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Gini Dietrich

Nine Ways to Make Yourself Charming

By: Gini Dietrich | November 14, 2011 | 
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Last week I gave the keynote address for the Center for Resource Development annual conference.

During my speech, I spoke about the importance of not being boring – online or off.

You see, people always want to know what it’s like on the speaking circuit.

I’m here to tell you, it’s not that glamorous. In a given week, you could be on 10 different flights, run (literally run) through airports so as not to miss your connecting flight, get stopped by TSA for lipgloss in your purse that has gotten through every other security in the country, forget which rental car is yours, and have hotel room numbers written on your hand so you don’t go to last night’s room and try to use your key.

But when you get on stage, your adrenaline starts to pump, the butterflies flutter, and you turn on the charm. And, for an hour, all of that adrenaline is like a drug and you feel on top of the world.

It’s not easy to do, however, turning on the charm and not being boring. You almost have to act on stage…become a more animated version of yourself.

Following are nine tips for getting yourself ready to speak, present, or even just attend a client or new business meeting.

  1. Have a positive attitude. We all have problems and issues. It’s been a rough three years so we’re all weighed down at work. But if you don’t know how to compartmentalize those things and maintain a positive attitude, the charm won’t come.
  2. Exercise. I know, I know. You don’t have time. Baloney. Exercise should be treated like brushing your teeth – you don’t leave the house until it’s done. Daily exercise, especially if you’re on the road, makes you feel less tired and gives you a boost of confidence. Trust me, I know how hard it is to exercise on the road, but push yourself through those first five minutes and you won’t regret it.
  3. Dress to impress. I’m not a believer in wearing jeans for speaking or for business meetings. I know there are plenty of people who disagree with me on that. So I’ll leave my advice at dressing to impress, be comfortable, and always dress up. As my mom said when we were kids, “It’s better to be overdressed than underdressed.”
  4. Introduce yourself. Before the keynote, I was talking with the executive director and the sponsor, who was to introduce me. A few people wandered up to say hello. I introduced myself to those people instead of waiting to be introduced. This shows confidence, but it also strokes the person’s ego a little bit. People want to know you recognize that they’re standing there.
  5. This is about them, not you. We have an internal joke about Type OO (output only). You know who that is…the person who only talks about themselves and never asks about you. When you’re “on,” you should always ask questions, listen, and be engaging.
  6. Always remember the little guys. When Mr. D and I were dating, one of the things that made me fall in love with him was that he looks everyone in the eye when he speaks to them. It doesn’t matter if you’re the CEO of a Fortune 10 company or the busboy, he treats everyone the same. As Bill Gates famously has said, “Be nice to the nerds. You may end up working for one.” This goes hand-in-hand with introducing yourself. You never know who or how a person can help you or vice versa.
  7. Manage your reputation. Pay attention to what is being said about you or your company online. A very easy way to do that is to create a Google alert so, anytime you’re mentioned online, you receive an email.
  8. Admit your mistakes. If you hurt someone’s feelings, say something wrong, or even misrepresent a conversation you had, there are two little words that go a long way: I’m sorry. It’s easy to make a mistake if you spend a lot of time in meetings or speaking. We’re all human. It happens. Just apologize and move on.
  9. Inflect your voice. Nothing is worse than listening to a speaker who sounds like the Peanuts teacher. Animate yourself, laugh, smile, and inflect your voice.

If you’re an introvert, like me, it’s easy to stay in your shell and not push yourself to speak or present or go to big meetings. But, if you follow these tips, I guarantee you’ll have success and soon be running through airports and arguing with TSA for that hour of adrenaline coursing through your veins.

A portion of this first appeared in my weekly Crain’s column.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communications firm. She is the lead blogger here at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. She is the co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Her second book, Spin Sucks, is available now.

110 comments
RebeccaTodd
RebeccaTodd

Thanks for this too G! I just linked back to this from a more recent post. What I would add- introvert or not, if you think you want a job where dealing with people is a part of it, then be sure you like people. I am an introvert in sales (as you know), and while I do like my quiet time and alone time, I really like my customers, value their time and truly appreciate them letting me speak to them, individually or as a group. It makes me honestly happy if I can leave a call knowing how I can help that person, even just a little. I come across many people in sales, customer service, or as speakers at events who really don't seem to like people.  If you don't that's fine- but be sure to get a job that allows you to stay away from the public. I know you are an introvert too, but I know that you really enjoy meeting people and connecting with your audience. 

rachaelseda
rachaelseda

This is a great post and I appreciate the advice. I would add, get some sleep! I know it always helps me, because trust me you don't want to see me without enough sleep! The tip I most love is #6, I'm a huge believer in treating everyone with the same respect regardless of whether they're the CEO or the secretary. I find this has also helped me feel more calm at interviews as well because I remind myself that they are a person just like me!

byronfernandez
byronfernandez

I second Marcus. As another one of my favorite people/friends says: "If you're true to yourself and you work hard, and treat people with Respect; you will Grow!" :)

Usual Brava; tip of the hat Gini

Marcus_Sheridan
Marcus_Sheridan

I know I'm late to this Gini, but I just wanted to say I really loved this post. It was great to hear you talking about a subject I'm so very passionate about as well.

