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Episode 167: Improving Communication and Public Speaking Skills for Consultants—with Laurie Gilbertson

Deb Zahn: I want to welcome you to this week's episode of the Craft of Consulting podcast. On this episode, we're going to talk about communication and public speaking, and in particular, how to become really exceptional in both of those. Now, communication is one of those make or break at consulting skills, so you definitely want to invest time and energy into learning how to do it extraordinarily well.

But public speaking, even if when I say those words, it makes you feel really frightened and nervous right now, it is still important to consider it as an avenue through which you're going to get clients, in which case, you're going to want to get to be really good at it. So I brought on an expert that's going to walk us through strategies about how to do it, how to do it well, and ultimately use it for your business purposes, Laurie Gilbertson, who is an absolute expert in how to do this. And she's going to teach us all the nitty gritty. So let's get started. I want to welcome to my show today, Laurie Gilbertson. Laurie, welcome to the show.

Laurie Gilbertson: Thanks so much, it's a pleasure to be here.

Deb Zahn: So let's start off, tell my listeners what you do.

Laurie Gilbertson: I am a communication and public speaking specialist, and that sounds a little bit scary to some people. So what I actually do is I help professionals communicate better in the courtroom, for trial lawyers, in the boardroom, for business people, in the media, for people who are doing video, television or podcasts, and also with clients and colleagues so that they can feel really comfortable and confident with their presenting. And that really helps their businesses thrive.

Deb Zahn: Which I love. So we're going to be talking about it from a consultant's prospective today because everything from being in front of a prospective client, when you're trying to get business, all the way to the big and scary public speaking so that you can get business is really important to be able to do it skillfully and to have it actually achieve the result you want. So we're going to start with a super obvious question. Why does it matter that you communicate so well?

Laurie Gilbertson: Well, communication is one of these incredibly overlooked skills, and people call it a soft skill, but it is ingrained in everything we do and every part of life. So if you want to be able to get your ideas across, if you want to feel comfortable talking to people, if you want to just feel good about what you are saying and putting out in the world, you need to be able to communicate it well. So it just cuts across everything. And communication is really the way that we make our way in the world and connect with people. It is really, really hard to form relationships if you can't communicate.

Deb Zahn: 100%. And since relationships are the basis of a successful consulting business, it's even more important. So I know and you know that communicating when you feel like you're under any kind of a spotlight in front of a prospective client or under an actual real spotlight, which I've been under, can be terrifying. So what actually stops people in their tracks? What do you see, like how the fear shows up?

Laurie Gilbertson: Oh goodness. That fear is another thing that is really ingrained in us just as human beings. It's kind of that fight or flight response. So the cortisol gets going in your brain and it's, "Am I going to survive this and do it? Am I going to run?" So it really goes back to these days of the cavemen. And now here we are in all these possible business or personal situations where we're seeing it come up. So how does it show up? It's the butterflies in your stomach. It's that difficulty, maybe catching your breath. It also affects our brain.

So all of a sudden, you can't remember the words that you've been practicing. Right? You can't call up the word that you just said five minutes ago, maybe in really extreme cases, you can't even get your name out. That's how scary it is. So what we try to do and what really works for getting comfortable is, we don't just dismiss those reactions. We work through them and we start to figure out ways to combat them, to get comfortable with certain things and to push our way through because that's when the butterflies turn to excitement. The breathing maybe a little bit faster, turns to adrenaline that gives you some more energy. So it can be really terrifying, and you can be the most experienced speaker, and it happens.

Deb Zahn: 100%. So I'd love to talk about a strategy for overcoming it because obviously there's the, "Oh, pretend everybody's naked." Which now has HR implications for saying that. But what's a strategy you use with someone who's just like, "Nope, nope, can't do it. It's too scary?"

Laurie Gilbertson: Well, the first thing is preparation and practice. Before you even get out there and start doing anything, whether it's talking to a prospective client, whether it's under that spotlight, they're all equally important. Right? They're just all relatives. So you've got to know what you're going to say, and you've got to start doing it. Whether you're talking into your phone, talking into the mirror, repeating it to yourself as you're driving your car, get comfortable with that.

