Watch Janet Napolitano exemplify the Speaking Strength™ “Clarity”

Posted By on September 25, 2014

It is one year since Janet Napolitano took over as President of the University of California. Throughout that time, the former head of U.S. Homeland Security has been getting to know Californians through speaking engagements. I think her style deserves a closer look to exam her Speaking Strengths.

I had the pleasure of hearing Napolitano speak in San Francisco, as part of the City Arts and Lectures series. That interview was only released on audio for a limited time, but you can see her in action in this clip from an interview with the Public Policy Institute of California. Watch as she clarifies with statistics.

Speaking Strength: Clarity

Napolitano’s over-arching Speaking Strength is “Clarity” which is the ability to be unambiguous and concise. She doesn’t rattle off statistics without concern for the listener. Her messaging includes full declarations, stories, and points of view that are easy to understand.

Speaking Strengths: Authenticity and Humor

Napolitano also demonstrates the Speaking Strength “Authenticity” which is to be genuine and real. She even selectively uses the Speaking Strength “Humor” (to be aumusing or funny) when taking about obvious ironic situations she has faced in her career, which spanned from U.S. Attorney and Governor of Arizona, all the way to the President’s Cabinet.

It is true that 20 years of high-level public service provided the perfect opportunity for Napolitano to hone her Speaking Strengths. And make no mistake, honing is required by all of us. Those same Speaking Strengths – or one of the other Top Ten Speaking Strengths can be developed in you, too, with some professional coaching.

That’s our passion, at Grant and Associates, helping others enhance their speaking skills. We have dedicated over 20 years to perfect our Speaking Strengths as TV reporters, anchors and producers. We then turned our attention to coaching on-air talent, executives and celebrities to hone their skills. Let us help you perfect yours.

Public figures can be great role models for Speaking Strengths. Speaking for impact is not an accident, it’s a skill. We would love to hear which public figures you admire as public speakers and why.



Do you want to become leadership material?

Posted By on August 19, 2014

In our global economy — as collaboration is required and diversity increases – we know that communication is one of the most important skills in the workplace. If you want to lead and want that next promotion, you need to be a strong, high impact communicator. These three reports are sobering evidence of this fact:

  • The Center for Talent Innovation conducted a year-long study of 4,000 professionals, including more than 200 senior executives. They ranked communication (excellent speaking skills, assertiveness, and the ability to read an audience or a situation) as a critical factor to get ahead. They also agreed that gravitas (projecting confidence) and a polished appearance are part of the executive presence necessary for promotion.
  • The Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, North Carolina, found that most fired executives were poor communicators. Effective leaders are better at blending trust, empathy and genuine communication with their other skills.
  • In a recent Microsoft survey, communication ranked #1 among the top 20 skills needed for the high-growth, high-wage occupations of the future.

Speaking for impact is not an accident, it’s a skill. It’s often hard to gauge your own effectiveness as a communicator. Expert help can make all the difference. Don’t go it alone. Get help from seasoned professionals.

Consider attending a program like our Speaking for Impact® program. Whatever program you choose, make sure it is a hands on – not a class where you sit and listen. You need practice.  You need coaching. You need a way to measure yourself. Our program is delivered by seasoned professional coaches who identify your Speaking Strengths™ and provide you powerful 1:1 coaching to leverage those strengths.  You will learn to score your strengths (and those of others). In fact, you will practice on-camera – an invaluable way to hone your speaking skills and give yourself a competitive edge.

Good communication includes the right mix of being comfortable, confident and convincing. With the right training, you will be able to inspire and lead your way to that next promotion. Make this your year.

We would love to hear your stories about how you use communication to inspire and lead in your professional life.


The First Lady of Humor

Posted By on July 17, 2014

Speaking for impact is a skill and each of us has, at our disposal, one or more natural Speaking Strengths we can hone to improve our impact. One of these is Humor. Watch this video for a charming example of the Speaking Strength® of humor. Note: you will need to be patient. This speaker – who is giving a prayer at a senior care network convention – starts a bit slowly (lulls you with her deadpan delivery) but just over a minute into her speech, she’ll have you smiling.

