Monday, November 28, 2016

Will The Presentation Start and Finish on Time?

How important is that? The answer probably depends on whether you are the presenter or a member of the audience. What are the consequences of being late?

How do you feel when the presenter fails to start on time? You planned or rushed to arrive on time. Perhaps you even arrived a few minutes early. But the presenter dismisses your efforts and devalues your time by delaying the start for the late-comers.

How do you feel when the presenter doesn’t end on time? This means that you’re forced to decide between leaving early and being late for your next meeting.  Which is the lesser evil? Might you feel anxious or annoyed when forced into that situation?

If the presenter didn’t start and finish at the times promised – that suggests that they lied to you. They announced a start and end time but failed to deliver as promised. They disrespected you and the rest of the audience. That’s not a productive way to develop trust, build a relationship or make a sale.

Consider these two presentations.

We’re Only a Bit Late

It was a morning seminar for about a dozen business owners. The presenter had confided to me that his target audience was busy people. Despite that, the program started 10 minutes late.

At the scheduled start time some of the registrants hadn’t arrived. The presenter seemed both annoyed and anxious so he waited and made the people in the room wait. That suggests that the people in the room weren’t important compared to the people not in the room. The message is “you’re not important because you arrived on time – I’m waiting for the important people to arrive”. That’s a strange message to convey to people who respected your time.

The program ended 12 minutes late. The presenter apologized for finishing a “bit late”. He added, “because we started late” as if that should excuse the late finish. Did he forget that he was the one who made the decision to start late? Most of us arrived on time. He didn’t seem to take responsibility for starting or finishing late.

The phrase “a bit late” is insulting because it attempts to devalue the other person’s time and effort to show up on time. I noticed that several of the business owners appeared anxious and irritated as they rushed from the seminar to show up a bit late for their next meeting.

Your Clock is Wrong

The webinar was scheduled to start at 11:00 am. I connected a few minutes early. At 11:01 the presenter announced that they would start at the top of the hour, in 8 minutes.

That would be 11:09 by my clock which is synchronized with Internet time. That’s not the top of the hour.

I believe that he was delaying the start. Perhaps he wasn’t ready yet. Maybe he was experiencing technical problems or his guest was late. In either case, it would have been truthful to say that. It’s not the first time a webinar started late and most listeners would understand. Instead, he lied and insulted us by suggesting that our clocks were wrong and he was starting on time.

The first statement from the presenter was a lie. By suggesting that they were starting “at the top of the hour” he was pretending that he would start on time as scheduled.

He also implied that the clocks of the audience were wrong. He lied. Not a good way to build trust with your audience. I left the webinar because his first statement was a lie. How could I believe anything else from him? This was a free webinar in which he would probably offer a product or service to sell. Would you buy from a person who has demonstrated that he is a bold faced liar?

How Important is it to Start and End on Time?

In both of these incidents, the presenter was late and lied about the circumstances. They dismissed or devalued the value of time for the audience. Is every presenter who starts or ends late a liar? I don’t know, but there was a strong correlation in these two incidents. When you are the presenter you might not always control the start time but you surely control the end time.

One of the first judgments that people will make of you is “Were you on time?” The next might be, “Did you keep your promise?” The answers to both of those questions will answer the more important questions, “Do you respect me?” and “Can we trust you?”


When the presenter fails to keep the promise of following the schedule they set, does that taint that person as undependable and untrustworthy? When the presenter steals your time, does that label that person a thief? When the presenter trivializes your time does that demonstrate a lack of respect?

How do you feel?

When is the presenter justified to start late?
When is the presenter justified to end late?
Would you leave the presentation when it is late?

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Friday, October 28, 2016

Was that a good excuse?

He arrived late for the workshop. We were into our first exercise. As the instructor, I was asking each person for their answer to the initial question about their expectations. When it was his turn, he replied, “I missed the beginning. I don’t know what you want.”

My private thoughts?
That’s his problem. Not mine. I don’t know if that was a circumstantial problem or a systemic problem. Is he always late?

Second Chance
I gave him the benefit of the doubt and said, I’d come back to him. Gave him time to think and continued with the rest of the room. Then, I returned to him and repeated the question. His answer was an amalgam of the answers he heard. There was an absence of original thought.

I wondered. Was he a freeloader? Did he have an excuse for everything?  Was he the Wally in Dilbert?

First Impressions
The first impression is cemented quickly. It’s often right. Even if it’s wrong we will find ways to reinforce what we already decided. I believe he didn’t contribute value to the workshop. I could be wrong – but I was prejudiced by the first impression.

