A Five-Step Strategy for Getting Out of Debt

Guest blog by Loral Langmeier
Author of The Millionaire Maker: Act, Think, and Make Money the Way the Wealthy Do 

Most people with debt problems are so caught up in their Lifestyle Cycle or their debt juggling that they can’t imagine finding a positive solution that will enable them to build wealth. Many would be so grateful to end the pain and panic of debt that they don’t think much further than that one issue. Chuck Wallace had made the decision to remove himself emotionally from his debt and the reasons he got into it. For him this became, as it should for you, a pure business venture, a matter of simply applying dollars and cents to abolish debt. Committed to putting the debt plan in place, Chuck had relinquished the idea that he was too far in and only a windfall could save him. Chuck also understood that it takes longer to get out of debt than it does to get into it; but since, as he started to get out of debt, he was also creating wealth, he didn’t feel that he was losing any time making himself a millionaire.

I know for a fact that because you want to, you can and will be able to end your role as a debtor and become a lender. By diligently employing basic debt elimination measures, you can get out of the debt cycle within three to seven years and at the same time start to build your Wealth Cycle. It is key to understand that these processes are simultaneous. The following Five-Step Debt Elimination Plan is what we use for all of our clients. If you have debt it will help you begin to get out of that debt, as well as into the habit of the Wealth Account Priority Payment. As you move forward in this process you will note that what makes this different from the other debt elimination processes is that this approach allows you to live a normal life while you eliminate your bad debt. I’ve actually seen books that make you question why you need to buy any new clothes for a year. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t work for me. If you personally do not have debt, you may know many others who do, and by helping them through this process, you help all of us to live in a better society.

Step 1. Create a Debt Elimination Box
List all your consumer debt. Like your Financial Baseline items, this should be done electronically so you can keep track easily. This list should include all of your credit cards, charge accounts, any high-interest loans that are not against an asset, and other outstanding credit or liabilities. The list should include (1) the name of the creditor, (2) the amount you owe, (3) minimum monthly payments, and (4) the interest rate. 

Step 2. The Factoring Number
To fill in the last column, the factoring number, the following simple calculation is necessary. Take the number in column 2, which is the amount of the debt, and divide that number by the number in column 3, which is the minimum monthly payment required. For example, if you owe $7,000 on your credit card and the minimum monthly payment is $200, your factoring number would be 35. Fill in the factoring number for each item on your consumer debt list.

Step 3. Priority Payoff Box
On a new list, take the debt with the lowest factoring number and put it at the top. This debt is the first priority payoff. Continue to list the debt in order of the factoring number, with the debt with the lowest factoring number appearing in first place, the debt with the second lowest factoring number in second place, all the way down to the debt with the highest factoring number listed at the bottom.

Step 4. The Jump-Start Allocation
In addition to the minimum payments required, you are going to take $200 from your current spending and allocate this to your debt elimination plan. This amount, about $7 a day, will greatly accelerate your debt elimination plan. Don’t scream. This is going to be easier than you think. And once you put together your detailed Financial Baseline you will have a clear understanding of where your money comes from and where your money goes. Finding that $200 will not be difficult, and your cash flow from new assets may create the extra money. In my experience, when you list every single expenditure
in your Financial Baseline, you will find a cut that doesn’t even come close to forcing you to scrimp or sacrifice.

On the Financial Baseline of one of my clients, I discovered $600 a month spent on sushi. After several attempts to defend this expenditure, she finally, reluctantly, painstakingly, made a decision to spend just $400 a month on sushi. My guess is that when you honestly dig up your expenditures, you’ll discover a few sushi-like items that you could, perhaps, not do away with altogether but cut down on a bit. For those of you still smoking, you can kill two birds with one stone: take care of your health and your wealth by cutting out cigarettes.

Step 5. Debt Payments
Take the debt listed in the first spot of the priority payoff box and apply the $200 jump-start allocation to the minimum payment listed with this debt. For example, if the minimum payment is $350, add the $200 for a new monthly payment of $550.While you continue to pay the normal monthly minimum payments on all the other debts, you will pay, in this example, $550 monthly on this specific debt until it is paid in full. When you’re finished paying off the debt in the number one spot, you will take the amount you paid for those minimum monthly payments, plus the jump-start allocation, in our example $550, and add this amount, $550, to the minimum payment on the debt in the second slot. As you can see, the payments build and build as you drop on down the list of debts and your capacity to pay off your debt accelerates incrementally. Though you will be uncomfortable with this process at first, when you witness the speed at which you make progress, debt elimination will become as addictive as accumulating the debt once was.

In this plan, it is vital that you commit to making the minimum payments, and also to adding the jump-start allocation. That number, the jump-start allocation, must be specific and consistent. Additionally, you must have in your mindset that as you pay off one debt, the minimum payments stay in this debt payment pool and contribute to the next debt’s payments. That is the only way this will work. And it works wonderfully well. You will be amazed at the speed with which you cross off each debt payment. And by the time you get to the one at the bottom, the one with the highest factoring number, which in reality represents the months it should take to pay it based on the original monthly payment, you’ll see that you’ll pay that debt off much faster than the factoring number indicated.

