How to Lose Your Credibility in 90 Seconds

Recently, my wife and I were taking a stroll through the local mall. I pulled her over to a certain cell phone company’s kiosk (a small sales booth).

The tall, dark haired salesman greeted us and proceeded to erode our trust and slam the door on us ever buying from that location.

Here is the gist of what happened.

Me: “How much for internet access for a laptop with no cell phone plan?”

Salesman: “We are cheaper than XYZ and ABC…”

My thoughts: Thanks for mentioning which companies have this service. I’ll check them out.

Me: “I am concerned whether there is coverage in our area. I have had your company before and we would celebrate if we even got one bar in our house.”

Salesman: “Look at this map. If it shows coverage for your area, then you’ll have coverage.”

Me: “I have had your company and it clearly showed coverage but half the time my cell phone was only good for a paper weight.” (No, I did not say that last part, but wished I had thought of it. 🙂 )

Salesman: “If the map shows coverage, then you have coverage.”

Me: “That has not been my experience.”

Salesman: “You can try it for 14 days and bring the laptop card back and receive a full refund. It won’t cost you anything.”

The Second Salesman: (Standing close by) “Actually, there will be a $14.95 restocking fee.”

Salesman: (Says nothing as he grabs the laptop card from the case.)

Salesman: If you buy today, I’ll wave the normal $50 signup fee. This deal is good only for today.

My mind: I see no signs talking about this special. This must be a classic sales ploy.

Me: Sorry. Not interested. (We walk away.)

I chuckled to my wife and said, “I know for a fact he was not honest several times. I wonder how truthful he was with everything else he said.”

There is a good lesson here for public speakers and communicators. This guy made three mistakes.

3 Public Speaking Mistakes to Avoid

Mistake #1: He distracted us from the message.

By starting off talking about his competitors, he took attention away from his product. When speaking there are many great jokes and stories we can use. However, some may be distraction and not help us reach our communication goal.

Mistake #2: He sought to convice me without proof.

He wanted me to believe we had service with his map. That map had as much credibility to me as a forwarded email.

Do you have good sources of proof to back up your points?

Mistake #3: He was dishonest.

He lied to us about there not being a fee for returning the laptop card. To create urgency he insisted that this deal was only good today. Due to their being a lack of an official sale, this was likely not true.

Because of these known untruths, I was not sure what else to believe from him

Same thing happens to us as speakers.

One afternoon I heard an excellent speaker with compelling content share a humorous story that he said happened to him. It was great and really drove the point home.

Problem? I have seen that story several times on email and joke boards. He took a story and said it happened to him when it was just a generic joke.

After that I kept wondering which of his stories were really true. Be honest and it will boost your credibility.

The salesman forever lost our business and completely shot his credibility. We can learn from his mistakes.

Arlen Busenitz

Arlen Busenitz is an experienced speaker with over 650 presentations. He is Author of several books, CD's,and creator of Become a Better Speaker in One Evening™

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13 Quotes on Friday the 13th

I love quotes.

They can be like a:

  • Shot of espresso and Red Bull to get us motivated.
  • Hand on the rudder of our life to point us in a new direction.
  • Needed bucket of water in the face to get us refocused.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. – Aristotle

When you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time – a tremendous whack. – Winston Churchill

Small, seemingly insignificant steps completed consistently over time will create a radical difference….  The Compound Effect is the principle of reaping huge rewards from a series of small, smart choices. What’s most interesting about this process to me is that, even though the results are massive, the steps, in the moment, don’t feel significant. – Darren Hardy

Worrying is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do but it doesn’t get you anywhere. – Van Wilder

Success is never owned, it is only rented; and the rent is due every day. – Rory Vaden

He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. – Jesus

For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. – Paul

Action is the foundational key to all success. – Pablo Picasso

Formula for success: rise early, work hard, strike oil. – J. Paul Getty

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, “I used everything you gave me.” -Erma Bombeck

Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living.  The world owes you nothing.  It was here first. -Mark Twain

People do not learn from experience.  They learn from reflecting on their experience.   The failure to debrief is the main reason why people fail to reach their full potential in performance. – Sivasailam “Thiagi” Thiagarajan

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. – Reinhold Niebuhr

Arlen Busenitz

Arlen Busenitz is an experienced speaker with over 650 presentations. He is Author of several books, CD's,and creator of Become a Better Speaker in One Evening™

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I cringed. An acquaintance  of mine had just performed in front of an audience and did a very good job. An audience member came up and said, “Excellent. Really enjoyed your performance.”

The reply?

“That! I made a few errors and thought I did bad.”

How would you feel if you were the person giving the praise? Maybe, wished you had not given the praise.

Last Saturday, I was the Contest Master (in charge) of the District 22 Toastmasters Conference.  It was my job to put together the contest, introduce the contestants, and run the the contest in front of 100+ people.

