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Miscommunication can be scarier than all the monsters on Halloween. Because monsters aren’t real, but miscommunication sure is.

We all miscommunicate.

We’re like those people in horror movies who know they should not go down the basement, and yet they do. (Insert Scream) We understand how important communication is, but we don’t always take the time to ensure we communicate effectively, and then…the boogeyman gets us.  Relationships suffer. We lose funding. We blow a presentation.


Okay, we’re busy people. We have things to do—places to go. Children to raise. Work to complete. Who has time to check to see if the moon is full tonight?

For example, we know how critical listening is, but it takes some focus. Great listening means not thinking about your response while someone else is talking. It means making eye contact, noting body language, and the speaker’s tone. It means quieting down your response to be fully present with another person. So, we don’t listen all that well; as a result, we don’t hear the chanting coming from the attic until the curse takes hold. Did someone say Beetlejuice?

We know that to avoid misunderstandings, we should ask clarifying questions like, “Is this what you mean?” or “Do I understand you correctly?”. But do we do so? Or do we walk away thinking we understand when we do not…until a vampire drains all the blood from all our arguments, and we are doomed to wander the earth each night, seeking clarity?  Where is Buffy when we need her?

Oh yes, miscommunication can get ugly.

So here is our Trick and Treat for you:

You don’t have to deal with the miscommunication monsters in the attic or zombies eating the best ideas in your brain.

You can take one of our Exact Communication Workshops and put a stake in the heart of miscommunication.  Just ring our doorbell or visit our website to see all the communication treats we have in store for you.  Oh, and Happy Halloween!

The Courage to Converse

This is what courage sometimes feels like: standing on an unsupported ladder and reaching into the heavens. In other words, it’s beyond me. This is undoubtedly true of physical courage, of which I have very little, although I did get all my vaccinations. I am not one for braving the cold, the dangerous, or the difficult. I’m more of a cup of tea and a good book gal. And this is okay with me.

I long for moral courage, especially in today’s world, where it is so needed. Instead of walking away from someone with conflicting opinions, I want to have the courage to respond more honestly, listen carefully, and ask questions. Rarely do opportunities like this present themselves because most people I meet are not interested in having a dialogue once they discover we disagree. I sincerely wonder if we have lost the art of discourse. Rather than discuss, we agree to disagree and call it a day. And this works, but only so far. These kinds of conversations are not satisfying. They leave me feeling incomplete. Yes, we avoided conflict, and we also avoided each other. I want the courage not to avoid each other but to converse and to dialogue about difficult topics.

In our workshop, Navigating Challenging Conversations, participants are given opportunities to practice listening, reflecting, and reframing challenging conversations. They learn to recognize and connect shared values and discover common ground in difficult situations. They are given tools and time to practice navigating conversations. These are skills that, in today’s climate, we all need. You don’t get moral courage without taking some action, and this workshop guides participants safely into actions that provide insight, empathy, understanding, and dialogue.

So, if you want a deeper dive into conversations, check out our Navigating Challenging Conversations workshop.  It has given me the courage to move forward and engage.

Connection at its Best

There is nothing more inspirational than watching a group of people connect. It changes the energy in the room and opens creative channels for new ideas, problem-solving, and teamwork. This was especially true when Exact worked with the Front Range Community College HR department. This dynamic group was generous and courageous as they grew their communication skills and worked as a team to solve issues.

Exact created a bespoke program for FRCC, blending elements of our Conversation and Connection workshop with our Team Building workshop to meet their specific needs. This gave the HR team the perfect blend of skills for working within their team and connecting with the greater college community.

Listen….your para-spinals have something to say!


For years, when teaching communication workshops using improvisation exercises, I have used the phrase, “Listen, with your whole body”.  I always felt that was clear and I certainly felt that I knew what I meant. But a few weeks ago I came to understand this in a completely different way and from a most unexpected source: my chiropractor. I know that sounds crazy but here’s what happened.

As usual I lay down on the table face up and he started “listening” to my body. As he pressed against my leg or arm and asked me to resist he would say: “uh huh” or “hmm…” or “now that’s interesting”. I was fascinated both as a patient and as a someone very interested in real communication.

Me: It sounds like my body is talking to you

Doc: It certainly is.

Me: What is it saying?

Doc: Well, your para-spinal muscles can hear things that we cannot.

And BINGO, a lightbulb went on above my head.  Every cell in our body communicates with each other and with us if we know how to listen to it.  The Mirror Exercise, where two people try to simulate a mirror’s reflection popped into my head and its value and importance was driven home in a way that I never could express before. And the significance of this idea as a way of enhancing communication between people, especially when that communication is vital became so clear to me. Listen! Don’t just hear. And do it with every part of your body — your instrument for greater communication.

Media Interview Got You Nervous?

Do the words “media interview” send you  running for cover?  Have you ever been interviewed by a reporter and afterward said “Never again”? Do you wish you understood more about the skills necessary to perform well during an interview? During my 35-year career in broadcast news media, I’ve seen it all – from the perfect to the disastrous and everything in between. Media training can  make all the difference. We offer help for individuals or groups that will make you media ready. So, check out our Exact workshop page, and in the meantime, here are five tips that can get you started.