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Laurie Gilbertson: So all of that practice and preparation does more than any breathing exercise can do. So that's the first thing. The second thing is once you've really done that, so that knowing your content is not the issue, so that when it starts going out of your head you're able to pull it back, it's just slowing things down, breathing. I do meditation, which I love and I feel like has changed my life, and the people in my life will laugh about it because I'm not a meditation kind of person at all. And breathing is an incredibly powerful tool.

So before I do anything, even before I came on this podcast with you today, I sit, I close my eyes and I take three deep breaths. And I just put myself in the moment, and it is amazing physically how that can counter what's going on in your brain. Another thing to start to work through is to think of your audience in a different way. I'm not going to go there imagining them naked. But when you are speaking to anyone and if you're speaking to a client, you're talking to your child or to your mother, in front of an audience, you're a speaker.

So when you are speaking, it's not about you; it is not about you. It is about the people or the person you are speaking to, and the value that you're hoping to bring them. That is what it is about. So think about that audience and just set some intention with them. What am I giving to them? How do I want them to feel? What do I want them to think when I am finished today?

Deb Zahn: Love it.

Laurie Gilbertson: Start taking the pressure off yourself because it's really not about you.

Deb Zahn: That's right. I love that, coming at it from the spirit of generosity. I think that's beautiful. So way back in the day when I was in my twenties, which was a bit ago, I got trained for my job communication. We got trained for a whole bunch of skills, and we got filmed, and I later figured out why we got filmed, is because I had no clue how many ticks I had when I was speaking, but the only way to overcome it is to know. And that was a helpful way for me to say, "I do this well, and I don't do this well, and so now, how am I going to play with this?"

Laurie Gilbertson: You need to know. I mean, you need to know yourself. Speaking is this magical culmination when it's done well, when you leave and you feel so good about it, the content that you're bringing, what you're giving in, that spirit of generosity you talked about, and then also your delivery, how are you bringing it to your audience? And everybody does it in these really unique ways. And so knowing, like you being on videotape, watching yourself and knowing yourself, what am I doing well, or what tick do I have that's maybe a little strange?

Like for me, I used to tilt my head. Just used to tilt my head a lot. Didn't know I was doing it until I started watching it. And then you can focus on it, and you can start to change it, but you have to know yourself. And that's also part of getting comfortable because, for trying to put something out there that is not who we are, and doesn't really pull on all our unique skills, it's going to be a lot of stress, it's going to be really hard.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. Mine was, I would hold my hands together tightly and tensely, which is not really a comforting look on the other side. But I realized I was also creating tension in myself. So dropping my arms to the side and naturally letting my arms flow, I suddenly relaxed. Go figure.

Laurie Gilbertson: The body and the mind when speaking are so intertwined. It is amazing, which is doing one little thing like that can change everything.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. 100%. Before we get into some of the fun nitty-gritty of how to become a better communicator, let's talk about what does powerful communication look like? How do you go from blah to powerful? What are those elements?

Laurie Gilbertson: The most powerful communications are from people who know themselves and are really cultivated and are true to their unique style, and bring that, people who know their audience. So it's really tailored to who you're speaking with, and then who are able to go out there and deliver with all the tools that we have these days, with fantastic visuals, with great graphics, with fun videos, with interaction with the audience. So this whole, the content, the delivery, the visuals, that combine, it can really create that great magic. When you see that presentation, you're like, "Wow, that is amazing."

It's a combination of all those things that make great communication. And the important thing too, for people just really thinking about it, it can be really scary. and you can feel like you have to go out and just like, wow the audience. And you don't. That's not how you get started. I use the analogy of skiing. You can read all the skiing books, you can watch all the videos, but until you get out on the slope and start doing it, you're not going to get good, but you're not going on the black slope first.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Laurie Gilbertson: Right? You're starting on the bunny slope, you're starting and you're getting comfortable and you can give a fantastic presentation just starting out the same way. You can go down that bunny slope really nicely. And then you move up, and then you learn more things, and then you get more comfortable, and then you keep going, and then maybe one day, you're on the blacks and you're doing awesome. Maybe the blacks aren't for you, maybe the greens are for you and you're really, really good with that. And that's what you do. So it's all about finding what your style is, getting comfortable with it, and then taking the time to think about your audience and how you're going to deliver that message.

