Public Speaking, Presentation Skills & Media Training

A cybersecurity breach truly is a unique crisis. Are you prepared?



It’s a communication crisis. But, it is not the same as a fire, natural disaster or production delay.

A cybersecurity breach is a communication crisis that is unique. That’s because when it is discovered you might not know all the facts immediately and it can drag on for a long time. You might not know the extent of the breach, the damage, when it happened, or the recommended course of action. All of this makes it a complicated communication nightmare–not to mention that you have numerous audiences: employees, customers, vendors, investors, and the media.

Here are a few of the facts about cybersecurity:

February 2016, a survey conducted by MIT Technology Review Custom in partnership with FireEye and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) Security Services found that “Forty-four percent of the 225 business and IT leaders polled said their organizations didn’t have cybersecurity crisis-communication plans in place; another 15 percent didn’t know whether they had such plans.”

In fact, 60% of small companies that are attacked go out of business in six months.

While many believe that only large high-profile companies are at risk, that is not the case. Smaller companies may be easy targets because they do not have as many safeguards in place or resources to cope with an attack. That makes it imperative that businesses, especially small and medium-sized organizations do not delay in planning.

Here are just a few things to consider.


Identify a team that can assist you. It might include legal counsel, IT professionals, and communication or public relations experts. You may already have these individuals as a part of your outside resources. Be sure you have emergency contact info for these companies in various locations in case you are unable to access your databases. You need to be able to separate this communication from regular/non-emergency communication.

Figure out how you will gather information if systems are crippled. Who will take the lead to communicate information? Some people believe it should be just the CEO that communicates. I think a team approach may be best, but everyone must be on message.

Create a list or a framework for how and what you will communicate. For example, does everyone get the same communication? Consider having a separate website or splash page for emergency situations. It does not need to be complicated but should be designed and tested in advance. If you use social media, that is another way to keep stakeholders informed.

Also, consider what will you say to the media if they come calling? If you are really prepared, you will have media-trained one or two spokespersons. Understand that anything you say to the media can be used in a lawsuit.

When a cybersecurity breach occurs, it is critical that you communicate early and often. This is a situation that may linger, so be prepared. How you handle a cybersecurity breach or other crisis can instill confidence or make a bad situation even worse.


Join me at the Kalamazoo Cybersecurity Panel! For more information on this event click HERE.

Public Speaking, Presentation Skills & Media Training

Your company story is important. Let the employees tell the story.

Corporate communication is complex. That’s because every organization has multiple audiences- employees, managers, stakeholders, and customers. Each of these has a unique need, level of interest and understanding of your organization. Not to mention, video is becoming the preferred method of communication and not everyone is camera-friendly.

For a long time, executives were the ones out front- the face of the company. That’s because many are under the false impression that the person with the title is the best one to communicate. That is not necessarily the case. In fact, today progressive companies are looking to broaden their communications and feature employees, at every level of the organization, in critical communications from recruitment efforts to customer messages. Here’s why.

Executives are Overused:

Some communicators believe that they need senior executives to “champion” a cause.  They use executives to explain and promote everything from the diversity initiative to the recent sales program and much more. The problem is that these executive messages are often vague and simply don’t say much. How many times have you heard phrases like… “We need to be more open and transparent.” “We need to put the customer at the center of everything we do.” You get the idea. Executives should be used where they can speak authentically and specifically about a topic. They should be used to communicate valuable information about the organization and its structure, the financial outlook or the challenges of the future.

Employees Stories are Engaging — So Let the Employees Tell the Story:

Executives are clearly responsible for corporate culture. And, culture is important. It is directly tied to employee retention and job satisfaction.  So how do you provide a window into your company culture? Companies are increasingly moving beyond executives and turning to employee features to bring the human perspective to the workplace. This includes everything from stories about why they love their work, volunteer activities, team achievements and more.  These stories, both print and video, bring ideas to life, inspire others to achieve and foster understanding. And, I personally think these stories are more effective than an executive simply talking about culture. Employees are real people sharing real stories and that is powerful.

