engagement

Take some time out! The importance of connection.

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It’s been a hectic few months. I’m not complaining at all. I’ve had the pleasure of training some amazing delegates and speaking at some brilliant events and now it’s time for a rest. I’m taking next week off and I can’t wait! Of course I’m looking forward to a few lie-ins and the thought of not checking my emails is very appealing but I’m most excited about the extended opportunity to connect – with myself, with my loved ones and with my environment. It might sound a bit fluffy but connection is so important for our wellbeing and happiness and it’s a fundamental ingredient for high performance.
It All Starts With You

It may sound selfish, however, the key to being truly connected is time for yourself. If you’re not in touch with your own sense of purpose, your values and your emotions, then it’s impossible to make anything more than a superficial connection with those around you. If you want to function at a higher level, you have to be in deep connection with the things you are trying to achieve. If what you are doing doesn’t make you want to jump out of bed in the morning, then it’s unlikely that you’ll stick to the plan when temptations or opportunities for procrastination present themselves.

Now don’t get me wrong, you don’t have to love every little task you do, you just have to understand how each step you are taking is part of the overall journey you have chosen to embark on. I spent a good chunk of yesterday going through the business accounts. If I’m honest it’s the part of being an entrepreneur that I enjoy least. However, I know that if I want to succeed in my mission of helping people reconnect with the spoken word, I need to have a viable business that makes money and being on top of the numbers is an essential part of that.

Next week I plan to carve out some quality time each morning to focus on the bigger picture and prepare myself for the exciting challenges that lie ahead. I find that the knock on effect of this is that once I’ve had my “thinking time” I can be much more present and connected with my family. I get to really enjoy the time we spend together without getting distracted by the “work noise” that pops into my head. I’m the first to admit that I often find it difficult to switch off – I love what I do – so working in this way allows me to stay connected to all parts of my life by simply choosing where I place my focus. And I don’t just do this during the holidays. Whenever possible I start the day with planning time and some headspace, so that by the time I reach the office or the training room I am ready to hit the ground running.

There’s Always Time

One of the biggest objections I hear when I talk with people about the importance of connection is “I don’t have time”. We tend to wake up in the morning and get straight on the treadmill of life. We spend our work day moving between meetings, phone calls and emails without taking the time to breathe. Not only do we fail to make time for ourselves, we fail to make time for others too. We tend to see our interactions with colleagues and customers as transactional rather than transformational. When we do this we miss a massive opportunity.

The old adage that time is our only finite resource is often overused. What’s vital to remember though is that we are free to choose how we use it. If you had to find 10 minutes in your day to do something of “life or death” importance, you would. Of course you would also have to let something else slip to do it -  that goes without saying. So what we’re really talking about is not a lack of available time but our choice of priorities. What value do you place on connection and what are the benefits of making it non-negotiable? It might be easier to have superficial “yes” or “no” conversations with colleagues and team members but what could be gained by going beneath the surface and working for deeper understanding? Getting out from behind your desk at lunchtime and seeing the world around you will create infinitely more opportunities and spark infinitely more ideas than eating a sandwich at your desk hunched over Facebook. We must take responsibility for creating space in our life. No one else can do it for us.

So, whether you need to focus on connecting with your purpose or connecting with those around you I encourage you to take some time-out this week. Are you sure you don’t have 10 minutes?...

Simplicity - Why Less Really Is More

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I’ve been trying to appoint a Financial Advisor over the last couple of weeks. It’s a world that I don’t really understand so I’m looking for someone who is an expert in their field and can then translate all that mumbo jumbo (my technical term for anything that appears on a spreadsheet!) into words that I can understand. I’ve been amazed at how few of the companies I have talked to have been able to do that. I’ve been bombarded with technical language and acronyms, been asked to read “Terms and Conditions” the length of United Nation Treaties just to set up an initial consultation and even had a telephone conversation where an advisor actively tried to evade my questions around fees. Needless to say these interactions haven’t led to me appointing the firms in question! It’s not all been bad news though, I have found two firms who have made things simple and I am meeting with both to see which is the best fit. So, what did these firms do differently and how can you apply the lessons in your line of business?...
Put your audience first

When you’re an expert (I believe we’re all experts in our individual fields) it’s very easy to forget that the person you’re talking to probably isn’t. They haven’t had your experiences and they possibly aren’t as passionate about your subject matter as you are. Rather than broadcast your knowledge at your audience it is important to share it with them. I think we have to take responsibility when we communicate. How can we translate what we are saying into language that the people we are talking to can understand? What examples can you give or questions can you ask that will resonate? For example, when one Financial Advisor started talking about Asset Management, Estate Planning and my projected Net Worth, whilst I had a relatively solid idea of what he was talking about, I felt nervous that I hadn’t quite understood and stupid for not being more knowledgeable. When another asked me to start thinking about my dream lifestyle, the type of house I’d like to live in when I retired and how many holidays I wanted to take each year, I felt excited and empowered. There are many ways to crack an egg. Choose the method that your audience prefers rather than defaulting to your own preference.