Deb Zahn: I love that. So you don't have to go straight to a TED Talk.

Laurie Gilbertson: No. I do this for a living. Right? And when I was starting out in my consulting business, I was terrified because I thought, "Well, every presentation I go do to highlight me in my business has to be the most amazing presentation ever or no one's ever going to hire me."

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Laurie Gilbertson: So just putting that pressure that you have to wow people is crazy. So I'm going to encourage everyone in the audience, don't put that on yourself because there are all these tips and tools that you can use that right away make your presentations stand up.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Laurie Gilbertson: And they're not hard. You just have to start doing them.

Deb Zahn: That's right. And if you're helpful and they walk out and they've been helped, then you have done what you needed to do.

Laurie Gilbertson: Yeah. Yeah.

Deb Zahn: Oh, I love that. Now, there's different versions and context in which folks need to be able to communicate well, and I actually want to go through a couple of them because there's...When you're in prospective client meetings when you're doing public speaking and then I do want to hit live TV because that's the only one that I haven't actually done, but let's start with the prospective client meeting because that's where you're trying to establish enough of a connection and be able to persuade them if it's appropriate that they should hire you and work with you.

Deb Zahn: So if there's a consultant, they're like, "I'm so nervous and I'm not sure what to do." How would you tell them they should start? How should they approach that before they even get into the room?

Laurie Gilbertson: Before you even approach the client, you want to have a plan, not a script, but a plan. That preparation in that practice comes into play here, even though it may feel silly going through it. I've sat down with friends and colleagues and gone through, what does this conversation look like when you're going in to talk to this client? What does it look like when you're trying to tell someone about your business?

So first of all, the same thing applies. It's about them. Right? So what are you going to do for them? How are you bringing some value to this person? So take the pressure off you, this is not going in and I, I, I all about my resume, I'm an expert, this or that. Not at all. They don't need to know that. Right? They are having the meeting with you, you've already gotten past the part where they want to talk to you.

So it's about that combination of a personal and professional connection. So think about...First of all, know that audience, know that one person, do you have something in common? Did you meet somewhere? Do you maybe have kids the same age? Are you from the same places? There's something that you can kind of pull in before you dive into things to just start having those threads of connection between you, so you're not going in and selling, you're going in and forming a relationship. You need to start with that relationship. And so, I'd advise having kind of a framework, how do I want to start this conversation?

So I want to go in, and I know this person, recently moved here from New York, and so did I, so we're going to chat about that a little, or I know this person is struggling with X problem. So let me start with asking them about how these things are going, and how is this going since our last conversation? Be interested, be curious, ask questions, listen more than you talk. That's a strange thing to say about speaking and communication, but it is also a huge communication skill. Listen to what they're saying and pull out the things that they are coming up with so that you can ask those follow up questions.

Laurie Gilbertson: So you want to have your dream up, what am I going to start with? Then, what are the two or three things that I want to get out of this conversation? Right? I want to know what they're looking for, or maybe I want to know, are they in a position where they might be ready to hire me or do they need more information about my business? What are those three things that you're going...At least have a little bit of a plan.

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Laurie Gilbertson: Once you're in there, just same thing, take those three deep breaths before you go in and just try to be in the moment of that conversation, make it a real conversation and think to yourself, "I am not selling, I am forming this relationship. This is a relationship." And then think about too, in that framework, how do you want to end this conversation? What's the goal here? And you've got to really listen to what that person is going to need. So what's the goal? Is it, we're going to follow up and have another meeting? Are they going to send me information? Do they want more information from me? And the idea too, I think, for every prospective client meeting is, how can I support you?

