Speaker 1: This is Life Speak
Speaker 2: a podcast
Speaker 1: about well being,
Speaker 2: mental health
Speaker 1: and building resilience through knowledge. Here's Marianne Weisenthal,
Speaker 2: I'm speaking today with Judith Asher and frank O'Halloran, personal impact coaches, executive trainers and communication experts. Their work spreads across multiple industries from multinational fortune 500 companies to start ups, Judith and frank are the co founders of Impact Excellence which helps managers professionals and C level executives improve their leadership
Speaker 2: presentation and communication skills. They're also faculty members of accenture strategy college and they're joining me today from venice Italy Welcome to the Life Speak podcast.
Speaker 2: Thank you, we're delighted to be here.
Speaker 1: Thanks Maryanne.
Speaker 2: Now you were early adopters of virtual training and coaching. Tell me how that came about.
Speaker 1: I actually started doing virtual training in 1997 for a client of mine in New Jersey KPMG, a famous Big Five accounting firm. They were the first really to start with this and they had invested in it. So I did one training class for them back in New Jersey and then my life changed. I moved to Italy
Speaker 1: Back to Italy to venice and in do you? I'm sure your listeners remember the financial crisis in 2008, very soon after that, the
Speaker 1: companies started having trouble funding, training and travelling to training and renting venues at the same time as some
Speaker 1: Virtual meeting platforms like Webex were being developed. So we switched and started doing virtual trainings. We did a lot of them 2009, and it started to taper off a little bit after that. But still they were part of our
Speaker 1: our repertoire and we did face to face as well as the virtual trainings.
Speaker 1: Then it became very popular again, as you can imagine during the pandemic.
Speaker 2: At what point did you kind of say to yourselves? You know, this is something that,
Speaker 2: you know, this is the future, This is where
Speaker 1: people want to go, Was it
Speaker 2: before the pandemic?
Speaker 2: Now it's interesting you say this because frank and I
Speaker 2: deep into our virtual training world, we thought this is great, the technology is here, everything works. Webcams are installed in everyone's computers, but nobody's really using them.
Speaker 2: There was a little bit of online meeting, maybe some collaboration with Matrix organizations, teams across the globe,
Speaker 2: but ultimately there wasn't real work being done together and certainly not using the web cam and having that feeling of world in the room together up until the pandemic when everyone was forced to in terms of virtual communication and presentation, what have you noticed that your clients are finding most challenging? There are lots of things they find challenging.
Speaker 2: Without a doubt. The first one is not seeing the reactions of their audience and we all know that nonverbal communication makes up something like 70% at least of our ability to communicate. So not being able to read the room, not seeing that body language is very disconcerting for our clients and this is what they tell us.
Speaker 2: This in itself seems to lead to
Speaker 2: speakers feeling
Speaker 2: distracted, a lack of confidence. Is anybody listening to me? Is anybody out there? Are they all just multitasking? I can't have a feel my normal instincts that allow me to get a feel for my audience aren't working anymore with this technology. So it can be a big distraction.
Speaker 2: A 2nd 1 that all mentioned
Speaker 2: is our clients feel they've lost their ability to build, report to create and maintain those personal connections that are the basis of all communications. So it's much harder for people to feel that they're, they know how to use their usual abilities, their usual tricks, their usual
Speaker 2: sense of how I can build rapport with the people I'm talking to.
Speaker 1: Well, a few things I think mainly people find it difficult to generate that interaction, that ability to be conversational even though they are having meetings all the time that they feel a little bit robotic, a little bit unnatural when they do it. And also it's if they have people turn on their web cams and
Speaker 1: they're looking at the image of themselves and the people, they find that very exhausting to be staring at at the webcam and communicating. Also, I think that, you know, the just people that are used to doing the zoom meetings one after another. It's very tiring at the end of the day.
Speaker 1: So there's a lot of challenges Marianne when we talk about virtual communications.
