Making Your Performance Look Easy is Hard

Professional Speaker-Professional Development-Positive Attitude

It happens to all of us.  We get scared to death whenever we have to speak in front of a group of people, whether it’s leading a team meeting, teaching a class or giving a toast at your best friend’s wedding.  How do we get to the point of “never let them see you sweat.”   How do you look relaxed, connected and in the moment when your mind is searching for the nearest exit. 

Well, if you should ever find yourself in this situation, here are three tips that just may help:

  1. Do exercises before your presentation – simple ones that take your mind off the task at hand.  I’ve seen people do jumping jacks, running in place, or dancing.  For me, deep breathing really helps.  Don’t underestimate this one.  I simply breathe in through my nose and fill my belly with air.  It’s important that the air goes to your belly and not your lungs – for some reason this really helps.  Then slowly exhale through your mouth.  I do this as many times as I need to before I take the stage.  Some days it can be as few as five breaths; other days I’ve lost count.  It truly calms me.
  2. Practice your presentation, whether it’s in front of a live audience or behind your computer screen for a webinar or Facebook Live.  Always be prepared and practice, practice, practice.  And when you feel that you have practiced enough…Practice again.  This will help you internalize your information.  Do NOT memorize – it’s only when you internalize and feel your message that you can handle any distraction that comes your way.  Internalizing your material will also help to calm those nerves.
  3. Do not look at email, texts, or your phone before your presentation.  I know this sounds hard, but I’ve learned from experience to focus on your topic and ignore all other distractions.  When I performed at the Second City Training Center in Chicago a couple of years ago, I innocently checked my email before I entered the building.  I had received an annoying email and it took some time to get it out of my head so I could concentrate on my performance 

So the next time you’re called on to deliver an important message, try the three simple steps above and I guarantee you will be able to concentrate on your message and not your nerves.  They work every time.


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Powerful Words for All Ages

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Have you ever heard of this – The Blessing of the Hands?

It was one of the readings at a wedding I attended this past weekend.  The words are so powerful that the woman reading it had to stop as she began to cry.   I was also frantically searching for a Kleenex as my own tears began to stream down my cheeks.  The last line especially tugged at my heart.  Just in case you haven’t heard it before, I’d love to share it with you.  It’s a powerful message and one that will make an impact no matter what stage of life you find yourself.

Blessing of the Hands (Author Unknown)

These are the hands of your best friend, young and strong and full of love for you, that are holding yours on your wedding day, as you promise to love each other today, tomorrow, and forever.

These are the hands that will work alongside yours, as together you build your future.

These are the hands that will passionately love you and cherish you through the years, and with the slightest touch, will comfort you like no other.

These are the hands that will hold you when fear or grief fills your mind.

These are the hands that will countless times wipe the tears from your eyes; tears of sorrow, and tears of joy.

These are the hands that will tenderly hold your children.

These are the hands that will help you to hold your family as one 

These are the hands that will give you strength when you need it.

And lastly, these are the hands that even when wrinkled and aged, will still be reaching for yours, still giving you the same unspoken tenderness with just a touch.

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Change of Scenery – No More Excuses

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Finally, I went to the Tulip Festival in Holland, Michigan.  For years I’ve wanted to go to this event.  I even put the date on my calendar.  And every year it slipped past me.  Life just seemed to get in the way and it was pushed to the bottom of my list.  But not this year!  Even with the daunting weather forecast, I pulled up my rain boots, packed my umbrella, and pointed my car toward Holland, Michigan. 

And what a beautiful sight it was.  Fields and fields of tulips in every direction you look, in every color you can imagine.  Shapes like I have never seen before. 

It made me wonder, why did it take me so long?  Why did I allow excuses to get in the way of such a wonderful experience?

I understand that sometimes life happens and we have to postpone or reschedule things we’d like to do, but there’s a huge difference between life getting in the way and excuses getting in OUR way.  There are so many times when I’ve had a great idea and, for some reason, I fail to follow through.  Maybe I talk myself out of it because I just don’t want to deal with the details – or maybe there are times when I just get lazy.

So right now, this very minute, I’m going to try something new.  I’m making a list of three things, only three,  that I promise myself I will do this summer.  Here goes:

  1.       Ride the Betty Lou boat at sunset.
  2.      Pack a picnic basket for one of the concerts on Capitol Square instead of buying food at a concession stand.
  3.       Visit Washburn Conservatory for one of their events.

I’m limiting it to three because I feel it’s more manageable.  The idea is to have fun and not feel overwhelmed.

So what about you?  Do you have at least one thing you’d like to do this summer?  Something you’ve been putting off?  Write it down and share it with a friend.  Heck, you can even share it with us.  Then post a photo or comment and let us know how it felt to finally throw those excuses out the window.

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Tips for Being a Super Duper Listener

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Picture this…  You’re having a nice conversation with your friend or spouse or coworker.  You’re really listening closely.  You’ve got the eye contact going, you’re nodding your head and you’re even sitting on the edge of your chair.  Then suddenly  you realize that your mind has drifted and you think: OMG – I have no idea what you are saying!  PLEASE don’t ask me a question because I have no clue what you are talking about!!!

Well, I guarantee that you are not alone.  As important as listening is, we have never had any formal training.  Think about it, in school we are taught reading and speaking and writing – all important forms of communication – but we are never taught how to listen. 

So today I’d like to share with you some tips that helped me improve my listening skills.  Some are common sense and you’re probably already using them, but I bet you’ll find at least one or two that are new to you.  One or two that can help you be the best listener possible.

Here goes:

  • Eye contact
  • Lean in
  • Ask open ended questions
  • Visualize what the speaker is saying
  • Try to feel what the speaker is feeling
  • No distractions – like your phone
  • Practice patience
  • Find your reason for listening

Think of listening like a muscle – the more you use it, the stronger it gets.  Try some of the suggestions above and let me know which ones work best for you.  I’d love to hear from you.


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It’s Simple but It’s Not Easy

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You’ve heard about it, read about it, and may have even practiced it.  And, often, when we need it the most, it’s the hardest to process.  What am I talking about?


As a Professional Speaker, it is often the topic of my speeches.  I believe in it so much that I actually created a Gratitude Journal and Gratitude Cards.  It’s a powerful technique, yet we often dismiss it or fail to take the time to put it into practice – especially when we are facing some of life’s toughest challenges.  Sometimes it’s hard to be grateful for what we have when our life is falling apart around us.

That’s why I’m dedicating this blog to my niece, Jennifer.  The photo you see here was taken of her home just a few days ago.  Everyone is safe, thank goodness.

As her family huddled together there was nothing they could do as they helplessly watched just about everything they own go up in flames.  Later, here are the feelings she expressed:

    “The outpouring of care and compassion that was exhibited by my friends, and complete strangers was overwhelming. The first responders were incredible…My family and I (including our dog, Sampson) are safe at my dad’s, and that is ALL that matters…It could have been so much worse. I am humbled by the community’s reaction and immediate willingness to help. Thank you all from the bottom of our hearts. I cannot BELIEVE how quickly the fire spread as we watched helplessly. And now a new day………blessed.

I just hope I can find the gratitude and strength and peacefulness in my heart the next time I face one of life’s great challenges.  I hope I will remember my niece’s courage and be inspired by it.

And now, please excuse me as I head to Target to buy more fire extinguishers.  This one hit too close to home and I plan on being better prepared than I am right now.

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