It went very well. Afterwards, an experienced Toastmaster of 20+ years came up to me and said, “Arlen, good job on the contest. That was one of the best run contests I have seen.”

That felt good. How do you respond when someone says something similar to you?

I kept in mind these 5 tips on how to  accept verbal praise.

Remember that Verbal Praise Means You Did Something Well

The fact that someone took time to say, “Good job” is a sign your work paid off. The verbal praise is a mini reward for creating excellent results.

Jim Key, who spoke at the conference, said “There is no such thing as accidental excellence.”

It takes time, energy, and practice to have a good performance or presentation.

Here are  few items that helped this contest go well.

  • I mentally rehearsed my opening lines many times.
  • I tried to be remarkable by adding humor and giving a twist to how the instructions are normally done.
  • I use customized humor at the end of the contest.
  • I spent an hour researching and coming up with humorous lines for the contest.
  • I acted confident with tips from Become a Better Speaker in One Evening™
  • Etc.

My point is not to brag, but to show that a good presentation takes work and will likely draw verbal praise.

Enjoy it. It’s payment for a job well done.

Remember You Could Have Done Better

Though I felt and was told the presentation went very well, I have made a list of several items that I wished I had done different and plan to change for next time.

  • I neglected to publicly acknowledge the sound man.
  • When interviewing the contestants, I could have customized questions for each.
  • In most contests they announce the winners right after the contest. In this case it was going to be after the banquet dinner. Though it was in the program, I should have mentioned it from the stage so people were clear on when the announcement would come.
  • Etc.

I am not sitting here beating myself up for the minor tweaks. The reason I mention these is to give an illustration how even in victory, there are always ways to be more excellent.

One of my mentor keeps telling me, “Progress, not perfection.”

Remember at Least One Person Liked Part of Your Presentation

Several years ago I read, “2% of the audience will think it was the best presentation they ever heard and 2% will think it’s the worst. The reality is somewhere in between.”

This may hurt the ego, but just because one person said “Good Job” only means they liked part of the presentation. Your intro may have been awesome, but they felt bored through the rest of the performance. The verbal praise was on the first five minutes and not on the sleep inducing section. 🙂

Flashes of excellence do not mean the entire presentation was 5 star.  A wise performer understands their are always ways to improve.

Remember to Always Acknowledge the Praise and Accept it

Imagine the following scenario.

After a presentation someone approaches with a fresh hot apple pie. They hand it to you and say, I enjoyed the presentation so much that I am giving you this apple pie.

You grab it and shove right in their face!

Ridiculous? Yes.

Does it frequently happen? Yes.

How many times have we done or seen the following happen:

Audience member: Great Job on the presentation.

Performer: That? I really had on off day today and that was not much.

How does the person giving the praise feel? Like you have rejected their praise and thrown in back in their face.

Why do performers respond this way? Sometimes, it’s because they want more praise. They want the person to reassure them and say, “Yes, it was really good.”

How can we accept praise?

Acknowledge and reflect

Thank you, that’s very kind of you.

Appreciate it. I had a great team to help me. They will be glad you noticed.

Doing this will make the person giving the praise feel honored and glad they gave you the praise. It is the least you can do.

Be excellent in your presentations and people will give verbal praise. When they do, keep these verbal praise tips in mind.

Arlen Busenitz

Arlen Busenitz is an experienced speaker with over 650 presentations. He is Author of several books, CD's,and creator of Become a Better Speaker in One Evening™

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The room was filling up fast. As I mentioned in Part 1, I spent about 15 minutes mingling with the audience. I engaged in mini conversations with various people in the room. From experience, people connect better with a speaker who has spent time working the room.

Here some effective networking tips I use when working a room. (Detailed in Conversation Magic). These are effective in social situations and when working an audience before you speak.

Sometimes I use these as I stand in front of the audience. Other times I float around the room.

Networking Tip #1: Smile with your face and your body.

Smiling is powerful. Studies show it will put us in a good mood and it makes us more likable. A smile makes your voice sound warm and friendly. Practice smiling in front of the mirror so you can create a genuine smile at will and not a cheesy, plastic one.

Can a person frown with their body?

At one event I saw a guy standing in the corner with his arms folded and slumped shoulders. His whole body was shouting, “I am in a grumpy mood. Stay away!”

Uncross your arms. Let them hang by your side. Stand or sit up straight. This will make you feel more confident and be more approachable.

Networking Tip #2: Approach people.

Many people are shy. At most events they do not mind being approached by a friendly person, especially if it is the keynote speaker.  My network of business contacts is filled with people because I took the initiative to start a conversation.

“What if I feel nervous or shy?”

