Monday, April 25, 2022

Happy Employees = Happpy Customers!

To quote Matthew Kobach (@mkobach), "Twitter is a key that unlocks thousands of doors, some of which you never even knew existed." As a member of the Twitterverse for almost 13 years, I always enjoy meeting new people and learning from them. I recently connected with Julie Ann Sullivan and invited her to appear here on my Blog in a Q&A format. Highlights of our conversation follow a brief introduction.

Julie Ann Sullivan’s diverse background gives her a unique perspective as a business culture expert. She earned a BA in Psychology from Cal State Northridge and an MBA in Accounting from National University in San Diego, earning the designation of CPA. She is an international best-selling author, global podcaster, and designated top global Employee Engagement and Experience Influencer. She has been speaking, training, and coaching for the past 13 years as a catalyst of culture. In her book, Blueprint for Employee Engagement, 37 Essential Elements to Influence, Innovate and Inspire, she created a roadmap for the complex journey to create a best place to work. Her second book, Catalysts of Culture – How Visionary Leaders Activate the Employee Experience, is based on her extensive research, experience and interviews on her podcast, Businesses that Care. Visit her website at and connect on Twitter @JASatLNE.

QUESTION: You are the founder of Learning Never Ends (awesome branding, by the way!), whose mission is to change the world to better communicate, collaborate, and cooperate, one person at a time. How do you help leaders to tackle and succeed in accomplishing those three things?
JULIE ANN SULLIVAN: First and foremost, I cannot help any leader unless they recognize that improvement is possible. The 3 C’s, communicate, collaborate and cooperate are building blocks. The first step is communication. It is key on the path to successfully have a team work efficiently and effectively together. 80% of the work that I do overall includes some form of improved communication. Once known as a soft skill, it is essential for prosperous growth and success.

QUESTION: You state on your LinkedIn bio: "Culture is a puzzle. Your missing piece is costing you top talent, fresh ideas, and MONEY$$$. Your culture defines your brand, your people, and your success. Create one that cares (because) #CultureMatters." What is the biggest challenge for organizations when it comes to corporate culture?
JULIE ANN SULLIVAN: The biggest challenge depends on whether a company recognizes the necessity and ability to create their own culture. If they are already doing that, the challenge is to continue to seek new ideas. That means including their workforce in the creative process. For those that have not begun this journey, the challenge is to know that a perspective outside their organization can see more about what they obviously have been missing. I begin working with a company by creating a unique survey to highlight their biggest challenges and build a plan from a survey’s results.

(Check out Julie Ann's LinkedIn bio here:

QUESTION: You wrote a book entitled, “Blueprint for Employee Engagement: 37 Essential Elements to Influence, Innovate & Inspire.” Which three of the 37 do you consider the most important, and why?
JULIE ANN SULLIVAN: This is a tough one. I will pick the three that I think are foundational to all the others:

(1) Communication is first. Without open and honest communication, it is difficult to progress in any area of your business.  
(2) Attitude is second. A person’s attitude determines their willingness to look at new possibilities. This perspective is necessary for change. The good news is that attitude, even optimism can be taught. It is all about changing thought patterns.
(3) Fun is third. There are so many ways to create fun in the workplace. I work with a company that does online employee engagement through gaming online, and it is an excellent way to connect humans to one another. People like to have fun, and it is a catalyst for creating great cultures.

TWEET THIS: People like to have fun, and it is a catalyst for creating great cultures. ~@JASatLNE #EmployeeExperience #EmployerBranding #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: How can employee engagement lead to effective brand ambassadors?
JULIE ANN SULLIVAN: Your best customer is your employee. If they are not happy, satisfied, and clear on their purpose, they cannot be the best brand ambassadors. Engagement is multi-faceted. An engaged workforce is your best referral service for new employees and new customers. It may be through someone they know or through discussions at a gathering. Happy employees = Happy customers!

TWEET THIS: Your best customer is your employee. ~@JASatLNE #EmployeeExperience #CX #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: Many years ago, I had a boss who told me "to lower (my) expectations" when it came to the employees who reported to me. How would you have responded in that situation?
JULIE ANN SULLIVAN: If someone you are managing never reaches your expectations, then the issue needs to be analyzed.

