Jul 06

5 Quick and Easy Tips to Help You Become a More Polished and Confident Speaker

By Celeste DeCamps | General

My mother was born and raised in a small town in Indiana. My dad was brought up in Queens, New York. One parent would drop the letter "R" in certain words, and the other would put "R's" in where they shouldn't be. It's a wonder I can speak and be understood at all. 

My mother used to have a southern accent. When she was younger, she worked for a doctor. One day he told her, "Geraldine, you're a brilliant woman, but when you speak, you sound like a dumb hick. Take your time and learn to enunciate your words." She took his advice. She worked very hard to smooth out her speech and articulate her words carefully. Her southern drawl only came out when she talked to her mother or when she was very mad. I loved the sound of her voice and how beautifully she spoke. She told me that speaking well was essential, and a way to be taken seriously. It gave her confidence. It motivated me to work on my communication skills and to want to help others become better speakers. 

Growing up, our speech template is created by the voices we hear. As we get older, we pick up the slang of our peers, along with their verbal patterns. We use the same filler words and expressions, "like, ya know, oh my gawd, fuggedaboutit." Eventually, we need to take stock of our verbiage and clean it up. A polished, self-assured speaker always makes a great impression. 

Here are five tips to be a more eloquent orator. 

  1. The problem: Ending sentences that sound like a question even though we're not asking one. This happens when we raise the pitch of our voice when we finish speaking. "Hi, I'm so happy to be here?" The listener wonders if we're undecided about how we feel. The solution: Keep the tone even from beginning to end. Take a breath before speaking. This will help the voice stay sharp and reduce any nervousness. Start and end sentences with the same emphasis. Statements will have a better impact. If you're concerned that your remarks still sound like a question, record yourself speaking. Ask family and friends how you're coming across in conversation. Listen to the feedback with an open mind, and you'll find your speech improves.  
  2. The problem: Running out of breath, before our comment ends, leaves the listener struggling to hear our complete thought. The solution: Pause between words and take a breath. Don't worry that someone will jump in before finishing a statement. It's more important that the message is clear. If someone does break into your flow, take a beat and let the person know you want to complete your thought. Try not to give that person a nasty look while you do it. (I'm still working on that myself.)
  3. The problem: Speaking too slow or too fast. The solution: Find the pacing. When being careful with words, we tend to take it slow, and we come across as hesitant. Take a moment and form the ideas in your mind. We all worry that we won't get a chance to voice our thoughts that we rush in before being prepared. The same happens when we talk too fast. We sound like one long run-on sentence. When we present our message to an audience, organization, and practice are required. When talking to our friends, relax and enjoy the conversation. Be present and listening. When it's your turn, your voice will come across with an even tempo. 
  4. The problem: Volume control, either speaking too soft or too loud. The solution: If we talk and it's hard for people to hear us, we'll sound anxious and insecure. We'll lose the audience's engagement because people will tune us out completely. Speaking too loud sounds like we're yelling at our listeners. There's a difference between projecting our voice and raising it to an uncomfortable level. The solution: Learn to breathe correctly. When we breathe from our chest and throat, it tightens up our vocal cords. When we speak from our diaphragm, we can easily modulate our tone. Fill your stomach up with air. As you talk, push the air out from your belly. You'll notice your words come out more energetic without any tension from your neck or chest. This will take practice, but you'll enjoy a rounder, more robust, and unshakeable voice with time. 
  5. The problem: Stumbling over or mispronouncing words makes us sound lazy or inarticulate. The solution: Tongue twisters. The beauty of these silly sentences helps exercise our mouths. It's a warm-up that allows our words to come across clearly. It gives us a chance to practice our pronunciation and articulation of different words and combinations. You'll find that you'll trip less over your tongue, and your meaning will be crystal clear. To get you started, here's a link to 50 tongue twisters. ​50 Tongue Twisters​​​. Try doing a few in the morning. You'll be surprised at how fluid your speech will sound for the rest of the day. 

Everyone notices a person who is fit and trim. We all want to know what that person has done to be in great shape. We also notice a person who speaks with a sense of pride and self-assurance. We all want to know where that confidence comes from. Diet and exercise keep our bodies healthy. Practicing our breathing, listening, and being prepared keeps our conversations engaging. 