Cut out the jargon

Every industry on the planet has it’s own language. It might be very subtle but if you listen hard enough you’ll start to hear words and phrases that you use regularly and instantly understand, which have little or no meaning to the outside world. Whilst these act as a short cut when everyone in the conversation is fluent with the terminology, to anyone outside of the circle hearing this language can be incredibly isolating. When I work with clients on presentations I always ask them to remove all acronyms and “technical speak” completely. Not only does this make it much easier for the lay-people in the audience to understand what you’re talking about, it also ensures that you give proper weight to the terminology that you use. ROI, SIPP, FSA, ISA, IHT, LTV, NI, HMRC – without proper context it’s all just alphabet soup!

Give people time to process

If you’re worried you might be losing your audience a natural tendency is to speed up in order to get things over and done with quickly, or to bombard people with information in order to reaffirm your expert status. In fact you should try to do the opposite. Slow down and say less. It takes people time to digest and process new information. In order to give ideas meaning and give ourselves a chance of remembering new things we need to create connections and pictures in our minds. That requires space, especially with complex concepts. Better to make three key points that land, than to introduce seven topics which all go over people’s heads. You shouldn’t leave your audience exhausted and scrambling to keep up. Instead give them less information and more time to internalise what they are hearing. Trust the people that you are speaking to, if you’ve created the right environment and they need more information they’ll ask questions. If you’ve ever spent an hour on the phone with a Financial Advisor who loves the sound of their own voice you’ll know I’m right!

My final piece of advice is to ask yourself the following question: “Would this make sense to a five year old?”. If the answer is yes then you’re probably on to a winner. It’s not about dumbing down, it’s about conveying your message in a meaningful way that leaves your audience feeling empowered to act. To quote Albert Einstein “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

Have you got any tips or tricks for communicating complex ideas? Do you think I’m talking simplistic nonsense? I’d love you to join the conversation by commenting in the box below.

Keep shining (simply)!

Dominic

Get more confident. Make more sales. Increase your influence.

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It’s been a busy few weeks. Since November 1st I’ve been up and down the East Coast Mainline more times than I care to remember, delivered 10 days of training for a total of 152 delegates, been photographed for a magazine feature, run my first ever webinar, compered a 3-day conference for 300 people and won a small business award. The most exciting thing of all though, has been meeting and working with three of my heroes. This month I’ve been lucky enough to spend time with Sir Clive Woodward  (World Cup winning rugby coach), Richard Reed (founder of, in my opinion, one of the coolest companies in the UK, Innocent Smoothies) and Daniel Priestly (author of the best selling books Key Person of Influence, Entrepreneur Revolution and Oversubscribed).
When I spoke with them, all three shared some amazing insights into business, performance and success, however the most striking thing for me was how evangelical all three of them were about the need to have a coach or mentor if you want to achieve your dreams.

When you think about it, it’s obvious. Look at any olympic athlete, premiership football team, Hollywood actor or FTSE 100 CEO, they all have coaches and mentors, people who can offer an outside perspective, help them to focus on the important tasks and ultimately enable them to perform at the top of their game. If you’ve ever been lucky enough to work with a personal trainer, you’ll know how much quicker you get the results you are looking for compared to turning up at the gym on your own, floating about from machine to machine and doing whatever exercises take your fancy.

Why is it then that so many “normal people” don’t see coaching as important and urgent? They see it as the icing on the cake rather than the foundation for success. So many business owners put off investing in themselves until they’re making more money – If a football club waited until they’d won a few games before they bothered getting a Manager, you’d think they were mad! So many companies offer their staff training if they hit their targets, rather than offering their staff training to make sure they hit their targets – If the GB cycling team had just gone out for a few practice rides whenever they felt like it and waited to employ Dave Brailsford and his team until after they’d won a few races, they would never have taken gold at London 2012. So many talented individuals wait to work on their “soft skills” until they get promoted – If Rene Zellweger had waited to get a voice coach to work on her English accent until after the Bridget Jones movie was a box office hit, there would have been no box office hit.