Keep up the total awesomeness :)

Marcus

MichaelBesson
MichaelBesson

Great advice Gini! This blog was very helpful to read. I've been public speaking for years and after taking some time to turn to vlogging I've soon realized I need to get back on the public horse. This was a great refresher.

JamesDBurrell2
JamesDBurrell2

Adding to #9, never underestimate the power of a smile. If genuine, a smile animates the entire face, shines in one's eyes, improves posture, and will overall elevate your mood. I find that I'm most successful in capturing someone's attention if I speak to them as if I were speaking to a long time friend; however, I do recognize where certain situations require greater formality and respect, but it still has worked quite well for me thus far.

Thanks for the sound advice, Gini.

WordsDoneWrite
WordsDoneWrite

Good advice, Gini.

My economics teacher in college was Ben Stein (the "Bueller? Bueller? teacher in Ferris Bueller's Day Off). Therefore, as someone in the audience for a full trimester, i can attest to the importance of number nine. An energetic delivery can turn even the most mundane information into something worth listening to! (If we ever meet in person, I'll have to show you the cool supply and demand high five that Mr. Stein taught us. I remember it to this day!)

Leon
Leon

G'Day Gini,

Great stuff. I do hardly any speaking these days, but there was a time..... The best speaker I aver saw was a short, slight, bespectacled university professor called Jim Walker. To say that his personal appearance was unprepossessing would be the understatement or the century. But when he spoke....

I learnt lots from Jim. But two things that I observe religiously are

* Write your own introduction and give it to the person introducing you to read. Make it mildly self critical and amusing. If necessary, conclude with something like "I'm sorry if this introduction isn't quite what you expected. I didn't write it. Please permit me to introduce the author........Guni Dietrich."

" rehearse, rehearse, rehearse: and if you don't have time to rehearse fully, at least rehearse your jokes well. You must get them right.

And if you can make 'em laugh, you can probably make 'em learn.

All good clean fun.

Regards

Leon

JodiEchakowitz
JodiEchakowitz

As aways, great post @ginidietrich. I wish more people would follow tip #6. We should all talk to people with the same kind of respect we would appreciate when someone is talking to us. And to add to that, don't forget to say thank you... often! For tip #2, I'm a huge believer in exercise - there's nothing like it to prepare you for the day. And to ensure I don't find an excuse not to do it, I schedule it into my calendar like any other meeting.

SJWhipp
SJWhipp

I really like #9. I think voice inflection is something that isn't always talked about. A little inflection goes a long way. In my own experiences, I've found that making it a point to be animated not only captivates my audience, but it also masks my own nerves, fatigue, and other negative emotions that might detract from the task at hand.

scarlettimage
scarlettimage

@KevinVandever, @SpinSucks I understand that we would like to not be judged by how we dress, but like it or not, that is how it is.

I bet all would prefer to receive a gift wrapped beautifully, rather than in a crumpled paper bag. Even though the paper bag could contain money, the well wrapped gift entices us enough to open it and expect a treasure.

@EugeneFarber. A nice pair of jeans with a cool button down shirt is a great look for a casual event.

But no matter what you wear, eye contact and a smile are the best accessories.

EugeneFarber
EugeneFarber

But what if they're nice jeans?!?But you're totally right..."book covers" do matter. I need to get back into the exercise mode and do more exercise than just lifting a fork to my mouth :)

Latest blog post: About Me

johnheaney
johnheaney

Great tips, and I'll add one more... write your own introduction out on a note card and give it to the presenter or moderator before you speak. This accomplishes two things: 1) it's a thoughtful touch that takes the pressure off of the moderator to craft a relevant introduction for you, and 2) it ensures that you are properly introduced to the audience so they know exactly why you were chosen to address them. You only have to endure an error-filled or entirely inappropriate introduction one time to realize that your introduction needs to be your responsibility.

Tinu
Tinu

#4 and #6 struck me. I went to see someone speak after meeting them in person the night before this past Thursday. And when I asked a question during the presentation he said my name - which I hadn't given - to the group before repeating what I said.

You know me, I try to keep my ego under control. But whether or not that was him having game, it totally worked on me. I remember sitting up a little straighter and thinking "that's right, I'm in the house mofos." LOL ok that's not what I thought but it made me feel like he felt my input was important.

KevinVandever
KevinVandever

I remember my days doing the speaking circuit. I wasn't quite as busy as you so I didn't have the airport issues you've had (this was pre-9/11 and I stopped wearing lip gloss so both of those helped). I'd be nervous up until my first presentation, but once on stage, as you stated, the adrenalin rush would take over and I'd feel great. It was addictive. In fact, I'd put so much into the presentation, that I'd usually have a headache afterwards and if my talk wasn't too early in the morning, say 6am, I'd invite folks to the bar to have a beer and continue the discussion. Many took me up on this over the years.

