Now is a Great Time To…

April 28th, 2020

Now is a Great Time To…Right now is a terrible time for most businesses. Sales have plummeted, doors are closed, and employees have been laid off by the tens of millions.

And yet…

There’s always a positive in every negative situation. I don’t want to sound like a Pollyanna (because I’m definitely not one), but it’s true. And if you’re a salesperson, marketing executive, small business owner, or CEO, you need to find the positive and act on it. Because if you can do that, not only will you make it through the current crisis, you’ll be positioned to succeed in the aftermath.

What kinds of positives? Well, right now is a great time to…

Define your ideal client
Clearly understanding who your ideal customer is enables you to maximize your sales and marketing efforts. What do your best clients have in common? Where can you find more of them? What’s the best message to communicate to them?

Check on your customers
How are your existing clients doing at the moment? How can you help them survive this turmoil? Now is the time to strengthen your customer relationships. Taking care of your clients today will ensure they stay with you for life.

Give something away
HBO is giving free access to 500 hours of its best programming. Taco Bell has been giving a free Doritos Locos taco every Tuesday. Wendy’s is giving customers a free Frosty with every order. Gold’s Gym and Planet Fitness are providing free workout videos. (To work off those tacos and Frostys.) Hotels are giving free rooms to medical personnel and first-responders. And they’re all getting free publicity for their efforts. What could your company give away?

Find ways to partner with other companies
Which of your competitors could you conceivably partner with to do something neither of you alone could pull off? And what companies who aren’t competitors, but serve the same market that you do, could you cooperate with for mutual benefit?

Identify a new market
Who else needs what you provide? How could you tweak your existing products or services for a different customer base?

Create a new product or service
What do Rice Krispies, Miracle Whip, chocolate chip cookies, Diet Coke, ketchup, Twinkies, and the aforementioned Doritos Locos taco have in common? (Besides the fact they’re all delicious?) They were all invented during economic downturns. Ditto for Scotch tape, the iPod, fluorescent light bulbs, nylon, car radios, tampons, and the electric razor. I’m currently creating two new keynote speeches and a new coaching program. How could you innovate your way out of this crisis?

Improve your social media efforts
Social media is an incredibly powerful sales and marketing tool, and yet most companies don’t use it effectively. Right now is an ideal time to explore the platforms you’re not currently using and get better with the platforms you are using.

Study and train
Among the most common excuses people give for not engaging in professional development or training their teams are that they’re too busy or they don’t want to take their people out of the field. WELL, YOU’RE NOT VERY BUSY NOW, ARE YOU? And your people sure as hell aren’t in the field! So use this downtime to arm yourself and your teams with new skills, insights, ideas, and tactics.

Hire people
If you’re in a position to hire people, there’s never been a better time. There are more than 26 million people looking for work, which means you have the pick of the litter.

There are always opportunities around. They may not be the opportunities you were expecting, they may not be as big or as plentiful as you’d like, they may not be easy to find, but they’re there. And how well you survive this crisis, and how well you do after it’s over, will largely depend on how well you identify and act on the opportunities that exist.

So seize them. Now.

26 Ways to Keep Your Stress Down and Your Energy Up

April 21st, 2020

26 Ways to Keep Your Stress Down and Your Energy UpIn my last post, I discussed the dangerous physical and mental effects of elevated cortisol levels and how laughter can lower them. As awesome as laughter is, though, it’s not the only way to reduce cortisol levels. There are a lot of things you can do to combat cortisol. Here are 26 proven ways:

1. Exercise
2. Meditate
3. Eat healthy
4. Get enough sleep
5. Drink plenty of water
6. Spend time on a hobby
7. Play games
8. Do puzzles
9. Work in your garden
10. Socialize (virtually, for the time being)
11. Read inspiring books and blogs
12. Watch inspiring videos, TV shows, and movies
13. Listen to music
14. Plan, strategize, create, and think
15. Indulge in dark chocolate
16. Chew gum
17. Consume probiotics and prebiotics
18. Drink black or green tea
19. Journal
20. Practice tai chi or another martial art
21. Touch—hugging, cuddling, sex, back rubs, holding hands, etc.
22. Adopt a pet
23. Forgive yourself and release guilt
24. Forgive others and release anger
25. Practice your spirituality
26. Engage in a creative activity—draw, paint, write, etc.

Now, more than ever, taking proactive care of your health is critical to your sales, business, and personal success. Include as many of these strategies into your daily routine as possible, not just now, but after the COVID-19 crisis passes. You’ll reduce your stress and anxiety, while boosting your energy and mental clarity. You’ll be more positive, creative, and productive. All of which will benefit your sales, your company, and your family.