My mother's smile was always an open invitation to anyone who needed encouragement. Her words of support were a lifeline to everyone who heard them. Her diligence has always been my inspiration. Live well, speak with passion, and love your life. 

Jun 30

Collective Unconsciousness

By Celeste DeCamps | General

I know we're all feeling isolated and divided these days, but I believe we are more connected than we realize. Our collective unconsciousness is alive and more reliable than ever. We may be far from our caveman days, but the knowledge we share keeps us together. I believe in the age of technology; we are finding out, faster than ever before, how closely tied we are to each other.

In the restaurant business, you never know when unexpected customers seem to come out of the blue on what's usually a slow Tuesday night. I've had this happen and can't explain why the sudden appearance of so many people. Other restaurant owners have described the same scene and said short of consulting tea leaves that it's impossible to figure out.

What happens to our collective unconsciousness that makes everyone go out one night and not another? How did everyone decide that in a pandemic, toilet paper was the necessity? Why did everyone decide to make banana bread in quarantine? If I could crack this code, I'd be a billionaire.

Over the years, I've read accounts of two or more people who would come up with the same idea or storyline, yet they all lived on different sides of the world. They've never met and had completely different lifestyles. Each one believing that their thoughts were original and unique. I'm sure it's happened to you. You've come up with an excellent idea for a new toy that will be a hit with kids. Before you can get your patent, somebody has already put it on the market.

There are several studies of twins who were separated at birth and grew up to have the same interests and careers. They'll have the same taste in dress, haircuts, and even spouses. It's as if they were never apart.
It's easy to say that those are simply coincidences, but I believe there's more to it. I think the energy field that surrounds us also connects us.

Psychologist Carl Jung first developed the term collective unconscious. It explains how our mind is full of ideas and memories that we're not consciously aware of. Jung theorized that we are the sum of our ancestors' thoughts and experiences. We carry innate instincts that have developed over many generations. Without having any experience with animals, young children instinctively know which animals are safe to pet and which aren't. It's this culmination of knowledge that helps us to continue to progress and evolve.

I've been talking to many people who are feeling anxious and depressed. I tell them that they're not alone. We're all nervous about what the future holds. Feeling powerless leads us to fear and uncertainty. The only solace I can offer is that we're in this together. We need to look out for each other and be a sounding board when the anxiety starts to take over. We can help relieve the stress by talking, laughing, and crying with our friends and family. We can meditate together and breathe in hope. We are a collective, and we unconsciously are linked as one.

Now, will someone please help me eat all of this banana bread? 

Jun 22

What Does It Mean to Be Yourself?

By Celeste DeCamps | General

I had to be someone else to understand how to be myself.
I had to be someone else to understand how to be myself.

I was working with a gentleman who wanted feedback on his podcast. While he was explaining his concerns, I noticed that he sounded animated and enthusiastic. He kept my attention. I wasn't sure what he was worried about until I watched his segment. When he turned the camera on, he became stiff and sounded like an announcer. He didn't come across personable. It didn't match the man I had been talking to. When I spoke to him about his change in demeanor, he admitted that he had worked in radio for many years. He said he didn't know how to come across as himself when he's "on." It's something that he's struggled with. He's not sure if he can be himself.

I can relate. It was always more comfortable for me to be somebody else. When I was a disc jockey on the radio, I had two different personalities. One was the rock n' roll goddess of heavy metal, and the other was the sexy, soft queen of jazz. I impersonated film icon Mae West for a few events. It was a blast being this woman. It didn't matter what I said, as long as I spoke and acted like her, people loved me. I felt confident and secure. The only problem was, I wasn't Mae West. It was tough, but I knew I had to learn how to be myself.

A funny thing happened when I was researching Mae West. I found that it took her many years to become the star Mae West. She was always reinventing herself. She had her share of failures, but she was fearless. She learned from her setbacks and became stronger for it.

I started to realize that being yourself was how we perceived the world, and that perception would grow and change as we got older. The more experiences we have and the more we challenge ourselves is what makes us who we are. I had to trust that I had something to offer to others. I had to stop pretending and start believing that I was someone who had interesting things to say. The more I began to share my opinions and thoughts, the easier it became for me to speak my truth.