Here are two questions you might ask yourself:
(1) Is the person not trained or qualified to complete the task that was asked of them?
(2) Am I not being clear in what is expected?

In either case, a discussion is necessary. Many times, people do not feel comfortable asking for help or admitting that they don’t understand the goal. And sometimes, you might be trying to put a circle in a square. If they are a good employee, perhaps, another opportunity exists within the company.  

QUESTION: There is a lot of talk about organizations adding a new C-Suite position, the Chief Customer Officer. This demonstrates that orgs want employees to create an excellent customer experience. However, there should be another C-Suite position called the Employee Experience Officer. Some orgs use different titles, such as, Chief Personnel Officer, Chief Talent Officer, etc. What are your thoughts?
JULIE ANN SULLIVAN: An employee's experience affects the customer experience. That is a given. If you are a large enough organization to have a Customer Experience Officer, then you might want that person to work in conjunction with an Employee Experience Officer. I have found that many companies aren’t large enough to have either one or both. That is when consultants, like myself, can create a pathway to ensure that the two experiences are connected well.

One final note from Julie Ann: If you are looking for a different way for your teams to engage with one another, learn more about the people they work with, and have a great time on a sophisticated gaming platform, Weve is the place to be. Check it out here:

My thanks to Julie Ann for sharing her inspiring employee experience and workplace insights and for appearing here on my Blog.

Image Credit: Count Chris via Unsplash.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

A Tale of Re-Branding Minus the Customer Experience Piece

Left: Old logo.                                         Right: New logo.

By now, you’ve probably heard the news that ice cream brand Baskin-Robbins changed its logo and overall branding. And while you may be a fan of Baskin-Robbins ice cream, are you a fan of the new logo? The question for the brand to answer is this: Does the new look successfully reflect a new direction for the brand? Only time will tell, but let’s not forget that customer experience remains a critical part of a brand’s identity.

According to Jim Joseph (@JimJosephExp on Twitter), “Baskin-Robbins is a heritage brand at this point, so it’s important to keep it fresh especially in a category like ice cream which is not only so competitive, indulgent, and let’s say fun. [But] is the new logo fun enough?”

According to Virginia Bingol, “A heritage brand is a brand with a history going back decades, or even centuries, that manufactures trusted products and uses its respectable image to create an experience associated with its brand. These companies have been around for what feels like forever, and they produce items that are made to last, and also create an image that’s based on both traditional values and creative, innovative designs.”

The new logo will be seen on signage, employee uniforms, and packaging. Original advertising back in 1953 centered around circus iconography, which featured pink and brown colors that are being revived. This is the first major logo update since 2006, and the company will unveil new ice cream flavors as part of the brand refresh. According to the company, the logo went from a childish font using blue and pink colors to a more “grown-up logo featuring brown and pink.”

Jason Maceda, President of Baskin-Robbins, explained, “Our goal is to capture the next generation of ice-cream lovers through our new look and manifesto.” The new branding includes a tagline of “Seize the Yay,” and also includes a limited-edition collection of bikes and skateboards.

Baskin-Robbins has been around for 77 years. Therefore, how often have you visited a Baskin-Robbins store for chocolate chip, mint chocolate chip, or your fave flavor? Do you have fond memories from your childhood that you have passed on to your kids and grandkids? What does this brand mean to you? What words or feelings do you associate with this brand? Does the logo fit into your brand associations?

Consider this: there are over 7,700 Baskin-Robbins stores around the world. Since I live in Southern California, there are countless Baskin-Robbins locations nearby. The strange thing, though, is that they provide radically different customer experiences. One store has such a foul smell upon entering that I refuse to visit. Another has such a small space for a line of customers that, especially during the covid pandemic, a 6-foot safety distance was never a possibility, so I never returned. Another has such a friendly man who ALWAYS greets guests with a big smile and hello that I leave feeling happy.

If I were not a marketing pro, I would have no interest in the news about a brand refresh but would only care about the customer experience. These questions should have been addressed by the brand’s leadership team: How do I feel at the stores? How am I greeted? Is my business valued? Do I like the product? And lastly, do I feel happy?

