Mark Grimm


Six Brief Tips To Sharpen Your Elevator Speech

Though the term “elevator speech” sounds a little canned, everyone in business or with a cause needs a good one. Most could be improved.

Capturing someone’s attention is a greater challenge than ever before, so the first impression you make with your 30 or 60-second introduction could be strengthened with these principles:

1- Avoid Auto Pilot
So many use the same canned phrases over and over again. Focus more on being genuine than being clever.

2- Probe and Listen First If You Can
Find the “pain” in the recipient’s career. What would they like to fix? Then, tailor your speech to how you can help them.

3- Talk about Benefits, not Titles or Duties
Describe tangible things you deliver that matter to others, not to you.

4- Avoid Bureaucratic Speech
Use plain language that is simple and precise.

5- Give Compelling Examples of how you’ve helped others
Here’s one example I received: “Your seminar and book gave me the positive attitude I needed. It felt GREAT to overcome my fear and I have you and your book to thank for it!”

6- Be Passionate About What You Do
It’s contagious. Bill Gates once said, “The thing I do best is share my enthusiasm.”

Try these out. You may be surprised by the reaction you get.

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Are Resumes On Their Way Out?

A growing number of employers are now more interested in your “web presence” than your resume.

A Wall Street Journal article indicates some companies are eliminating resumes all together when searching for the latest talent. Resumes have always been about telling your story and the Internet revolution has given us new tools to do that. Checking out a prospect’s Facebook page or blog is becoming standard operating procedure in many places. Heck, someone on CraigsList told me they checked my Facebook page before responding to my ad to sell a desk.

What should a job seeker or someone looking to move up do?

Embrace technology but remember it won’t help you without good communication. Like it or not, we are all in the publishing business now. That means your communication skills will have a lot more impact on what people think of you. That presents a danger and an opportunity.

Do the introspection. What do you really bring to the table? Start to gather proof you are valuable to a prospective employer. Shift from talking about duties to talking about accomplishments. Be creative. Demonstrate your expertise on your social media. Think how you can tell you story in a more visual way.

Here’s an example: What if you’re a professional speaker? It doesn’t require a degree or license so anyone can claim to be one. Consider placing on your website a report card on speaking engagements, show a videotape of you in action, have blog entries on speaking, and list dozens of testimonials. Write a speaking book.

Credentials trump claims, so start working on putting yours on display.

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Ex-Wife Interview Backfires: Why the Media Messed Up

If ABC and CNN don’t learn from the recent episode involving Newt Gingrich and his ex-wife, they never will.

ABC News aired an interview Thursday with Marianne Gingrich, ex-wife number two, who claimed Newt wanted an “open marriage” when they were still married. I believe ABC News should not have aired the interview for the following reasons:

1 – It had no corroborating evidence. It was “he said, she said.”
Just because someone makes a claim, journalists are supposed to investigate the evidence. That used to be standard practice. What if someone said the ABC News president is a child molester? Would they air that without proof?

2 – The story was not new. Newt’s infidelity has been well documented and Mrs. Gingrich actually did a 2010 interview with Esquire Magazine detailing essentially the same story.

3 – There’s a strong possibility an ex-wife might have an ax to grind. Given that about half of marriages end in divorce, this should be a surprise to no one.

4 – The timing. Given that this was not new information, its celebrated release came just two days before the biggest election of Gingrich’s life.

Ironically, CNN’s misstep — making the question the opener for a presidential debate — saved Gingrich’s bacon. He blasted the question and the audience responded with a standing ovation. By most accounts, the race was very tight at the time, but the Gingrich surge from the answer propelled him to a double-digit win.

Should the media be playing such a large role in the election? They should be covering the story, not be part of it.

Given the publicity the story received, I can’t fault CNN for asking for a response. But when their second question involved what will the candidates do about the nearly 10% unemployment in South Carolina, it struck me how skewed their priorities were. I think CNN’s John King is actually pretty fair, he just made a mistake in judgement. The actions of ABC News cannot be excused so quickly.