Do it anyways. When’s the last time you felt like getting out of bed when the alarm went off? For me, about 1 time out of 20.

After getting up and getting ready for your day, are you glad you got up? Usually. 🙂

In the same way take control of your fear and approach people. Walk up with a smile. Stop at a comfortable distance.

Then apply this next networking tip on working a room.

Networking Tip #3: Use a comment or a question.

A year ago I was standing in front of a packed out room preparing for a workshop on conversation skills. As people continued to file in, I applied the first two networking tips.

I stepped towards a lady on the front row, got her attention, and asked, “How are you enjoying the conference so far?”

That started the conversation and we conversed for about thirty seconds and I found out her name.

While we were talking, the 10 people sitting around her were paying close attention. I was building the connection with them.

Here are some conversation starter questions and comments you can use to start a conversation.

Conversation Starter Questions

  • How are you enjoying this event?
  • How’s (name) doing?
  • What’s new with you?

Comments for Conversations

  • Hi! I’m Arlen.
  • An observation. The Weather is sure nice.
  • A praise. That’s a nice (notebook, ear ring, car, etc) you have.

This will get the conversation rolling and you will be able to effectively network.

Networking is vital to business success to helping a speaker connect with the audience. Apply these three networking tips and you’ll take your speaking and conversation skills to a new level.

Check out my books and CD’s on Amazon for more conversation & networking tips. Now with free shipping

(C) Arlen Busenitz

Arlen Busenitz

Arlen Busenitz is an experienced speaker with over 650 presentations. He is Author of several books, CD's,and creator of Become a Better Speaker in One Evening™

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I’ll never forget that Sunday afternoon. I was 17, feeling bored, and looking for a good book. As I scanned the family bookshelf, a dusty, red, hard cover book caught my attention. It looked to be 50+ years old.

No pictures or writing on the back. Just a simple title How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.

For the next two hours I devoured much of the book.

It’s content has transformed how I interact with people. Like every other book, I followed my Dad’s advice: “Take what you can and leave the rest.”

Just a year later when I started my business selling landscaping and rocks, the principles were a key factor in helping me be successful in sales.

You can check it out from about any library or get a detailed outline here.


Arlen Busenitz

Arlen Busenitz is an experienced speaker with over 650 presentations. He is Author of several books, CD's,and creator of Become a Better Speaker in One Evening™

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Overcome Speech Writing Block

Why Join ToastmastersYou’ve heard of writer’s block. The dessert of writing where a writer stares at the piece of paper waiting for a flash of inspiration.

Same thing can happen when writing a speech. How do we overcome it? Here is what I have found helpful.

Read for 10 minutes on the subject at hand.

Fresh ideas will usually get the juices flowing. Read an article or two online. Caution: Set a timer so the Internet does not suck you into a two hour detour of wasted time.
Stand up and start delivering your speech.

Running through what I have out loud almost always helps the ideas to start coming. If I have nothing yet, I’ll just start talking.

Table the speech till your next optimum work time.

Everyone has a time of day when they are the most alert and productive. Mine is anywhere between 5:00 and 11:00 A.M. That is 2-3 times more productive than 7:00 to Midnight.

Get back to the basic speech formula

A good speech follows this formula:

Here are the facts.

Here’s what they mean.

Here’s how it applies to you.

Take a walk

A change of scenery and moving will help rearrange our thoughts.

Every person preparing speeches gets stuck at times. Use these speech writing tips to help you break the speech writer’s block.

Arlen Busenitz

Arlen Busenitz is an experienced speaker with over 650 presentations. He is Author of several books, CD's,and creator of Become a Better Speaker in One Evening™

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Choosing a Winning Toastmaster Speech Topic

It’s spring and 35,000 Toastmasters from around the world are competing for the coveted title of World Champion of Public Speaking. Through a series of contests, 9 finalists will emerge and compete in Las Vegas later this year for the title.

I am not competing this year due to being an Area Governor. I highly recommend taking part in these contests for your personal growth.

For those of you who are, Here are two steps that have helped in my Toastmasters Speech Preparation

Step #1: Choose a truth, statement, or idea that has positively impacted your life.

In past contests I have used:

  • Obligation or opportunity
  • Keep on driving
  • Adapt and advance

They can be longer, but you’ll notice that most of the winning speeches have a key point.

Step #2: Use personal story(s) to illustrate how these truths have impacted your life.

Here is one example.

You may be wondering, “How has this worked for you?”

Good question.

Year 1: Won three contests and placed third at district.  Did not put enough humor in my speech and it was my first time competing.

Year 2: Reached the top 244 in the world. Was told my vocal variety was lacking. Plus, I made a major change the day before and did not practice it enough.

Year 3: I brought my “B” game to the contest and the winner brought his “A” game. Lost at Division. Should have read my article on preparation. 🙂

So yes there is more than just following these two steps, but they will make a great foundation for your speech.