The “normal’ approach doesn’t work. Extraordinary people have a coach. It helps move the dial in the right direction. It holds you to account. It makes you show up as the best version of yourself. For the last twelve months I’ve been working with not one but three coaches and it’s been a complete game changer for me. There have been moments when I have questioned the financial investment. There have been moments when I’ve wanted to hide from their scrutiny. There have been moments when I felt like I was too busy to make time for our sessions. But ultimately it’s made me better at what I do. It’s helped me serve my own clients better and it’s enabled me to have a month like November.

The reality is that we don’t invest in a coach to learn a technique or a methodology, we invest in a coach to achieve a result. My one-to-one clients don’t come to me to improve their presentation skills and performance. Not really. They come to me to get more confidence, make more sales, become better leaders, achieve expert status, negotiate better deals and have more influence.
As we head into December it’s time to start reflecting on the year that’s past and planning for the year to come. Don’t just take my word for it… If you want to make 2016 your best year yet, listen to Sir Clive Woodward, Richard Reed and Daniel Priestly… Get a coach!

If you’re interested in finding out how you can work with me to kick start your year click HERE. If I’m not the right fit, that’s fine, I just urge you to get out there and find someone who is. You won’t regret it.

Keep shining!

Dominic

The Do's and Don't of PowerPoint

In this video I want to share my PowerPoint do’s and don’ts…. and when I say PowerPoint I mean any presentation software including Prezi and Keynote.
I know that a lot of people use these presentation tools and used well they can be excellent. Unfortunately, all too often, I see people making easily avoidable mistakes with the software. In this video I’ll share with you some simple tips that will help you connect with your audience and get them to engage with your presentation.
Tip no.1: Don’t read the bullets!

Power point and other presentation tools are there to help you reinforce your messages, to give the audience the key points that you want them to take away. Don’t use your slides as a script. It’s distracting and boring for the audience, as they know what’s coming before the words have even come out of your mouth.

Tip no.2: Don’t have too many words on the screen

If you start to put lines and lines of text onto your slides your audience will try and read it. As soon as you flip to a new slide filled with words you lose the focus of the audience as people try and read all the information that you put on the screen behind you.

Tip no.3: Keep it simple

Use a maximum of three bullet points per slide. That’s plenty. Use three to five words per bullet point. Don’t over complicate things; leave people with the key messages

Tip no.4: Use images

I really encourage you to use pictures. Images stay with us much more powerfully than text and if we associate what you are saying with the image that you put on the screen, we are much more likely to remember it.

Tip no.5: Think of Power Point as your backdrop

Don’t let PowerPoint upstage you. We don’t want people to remember the PowerPoint, we want them to remember you and what it is you said. Use your Power Point to enhance your presentation, but remember, Power Point isn’t your presentation. You are your presentation: the words you speak and the connection that you make with your audience.

I’d love to hear your views on how to get the most out of PowerPoint, so please share your comments with me in the box below.

Keep shining!

Dominic

How To Own The Stage

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Many public speakers have really great ideas and with fantastic content. However, they are ruining their performance by not using their space like a pro. In this video I am going to show you some simple tips to help you own your stage when presenting and look completely comfortable and in control.
Tip no.1: Get out from behind the podium

What most people do is see a podium and think “right, I am going to stand behind it”. Actually, that’s the worst thing that you can do. What you are doing by standing at the podium and leaving all that space in the middle of the auditorium is giving your PowerPoint slides “centre stage”. Just remember that the audience has come to listen to you. So, step out from behind the podium and find yourself connecting with them.

Tip no.2: Don’t move around

My tip here is to find yourself still and calm in a place that you feel safe. Find a place of stillness, a place of recovery and know that this is the centre point that you are going back to. This does not mean that you shouldn’t ever walk up and down or engage with people in the audience, but after that, know where are you coming back to and find that place of stillness.

Tip no.3: Stop giving the PowerPoint slides all the power

There is nothing worse than walking into an auditorium and seeing someone giving a great speech and watching them look up to their PowerPoint slides. This distracts your audience and gives all the focus to the words on the screen, which takes the focus away from you. Please don’t let your PowerPoint slides steal the show! I’ve got loads of tips on this topic so will deal with it in more detail in an upcoming video.