Speaking Strength™ Humor

Isn’t Mary charming? Mary Maxwell is a retired vice president of a financial company who has become known as Omaha, Nebraska’s first lady of humor. That particular speech has been viewed over 10 million times on YouTube. In a web interview regarding her frequent speaking engagements and her jokes about growing older, Maxwell says she’s lucky enough to have family, friends and coworkers who are “a lot funnier and brighter than I am and don’t mind me using their wonderful stories when I am speaking.”

Maxwell’s deadpan delivery and comedic timing are her particular gifts. But anyone can add a bit of humor to their speaking, if they keep it authentic. Connections with the audience are deepened through stories. As you tell a story, if there is something humorous involved, give it wing.

Speaking for impact is not an accident. It’s a skill. We would love to hear how you have used the speaking strength of humor to make an impact.  If you’d like help to cultivate humor as one of your Speaking Strengths, contact me at


How to tell a good story

Posted By on May 23, 2014

Story tellerIf you have been mesmerized by a public speaker, chances are good they were not standing at a podium and rattling off the latest sales figures. It’s more likely they were using the power of story.

Storytelling has become a buzzword in business and with good reason. Spreadsheets and business plans are necessary, but they do not elicit emotion nor do they inspire. People remember well-told stories.

A story is generally defined as a narrative, usually involving people and events, where one thing leads to another. Most good stories wrap it all up at the end.

To get started as a good storyteller, use these tips:

A Story Well Told

  • Humanize it. People care about people. There is a reason why many journalistic stories start by focusing on people who exemplify the bigger story. In business, this might mean that you tell a personal story, or talk about a client or customer who represents a bigger goal or idea.
  • Keep it simple. This means saving your big words and statistics for written material. Tell your story with plain language and action verbs. Keep it short. Most people can easily remember one point, or perhaps up to three points.
  • Don’t forget the ending. When we were kids, stories ended when everyone  “lived happily ever after.” Effective stories need endings. Sometimes it is a lesson that you are trying to impart. Ask yourself: Where do I want the listener to go from here? Leave listeners excited about joining you to take action.

Good stories help speakers make an impact. It’s one way to be memorable.

Speaking for impact is not an accident, it is a skill. We would love to hear how you have incorporated storytelling in your professional life. Share your experience with a comment.


Alleviate Anxiety Tip #3: Breathe

Posted By on February 28, 2014

This is the third post in a three-part series focused on helping you alleviate anxiety before giving a presentation.

When clients tell me they feel anxious prior to their remarks, or, as they jump into the opening of remarks, or, the need to rush  “to get all the material” covered, I ask them about their breathing.  The answer almost always is that they are really not aware of their breathing. Once they focus on it, they realize they are breathing fast, a natural reaction to adrenaline released by the body when you are feeling anxious or fearful, or they are holding their breath.

It is interesting that the act of breathing is so taken for granted when you consider it is essential to life. It is so automatic, we forget to pay attention to it!

Before you begin to speak in front of a group, take a moment to notice your breathing. Is it fast? Take three slow breaths. When you consciously slow your breathing, you will become more relaxed and present. You will come across in your presentation and more authentic. It will calm your anxiety and lower your stress.

If, like I tend to do, you are holding your breath or are breathing very shallow breaths, take three slow, deep breaths.

Practicing breath control is good exercise leading up to a speech or presentation. Try this exercise in the days leading up to your big day:

  • Lie on the floor or on your bed at night and place your hand on your abdomen.
  • Feel the natural rise and fall of your belly.
  • Now, allow your belly to fill even further before you release and exhale.
  • Experience the plenty of oxygen that fills your diaphragm.

This fullness is the way I want you to feel when you stand and deliver your presentation.

Repeat this exercise every hour starting several days before your presentation. Yes, every hour, take three of deep breaths! That will really bring it to your consciousness. Do only three to four deep breaths at one setting because doing more than that may make you a bit dizzy.  Set the alarm on your phone to remind you to do the exercise each hour. It will bring oxidation to your brain, allowing you to think more clearly; and it will relax you.

Practice will help you sharpen this tool for so it will be ready when you need it to combat performance anxiety.

So when you feel rushed, pressured or a sense of real stress, notice how you are breathing.

What do you do to control your public speaking anxiety? Share your tips by posting a comment. Speaking for impact is not an accident. It’s a skill.


Alleviate Anxiety Tip #2: Support your Voice

Posted By on February 22, 2014

This is the second post in a three-part series focused on helping you alleviate anxiety before giving a presentation.