Making these commitments is tough to do on your own. I strongly recommend that you share your priority payoff box with members of your team. At times, you’ll be tempted to use your credit cards or assume some additional debt. If your close friends and advisors have been given permission to check in with you about your debt, they will facilitate your process with a system of checks and balances against your old impulses.

Copyright © 2006

8 Myths About Money

Guest blog by Loral Langmeier
Author of The Millionaire Maker: Act, Think, and Make Money the Way the Wealthy Do 

I grew up on a farm in Nebraska. My family had always worked hard for their money, and as a result, I always equated working hard with making money, with no idea that my beliefs could not have been further from truth. As I educated myself on human behavior and financial strategies, I learned that it’s actually the people who make their money work hard for them, rather than the people who work hard for their money, who end up with more of it. Since creating my millionaire-making program, I’ve learned that I was not alone. There are many people who shared this same myth.

Much like our views about many things -- people, relationships, food, and health to name a few -- our beliefs came from our parents, our teachers, and other adults in our lives. And it goes back even further, beyond them, back to the circumstances through which they lived, or what they learned from their parents, what their parents learned from their parents, and so on. These beliefs are ingrained, and because they’re usually subconscious, the cycles are continuous -- until someone breaks them. You can break the cycle. Beliefs about money are many and varied, but in my research, I’ve discovered that there are a few that predominate.

Money is scarce. Several of us have parents or grandparents who lived through the Great Depression, an era that rooted an entire generation in a scarcity mindset. These people passed onto their children the idea that money was in short supply and that when it did surface, spending had to be limited and saving was imperative. If any of the following ever crossed your mind—“A penny saved is a penny earned,” “Don’t dip into savings,” or “We can’t afford it” -- then you have this perspective and rainy days loom ominously. Money doesn’t grow on trees. These threats create a fearful relationship with money.

Money is evil, dirty, or bad. Several of us have parents or grandparents who believe that the road to bad places is lined with green. They’ve only ever seen the drawbacks of the rat race, the downside of the money chase, and the audacity and indulgence of those with too much money. Some even believe that wealthy people are bad people. Novels and films often highlight the idea that it’s the crooked ones who make the money. The meek shall inherit the earth. Such prophecies create a hands-off relationship with money.

Money comes monthly. The most common way to make a living is to be employed, either with a company or as a skilled professional, with a weekly wage or an annual salary. Historically, this provided the safe, sure thing required by heads of households. Yet, that level of risk was usually balanced with an equal level of reward -- low and low. For most, even those who do very well, working for a company or as a skilled professional is a constrained opportunity. Except for the outrageous exceptions, the average CEO of the average company making six figures a year will still experience only a small increase in salary during his or her lifetime. Slow and steady wins the race. Such fables create a cautious relationship to money.

Money is not for me. Some people feel that they don’t deserve to be wealthy or that there is only so much of the millionaire pie to go around. Creating wealth and financial freedom is available to everyone. It is our right to be wealthy, and my hope is that people take their space and know they deserve it. By making money, you are not taking it from someone else; this isn’t Bonnie and Clyde Go to the Bank. By making money, you create a greater capacity to contribute, and it’s your duty to do this. Better them than me. Such adages create a defeated relationship to money.

Money is a man thing. There was a time that men made and managed the household money. That time was not so long ago, and some of you may have grown up with such conditioning. Though there are gender tendencies, for example, men tend to carry more money in their pocket than women and are more likely to invest than women, the reasons behind this are not genetic; they are realities falsely fabricated from years of conditioning. Women and men need to understand that money knows no gender. One of my programs that really resonates with up and coming wealth builders is “Wealth Diva: A Man Is Not a Plan.” This is a must-do seminar for every man and woman, and the daughters and sons they love. Let him bring home the bacon. Such perceptions create an apathetic relationship to money.

Money is good medicine. For some people, retail therapy goes a long way; there’s no difficulty a new blouse can’t cure. At the moment, we live in a culture of consumerism, and many of us use money to fill the unsatisfying holes in our lives. Some people grew up with a sense of entitlement about money, assuming their parents or a trust fund would always pay for everything, and in the process, they became careless about what they had. This is a vicious and unproductive cycle. The new car gets old, the closet fills up with clothes, and the toys pile up in the playroom. This is notto say there aren’t wonderful things to buy and spend our money on; after all, money should be fun. But as with overeating, too much spending on the wrong things can get any of us feeling sluggish and sad. Shop till you drop. Such bombarding messages create a disrespectful or nonchalant relationship to money.