Why You Need to Laugh in the Face of Death (And How to Do It)

April 14th, 2020

Why You Need to Laugh in the Face of DeathThese are difficult times. The death toll from COVID-19 keeps climbing. Unemployment is skyrocketing. Sports, proms, conferences, festivals, trade shows, concerts, seminars, and more have been cancelled. And uncertainty is everywhere.

What can you do at a time like this?

Laugh.

Let me explain.

We’re actually dealing with two pandemics at the moment. One, of course, is COVID-19. The other, is cortisol.

Cortisol is a hormone released by the adrenal glands in response to fear or stress. As Web MD puts it: “Think of cortisol as nature’s built-in alarm system. It’s your body’s main stress hormone. It’s best known for helping fuel your body’s ‘fight-or-flight’ instinct in a crisis.”

To enable you to deal with a threat, cortisol affects your heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar, metabolism, and more. It’s a critical hormone for survival.

But cortisol works best as a temp: It comes in when it’s needed, then takes off when its job is done. It doesn’t make a good full-time employee.

Because elevated cortisol levels over a prolonged period of time can cause or exacerbate serious health problems, including:

• anxiety
• depression
• diabetes
• digestive issues
• fatigue
• headaches
• heart disease
• high blood pressure
• high cholesterol
• learning impairment
• mental cloudiness
• osteoporosis
• poor memory
• reduced immune function
• trouble sleeping
• weight gain

Which means, when you experience extended bouts of extreme stress—such as if you’re unemployed, in an abusive relationship, caring for a sick loved one, or (I can’t help but point out) living during a global pandemic—you’re at risk for all of the above. And all of those issues negatively impact your ability to think, create, work, and sell.

Fortunately, in this situation, laughter is literally the best medicine.

Laughter has been proven to reduce cortisol levels, along with the levels of other stress hormones, such as epinephrine and dopamine. Laughter also increases the level of health-enhancing hormones, like endorphins. Studies conducted in 2006 and 2008 found that even just anticipating the opportunity to laugh can reduce stress hormones while boosting health-protecting ones.

Humor and Sales 1But wait, there’s more!

Laughing impacts almost every part of the body. Laughter can:

• increase oxygen intake
• stimulate circulation
• aid muscle relaxation
• ease pain
• lessen depression and anxiety
• reduce stress
• fight inflammation
• improve your mood, outlook, and confidence
• increase the number of antibody-producing cells
• enhance the effectiveness of T cells

Which means that laughing regularly can boost your immune system, your mental health, your cardiovascular system, and more. It’s one of the most effective tools for coping with stress, fear, frustration, and uncertainty.

Humor and Sales 2So as we are deluged by negativity in the news and in our personal lives, it’s critical to find the funny and create opportunities for laughter. Wondering how? Here are ten ways.

1. Watch comedies
If you’re going to sit on your couch and watch movies, they might as well be funny ones. Looking for recommendations? Check out:

The All-Time Greatest Comedy Films
BBC Culture’s 100 Greatest Comedies of All Time
150 Essential Comedy Movies to Watch Now

2. Binge on sitcoms, sketch shows, and cartoons
Whether via cable, satellite, or your favorite streaming service, there are tons of new and classic sitcoms—and other comedy shows—perfect for binging. (By the way, all four seasons of the groundbreaking British comedy series, Monty Python’s Flying Circus are now available on Netflix!)

3. Call your funny friends
Everybody has at least one friend who’s a laugh riot. Call them and tell them you need a laugh. They’ll be happy to help. (I love, love, love making people laugh.)

4. Listen to stand-up comics
Sometimes you have to call in the professionals. Look for your favorite stand-up comedians—or find new ones—on your cable or satellite On Demand service, your streaming services, or online.

Humor and Sales 35. Read funny books
I’m currently reading Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson. Every chapter has me literally laughing until tears stream down my face. Also rereading Brain Droppings by George Carlin because he never stops being funny. Oh, and if you like your monster, demon, and vampire stories on the humorous side, check out the novels of Christopher Moore.

6. Follow funny blogs
There are a lot of funny people out there creating funny content every day. Check out:

The Funniest Single Topic Blogs
Top 50 Humor Blogs
Top 100 Humor Blogs and Websites to Follow

7. Play with your kids
Children are inherently funny. And they’ll laugh at almost anything. And laughter is contagious!

8. Read comic strips
Most modern comic strips are available online. And there’s no shortage of comic collections available at Amazon and other online bookstores. (Calvin & Hobbes still makes me laugh out loud.)