The advice to be yourself is easy to say, but one of the hardest things to do. Learning to be comfortable and feel self-assured is a journey. I had to be someone else to understand how to be myself.

When we're on stage or meeting people for the first time, we want to make a great impression. We want to be ourselves. People can tell if we're trying to be something we're not. My suggestion is preparation. Practice what you want to say ahead of time. Remember to relax and breathe. Don't be afraid of pausing or taking a moment to gather your thoughts. Learn to be in the moment and listen carefully, whether you're taking a question from the audience or the person you're meeting.

Record yourself. Listen and watch how you're coming across. Show it to family and friends and ask for their constructive criticisms. Living in a world of technology gives us unique opportunities, and we must be our authentic selves. We develop trust in our business and personal relationships when people feel comfortable with us.

The advice I gave the gentleman, before his next podcast, was to practice his presentation as if he were in a room with his friends. I told him to pick one friend who would relate to his particular topic. Think about how the person would react, what questions they may have, and how you would keep them engaged. Putting ourselves in another person's place gets us out of our heads. We become more concerned about their feelings and thoughts. The information we want to give is for their benefit. It takes the pressure off and helps us to relax. We become more comfortable in our skin and can be ourselves. The next broadcast he did, he was conversational, engaging, and more important, he was himself. 

Jun 16

What To Do When You Draw A Blank

By Celeste DeCamps | General

Quote:
Quote: "I don't consider myself an artist, but when it comes to drawing blanks, I'm the best."

I'm standing in front of my high school class. The assignment is simple. Get up and tell everyone what you did over the summer. That year I was in a drum and bugle corps. We preformed and competed in different states. For the first time, I had an exciting story to tell. I was sure I knew exactly what I was going to say. The first couple of sentences came out strong. I was confident I was going to get through this anxiety-producing, exercise. Instead, my mind became empty. I hadn't a clue as to what I wanted to say next. It's as if all the words just floated away. I felt the heat rise in my face, and my palms began to sweat. The teacher was trying to encourage me to continue, but when my tears created a small puddle at my feet, he let me sit down.

I was so embarrassed. I was sure that public speaking was never going to be easy for me. It turns out, all I needed was a sense of commitment and a bit of masochism. In time, I was able to get over my fear of talking in front of a group of people. I learned how to be prepared and find the words before they disappeared.

Working with people to develop their communication skills, I quickly learned that I was not the only one who experienced their brain switching off. It's a fear that keeps us from delivering a presentation or sales pitch. I've found ways to minimize the chance of drawing a blank. When the rare time it does happen, and I'm at a loss, I know how to keep moving on.

Being prepared is an essential tool. Know your message inside and out. When I put my research together, I will go over it several times. I memorize vital points. Visualization helps with this because I turn my main ideas into pictures. For example, if I want to explain breathing techniques, I will envision my belly filling up like a balloon. It reminds me to describe the diaphragm. When I'm recounting an event, I "see" the place and the people involved. It helps me stay on track. Don't worry that you don't say every word that you practiced. It's more important that you developed a beginning, a middle, and an end. Your ideas are organized and easy to follow. Practice in front of your friends and family and listen to their feedback and advice.

Taking slow, measured breaths before my speech helps me to relax. Feeling anxious or nervous leaves us open to losing our place during our talk. Focused breathing puts us in the here and now. It's that kind of mindfulness that will keep us in the moment. We won't be distracted. Instead, we'll feel grounded.

Pause. Yes, take a beat. Dynamics help keep an audience engaged. When we stop for a second or two, we allow the audience to take in our words. It also gives us a chance to find our place if we have a momentary lapse. If you can't find the exact wording in your script, don't worry. Trust that you know your material. If it comes out a little different than what you practiced, it's okay. The only person who will know is you. Your guests will think you gave them a short time to digest your fantastic content. You'll appear confident and in command of your speech.