Money is always a menace. For too many of us, money was always a problem. Bills were a hassle, keeping up with the Joneses was exhausting, entrepreneurs were considered nuts, and one’s station in life was, well, stationary. And getting rich would be worse. Money can be such a burden, not to mention all that paperwork and responsibility. These views of money create a perspective that money is actually a problem, not a solution. It’s hard enough just to survive, let alone thrive. Such pessimism creates a negative relationship to money.

Money talk is taboo. Many of us have been brought up to believe that conversations about money are in bad taste. Money and financial success, and failures, are considered personal subjects that shouldn’t be discussed and certainly shouldn’t be taught. Few of us asked our parents how much money they made, and even now, there are people who don’t know their spouse’s salaries. The results have unintended consequences and have created a world where very few people are having real conversations about money and finances, the very conversations they need to learn and succeed. These things are not discussed in polite society, dear. Such a scolding creates an ignorant relationship to money.

In each of these examples, it’s clear that unless your parents made a conscious choice to think and act differently, they conditioned you to have the same mindset as them. If you make a decision to break this cycle, you will have the opportunity to teach your children to have more productive beliefs about, and a more profitable relationship to, money. As you come to understand the beliefs you hold, you will work to change them. Through the action steps in this process, and with the help of mentors and respected friends, you will change your behavior. By sharing your desire for new beliefs and asking your mentors and respected friends to help you spot the subconscious limitations you may be putting on yourself, you will teach your brain to follow your behavior. Begin now by restating your beliefs. For example, if you’ve discovered that you hold any of the above examples as beliefs, you will

1. Change “money is scarce” to “money is abundant” and support a courageous relationship to money.
2. Change “money is evil, dirty, or bad” to “money is good and acceptable” and create a hands-on relationship to money.
3. Change “money comes monthly” to “money comes from a range of sources” and create an opportunistic relationship to money.
4. Change “money is not for me” to “who better than me for money to come to” and create an empowered relationship to money.
5. Change “money is a man thing” to “I can and will know about and understand money,” and create a thoughtful relationship to money.
6. Change “money is good medicine” to “money is a tool to help make my life better” and create a respectful and concerned relationship to money.
7. Change “money is a menace” to “money is a solution” and create a positive relationship to money.
8. Change “money talk is taboo” to “money talk is vital” and create a knowledgeable relationship to money.

You can see how much better it is to be courageous, hands-on, opportunistic, empowered, thoughtful, respectful and concerned, positive, and knowledgeable than to be fearful, hands-off, cautious, defeated, apathetic, disrespectful and nonchalant, negative, and ignorant. The choice is yours and it looks like you’re well on your way. You’ve already taken a huge step by deciding to actually take the first step. By making the decision to start right now, you have created the opportunity to raise your financial consciousness and change your life.

Copyright © 2006

Country Lentil Soup

Guest recipe by Lynn Dowling
Author of Healing Fatty Liver Disease: A Complete Health and Diet Guide, Including 100 Recipes

Tips: Adding the chopped mushroom stems improves the texture of the cheese mixture.
The cheese mixture also makes a great veggie dip.

• Preheat barbecue grill to medium
• Food processor

4 large portobello mushrooms 4
2 tsp olive oil 10 mL
2 cloves garlic, minced 2
2 cups tightly packed fresh spinach leaves 500 mL
2 tbsp chopped fresh basil 30 mL
1 cup 2% cottage cheese 250 mL
1⁄4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese 60 mL
4 4-inch (10 cm) whole wheat pitas, split open 4
Roasted red pepper slices (optional)

1. Wipe mushroom caps with a damp paper towel and gently twist off stems. Coarsely chop stems and set aside. Using the edge of a spoon, gently scrape off and discard the dark gills from the caps.
2. Brush both sides of mushroom caps with oil and place on preheated grill. Grill, turning once, for 2 to 3 minutes per side or until lightly browned on both sides. Set aside.
3. In food processor, combine mushroom stems, garlic, spinach, basil, cottage cheese and Parmesan; process until uniformly smooth but not puréed.
4. Place 1 grilled mushroom cap, rounded side down, on a pita half and fill with one-quarter of the cheese mixture. Top with the other pita half. Garnish with roasted peppers (if using).

Makes 4 servings

Calories 278
Fat 7 g
Carbohydrate 39 g
Fiber 6 g
Protein 19 g
© 2013 www.robertrose.ca

Guacamole (or 'Lobster Guac')

Guest recipe by Linda De Villers, PhD
Author of Simple Sexy Food: 101 Tasty Aphrodisiac Recipes and Sensual Tips to Stir Your Libido and Feed Your L

If your honey loves guacamole, surprise him or her with this special version. It is guaranteed to drive you both wild!

Sexy Foods: lobster, avocado, chili, ginger


1 cup diced avocado (about 1 large)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (about 1 to 2 limes)
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped red onion
1/2 teaspoon seeded, minced fresh Anaheim chili
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 to 3 grindings black pepper, or to taste
2 ounces cooked lobster meat, chopped
Pickled ginger slices (gari) for garnishing
Sesame rice crackers


1. In a medium, nonreactive bowl, combine the avocado, lime juice, cilantro, onion, and chili, and carefully mix together with a spoon.
2. Add the salt and several grindings of pepper, or to taste, mix gently, then fold in the lobster.
3. Serve in chilled, large martini glasses and garnish with a little of the pickled ginger on the rim of each glass. Or use other decorative bowls and garnish with a few pieces of ginger in the
center of each serving. Accompany with the crackers.