What truth has impacted you? What are some personal stories that illustrated the truth? Put the answers together and you have a jump start on your journey to world champion.

Arlen Busenitz

Arlen Busenitz is an experienced speaker with over 650 presentations. He is Author of several books, CD's,and creator of Become a Better Speaker in One Evening™

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6 Tips for Practicing your Speech

Few can stand up and give a great presentation without practice. Those who do give good, unpracticed presentations, may be cheating their audience. If they had practiced, it could have been a phenomenal presentation.

What are some good speech practice tips? After outlining/writing out my speech, here is what I have found helpful:

Practice your speech out loud

When I practice out loud, I think of new and better ways to same key points and punchlines. It makes my presentation 35% better. If possible do this several times.

Practice your speech early

Sleeping on our presentation after practice allows our subconscious mind to go to work. Pick up the speech again in a day or two and you will upgrade your content. This is one of the most powerful tips for creating compelling presentations.

Practice in the theater of your mind

Top speakers have shared with me that they will visualize the audience and then deliver the presentation in the theater of their mind. Not only is this good dress rehearsal but it will calm your nerves and help you deliver a good presentation

Visualize the stage and your audience. Go through the presentation in your mind. Visualize the response of the audience.

Practice while distracted

Mowing the lawn, cleaning, walking, jogging, etc. are all great times to run through your presentation. This new practice venue will stretch your mind and help cement your content.

Practice by listening to your practice speech

This is recommended by Alan Wiess, the million dollar speaker. Record one of your practice speeches and then listen to it once or twice. You will be hearing how you sound to the audience. Tweak and keep practicing.

Practice all or parts of your speech in front of live audiences

If part of your speech flops, you want it to flop in front of a small practice group. Rehearse short segments in your Toastmasters Club, in front of family members, or other opportunities. It’s hard to beat live stage time.

Many speakers have the capacity to be a 5 star speaker. However, they are only three star because of lack practice. Practice and rehearse your speech with these public speaking tips.


Giving a speech without adequate practice is like taking bread out of the oven before it is fully cooked.

Arlen Busenitz

Arlen Busenitz is an experienced speaker with over 650 presentations. He is Author of several books, CD's,and creator of Become a Better Speaker in One Evening™

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How to Find Original Stories for Speech Content

I sat on the edge of my seat, listening with rapt attention to the keynote presenter. He had the audience of three hundred on the edge of their seats. This speaker had compelling content, heart touching personal illustrations,  good vocal variety, and a confident manor.

Then it happened.

He shared a story that he said happened to him. Problem? This probably did not happen to him since I have seen this story many times on email and the Internet.

Using other people’s content is OK–if you cite it or say, “I read about…” Telling stories like they happened to you when they did not, hurts credibility.

From that point on, I was not sure which personal story belonged to him and which was rehashed content from the internet.

As speakers it is best to:

  • Use original content
  • Or make sure we cite where it came from.

Want original stories?

Here is a three step process.

1. Open up a document on your computer and save it as “My Story File”

2. Write down one past experience that has happened to you. It could be from college, work, etc.

3. Repeat step #2 for 30 days.

You now have 30 fresh original stories you can use. Next time you speak, just look through the file and pull out a couple good stories.

Do this and you won’t have to rehash content from the Internet.

Arlen Busenitz

Arlen Busenitz is an experienced speaker with over 650 presentations. He is Author of several books, CD's,and creator of Become a Better Speaker in One Evening™

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In college my friend Rodney approached me and said:

“Whenever I stand up to speaker, my voice tends to falter and I do not speak confidently. Any ideas?”

I shared one public speaking tip with Rodney. He left and we talked again in two weeks. Rodney was excited.

“Arlen, it worked! Two days ago I was able to stand up and deliver with a confident voice.”

What did I share with Rodney?

A simple breathing exercises.

As a beginner speaker, I would often use this moments before I spoke to calm the nerves. Still use it when I get in stressful situations. Its simple.
1. Breath in through your nose for a count of three. “1 and 2 and 3”
2. Hold for a count of three. “1 and 2 and 3”
3. Exhale slowly for a count of 6 “1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 5 and 6.”
4. Repeat

You’ll immediately feel calmer and have breathing power for when you need to speak. I also told Rodney to take a short breath before he starting his talk.

Try it before your next speech or whenever you need to calm down. Let me know what you think.

Rodney became a better speaker in just five minutes. Take you speaking skills new a new level in just one evening.  Click here for Become a Better Speaker in One Evening

Arlen Busenitz

Arlen Busenitz is an experienced speaker with over 650 presentations. He is Author of several books, CD's,and creator of Become a Better Speaker in One Evening™

More Posts - Website

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