Let go of the idea of being perfect. It's too much pressure. Work on the presentation, and it'll flow. If you enjoy what you're talking about, your passion and enthusiasm will transfer to your listeners. Take your time, maintain eye contact, and smile. Unless, of course, you're talking about something sad, like humiliating yourself in front of your classmates. Okay, it's a little funny now. 

Jun 09

What’s Wrong (and Right) about Filler Words?

By Celeste DeCamps | General

I had to attend meetings twice a month when I worked in sales. Our suppliers would present their new products to educate us and hope to garner excitement. For the most part, they were dull and uninteresting. It was apparent that they spent very little time preparing their talk. To keep awake, I would make a checkmark every time they used a particular filler word. I would end up with about twenty or thirty "Ahs" and "Ums," and that would be only the first presenter. I would also make a list of "buzz" words that always showed up at these events. The winners were; "sexy," "fun," "take it to the next level," and our favorite, "think outside the box." It was a missed opportunity to inspire a group of salespeople to want to represent their product.

"So," "Like," "Well," "You Know," "Right?" are just a few examples of filler words. Most of us are guilty of using these place holders while we try to remember what we want to say next. We will use an "ah" or an "um" to let others know we have not finished our thought. Most of the time, these words go unnoticed. When it's excessive, it makes a person come across as unprepared and nervous. It will also make the audience feel anxious.

Ending our sentences with a "you know?" or "right?" as we're speaking is a way to make sure the other person is listening to us. We want to see a nod of their head in agreement. The problem with using these filler words too much is we'll come across as insecure. It will seem as if we need constant validation of our ideas. If we're making eye contact with the person we're speaking to, we should be able to tell that they are paying attention and understanding our point of view.

So, let me tell you about the time I had to take a knife away from a biker.

Why do we begin our stories with the word, "so?" I believe it's our way to enter into the conversation. It's a form of raising our hand and taking our turn to speak. If every sentence starts with "so." It becomes a crutch and weakens the impact of our message.

To be a more effective communicator, we must be aware of our use of these speed bumps. Here are three tips to help you smooth out any hint of hesitation when you speak.

  1. Be prepared. When you're making a presentation or introducing yourself to another person or group, practice what you'll say. Don't worry about being perfect. If a filler word finds its way into your speech, it's okay. The more groundwork you do, the less chance you will be "umming" and "ahhing" throughout your talk. 
  2. Breathe. Don't be afraid to pause and take a breath while your mind is looking for your next idea. Taking your time to gather your thoughts is more effective than filling the void with needless words. When you're the only person on stage, trust that no one plans to interrupt you. If you're having a conversation with another person or group and someone takes advantage of your break, relax. Let the person speak and then continue with, "as I was saying" or "thank you, for your input." Most people are anxious to join in and contribute, not meaning to be rude. 
  3. Practice mindfulness. You may be surprised by how many filler words you use when you slow down and pay attention to your own words. Better yet, ask your friends and family to listen for these little ticks in your speech. Recording yourself as you speak will give you a clear understanding of your speech patterns.

In our day-to-day interactions, we may not be as concerned with our "ahs" and "ums." Practicing to reduce our use of them will result in being a more fluid and confident speaker. Our passion and enthusiasm to talk about our ideas, products, or services will be more successful by eliminating unnecessary words or phrases. Our audience will appreciate a clear and concise presentation that keeps them interested. So, like, do you know what I mean? 

Jun 01

3 Simple Tips To Help You Be A More Engaging Speaker

By Celeste DeCamps | General

"Eye Contact is Important. Unless You Do it Too Long, then it Becomes Creepy."

"What do I do with my hands?" That's the question I get asked the most when it comes to public speaking. It's as if our brains seem to shut down when we have to speak in front of an audience. Why do we suddenly become so self-conscious that our natural body movements seem alien to us? I believe it's that fight or flight response we get when we are nervous. We know that the people in front of us are not going to attack us physically, but we are afraid of being attacked emotionally. Putting ourselves in the spotlight opens us up to judgment that we fear will be harsh. Read the comments made on Twitter and Facebook if you don't believe me. Worrying about what others will think of us makes us hyper-aware of everything we say and do, including our body gestures. 