Build Ownership:

Employees who participate or are featured in communications have a more intense connection to the company. They are proud of the work they do and love to share their expertise. As a result, they are more engaged and motivated. Employee to employee communication can be a powerful endorsement of a company initiative. It can help encourage change and improvements. And, provide a forum for sharing best practices. It’s one thing to have an executive tout the company and quite another to have employees endorse it. Employee features are also a way to build engagement with customers.  A story about how an employee built a product, went out of their way to serve a customer or help their community shows a different and more personal side of your organization.

Bottom line? Developing a communications plan that includes a diverse group, from the CEO to employees on the floor, can have tangible and lasting results both inside and outside of your organization.        

Here is an example – let employees tell the story.

Public Speaking, Presentation Skills & Media Training


As a small business owner, you must invest in your business. Communication is one key investment that small business owners need to focus on. In this video, I discuss how you can communicate well through the use of great presentations.

Bottom line: invest in communication.

Public Speaking, Presentation Skills & Media Training

This article about corporate speak was recently featured throughout multiple news organizations and can be seen HERE as originally published.

One of the great challenges for large organizations is communicating in a way that is both engaging and informative. Inclusion of corporate-speak often becomes an issue and can render this goal unattainable.

Corporate-speak can become part of the fabric within large companies, with everybody repeating the same terminology and phrases. Often, it is precious few that truly grasp the intended meaning. This can only complicate personal interactions, especially when combined with other factors such as employees working remotely.

“I am working right now with several technology companies on projects to encourage communication between engineers, sales and services. This is challenging because different functional areas get into the habit of working in silos. Often, teams are located in different countries and time zones–this is a huge problem in high tech firms because it affects the customer experience and can slow innovation,” says Cynthia Kay, president of CK and Company of Grand Rapids Michigan.

Kay is a communications consultant who works with large corporate clients. Her team audits the internal communications program and then trains teams away from one-size-fits-all approaches, generic presentations and uninspiring existing communications pieces that tend to dominate in the corporate environment.

“In large companies, we need to re-teach people how to communicate, so they can move beyond ‘corporate-speak’. We go back in time with clients to try and recapture the way people used to communicate when they were down the hall or around the corner from colleagues. Two vital components of this work are storytelling and encouraging communication across divisions.”

When large organizations seek outside assistance, it’s often focused on crisis communications at the very senior level or on approaches to flashpoint situations internally.

The field of crisis communications is dominated by law firms, largely due to the advantages of attorney-client privilege when dealing with sticky situations. The best-selling book, Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler is an excellent example of strategies for dealing with flashpoint situations. It has sold millions of copies over nearly two decades.

However, consultants such as Cynthia Kay argue there is a vast amount of poor or ineffective communication within large corporations that need regular focus. The sheer volume, they argue, is evidence of its potential to impact a company’s performance on a daily basis.

For positive change to occur, Kay says there must be real buy-in from senior management as it relates to corporate speak. “Great companies reward good internal communication and encourage the breakdown of silos so that people communicate across departments, across job functions and between divisions,” she added.

Another version of this article on Corporate Speak can be found here.

Public Speaking, Presentation Skills & Media Training


As many in manufacturing know, Toyota was the company that really brought the lean business model mainstream. I’ve helped a number of companies introduce the lean production concept into their own business. Small businesses are often lean and therefore can offer great value at a lower cost than a big business.

Public Speaking, Presentation Skills & Media Training

Business workshops could be a great value to your team, or not.

How do you energize your team? Help them develop personally and professionally? Create a bond with your company?

One way is to invest in them. Business workshops and seminars are a proven way to do that. To show employees that you care enough to offer them an opportunity to learn new skills and connect with others. There are lots of reasons why some companies don’t want to offer them, and employees don’t take advantage of the opportunity. 

It’s a Disruption

Taking time out of the workday can be a disruption. Employers worry about the loss of productivity. Employees are afraid to step out and try something new. And if the workshop is mandatory, there can be resentment. I once did a communication workshop for a group of salespeople from around the country who were told by their boss that they were “terrible communicators.” It was by far the toughest workshop I ever conducted. Fortunately, they got past the resentment and understood the value. 

Content is Not Relevant 

Some workshops are one-size-fits-all. The presenter has a body of content and does the same thing over and over again without regard for the audience. As a result, participants lose interest or can’t see how to apply what they learned quickly and effectively.  