1 1/2 cups, 2 generous starter servings

Simple Sexy Kitchen Tip: If the guacamole isn’t finished in one sitting, place a piece of plasticwrap directly on the surface, cover tightly, and refrigerate. Then finish it up within 24 hours.

Love Skills: One of the best tools in the seduction kit is surprise. If your lover loves
guacamole, he or she is liable to do back flips when you serve this ridiculously sexy dish.

Chilled Asparagus with Lemon Sauce

Guest recipe by Linda De Villers, PhD
Author of Simple Sexy Food: 101 Tasty Aphrodisiac Recipes and Sensual Tips to Stir Your Libido and Feed Your L (

This recipe needs just a few simple ingredients and a deft hand. Egg yolk and lemon complement the taste of the asparagus.

SEXY FOODS: asparagus, egg


1 1/2 pounds asparagus, tough ends removed, spears tied in a bundle
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Salt to taste
1/4 teaspoon sugar, optional


1. Set up a large bowl half full of ice and cold water.
2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil and cook the bundled asparagus until just tender-crisp, 5 to 7 minutes.
3. Drain the asparagus, reserving 1 scant cup of the cooking liquid. Immediately immerse the asparagus in the ice bath to arrest further cooking. Drain the asparagus and set aside.
4. In a small saucepan, mix the cornstarch with a tablespoon or two of the reserved cooking liquid and blend well. Stir in the remaining cooking liquid and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the sauce thickens slightly. Remove from heat and allow
to cool slightly.
5. In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks thoroughly with the lemon juice then gradually stir into the cooled sauce.
6. Cook the sauce over very low heat, stirring constantly, until fairly thick. Be careful not to overheat the sauce or it may curdle. When thickened, remove from heat and continue
stirring for 1 minute.
7. Season to taste with salt, and if you prefer a slightly less tangy sauce, stir in the sugar. Allow the sauce to cool slightly.
8. Stir the cooled sauce and drizzle a little over the cooked asparagus. Cover the asparagus and remaining sauce separately and refrigerate both for at least 2 hours.
9. To serve, attractively arrange asparagus on individual plates and serve the lemon sauce alongside.

Simple Sexy Kitchen Tip: There’s an old Roman saying, “As quick as cooking asparagus,” meaning something accomplished rapidly. And you’ve got to appreciate its prolific growth: Some will grow 10” per day and must be harvested twice a day! Hey honey, about we cook up some asparagus over our lunch hour, and then again for dinner?

Survey Secrets Quote: “My sexiest food experience was being hand fed asparagus by a tall, thin naked lady. Wow! That sounds almost bisexual.”

Opposite Diet

Guest post by Leslie Landis
Author of The Art of Overeating: A Bellyful of Laughs About Our Food-phobic Culture

1. 'Leave no leftovers in restaurant.' OPPOSITE ADVICE - Ask the waiter to divide whatever you have ordered in half and put one of those halves in a doggie bag before you are served. That way there will be leftovers for dinner the next day. Most people think they will take home whatever is left over, but then usually finish everything. People don't have to worry about not having enough to eat because most restaurants provide humongous portions.

2. 'Never share.' OPPOSITE ADVICE - Always share. Whenever possible, split a meal with your dinner companion. It is worth the 'split' charge and will save your waist and money.

3. 'Order from every category on a menu.' OPPOSITE ADVICE - Keep in mind that restaurants have all those categories (and have added even more) - the bread, the starter, the appetizer, the 1st course, the 2nd course, etc. - to get you to order (and eat) more. Keep it to 3 dishes - an appetizer or salad, a main course (with no sides) and a dessert where you can ask to leave off the extra scoop or whipped cream. Another good tactic is order an appetizer for your main course. Again, most restaurants serve large appetizer portions.

4. 'Save the environment and eat everything you order.' OPPOSITE ADVICE - You will help save the environment if you order and eat just what you need. All the excess food has a carbon footprint. 

5. 'Always clean your plate.' OPPOSITE ADVICE - In spite of what you were told when you growing up, you don't have to clean your plate. That's where a dog comes in handy.

6. 'Anytime is a good time to eat.' OPPOSITE ADVICE - Have 3 set times to eat during the day. This will train your stomach to feel hunger at those times. Eating only when you are hungry and eating just enough to feel satisfied is the goal. It is okay to have small snacks in between.

7. 'Food is love.' 'Emotional eating.' 'Reward yourself.' OPPOSITE ADVICE - All these topics use the idea of food as a substitute for love, as a salve for unhappiness and as a reward for difficulties. Instead, make a list of other things that give you joy and pleasure. Then do those things instead. The list is endless and personal - going to a movie, getting together with friends or family, helping others, playing with your children, petting your cat, throwing the ball for your dog.

