June 5, 2013


In the work I do, coaching leaders and executives, you’d be surprised by how many struggle with fear of presentations..

If you’re a fan of TED.com, you probably remember the first time you viewed one of the company’s free 18-minute online presentations. Ted Talks are truly inspiring. If you’re not yet familiar with them, you’ll find that their speakers provide jaw-dropping stories you’ll be talking about for weeks.

TED’s growing global audience is testimony to the success of their mission, “Ideas Worth Spreading.” Since June 2006, the talks have been offered for free viewing online.

  • By January 2009 they had been viewed 50 million times
  • In June 2011, the viewing figure stood at more than 500 million
  • By mid-November, 2012, TED Talks had been watched one billion times worldwide

Originally focusing on technology, entertainment and design—hence, the initials—TED Talks features remarkable experts in diverse fields with revolutionary ideas. As some of the most viewed speakers in the world, they showcase their high-level presentation skills—a seamless blend of intelligence, entertainment and persuasion.

Best regards,

Linda Yaffe
Certified Executive Coach

“The best way to sound like you know what you’re talking about is to know what you’re talking about.” – Author Unknown


At some point in your career, you’ll likely be called upon to make a presentation to potential customers, superiors and/or colleagues. Your ability to persuade others will contribute greatly to your overall success. Fortunately, there’s a great book that can help you break down the key elements to an effective presentation.

Successful Speechcraft

Jeremy Donovan, executive vice president of Gartner, Inc., has written How To Deliver a TED Talk, a complete guide to creating presentations that inspire others through stories. Based on the most popular TED Talks, this playbook shows you how to select a topic, craft your narrative and fine-tune your delivery.

Select a Topic

Regardless of topic, your goal is to awaken your audience to a new way of thinking or persuade them to take action. Ask yourself:

  • Why is this topic important to me, the audience and the world?
  • How will my audience benefit?
  • How can I enlist others to join my crusade?

Identify a central idea, and work backwards to establish an audience-centric narrative that includes stories and facts. As you build your talk, play the role of skeptical listener by asking “So what?” and “What’s in it for me?”

Appeal to Your Audience

People have four driving needs, so make emotional connections that appeal to your audience’s:

  • Social need for belonging
  • Self-interest
  • Ability to learn and grow
  • Desire to make a meaningful difference

Be sure to explore beyond the surface of your topic, but don’t try to pack a lifetime’s worth of learning into a single talk.

Be clear about your central idea. Focus on a unifying message; then, scour your brain for amazing experiences that add emotional depth.

Craft a “Catchphrase”

Remarkable speakers become memorable by using catchphrases: turning your presentation’s central idea into an unforgettable phrase. Repeat it several times throughout your speech to implant it in the audience’s mind.

An ideal catchphrase should be short (3–12 words), action-oriented and rhythmic.

•        “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” (Simon Sinek)

•        “Work with people who believe what you believe.” (Sinek)

•        “Start with why.” (Sinek)

•        “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.” (Johnnie Cochran)

Build the Speech’s Body and Transitions

We more easily remember concepts when they’re delivered as three examples or elements. This progression helps you stay focused and primes the audience to remember your message.

This can be as simple as:

  1. Tell them what you’re going to tell them
  2. Tell them
  3. Tell them what you just told them

Open with Gusto

The first 10 or 20 seconds of a speech mark the peak of audience engagement, so capitalize on it with a compelling opening.

  • Personal stories are always attention grabbers, but make sure they are real, emotional and relevant to your message. Make other people your story’s heroes.
  • Shocking/startling statements can be very effective, especially if they challenge conventional wisdom. A good example is Jamie Oliver’s TED Talk on how obesity is killing our children.
  • Ask powerful questions, particularly “why” and “how.” Questions tap into the audience’s natural curiosity to understand the world around them.

After you open your presentation, list the benefits your audience will gain. The more you use the pronoun “you,” the more engaged the audience will become.

Watching TED Talks won’t automatically make you a good speaker, but they will inspire you to improve your presentation skills.

Once you’ve learned a few tips, practice them by delivering a persuasive speech in a feedback-rich environment. Ask for help from trusted peers, a mentor or an executive coach.