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Laurie Gilbertson: How can I support you? What can I do to help you? And that may be you, it may be someone else. It may be your referral to someone else, may not be the right client for you, but go in with an open mind, not a sales script, just a framework and open mind and ready for that relationship.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. I love this and I've built an entire business over 12 years by doing exactly what you just described, and contrast it with the me, me, me, and while they're talking, it's a pause in my monologue, and no wonder they leave and they're like, "Oh, well that happened."

Laurie Gilbertson: And it's such a waste. It's just a waste of a chance to build a relationship. And you never know where they're going to go. You never know.

Deb Zahn: Love it. I totally love that. So that's how you approach it. And you know what you're trying to get out of it. What are some things, aside from what you've mentioned, that you want to see every single time? Like when someone is communicating with someone in a prospective client situation, absolutely do this.

Laurie Gilbertson: Absolutely listen. Like I said. Listen to what they are saying and try to read between the lines if they're not giving you the word, if they're not saying it by the words, they may be saying something in there that they're not just quite ready to verbalize, and that is what's going to make you so valuable. If you can respond with, "You're telling me this, but what I'm hearing is you may be looking for X, Y, or Z." Verbalize that back and try to hone in on what they want. So that takes real listening. I'm going to put that as number one, as the listening.

And the second is something that's just, I think people don't often think about because they're thinking I'm a salesperson. I'm going in, I'm being salesy. The be yourself part of it, you're trying to form a genuine connection. So try to have a little fun with the conversation. Try to make it energetic, make it lively, bring yourself to it. This doesn't have to be like a cut and dry script, this is a relationship and a conversation. So make it that way.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. Because they're picking someone who wants to be by their side, not just a suit that a consultant has been put inside.

Laurie Gilbertson: Well, there's the marketing adage, if you get into marketing and you hear this lot, people want to work with people they know, like and trust. So how are you going to start that process of knowing, liking, and trusting in this relationship? And you got to be yourself. I remember being on a conversation when I was more in the education field and I was doing litigation programs and trainings, and this was someone who I wanted to speak on a program. And so I was soliciting them and I was trying to put my best face forward and really do great for the organization and get this speaker to come in and talk.

I had three little kids at home, and I was working from home and they were running in and out and they were all under four, and there was so much noise, and I was trying to hide it and hide it and hide it. And then I just let it go. And I just was honest and said, "I've got my kids at home, everyone's home sick. I'm calling from home, I'm so sorry. Do you want to reschedule this?" And the person I was on the phone with said, "Oh my gosh, I have kids exactly the same age. That happens to me all the time." We started talking about it. This was more than 10 years ago. We're friends to this day. That's the connection that people are looking for. Be a real person, just be a real person.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. And if that person doesn't vibe with you, that's OK.

Laurie Gilbertson: Right. Is that going to be a good working relationship anyways?

Deb Zahn: Yeah. And then you go after the folks that you're more likely to vibe with and you're going to be more successful.

Laurie Gilbertson: Exactly.

Deb Zahn: I love that. So let's get to one of the big scaries: public speaking.

Laurie Gilbertson: I love that.

Deb Zahn: So again, public speaking works a lot of different ways, but I certainly, and I know you also talk about this, it is a powerful way to get business. So I don't want people to take it off their plate because it frightens them. So how do you encourage them to prepare for that? What should they be starting thinking through?

Laurie Gilbertson: Well, the first thing to think about is, what are you speaking about? What are you going to be speaking about? So one of the things that's a great way to get started with this practice and the preparation and things that can make you really comfortable is thinking of what would be a mini keynote address that you could give.

So what do you know that comes so naturally to you, that you could tell people your top 10 tips in your sleep, but that may not come naturally to a lot of other people? And then start writing that out. Things that you know so well that you can share, maybe it would be about your journey to becoming a consultant. Maybe it would be about your particular kind of consulting you do. Maybe there's a case study of a really interesting client you worked with, and you want to showcase your value through that. But start thinking about that, and you can create this little mini keynote marketing tool for yourself.