I agree with your tips, except for number three. I know you already know where I stand, but I can't let it go. I think we put way too much emphasize on dress code in the business world. You will certainly not go wrong following your advice in number three, I just wish it wasn't necessary. I say "wish" because I know I'm in the minority and realize that it is sometimes a battle I shouldn't fight. Depends on the event/audience. I've seen poorly dressed speakers give awesome presentations and well dressed speakers give clunkers. Maybe it's because I spoke at technical conferences, and was usually speaking to programmers about programming topics. Dress code hardly mattered. It was way more about the subject matter. I'm not a polished speaker but knew my subject well and that's what came though during my presentations and why I'd get asked back to speak, not because I wore a nice polo and some khakis.

The other point that sticks out for me is number eight. Too many speakers, and people in general, are afraid to admit their mistakes. Not only should you be able to apologize and move on but admitting a mistake can sometimes diffuse an over-eager audience member intent on proving a point (this happens more than it should in the ego-driven programming world) and can even help to add a little levity to the presentation, which is often needed during technical discussions.

Exercise is a good one, too. Probably not on many speaking tips lists, but I think you're right regarding the benefits. It's better than partying with fellow presenters until 3AM before an 8AM presentation..I mean, I'm guessing that to be the case.

Thanks for the tips.

TheJackB
TheJackB

I take issue with having to dress the part.I hate, hate, hate and hate again having to dress up so that people think I know something.

If I know my material, present it well and do a good job of engaging with the audience than no one should notice what I am wearing. Sadly I usually dress the part because it is not worth losing an opportunity because the fashionistas are upset that I didn't wear my Jerry Garcia tie with my suit.

People remember how you make them feel so you can gain a lot from that.

Latest blog post: A Letter To The Universe

patrickreyes
patrickreyes

Totally agree with you on #6 (my favorite number by the way). Mr. D does look you directly in the eye and does treat everyone equally and with respect. He's a keeper!

Thanks again for your hospitality this weekend, Gini! For the rest of you, be very jealous, @ginidietrich made a FANTASTIC dinner for @bryanwillmert and myself this weekend!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@MichaelBesson I considered dropping one of my speaker's bureaus this year because there isn't a huge ROI on it (not like the others). But I realized it gets me out, in front of people, at least once a month and that is more valuable, in some cases, than not doing it at all. It gives you an added dimension you just can't get vlogging, which is so much easier than speaking.

KevinVandever
KevinVandever

@scarlettimage Yes, I agree! We are judged by how we dress. That's why I pick my battles in this area. I'm probably a hypocrite because there are many times when I enjoy, and think it's appropriate, to dress nicely even though I could apply my same arguments against it. I guess I just don't think dressing to impress is necessary to "make yourself charming". Besides, @ginidietrich already knows how utterly charming I am.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@KevinVandever I know we disagree on the dress code and perhaps it's because I'm a woman and I'm tiny. If I showed up with pink highlights, black fingernails, and jeans, I'm pretty sure no one would take me seriously.

Funny about the partying bit. I refuse to have more than a glass of wine when I'm on the road. I just can't get up and perform at an A level the next morning if I have more than a glass. It's become a rule for me.

johnheaney
johnheaney

@ginidietrich Glad I could share something useful. One more tip... be careful inserting anything humorous in the intro you write. If the moderator reads it without any inflection or even a smile, it totally bombs with the audience. Write your intro so no matter who reads it, it can't go wrong.

rustyspeidel
rustyspeidel

@ginidietrich@KevinVandever That's as much about your having some class and style as anything else, G. I have seen some amazingly dressed folks who use personal style to their advantage, and that includes jeans from time to time. Seeing Jobs in a suit would have been ridiculous. I think what you wear should match your industry norms and who you are. One of the best-dressed men I ever saw was in Vienna, Austria. He was a banker and was wearing a beautiful italian spread collar shirt and tie, cashmere pinstripe blazer, designer jeans, and some really expensive ankle boot dress shoes. Fantastic. I vowed to copy it as soon as possible, forever.

KevinVandever
KevinVandever

@ginidietrich Yeah, I understand. I'm not typically like that before a presentation, but that particular time was a special occasion that went a little longer than it was supposed to. One thing, though, I probably worked harder than normal the next morning to make sure I was ready for the session. A couple folks even remember seeing me out late the night before...I think I earned respect for that. Ha.

Oh, please, at least do one of your FB questions of the week wearing pink highlights, black nail polish and jeans. Pleeeeaaassse!

KevinVandever
KevinVandever

@Tinu@ginidietrich I agree, there are times when one needs to look more casual, even if he/she smiles a lot. I've done this on both speaking and client engagements. I've never thought about it from a male/female perspective nor from a trim/not-so-trim thing. Too many rules for me.

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