I've seen people on stage rooted to the ground as if they were a statue. Their arms pinned at their sides, and their feet won't move. I've seen people pace the stage back and forth until it feels like we're watching a  tennis match. I've seen people talk about a tragedy with a nervous smile on their faces. Of course, they don't realize they're doing this. It all stems from feeling uncomfortable and tense. When we incorporate solid body gestures and movement in our presentations, we will deliver an impactful message. 

When we watch someone tell a story and put their whole body into it, we're not just listening. The story draws us in not only with words but with facial expressions, gestures, and body movements. A good speaker is a performer. Here are three key points that will make even the most anxious presenter more confident in delivering their speech. 

Facial expressions: 

Have you ever seen a speaker tell you a story with little or no facial expression? We're left wondering if the speaker is trying to be funny or not. Mixed signals happen when we're not showing the message on our faces. If you're not sure how you're coming across, try doing your speech in front of the mirror, videotape yourself, or, better yet, perform in front of family and friends. Ask for constructive criticism. The more you practice, the more confident you'll become. 

Here's what you need to know about eye contact. Try to imagine that you're at a party with your friends. You want them all to hear your story. As you speak, take your time and look people in the eye. Not for very long because then it becomes creepy. If you're making a point or getting to a punchline, pick one person and say the line to them. It will feel to the audience that you're speaking to them as well. Maintaining eye contact with people will help you gauge how well your message is received. 

Hand Gestures:

Gesturing helps to add to a story visually. It has to be a natural movement. If it seems forced, our message could come across as disingenuous. It's essential to keep from fidgeting with hair or jewelry. It becomes distracting and will take away from your talk. 

Hold your hands between the top of your chest to the bottom of your waist as you're speaking. You can steeple your hands together or clasp them in front of you. You can also let your arms hang loosely by your sides. When listing points, you can use your fingers to show the numbers.  Use a tiny bit gesture when you are talking about something small.  When emphasizing a vital point, clap your hands together. A grand gesture is when you have both of your hands apart and palms facing towards the audience. A "me" gesture is any time you bring your hands towards your heart or chest. A "we" gesture is when you open your arms as if you're wrapping everyone in a hug.

Whole Body Movement:

Using your body engages your audience and puts them in the story with you. It's essential to have good posture and radiate confidence, but don't be afraid to move with your narrative. For example, if you're explaining how you needed to be on your tiptoes to see out the window, replicate the action. Let the audience see you on your tiptoes looking out the window. Using your body to be a character in your story or to show activity creates dynamics. It's this type of level changes that keep your audience engaged. Move across the stage with purpose. Introducing a new idea or transitioning to the next part of your speech is an excellent time to walk to one side of the stage. When you walk to the front of the room, it creates intimacy. The opposite happens when you leave too much distance from you and the audience. People will feel disconnected from you, and they may not know why. If possible, walk into the audience. It's a great way to ask questions directly and get everyone involved. 

Eye contact, hand gestures, and movement all come together when you take the time to prepare. It's uncomfortable to be a statue and even more painful to watch someone be a statue. Remember to breathe and keep your neck and shoulders relaxed. Believe it or not, people want to hear what you have to say. They also respect the time and effort you put forth to give them an informative and engaging presentation. If you're genuinely passionate and enthusiastic about your speech, your audience will feel it too. 

May 25

How Well Do You Listen?

By Celeste DeCamps | General

"When we feel heard, we feel loved."

This is a scene from Pulp Fiction. Uma Thurman as Mia Wallace asks John Travolta as Vincent Vega an interesting question.

We try to be good listeners, but we also want to be able to respond with a meaningful answer. While the person in front of us is speaking, we're not giving him our full attention. Instead, we're thinking about what we want to say and looking for the right moment to add our thoughts. Some people won't even wait for the person to finish speaking and jump right in and start talking. ( I call those people, husbands). The truth is we're all guilty of doing this. We don't mean to be rude; many times, we're just anxious to join the conversation. Learning to be present and giving the other person your undivided attention reaps great rewards.