8. 'Avoid the produce department in the supermarket.' OPPOSITE ADVICE - The first place you want to go in the supermarket is the produce area. That is where to spend a lot of time and a large share of your budget. Then you will have less time and money for the less healthy and more fattening foods. And always make a list of what you need to buy so you don't end up going through every aisle where temptation might get you.

9. 'Hide food for future nibbles.' OPPOSITE ADVICE - This idea applies more to women. Men don't seem to mind eating gargantuan amounts of food in front of others, but women are more likely to overeat when no one is looking. So it is best to eat with others as much as possible. When that is not possible, create an imaginary friend - even out of cardboard - to sit opposite you. Who would want George Clooney to see them pig out!

10. 'You can't be addicted to food.' OPPOSITE ADVICE - Actually, you can. Don't be a victim of the food industry's air brushed food ads and the restaurants with their huge portions. Keep in mind that we need to eat and it is great to enjoy eating - in the amounts your body needs. 

11. 'In case there is no tomorrow, eat everything you can today.' OPPOSITE ADVICE - If you eat everything you can today, there may be no tomorrow for you!

The Good News about Being a Woman Speaker: How So-Called "Feminine Traits" Translate into Speaker Strengths

Guest post by Lois Philips, Ph.D.
Author of Women Seen and Heard: Lessons Learned from Successful Speakers

“Listen up. My presentation will change your life.” 

No doubt about it: in order to be successful at work, or in a community leadership role, women must master presentation skills. This is not an easy thing to do because public speaking is a function of the male role, and what we expect men to do. Society encourages boys to become leaders, but being assertive in terms of telling people what to do, how to spend their money, and whom they should vote for (or not) is still a relatively new posture for girls and women. As they move into occupational and professional roles formerly occupied by men only, and see the potential for leadership roles in all facets of life, girls and women don’t have a choice. Women need to be more assertive in finding a “public voice.” The good news is that women speakers don’t need to mimic men but, rather, can capitalize on the very “feminine” traits that society has devalued for centuries. Many of those same traits are speaker strengths. 

“Feminine” behaviors such as “batting your eyelashes,” subordinating one’s interests to others, focusing on conventional standards of beauty, being coy and evasive are media inventions and aren’t what we’re addressing here. Those behaviors don’t help women to succeed in life as people with intelligence and leadership capabilities. Let’s focus, instead, on a cluster of feminine traits that sociologists indicate is a preference for “sociability.” 

In personal conversations, women relate; they don’t dominate. Effective public speaking requires that the speaker is also relating to listeners: empathizing, making connections, solving problems, sharing experiences, and finding common ground. Ask yourself: Do you capitalize on a range of “feminine traits” that can help you to be effective at the podium? Take this self-assessment quiz to find out. 

Reflect on your presentation style. Which of these statements describes you? 

1.I enjoy talking with people.
2. I am willing to share personal anecdotes and disclose personal information if it will help me to make a point.
3.I do worry about what other people think.
4.I do like to find out what I have in common with people with or to whom I’m speaking.
5.I think about consequences of decisions, and how they might impact other people.
6. I appreciate the practical details of everyday life and how things happen.
7. I prefer to empower other people rather than taking credit for knowing it all.
8. I make things happen through my relationships with people, not (necessarily) through status, position, or power.

SCORING: Give yourself one point for each statement to assess whether you are able to integrate what have been described as “feminine” attributes into your presentations.

0-2 Seek opportunities to be whom you are when speaking to groups and audiences. Start by volunteering to be on a panel, speaking to a group of people with whom you are familiar so you can experiment with a “relational” approach.

3-5 When you tackle a problem or propose a solution, you’re confident at the podium, expressing feelings, disclosing relevant information, and relating to people in a personal way that makes you able to connect.

6-8 Congratulations! Your presentation style effectively incorporates feminine traits; your presentations are thoughtful, you relate to people, and you can personalize dry material. You have the potential to be a leader who can influence others to think differently and take action regarding the extraordinary range of issues facing us as a society. Time to meet the media!

Are my conversational skills an advantage at the podium?

As a result of the female socialization process, a conversational style of speaking will be familiar. Good speakers adopt that off-the-cuff “I’m interested in you, this-isn’t-just-about-me” tone to create a sense of intimacy that people appreciate. In conversation and delivering presentations, curiosity is an advantage. Women know how to keep a conversation going, using segues that bridge from one topic to another with a “That reminds me of ….” and “Has this ever happened to you?” The same skill set is a plus when you address a group conveying an “off the top of my head” approach. People leave thinking, “Now that’s someone I’d like to get to know better.”

