Transperia Group, Inc.
Transformational Experiences That Drive Business Results

The Open Face

October 29, 2008
Posted by Mark Bennardo

One of the most compelling trainers on the art of communication I’ve ever met is a gentleman named Arch Lustberg.

Arch has trained tens of thousands of leaders and professionals over his long career and has worked with political figures, entertainers and high-level executives.  I’ve had the privilege of working with Arch on several occasions and each time has been a true blessing to me.  I always learn something new from him.

One of Arch’s most effective training points is what he calls “The Open Face”.  It is so simple, yet so powerful.  I’ve seen Arch take someone on stage and watched him transform the person’s communication skills in a matter of moments, simply by applying this principle.  I’ve also taken some of the principles of the “Open Face” and applied them to my personal life (such as how I communicate with my children).

I could take time telling you about it, but thought it better for you to hear it directly from Arch.  Watch this video of Arch discussing “The Open Face” (it’s less than 2 minutes long).

Arch has also written a wonderful book called, “How to Sell Yourself”.  It’s definitely worth your time and the 15 bucks.

Also, if you are in need of a keynote speaker for an event, Arch is an amazing choice.  You can get more info on his website.  And be sure to tell him that Mark Bennardo, from Transperia, sent you (and don’t forget to ask him about the time I saved his life)!

The 1-Minute Speech and the Economy of Words

October 24, 2008
Posted by Mark Bennardo

StopwatchOne of my first communication courses in college (many moons ago) required students to give a one-minute speech.  The speech had to tell something interesting about ourselves and our home towns. One minute—that’s it.  Go over and you fail the assignment.

Our professor’s point was simple:  a speech can never be considered too short if it holds attention and makes a memorable point.  It can be, (and most usually are), however, too long.

It was tough.  The art of effective communication is really tested when you are limited in the amount of time/words you can use. It was a really good exercise, and one I strongly encourage you to try.

The “economy of words” is an important principle to keep in mind when writing/speaking.  It would seem that more words would bring more clarity, but ironically, the more words we use, the more cluttered the message becomes.

Thomas Jefferson is credited with saying, “The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.”

This has been my shortest post so far. I’m trying to practice what I preach.

Hot 5: Avoiding Power Point Overkill

September 29, 2008
Posted by Mark Bennardo

Unnecessary GraphicI have a love-hate relationship with Power Point.  To be honest, it’s more of a hate-hate relationship.

I love using visual images to enhance a message.  They can stimulate, illustrate, & highlight good content.  More and more, however, I’ve seen the medium used and misused beyond its intended purpose and effectiveness.  You may use Power Point, Keynote, Pro Presenter, whatever—the software may vary, but the issue is the same.

I recently was producing an event for business professionals.  As I connected with the Keynote Speaker before the session, he informed me that he had 282 slides in his presentation.

“That’s a lot of slides,” I observed, trying hard to be understated.

“It’s okay,” he responded, “It covers 3 hours of training.  Besides, they go by pretty fast.”

“Go by pretty fast?”  I’ll say.  During a 3-hour training session, that’s more than 1.5 slides per minute.  Think about it.  A new graphic every 40 seconds.  That’s assuming that every graphic is equally spaced out, with no hesitations in the presentation.  A new slide every 40 seconds for 3 hours.  My head is still spinning.

Honestly, I think we’ve become lazy.  We have a classic example of the tail wagging the dog. The medium has become the message.  We’ve taken the focus off of our need to tell a compelling story and replaced it with a graphic delivery system.

A lot of presenters I see these days simply use Power Point as a public Teleprompter.  Consider this: if all your content is on the screen, then you, as the presenter, become unnecessary.  As a participant, I really don’t want or need to read your crib notes.  As with many other aspects of good communication, less is more.

As you prepare your next presentation, I encourage you to ask yourself these “Hot 5” questions:

  1. Is this graphic really necessary? Would my presentation be substantively any different without it?  If not, eliminate it.
  2. Will it distract from my message? It may be cool, hip, edgy or beautiful, but if it becomes a distraction, it shouldn’t be there.
  3. Will it increase or hinder the credibility of my message?
    • Is the design and composition of high quality?
    • Is it easy to read?
    • Is it easy to digest?

    If not, why give your audience any unnecessary reason to discredit you or your message?

  4. If the projector lost power, would my message suffer? Sure, it may lose a little zip, but if it suffers, then you’re relying too heavily on the graphics.
  5. Will it take emphasis off of me? Don’t ever forget that, as the presenter:

You are the story.  YOU are the show.  You are the star.