But I AM a marketing pro, so I think a great idea that the Baskin-Robbins leadership team should have considered was this: Launch an electric vehicle (EV) with the colors of the limited-edition ice cream flavors on a rotating basis around the globe – and raffle them off to customers. Electric vehicles are increasing in popularity. Without a doubt, they would appeal to the “family” and next generation of ice cream fans demographic that Baskin-Robbins aspires to appeal to.

While the leadership team at Baskin-Robbins spent four years planning this brand refresh, it appears that no one spent any time analyzing the customer experience part of the refresh. That was a big mistake, don’t you agree?

Image Credit: Baskin-Robbins.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Social Media Is All About Connection, Trust and Strategy

To quote Matthew Kobach (@mkobach), "Twitter is a key that unlocks thousands of doors, some of which you never even knew existed." As a member of the Twitterverse for almost 13 years, I always enjoy meeting new people and learning from them. I recently connected with Deb Coman and invited her to appear here on my Blog in a Q&A format. Highlights of our conversation follow a brief introduction.

Deb Coman is a content conversion strategist who empowers service-based business owners to create trust-building content that generates sales, referrals, and collaborations. Deb hosts a weekly Twitter Chat called #SocialTrust Mondays at 3pm Eastern time on Twitter and was featured by BuzzSumo in its Top 100 Content Marketers to Follow Right Now. Deb’s Content Conversion Lab and private services help clients simplify their marketing with actionable steps that build trust and create alignment, consistency, and connection. Visit her website at, at, and on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram @DebComanWriting.

QUESTION: You begin your Twitter profile as follows, “Meaningful connection thru trust-building content strategy." Can you please explain?

DEB COMAN: Content is an outstanding way to connect with people. When we understand how it builds trust, we create content that brings value and meaning that establishes and nurtures relationships. It’s only through these relationships that we create opportunities for sales, referrals, and collaborations. Engaging with and creating meaningful conversations is step one in the process.

QUESTION: You talk about the “4C Method” for creating email content. Can you please elaborate?
DEB COMAN: My 4C Method for creating content has four trust-building steps:

(1) Clarity: Start with CLARITY about your message: who it’s for, what they need, and how you provide the solution.
(2) Connection: Create content with an intention of CONNECTION, not a sale. Be of service. Add value. Build trust.
(3) Consistency: CONSISTENCY builds trust and relationships. Be consistent with your content in frequency as to how often you post, blog, and send emails. Be consistent and aligned in your message.
(4) Conversion: Move conversations from social media feeds, blog comments, and email campaigns to a one-on-one conversation to explore what’s possible for CONVERSION in the way of collaborations, referrals, and sales.

QUESTION: What is your favorite social media platform for your personal branding, and why?
DEB COMAN: I love Twitter where you can find me at @DebComanWriting because it’s the easiest platform to create connection and build trust with content. I’ve been hired, referred, featured as an expert, and made long-term meaningful (and profitable!) business connections that started with a single tweet or reply. (Connect with me there to see how it’s done).

I host a weekly Twitter Chat called #SocialTrust Mondays at 3pm Eastern time featuring guest experts and topics to help service-based small business owners and brands stand out and build trust online. This Twitter Chat is designed to be an easy way (even for Twitter newbies) to participate and gain visibility and connections. It’s followed by an audio conversation on Twitter Spaces.

QUESTION: If a business brand were going to dedicate all of its attention and resources toward ONLY one social media platform, which would you recommend, and why?
DEB COMAN: With over 211 million active daily users, your ideal audience is likely on Twitter. If you have a presence there or are able to quickly get up to speed with the basics, you can create opportunities for your business on Twitter.

If you’re not comfortable learning how to use Twitter, it’s important to find the platform where your ideal audience not only hangs out but engages and where you are not only comfortable, but have a strategy.

Success on social media requires these 3 things:

(1) Your ideal audience is present and active.
(2) You’re comfortable creating high value content that suits the platform.
(3) You have a content strategy like the 4C Method that leads to conversion.

TWEET THIS: Find the platform where your ideal audience not only hangs out but engages. ~@DebComanWriting #SMTip #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: What three tips would you give to a business brand to conduct an effective and successful email marketing campaign?
DEB COMAN: For an email marketing campaign (and any other content) to be profitable, you need to:

(1) Define a specific intention or outcome for the content.
(2) Choose a topic that demonstrates you have the solution to a problem they’re ready to solve.
(3) Establish your credibility and trust by sharing stories, results, and client outcomes.