Women appreciate the give-and-take of informal conversation. The speakers I’ve interviewed said that they prefer to deliver an impromptu speech, rather than read from a prepared manuscript. Perhaps this preference for interaction is why women do so well during the Q and A phase, after delivering their prepared remarks. Because women approach “speechmaking” as if it were an extension of having a conversation, they tend to scratch out their remarks on the backs of envelopes or scratchpads, rather than writing out their remarks word-for-word. This casual attitude can backfire as those envelopes are rarely saved, explaining why it is difficult to find a collection of women’s speeches, except perhaps for the most formal Commencement or Memorial addresses or those in the Congressional Record. Are you saving your presentations? You never know when they will come in handy, perhaps published as transcribed or rewritten as an article for your organizational newsletter.

Even in formal communication settings such as a public hearing or a conference, “feminine” qualities can be demonstrated when an outline of key points is used only as a guide so that the speaker can look listeners in the eye, rather than reading from a prepared manuscript Even more than the desire to convey information, the more feminine speaker will want to build a trusting relationship with her audience. She knows that those relationships will serve her well in implementing any proposal she has presented. To make contact with people, and using her notes as a reference point, she will look at individuals in the audience, one key point at a time. And listeners remember what is said when the speaker is looking directly at them as she makes her point.

President Ronald Reagan was lauded for his delivery skills, making each person in the audience feel as if he were talking directly to him or her in a conversational tone. Interestingly, we later learned that a woman, Peggy Noonan, wrote many of Reagan's most outstanding speeches. Her words empowered Reagan with a feminine style of empathy and caring that made an impact, across party lines.

Am I being strategic – or self-indulgent- when sharing personal anecdotes?

Women disclose what they know. Hoarding information? No way? That’s a man’s game. Whether you just discovered a new outlet for designer shoes, the best interest rate for first-time homebuyers, or the cure for cancer, you like to share what you know. It’s what women do. Of course, going on and on and on is never a good idea when listeners are busy people wanting you to get to the point. 

Women have grab bag of personal stories they can use to make an otherwise dry subject come alive for an audience. They remember these stories because they were instructive, occurring at choice points in their lives; as a result they can recall them instantly, and the stories become tighter and more pointed with each telling of the tale. Stories can form the basis for sustaining friendships and family life and are a way of revealing values and character. What better way to get to know a leader than through the personal examples she provides? 

Former Governor Ann Richards has admitted that the years after her divorce were a time when, "I smoked like a chimney and drank like a fish." Through self-deprecating humor, she makes it clear that this destructive time in her life is behind her; she went public with this situation before the press used it to destroy her credibility. Women are comfortable using their life experiences as a strategy for making a point, which works well at the podium. Being candid about one’s imperfections makes the audience trust the speaker as someone who is “just like us.”

Statistics are abstract and often misleading; they don’t do justice to the complexity of problematic situations. Stories help statistics come alive. Describe the economic and social consequences of being a teenage mother when you describe “Mary”. Explain the idiosyncrasies of a family business by describing three generations running “The Chang Restaurant Business.” What does the war in Iraq mean unless you tell us describe the life of a young soldier from our neighborhood. Pie charts don’t help your audience to care about the impact of a particular policy on real people. Personal examples soften up the listeners’ apathy or resistance to changing their point of view.

For example, Susan Lowell Butler was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and initially given a poor prognosis. Using a dynamic presentation style, she speaks to conference audiences, sharing the challenges she faced in moving from diagnosis to treatment. The importance of funding cancer research takes on new meaning when she asserts, “I wasn’t going to be a statistic.” Butler is now an advocate for increased funding for cancer research, and listeners are more likely to join her. Women are more likely to respond to a human face than to the most shocking statistic presented as an abstraction. Do you have a personal story that will support your key points?

Can my relationship skills help me get my message across? 

Political speakers pay media coaches big bucks to learn how to “stay on message,” but this is less important to women who want their message to make sense to their listeners. After all, your listeners are going to be most affected by a proposed change in a way of understanding a problem or taking action. You propose “Elect me!” or “Invest in my product (service)!” In order to achieve your goals, you need your listeners’ buy-in. Staying on message is less important than whether the listeners can relate to you. Will they care? Can they relate to you? Women worry about what other people think, and doing so is probably a good strategy for any speaker.

For example, you may want to speak about controversial issues but cultural obstacles can get in the way of being seen and heard. Television producer Christina Saralegui speaks about breast cancer and gay issues in ways that get people involved because she relates to and respects the Hispanic culture of modesty. As a Hispanic woman, Saralegui wants to build bridges when she explains, “We’re all parents and we have the same problems. I try to appeal to the common denominator…. everyone is in this together.”

Should I worry about what other people think?

Maybe it's true that women tend to worry more than men do about what others think, and conventional wisdom indicates this anxiety impedes women’s ability to be decisive leaders and make those tough decisions. Interestingly, twenty years ago the groundbreaking book called “In Search of Excellence” pointed out that the best managers walk around the office and find out what people are thinking and feeling. No big news to women; we’ve always operated that way. As a result of caring about what others think, women speakers are more likely to have learned about the audience beforehand to know what they’re getting into. Knowing what people are worrying about allows the speaker to be better prepared for what might be asked during the Q and A. No need to operate in a vacuum before making a decision. Good leaders have always known this and, as a result, their presentations have been more effective in persuading people to join with them.