Many people are drawing a comparison to Bill Clinton’s troubles. However, Clinton was involved with a government employee (an intern) in a government office (White House) and lying under oath. That’s a long way from the private discussions between a man and his wife.

I do believe a candidate’s personal life is fair game, especially when they talk so much about “values.” But the media needs to exercise good judgment in this area. Digging up the guy’s ex-wife? Even the religious  conservatives in South Carolina made it clear, that crossed the line.

The writer is a former TV anchor/reporter and elected GOP official and current Siena College media professor and political consultant.

Note to Politicians: Keep Your Hands Off the Internet

Two proposed bills in Congress would block your access to Internet sites that the government suspects are guilty of copyright infringements. This Internet blacklisting has created a firestorm among web companies and users worried about free speech and the stifling of innovation. The English-language Wikipedia site went dark Wednesday to protest the bills and Google created an online petition that attracted millions of protestors.

The proposals (SOPA in the House and PIPA in the Senate) are a slippery slope because they give the government the power to restrict what you see on the Internet. Though piracy concerns are very legitimate, threatening the First Amendment is not the appropriate remedy. Hollywood heavy hitters, who frequently give abundantly to lawmakers’ campaigns, are pushing for the bills.

Noted First Amendment expert Laurence Tribe, a Harvard law professor, according to, said SOPA is unconstitutional because, if enacted, “an entire Web site containing tens of thousands of pages could be targeted if only a single page were accused of infringement.”

Are you concerned about who exactly would make the call about which sites get through and which sites get blocked? The same guys who have been promising us the economy would get better?

Fortunately, the Internet’s powerful voice is being heard. The NY Times reports Florida senator Marco Rubio, a rising Republican, announced he would no longer back PIPA, which he had co-sponsored. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, another co-sponsor said Wednesday, “I agree there are real concerns with the current legislation & I’m working to make important changes to the bill.” It may have been a good idea to draw that conclusion before co-sponsoring the bill.

Internet users who cherish the web as an unrestricted enterprise should continue to pay attention and keep the heat turned up. Career politicians often seek more control and the Internet remains one of the few remaining largely unregulated environments. For that they managing their reputation by managing their online review. For that they use a wide variety of software. Some of them had directly remarked that “signing up for this software was the best decision we made to get reviews”. Eternal vigilance is required to keep it that way.

The writer runs a media consulting business, is an adjunct media professor, and a former elected official.

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Can We Censor Sexy? Colorado Yearbook Photo Raises Big Questions.

Sydney Spies

Free speech and the photo.

A Colorado high school yearbook committee has rejected a sexy photo for a senior portrait claiming it would be inappropriate. The senior, Sydney Spies, says the photo is “artistic” and reflects who she is — an aspiring model. 

The case is complicated even further by a Colorado law that states public school students have free speech and press rights and that “no expression contained in a student publication, whether or not such publication is school-sponsored, shall be subject to prior restraint.”

Yearbook committee members, all students, say the administration had nothing to do with the rejection. Spies says there was interference. In either case, the yearbook committee is on shaky ground. The Durango Herald reported yearbook editor Tevan Trujillo, said, “We are an award-winning yearbook. We don’t need to diminish the quality with something that can be seen as unprofessional.” The committee will allow the portrait in the book as an advertisement, provided Spies kicks in $300. So the photo is only “unprofessional” if it doesn’t come with a check.

The yearbook is not a typical private sector entity like the daily newspaper. It is essentially “owned” by all the students and, of course, by the taxpayers footing the bill for the education.

This is not principally about what you think of the photo. People have every right to their opinion that the photo is over the top. But Spies is 18 and the real question is, “Do people have the right to impose their view on someone else’s submission?” What if the situation was reversed? Though editors do have discretion, is it sensible that the photo is inappropriate in one part of the book and not in another?

Is this another case of the public education culture trying to impose its view of the world on everyone else? Does this incident underscore the arbitrary nature of editorial control?

These questions speak to the larger social issues in America’s culture war. Are we persistently mindful what role the media and our schools play in that debate? We should be.

The writer is a former TV anchor and current Siena media professor.