With all your content, strive to be yourself, share as much of your personal story as you’re comfortable with, and seek to connect and engage with your audience as you build trust and deepen relationships.

TWEET THIS: With all your content, strive to be yourself. ~@DebComanWriting #SMTip #DebbieLaskeysBlog

My thanks to Deb for sharing her social media insights and for appearing here on my Blog.

Image Credit: Daniel Olah via Unsplash.

Friday, April 15, 2022

Inspirational Leadership Can – And Does – Happen Anywhere

Today is an important day in major league baseball. All players will be wearing the number 42 on their uniforms. The reason is because today is Jackie Robinson Day, and to honor him, all players wear his number. 75 years ago today, he made his debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers as the first black major league baseball player. 

Throughout Jackie’s baseball career and post-baseball business and civil rights career, he was respected for his inspirational leadership and was someone we can all emulate.

So, as we honor Jackie Robinson today, I welcome Daniel Buhr from Minnesota to my Blog. He recently retired from a 34-year career as an EHS information specialist at a Fortune 500 company. For over 20 years, he was involved in leadership development, and in 2015, was a co-author of “Energize Your Leadership.” On social media, he’s known as @Cybuhr. His hope is to broaden our understanding of leadership to see that each of us has the freedom and responsibility to be a leader, and his vision is leadership by anyone, serving everyone. Daniel and I recently had a discussion about leadership, and highlights follow below.

TWEET THIS: Leadership by anyone, serving everyone. ~@Cybuhr #LeadershipTip #EmployeeExperience #EmployerBranding #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: We've all heard a million answers, but how do YOU explain the differences between management and leadership?
DANIEL BUHR: Grace Hopper put it well when she said, “You manage things, you lead people.” I would add to that statement: Management is business and is the job of a few. Leadership is life and is the responsibility of all. The leadership of a third-grader in the classroom is just as important as the leadership of a CEO in the boardroom.

TWEET THIS: Management is business and is the job of a few. Leadership is life and is the responsibility of all.  ~@Cybuhr #LeadershipTip #EmployerBranding #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: In a post on your blog, you wrote: "Anyone can be a leader. And everyone should be a leader, prepared to lead when the moment calls on them to do so. Therefore, the true image of a leader is as diverse as the entire world’s population. A leader can look like anyone anywhere. Don’t forget to look at yourself." Can you please elaborate?

(Blog post referenced:

DANIEL BUHR: The stereotypical image of a leader is a man in a business suit. But anyone can be a leader just as they are, so a leader can look like anyone. To help broaden your image of what a leader looks like, when you are in public, look at each person you encounter and think to yourself, “There’s a leader.” “There’s a leader.” When we see each other and ourselves as leaders, it opens our minds to new possibilities.

QUESTION: I was inspired by the post on your blog entitled, "Our Common Ground – Ten Principles for an Open Dialogue." Can you please explain why this should be in a frame on everyone's desk?

(Blog post referenced:

DANIEL BUHR: There is a great need for respectful dialogue. This time of deep division and strong disagreement makes it hard, but it also makes it all the more important for us to find common ground where we can work together even if we don’t agree. It is respect, not agreement, that brings us to common ground. When we find common ground, then we can take the journey together to higher ground.

TWEET THIS: It is respect, not agreement, that brings us to common ground. ~@Cybuhr #LeadershipTip #EmployeeExperience #EmployerBranding #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: What book should every leader read, and why?
DANIEL BUHR: If I had to choose one, I would say “Leadership is an Art” by Max De Pree. A word of caution in selecting a book on leadership is that the majority of books in the “Leadership” section aren’t about leadership at all, they’re really about running a business, and that is something entirely different. The line gets fuzzy because there are books that discuss leadership in the context of business, but they present good leadership principles that are applicable outside of the corporate walls as well.

QUESTION: What three leaders from business or history inspire you, and why?
DANIEL BUHR: Abraham Lincoln for his political savvy. Malala Yousafzai for her courage. Robert Greenleaf for shaping our modern understanding of Servant Leadership. Note that, with each of these three, their leadership did not come from having a position of authority. Yes, Lincoln had a very high position of authority, but it wasn’t his position that made him a leader.