This last suggestion is key. You can’t improve your chance to make a really big impact without practice and feedback.

Make your presentation matter to the people listening to you.
Linda Yaffe

“Need a Job? Invent It”

April 10, 2013
In the Sunday Review Section of the March 31, 2013 edition of the New York Times, Thomas L. Friedman wrote an editorial entitled “Need a Job? Invent It”.  I found it very interesting and worthy of discussion. I wanted to share it with you and have attached a link to the article. If you haven’t seen it, please take a few minutes to read it and pass it on to your working children, siblings, cousins and friends. Perhaps they will find it beneficial.  Enjoy!


February 27, 2013

Over the last month I have been blogging about self-sabotage and how we unknowingly stop ourselves from moving forward in our career.  The feedback I received suggests a strong interest around this topic. Hopefully today’s blog will be beneficial to you as well.

When faced with a challenge, you may be tempted to dwell on the barriers that stand in your way and use them as an excuse to defer action. But self-handicapping will prevent you from reaching your career goals.

In an October 2012 Harvard Business Review blog post, coaching expert Susan David, identifies four ways to conquer self-sabotage:

1.    Spot the warning signs. Are you holding back? Coming up with a list of excuses? Fixating on potential obstacles?

2.    Clearly state your goals and avoid excuses. Don’t play the “what-if” and “if-only” game. Instead of obsessing over potential hurdles or what could have gone better, identify factors within your control and manage them effectively.

3.    Take control of negative emotions. It’s normal to feel disappointed, angry or frustrated when problems occur. Don’t beat yourself up as you experience these inevitable emotions. Shift your focus to what you can control.

4.    Go for mastery. Self-handicapping usually kicks in when you’re trying to avoid negative feedback. Instead of worrying about colleagues’ reactions and criticisms, work toward mastering a domain that you value. By recognizing what matters to you, you’ll be motivated to move in the right direction.

We have goals and we have excuses, some of which are true and valid. This is the hard part. Some of us move the goal posts, and accept our excuses as facts. Others see excuses as challenges and figure out ways of going around them to achieve the goals in spite of the challenges. Which do you do?

It’s always helpful to work with an executive coach who can help you navigate your blind spots and develop greater self-awareness. Be sure to give yourself a pat on the back for being courageous enough to turn weaknesses into opportunities for growth.

Also recognize that putting your best foot forward means you’ll occasionally step in some mud. It’s up to you to decide which is more perilous: the risk of disappointment or the prospect of never reaching your potential.

If some of this makes sense and strikes a personal chord with you, maybe we need to talk? Contact me or call 215-564-3608. I’d love to hear from you.


February 4, 2013

In my previous post, I mentioned that self-sabotaging was one of the main ways executives lose personal power and influence. And yet, many don’t see themselves doing it because it can be so extremely subtle.

There are many ways we unintentionally lose power and confidence and stay stuck in comfort zones and old patterns. Then we wonder why we’re not making the progress we should, or we get passed over for promotions.

Here are 10 errors in thinking that set us up for self-sabotaging decisions and actions. Do you recognize yourself engaging in any of them?

1.        Resting on laurels (positive thinking to avoid risk-taking)

2.        Negative thoughts (“not-good-enough” thinking)

3.        Silence (not speaking up at all)

4.        Freezing (not taking, or delaying, action)

5.        Making excuses (no time, no resources)

6.        Blaming others instead of accepting responsibility

7.        Not trying or risking (staying in one’s comfort zone)

8.        Focusing on the small picture (i.e., to-do lists), while avoiding big-picture thinking

9.        Focusing on feelings instead of facts

10.      Allowing distractions to derail purposeful pursuits

In the work I do coaching some pretty smart and successful executives, one of the most common forms of self-handicapping is #1, resting on one’s laurels. And why not? It’s energizing and powerfully positive to remind yourself of your success.

The problem is that it shields you from taking risks and going outside of your comfort zone. But if you continue doing what you’ve always done, you won’t make the kind of successful results needed to achieve stretch goals and promotions.

As a wise person has said, what got you here, won’t necessarily get you there. Instead, remind yourself that you can do better. Because you can. We can always do a little better each time we reach and stretch.

