Supercompetent Speaking: Top 10 Dress-for-Speaking-Success Tips by @laurastack

Posted February 22, 2012 by spiritofnsa
Categories: Uncategorized

If you make a clothing misstep, you may find yourself swimming upstream during the course of your presentation.

By Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, 2011-12 NSA President

Nature has programmed human beings to assess strangers almost instantly for threat or value. While this capacity is less important today than it was a few thousand years ago, our biology hasn’t yet caught up to our culture. In a very real sense, then, style often trumps substance—especially in environments where people only have a few minutes to get to know you.

Hence your need, when you step onto a stage or behind a podium, to immediately make a positive first impression based on your appearance alone. Like it or not, how you dress communicates your image, personality, and even your identity to your listeners. If you make a clothing misstep, you may find yourself swimming upstream during the course of your presentation—and you might not make the kind of impact you intended.

So don’t take chances. Keep these pointers in mind:

  1. Prepare your presentation outfit well in advance, so you won’t have to scramble at the last minute trying to get out the door. Examine your clothes for tears, stains, odors, and missing buttons. Stash away a few safety pins, too, to help you deal with last-minute wardrobe malfunctions. Ladies, carry extra stockings in case of a run in your first pair.
  2. Be ready for disaster! I very, very rarely check my bag, so my presentation clothes aren’t lost with my luggage. When I must check luggage, I don’t travel in the clothes I plan to speak in, so I don’t end up looking rumpled and disheveled; however, I do wear nice clothes I could wear on the platform if needed.
  3. Pay close attention to your grooming, and keep your hair out of your eyes and face. Guys, trim your facial hair neatly. Ladies, if you use makeup, leave it understated, minimal, and neutral, except for your eyes, which should pop from the stage. Guys, powder any bald spots and your forehead and nose.
  4. If you wear glasses, avoid unusual, distracting frames. Get non-glare glass. If possible, consider wearing contact lenses for the presentation instead.
  5. Dress smartly; high-quality fabrics tailored in ways that flatter your body work best. Invest in an expensive suit each year and spend more than you think you can afford on high quality. Try not to come across as colorless or dull, but avoid excessively loud colors or distracting styles. Don’t wear overly tight clothing, because it can inhibit your movements and it’s distracting. Ladies, avoid low necklines, so the audience pays attention to what you say, not your figure. In general, your clothes just need to look nice and presentable, and you should feel comfortable, confident, and well to do in what you wear.
  6. Find out what the attire will be for the audience, and then dress one level above that. If the attendees are wearing business casual, wear business. If they are casual, go business casual. While you shouldn’t overdo it, you can’t go wrong if you overdress somewhat. Never dress down, because it either makes you look sloppy and unprofessional, or suggests you don’t care enough about your audience to dress up for them. They expect you to be dressed nicer than they are.
  7. Make sure your shoes are polished and in good repair, especially when speaking from a stage—because your shoes will end up at or near your audience’s eye level, and many of them willnotice. Leave your noisy shoes in the closet. Ladies, don’t wear heels that make you wobble; guys, forget the cowboy boots and moccasins.
  8. Avoid noisy, flashy jewelry, especially earrings and bracelets. I’ve watched disasters unfold with necklaces that repeatedly hit a lavaliere mic and dangling earrings that click against an over-the-ear headset during the entire presentation. Wedding rings are fine, plus a watch if you use one for timing.
  9. Remove everything from your pockets before your presentation, especially coins, so you’re not tempted to jingle. Remember to turn off your cell phone (I’ve had mine ring from my purse stashed behind the lectern).
  10. Remove your conference nametag or badge with the ribbons!

Ultimately, you’rethe show—not your clothing or accessories. So do everything you can to dress in a presentable but non-distracting way. Unless how you dress informs and contributes to your talk, your clothing should fade into the background. You want the audience to remember your message, not those outlandish shoes or that obnoxious tie.

Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, has consulted with Fortune 500 corporations for nearly 20 years in the field of personal productivity and is the bestselling author of several books, including “What to Do When There’s Too Much to Do: Reduce Tasks, Increase Results, and Save 90 Minutes a Day” (Berrett-Koehler, 2012). Stack is the 2011-2012 president of the National Speakers Association (NSA) and has been awarded the Certified Speaking Professional (CSP). Since 1992, Stack has presented keynotes and seminars on improving output, lowering stress, and saving time in today’s workplaces. Her productivity improvement programs have been used worldwide at companies such as Starbucks, Wal-Mart, Cisco Systems, and Bank of America. For more information, visit www.TheProductivityPro.comand

Note: This article originally appeared on Training magazine’s website. You can read the original version at


@laurastack’s 2012 NSA Winter Conference Re-Cap

Posted February 20, 2012 by spiritofnsa
Categories: Uncategorized

By Laura Stack, CSP, MBA, 2011-12 NSA President

The Winter Conference in Dallas, Texas was a smashing success! A huge THANK YOU to co-chairs Ruby Newell-Legner and Bill Stainton for all their hard work pulling this incredible event together! We had nearly 400 attendees–our highest in four years–and nearly 100 First Time Attendees! We attribute this to the fabulous content and presenters Ruby and Bill assembled with their “Monetize Your Message” theme. Our gratitude goes to our presenters, who donated their time to provide the education for our members, and our volunteer team and staff, without whom it wouldn’t come together. Our appreciation also goes to our sponsors Infusionsoft and High Point University as well as all our awesome exhibitors, who educated our members on the products and services available to support our speaking businesses. Your NSA board also flew in a couple of days early to strategize the future of our association and hold its board meeting, so I’m always grateful for their donated time and extra expense for hotel nights. My thanks also goes to NSA/North Texas (coordinated by Linda Swindling), who provided a Texas welcome (everything is big in Texas!) to our board members by picking them up from the airport and driving them to the hotel; they also hosted a welcome reception and sponsored a relaxation station! And Randy Gage not only presented a 3-hour mega session on keynoting but ALSO presented a breakfast session and ALSO presented a social media session to benefit the Foundation. He purchased 200+ boxed lunches for attendees, and attendees donated $$ to the Foundation in appreciation of Randy’s teaching. As you can see, “it takes a village” to pull together an incredible learning event like this one. Here are some memories to enjoy from photos posted to the NSA FB page.

Winter Conference Co-Chairs, Bill Stainton and Ruby Newell-Legner, CSP

Vinny Verelli & Bill Stainton

Randy Gage Keynote

Jolene Jang, Patrick Donadio, Bill Stainton and Vinny Verelli, Bill Stainton & Ruby Newell-Legner, Winter Conference Co-Chairs

January was Quadruple NSA Chapter Month! by @laurastack

Posted January 30, 2012 by spiritofnsa
Categories: Uncategorized

By Laura Stack, NSA President

NSA/Northern CA with President Jim Carrillo 2

Starting on January 7, right after the New Year was in full swing, I took my 10-year-old son, James, and visited NSA/Northern California in San Francisco. This was his first time there, so we took the obligatory Fisherman’s Wharf tour and saw the sea lions and ate whole Dungeness crab.  Then we went on the night tour to Alcatraz!  James was absolutely fascinated. At the meeting the next day, I was delighted to see Susan Roane there, whom I haven’t seen in years, and even Fripp turned out to support the chapter. I presented my program on “How Speakers Can Use Video to Get Booked and Stay Booked,” and Fripp told me it was “incredible,” so I guess I did fairly well. Although I will never say “a bunch of” after her on-the-spot coaching!  J

NSA/CO Road Warrior Panel

January 14 brought me to my own home chapter of NSA/Colorado (whoooooo!), where Mark LeBlanc was be the featured speaker.  Buddies Scott Halford, Ruby Newell-Legner, and I kicked off the meeting with a moderated “Road Warrior” panel and took questions from the audience. It was interesting how different our responses were, and even veteran speakers reported they gleaned valuable information. It really drove home the point that there are many different ways to do this business, and they can all work really well.  There were 90-100 people in attendance, which is the highest I’ve seen at any chapter.  I was delighted to see old and new friends and love coming back to my chapter where I was president ten years ago!

