by , under Communication, Customer Service, Motivation

My mother died about a year and a half ago. I was not ready to give away all of her things right away. Her costume jewelry fell into the “treasures” category. She loved to wear fun jewelry and was delighted when I gave her a new and colorful piece. I bought necklaces and pins that suited her, but not me, so keeping them would be pointless. But I hesitated to put all of her many pieces in a bag and have them treated like garbage at a donation center. Sorry, but that’s how I feel at some of the drop off points. It’s OK for most items, but I just couldn’t get past the way I felt about her jewelry.

Last week, I dropped off some household items at the Bargain Loft in Herndon, VA, and was amazed at the respect the volunteers showed toward my cast offs. I noticed a showcase loaded with costume jewelry and commented on it. The volunteer told me there was another volunteer who loved to clean up told pieces and price them.

Today, I took Mom’s jewelry to the Bargain Loft and the jewelry lady was there. She took a couple of necklaces out of the box and held one up to her neck. She said, “I love these bears.” It was a string of turquoise bears I had picked up for Mom on a trip. I felt so good that someone cared.

It doesn’t matter what your business is, when you show respect to all, everyone notices how you make them feel. It matters.


But It’s Only a Free Speech…

by , under Speaking Tips

My client said, “It’s only a free speech so I’m going to wing it. I’m very comfortable with this group. I know some of them very well.”

I hear that a lot. Is that you?

Unknown toCrazy Speaker you during your free speech, you are speaking to people who could catapult your speaking career. But you just wing it.

Too many times speakers with great potential wing it. Their presentations may even get rave reviews from audiences accustomed to unpaid speakers. But no one will pay for meandering unclear messy presentations even if they do have moments of brilliance. People who pay for speeches expect structure, a clear message, and relevant stories all delivered expertly.

Never, never wing it when you have a scheduled presentation. Always take time to prepare. Speak like you are a highly paid speaker even if you are just beginning. Deliver the very best presentation you can every time you speak.

Treat your audience like each person is a VIP, a very important person. They are.

It’s an honor to stand in front of them and have them listen to you. When you give your best every time, your best keeps getting better and better.

Each time you speak, you set yourself up for your next invitation with the corresponding fees you deserve.

I told that client, “Speak like you are being paid $10,000.” She decided to prepare like she was paid $10,000.

What will you do next time you speak for free?


Speaking & Writing Tip: Be timeless

by , under Speaking Tips, Writing Tip

I just clicked on a YouTube video that looked interesting. The speaker began, “It is [today’s date]…” The information he had to share will not be out-of-date next year. It will still be valuable. But it will seem old because he began with today’s date.

Make your speaking and writing timeless by leaving out unnecessary date references.



Make it easy for your customer

by , under Communication, Marketing

I have to sign in when I visit my mother in assisted living. Today, on the table with the sign in sheet was something new. At first glance, I thought it was a suggestion box. It was a box with a slit in the top where you could insert a piece of paper. Glued onto the box was a rip-off pad of printed pieces of paper the size of an index card. I looked closer and the printed papers had room for visitors to write compliments about the people who work in the facility.

I immediately felt ashamed of myself. Every time I visit, I plan to write a nice note about one of the employees when I get home, but by the time I’ve run a few errands or have met with a client, I just forget. The people who work with my 97 year old mother are angels. They are patient and caring. We are not allowed to give them gifts or money, so kind notes are all that is allowed.

Today, as I was about to leave, I ripped off several of the papers and wrote notes about how wonderful the employees are. They made it easy for me.

Do you make it easy for your clients to give you testimonials?


Speaking Tip: Trust but verify

by , under Authenticity, Speaking Tips

The first thing I saw in my email was, “Peach recall.” Listeria bacteria was found on peaches and Ray knew we had just bought a box from one of the stores listed. The next email I got was, “Peaches. Disregard. Ours are from Canada.” The recall was for California peaches. I was relieved. But later, I thought, “It’s way too early for peaches from Canada.” So I went to the garage and pulled the peach box out of the recycle bin. Ray had looked at the wrong box. He looked at the big produce box he carried our groceries home in. The peach box was smaller and under the bigger box. The peaches were not from Canada! But… they were from New Jersey. Our peaches were safe after all.