Many people suffer from fear and anxiety about speaking in front of groups. This tip will ensure your voice quality is high on game day.

Our voice specialist, Cynthia Bassham tells us that we do need a certain amount of mucus around our vocal folds because it acts as a lubricant so that friction is eased. Without it, you will “croak”. What can you do to ensure you have enough lubrication for your voice?

Most important: Stay Hydrated. Because this keeps the mucus moving! Avoid soda. Why? Soda can cause you to hiccup. Best alternatives: Drink water or tea.

Second, avoid dairy. Why? Dairy can thicken the mucous fluid and “gum up” the works. Thick mucus can cause irritation and make you feel the need to clear your throat – not a good thing to do in the middle of a presentation! When we speak of dairy, we are talking about products such as milk, cream, cheese, yogurt and butter. Reduce your use of dairy for three days before your presentation (or longer if you are particularly sensitive to dairy) to make sure your vocal cords are good-to-go for your presentation.

Share your tips for reducing public speaking anxiety by posting a comments. Speaking for impact is not an accident. It’s a skill.


Alleviate Anxiety Tip #1: Energize your brain

Posted By on February 15, 2014

This is the first post in a three-part series focused on helping you alleviate anxiety before giving a presentation.

Many people suffer from fear and anxiety about speaking in front of groups. Did you know that you can reduce anxiety by nourishing your brain? You can. Fueling your brain will also reduce your fatigue and increase your energy and staying power. This first post will address the food of the brain: Glucose.

Glucose is made by your body from the food you eat. It is the only nutrient the brain can use for energy. I like to think of Glucose as gasoline or fuel for the brain.
So, for your brain, Glucose is power. When your brain is well fed, your concentration and stamina increase.

The brain uses at least 50% of the glucose your body produces so it’s a good idea to make sure the brain has enough energy by eating well before your presentation. Now, you can feed your brain glucose by eating a donut or other high sugar food before you take the stage. But that would be a mistake. Simple sugars burn FAST and you will experience an energy crash after a short time. You want a mix of fast, medium and slow burning sources of fuel for your brain. That means a mix of (you guessed it), protein, complex carbohydrates and protein. And yes, this diet is good for your health overall but it’s especially important for prepping for “game day”.

At minimum, eat well the day of the presentation. Ideally, three days beforehand follow these basic guidelines to net you high energy and focused concentration:
Eat a balanced mix of these three nutrients at all three meals (don’t skip breakfast!):  protein, fat and good carbohydrates.

  • The best sources of protein are high quality, organic beef, fish and chicken.  Eggs are also an excellent source of protein.
  • The best sources of fat are also sources of Omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, flax seeds, walnuts, sardines, soybeans, halibut, scallops, shrimp and tofu. Other healthy oils are: olive oil, avocado, coconut oil.
  • The best sources of carbohydrates are green vegetables, whole grains such as quinoa (also high in protein).

Also consider eliminating gluten (found in wheat flour, oats, and other foods). Many people find they feel more clarity and energy within a few days. You may enjoy a surge of energy and clarity and less weariness. Try eliminating it for a few weeks. Some people do get quick results by eliminating gluten but for others, it takes a few weeks or months.

Ok, so now you know how to energize your brain and improve your concentration with a steady stream of fuel. The next post will cover improving the quality of your voice.

This series of “alleviate anxiety” tips will calm your anxiety and keep you from feeling sluggish or sounding weak. Most important it will empower you to be more in command of your speaking delivery as well as your overall health.

Share your tips for alleviating public speaking anxiety by posting a comment. Speaking for impact is not an accident. It’s a skill. One to hone throughout your career and life.


Connect with your audience

Posted By on October 8, 2013

As you prepare for your next important meeting, consider how you will connect with your audience. By doing so, you will earn the audience’s attention and be afforded the opportunity to influence them.



  • Who is your audience and what do they care about?
  • Why should this specific audience care what you have to say in this meeting?
  • Does this audience consider you to be credible? Or, do you need to establish your credibility?
  • What action(s) do you want the audience to take after the meeting?

