Archive for July, 2010

Speechwriter? Lowly Servant

July 29, 2010

I once wrote a speech for boss who read the speech before hard and stood at a podium and pronounced the word awry – OR-EE. I chuckled.

I once wrote a speech for a boss who never opened the file I presented. Said boss then stood before an audience, opened said file and commented: “Oh good. The font is nice and big – I will not have to squint.” I shuddered.

As part of my favourite side gig, I wrote a speech for a groom (ghost writing of course) once who took time and care to read, practice and deliver his speech with care. His wife cried tears of joy and love. I teared up too when he called to say thank you.

Following awards (now over a decade old), speeches for managers, CEOs and even Ministers if Government, I still get the same level of respect doled out to those in my field for the craft – little if any. Nevertheless, without sounding acrid or waxing poetic, I share these tips to avoid being yelled at/ disrespected and to garner appreciation (God bless that groom!) for your gift of speech craft:

  • Learn the Phrase: “For the consideration of“. I once entitled a speech “prepared for” prior to the person’s name and title – they launched into a tirade about the fact that “pr people” are always trying to toot their own horn. One needs to realize that indeed, though you ARE writing what they SHOULD say – should is conditional and THEY  have to approve what has been prepared – following intense consideration by the cerebral mind that was too busy/high and mighty/ flacid to prepare same.
  • Avoid Typos: Woe unto those that present a document with a typo, incorrect word choice (there/their) or worse – misspelt designation. Such tasks are unforgivable and forever solidify your position as a lowly speechwriter – you will never have a voice if you just can’t type.
  • Screw the Audience, Focus on the Presenter: So your 7 years of school, 15 years of experience and this great blog “communication questions” tells you to focus on the audience prior to preparing (for consideration of course) any speech…Alas, this advice is greatly misplaced should you be writing for the non-Steve Jobs-esque (sp!) manager. Remember, unfortunately many of those in power in the Caribbean care more about what THEY think than what their audience does. They are more interested in being verbose than being understood..many more have never heard of alliteration  much less understand the reason, rhythm and rhyme similar words said in a line can bring to a verbal presentation. Give in and more placid your journey at work will be as a speechwriter.
  • Fight the Power: Under no circumstances question edits! Fight the power to grow a backbone. By an undershirt that says “I am right”, wear it under all your fancy work suits to prepare yourself for the sinking feeling in your stomach you get when preparing speeches so dull they put your PC to sleep when you type them.

These my friends are tips I wish I could follow – by my passion sends me running blindly into the speechwriting bull ring event after event. Sadly, the pain I feel each time I am impaled by the harsh mispronunciation, edits and gross disrespect my speech writing passion garners is clearly less than the joy I feel knowing I put up a good fight. Next time I will arm myself with a good dictionary and guest list and get the thing right I often say…I’ll be a better proof reader next time….but you know what,  chuck it all for the excitement and the hope tomorrow I’ll get it all right…like I did for that groom who remembered to say thank you.

Amazingly my wedding speeches tend to garner tears and thank you s (one was mouthed from the podium). I think it’s because my heart is in what they say. The real tip of speech writing if to get to know what the person presenting the speech wants to convey and what their audience wants to hear. Find a happy medium and you may actually evoke a tear…from someone other than yourself!

Hug yourself lowly servant! Kidding! Hugs!


Feeling Special? Everyone Needs to

July 27, 2010

Remembering Small Things = Big Appreciation & Smiles

Communicators are inherently giving people . We are often the considerate ones and the people who feel guilty if they miss a call. We’re usually never too busy to talk – and if we are its because something major MUST be going on…but isn’t it weird – when its our time to need to talk how busy the world seems? You see, understanding the needs of others is part of our work, but few people understand us!

In addition to the all important work of communication strategies for multinational companies, we order the flowers, remember the birthdays, prompt bosses to remember the names of wives and children and of course, we order the end of year gifts and occasionally arrange parties. We are also usually chefs, party divas and social people. We give 400% and every now and then we end up feeling…well, needing to feel special.