Deb Zahn: Love it.

Laurie Gilbertson: And it can be whatever you're comfortable with, 15 minutes, 30 minutes, whatever it is. And you start thinking about that because that's going to get you excited to do some speaking. That's what you know, that's what you like to share, that's what you do. You're passionate about it, it will get you started. So for people, that is a great tool. So to start thinking about it, this can be a really great tool that can work for you.

This can be something, this kind of mini keynote can be really something that you can, when you're starting your business, you can shop around, let's say you call up the chamber of commerce in whatever city or town that you're in and say, "I'd really like to come speak at your breakfast meeting and give my...this is what I do, give my top five tips for public speaking. It's a fun presentation. I'd love to meet your members. Can I come share that?" More often than not, they're going to say, "Yeah, sure." Then you go. And in terms of preparing, you've got your content ready and you know that you're going to go share this great stuff that you know you're going to network, you're going to meet people.

Maybe these people will become referral partners for you. Maybe they become clients. Maybe it just gets your name out in the world, but you just go do it and start practicing doing it. As you get comfortable with the things that are near and dear and the easiest for you, it becomes a little easier to talk maybe about things that are a little bit out of that scope.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Laurie Gilbertson: That's my advice to people who are getting started. I mean, you can do Toastmasters, you can do other things. The point is, get out there and do it. Just get out there and start doing it.

Deb Zahn: Right. And I love don't start with something that is so hard, that is going to be...the content's going to be a struggle, and now the fear and everything else becomes a struggle. So I love starting with that thing that's exactly what you know and you do well. Why not?

Laurie Gilbertson: Why not? I had a call earlier today with a friend I'm doing a project with, and she does video production. And so, we're doing something together and she can spit out the 20 things you need to do when you're making videos and the lighting and this and that. And I'm overwhelmed. This is amazing. And she's like, "Yeah, don't people know this?" I'm like, "No, people don't know."

Deb Zahn: No.

Laurie Gilbertson: That's what you want to get out there. And people want to learn. They want to learn. Like you said, when you are out there speaking and you're getting ready for this, you want to have something you're passionate about, that comes easily, that you're eager to share, and that it's going to help you in the long run in so many ways.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. You can start small. I love the idea of trying to do something locally because suddenly throwing yourself into a big thing. And if there are curve balls or doesn't go well, then you're like, "Ah, that didn't work." As opposed to a chamber of commerce, OK.

Laurie Gilbertson: Right. When you think about comedians, when they're starting out with new material, they want to workshop their material. Right? And they go to all the little clubs that are all over and they do it for free a lot of the time and they just want to get audience reaction. Think of it like that. That's what you're doing. You are workshopping your material and your skills.

And then, you can get feedback from the audience, you can get feedback from the people you're speaking with. You can ask, when you're giving any of these presentations, can you send a survey after to everybody? Just asking what was valuable, what would you like to hear about? That kind of thing. And you just get yourself started, get on that bunny slope, get your ski clothes on and get on the bunny slope, and just do it.

Deb Zahn: I love that. I love that. So it's funny, this was not the bunny slope, but I am going to share a little public speaking story so that people here, it will never be as bad as this. So I was asked to give a talk and they said it was a panel and it was in Washington D.C. We showed up and there wasn't...Panels are usually that table and you all sit behind and each have a microphone, and there wasn't, what there was, it looked like a mini boxing stage in the middle of the room with a gigantic screen on the side and all 1,000 of chairs around it.

And I went up to the guy who was the representative and I said, "I'm here for the panel. Where's the panel?" And he turned around; he said, "Did you ever see Elvis's Comeback Special?" I said, "With the black leather? And he said, "Yeah, it's just like that." And they had us up on this stage with a thousand people surrounding us.

Laurie Gilbertson: Oh my gosh.

Deb Zahn: With these huge screens that told no lies. And luckily I wasn't the first on. And I watched people, and I turned to my colleague, and I said, "I got to do two things. I got to be the mega Deb. I have to project my personality to the back of the room, and I got to work the corners because..."