Before discussing something as complex as, for example, the new Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 which provide guidelines for oversight of Corporate Boards, a speaker will want to know about her audience’s level of sophistication. Did anyone in the audience lose their pension as a result of recent scandals? Are they worried, confident, or in denial? Women speakers know how important it is to meet with members of your audience before a presentation to scope out their interests, needs, perspective and sophistication. Schmoozing with people during a break in the meeting or conference can help the speaker gather anecdotal material and test her position. Will it fly? Can she explain complex terminology in everyday terms? 

What do I have in common with my listeners? 

A conversation in which people relate to one another’s concerns about what really matters is how women learn, strategize, and plan and share resources. Jargon, acronyms, and spreadsheets are guaranteed to put people off. We’ve all been a member of a family, we’ve all worked, been to school, paid taxes, earned licenses or credentials. Find that common ground and hold firm but keep the connection as simple as possible. As former Governor Ann Richards said, “Explain the issues in language your mama can understand,” and people will pay attention. Consider levels of education, work sophistication, parenting, age, socioeconomic factors. Are you managers or support staff? Prefer people to products? Find that common ground, or you won’t have a leg to stand on when your listeners competing interests, the upcoming coffee break, or the fascinating person seated next to them draws their attention away from you- the presenter.

The “relational” approach to public speaking is more engaging than the “talk at” approach to which we’ve grown accustomed. The latter is not how women typically communicate. Talking “with” is more like it. “What’s on your mind?” we ask, and then we can take it from there in linking our topic to those concerns.

Why brag about myself when I can brag about other people?

Women tend to be unassuming and self-disclosing, perhaps to a fault. Modesty, by definition, means freedom from conceit or vanity. Considered a feminine virtue, modesty can be appealing to audiences when they realize that a speaker is admitting that she's new at the leadership game, particularly when she says, "I'm human, I can make mistakes, and I don't know everything, so let's figure this tough problem out together." That's quite different from the speaker who masquerades as open-minded when listeners know a proposal is “a done deal.” Arrogant speakers think they have an edge on knowing more than anyone in their audience. That approach may have worked in the old days, but audiences today deserve more credit. Everyone sitting in front of you is an expert in something. Modesty assumes a position of mutual respect: people appreciate being respected by the “expert” at the front of the room.

Some speakers forge ahead with a canned speech, no matter what the audience's unique perspective or demographic composition might be. In a post-Enron era of scandals at the top, audiences want to hear from new leaders who are outside the system, and women leaders will certainly have a fresh take on a range of social and economic problems. 

More often than not, women brag about their staff or other volunteers instead of their own accomplishments. What’s wrong with sharing recognition? A more modest approach can be appealing to listeners, particularly if they are among those being applauded. Taken to extremes, modesty can backfire, but still, let’s take the middle ground, and leave grandiosity and posturing to men.

Are the practical details of everyday life important to my listeners?

Women haven’t had access to great wealth so they tend to be more practical and can paint various scenarios for their audiences. Since women speakers of diverse backgrounds share a perspective that lies outside of “ the establishment” (historically populated by white males), they can draw attention to situations that are often ignored. Women tend to become advocates for change in areas that directly affect their everyday lives. It’s not just health care; it’s a question of “How can my mother—and yours—pay for her prescription drugs on a fixed income?” It’s not just employment in general; it’s a question of “How can I fund my small business?” It’s not education in general, it’s “How can I get my school Board to fund after-school programs?” It’s not just the issue of affordable housing, it’s “How can I qualify for my first homeowner’s loan?” It’s not just safety, it’s “What will it take to install more lighting in our parking lots?” It’s not just the issue of child-care, it’s “How can we as parents organize high-quality, affordable childcare for employees in our corporation?” If women don’t address the more practical details and implementation of broad policy issues as they affect us in our daily lives, who will? 

Think it's impossible to make dull, dry, technical and financial talks more relevant to the lives of families and women? Women speakers are more likely to give hard, cold statistics a human face because they see numbers in terms of human equations: A equals B. 

Architects who design complex buildings are the first to admit that “God is in the details.” Present a visionary plan and people immediately become anxious about the future. They wonder: How do we implement this new product or service? What are the steps? Who will be affected? How long will it take? What compromises will we have to make? As you present the blueprints for change, know that listeners are more willing to help you if they know what they’re getting into and presenting the practical side –including attention to details - mean fewer surprises later.

Can my relationship skills help me to gain credibility as a leader- i.e., as “the voice of authority?”