I hope that you find my tips on “how to own your stage when speaking” useful. Please share your comments with me in the box below and I’d love to hear about any other tricks that work for you.

Keep shining!

Dominic

Speaking On Camera: An Actor’s Top 5 Tips

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I spent yesterday in the studio. That statement sounds very grand… the reality was somewhat more chaotic. The furniture in the office pushed against the walls, a white sheet erected for a back-drop, several lights cluttering the floor space and my iPhone 6 attached to a tripod to record the proceedings. Very soon you’ll be able to judge the results for yourselves as I start releasing the videos on YouTube but I’m amazed at what can be achieved using such a simple set up. In fact the resolution of the finished product will be significantly higher than the footage I have from an episode of Doctors I shot for the BBC 10 years ago. It’s amazing how far technology has come!
Being in front of the camera is something that feels quite natural for me now. It’s something I’ve been doing for a long time. But it wasn’t always that way. The first time I did it, I was absolutely petrified. I’d had the amazing good fortune to be cast in a big budget BBC period drama called The Lost Prince which was directed by the legendary Stephen Poliakoff. In the cast were some of Britain’s finest actors, Michael Gambon, Miranda Richardson, Tom Hollander, Bill Nighy and me… 20 years old, completely new to television and desperate not to make a fool of myself!

As I stepped up to shoot my first scene I was a nervous wreck. All the main cast were there along with about 200 extras! The pressure was huge. My lines kept flying out of my head and I just couldn’t remember what I was meant to say next. My hands were shaking and my voice felt tight. The camera was rolling and the director shouted “Action!”. A complete jumbled mess came streaming from my mouth. “Cut!” I heard Stephen cry and we reset to shoot again. I was mortified. The second take was no better. What was I going to do? It was Michael Gambon that broke the ice. All of a sudden he burst out laughing, stood up and started clapping!! He could see that I was struggling and came to my rescue offering words of reassurance. I instantly relaxed, smiled, took a deep breath and the third take was word perfect. That first TV job taught me so much about how to work on camera and I’ve been lucky enough to learn many valuable lessons throughout my career, so I thought I’d use this blog to quickly share my top 5 tips.

1. Don’t take yourself too seriously

This was my major take-away from that first challenging experience in front of the camera. The more I worried about what other people were thinking of me the worse I performed. It’s easy to become very self-conscious and serious when you’re looking down the lens. Try to stay playful and give yourself a break. The beauty of digital cameras is that you can do as many takes as you need to get the right footage, so don’t worry about getting it right first time.

2. It’s all in the eyes

The eyes are the windows to the soul and this is especially true on camera. The lens has an amazing ability to pick up on your emotion and we tend to see it in the eyes. Think happy thoughts and the eyes sparkle on screen. If you’re feeling sad or tired the eyes will seem dull and lifeless. Make sure that your mental state matches your objective when speaking on camera. If you want your audience to be excited and inspired by your message, you need to be completely energised. If you’re not, they’ll see it in your eyes.

3. Warm up your face

When we’re in a room talking to someone they can normally see our whole body. When we’re speaking on camera they normally only get to see our head. This mean’s all the extra information conveyed in our body language needs to be channeled into our facial expression. I’m not suggesting for a second that you start gurning or doing strange things with your lips to get your audience’s attention but you do need to make sure everything is alive and warmed up. There are a staggering 42 muscles in the face, so having a stretch, blowing through the lips and screwing everything up before you go on camera will make sure the lens really captures your emotion and gets your message across.

4. Treat the camera like a friend

It’s important to remember that when you look directly down the lens of a camera you are looking straight into the eyes of your audience. To make the connection between you and the viewer really strong, the best piece of advice I was ever given was to imagine that you are talking to a friend. If you treat the camera as if it is someone you like and trust, that will come across in what the audience sees. It’s a really simple technique to implement and it makes a massive difference to your performance.

5. Don’t be afraid to go off script

Obviously if you’re acting in a big budget feature film this tip isn’t really an option (unless the director gives you permission) but when we’re making videos in order to connect with and serve our audience sometimes a full script can make things too rigid. If you’re not experienced in the actor’s art of bringing word off the page, you can often come across as wooden or stilted. In my experience it’s much better to sketch out a few bullet points that you want to talk about and use the other 4 tips above to bring them to life. There’s something about an “off the cuff” video that gives you real credibility and builds trust with the audience. So, next time you’re tempted to write the whole things out, take a risk and shoot from the hip instead. I guarantee that the results will be more authentic and engaging.