Next I visited NSA/Mountain West on January 18. They did a wonderful joint evening program with MPI/UT.  The MPI chapter paid for a reception to kick off the evening, complete with wine and a mashed potato bar (what a blast!). One of their national board members also attended.  Congrats to president Jeri Mae Rowley for putting the evening together and garnering such a great turnout!  I kicked off the formal program with my session on with a program on “Cool Productivity Tools.”  Then we broke for dinner, which was sponsored by the NSA chapter for both groups. We came back and saw a panel with speakers (including Chad Hymas and Brad Barton) and two meeting planners, fielding questions from the audience on speaker/client relationships.

NSA/ Mountain West with Tyler Herd and Chad Hymas

NSA NYC with Rande Gedaliah

Then I flew from SLC to NYC and the Marriott Marquis in Time Square, which was also the site of the infamous 2008 NSA convention with chair Eric Chester! My room looked out on to the hustle and bustle of Time Square.  Rochelle Rice, NSA/NYC president, Ron Karr, NSA Vice President, and several other board members, took me to a lovely dinner at a steakhouse that evening. The next day, I once again presented my video program.  The chapter boasted a record turnout for the program and overflowed into the next room of the venue. They are experiencing great success moving their candidate members to national members!

The thing that struck me the most on all this month’s chapter visits was the HOPE I felt among our colleagues.  There was a general sense that the speaking business was turning back around again, leveling out, and starting to improve.  Some speakers’ businesses had significantly improved over the last few months, and not a single person told me business was down. I saw smiling faces and a level of excitement I haven’t seen in years (literally).  As I said when I became president in July 2011, this is a great time to be a professional speaker!

Thank you for driving me around, taking me to dinner, rolling out the red carpet, and welcoming me to your chapters and hearts. I’m so privileged to spend this special time with all of you and am sad about ½ of my term is over.

For pictures of my chapter visits, click here.  

Supercompetent Speaking: Reading Your Audience by @LauraStack

Posted January 10, 2012 by spiritofnsa
Categories: Uncategorized

To be relevant as a speaker, watch your audience carefully, and listen closely—so you can help them do so.

By Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, NSA President

A good speech adapts to meet an audience’s needs. Good speakers maintain awareness of the audience throughout the entire presentation and make adjustments as necessary. How do you know if your audience is “with” you? What is your audience thinking and feeling? How do you read them? This doesn’t require telepathy, just a type of sensory intelligence derived from careful attention and experience.

Your audience members will send you plenty of clues (both subtle and obvious) when their attention starts to wander, so listen and observe their behavior carefully. Take their collective pulse every few minutes; at the very least, survey the room after every major point. Stay attuned to body language, facial expression, extraneous sounds—and too much silence. The better you can read their cues and prompt them to stay engaged, the greater the likelihood you’ll accomplish your mission.

People in tune with your message tend to:

  • Nod
  • Smile
  • Lean toward you
  • Take notes
  • Make eye contact
  • Look serious or intent
  • Laugh at your jokes and stories
  • Ask relevant questions

Disengaged listeners often:

  • Close their eyes
  • Nod off
  • Yawn
  • Zone out
  • Lean away
  • Fidget
  • Avoid eye contact
  • Look around
  • Play with smartphones or handhelds
  • Doodle
  • Have side conversations
  • Shuffle papers
  • Check watches
  • Cross their arms
  • Show no expression
  • Ask hostile questions
  • Leave the room

Now, some of these clues (e.g., arm-crossing, doodling, or lack of expression) don’t necessarily indicate disengagement; some people just act that way when focusing. Similarly, watch checking may simply mean you’re nearing the end of your allotted time. However, if you see more than a few of these cues expressed, take them seriously and adjust your presentation accordingly.