Laurie Gilbertson: It's like you're a rockstar.

Deb Zahn: And it went extremely well. But for the other speakers who weren't prepared, they clung to the middle of it, terrified because no one had told them it was actually going to happen. So I tell that story only to say, that's not usually how it goes, so don't worry about it.

But curve balls do happen. So what are some of the skills people need to think through if they show up and maybe they get surprised by something?

Laurie Gilbertson: Yeah. I'm a lawyer by training. So necessarily used to thinking about risk and how to handle it. So you always have to have a plan B, always, always, always. What is your plan B going to be if something goes wrong? So what if you get to a presentation that's based on videos and they don't work, what are you going to do? OK? What if you get to the presentation and you want to use an interactive tool, where maybe people type into their phones and it forms a word cloud, and then you were going to talk about it, and then it doesn't work? What are you going to do? You can tell how much I like tech, right? So what are you going to do?

So what if you get up there and you just forget what you're talking about? You get nervous and that cognitive play in the brain happens and you forget where you are. It happens. It happens all the time. What are you going to do? So you have to have a plan B. So here's a plan B for some of those situations. This one happened to me, my very first presentation, I did my top 10 public speaking, and I went to speak at a law firm, and it was the first time I did it, and I was workshopping it, and I was so excited and so nervous. And right when I got to the section on having a plan B, the video cut out, PowerPoint went down, no microphone, no nothing, and they thought I did it on purpose.

Deb Zahn: Oh my...

Laurie Gilbertson: So I was able to make the joke that wasn't on purpose. What did I do? I always carry a binder, very old school. I have a binder. Everything's printed out. My notes are there. I can do it with or without the PowerPoint. Don't need the slides ever, have them there, have a backup. OK? So what about the situation where you're using a video, it cuts out or it doesn't go? I've had that happen in a presentation.

Oh yeah. Do you have a transcript? Right? Have a transcript of the video. Then you can read it. You can give your summary of it, or you can read it verbatim, if it's something between two people, maybe you have someone come up and you give them the script and you guys read it together. Make kind of a fun strength out of what's going wrong.

So what if you forget? What if you just forget, and then you have to go to your notes? This happens, people identify with it, and being able to be vulnerable with an audience, being able to breach that wall between you and the audience, is something that is so powerful. So if that happens, you can really say to your audience, "Oh my gosh, I've completely forgotten where I am. So I'm sure this has never happened to any of you, so give a moment; I'm going back to figure out where I am. Speak amongst yourselves."

You go back, you figure out where you are and you come back. Then you've taken this really scary thing and you've created this bond, this connection with your audience, and that vulnerability makes you an even more engaging speaker to them, makes you even more persuasive. They will feel for you and they're going to be rooting for you even more.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. And they'll remember you. My husband is also a very good speaker. All of the tech went out, all of it. Like everything went out. I'm surprised the light stayed on.

Laurie Gilbertson: Oh my gosh.

Deb Zahn: But the mic worked and everybody was fussing in the background to get everything done. And he got up. He's a horrible singer, but he said, "Any song request?" And someone yelled out, "Feelings." So he started singing Feeling,s and we're like, "No, no." And then the tech came back on. But one of the tricks that I use after having so many tech problems in various scenarios, is I have bought every imaginable type of adapter in court that exists on the planet.

Laurie Gilbertson: Yes.

Deb Zahn: And I bring it with me.

Laurie Gilbertson: Yes. Do not ever trust, when we're in person, the place to have what you need, it can be in your speaker agreement, they could tell you it's going to be there, and then right, you think you're on a panel and you show up to a giant concert. I do the same thing. I got my computer, I got it backed up on a couple flash drives. I got all the adapters. What that does too, in addition to helping you if anything goes wrong, it gives you comfort. Right? You know, you know that you have taken care of everything you can take care of. You can only control so many things, you really can and control what you can. Like your husband, the rest could end up being really fun. You never know.

