dread.


Nevertheless, that’s exactly what happened to Chris Hare, CEO of PRTI. On this week’s episode of Speaking to Influence , he’ll share how he handled that curve-ball arsenal when he was slated to speak – where else? – to the Disability Rights Office of the Federal Communications Commission.



Right from the start, it was clear to me that Chris is a leader who not only doesn’t shy away from big challenges, he seeks them out and tackles them head-on.


For example, his company, PRTI, is built on finding a solution to a problem that has been a major issue for nearly 200 years: What to do with old tires (which, in case you’re wondering, are not known for quick or environmentally friendly decomposition.) Can we say “up-hill battle”?


Even communicating with shareholders, in Chris’s world, is not a singular challenge. His shareholders run the gamut from people who invested in PRTI from its inception and know its actions backward and forward, to those who only bought shares in recent months. There are novice investors driven by environmental motivations, and those who are extremely market-savvy but may have little interest in knowing the science behind PRTI’s ‘secret sauce.’


How can you meet all of their needs at the same time?


For starters, there is one unwavering, guiding principle Chris referenced multiple times: The importance of communicating consistently, thoughtfully, and truthfully with all shareholders.


For more insights, listen to the full conversation here or watch the video on YouTube here.


You don’t need to make all the changes he addresses, but the power is in realizing the impact each change can have on your relationships and overall legacy.

Are You Competing with Others or with Yourself?

When my son Thomas was in middle and high school, one of our favorite programs to watch together was “American Ninja Warrior,” (ANW).


Think of the world’s craziest carnival-style obstacle course, where contestants take turns watching each other try to get to the end of each run and hit the buzzer, or more commonly fall into the pool of water below despite best efforts, in hopes of someday getting to the legendary Mount Midoriyama and the million-dollar prize.


What I loved best about the show was that unlike other competitive “reality shows” with their villains, sabotage and melodrama, on ANW, the contestants rooted for each other, hoping to see what was possible and what they could learn from each other, forming friendships along the way.


And as they came back season after season, their main shared goal was the same: to get further this season than they did last time.


Although they were technically each other’s competition, each contestant was mainly competing against him- or herself.


We all have our own versions of “Mount Midoriyama” we need to climb, where we would be 100x better off if we strove to be the best version of ourselves, instead of trying to be like someone else. It could be


  • Presenting more confidently at the next quarterly meeting
  • Eating better in order to drop our blood pressure or cholesterol, and increase our energy
  • Being more patient with others instead of losing our temper when we get frustrated
  • Taking 5 minutes at the start of the day to commit to the one main thing we absolutely must get done; or
  • Remembering to thank people for little things, even if you think it shouldn’t be necessary, simply because an ounce of acknowledgement is often worth its weight in gold.


Going even deeper into the theme of challenging ourselves to achieve personal bests and climbing Mount Midoriyama both figuratively and literally, my guest this week on the Speaking to Influence podcast is Matt Iseman, cohost of American Ninja Warrior.



Matt shared lessons he has learned from a whopping 16 seasons of hosting ANW, and how they all focus around being our personal best, leading and communicating with others and ourselves alike.


Side note – just in case you think Matt’s life lessons are only from watching others, you might be surprised to know he has overcome a number of obstacles of his own:

  • He’s a board-certified physician
  • He left his medical career to become a (successful!) stand-up comedian
  • He survived cancer, and
  • He is a highly sought-after keynote speaker, addressing the very topics he’ll be sharing with us in this episode!


Listen to the full conversation here or watch it on YouTube here.

Why Does a Dog Wag Its Tail?

Q: “Why does a dog wag its tail?”

A: “Because the dog is smarter than the tail. If the tail were smarter, the tail would wag the dog.”

The notion of “the tail wagging the dog” is an expression that has been around for 150 years, alluding to the idea of something small and seemingly inconsequential controlling a much larger, more important or powerful body.


Although the expression is more commonly used in reference to political distraction and subterfuge tactics, the fact is that in today’s digital world of “nothing is ever deleted or forgotten,” we all have to be almost obsessively careful about what we post or say in public.


A single off-hand remark or clumsily stated comment in the wrong context that gets posted online can require massive amounts of damage control to everything from personal reputations to elections to stock markets… and those are some seriously big dogs!