Speaker 2: Do you think people's communication and presentation skills have improved since
Speaker 1: those awkward
Speaker 2: early days of
Speaker 1: zoom meetings? When the
Speaker 2: pandemic first started, Marianne awkward? That is definitely the right word.
Speaker 2: And people are less awkward today. So yeah, absolutely. There is less awkwardness. People feel more comfortable. Everybody knows how to use these platforms, We know how to be seen, we know how to be heard. We even can figure out some of the settings to set ourselves up and get our slides to show in that way. Absolutely. One thing I've seen
Speaker 2: really change is people's comfort level with just being wherever they are. And in that way, some of the formal barriers of hierarchy and people's own inner barriers of what is appropriate and not appropriate at work. These things have
Speaker 2: have eased up a bit. So it would have been in the past that if you were stuck at home for some reason with either a sick child or something, you needed to be waiting for the plumber to show up and you have to show up on a meeting and if there was something going on in the background or maybe the bell rings because the courier showed up, you would feel really embarrassed to even admit it. Whereas now we're completely fine and comfortable with dogs walking by with kids coming in and needing something. You know, we we are more connected as humans and I think it has helped us all feel more comfortable, both online and
Speaker 2: in some way with dealing with this common uh, with this common global struggle that we're all in
Speaker 1: together.
Speaker 2: Feel like virtual meetings have humanized
Speaker 2: all of us.
Speaker 2: Yeah, that's that's exactly that's a great way to say it Marianne. So that takes us to your course that both of you have created called crush the cam, which helps people upscale their online presence and guides them through the dues and don't is and how to have more impact during video calls. Tell me more about the course.
Speaker 2: Well I'll tell you a little bit about when we started like Frank mentioned earlier, we started our own virtual journey as trainers and coaches back in 2009. Uh we were really surprised to hear people say how uncomfortable they felt, how difficult they found it
Speaker 2: both frank and I along with our training backgrounds and other professional backgrounds, we also have experience in the theater and tv production world and we ourselves felt comfortable behind the camera and we knew how to handle things behind the camera.
Speaker 2: After a little while of working virtually, we started what we had good success rates. We got a lot of compliments on how we were running our trainings. They were interactive. People were seeing behavior change before their very eyes while they were training. And so we started thinking about of course, you know, how can we give people something they can do
Speaker 2: in the privacy of their own home, knowing how uncomfortable and embarrassed a lot of people felt
Speaker 2: flipping that camera on. How would we give them a way to improve their skills so they can show up camera ready and also have some better collaboration and rapport building skills along the way.
Speaker 2: Ironically,
Speaker 2: it happened to coincide with the pandemic when our course was ready. So suddenly we found, oh, we created something and who would have ever guessed there's a global need for these skills right now,
Speaker 2: tell me about some of those scales, Tell me what what people need to be learning to do, that there may be not doing.
Speaker 1: Let me tell you that if we divided this class, this face, it crushed a cam into 10 different modules. The first six have to do purely with communication.
Speaker 1: Non verbal communication. How you can enhance your virtual presence, for example, by using eye contact,
Speaker 1: the ability to pause to let your message sink in how you, your posture, your gestures, your facial animation, which is very important when you're communicating on the web camp. But we have six different modules dedicated to the non verbal communication skills and then the rest of the 10 modules, the four remaining have to do with making you look good and sound good while you're communicating on a video conference. And those are things we got really from the world of television. I remember when I did, I hosted a tv show here in venice about the gondolas and how they were constructed.
Speaker 1: And I remember having all of these people, I had a whole team of people that you know, we're there for the express purpose to make me look good and sound good. The lighting person had a director telling me everything to do. I had an audio person,
Speaker 1: I realized that when you're appearing on someone's computer screen,
Speaker 1: it's like they're watching you on tv. So we decided to include these as well because you have to take care of your lighting, you have to take care of the framing of yourself on the web count. You have to take care of the noise, the background, the possible distractions.
Speaker 1: You have to do it all yourself. So we included them in
Speaker 1: across the camera as well.