In business, relationships form when there is mutual respect. A big part of making that happen is actively listening to the customer. No one wants to feel bullied or cajoled into buying. We want to think that the person offering their product or service has our best interests at heart. When I sold wine and spirits to restaurants, the buyers always said the same thing to me. " Thank you for paying attention to what products I wanted. I don't appreciate it when salespeople ignore my requests." Yes, I had quotas to fill, but they still had to match what my customers needed. Instead of trying to give a lengthy sales pitch, I realized my best technique would be to listen. I was able to gain more insight into their thought process and be a more effective salesman. When I was a buyer, being quiet was my tool when it came to negotiating. Staying silent while someone goes through their various pricing levels gives us leverage. They're not sure what we're thinking, which makes them worried that we may not buy. They may drop the price before taking the chance of losing a sale.

In social relationships, being attentive to what our friends and family are saying will help us understand them better. We tend to step over them because we think we know where the conversation is heading. It causes frustration when we don't give them the time to complete their thought. Many disagreements happen when we don't let the other person fully communicate their feelings, ideas, or views on a subject. Sometimes we take offense before we have entirely listened to the other person's opinion. Keep in mind that we all need to be able to speak our minds without interruption. Our loved ones don't always need a solution for their worries, but they do need to give it a voice. When we feel heard, we feel loved.

Here are three tips to be a better listener.

  1. Practice mindfulness. Be present when you're having a conversation with someone. Put your phone away and have eye contact. Breathe and relax your shoulders. Your attention span will stay energized. 
  2. When it's your turn to talk, acknowledge what the other person said by repeating a few of their words. This way, you can clarify any misunderstandings. It also lets the other person know that you are genuinely interested.
  3. Ask questions. Having a conversation with someone is an opportunity to learn something new. Be open to hearing another point of view. Our experiences make up our perceptions, and when we can share that, we let each other in on how we think.

We live in a fast-paced technology-filled world. It's great to be able to slow down and have worthwhile conversations. I enjoy hearing other people's stories and gaining a new understanding of them. The more we share our experiences, the more we learn from each other. Success in business, as well as, social relationships relies on strong communication skills. Listening is a crucial part of it.

Next time you're having a meeting, be aware of how much you talk compared to how much you are listening. You may be surprised, or you may be my husband.

May 19

Why Does Change Scare Us?

By Celeste DeCamps | General

“I have a bad habit of not being able to break bad habits
 “I have a bad habit of not being able to break bad habits"

A better question may be, why is it so hard to change? The idea of forming better habits or changing our mindset seems daunting. Even when we know that the change would be beneficial, it's tough. I've read that it takes anywhere from 21 days to 254 days to have a changed behavior stick. Really? That's quite a significant difference in time. I'm not sure I can avoid cookies for a whole year. Just thinking about it makes me want to have a cookie right now. That's the rub. The more we tell ourselves that we need a better diet or be more motivated, the more we eat junk and procrastinate. 

Why does it feel that we are continually sabotaging ourselves? I know I feel better when I'm exercising regularly and eating healthy meals. It shouldn't be so challenging to stay on track, and yet it is. Stress, anxiety, and fear seem to go away with a yummy plate of chocolate chip cookies. Of course, then I'm left with feelings of guilt and disappointment with myself. I know there are worse things than splurging on dessert. It's a lack of self-control that makes me mad. I find myself in a silly argument justifying that it's not a big deal and vowing never to have a sugary treat ever again. I believe it's that all or nothing approach that will keep me in this vicious cycle. 

I have found through research that we can develop and adopt good habits. The time frame for it to happen doesn't matter. We just need to learn a few valuable tools to help us. Understanding ourselves and recognizing behavior patterns will give us clues on how to stay with a new program or thought process. 

Developing new habits means recognizing that we are ready for a positive change. Let's start by writing down our goals. Make a list of the pros and cons of changing or not changing our actions. When we can look at what we want for ourselves, a clearer picture emerges. It's a way to get out of our heads and stop the useless chatter. We can face a new challenge head-on when we have it in front of us. Staying present will help us make the right decisions instead of impulsively making the wrong ones. When we take a moment to breathe and relax, we allow ourselves to choose grapes instead of a piece of cake. (I want cake now). 