The office “grapevine” or “rumor mill” is a dangerous place for hearsay to turn into gossip and widespread panic. As leaders, the moment we get wind of such a storm brewing, it’s essential to face it head on.


As Mike Massaro, CEO of Flywire global payment network, said in this week's episode of Speaking to Influence, “If you don't set the narrative, the narrative is going to be set for you.”



The person who sets the narrative controls the wagging, and thus the outcome.


Mike shares an incredible story about a time when FlyWire was in discussions to acquire another company, and word leaked in that organization about the possibility of acquisition, creating panic among its employees.


Not wanting to trigger a mass exodus of employees or find himself with an angry mob of a workforce, Mike went against much conventional wisdom and most advice he received, got on a plane and flew out to address the entire organization in person.


Want to know what happened next? Listen to the full conversation here or watch the video on YouTube here.


Mike offers tons of stories and insights regarding:


  • the importance of resourcefulness and a willingness to learn, especially in fast-paced industries
  • the challenges of transitioning from a private to a public company in a volatile economy
  • the significance of considering all aspects of a potential business transaction,
  • How to treat employees with respect during a company acquisition,
  • And of course, how to establish a leadership narrative.


Setting the right, consistent narrative does wonders for instilling faith in your organization.


And that’s true whether it’s a secular or faith-based institution alike. Which is exactly what I had the pleasure of discussing with Jim Friend this week on his podcast, “Advancing our Church.”


I’ve worked with many religious organizations, from speaking at national Jewish philanthropy conferences to running public speaking workshops for seminarians and beyond, and it’s beautiful to contribute to the goal shared by all: doing good in the world by teaching people to love one another.


Jim and I dive into:


  • The value of storytelling, even in the form of parables
  • The importance of using accessible language and knowing your audience
  • How to motivate and mobilize a board
  • Do’s and don’ts for inspirational lectoring
  • And, per our theme today, strategies for crisis communication, in order to avoid letting the tail wag the dog


Regardless of your own personal faith traditions or beliefs, you’ll be surprised at how relevant, helpful, and even fun our conversation is! Tune in… and wag your tail.

How to Be a Fly on the Wall

Did you ever wish you could be a fly on a wall, undetected but freely able to listen to people’s conversations so you’d know everything that was going on?


The closest I ever came was when I moved to Japan to teach high school English. I was instructed to run an immersion class, all in English, so I would chat in Japanese with other teachers in the staff lounge, but not when students were around, and never in English class.


In class I allowed students to use Japanese as needed to help each other with group activities. It was fun to walk around the classroom, monitoring progress, and see which groups were diligently working on the assignment even if using some Japanese, and which groups looked very studious, but were talking in Japanese about movies and baseball and anything but the assignment at hand.


“Have you found the answer to number three?” I’d ask a group in English, prompting some sheepish looks among the teammates.


“Um… still thinking, teacher,” inevitably came the reply.


I see…


At the end of the first semester, I opened the class in Japanese.


After a moment of stunned silence, one student finally asked, “Teacher, why didn’t you tell us you spoke Japanese?”


I shrugged with a smile. “You never asked.”


I’m not sure which of us learned more valuable lessons that semester!


One of my favorite television shows from a few years back offered similar “fly on the wall” learning opportunities in the business world.


It was called “Undercover Boss,” and presidents or CEOs from major corporations would wear a disguise and pose as a new employee at different stores or facilities in their company to identify which people, products and systems were — or weren’t — working well, through first-hand, unfiltered experience.


Oh, the stories they were able to tell when they were done!


And after producing dozens of these episodes, Damon D’Amore, one of the producers of Undercover Boss and other related shows, and founder of Legacy Mentor, has plenty of stories to tell of his own.



This week on the Speaking to Influence podcast, Damon shares some of the biggest leadership lessons he learned through working with all of those executives, and how he translates those lessons into helping C-level executives improve their performance and tell their story to stakeholders today.


Damon offers in-depth insights, strategies and tactics on

  • how to get better at the three core components of crisis leadership,
  • The difference between getting comfortable being uncomfortable and merely getting “out of your comfort zone”
  • making sure you know who your audience actually is and how you need to connect with them
  • knowing the three most important parts of a story, and
  • how to shift your mindset from being reactive to proactive.