QUESTION: Lastly, one of my favorite quotes about leadership is from author and consultant Mark Herbert (@NewParadigmer on Twitter): “Leadership is a gift, not a position. It doesn’t require you to be the smartest person in the room. It requires you to trust and be trusted – and block and tackle for others.” What does this quote mean to you?
DANIEL BUHR: Being a leader begins with your choice, when you choose to make a difference in and through the lives of others. Leadership also begins with a choice, when others choose to follow. That choice by others to follow is a gift, and it is made in a relationship of trust. The way to build that relationship and that trust is to serve. Service builds trust. Trust builds leadership. As Greenleaf said, a leader is first a servant.

My gratitude to Daniel for sharing his insights and for appearing here on my Blog. And to fellow baseball fans, thank you for joining me in celebrating the legacy of Jackie Robinson today on Jackie Robinson Day!

Image Credit: Photo taken by Debbie Laskey at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California.

Monday, April 11, 2022

Social Media Campaigns and Storytelling

To quote Matthew Kobach (@mkobach), "Twitter is a key that unlocks thousands of doors, some of which you never even knew existed." As a member of the Twitterverse for nearly 13 years, I always enjoy meeting new people and learning from them. I recently connected with Jenny Fowler and invited her to appear here on my Blog in a Q&A format. Highlights of our conversation follow a brief introduction.

Jenny Li Fowler is the director of social media strategy at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She is in charge of developing and executing Institute-wide social media initiatives and campaigns. She provides social media consultation and direction for more than 200 departments, labs, and centers; and manages the Institute’s flagship Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn accounts. She can be found on Twitter @TheJennyLi and on LinkedIn at

QUESTION: What does this quote mean to you? “Give something of meaning to your audience by inspiring, engaging, and educating them with story. Stop marketing. Start storytelling. ~@StorytellerAgcy”
JENNY FOWLER: I’ve never considered myself a marketer. Every position I’ve had throughout my career has centered around storytelling, only the medium has changed. People will pay attention to content because it makes them FEEL something and that always involves a story, whether the audience realizes it or not. The story may be one of hope or inspiration, or how to solve a problem, or forming new habits. My talent is telling the stories of people and organizations better than they could have told it themselves.

QUESTION: What's your favorite marketing campaign, and why?
JENNY FOWLER: Right now, I’m really enjoying Chick-fil-A’s “The little things” campaign. The commercials with people sitting on a red couch telling stories about Chick-fil-A’s employees going above and beyond. I don’t think I paid too much attention to them at first, particularly because I do not always agree with Chick-fil-A’s politics and philosophies, but this campaign has grown on me. They never talk about their products, only their people, and it started to make me separate the people that work there from the company itself. So the campaign is working, on me, at least. When I listen to these touching stories of their employees doing the sweetest things to make a difference in other people’s lives, it makes me like the employees, and yeah, I might buy a chicken sandwich from them.

QUESTION: Many people remember the famous OREO Tweet during the 2013 Super Bowl. With that in mind, what's your favorite social media marketing campaign, and why?
JENNY FOWLER: I don’t necessarily see that Tweet as a campaign. To me, it was more of a really great social media moment. One that aligned with Oreo’s culture but a moment none-the-less. I recently wrote about creating content that intersects your culture with the current can read the article at this link (

There have been so many great social media moments, not sure I can pick just one favorite. Here are three that come to mind:

(1) When singer Pharrell Williams wore a Buffalo hat to the Grammy’s and Arby’s asked for their hat back:

(2) The time Cookie Monster commented on his look-alike rock:

(3) When we were debating how to pronounce GIF and JIF peanut butter helped us definitively end the debate:

QUESTION: What is your favorite social media platform or platforms for brand-building, and why?
JENNY FOWLER: I think ten social media managers would give you ten different answers. I think this depends on your goal,  your strategy, the audience you’re trying to reach. But for me, it’s Twitter. I personally really like the platform and feel that’s where the current conversation really takes place. When news breaks, it’s usually on Twitter.