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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Don't use the word "very". Instead, here are 128 alternatives.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

What Did Meg Whitman Really Mean?

As CEO of your company, your words are important. The messages that you deliver in public are evaluated by your investors, staff, suppliers, customers, competitors, marketplace and media. People will judge you and your company by your words. They might misjudge your message. That’s why it’s important to thoughtfully choose your words to convey the right intended message. This advice applies to both spoken and written messages.

This statement from Meg Whitman, CEO of HP Enterprise, offers a practical review of what not to say. It wasn’t an idle retort. This appeared as a status update on her Linkedin profile. The smiling photo that accompanied the message suggests that she was both comfortable and pleased with the statement. She might feel differently after reading this review.

Let’s analyze her words and explore the possible unintended messages.

“I want to be crystal clear”

That seems like a good opening statement. Unfortunately, the rest of the statement drastically clashes with this well-sounding promise.

“HPE is not getting out of software”

That’s easy to understand and sounds clear. If she had stopped at this point, it would have been crystal clear, believable and memorable.

But she continues and muddies it up. By the time you read the full statement you’re likely confused and annoyed. When you glance back at the innocent looking opening phrase (I want to be crystal clear) you would be justified in labeling it a lie. If the first statement is shown to be a lie then everything else is deemed to be part of the lie.

“Moving forward”

This phrase is an overused cliché that is meaningless. It adds nothing of value or understanding to the message. It’s a silly phrase because it suggests that we might also move backward. If you’re feeling bold, the next time a speaker starts their sentence with this phrase, interrupt the person and ask, “And what are your plans for moving backward?”

I suggest that this phrase be banned from your lexicon. Park it alongside the verbal nuisances umm and ah.

“we will double down”

This curious phrase is from Black Jack. When a player chooses to “doubles down” she is doubling her bet and agreeing to accept only one more card. Is Meg using this analogy to suggest that HPE will double their investment in some part of the business? Was she talking about Research and Development, Marketing or executive compensation?

It that’s what she meant, it would have been clear to say “We will double our investment in product development”.

Perhaps Meg got her Black Jack analogies confused. Maybe she was referring to the splitting of the company into two separate entities, HP INC and HP Enterprise. That Black Jack move is called “splitting pairs”.

What did she really mean by saying “double down”? Perhaps I’ve misinterpreted the Black Jack analogy and she was merely thinking about a KFC sandwich.

“on the software capabilities”

This phrase follows the “double down” comment. The noun here is “capabilities”. Does she mean that they will double the capabilities of their software? Will they make it twice as fast?
Will each software product expand to have twice the number of features or capabilities? Will they simply double the fees?

“that power and differentiate our infrastructure solutions”

This appears to be a phrase clearly intended to confuse the reader and obfuscate the message. Because it continues the sentence, this phrase is a qualifier for the preceding part. In other words, she’s only talking about doubling down on software capabilities that power and differentiates the infrastructure solutions – but none of the other software capabilities. I don’t know if there are others, but there must be if she needs to qualify the capabilities with this phrase.

I don’t understand what the word “power” means in this context. The word “differentiate” suggests that she’s only talking about HPE products that are distinct within the market. Does that mean she plans to discontinue products for which there are competitive alternatives? “Infrastructure solutions” sounds like a wiring problem or a blown fuse.

“and are critical in a cloud environment”

This is an additional qualifier to the software capabilities. That suggests that the only capabilities she’s addressing are the ones that satisfy the previous criteria plus this one. Again, I don’t know the intended context here. Perhaps she means security. If you mean security, say security. If you’re not sure what you mean, say nothing. Imagine how refreshing that would be.

Time to Examine the Cards

What did Meg Whitman really mean? Who knows? We don’t know what the intended message was or who it was intended to influence. What was the purpose of issuing this statement?  What precipitated this statement? From my perspective, the message was confusing, annoying and dishonest. Perhaps we’ll soon see a retraction or clarification of this “crystal clear” message.

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Friday, September 02, 2016

The Greatest Speech I Never Delivered

The Challenge
I was a shy student but I wanted to be popular – especially with the girls. I believed that if I became president of the high school student council I would become popular.

It was apparent to me that the way to be president of the high school council was to deliver a popularity-winning speech to the school assembly. I noticed that the student who became president was the one who delivered the best speech.

My Plan
So I devised a plan. I would run for student council president and win because I would deliver the best speech. The first part of my plan was to create an incredible speech.