Listen to the full conversation here or watch it on Youtube here.


And of course, beware what you say – you never know who is listening!

Why Their Story is Better than Yours

One of the most popularly referenced passages from the Bible – which most people don’t realize is from the Bible even when they’re quoting it – is from Mark 6:4, when Jesus said, “…a prophet is not without honor except in his hometown, and among his relatives, and in his own household.”


For example: Have you ever tried to give your kids (or parents, or siblings) advice which they rejected outright or otherwise ignored completely… until they heard the same advice from a friend, an article, or a YouTube or Instagram “influencer,” after which they took it immediately to heart?


Then you understand what he was talking about.


There are some things for which you, yourself, can NOT be the messenger, if you want the message to land with impact.


Think about it: would you rather go up to someone and say, “I just want you to know that I’m awesome and you’d be crazy not to hire me” (or date me, or whatever,) or have someone else say to them, “Chris is an amazing (person/coach/analyst/leader/other)”?


And doesn’t the power of that endorsement increase dramatically if the person is able to share personal, first-hand examples of where you’ve done incredible work, shared invaluable guidance, or otherwise demonstrated great acts of empathy and kindness to them?


This is exactly why testimonials are one of the most powerful tools of persuasion imaginable, especially when the message you need to deliver or the topic you need to address is a difficult one.


That’s the focus of this week’s episode of Speaking to Influence. Dr. Nasser Khan, President of Acadia Healthcare’s 150 addiction treatment centers, shares the crucial role patient and family testimonials play in helping to allay fears and win over communities who may initially resist the construction of a facility in their neighborhood.



The biggest challenge, Dr. Khan explains, is that treatment centers “have a PR problem.” There’s a widespread misunderstanding that a “treatment center” is a euphemism for a “safe use house” where addicts would come to get clean needles, and potentially buy and sell drugs on or near the premises. (Nobody wants that in their backyard!)


But that’s the opposite of the truth: the treatment centers are where people go when they want to STOP using drugs.


So who is the better person to set the record straight:


  • the head of the facility, who people might falsely accuse of just being interested in making money? Or
  • A recovering addict and their family who regained their sense of purpose, their self respect, and got a second chance at life, thanks to the services they received at the center?


Even if Dr. Khan were to tell the story of that family, it wouldn’t be as powerful as hearing it come from the family members themselves.


The simple fact is that when it comes to highlighting your qualifications, “their” story is always better than yours.


Listen to the full conversation here or watch it on Youtube here.


But the beauty is that their success IS your success – and that is something to celebrate!


And speaking of celebrations, we’re excited to celebrate that this is our 150th episode of the Speaking to Influence podcast! It’s amazing how far we’ve come in less than three years.


As always, we love to hear from you, so let us know what you like best about the podcast, any changes you’d like to see, and any ideas you have for future guests.


By the way – have YOU ever thought about being a guest on a podcast? Whether you’re looking to expand your reputation as the “go-to thought leader” in your industry, or just looking to share your expertise in personal growth, hobbies, history or anything else, I guarantee there is a podcast out there looking for you to share your story.


If there’s one thing I have learned after conducting over 150 interviews as a podcast host, it’s what makes a guest stand out, and how to captivate an audience through specific storytelling tactics that make your story positively magnetic!


If you want to know the secret to making even the most experienced hosts finish interviewing you and say, “Wow, that was amazing!”, then I have an invitation for you.


This Friday, March 31st at NOON ET, I’m hosting an exciting event: “Nailing the Podcast Interview.” It’s a live Zoom meeting in which I'll reveal the inside secrets of


  • Telling HYPNOTIC stories
  • Developing rapport with the host AND the audience
  • The essential rule that is totally COUNTER-intuitive to all prior leadership training
  • Promotion and rankings
  • The importance of the prep and debrief calls


And more.


If you want to join us, just reply to this email with “See you Friday!” and I’ll send you a calendar invitation.


Looking forward to seeing you there.

Are You Talking to the Right Person?

One of my favorite American “philosophers” was former New York Yankee catcher and later manager and coach, Yogi Berra.