TWEET THIS: When news breaks, it’s usually on Twitter. ~@TheJennyLi #Twitter #SMTips #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: What do you think will be the central focus of our social media marketing discussions a year from now?
JENNY FOWLER: I think it will be on how highly specialized the skills are within social media. I think the conversation will no longer be about being in all of the spaces but in finding the right one or two platforms to meet your goals. And I think, by then, social media positions will have become specialized, you will have your vertical video specialist, live stream specialist, social media copywriter. You get the idea, and you will build your team accordingly. Gone will be the days of a single social media manager doing everything.

TWEET THIS: A year from now, gone will be the days of a single social media manager doing everything. ~@TheJennyLi #socialmediamarketing #DebbieLaskeysBlog

My thanks to Jenny for sharing her inspiring social media insights and for appearing here on my Blog.

Image Credit: Jeremy Bezanger via Wordswag.

Monday, April 4, 2022

Want Some Public Speaking Secrets?

To quote Matthew Kobach (@mkobach), "Twitter is a key that unlocks thousands of doors, some of which you never even knew existed." As a member of the Twitterverse for almost 13 years, I always enjoy meeting new people and learning from them. I recently connected with John Zimmer and invited him to appear here on my Blog in a Q&A format. Highlights of our conversation follow a brief introduction.

John Zimmer is an internationally-recognized speaker and expert on public speaking and presentation skills. Originally from Canada and now living in Switzerland, he gives keynotes, moderates events, and helps companies, organizations, and individuals communicate more effectively. Before becoming a full-time speaker, John worked as a lawyer for a major Canadian law firm, the United Nations, and the World Health Organization. John is a 9-time District champion of Toastmasters public speaking contests; a TEDx Speaker; and the co-creator of Rhetoric, The Public Speaking Game, the world’s first public speaking game. In addition, John writes a popular blog about public speaking, Manner of Speaking (, one of the leading blogs in the field of public speaking, presentation skills, and communication. Connect on Twitter @ZimmerJohn.

QUESTION: On your blog, you wrote a wonderful post entitled, "Three Lessons from the Island of Corfu." It was appropriately themed for your area of expertise, public speaking, because you emphasized "knowing your audience." What were some of the other key take-aways?

(Read the post here:

JOHN ZIMMER: I always look for insights and inspiration from unlikely sources, so the three lessons were drawn from a dinner reservation, a Greek salad, and two kittens. People can read the post for the full details, but the key take-aways include the power of simplicity in a presentation, the importance of great content, and perhaps most importantly, the fact that there is room for you to speak in public. Many people think that to be able to speak in public, you must be an extrovert or have a certain type of style. Nothing could be further from the truth. Everyone is unique; embracing that uniqueness will help you be authentic on stage. As Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.”

QUESTION: What are the three most common mistakes people make when giving speeches?
JOHN ZIMMER: There are a lot more than three, and it varies from person to person. Nevertheless, here are three that I see often:

(1) Trying to convey too much information. This usually results in confusion and lack of clarity. You are much better off saying less but saying it well.

(2) Speaking too quickly on stage. I understand that the adrenaline is going, and people get nervous. I still get a bit nervous after all these years. But you need to slow down and pause from time to time so that the audience can keep up with you.

(3) Terrible slides full of text. I don’t think I need to say much more on this point because we’ve all seen it.

QUESTION: How can people overcome the three most common mistakes when giving speeches?
JOHN ZIMMER: My advice below relates to each of the points in the previous question.

(1) Start by being clear as to the message you are trying to convey and why the audience should care. List all the possible things that could support the message, but then limit yourself to the most important. Don’t try to cover everything. If there is more that the audience needs to know, tell them and then say that, in your talk, you will discuss two (or three or four) things of particular importance. Remember that a presentation is not the same thing as a detailed document - they have different purposes.

(2) Become comfortable with silence when you are on stage. This means that you must learn how to pause for a few seconds now and then. Especially after you make a key point. Pausing while speaking has two powerful benefits. First, you look good to the audience. The Iranian poet Rumi said, “When I am silent, I have thunder hidden inside.” You are not going to be intimidated by the silence or by the fact that everyone is looking at you - people will respect that. Second, when you pause, you give the audience a chance to think about and digest what you have just said. If you speak too quickly, your ideas become pressed up against each other and it is harder for the audience to follow you.