Connections are made when the audience feels valued, understood and respected. A good way to start is with an acknowledgement of who they are and what they care about. For example,

“As customer support professionals, I know you care about our customer’s experience when they call us. Today you will learn about plans for upgrading the phone system and how that upgrade will help you serve our customers better.”

If necessary, establish credibility with your audience. For example,

“You may be wondering why the head of finance is leading a branding session. Good question! Few of you probably know this but before I became a CPA, I worked in my father’s advertising agency. I learned first-hand the value of a strong brand and have had respect for branding ever since. Today, you’ve been asked to participate in this session because you are viewed as someone who embodies our brand.”

Notice how the audience is also acknowledged for their credibility.

The call to act, connects each audience member to you and your message. For example,

“I hope you will join me to support our green initiative by recycling, carpooling and turning off devices when not in use.”

Connecting with your audience is fundamental to effective communication. Speaking for impact is not an accident. It’s a skill. How do you connect with your audiences? Let us know by posting a comment.


Extra! Extra!

Posted By on September 20, 2013

“A good speech should be like a woman’s skirt: long enough to cover the subject and short enough to create interest”
― Winston Churchill


Short and Memorable

Churchill’s quip is as true of presentations and meetings as it is of speeches. Long windedness is, frankly, inconsiderate of the audience. So is using complex sentences, jargon and a litany of unbroken facts. In fact, one of the most valuable Top Ten Speaking Strengths™ today is clarity. People who have this strength make their point simply, instead of expecting the audience to decipher a complex message.

Some people are endowed with this strength. Others have developed it. If you need to develop this speaking strength, here’s some advice to get your started:

Identify your Headline


  • What is the key point you want to make?
  • What is the “heart of the matter”?

Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? You may be surprised to learn that this step is often skipped. Especially by those who need to improve their clarity. Why? Because they interpret this advice as “know what you want to say” and they already know, generally, what they want to say. What is needed is to distill the key points down to their very essence. The gap between the general message and the headline is filled, literally, with lots and lots of words. Removing those unnecessary words will bring clarity. So, spend the time to identify your headline.

Less is More

Elaborate on your key point with vivid language. The force of a few words can be enormous and deepen our memory so illustrate, demonstrate, or illuminate.


“I have a dream. . .”

“Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country . . .” and

“Tear down this wall.”

You might not be a public persona like Martin Luther King, Jr. or Presidents Kennedy or Reagan, but whenever you communicate, you can be remembered through the words you use. The next time you have a speaking opportunity, prepare to say less and leave your audience with something to remember.

Making a lasting impact in this multi-messaging world requires more discipline than ever before. Practice pays off and this exercise will help you to choose your words carefully. If you would like to do more and learn to deliver your message with passion and conviction, consider working with one of our coaches or attending our breakthrough seminar program Speaking for Impact.

Speaking for impact is not an accident. It’s a skill.  We would love to hear how you have used fewer words to make an impact. Please post a comment.


Speaking Hiccups

Posted By on June 14, 2013

If you do enough public speaking, whether in front of an audience or a TV camera, you’re bound to run into some unpredictable glitch.

Let’s take a look at Houston meteorologist David Paul who powered through an unexpected case of the hiccups.  Whether you are a TV personality or an executive, you might face an unanticipated problem during your speaking engagement. Watch how he handles this, ah, hiccup:

David Paul’s case of the hiccups was untimely  – during his three-minute long weather report on a day of severe storms. He was quick to say “excuse me” after many of the hiccup interruptions. He also did three important things:

  • He used the speaking strength of authenticity.
  • About 30 seconds into the weather report, he said, “I have the hiccups. Of course this would happen right when we have heavy weather, but bear with me.” During a speech or performance there may be times when you need to name the challenge that you face. “I am a little nervous in front of large groups.” or “The audio doesn’t seem to be working; I’ll try to speak a little louder.” Declare what is going on in order to keep the connection with your audience.
  • He used the speaking strength of humility. David smiled a few times throughout the on-air hiccuping episode, and said “We’ve all had hiccups before, right?” We are all human and viewers could feel a connection to someone who reminds them of that.

For any of your speaking engagements, if you experience a glitch, in most cases you, too, will want to power through. Connect with your audience – name your challenge and keep it human – and be prepared to keep the stage.

Speaking for impact is not an accident it’s a skill. Share your stories of glitches and hiccups you’ve experienced during a presentation, TV or live video event.