Speaker 2: So I've taken the course. I learned a lot of things that you know, you think to yourself after. Well that was kind of obvious why didn't I ever think to do that? I think one of the most impactful tips that that I got in, there were a lot of things that I'm now using practically that I learned in the course, but one of them was to look directly into the camera. We never look into the camera where we're on zoom calls. I mean, I don't think I had ever done that once before and you had this great idea, which I'm going to start actually doing is to put a little sticker with an arrow next to your camera so that you look into the camera because we all want to look at the screen, but it doesn't create that, um, impact that intimacy with the other person when you're looking
Speaker 2: at the screen and not directly at them.
Speaker 1: You know, Mary another. A lot of people have used crushed a camp. About 99% of them have the same reaction that you had when you said, Well, Why didn't I do this? Why didn't I know this?
Speaker 1: It was very funny. That's why Judith and I were laughing because everybody says the same thing, like anything else. You need to learn these skills, you need to see how, you know, you're communicating in a different environment. So what do you have to do differently?
Speaker 2: You know, when I took the course and I actually started to videotape myself, you know, and I thought, you know, I I know how to do this, you know, how bad can it be,
Speaker 2: you know? And I started to notice that I was saying,
Speaker 2: um a lot, you know, I wasn't looking into the camera, it was maybe squirming, you know, you don't notice that until you videotape yourself and you watch yourself later. Why is it so difficult?
Speaker 1: It's very difficult. When we finally finished the course, I had my wife Liza, I'll try it just to test it and Judith and her husband George try it just to test. It was very funny because they both did exactly the same thing. They went in a separate room in the house to videotape themselves because they didn't want to do it in front of us and then they stayed in that room and kept looking at it and kept trying to do it without saying, uh it's just a common thing. People are in the habit of doing it. Once again, if you change that,
Speaker 1: eliminate the arson arms, you're going to communicate much more impactful. E
Speaker 2: if there was one thing that someone listening can do right now, to be more impactful on a video call, what would that be?
Speaker 1: I would say the best thing you can do other than, as we already mentioned, looking at the webcam when you're communicating to someone is very important that they feel you are interested in what you're talking about. So whenever
Speaker 1: you communicate you should be thinking in your mind, this is where I want to be your, who I want to be talking to and this is the only subject in the world I want to be talking about. In other words, to have that kind of presence, to kind of have that kind of impact. You have to want to be present
Speaker 1: now. Unfortunately, a lot of people tell us that's not when they're what they're thinking, when they're giving a big, important presentation. They're thinking more along the lines of I should have prepared more. Why do I always do that? These people aren't going to listen to me, They're going to think I sound stupid, maybe I am stupid.
Speaker 1: They think all of these things which doesn't put them in the right frame of mind for being successful communicators, the best thing they can do is really want to be communicating, really be happy to be here, be present, focus on your audience, look and sound interested in what you're talking about.
Speaker 2: That's not at all what I thought you were going to
Speaker 1: say.
Speaker 2: No, I just think it's really interesting because I thought you would say, well you need to do this thing, technically, learn how to not, you know how to keep your hands still, but you didn't, it's about attitude, it's about frame of mind, which is really not something that we think about it all when we're doing
Speaker 2: a video call, we don't think we might think about it if we're getting up and we're giving a presentation, but we don't think of it when we're just having our meeting a regular meeting with a client or with colleagues. Um I think that's really interesting. It's well
Speaker 1: Marianne, you know, it's like playing
Speaker 1: if you played sports as a kid, your coach might have said to you, where's your head at get your head in the game?
Speaker 1: You know, you have to be focused on the game in order to play your sport. You have to be focused on being here, wanting to communicate, sounding interested in what you're talking about in order to get through to people.
Speaker 2: What can you say to someone who's an introvert and is really, really struggling with being on camera because there's a lot of people like that who who really struggled over these past 18 months.