To re-engage your listeners and command their attention, shake things up a bit! Depending on the circumstances, you may need to:

  • Move a little closer to them
  • Talk a bit louder
  • Be more engaging and passionate
  • Ask for questions
  • Push harder on your points
  • Ease off a little
  • Get them involved in a group activity
  • Tell a relevant personal story or anecdote
  • Inject some humor into your presentation
  • Ask for input or best practices on a particular point
  • Ask the audience if what you’re saying resonates with them

To be relevant as a speaker, watch your audience carefully, and listen closely—so you can help themdo so. Prepare carefully for the event; make sure you’ve done your homework and understand who your listeners are and what they want. Then present a dynamic speech, always prepared to adjust your presentation on a moment’s notice based on their cues.

Laura Stack has consulted with Fortune 500 corporations for nearly 20 years in the field of personal productivity and is the best-selling author of several books, including “Supercompetent.” She is a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) and the 2011-2012 president of the National Speakers Association (NSA). Stack’s productivity-improvement programs have been used worldwide at companies such as Starbucks, Wal-Mart, Cisco Systems, and Bank of America. She is the creator of The Productivity Pro planner by Day-Timer. For more information, visit www.TheProductivityPro.comor

Note: This article originally appeared on Training magazine’s website. You can read the original version at

CAPS Convention Nov. 27-29, 2011

Posted December 13, 2011 by nsaspeakerpresident
Categories: Uncategorized

From Laura Stack, NSA President

Our Canadian colleagues sure know how to put on a great convention—even though the timing was difficult on Thanksgiving weekend!  Congratulations to convention chair Sunjay Nath and president (now past-president) Ravi Tangri for an incredible event. I just have to say the food was some of the best I’ve had at an NSA event.  The opening reception featured a carving station, and the final gala had steak and lobster!  (Of course, registration fees are higher than in the U.S.)  But more impressive than the food was the quality of the speakers.  I loved seeing so many of our NSA colleagues from the U.S. on the main stage: Alan Weiss, Mark Sanborn, Mike Domitrz, and Scott Ginsberg. Canadian speakers included Cheryl Cran plus Warren Evans facilitating a panel.  CAPS asked me to do a 2-hour workshop on creating a killer brand, so I was privileged to provide that session.  The opening flag ceremony was especially meaningful for me, as I carried the U.S. flag proudly—#2 in line behind the Canadian flag.  Other NSA VIP attendees included past president Kristin Arnold, president-elect Ron Culberson, and GSF representative Lenora Billings-Harris.  I

Laura Stack, NSA President, bearing the US flag at the 2011 CAPS Convention in Toronto, Ontario.

brought my husband, John, and teen daughter, Meagan, with me, and we had fun visiting the CN Tower and shopping at the huge Eaton Center.  The closing reception was lovely, with a special room for CSP/CPAE/HoF members.  I was privileged to sit at the right hand of Ravi, to experience his closing banquet and accolades (see photo of Ravi surrounded by adoring fans).  Bob Hooey was awarded the CAPS equivalent of the Cavett award, so it was special being there to see his joy and acknowledgment of all he does for CAPS, and NSA as well, actually.  There was plenty of wine and dancing, and a merry time was had by all.  If you’ve never been to a CAPS convention, I highly recommend NSA members make the short trek north and give it a try in 2012!

@LauraStack Visits NSA/NJ, NSA/North Texas and Camp NSA

Posted November 28, 2011 by spiritofnsa
Categories: Chapter Visits, NSA Events, Uncategorized

By Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, 2011-12 NSA President

View photos from president Laura Stack’s recent visits to NSA/NJ, NSA/North Texas and Camp NSA at!  Please tag photos!