I hope you found these tips useful and would love to hear any other things you do to come across like a pro on screen, so leave your comments in the box below or tweet me @dominiccolenso.

Good luck with your videos.

Keep shining!

Dominic

Star Quality: What is it and how can you develop it?

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Sunday night was an important night in the British Theatre calendar. Some of the biggest names is show-business gathered at London’s Royal Opera House for the 39th annual Oliver Awards, ready to celebrate the best performances, productions and stage craft of the previous twelve months.
One of the highlights for me was seeing arguably two of the worlds greatest living actors sharing the stage. After 10 years at the helm of the Old Vic Theatre, Kevin Spacey is standing down as Artistic Director. So who better to present him with an outstanding contribution award than the wonderful Dame Judy Dench? Watching these two amazing performers standing side by side, I was struck by the ease with which they held the entire audience in the palms of their hands. Without a shadow of a doubt this was a faultless display of “Star Quality”. So what exactly is it that made them so easy to watch and how can you or I get hold of some of the “fairy dust”?

Stay Present

The key to lighting up the stage (or the meeting room) is to be truly present. Just as the word suggests, presence is about being in the “here and now”. It’s one of the most popular topics that my clients ask for my help with and with some conscious effort it’s relatively simple to fix. We live in an incredibly busy world. Emails, text messages, phone calls, plus a million-and-one push notifications from our various social media channels, all compete for our attention. If we’ve just walked out of a bad meeting or know we have a difficult conversation coming up later in the day, sometimes it is very hard to shake those things off and focus on the task at hand. The best way to engage with your audience, whether from the stage or in a one-to-one situation is to make sure that you stay with them in the moment. Don’t allow your attention to wonder or allow other things to distract you. Taking a deep breath and finding a moment to pause before you start a new interaction are a great ways to ensure that you don’t carry your past, or your future into your present.

Care About Your Audience

Another word for “present” is “gift”. When we make the people we are talking to feel special, when we are generous, when we take the time to care, we instantly begin to develop “The X Factor” as a communicator. Human beings are very good a spotting a fake. If you don’t genuinely demonstrate respect for your audience (especially when delivering a difficult message) you instantly begin to loose rapport. What actors like Dench and Spacey do so well is make the audience feel comfortable and at home. We’re never worried about what they might say next. Instead we feel like we’re listening to an old friend, completely at ease and excited to hear what they have to say next. When you focus on yourself and forget about the people you are talking to, you instantly increase your own anxiety and alienate those listening. Shine your light on your audience instead and your “Star Quality” will be visible for all to see.

Enjoy Yourself

Whilst it’s sometimes easier said than done, enjoying your time in the limelight is vital if you want to be remembered as a star performer. That doesn’t mean you need to use “jazz hands” or crack lots of jokes. However, it’s a simple fact that if you are enjoying yourself, then your audience are much more likely to be enjoying themselves too. Enthusiasm is infectious! Great communication is a skill that can be learned and as with anything you want to master, targeted practice is vital. Many famous actors freely admit that whilst their performances appear effortless on stage or in front of the camera, in their private lives they are very shy and introverted. Look for opportunities to practice and to step outside of your comfort zone. The more you do it, the easier and more enjoyable engaging with an audience will become.

You don’t have to be an award winning actor to be have “Star Quality”. On a regular basis I am lucky enough to work with people from all walks of life who discover their power to excite and inspire. They touch the hearts and minds of their audience and their message has lasting impact. What steps do you need to take today so that you shine more brightly? I’d love to hear your comments in the box below.

Keep shining!

Dominic

The Power Of Story

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As I sit here winding down for the holidays I’m struck by how much storytelling features at this time of year. Whether it is the Nativity, Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer or the ability of the latest gadget to improve our lives, stories abound. These powerful narratives have the ability to influence not only our emotions but also our actions. So it’s no great surprise that more and more businesses are thinking about the story of their brand and how they can communicate it to their customers.
Since human beings first walked the planet we have been telling stories to each other in order to educate and enlighten. Storytelling is a shortcut to connection. It engages the imagination of the audience and get’s them to place themselves in the picture. As you think back over the last twelve months what was the story that you told to your clients and stakeholders? And what new story do you want to write as we move into 2015? The next chapter is about to begin…

I wish you a joyful festive season and a happy New Year.

Keep shining!

Dominic