Speaker 2: Oh, yeah, absolutely. And we we have met a lot of these people over these last 18 months. I'll first say picking up on what frank just mentioned start with your mindset, it is the basis for everything. So you first of all realize you have something to say that people need to hear
Speaker 2: and remember again, like frank has mentioned, your focus really needs to be on wanting to be there and on your audience. What can you do
Speaker 2: to help them connect with you and connect with your message, the more you're thinking negative thoughts about yourself and how you don't want to be there, You're not thinking about the right thing, you need to be focused on your audience. So mindset is first, once you have that, sure you couldn't finance your skills with something like crush the camp. Those skills will be important when your mindset is in the right place
Speaker 2: on a much simpler level, you do not need to be staring at your own image. So your webcam is a tool that can help, but if you don't like seeing yourself and it really upsets you and embarrasses you will just turn it off, you can turn off the speaker of you so you're not forced to look at yourself. And that helps a lot of people.
Speaker 2: And the last thing that comes to mind is
Speaker 2: when you do need to use that webcam, remember one simple thing that can help, which is start with a smile.
Speaker 2: You know, even if it's a bit of a fake smile, they're not going to know why. Well smiles will project warmth, confidence, It gives a good, positive feeling to start and if you're feeling very nervous, really hating being there, they won't know. In addition
Speaker 2: the simple act of smiling, it can increase our home our levels, dopamine serotonin, which can in in the end help us feel better anyhow. So, starting with a smile is a simple way and turning that webcam off, if you don't want to look at yourself, a lot of people don't realize that you can turn the webcam off. I've told a few people that after I learned into like, I didn't know I could do that, that's amazing. It really does make a huge difference.
Speaker 1: Uh I would also add to that Marianne that people have to realize that they have something to contribute. That even though they might feel a little awkward talking or communicating. People need to oftentimes hear what they're thinking, what their experiences
Speaker 1: reminding people of that can help them to realize, okay, I'll do this. People need to hear this, I have something important to say,
Speaker 2: and that really runs the gamut right from people at all levels in a company. You don't just have to be an executive
Speaker 2: to speak in a meeting. It might be a big meeting, but that you've been invited to. You can still contribute
Speaker 1: and people want to hear it. And really it's your sort of your duty as an employee of a company. You're getting paid for your thoughts, your opinions, your experience, you should share them.
Speaker 2: So the world is opening up for parts of the world are opening up more to in person work. Where do you think things are headed now in terms of how employees and managers are going to communicate with each other moving forward?
Speaker 1: You know after that financial crisis, like I said, the virtual world sort of calmed down a little bit now because this pandemic has gone on for so long, people have gotten a sort of comfort level with it. That doesn't mean they're doing a great job with it. They have certainly gotten better but
Speaker 1: there's still room to to improve. But I think it's become part of people's lives so much so that that's going to continue. I think the office will still be a place to meet people to go to work in the morning to be there. But I think there's going to be options for people to work from home
Speaker 1: at least partially or work remotely,
Speaker 1: it's going to happen. And I know that there's a lot of interest in a lot of companies to kind of develop the technologies a little better and all kinds of people are working on all kinds of things. I heard of one company that was working on a sort of hologram experience
Speaker 1: where you could be in your home in venice
Speaker 1: but your hologram could be sent to new york or L. A. To attend the meeting, which the world is going to change. And I think we're just seeing the beginning of it
Speaker 2: Judith. You work a lot with women helping them to improve their presentation skills, both online and in person. You have a course called Take Up More Space. Can can you tell me about that
Speaker 2: at the risk of over generalizing? I'd say women do have more of a tendency to take up less space, which is why we call this take up more space both physically and also in presenting their own ideas in sharing what they know. So one would be the physical part working on owning your space.
Speaker 2: Not fighting against the tendency to make oneself physically
Speaker 2: smaller. So learning
Speaker 1: how
Speaker 2: to have a default posture and body language. Big open gestures that people read as confident, so that projects the confidence that you want to be
Speaker 1: projecting. So that's one part of
Speaker 2: it.