There’s no harm in that. We’re good people (most of the time). We need to feel special too. So here’s a wish list on behalf of all communicators – well, most of them:

  • Learn our name and remember, yes, we DID study what we do…like there IS a communication degree!
  • Acknowledge our email messages – OMG the power of “noted”
  • Remember we exist outside of a crisis
  • Send us flowers
  • Remember the names of our kids, spouses or hell that we have not yet procreated and YES we know the clock is ticking but we’re totally ok with no kids because when we leave here sometimes all we want is hugs, alcohol and a massage (sometimes just the alcohol!)
  • Say thank you…

Those two words can make someone feel special. Three others are ” Are you ok”. Not sure of their power? Ask someone right now – I bet they feel better that you showed interest. Everyone needs to at some point – in and out of work


How to Avoid Seasoning Your Feet

July 26, 2010

Try Not to Eat Your Feet


We’ve all been there. Said something and realized we are suffering from the far too common ailment of “Foot in Mouth Disease”. That is, saying something offensive without meaning to. I want to say I think few have done it as well as I have: 

  • “Where’s your dad?” asked to a friend my age about the man who, unbeknownst to me, was married to her despite being the same age as my father
  • “How’s married life?” to a friend I had not seen since her wedding the year before. She answered “I don’t know” and I did not catch on that she was divorced.
  • “You stopped going to the gym too huh?” asked to a young co-worker who was not putting on weight – she was pregnant.

It got to the point where I began to consider showing up to cocktail events with salt and pepper in my purse in case I needed to season my feet to prepare to swallow them! How to avoid seasoning your feet? Put down the salt and pepper shaker (or pepper sauce). Follow these steps when it comes to making “small talk”: 

  1. NEVER ASSUME: Unless you are 100% certain of a relationship between 2 people, don’t assume they are parents, couples or lovers. A simple, how’s your friend will suffice. It is better to be corrected for an innocuous statement than to be corrected for being obnoxious.
  2. FOCUS on WHAT you KNOW: Known a friend for a long time? Focus on her! How have you been since school? What are you up to these days? In other words, stay focused in the present or on the FACTS you know from the past that are not dependent on anyone else.
  3. ALWAYS COMPLIMENT: Not sure what to say? Compliment something they are wearing. For example: Great shoes. Where’d you get them? Or you always look so polished! How do you do it? Fact – people like to be told nice things about themselves. A complement goes a hell of a long way to open a conversation. Way better than a first hand confession that you definitely have a bad case of foot in mouth disease.

The list is short – I know. But guess what? Chances are if you’re like me and you’ve suffered from Foot in Mouth, you probably won’t remember a detailed list. 

Go forth and socialize. Send me the notes AND your stories on how you avoiding having to season your feet!

What do You Learn from Your Mother

July 22, 2010

My Last Full Family Pic

What do you learn from your mother?What communication lessons did our generation learn from the women that nurtured us through the first MacIntosh(es), Ataris, Nitendos, 50 pound PCs, Internet, Laptops and now, IPADS and Blackberries. Lord knows I hoped I would be nothing like my mother right through my early 20s (circa internet boom days) and then a change of heart…she was not that bad. By the time I lost her, I realised she was great. She could text. She checked her email and loved herself some computer Scrabble. I don’t miss her tech savvy – she was a self professed techno retard…I miss her words and life lessons.

Isn’t it Ironic? A wanna be digital native like me (I could be if you shifted the limits for same a year or two) does not miss the techy aspects of my mom. I don’t miss her email messages or the noise of her yelling at the PC as it “cheated” in Scrabble…nah, I miss her words and voice and lessons. I eh makin dat mistake. I documenting what I want them children to  learn before the born!

I’m not a parent yet (and not pregers – lest I start some new rumor) but if I am so blessed, here’s what I hope my children (read child – the dreams of my own 5 a side team have left me) will learn from me:

  1. Speak  Positively – it can make an awful day great. When I am having a bad day, I often give a PR joking answer when those closest to me ask how I am – I say “WONDERFUL” and I flash that pageant chick smile. It engenders a laugh – usually from the listener and from me…BOOM! At that second, I create a moment of joy in a lacklustre day. So, I hope my children will learn, as my mother taught me, to try to at least speak negatively. Or, to  *gasp* approach each moment with positivity and prayer.
  2. Love with Your Whole Heart. Frank Sinatra says “When somebody loves you, its no good unless they love you, ALL THE WAY”. Mom used to sing that. I now have it in my Ipod and more importantly in my heart. Love unselfishly and wholeheartedly. As language defines your world, say it to the people you love – daily. Love is pointless if not expressed. The world without loving expressions can be desolate.
  3. Work Hard but Vacation Hard too. When this earth lost Denise Maureen, she dreamed of taking a cruise. She never did. Instead she had over a year (yes a year!) of unused vacation. Hmmm…. So, I am an advocate of taking vacation and seeing the world and telling the world about it through pictures and *gasp* postcards. I’m a sucker for a post card! I buy them on almost every trip and those fortunate enough to have received them have a snapshot of what I felt at the moment I bought it. My mother framed her postcards. What an incredible legacy of communication. Vacation does not have to mean a visit to Japan (though I highly recommend same). The best vacations are with family or those most special to you – sometimes just spending nothing but time is the best gift of all.
  4. Words can Hurt and Heal: Only the most acrimonious (dictionary!) amongst us would deny the power of the words “It will be alright” when you are going through a challenging time. Few is the man who can say the sting from harsh words spoken in anger does not outlast the pain from a surface wound. Denise Maureen Jones, I regret any words that hurt. If your parent or child is alive, take a moment to communicate that and to pledge to not use words as weapons anymore.