Deb Zahn: It could. And they remembered it because they remembered that song. So let's just touch briefly on television. So television is the one thing I've never done, but I think would be a complete blast. I think it's a great way to get out in front of people, even if it's on local news. How should you be thinking about and preparing for that?

Laurie Gilbertson: Well, think about it this way. I hesitate to even use the word expert because I think that can make people really nervous, to be touted as an expert, but that's the way television looks at it a lot. You are the legal expert, the healthcare expert, the social media expert, whatever it is. So go back to, what do you know? What do you know about that can help other people, and what can you share with other people? That's the kind of thing you want to be talking about.

For example, I knew court cases, that side lived, it lived, breathed it, 10 years, every single day. So for me to go on television, talk about court cases, that was easy. So you don't want to be on talking about something you don't know about because getting stuck on television, especially live television, that's not good.

Deb Zahn: Oh no, no, no.

Laurie Gilbertson: The second thing to think about with TV is that it can be really simple. That what you are sharing does not need to be complicated or complex or super drawn out. You are, generally, if you are appearing as a commentator on something to share your knowledge, you're explaining and educating. And so you're really starting like from that 101 level, you're not...When I was on and I wasn't going to talk about super-sophisticated courtroom techniques or trial techniques to people who didn't know which side gets up and talks to a jury first, or how many people are on a jury. You can simplify it and make it as basic as you want. And that's what's often really, really helpful to people when you're starting out.

So the thing about television is also very similar to what we're talking about with talking to clients or doing public speaking. What are you bringing to it? So you want to know, let's say, you're going to go on and let's say, Deb, you're going on and they want someone who can talk about how consulting boomed during COVID. Was there a big change in how that worked during COVID? Something I'm sure you could talk about in your sleep and write a book. Right?

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Laurie Gilbertson: So same thing. They call you, it's usually a very short window. So maybe they call you the day before and say, "We're going to do a segment on this tomorrow, we want you to come on. Can you be here at X time?" Say, OK. Do a little work. What do you want to talk about? Right? What are three points? And then you know what? Share that work with whoever called you, the producer, the booker, whoever it is.

Do some of their work for them. Say here are some great questions to ask me. Here are a few things that came up when I was thinking about this segment that I think would be really great to talk about. And then I'll say, is there anything else in particular you'd like me to be prepared for?

Deb Zahn: Love it.

Laurie Gilbertson: But you're the expert, they're not. So you're going to be able to come up with the best questions, not them.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Laurie Gilbertson: So you will have them also loving you. They will love you. They'll say, "Look at this woman. She's doing my work for me. Look how awesome this is. She's making me look good." And most of going on TV is, how can you make the people you're on with look really good?

Deb Zahn: By the way, it works the same with podcasts. Let me just tell you, send me questions. I might not ask them all, but you now made my life easier because now I know what areas of expertise you are going to come across very articulately talking about because you just told me to ask you that and it's going to be more benefit for the folks.

Laurie Gilbertson: Yeah, absolutely. You take out the guessing game. So let's talk about when you actually get there, let's say we're talking live TV. Let's say you get there. And like, Deb, you are excited. This is something new. And you're thinking, "Yeah, I might want to do this more often, and this could be good for me and my business and getting the word out. Maybe it's just fun." Right? So you go, they're going to fix your hair, they're going to do some makeup and feel like a princess getting primped up. It's lovely.

Every single person you come into contact with is a touch point for your communication of who you are and what you're bringing. It's not just when the cameras go on, every single thing, from, if they send you a driver from the way you interact with the driver, to the person who does your makeup, from the person who is micing you up and getting you there. Have seen so many people who do not take advantage of forging those relationships. You want to really know what's going on on a TV set? It's the makeup person who's going to tell you. Right? You want to know, is the host in a good mood today? What do you think they're going to ask about? Have you talked to them at all? They're going to tell you.

Deb Zahn: That's who knows, that's who knows.

Laurie Gilbertson: So your communication starts immediately, immediately, every single person. When you sit down finally on that set and you're feeling all good, you're all primped, you're all good. You're ready to go. It's still about, how am I making this segment good, so these people look good? And so, I don't faint. Same thing. Couple of deep breaths.