Aside from being an iconic ball player, he is known for his wonderfully mangled quotes and aphorisms, such as:

  • “Baseball is 90% mental; the other half is physical”
  • “You’d better cut the pizza in four pieces, because I’m not hungry enough to eat six.”
  • “You can observe a lot just by watching.”
  • “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”


And my favorite for today’s purposes:

  • “It’s like deja vu all over again.”


Because that was my experience on a recent customer service phone call.


At first, I was grateful that I got through to a human being. Unfortunately, that human being had minimal expertise and zero authority to fix my problem.


After spending a lot of time walking him through the history of the problem, and getting put on hold several times in the process, he finally had to transfer me to his manager.


She was also very polite as I recounted the entire situation to her, and after putting me on hold only twice, STILL had to transfer me to her manager.


Fortunately that third person was able to solve my problem, but only AFTER I had to go through the entire story yet again.


I hung up the phone, relieved that it was done but utterly exhausted, knowing that something that took all of five minutes to resolve required over an hour of going round in circles because I wasn’t talking to the right person.


Don’t you wish there were a way to shortcut the process and identify up front who does and does not have the ability, power, and/or authority to make key decisions?


This was a major theme of my conversation on this week’s Speaking to Influence podcast episode with Kurt Luidhardt, Co-Founder of the Prosper Group.


If you don’t know who the decision makers are, chances are you’re not talking to one of them. At best, you’re seriously extending the amount of time it takes to get anything done; at worst, you’re utterly wasting your time.


How do you figure out ASAP who the key decision-makers are? Who needs to be in on the discussion, and how soon can you speak with them? What do they need from you in order to get involved?



A messaging expert, Kurt also shared insights related to:


  • The importance of putting subtitles on social media videos
  • How to remove qualifiers from your speech
  • How to initiate an accountability discussion with someone in a way that doesn't feel confrontational
  • Why and how to inquire about someone's personal wellbeing without seeming like you're prying
  • Three ways to keep problems from festering at work (and at home)


Listen to the conversation here or watch it on YouTube here.

What if everyone thinks you’re wrong?

It may sound weird, but I can’t listen to Maroon 5’s “This Love” without suddenly getting a craving for papas bravas, Spain’s answer to french fries as a go-to bar snack.

In the summer of 2004 I had the opportunity to present some research at a conference in Lleida, Spain. Taking advantage of the opportunity, after the conference I met up with some friends in Barcelona to enjoy a well-deserved vacation.

One evening we were in a bar enjoying a glass of rioja and snacking on papas bravas when “This Love” started to come through the speakers. Before we knew it, we were all belting it at the top of our lungs and dancing, Spaniards, Americans, and whoever else was there, together.

It was a perfect memory of pure fun, friendship and happiness. Even now, nearly twenty years later, every time that song pops up on the radio, I’m instantly transported back there.

That’s one thing I love about radio – you never know what song will pop up next. But nowadays there’s a lot of speculation and conjecture that radio is “dead,” due to all the streaming services out there.

That’s why the challenge for Dave Scopinich, Vice President of Audacy, with more than 230 radio stations across the country, is: How do you convince people to invest in your product or idea when popular discourse and the rumor mill have already erroneously convinced them otherwise?



On this week's Speaking to Influence, Dave shared some of his best strategies and techniques he and his team use to help prospective clients (in his case, advertisers) understand how – contrary to all the rumors – he can actually help them reach over 200 million consumers each week.

Two of the most powerful tools are data and framing.

For starters, to debunk the myth about radio being dead, he shares data: Nielsen data shows that radio still reaches nearly 90% of all Americans on a daily basis.

Framing then puts it into perspective. For example, when speaking to someone in the Philadelphia market, he paints them a picture:

Imagine that you are in the stands of a sold-out Phillies game against the divisional rival, the New York Mets, at Citizens Bank
Park. There are 45,000+ people in the stands and they get to hear your message.

It's powerful isn't it?

Listen to the full conversation on Apple here – or Audacy here! – or watch it on YouTube here.

Once you’ve had a chance to digest Dave’s take on how to win over stakeholder confidence, tune in for a live discussion on the issue:



This Friday, March 17,2023, join me on Linkedin Live with Damon D’Amore to discuss Winning Stakeholder Confidence in Times of Crisis from 1-2pm ET.

Damon will reveal the three pillars of crisis leadership and how they must be communicated in order to secure personal and organizational competitive advantages. Register here.