Good speakers—and this is true of both men and women—aren't aloof. They know how to build relationships with the audience before and during the presentation. At the podium, Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Dole share anecdotes about people they’ve met that illuminate how policy and legislative decisions play out in everyday life. Hillary talks about her mother’s experience growing up unloved and poor, and how she, in turn, became committed to improving the foster care system. Liz Dole walks the room “Oprah style” and gets up close and personal. Each professional speaker has staff members help him or her learn about their audiences. 

You can do the same thing by making some phone calls beforehand and after your presentation to build and maintain relationships. People create momentum around the change efforts you are proposing but people don’t go out of their way for people they can’t relate to. Whether attitude or behavior, change doesn’t happen overnight. A dynamic presenter builds new relationships with like-minded people who come up afterwards and ask, “I liked the way you presented your case. Where do I sign up? I want to work with you on this.”

Women today don’t just want a level playing field or a seat at the table: they want to be at the head of the table or at the microphone. Feminine attributes and qualities such as relating, disclosing, and caring—coupled with an outsider’s point of view—ensure that dynamic women speakers are seen, heard, and remembered.
[1] Excerpted and adapted with permission.

Brand Me Brilliant! Are you Taking Control of Your Personal Brand?

Guest post by Lesley Everett
Author of Drop Dead Brilliant: Dazzle in the Workplace with Confidence and Panache!

We all have a brand image whether we've consciously cultivated it or not - but what does yours say about you? 
Is the perception that others have about you really what you think it is, what you want it to be - or, is it MILES OFF MESSAGE?

In a world where first impressions, trust and credibility have never been more important, and in business where people represent a brand more strongly than any slick website or glossy brochure ever can, it's time to take control of your personal brand and manage the perceptions of others more consciously and creatively.

As women, we have a great opportunity to express our personality and individuality so just how can you use your personal brand to do this? 

You have a personal brand already - it's what people say about you behind your back and how they describe you to other people. We don't always think about how others see us therefore our personal brand is often left to chance. 

So we need to take control of the perceptions of others and manage our personal brand more effectively. You could call it Perception Management. 

Our personal brand is a little like a pearl in an oyster - it evolves organically over a period of time. Everything you do every day adds another layer to your personal brand pearl. So from every telephone message you leave to every drink with friends, you're giving messages out about your brand and developing a perception in other people's minds. 

However, it's not just about creating a great image - a superficial image that doesn't reflect your true individuality and personality will always be transparent and clearly be unauthentic. Creating a powerful personal brand goes much deeper than that. 

In my book Drop Dead Brilliant - Dazzle in the Workplace with Confidence and Panache, I address all the areas of building a brand and projecting it authentically. The book is based on my 7 Big Strides® to Personal Branding: 

1. Who You Really Are

As a very first step, you must clarify exactly what your personal brand is. Base this on your fundamental strengths, your individuality and your core values. Uncover from within what you're outstandingly good at. Now get feedback from others on how they see you too, in three words. You need to see where the gaps in perception are, or perhaps where others see the flip side of the positive brand values that you have. 

2. The First 7 Seconds

Now check out your first impressions impact - remember that it takes just 5-7 seconds for people to judge us. Does your first impression reinforce your Personal Brand or does somebody completely different come across? 

3. Dress Like You Mean It

Style and grooming are the packaging of your personal brand. Do you package and present yourself in such a way that invites approachability, trust and credibility as an immediate perception of your brand? How good is your personal package at marketing YOU? On casual days does your credibility take a nose-dive? As women, we have lots of tools at our finger-tips to express our brand and individuality effectively. For example, even if you're fairly conservative in your dress, there are some wonderfully quirky shoes and accessories around today to add a little difference. A well-chosen accessory will make all the difference to a simple outfit, but never put cheap accessories with an expensive outfit - it will drag the whole look down. 

Be aware of your best colours so that you make the most of your natural colouring - Drop Dead Brilliant covers this in detail. Don't forget your make-up - studies show us that make-up makes a huge difference to how people perceive us, especially in business. 

4. Silent Indicators

Your 'Body Talk' can speak volumes about you. A genuine smile, a good handshake (not too firm!) and positive eye contact are essential when you meet people, particularly in a business situation. Give them your full attention for those few seconds when shaking hands. If we don't make good eye contact then we appear to not be interested - very negative! 

5. Speak Easy

What does your voice convey about your brand? Have you listened to your voicemail message, to hear how you come across? Get others to give you feedback on this too. Your voice could be the first impression others have of you….. 

6. Be Interested and Visible

How do you rate your interaction skills with others? Are you memorable for all the right reasons? Being interested in others makes you a more interesting person remember. Make sure you're visible and memorable within your desired network. Think about who the top 100 people are who you need to be more visible with. Building a great support network is one of the most positive things you can do - you never know when you might need them. 

7. Each Time, All the Time

Consistency is crucial. For any brand to be 100% successful, it has to be 100% consistent. Make sure you're not caught off-guard! 

Carpe Diem! Today's the day to take control of your Personal Brand and start managing those perceptions, which in turn propels you to greater success and personal fulfillment.