Humor and Sales 59. Join a humor group on Facebook
I belong to several Facebook groups in which members post videos, jokes, cartoons, and memes. There are groups for every type and sense of humor.

10. Watch funny videos on YouTube
Just type the word “funny” into YouTube’s search engine and you’ll be laughing for hours.

The goal is to laugh every day. Several times a day. Heartily. Unabashedly. It’s one of the most powerful success habits you can cultivate. It will make you a better salesperson, leader, parent, and friend. A good sense of humor will help you face up to challenges from minor annoyances to death itself.

I’m fortunate to come from a family of people who laugh in the face of death. Visiting my grandfather in hospice during the last weeks of his life, he made me laugh. While my father fought his losing battle with cancer, he and I laughed together. And on my aunt Janet’s final night on this earth, as she lay in bed, hooked to an oxygen tank, barely able to speak, her daughter (my cousin Laura) and I made her laugh, and she made us laugh. (And we all made the hospice nurse laugh.)

Humor and Sales 4In dark times, laughter is an act of defiance. It’s an act of solidarity and community. It is life-affirming in the extreme. Laughing enables us to take charge of our mood, attitude, and outlook when everything else seems out of our control. It’s empowering, both physically and mentally. And making others laugh improves their well-being.

So find the funny. Laugh at yourself. Laugh with others.

Laugh. And live.

29 Ways to Improve Your Virtual Presentations

April 7th, 2020

29 Ways to Improve Your Virtual PresentationsThe current “Social Distancing” and “Shelter at Home” requirements have resulted in millions of people conducting virtual presentations for the first time.

And it shows.

Which is understandable. Our first attempts at most things leave a lot to be desired. And virtual presentations have a lot more challenges and elements to be managed than typical presentations. I should know—I’ve been conducting webinars, eLearning courses, web conferences, and online sales presentations for more than twenty years. (Remember back when dial-up was still a thing?)

I’ve learned a lot over that time. (Much of it, the hard way.) So let me share with you a few strategies, tips, and tricks for knocking your next virtual presentations out of the virtual park.

1. Set and manage expectations
Is it a webinar or a meeting? How long will it last? What is the goal? Who will be allowed to talk and for long?

2. Start on time
Starting late punishes those who log on early and encourages everyone to be late in the future.

3. Engage participants before start time
To incentivize people to log in early, provide entertainment or information to early arrivals. Play a game or hold a contest with prizes.

4. End on time
The only thing attendees hate more than starting late is ending late. Plan on less time than you have to allow for questions, tangents, and technical glitches. And because your slides or presentation platform can cover up the clock on your screen, keep a separate clock in your line of sight.

5. Get the light right
Arguably nothing makes a bigger difference in how you’re perceived than how you’re lit. You want enough light on you to be seen clearly, but not so much that you’re washed out. I have a large window in front of my desk, and I have to close it for presentations because even the ambient light is too much. Go for artificial light—preferably a wide source of dim light. Avoid using one or two bright bulbs, because that will result in “hot spots”—bright areas on your cheeks, nose, and forehead.) Also, make sure you aren’t backlit—close the blinds or curtains on any windows in the room and turn off lights aimed in the direction of your camera.

6. Enable your video
The whole point of optimizing your lighting is so you can be seen, which is one of the most important elements of a video conference. Don’t just show people your PowerPoint slides, let them see you.

7. Check your sound level
Besides being seen, you also need to be heard. So check your sound levels in advance.

8. Upgrade your audio and video
While we’re on the subject of being seen and heard clearly, you may want to consider investing in an external camera and microphone. Both will significantly improve the technical quality of your presentations.

9. Mute mics when you don’t actively want conversation
Although you want to be heard, you don’t necessarily want everyone to be heard. So if you’re doing a webinar, or some other type of presentation to a large or medium-sized group, mute everyone’s microphone. Don’t depend on the attendees to do it, because invariably someone will forget. On the other hand, if you’re talking with only a few people and you want to encourage conversation, then leave everyone’s mic open. (But let them know their mics are live unless they mute them.)
 
Not muting your mic is the new "reply all"
 
10. Look at the camera
It’s natural to look at your slides, or the video feeds of your participants, or—especially—the video of yourself as you talk. But that means you’re not making eye contact with your virtual audience. Make an effort to look at the camera instead.