We can then develop a plan of action. Take small, incremental steps to build a new habit gradually. Trying to overhaul our life in one sitting is setting ourselves up for failure. For example, make a meal plan for the week. The decision for what to eat is not a question now. If you want to exercise more and don't know where to start, check out the hundreds of free work out programs on Youtube. Schedule one a day for the week and check it off your list. Missing a day is not a big deal. Don't let it deter you from finishing out the rest of the week. 

We will make mistakes, and we will not be perfect. That's how we continue to learn and grow. It's not giving up or deciding we can't change. Of course, significant life changes are confusing and scary. It's not easy leaving what we know for the unknown, even if the unknown may be way better. Enlisting the help of family, friends, or seeking therapy is not a sign of weakness but a show of strength. Support and encouragement go hand in hand when it comes to making a worthwhile change. 

Letting the people around us know we are taking on the challenge of a new habit will help keep us motivated to stay on course. We can keep them apprised of how well we are doing or that we may need a pep talk. Setting up rewards for ourselves can make the whole process feel like a fun game. It's all about our attitude and how we phrase our challenges. We can say, "Oh great, I have to work out for an hour, and I don't feel like it." Or we can say, "I can't wait to test my strength and endurance today. I know I'm getting stronger."

We are more adaptable than we give ourselves credit. Remember that every day is an opportunity for us to work towards our goals. Start the morning with a smile, and know that we will have a great day. We are ready, willing, and able to meet the challenges we set out for ourselves. Remember to ask for help when we need it and be there to help others. Change happens gradually. New habits and new behaviors take time. Which reminds me, I found a great recipe for banana, blueberry muffins. No sugar but will satisfy my sweet tooth. I'm not sure the cookie industry will survive without me, but I'm willing to take the chance. 

May 12

How Confident Are You?

By Celeste DeCamps | General

Confidence is a funny thing. I think it means something different for everyone. I've spoken to people who claim to have a lot of self-assurance only to turn around and belittle themselves. I was at an event, getting ready to do my presentation when a  woman walked up to me and asked me the topic of my speech. I said it was "how to raise your self-esteem when your mind is telling you the opposite." She said, "Oh, well, then I don't need to listen. I have high self-esteem. I'm always very positive and believe in myself." I said, "That's wonderful to hear. Good for you!" She then said, "Of course, I'm too old to try to learn about some new idea or technique you have to offer." I said, "You're not old, and I'm surprised you feel that way." She didn't hear the irony in her words.

I've had friends tell me that once they've reached their goal, be it a promotion, have a significant other, or get to their desired weight; they will then feel confident. Their perception of confidence is something that has to be earned or given as a reward. They will not allow themselves to feel self-assured until then. When I have these conversations, I remind my friends of just how much they have accomplished. We should always have goals that keep us motivated to want to go after more challenges. We should never be discouraged and lose our sense of ourselves in the process.  Our belief in our skills and creativity should not slip just because we haven't attained all of our targeted results. 

I know, easier said than done. I struggle with having faith in myself all the time. That's why I feel I'm an expert. I'm a constant work in progress, but I do progress. I've had to learn how to stop the continual self-doubt my mind is so good at producing. It loves to tell me that I'm not very smart, talented, or brave. There are days that I believe that and have to find ways to change the detrimental mind-set. It's incredible how simple it is to tear ourselves down than build ourselves up. I have figured out how to quiet the noise in my head. Here are a few ideas that have worked for me. 

I call a friend and voice my fears out loud. This way, it gets out of my head, and I can hear how ridiculous it sounds. Most of what we're worried about is ridiculous. If I want to listen to the truth of my thoughts, I will call one of my brothers or sisters. They love a good laugh at my expense, but it keeps me grounded. We should all be lucky to have such a truthful, vicious family. (They are the best!)

One reason I may be feeling doubtful of my abilities is that I'm comparing myself to others. When we don't feel good about ourselves, we tend to believe that everyone around us is more successful and happier than we are. They may be, but that doesn't mean that we should lose belief in ourselves. I'll write down my goals along with the positive steps I've already taken. It reminds me I'm on my path, and everything takes time. 