Speaker 2: Another part has to do with vocal delivery. So having a strong vocal delivery is also essential. And we see a lot of habits that form over time
Speaker 2: that many women have. Some of it is in our business. We call it up speak,
Speaker 2: which is a tendency to end your sentences in a way that sounds like a
Speaker 2: Have you ever noticed that some people do this? Okay, I've exaggerated that. But you get you get the idea learning how to modulate your voice even in a high stakes moment when you're feeling nervous. That's when those habits really kick in. So learning how to really consciously control your physical and vocal
Speaker 2: Presence. So those are two things.
Speaker 2: Then there is also the words people use. So
Speaker 2: taking up more space means using strong language, removing the kind of tentative language that we often hear and that is self diminishing like simple. We're just, I'm just like to suggest I just have a recommendation or unnecessary apologies. These are all ways in which women end up taking up less space, their default behaviors
Speaker 2: that can and should be unlearned.
Speaker 2: And those are the kinds of things we work on. One last thing to add in which often comes up is this idea of warmth, you know, can there be a leadership style that includes the kind of warmth that many women exude naturally enjoy exuding? Feel good with and yes, absolutely
Speaker 2: women. Typically we say again at the risk of over generalizing, but there's a tendency to excel at connection, connecting with others and this can be used as a tool of influence as long as you know how to project
Speaker 2: that warmth alongside confidence and what other people read as confidence. So we work on multiple levels with this course. Do you both see in your work that men and women communicate differently when they're using virtual communication tools?
Speaker 1: I noticed that Judith and I have talked about this in the past, that men seem to be not looking so interested when they're on a video conference. I think that's the big thing. I think women have a tendency to look more interested when they're talking and to
Speaker 1: to show their interest in their subject better than men. Men do. Sometimes they have a tendency to just want to speed through their whole presentation without stopping to ask a question or to include the audience. That would be one difference. I notice
Speaker 2: there's something I've noticed, you know, one of the things, just at first, at a higher level, one of the positives, I think that has come out of this global shared experience is that people have this common experience of difficulty, of struggle
Speaker 2: and there's I think more room for empathy for more personal connection even virtually. And I do see more of that being reached out. What by women, you know, women asking so how are you doing? How's it going? Are you having kids at home, you know, before a meeting starts, before things get going,
Speaker 2: communicating and touching base on more intimate issues than I have seen come up in a boardroom environment or in an office space environment except with close colleagues. And I see that women seem to feel more comfortable venturing into that and it changes the whole tone.
Speaker 2: You know, people need people connect with people ideas come after the connection.
Speaker 2: What is making each of you feel hopeful right now,
Speaker 1: in these
Speaker 2: difficult and uncertain times For
Speaker 1: my part, I'm very hopeful that people want to improve their communication skills and make virtual meetings better for everybody. We've noticed that with the reaction we got to our course crushed to camp, I'm also feeling very hopeful because we learned we can do it.
Speaker 1: The pandemic has taught us we can work virtually, we can work remotely, we can work from home, we can collaborate and the companies that are working on the technology to make it easier, better, more attractive. I think there's a lot of positive things that are happening
Speaker 1: that's gonna be nice to reduce the stress for a lot of people who are used to traveling all the time,
Speaker 1: nice for the families, A lot of positive things Marianne, you
Speaker 2: know what I'm going to pick up on what you just said frank because I think another element is that a door has now been open to this idea of wellness, work life balance things that were just taglines earlier, but now everybody understands very clearly what that means. Those of us who had to struggle with having our kids learning while we're on meetings, Those of us who've enjoyed not having the commute as frank, just said, I think we're going to see employers at all levels and sizes of organizations embracing more of what that really means and how they can find and keep top talent by allowing space for people to decide themselves what kind of work life balance, what kind of wellness initiatives can be offered, How can people be happier people and therefore happier employees?
Speaker 2: Your course is called crush the cam. People can find that on your website Impact excellence dot com, Judith Asher and frank O Halloran, thank you so much for speaking to me today. Thank you mary ann
Speaker 1: thank you Marianne Pleasure for
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