December 2012
Connecting the dots between customers, colleagues and community
Communication that Connects the Dots
Build communication bridges that influence, engage and activiate
Happy Holidays to my clients, colleagues and community!
The end of each new year seems to come faster than the one before.  While we cannot
slow the march of time, we can be sure that we mark the turn of the calendar page with a commitment to discover something new to improve ourselves, to reach out and contribute to improving the life of another or simply reflect on what we've learned and refresh our goals.  My newsletter this month strives to contribute in some way to those objectives.

Thank you all for being a part of the conversation this year. Wishing you all a brilliant 2013!

Mari Pat Varga
Use Sign Posts to Guide your Listeners
During this holiday season, you might find yourself traveling to destinations near and far.  Along the way, if you are like most of us,  you are grateful for the sign posts and road markers that help guide you to your destination.  Sign posts provide information, give guidance and produce clues on where you are and how to get where you are going.

In communication and during presentations we need to provide similar sign posts that help our audience track with our message, identify what is most important and pay attention to the priorities.  Here are some examples of what those sign posts could be:
  • A strategic pause before an important point
  • A verbal cue that prefaces a statement with:  This is important...The most critical point I want to make today is...If you don't remember anything else, remember this...
  • Move to a new spot in the room and make your point from there
  • Increase your volume or speak in a whisper-like tone   

We've all experienced listening to speakers who address the audience in a monotone and have limited visual cues.  When everything sounds the same and looks the same, the audience interprets it AS THE SAME.   In other words, nothing rises to the top as most important or significant.  Your job as a communicator is to provide those moments of distinction  and emphasis with your audience so that they do retain the mission-critical information.  Use sign posts starting today! 


Advice from the Blue Man Group

The Blue Man Group, founded by
Chris Wink, Matt Goldman and Phil
Stanton, produces theatrical shows and concerts featuring experimental music, comedy and
multimedia.  Following are a few words of wisdom from their highly successful career.

"Know your strengths and weaknesses.  Assess the risk, and bite off what you can chew.  No one person has to have all the skill sets, but you have to hire people who have them.  It's about collaboration, quiet leadership, and having fun."  Matt Goldman

"Keep Talking,  We've always believed in consensus, so if there's a disagreement, we talk it out until we come to an agreement."  Phil Stanton

"Work together.  If you can be a good collaborator, it's like having a superpower because you can connect your gifts with that of someone else.  The point is to get the work done and not look out for your own celebrity or money.  I stopped trying to have my own career, found some friends, and worked with them."  Chris Wink
Source:  FORTUNE 08/08/12
Cascading positivity
On a recent restful Sunday afternoon I turned on the television to find a presentation by Shawn Achor, a Harvard researcher, whose recent book is called The Happiness Advantage.  He had many good ideas about how to bring more joy and appreciation into your life.  Two jumped out at me and I wanted to share them with you:

1)  The Three Gratitudes
For 21 days in a row, site three specific things per day that you are grateful for.  The only "rule" is that you cannot repeat a gratitude in the 21 days.  My daughter and I have committed to this practice and have found it to be energizing and at times surprising and revealing.  I recommend it!  The outcome is that after 21 days you will feel more optimistic and it will be easier for you to recognize the good things that come your way.

2)  The Ripple Effect
Consciously add three smiles to your day to see if it can raise your level of happiness and change those around you.

I love simple exercises that make a difference and these certainly are two.  Thanks Shawn for the inspiration!
Create Focus for your Presentations
1)  FRONT AND CENTER:  Before launching into a slide presentation with your audience, turn off the projector / blacken the screen or simply place a sheet of paper in front of the lens to create focus and engender intimacy with your audience.  Position yourself front and center and deliver your opening remarks before beginning your slide show.  You will have their full attention without the distraction of slides.

2) MOVIE THEATRE REALITY:  When we go to the movies and the lights go out, we leave reality behind and adopt the film's storyline as our own.  Consider incorporating movie theatre reality into your next big presentation...dim the light or turn them off before spotlighting your opening.  Create a new reality for your audience to adopt.
Lift your Head and Say Hello!
In this digital age I believe we are getting to know the tops of people's heads better than their actual faces.

We live in a world where everyone seems to have their head dropped, staring into an electronic device - cell phone or iPad, to name a couple.  At a time when we benefit from having more access to information than ever before our interpersonal skills are at an all time low.  We are forgetting the power of eye contact and a friendly hello.

I love technology as much as the next person and I use it, but I do see how its overuse and dependence has caused our social skills to diminish.

Recommendation:  Encourage "Heads Up Hellos" in your organization or family as a way of reminding people of the importance of establishing eye contact and developing rapport with a simple greeting.  Its a beginner's step AND it will be a giant step toward increased civility.
Shark School
Every now and again I find a good reason to watch television.

If you have never watched ABC's Friday night Shark Tank, give it a try.

Inventors and entrepreneurs pitch their ideas and businesses to a group of wealthy investors in hopes that they will provide the capital they need to take their business to the next level.

For anyone who wants to improve their presentation and sales skills, Shark Tank offers a great opportunity to see what makes some presenters excel and get the deal while others go bust.

Go to school with the sharks!
Have a wonderful holiday.  See joy where you can and spread it when you are able.
Mari Pat Varga
Varga & Associates, Inc.
Book a 2013 engagement with Varga & Associates before December 31, 2012, and receive two complimentary coaching sessions (2 hours each) for yourself or another member of your team.