The fastest way I know to feel good about myself is to put on music that makes me want to dance. My confidence instantly goes way up. It's that mind-body connection that works every time. My body is in a positive and uplifting motion that my mind cannot ignore. If I'm in public going to a networking event, I forgo the dancing and make sure my body is in a confident stance. My shoulders are back, my head lifted, and I smile. My mind doesn't argue with me or try to make me feel any self-doubt. 

Understanding the power of being prepared and ready to take on the world is something we shouldn't take for granted. The more we believe in our abilities, the more we will accomplish our goals. Being self-assured doesn't always come naturally, but we can work towards it. We need the courage to face our insecurities. Realize that the people who love and respect us do so because we support and encourage them. We need to do the same for ourselves. We don't have to wait to be confident, and we can feel that way anytime we want. Now, go put on some music and call a friend.

May 05

The Impressive Introduction

By Celeste DeCamps | General

Have you ever had an opportunity to discuss your product or service only to find yourself tongue-tied? The person who could open doors for you or connect you with a new client is not impressed. They're walking away, and you realize you missed your chance. We've all had moments where the information we want to impart is not coming across as smoothly as we would like. Being prepared is key to increasing our chance of success. Unfortunately, many of us tend to overlook an important component, which is our impressive introduction.

In school, our introductions are limited to, "What's your major?" "Where are you from?" "Do you have a boyfriend?" Even then, we take for granted that we have more exciting things to say about ourselves. I was helping a young man work on his introduction, and he told me that he had very little to say about himself. I asked him if he ever had a summer job. He said, "Well, I work as a lifeguard, and I'm enjoying that." I said, "Have you ever saved someone's life?" He said, "Sure, a few times." I looked at him with amazement. I said, "Don't you see how incredible that is? You saved lives! That's huge!" He just looked at me and said, "It just goes with the job."

When we finished his 30-second commercial, he was surprised by how much he had accomplished in his young life. He said, going forward, he would be more aware of the skills he has and setting even bigger goals. The feeling of being prepared and knowing what he will say about himself gave him a new sense of confidence.

A short, concise biography of ourselves gives us a foundation that we can work off of. When we meet people for a job interview or a networking event, no one is interested in our resume. They are more concerned about how we are going to help them. What specific benefits do we bring to the table? What have we accomplished in our area of expertise? Where do we see ourselves going on our career path? When we sit down and write out the answers to these questions, we give ourselves a chance to see what our future may be. We may even find a niche or a new job position we hadn't thought about before.

Be open to all opportunities. We don't have to check off all the boxes for a possible career. Sometimes, it's good to take on a challenge and see where it will lead. If anything else, it will give you a unique experience, another skill, or a stepping stone to a new job.

Here are five tips to get you started on putting together your impressive introduction.

  1. Write down your specific skill-set, for example, sales, marketing, cooking, photography, etc. Include your hobbies. What benefits do you have to offer a company? For example, excellent customer service, strong customer relationships, include stats and awards.
  2. Write your headline. Grab someone's attention with a quick opener. For example, "Give me ninety minutes, and I will transform you into an engaging, polished speaker." If you need ideas, look at the headlines on magazine covers. You'll notice, in just a few words, they have gotten you interested in a story. Try this technique and see if you can quickly sum up your service or product in a short sentence.
  3. Be confident. Before you meet someone, check your posture. Walk in the room with your head up and your shoulders back. Remember to smile and look him in the eyes. When you introduce yourself, be upbeat, and speak clearly. 
  4. Listen carefully. As much as you want to talk about yourself, take time to hear what the other person is saying. The more you pay attention to what the other person's wants and needs are, the better chance you have of addressing her concerns. When someone feels heard, the more she will want to engage with you. Connections and relationships form reasonably quickly when there's respect for each other's ideas.
  5. Practice. The only way to keep from stumbling over your words is to say your introduction out loud. Grab a friend and go over it with her. You want to come across as yourself. Memorize your pitch, but remember that it needs to come across naturally. The more you practice, the more you fine-tune, the more you will find your message coming across effortlessly. You want to sound conversational and not like an infomercial.

Working on your introduction takes time and effort, but it's worth it. It allows you to promote yourself and gives people an insight into what you can offer. You will gain knowledge by listening to the people you meet. You never know who you will make contact with that can provide you the chance of a lifetime.

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