PeachesSometimes my clients believe I’m an ogre. I make them verify every fact they put into a speech. I want to know where they got that statistic or quote. It’s not good enough to repeat something from the Internet or TV unless it’s from a reputable source. You can quote a study you read on the National Institutes of Health website, or a statistic from a study you read on a major university’s website. You can quote what you heard someone say.

Even when your facts are from a reliable source, ask yourself, “Does it make sense?” This takes me back to when I was a kid. My brother and I were watching TV back when we had to sit through commercials. There was a new commercial (I think it was for potato chips) that proudly stated, “Not touched by human hands.” My brother quipped, “Yes. Monkeys pack the chips!”

Be careful what you repeat, forward, or use in a presentation. Trust but verify. Verify your facts.


Be careful what you go after

by , under Authenticity, Consulting, Marketing

Brown ToadBe careful what you go after. You might just get it.

Last night, Sherlock decided to go after the toad that sits in our flower bed every night. Mr. Toad looked like a tasty morsel. Sherlock caught him. Sherlock is a gentle guy who would never be like other terriers who were bred to kill small vermin. Sherlock just held the little toad in his mouth until I made him drop it. Then he realized he had a very, very nasty taste left in his mouth. He shook his head and spit and spit. It did no good. I took him in and washed his mouth out. No help.

Then I got scared. I remembered that some toads are poisonous. I consulted Dr. Google and got even more scared. I ran out and caught the toad in a Tupperware container. (I might need to have it identified.) I called our 24 hour vet and was relieved to learn that toads in our area just taste awful. They’re not poisonous. Sherlock was OK. I returned Mr. Toad to the flower bed.

This adventure reminded me of a speaking engagement I got years ago. I accepted an engagement that seemed a good fit and would be complementary to what I normally offer. As I prepared, I came to see that my heart wasn’t in it. I did an OK job, but I wasn’t proud of myself.

Now each time I talk to a prospective client, I ask myself, “Do I really want this?” I give myself permission to turn down work that isn’t right for me.

What about you? Have you ever gone after and taken work or clients that weren’t a good fit?


Sally Strackbein inducted into “The Million Dollar Consultant Hall of Fame”

by , under Communication, Consulting

Sally Strackbein inducted into the
Million Dollar Consultant Hall® of Fame

Sally Strackbein, Defining Story in Oak Hill, VA (Washington, DC), is the newest inductee into the Million Dollar Consultant® Hall of Fame, one of only 55 in the world so honored.

Criteria for election include:

  •  Serving as an exemplar to others in the profession.
  • Manifesting the highest levels of integrity, ethics, and accountability.
  • Achieving significant annual revenue and profit improvement.
  • Contributing intellectual capital to the consulting profession.
  • Engaging in continuing, challenging, personal and professional development.
  • Risk taking and demonstrating resilience.
Sally Strackbein and Alan Weiss

Alan Weiss inducts Sally Strackbein into Million Dollar Consultant Hall of Fame

Sally Strackbein was awarded the distinction of being regarded by peers as one of the world leaders in consulting, as evidenced by empirical accomplishments in client results, professional contributions, and intellectual property.

The award was announced at the Million Dollar Consulting Mentor Summit held in Los Angeles, by Alan Weiss, Ph.D., who conducts a global mentoring program for consultants. Dr. Weiss himself holds multiple awards in the consulting and speaking professions, and is the author of 55 books, include Million Dollar Consulting.




Speaking Mistakes New Speakers Make

by , under Speaking Tips

You can always tell an emerging speaker from a successful one. Note, I said, “successful” and not “experienced.” I’ve seen experienced speakers who continue to make the same mistakes over and over, and they never become successful.