11. Raise your computer
Speaking of looking at the camera, are you looking down at it? Most people do, which shows off your nostrils and emphasizes your double chin. (Well, not your double chin. Other people’s.) Put your laptop on a stand, a raiseable desk, or a cardboard box (super high-tech) to elevate the camera to eye level.

12. Practice “Social Video Distancing”
If you’re too close to the camera, your audience sees only your eyes and nose. If you’re too far away, your audience can neither see nor hear you well. Shoot for roughly the top third of your body in frame, which is typically about an arm’s length from the camera.
 

 
13. Hardwire your computer to the internet
Wi-fi is great and all, but sometimes it can slow down or even go out entirely without warning. Using a hardwired connection guarantees you more reliability.

14. Learn your platform
Whether you use Zoom, GoTo Meeting, Microsoft Teams, or something else, learn the ins and outs of it. There are plenty of tutorials online.

15. Make it interactive
Every platform has options for encouraging interactivity. You can present polls, ask participants to raise their hands, or divide them into breakout groups. You can also ask questions and either have them type their answers in the chat or voice the answers while you record them on a digital whiteboard.

16. Understand your security settings
There have been reports of virtual meetings being hijacked and other dangers of online meetings. Learn your platform’s security settings and use them.

17. Use large type on your slides
You don’t know what kind of device your attendees are watching your presentation on. It could very well be a tablet or a phone. And even if they’re watching on a laptop or desktop, they may not be using their full screen to look at your slide deck. In both cases, if your text isn’t huge, they won’t be able to read it at all. (One more reason you don’t want to fill your slides with lots of text.)

18. Use minimal animation on your slides
Lag time means your animations won’t be fast or smooth. So keep them to a minimum. Or don’t even use them at all. Trust me, nobody will notice. (“Did you see those animations? Those were awesome!” said no one ever.)

19. Prep your computer
The less your computer is doing, the better. So close other programs, clear your cache, and reboot in advance of your presentation.

20. Eliminate noisemakers
Silence your cell and your landline. (Along with your fax and your pager, of course.) And mute or turn off anything else in the room that might conceivably make a noise.

21. Make sure everyone else knows you’re on a call
On the same subject, let your family—or your colleagues—know not to disturb you. Because if you don’t, there’s a 100% certainty that your kids will choose that exact moment to challenge the dog to a bark-off, bang pots and pans together, or practice their trombone for the first time in weeks.

22. Let attendees know if you’re recording
If you’re recording the presentation, warn your audience so they have the option of turning off their video in the event they don’t want to be preserved for posterity.

zoom meeting audio vs video-
 
23. Get to the point quickly
Don’t waste your audience’s time. Keep in mind that it’s easier for online attendees to tune you out and focus on other things. If you lose them in the first few minutes, you’re not getting them back.

24. Amp up your enthusiasm
As important as enthusiasm is in a live, in-person presentation, it’s even more important in a virtual one. Your participants can’t feel your energy, so they need to really see and hear it.

25. Remember—the rules of good live presentations still apply
What works in person still works online:

a. Open with something attention-grabbing
b. Your slides are not your presentation
c. Tell stories
d. Use appropriate humor
e. Appeal to both logic and emotion
f. Use visuals
g. Include a call to action
h. Close memorably

26. Have someone else monitor the chat
It’s nearly impossible to pay attention to the chat window while you’re presenting. But used effectively, the chat is a great forum for ideas, comments, and questions. So arrange for another person to monitor the chat and to alert you when something is worthy of attention.

27. Upload additional files
Most—if not all—platforms have the ability to upload files that participants can download during the presentation. Use this feature to easily distribute handouts, articles, proposals, contracts, photos, videos, or even your slide deck exclusively to attendees.

28. Rehearse and practice
Want to deliver a good virtual presentation? Rehearse. Want to deliver great virtual presentations consistently? Practice! (Bonus tip: Record your practice sessions and watch the videos.)

29. Take glitches in stride
As I mentioned, I’ve been doing virtual presentations for a couple decades, and I’ve rarely been on one—either as a presenter or an attendee—where something didn’t go wrong. It’s the nature of the beast. With so many things that can wrong, it’s almost assured that something will. Expect it and don’t let it throw you. Fortunately, most glitches are small and quickly forgotten. And even the bigger ones are only as significant as you make them. Deal with the issue, laugh it off, and get back to your message.

While I don’t believe that in-person presentations will ever be completely replaced, virtual presentations are definitely here to stay. So the time is right to get really good at delivering them. Learn them, love them, and leverage them. Your boss, your customers, and your sales will thank you.