And then the same idea that you're having a conversation, right, you're having a conversation with the one person who you're on with. So you're generally not going to be staring at a camera, having to talk about things…that does happen in various things. But generally, you'd be having a conversation with someone about what you know, and what you love. So you want to, for television, amp up the energy a little bit. You're super Deborah, whatever you said.

Deb Zahn: Mega-Deb

Laurie Gilbertson: Not like super crazy, like you're jumping up and down.

Deb Zahn: Yeah, yeah.

Laurie Gilbertson: 10, 15% because that's what comes through on video. So a little bit more, but otherwise you're having a conversation, you're sharing what you know, you want to be speaking in shorter sentences so that people are listening and you want to slow down because people talk super fast, faster than they think, and especially on television. So up with the energy, slower with the talking and smile, seriously, it makes your voice come out nicer, you look good, you look friendly, warm, inviting. And that adds to the presence because the presence that you're doing on video is about your warmth as part of it and your confidence.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Laurie Gilbertson: So you're having a mix of those and your strength, you're having a mix of those three things, and try to forget the cameras there, honestly, just have a conversation and try to forget it's even there.

Deb Zahn: All right.

Laurie Gilbertson: But there you go.

Deb Zahn: I'm going to do it then.

Laurie Gilbertson: I want to know.

Deb Zahn: I actually am interested in doing it because I think there are ways to be helpful aside from podcasts and LinkedIn and things like that.

Laurie Gilbertson: People need your voice, people need your voice and your expertise. And when you try to think of any of these things, a client meeting, public speaking, or even live television, and you think of it in that way that people need to hear about the things that you know, it takes the pressure off. It helps you be a little less nervous.

Deb Zahn: That's right. I love that. This is all great stuff, and I know you have tons more, so where can folks find you?

Laurie Gilbertson: Sure. One good way to find me is my website. It's You can connect with me directly there. You could send me an email straight from my website, and you can also connect with me on LinkedIn. I am Laurie Gilbertson.

Deb Zahn: Great. And we will have all of that in the show notes. So let me ask you my last question. So how's that balance going?

Laurie Gilbertson: You end with the easy questions. Right? I told you that.

Deb Zahn: Oh yeah. Set the mics here.

Laurie Gilbertson: Right, right. I loved going on live TV because when I went on, I had three children who were under four years old. So live TV was relaxing for me. Now that I'm in a little bit different stage of life and my kids are older, it's a different kind of way of finding balance. So a lot of it is being mindful, really trying to be present. And for me that means not really doing social media, not having my phone next to my bed, really trying to connect with what's in real life, and I'm not perfect at it by any means, but really trying to do that.

And the second thing is, just like trying to slow down, just trying to slow down and really just enjoy and be grateful for what I'm living and what's around me and the people I get to connect with every day, and understanding that there's balance in that. And also, a really good book and some time sitting outside with the dog running in the yard, a glass of wine, a really good book, that works too.

Deb Zahn: That sounds pretty heavenly. Well, Laurie, thank you so much for joining me today. This has just been fabulous.

Laurie Gilbertson: Thank you so much for having me, Deb. I can't wait to see you on live television.

Deb Zahn: Oh, I'll be there. Thanks so much for listening to this episode of the Craft of Consulting podcast. I want to ask you to do actually three things. If you enjoyed this episode or you've enjoyed any of my other ones, hit subscribe, I got a lot of other great guests that are coming up and a lot of other great content, and I don't want you to miss anything. But the other two things that I'm going to ask you to do is one is, if you have any comments, so if you have any suggestions or any kind of feedback that will help make this podcast more helpful to more listeners, please include those.

And then the last thing is, again, if you've gotten something out of this, share it, share it with somebody you know, who's a consultant or thinking about being a consultant and make sure that they also have access to all this great content and all the other great content that's going to be coming up. So as always, you can go and get more wonderful information and tools at Thanks so much, I will talk to you on the next episode. Bye-bye.

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