I started to write that speech. It included a strong opening. There were quotes from famous people. I would appeal to the interest of my audience without pandering to silly whims. I would be bold but humble. I would make them laugh with me. And we would end with a rousing chorus of the school song from the band. I figured that I could arrange that because I was a trombone player in the high school band.

It was a great speech. It would be the best speech that they every heard in the high school auditorium. Students and teachers would talk about it for years. Every future speaker at our school would see it as the ultimate example.

But I never delivered that speech.

I chickened out. I didn’t run for high school president. I told no one about my presidential dreams or public speaking plans. I was afraid to speak. I was afraid to try. I was afraid that I would mess up. I was afraid that they would laugh at me.

I never became high school president. No one ever knew – until now - of my hopes.

It could have been the greatest speech I ever delivered. But it never happened.

I wish I had had the courage and the wisdom to deliver that speech – even if I failed. But I can't change what happened yesterday.

The reason that I share this story with you is that you can’t go back but you can go forward. It took me 25 years to become a professional speaker. Today I have delivered over 1,000 professional presentations and I coach and train others to deliver million-dollar presentations. Audiences often describe me as an entertaining and motivational speaker.

It doesn’t matter where you were yesterday. If you want to be a better speaker tomorrow you can start improving today. Focus on where you want to be - not on your past.
Effective public speaking is neither a right nor a natural talent. It is a skill set that you can learn, practice and improve. Don’t strive to deliver the perfect speech. Work to be a successful speaker. And sometimes success simply means getting up, falling down and getting up again.
To be a more successful speaker you must learn the techniques, practice the skills and speak.
© George Torok is The Speech Coach for Executives. He helps business leaders deliver million dollar presentations. For more presentation tips visit  To arrange presentation coaching or training visit or call 905-335-1997

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Superior Presentations: Candid Interview on Biz Radio Canada with George Torok

Superior Presentations: George Torok Interview on Biz Radio Canada from George Torok on Vimeo.

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Friday, August 19, 2016

Avoid this Big Lie on Your Answering Message

“I’m either on the phone or with another customer”

How might you feel when you hear that recorded message? Do you believe that message? Do you believe that the person you’re trying to reach is actually on the phone or with another customer?

Let’s dissect that message to expose the purpose, value and credibility.

Covert Purpose
What’s the purpose of that message? Is the person trying to make you feel better by suggesting that they are busy and hence doing their job? Do you care? If you’re trying to reach that person and got their voice mail, you probably want to leave a message for them. You don’t really want to hear their excuse for not answering the phone.

That message doesn’t help you or make you feel better because it’s simply an excuse. So, who is that message really intended for? Perhaps it’s for their colleagues or boss. That person wants their boss and colleagues to believe that they are busy and hence working diligently. Not that the two mean the same.

Questionable Value
Does that message add value to the client relationship?  Was the information useful to the caller? Was the message believable? Did the message build trust? Did that message save time?

The answer to all five questions is “No”. That message wasted time, wasn’t believable and diminished trust.

Questionable Credibility
The message states that there were only two possible reasons for not answering your call. Either the person is:
a) on the phone or
b) with another customer

That suggests that if the person is on the phone they are not talking to a customer. The natural question is, “Who are they talking to on the phone?”

Are those the only two possibilities for not answering the phone?

A reasonable person might recognize that there might be other reasons for not answering the phone. 

That might be that the person is:

  • In the bathroom
  • On a coffee or smoke break
  • At lunch – early or late
  • Arriving late today for work
  • Left early today
  • Off sick
  • On vacation
  • Planning your next vacation
  • This a weekend or holiday
  • Posting on social media
  • Chatting with office buds about the weekend
  • Consoling a colleague about their problems
  • Updating their resume
  • Preparing for a meeting
  • In a staff meeting
  • Dealing with a personal or family issue
  • Or doing something else

As you can imagine, there are many reasons why a person might not answer the phone. It’s insulting to suggest that there are only two. It’s also likely a lie.

The message states, “I’m either on the phone or with another customer” isn’t for the benefit of the caller. It’s self-serving.

What should the message say?

“I can’t take your call right now” is one choice. At least it’s the truth but it’s obvious. But, it wastes time. You also don’t need to tell callers to “leave a message after the beep”.

Instead, state your name and promise. State your name so the caller knows they got the right number. Don’t use the anonymous “The person at this number is not available”.

State your promise about when you will return their call so they know what to expect.

Now that you’ve read this article what will you say when you reach a phone message that claims “I’m either on the phone or with a client”?

You might be justified in leaving this message “Liar, liar, pants on fire.”

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