inCredible Messages Blog

Latest "Writing Mistakes and How to Fix Them" Posts

Stupid Mistake #9: Conclude Your Speech Abruptly

Here’s the situation:  As my husband and I were watching a movie, I was reminded of an important rule about how to conclude a presentation.  We were watching the movie, The Manchurian Candidate.  As this film came to its close, I felt my jaw drop open. Beside me, my husband shook his head in disbelief, “Is that all?” The movie had ended abruptly. The hero (Denzel Washington) stood gazing blankly over the ocean, his feelings and his future unresolved. There we were, still on the edge of our seats, and the movie was over. It had stopped on a dime.

Shuffling out of the theater, I felt dissatisfied and frustrated. A thoroughly suspenseful movie had left me hanging at the end. Testing out a theory, I asked my husband about his feelings, “Do you feel angry?” “Yes,” he answered, “I do.” I realized that I felt angry too.

Here’s the stupid mistake:  What holds true in a movie holds true in a presentation.

Posted by Bonnie Budzowski in Writing Mistakes and How to Fix Them, How to Persuade & Gain Commitment, Secrets to Powerful Presentations.

Don’t Make this Stupid Mistake #8: Promise to Conclude Your Speech Before You Intend to Conclude

Here’s the situation:  Recently I attended a presentation that was relevant to me.  I wanted to be there.  At the same time, a thousand other things were clamoring for my attention that day.  I’m sure you have the same problem.  We all feel we are too busy, and we give our time and attention as a gift.  Effective speakers let their audiences know they are aware of time constraints and will stick to them. 

Here’s the stupid mistake:  Several times, the speaker said “in summary” and then kept talking.  Each time, I began mentally ready for the presentation to be over.  When the speaker kept talking, I became irritated.  It was like he made a promise and then broke it.Looking back, I think this speaker was using “in summary” as a transition between one point and the next.  The problem is that listeners are conditioned to hear this phrase as “this speech is coming to an end!”

Here’s the solution:  Think of the words, “in summary,” or “in conclusion” as a promise that the presentation will be over momentarily.

Posted by Bonnie Budzowski in Writing Mistakes and How to Fix Them, Influence, Secrets to Powerful Presentations.

Avoid this Stupid Mistake #7: Introduce Your Speech with Low Expectations

Here’s the situation:  This week I attended a presentation in which a consultant had been asked to address a group for a potential client.  The consultant had 30 minutes to say something useful and make an impression in order to be asked back for a fee.  The manager in charge introduced the consultant/speaker to the group.  Politely, the group clapped.

Here’s the stupid mistake:  The speaker responded to the applause with this statement, “It’s nice to receive applause before you start a presentation because you never know what will happen afterwards.”Good grief, what was he thinking?!  Audience members form an opinion of a speaker in the first seconds of a presentation. 

Here is the speaker announcing he might lose control of the speech.  Who would want to listen to him, let alone hire him?!

The first words out of this person’s mouth should have formed a connection or delivered some value for the client.

Posted by Bonnie Budzowski in Writing Mistakes and How to Fix Them, How to Persuade & Gain Commitment, Influence, Secrets to Powerful Presentations.

Avoid this Stupid Mistake #6: Break a Law of Persuasion

Here’s the situation:  On Saturday mornings my family often demonstrates a business lesson.  Saturday is the day my husband, Rick, and I enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee in bed.  We relax in each other’s company and catch up on what has happened throughout the week.  Often, after we’ve been up for a long time, our adolescent daughter, Meagan, will stumble sleepily into our room and plop down on the bed.

Here’s the stupid mistake:  Rick, who is a morning person, greets Meagan in an energetic and enthusiastic way.  “Why good morning, cute stuff—how are you doing today?”  Rick’s goal is to include Meagan in our time together—to make a happy family moment.  The problem is that the tone of Rick’s wide-awake, cheery mood contrasts sharply with Meagan’s just-woke-up, let’s-take-it-easy-and-slow mood. Invariably, she makes an adolescent groan and leaves the room. 

The fact that Meagan had wanted to join us and then leaves demonstrates that Rick has broken a law of persuasion.

Posted by Bonnie Budzowski in Writing Mistakes and How to Fix Them, How to Persuade & Gain Commitment, Influence, Leadership.

Avoid This Stupid Mistake #5: Begin Your Speech with an Apology

Here’s the situation:  An accomplished physician and researcher from Puerto Rico was presenting at a conference of her peers in the United States.   The physician was uneasy about the fact that English is a second language for her.

Here’s the stupid mistake:  “First,” the doctor began, “I want to apologize for my English.” Sitting in the audience, I felt the energy drain out of the room. Audience members collectively caught their breath, preparing to sit through a problematic presentation.  I wanted to rewind the tape and skip the apology. Apologizing in a speech, especially in the introduction, automatically decreases your effectiveness.