I have written about the importance of pausing when speaking in public, when to do it, and how to do it in this post entitled, "Pauses in a speech: Why, when and how - Manner of speaking."

(Read the post here:

TWEET THIS: Because it is during the pauses that we can reflect on the significance of what you have said and make it relevant for us. And that is how you make an impact. ~@ZimmerJohn #DebbieLaskeysBlog

(3) Most slides should be like the sign beside the highway as you are driving along at 100 kph (62 mph). You have about three or four seconds to look at the sign, get the information you need, and get your eyes back on the road. It’s the same with slides. The audience should be able to look at the slide and understand it quickly and then refocus on you. If you put too much information on the slide, you force the audience to make a choice: it’s either you or the slide. So less is more. Give each idea its own slide. And never use slides as your speaking notes! If all you are going to do is read your slides, you can save us all time by turning the slides into a PDF and sending them to us.

QUESTION: Which three people alive today inspire you with their public speaking presence, word choice, delivery, knowledge, etc.?
JOHN ZIMMER: I am going to cheat with the first one because he only passed away recently: Sir Ken Robinson. He was a gifted educationalist and speaker. Everyone should watch his first TED Talk on how schools kill creativity from 2006. He does not move about; he does not use slides. However, he enchants his audience with his stories and insights, his wisdom, and eloquence. And Robinson had a wonderful self-deprecating humour.

(Watch the TED Talk here:

Another person whose speaking abilities I admire is Christine Lagarde, the President of the European Central Bank. She is a gifted communicator both in French (her mother tongue) and English. She speaks with passion, eloquence and conviction.

Finally, and this has been said by others many times, Barack Obama is a great speaker. I particularly appreciate his willingness to speak slowly and to pause (see above).

QUESTION: What is "Rhetoric – The Public Speaking Game?"
JOHN ZIMMER: Rhetoric – The Public Speaking Game is a board game that I co-created with Florian Mueck. We know that for many people, the mere thought of speaking in public can get their hearts pounding. So we set out to create a game that would help players improve their public speaking skills and have fun in the process. We designed RHETORIC to be a simple, engaging, and educational board game.

Players step onto the stage and embark on a rhetorical journey during which they encounter different speech tasks. In each round, players roll the die and move their figures to the corresponding space where a one-minute speaking task awaits them. They might have to draw a card or be asked a question. There is a physical game and an app version. The great thing about the app is that there are different themes, and you can play six languages (so far): English; French; Spanish; German; Russian, and Catalan.

For more information about RHETORIC, you can visit:

QUESTION: When I was in graduate school two decades ago, a guest speaker did something memorable. He taped a ten dollar bill to the wall at the front of the room. As people entered the room, their eyes were drawn to the money, and everyone wondered why the bill was on the wall. Once the speaker began his presentation, he explained that there was a typo in one of his slides, and the first person to catch the typo would get the ten dollars. Everyone paid attention to the presentation and read the slides. And one student got the ten dollars. What are some secrets you'd like to share?
JOHN ZIMMER: I like that story, although I wonder how many students were paying attention to the lecture and how many were just looking for the typo! Here are three tips:

(1) If you have slides, try to position your laptop in front of you and in presenter mode. That way, not only do you see the slide that is on the screen behind you, but you also see the next slide. And so you do not need to turn around when you advance the slides. It looks very smooth and professional.

(2) When you can control the speaking situation, never end with Q&A because you don’t know what questions you are going to get or whether they will be of interest or relevance to the audience. Instead, have the Q&A before you conclude. When you have covered everything, say something like, “Now, before I conclude, I am happy to take any questions.” In this way, you signal to the audience that you still have something to say. When there are a few minutes left, stop taking questions and give your conclusion. In this way, you leave the audience with the final words that YOU want them to hear.

(3) Arrive early and walk the stage. Get comfortable with it. If there are areas where the stage creaks or the lighting is poor, use tape to mark those spots off so that you avoid them. The audience won’t notice the tape, but you will. Also, test the sound equipment and remember that the technicians – if there are any – are your best friends. Introduce yourself, and make them feel like they are part of the team, because they are!

My thanks to John for sharing his communication insights and for appearing here on my Blog.

Image Credit: Debbie Laskey.