Promotion seekers have a perfect sounding board for testing out their career advancement skills at Thanksgiving dinners with relatives and friends. Diane DiResta,  professional speaking consultant, offers a side of “sage” advice with your stuffing.   

“Whether it’s diplomatically answering your aunt’s probing questions or ferreting out what’s really behind your nephew’s evasive statements about college life, holiday visits with family and friends are a low risk opportunity for practicing the presentation techniques you need to move forward in your career,” explains Diane DiResta, founder and CEO of DiResta Communications.

DiResta points out that because relatives tend to ignore the social boundaries employed in the business world,  holiday family get togethers are wonderful laboratories to learn how to deal with “diverse personalities,” a necessary skill for any corporate ladder climber:

• Eager Beaver Cousin Cassie: This is your constant admirer, the enthusiastic supporter, the first person to answer any question, contribute a suggestion, or jump up and down to get your attention. Recognize her input. Don’t dampen the enthusiasm. Appreciate the support with, “That’s a great thought,” then draw others into the conversation.

• Negative Aunt Nellie: This is the person who is dedicated to challenging everything, having a hundred reasons why nothing will work. Listen to the nay-sayer, repeat back the major concerns, offer a solution or two, and then ask for other’s opinions. You’ll be validating the person’s concerns and drawing the community in a solution-focused discussion.

• Know-It-All Brother Bruce: This is the self-perceived “expert” who is irritatingly sure that they know more about how you should do your job – or live your life – than you do! Acknowledge their opinions, thank them, and move on. Don’t get into a debate.

• Uncle Ralph the Rambler: As the story goes on, and on, and on, you wonder how this person got off track. You asked what time it was and got the history of watch making! Find a quick pause to step in and intervene – “Wow, you certainly know a lot about that. Thank you so much for sharing. Now I think Judy had something to say…”

• Chuck the Clown: This is dad’s golf buddy who is constantly joking. This can be disruptive and inappropriate. Speak to the clown privately and ask him to hold the jokes. 

“Over the holidays, you can take advantage of having a wider assortment of personalities to practice on,” DiResta advises. “It gives you a focus that can liven up even the most obligatory event. And who knows, by turning social celebrations into a career-enhancer you might have more fun than usual and prove to be more entertaining yourself.” 

As a consultant serving high-profile business leaders, DiResta understands how important presentation style can be. She has advised companies and organizations, including AT&T, L’Oreal, Merrill Lynch, Michael Kors, NASA, NBA, WNBA, Sony Music and Tiffany & Co.

DiResta, author of Knockout Presentations (Morgan James Publishing, September 2018), emphasizes that public speaking is the new competitive advantage and encourages aspirants to hone their skills at every opportunity.