I hope my children will learn these lessons passed down to me from the angel that is my mother, through not just the spoken word, but through actions of love that reinforced the messages. May our generation, with all our technology and doo das, do half as a great a job as our parents did at raising us.

Nurturing generation Y and Z will require less technology and more good old face to face communication with a sprinkling of oral tradition.


Make Time

July 22, 2010

Why can’t all managers be more like my dad. He had time for everything!

Without question my father is one of the greatest managers I have ever met. Indeed, the now retired, Hugo Mc Farlane (known as Mr. Mac to all who were not brave enough to call him what his kids do – Hugo!), epitomised what management means to me. You see, as a child, I remember visiting my dad’s office (to make PROPER USE of copy paper – who say paper planes???) and always seeing his door open. There were almost always people in his office and when there were not, he was in some employees office. In my younger days, I just figured dad was, well, popular. As I am older, I realise he was more than that – he was (and is) revered, respected and responsible. Its no suprise his agency (insurance) won award after award and he was in the paper for all kinds of boards and volunteer activities.

Ok – so who has time for all that talking right? Answer: if you want to be a manager – you need to make time.

Without a doubt the biggest lie “management” tells itself is that it “does not have time” for the employee complaints or concerns or for “teaching them their jobs”. We (yes we – I am a manager too), get frustrated when coworkers don’t know subject verb agreement, are late for meetings, or send you documents to review with short notice.  WE roll our eyes, shake heads, ignore emails or worse….close our doors to “THEM” because “WE” have more work today. If you are a manager like that, you have a problem. MAKE TIME TO CHANGE:

TIP 1: Change your language losers!  If you refer to coworkers as employees, lower level staff, general staff or them/they you may as well say – slaves/ minions/ etc. At Apple, people call Steve Jobs “Steve”. They send him email and he writes back. He blogs. Everyone goes to work in casual dress. The result? Quarter after Quarter of amazing financial results and a brand that is defining what generation Y and Z refer to as cool.

TIP 2: Take a moment to listen. Ok. You have client meetings, deadlines and hell a life beyond the office. Guess what? Two minutes from your life to listen to a coworker won’t through everything off schedule. Often, in the 2 minutes it takes for the coworker to ask you a question, they probably answer it themselves and, if not, guess what? In 1 minute, you can get them going to find the answer themselves or help nurture a future top performing employee. At the very least, coworkers may hate you a microbit less if you let them talk for 2 minutes AND you actually appear to listen…Guess what? That person is a lot more likely to work late, forgoing a family event or drink with buddies if they feel you actually care about them and cherish their contribution to YOUR success. Gee – see what 2 minutes can do?

TIP 3: Remember the power of a conversation. WAIT! Don’t hit send on that email! Extend arm. Pick up receiver and have a phone call. OMG – SHOCK someone with this sure fire recipe to make your coworkers think you might actually NOT live in a crypt! Get off your chair and go visit their work space! Knock before you enter (even on a cubicle wall). Make a positive comment when you arrive there and then begin your conversation. End with something positive too. This recipe will yield a productive conversation and a bit more respect from a coworker. Imagine all that from NOT sending an email – who figured!  

TIP 4: Freakin be human. If you pass by someones office, say freakin good morning or afternoon or even a simple hey. Break your neck and make eye contact. You’d be surprized how far a little face to face humanity can go in an office that is increasingly PC (or MAC) screen driven.

TIP 5: Make time to live. You make time for a guilty pleasure somewhere in your day right? Jeez I hope so. If you’re at work before dawn and leave after dark every day and you still don’t have time…If you never have time to read “their” email, find out about “their” issues or attend yet another of “their” meetings….If you can’t remember the last time you gave somebody a hug (or received one) or the last time someone told you thank you OR the last time you made someone smile… Your tight ass is probably getting bigger and your personal life probably sucks. Get a damn life losers. Start it by “scheduling”  time for yourself and for those closest to you. Schedule a “Team retreat” (ie: 2 hours of freakin ice cream on a Monday afternoon ‘just because’) to help your team bond beyond the computer screen. ‘Schedule’ a random act of kindness – shock ’em and send them home early one Friday afternoon because you want them to ‘appreciate life on the outside’ – you’d be surprised. Making that time and those sacrifices…you might wake up calmer just like Mr. Mac.