Got questions about this? Let me know by either calling me at 215-564-3608, emailing me or leave a comment here.


January 16, 2013

As an executive coach I am privy to clients’ stories of success and failure. I’ve noticed over the years that they commonly share one highly destructive behavior: self-sabotage.

Few of us realize how frequently self-sabotaging beliefs creep into our decisions—sometimes even daily. As the following example illustrates, the root cause may be habitual.

Marty (not his real name) is a creative, intelligent professional who’s on his way up the organizational ladder. One day, he complained to me that he’d been passed over for promotion. He said he was better qualified than the person his bosses chose and that the position would have been his dream job, with more money, flexibility and opportunities to showcase his personal strengths.

“So, why do you think this happened?” I asked.

As we talked, Marty admitted he’d never let anyone know how badly he wanted the job. He assumed his bosses would consider him, but he never actively talked to them about his qualifications or desire.

Marty revealed numerous reasons for his inaction, most of them self-sabotaging. Like many gifted professionals, he exhibited a behavior that psychologists call self-handicapping: anticipating a real or imagined obstacle that might get in the way of success and using it as an excuse to do nothing.

Self-handicapping allows us to protect ourselves from the pain of assuming responsibility for our failures—and we do it all the time.

This behavior is often so subtle that we don’t notice we’re doing it. Consider the manager who has to give a big presentation and fails to practice ahead of time. How about the people who procrastinate on projects and wind up “not having enough time” to do a good job?

In a July 2010 Harvard Business Review article, Stanford University business professor Jeffrey Pfeffer identified self-handicapping as one of three major barriers to building professional power. As he explains, people avoid the pain of failure by refusing to build power in the first place.

Think about it. You’re not alone, since everyone seems to do it to a certain extent. But then just imagine how much more personal power and influence you’d have if you learn to flip the switch and turn off your negative self-handicapping.

Of course, if you aren’t aware of doing it, then maybe you’re in denial. I’d love to hear from you. Email me, call me at 215-564-3608, or leave a comment and tell me what you think.


December 31, 2012

Recycling information can be a good thing.  Sometimes it takes hearing and reading something more than one time to make an impact.  In keeping with this theory, my 2013 New Year message is one I shared with you several years ago that is as relevant today as it was in 2008.

Before you promise to count carbs or workout at the crack of dawn, I am requesting you resolve to use the New Year to position yourself as a leader.

If you position or “brand” yourself as competent, intelligent and trustworthy you will experience success and reap the rewards. Whether you are leading your company, jump-starting a business, in transition or advancing your career, follow these ten recommendations to help you get the New Year off to a positive start.

How you look speaks to who you are and what you think about yourself. Exude confidence by wearing clothes that are flattering and appropriate to your role as a professional and a leader.

First impressions count, so take them seriously. When meeting someone, initiate a firm handshake, smile, stand tall and look them in the eye.

Treat every occasion as an opportunity to build your network.  And don’t forget to follow-up with the people you meet, when and where appropriate.

Walk the streets without your cell phone pressed to your ear or your fingers texting. Look around and say “hello” to people or get inside your head and think about new products, ideas and strategies that will help your career.

Every piece of written communication is an opportunity to extend your brand value. Double-check your memos, emails and letters for typos, spelling mistakes and grammatical errors.

Use the “one touch” rule– look at emails, mail and memos once and decide whether to take action, delegate, file or toss.

Stop placing blame on others. Point your finger to yourself instead of outward. No naming, blaming, complaining, finger pointing or excuses.  Take full responsibility for your thoughts, feelings and actions.

With a positive attitude your potential is unlimited. Adopt a winning attitude that says “let’s make it happen” and you’ll be ahead of the game.

Stand tall and make eye contact when speaking to others. This helps you connect while sending a message of confidence and honesty.

When presenting a problem to your boss or colleague, make sure you recommend a solution as well.

Wishing you a wonderful holiday season and a healthy and happy new year!

Warm regards,

Linda Yaffe
Certified Executive Coach


December 21, 2012

I can’t believe that 2012 is now coming to an end. I find it amazing how fast this year flew by.

My very best wishes for a wonderful holiday season and a healthy and prosperous new year. I look forward to connecting with you again in 2013.

Warmest regards,