The message is much more important than the medium.  If you’re not convinced that you can deliver the goods on your own merit, then no amount of graphics will make a difference.

Let’s give Power Point a little rest.  It’s overworked, tired and needs a break.

The Friendly Skies…Really?

September 25, 2008
Posted by Mark Bennardo

Flight AttendantI was recently on an airplane.  As we were readying for departure, the Captain came on the loud speaker and said,

“Ladies & Gentlemen, I just wanted to make you aware that our flight attendant, Amy, has recently been nominated for Regional Jet Flight Attendant of the Year.  Let’s all give her a big hand,” which we did.

My first thought was, “Really? This girl?”  From what I had already observed, Amy didn’t appear to be the model of a great Flight Attendant.  I hardly saw a smile, she stumbled over the announcements and she coolly ignored the questions & requests of the young man seated behind me with Down Syndrome, all the while chatting it up with some other Flight Attendants (who were catching a ride on our flight—flying for free, by the way).

Then Amy delivered the safety instructions.  I don’t believe I’ve ever seen less energy or passion delivered during this standard speech (and I’ve been on my share of airplanes).  While pedestrian, at best, these instructions are still supposed to be the instructions on how to save our lives in the case of emergency.  You would have thought Amy was reading the phone book.

“How could this woman be nominated for an award?”  I thought.  A few moments later, I got my answer.  I overheard a fellow traveler congratulate Amy, who then scoffed and replied that the pilot was simply joking and having a little bit of fun.

The airlines are getting some tough press lately (and rightly so, in my opinion) because of several things:
•    Escalating ticket prices
•    Eliminating snacks
•    Fuel surcharges
•    Charging for baggage
•    And now some are even charging for soft drinks

Each of these cost-cutting measures is driving down the experience the airlines are providing.

But the airlines can greatly improve their customers’ experience at little to no additional cost—and it lies in the hands of their Flight Attendants.  It costs nothing to:

•    Smile
•    Treat people with respect
•    Be passionate about your job, and the service you provide
•    Be friendly
•    Act like you actually want to be there

I’m sure it’s tough to give that same safety speech day after day.  It reminds me of some years back when I used to be involved in theatre (yes, I did a little acting in college—don’t judge me).  The Director would inevitably give a speech to the cast somewhere in the middle of our show’s run and say, “Now, I know we’ve done this show lots of times, but there is a whole new crowd tonight who is seeing this for the first time.  They don’t care how good we were last night.  What matters to them is tonight.”

It’s easy to forget these simple things that can go a long way.  I think the airlines would do well to remind their Flight Attendants of this.  Maybe next time they’ll find a way to deliver that safety speech with a little zest, interest, or dare I say, even humor.  The power to create a good experience lies firmly within their grasp—if they will only seize it.

What can you learn from the airlines?  What are you doing to improve the experience you provide for your customers?  What can you be doing that doesn’t even cost money to accomplish?

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments.

Never Get Too Cocky

September 21, 2008
Posted by Mark Bennardo

Remember that great clip from Star Wars (the original) where Luke Skywalker shoots down his first TIE starfighter?  All excited and a little proud, Skywalker turns to Han Solo and exclaims, “Got him!  I got him!”  Solo responds with a cool, “That’s great, kid…don’t get cocky.”

This past week I was producing a national conference.  While it wasn’t a wild show, by any stretch of the imagination, it did have its share of complexities, from a production stand point:  lots of cues, live music, video roll-ins, music bumps, interactive elements and more.

Just before the last session began, an attendee came up to the production booth to thank us.  He said that he’d been to two other similar shows in the past few months and neither of them had the high level of production values, excellence and quality that we had shown.

I thanked him and asked what made the difference.  He said,

“You know, the basics.  Hitting the cues right. Mics being turned on when they are supposed to be.  Tight transitions.”

I thanked him again for his kind words, then passed on his appreciation to my crew.

“That’s right,” I thought to myself, “We’re good.  We’re not like all those other hacks out there.”

Wouldn’t you know it, but we blew two small cues in that last session.  Nothing big and disastrous, and nothing that I think the audience would have noticed.  Just small things that can make the experience a little more enjoyable.  Or not.

We can never lose focus—even when we are confident of our abilities and have a proven track record.  Every little cue is important.  The moment we begin to rest on our laurels is the moment the unexpected can sneak up on us and take us down a notch.

Thanks for the reminder, Han.

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