Supercompetent Speaking: Pre-Presentation Preparations

Posted November 10, 2011 by spiritofnsa
Categories: Uncategorized

By Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, NSA President

Good presenters spend time preparing for speeches, both in the long and short terms. Earlier columns have reviewed long-term preparation; in this article, let’s discuss the practical steps you can take immediately before an event to maximize impact and value for the audience. As your presentation comes down to the wire, keep these tips in mind:

1. Arrive early. Connect with the event organizers at least an hour before your talk, so you can discuss your introduction, where to enter the stage, and the agenda. Listen to the speakers before you, so you can reflect their cogent points in your talk. Mix and mingle with the audience to establish rapport and understand what they’re seeking from you.

2. Acquaint yourself with the venue logistics. Whileyou may already have a good idea of your venue’s location and basic facilities, as well as the equipment they provide, you may not know the “feel” of the platform. If possible, the night before or early that morning (while participants are in another room), get to know the speaking area or stage. Walk it to get a good feel of its size, where audience members will be seated, and how you can take advantage of that space for various aspects of your presentation. Make any necessary adjustments, so you feel comfortable. You must own the stage and your environment!

3. Familiarize yourself with the venue’s equipment. Inspect the equipment the venue offers for your use and test it to make sure it all works properly. I recommend you bring your own headset (I use a Countryman) and your own laptop remote, so you are comfortable with your own equipment. I always use my own laptop. Other items to consider include:
• Where can you put your notes and props (if any)?
• What type of lectern or podium do they provide and where will you place your laptop if using one?
• Can the audience see you clearly?
• If not, do you need to move anything in the room or on the stage?
• Do you have control of the room lights (I like them up full)?
• Is there water underneath the lectern or should you bring some onto the stage?
• Can everyone in the room hear you adequately?

4. Prepare your personal equipment. Bring back-up copies of your presentation in two different forms (such as a USB thumb drive, the cloud, or e-mail it to yourself), just in case. Immediately before the engagement, ensure your presentation tools work as they should. Make sure your laptop is receiving power and put it in presentation mode if it’s not already. Test your remote control and sound levels from the computer and the microphone. Pull out your handouts if applicable. If you don’t have a person in the audience timing you, bring along a clock or iPad to keep track of your stage time.

5. Take care of the biological necessities. Get a good night’s sleep the night before your presentation and don’t drink too much. Eat a light meal about an hour before you speak. If I’m speaking at a luncheon, I will nibble at the salad and roll but not the protein. Visit the restroom right before you take the stage.

6. Calm down. Get away from the crowd to calm your nerves and release nervous tension. Try various low-key physical exercises (if you’re backstage and not seen), until you find one that works for you, including:
• Taking deep breaths and exhaling slowly.
• Going for a brief, brisk walk (or pace around a bit).
• Clasping and unclasping your hands.
• Swinging your arms around in a circle.
• Stomping your feet and jumping up and down.
• Pushing against a wall.

7. Mentally, accept your excitement. Choose not to think of your jitters as nervousness or fear. Tell yourself you’re so psyched, excited, or jazzed. Use this motivation to fuel your presentation. Engage in positive self-talk as you prepare to go onstage; expect a friendly audience, and imagine a positive, enthusiastic response to your message.

One final note: If you arrive in town early enough, take a little time to familiarize yourself with your surroundings. If you rented a car, drive the route from your hotel to the venue in advance, so you know how to get there and have some idea of the traffic patterns. Nothing is as stressful as being scheduled to be on stage in 15 minutes and not being able to find the facility.

Laura Stack has consulted with Fortune 500 corporations for nearly 20 years in the field of personal productivity and is the best-selling author of several books, including “Supercompetent.” She is a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) and the 2011-2012 president of the National Speakers Association (NSA). Stack’s productivity-improvement programs have been used worldwide at companies such as Starbucks, Wal-Mart, Cisco Systems, and Bank of America. She is the creator of The Productivity Pro planner by Day-Timer. For more information, visit http://www.TheProductivityPro.comor

Note: This article originally appeared on Training magazine’s website. You can read the original version at