Not only did the doctor’s apology expose a lack of confidence, it diverted attention from her expertise. The apology was entirely unnecessary—the doctor’s skills as a clinician and a researcher had earned her the right to present.

Here’s how to handle this situation:  It is appropriate to acknowledge an obvious difference that might distract audience members from your content, something like a heavy accent or the presence of a wheelchair.

Posted by Bonnie Budzowski in Writing Mistakes and How to Fix Them.

Stupid Mistake #4: Introduce Your Speech Offensively

This entry is somewhat different from the others in the series. It describes a choice one speaker made for impact–rather than a mistake.  I submit this description respectfully and leave it for you to decide whether the choice is wise or not, and under what circumstances. 

Here’s the situation: At a large conference, Ed Tate, a Toastmasters champion speaker, shared his 8-minute award winning speech at a break-out session on how to tell a great story.  I bought the recording of the session.

Ed Tate opened his winning story with the “N” word.  Perhaps he has earned the right to do this because he has been on the receiving end of this word as taunt. This is not mine to judge. 

During the session, Tate explained that his opening attracts attention, and he doesn’t mind making people uncomfortable.  He has made a strategic choice to open his story in this way. 

Posted by Bonnie Budzowski in Writing Mistakes and How to Fix Them, How to Persuade & Gain Commitment, Influence.

Avoid This Stupid Mistake #3: Failure to Market Your E-Mail

Here’s the situation:  Like you, I am inundated with e-mail, both the kind that I need for my profession and the insidious spam that seems to multiply when I sleep.  When I open my inbox, I have the job of sorting through these e-mails under intense time pressure.  There’s always more mail than time to give it.This means that all of us who write e-mail must compete for our receiver’s most precious resource:  attention. 

Here’s the stupid mistake:  A respected, seasoned colleague of mine sends me e-mails with no subject line.  Because I identify her name, I open these e-mails.  When a name that I don’t immediately recognize hits my inbox with a blank subject line, I automatically delete the message.  No hesitation on this one. 

I’ve had occasions when at the very last minute I’ve recognized a name as an important contact, or even a client, and rescued the e-mail.

Posted by Bonnie Budzowski in Writing Mistakes and How to Fix Them, Business Writing Techniques.

Avoid this Stupid Mistake #2 Use a Tone You Haven’t Earned

Here’s the situation:  In my role of managing editor for an association magazine, I received a recommendation.  “One of our members made $100,000 dollars off one blog entry, my source said.  Get him to write an article.”  I contacted the member and requested an article that shared nuts and bolts of blogging as well as the story of his experience. 

The member e-mailed the article I requested.  I shocked to find that the tone of the article was arrogant and in-your-face.  Basically, it said, “this is what I’ve accomplished with blogging—why aren’t you blogging and getting these results?”  

Here’s the stupid mistake:  The tone this writer used reminded me of the voice of, Jeffrey Gitomer, whose syndicated column you may have read.  Gitomer is always in-your-face, and he’s quite successful.  In fact, Gitomer is well-loved within the association in question. 

The difference was that the author of the article on blogs is in his twenties, and his reputation is not established. 

Posted by Bonnie Budzowski in Writing Mistakes and How to Fix Them.

Avoid This Stupid Mistake #1: Offer to Strain Your Voice

Here’s the situation:  At a workshop I attended recently, the room was set up with chairs and tables to accommodate 50 people.  Fifteen participants attended the event.  And, as you might predict, those 15 people chose seats widely scattered toward the back of the room.  As the speaker walked to the front, the first two rows were empty, leaving around 20 feet between the speaker (where she stood by her laptop) and the first row of participants.

The presenter made a joke about no one sitting in the front rows and then she said, “My voice usually projects really well.  I think we’ll be fine, but let me know if you can’t hear me.” 

Here’s the stupid mistake:  The speaker abdicated her responsibility and missed an opportunity.

It’s natural for a group of strangers to “hold back” in a new situation.  As a workshop starts, the participants are typically risk-adverse.  They choose their seats for psychological safety rather than engagement with the rest of the group. 

Posted by Bonnie Budzowski in Writing Mistakes and How to Fix Them, Influence, Secrets to Powerful Presentations.

Are You Making an Imus-like Mistake?

How to Get an Accurate Picture of Your Credibility Rating

Do you have an accurate picture of the credibility that others assign to you?  If not, you are vulnerable to receive a shock.  It happened to Don Imus—it could happen to you!

A key ingredient in perceived credibility is a person’s record.  In defending himself, Imus insists that he is a good person with a good history.  He wants people to know that he has raised millions for charity, that he and his wife run a ranch for kids with cancer and blood diseases, that he has used his influence to raise awareness for autism and other causes.  Imus wants to be judged by the whole of his life, especially the good that he has done. 

Unfortunately, Imus’s record has two sides.  While carrying on his benevolent work, Imus consistently used his show to make harsh and ugly comments about others. 

Posted by Bonnie Budzowski in Writing Mistakes and How to Fix Them.