No Way to Measure Results 

How do you know if someone truly benefitted from a business workshop or seminar? If you are spending time and money, you need results. Will an employee come away with new tools, skills, and perspectives that have an impact? How do you measure it?  

All of these are valid arguments. But if you choose the best workshops and presenters, the arguments disappear. Here are some tips to help you make good choices. 

Look for Experts, not Speakers 

Some workshop presenters are just that- presenters. They have a great speech as long as they can stick to the script. What you want is a subject matter expert that works in the field and has a depth of knowledge. These professionals will be better versed in current best practices, trends, and issues. Ask to see a video sample of the presenter. There is nothing worse than great content presented by a boring speaker.  

Ask for Customization  

I never do the same workshop the same way. Companies’ needs vary, as do the skill levels of the participants. I will do a fact-finding session with key company stakeholders to get a handle on the content needed. I also do an assessment of participants. It is a simple but effective survey that helps me get to know the participants and from there I can plan the additional content that they might want to be included. 

Get Interactive 

People are more engaged when there is interaction. This can be in the form of hands-on exercises, on-the-spot surveys, video streaming, demonstrations or small group discussion. Ask to see how interaction is incorporated into a workshop you are considering for your team. I design workshops with interaction sprinkled throughout to keep people engaged so that they absorb the content.  

I have conducted business workshops on communication, presentation skills and media training throughout the country. A number of my clients use workshops to give up-and-comers the skills they need for promotion. Others see it as a way to motivate individuals to be better performers in their current position. In some cases, the workshops are designed to improve destructive communication patterns. Whatever the reason, a workshop can be a cost-effective way to provide continuous learning- and who doesn’t need that?   

Looking to hire someone to run a workshop for your team? Let’s chat.

Public Speaking, Presentation Skills & Media Training


If your customers are other businesses, then this is for you. There are several buying trends I’ve seen within my own company that you need to be ready for. The buying trends include consolidation, pricing, and stability.

Remember happy customers recommend you to their network!

Public Speaking, Presentation Skills & Media Training

Customer service. It is critical to maintaining long-term relationships with customers. Organizations like Nordstrom and Disney have shared their secrets to great service over the years. Michael Brown challenged the traditional thinking on customer service in his book, Fresh Notes on Customer Service. His premise is customers should come second and the emphasis should be on employees, who if treated well, will provide outstanding service. Other books and articles offer lots of tips about how to train your employees and create a culture that values service. I think the biggest key to service is one that is often overlooked. It’s the customer you choose to serve.

I know it seems obvious, but I believe you can only achieve great customer service if you are serving the right customers for your business. This means you need to focus on who the customer (client) is long before you serve them. Too often a company tries to be all things to all people. Upfront you should consider how your products, services, and approach to doing business match your customer’s requirements.

If your customer needs you to do a lot of custom work and you are only structured to provide standard product, you will disappoint.

If your lead time is two to three weeks and your consumer is constantly calling at the last minute, you will disappoint.

If your customer likes a lot of personal attention, meetings, and phone calls, and you want the process to be more online and automated, you will disappoint.

If you like to be on the cutting edge and constantly innovating, and your customer wants to do the same thing over and over, you will disappoint, not to mention you will get frustrated and annoyed.

So, before you think about how to service a client, consider whether it is a client you want. Ask yourself: Is the work something that fits well into your existing workflow, processes, and the capabilities of your company? Would it be a stretch to deliver what your customer is asking for, or require a capital investment you are not prepared to make, like adding inventory? What if it just isn’t work you are ramped up to do? If the work is not part of your core capabilities, it takes longer to accomplish. You simply may not be able to provide timely service. You really need to think about whether the client can, and will be, good for your business in the long-term.

Once you get the client, you need to perform, and unfortunately, most don’t. A recent study by SuperOffice that benchmarked customer service stated, “Most companies know what they need and should deliver excellent customer service. But interestingly enough, research shows that while 80% of businesses believe they provide excellent customer service, in fact only 8% of customers believe they are actually receiving excellent service.”

Did you know I conduct workshops for businesses and I am a speaker for hire? Here’s my speaking packet.