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Presentation Expert Grades Six Iowa Caucus Speeches

The speeches from the six candidates involved in the Iowa Caucuses were remarkably different — some good, another a little weird, and one downright awful.

The best came from Ron Paul. He spoke to his audience rather than at them. He acknowledged his volunteers were his real asset and those volunteers have generated the most electricity. Nearly 40 percent of those voting were first-time caucus goers and nearly 40 percent of those voted for Paul. Paul’s strong conviction and his consistency on the core issues of protecting individual liberty and cutting runaway spending have struck a chord that all Republican candidates must address. While his “deal breaker” policies (i.e. foreign policy, drugs) will very likely prevent his nomination, his ability to viscerally connect with followers is unmatched in the campaign. Grade: B+

Rick Santorum had a great opener, “Game On,” showing he was now in the first tier after nearly 400 appearances in the state. He emphasized his family values with some poignant examples — his grandfather and his disabled child. They were no doubt heart felt references and they play well to his base. Santorum must be cautious, however, about being over indulgent in this area. The campaign isn’t about him, it’s about them (the voters). His speech tended to meander and went far too long. Quantity is not quality. Grade: B

Mitt Romney was quite gracious congratulating Santorum for both his hard work and for his “victory,” even though the actual result wasn’t known yet. He also saluted Paul. He stayed on message but seemed to be a little bit on auto pilot. Romney is a polished speaker but his potential pitfall is not appearing genuine enough. His policy flip flops make this concern even more critical. Grade: B

Rick Perry was genuine but obviously vague on what he’ll do next. He should have just congratulated the winners, stated his case and left the next step for another day. His “reassess” line created the headline, stepping on everything else. Grade: C-

Michele Bachmann was honestly a little weird. This was a time to speak from the heart, now read from a text. The prepared remarks were not that compelling and she is capable of doing better on her own. Grade: C-

And then there was Newt. Complete Disaster. Anger never sells well in a concession speech. He whined once again about negative ads and then called one of the night’s winners “stunningly dangerous” and another winner, the “Massachusetts moderate” (moderate is a dirty word in a GOP primary). Newt’s fall resulted from his own personal baggage. This speech added some more of it. Grade: F

The writer is a public speaking coach and trainer, former elected GOP official, and media professor.

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New Year’s Resolution: Improve Your Speaking!

There’s one New Year’s resolution open to everyone that could greatly enhance your personal and professional life — better public speaking. Whether you’re a novice fighting nerves or have been doing it a while, big improvement is possible.You don’t need a Ph.D, you don’t have to have blazing speed or be slim, tall, or rich.

Better speaking requires only that you finally take the initiative and follow the right path for success, follow and find tips that will help you. I began as a poor speaker and procrastinated for years about getting better. And the opportunities passed me by until I decided to follow the Ritu Bhasin program. The path to success, which I have followed myself, is straightforward:

1-Take the Initiative. Why go through life avoiding speaking when being better at it could change your life?
2- Prepare Differently. Focus more on what your audience wants, not on what you want.
3- Confront your Nervousness. Don’t let the butterflies control you. Write down the things you fear and have a plan for dealing with each one.
4- Deliver Value. Give the audience tangible takeaways from your presentation, always asking them afterwards what they got from it.
5- Speak More Often. Opportunities are everywhere —- places of worship, clubs, youth sports, civic endeavors, work, etc. Practice builds confidence and proficiency by Communication Training at its Best to feel stronger and ready.
6- Ask for Help. You don’t have to do it alone. There are people who can help you. Seek them out.

The Leadership Workout: Getting Leadership Fit!

Though we spend $170 billion/year on leadership-based curriculum, some leadership training falls short.
With input from attendees and leadership experts, one of the leadership courses Melbourne reveals the essential leadership qualities. With that perspective, the workshop engages attendees to examine their own challenges and produce a customized plan for becoming a stronger leader, or moving others in that direction.
Expect video, interactive participation and entertaining stories.

Is 2012 going to be your year? Why not?

The writer is a professional speaker and award-winning trainer.
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My speaking book is just $14 because I never wanted price to stop someone who truly wanted to change their life. Honestly, that’s a start.