Here are 4 mistakes successful speakers don’t make:

1. Pack in too much material:

When you deliver too much information, your listeners can’t remember what you said. They get overwhelmed.

2. No message clarity:

When your message is muddy or too all over the map, your listeners can’t say, “He talked about ____ and we should have him for our next meeting.” No matter how much they like you, when they struggle to describe what your presentation was about, they can’t recommend you. And they can’t use what they did(n’t) learn.

3. All in the head:

When you deliver only facts and no stories or examples, people get bored and tune out, even if they are interested in your talk. (Read why the brain needs stories.)

4. New speech every time:

Speakers who are not as successful as they would like frequently craft a new speech every time. Successful speakers give the same speech over and over until all the kinks are worked out, all the points are crystal clear, and each point is supported with a relevant example or story. And a call to action!

Want to become a better speaker?
Attend our Speaking & Storytelling Workshop




3 Places Stories Really Work

by , under Business Storytelling, Communication, Storytelling

Newsletters, social media, blogs, websites

SherlockA couple of months ago, we got a new dog, a cute little 6 pound Yorkie. He’s a bundle of love.  He came with the name, Cooper, but didn’t respond to it. Ray and I couldn’t agree on a new name, so we decided to have a naming contest. I sent an email to my list. I also posted on Facebook. We got 109 submissions and all 3 of us (Ray, Sherlock, and I) agreed that “Sherlock” was just right.

I got more response from that series of messages than anything else I’ve done. People love the Sherlock story. And… because people actually opened the email and read my Facebook post, I got business, even though I had not asked for it. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Want business? Get personal!

PresentationsGwen Kinsey

If you want to be memorable, tell stories and use examples.

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a local leadership breakfast. The speaker had us break up into small groups for a discussion. When he asked us to report back, one person cited a leadership story that speaker, Gwen Kinsey, had told many months ago. After that same meeting, a man mentioned to me that Gwen had been a valuable and memorable speaker.

Stories make your presentations (and your facts) memorable and persuasive.

Facts bore, stories score!

Applications and Interviews

Sonia Patterson, Brava Award WinnerMy client, Sonia Patterson, was nominated for the Smart CEO Brava award. She had only one day to complete the application. She called me for help. She sent me her draft application. I said, “It needs some stories.” I told her that real, emotional, success stories about how Five Talents succeeds in raising people out of poverty would help the judges really get in both their hearts and their heads why both she and her organization deserve the award.

She won! The stories worked. Five Talents will get major PR because Sonia is a Brava Award winner.

Tell success stories in your applications for jobs or for awards.

Stories work!


Want to discover the stories you should be telling?

Join us May 19-20 for our Speaking/Storytelling Workshop

  • Discover your best stories
  • Craft, fine tune your stories, and tell them like a pro
  • Learn when and where to tell your stories for greatest impact

Too Good to be True

by , under Authenticity, Speaking Tips, Storytelling

When we adopted Sherlock six weeks ago, he was a very, very good dog. He didn’t do anything naughty. I’ve always been suspicious of anything that was too good. Kids that get straight As, employees who never miss a day of work, speakers who never blunder. Plastic, smooth, boring. Just too unbelievable.

After a couple of weeks, Sherlock began to loosen up. He began to play with toys. He tried to get into a grocery bag. He barked at night. But he was still too good to be true.

As I was sitting at my desk this afternoon, I heard him gnawing at something. I worked busily and ignored him, thinking he was chewing his dog bone. When I finally looked down, it was not his bone at all. It was a USB cable. Luckily, it wasn’t one that mattered. Today, I am not worried anymore. He is not Mr. Perfect. He is a normal, bad dog. Tonight, he goes to his first training class.


In our storytelling workshop this week, one of the attendees was clearly worried about stumbling or making a mistake when it was her turn to speak. I told her that perfection is not allowed in our workshops. I love it when speakers are natural. They stop and change direction occasionally. They lose their train of thought and pause for a long time to get back on track. They make you feel like it’s OK to be human.

I’m looking forward to the life and speaking lessons in store from Sherlock.


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