Five Ways to Prepare for a Media Interview

  1. Understand the media landscape

Familiarize yourself with the media outlet and the reporter who will be conducting the interview. Research their expertise,  previous work, their style of reporting. This knowledge will help you tailor your messaging and anticipate questions.

  1. Craft your key messages

Determine the 1-3 key points you want to convey during the interview. Keep your messages clear, concise, and aligned with your overall goal. Focus on delivering these messages consistently throughout the interview, regardless of the questions asked.

  1. Prepare for potential questions

Anticipate questions and prepare thoughtful responses. Consider both positive and negative  aspects of your topic and develop appropriate answers. Practice your responses to be sure they are concise, accurate, and align with your key messages.

  1. Practice delivery, active listening, and nonverbal communication

Practice with a media trainer or colleague, record the interview, and review for content accuracy and delivery effectiveness. Listen carefully to the questions, maintain eye contact, use appropriate  facial expressions and gestures, and project confidence. Be aware of your tone of voice and body language to appear engaged and approachable.

  1. Set the scene

Keep your appearance professional and appropriate, paying attention to your hair, clothing, and accessories. If using Zoom, create a pleasant setting with good lighting and no distractions.

So, when you get that request to be interviewed, don’t go running for cover. Instead, call us and we’ll get you ready in 5…4…3…2…

Marcy McGinnis is a former Emmy-award winning CBS News producer and executive.





Eat Your Wheaties


What Billie Jean King says is true for all of us, we all must keep at it to get it right. I’m lazy so I wish this were different. I wish I could just fall into something and that would be that, success would be all mine, but that just doesn’t happen. Well, occasionally it does happen, but even then, there are challenges after the initial success.

I think of Anthony Volpe, the shortstop for the New York Yankees. He played baseball for his high school team, Delbarton in Morristown N.J. He was New Jersey High School Player of the year in 2019 and was to play baseball for Vanderbilt University, but instead, he was selected in the first round of the MLB draft by the New York Yankees. A dream come true for Volpe who was a Yankee fan all his life.

And then reality sets in and Volpe’s batting average slips.  Rumors start flying that he may be demoted to the minor leagues. This could be crushing for any rookie, but Volpe keeps playing until he gets it right.

Now I can’t look into the future, but I do know this about Volpe he has a great work ethic, and a positive attitude that will help him as he grows into the game. Is he a champion? Time will tell. But if I were a betting person, I’d put my money on Volpe.

Am I a champion? That’s way too much pressure for me, unless I change my definition of the word. Perhaps being a champion is living a full and meaningful life where you keep playing and maybe just maybe you get it right. A wise person once told me, “Life is but a day’s work, do it well”.  In that sense maybe we can all be champions.

Nothing So Scary As Losing the Room

I walk into a room of graduate students ready to teach a workshop on science communication.  I facilitate these workshops all the time so I’m at ease and comfortable with the program and agenda. What I wasn’t prepared for was the hostility in the room. I had barely opened my mouth, so I figured it was not me that made this group of students so angry. I had to sort this out or the day would be over before it had even begun.

I stopped my introduction and began to ask questions. Turns out these graduate students thought they were in this workshop because they were deficient in science communication, and they were frustrated and insulted. When I said that I was told that they were high potential students and that they were in this program as an advanced course to help them further their careers, that turned the day around. Suddenly they were grateful instead of hateful.

When we talk about knowing our audience, we are talking about more than what is on the surface. These were graduate students in science. They were all about the same age. They all were studying at this university. They all were smart. I had even been told what disciplines were being studied by these students. So, one would think that I knew this audience. But if I had ignored what was happening in the room, all my prep work would have been in vain. No matter what I had planned I had to deal with what was happening in the moment. This meant setting my agenda aside and entering the unknown.

And that can be scary, but not as scary as losing the room.

So if this should ever happen to you:

Take a breath and take the temperature of the room.

If you sense something is off, ask questions and listen, listen, listen.

You may not be able to solve the issue but by listening you will get to really know your audience and then anything can happen.

Go Fish


The American Fisheries Society’s Climate Ambassadors have a tough job. Every day this dedicated group of scientists works to communicate the urgency of maintaining our delicate watery ecosystems and the lives that depend on them. They talk to everyone from fishing communities, to ranch owners, to urban developers, to government officials. And there are times when these conversations are challenging, especially because climate change is rapidly affecting the future of our planet. Talking about climate change impacts is often not easy.

Exact was grateful to work again with the AFS Climate Ambassadors in our Let’s Talk: Navigating Challenging Conversations workshop. We shared tools and skills they can use to better connect with their varied audiences and it was wonderful to see the Ambassadors practice with each other and bond over the fun and challenges of the exercises. With approaches to de-escalate conflict in conversations and find shared values despite ideological differences, these Ambassadors can reach more people who share their love of our valuable waters and can work towards building a climate resilient future together.

Time to Come Out of the Shadows

I’m squeamish about connecting these days, so many topics are hot buttons for people. I find myself backing away and making meaningless small talk. Turns out, I’m even more squeamish about that.

I long for connection and I’m not talking about connecting with friends, that’s easy, that’s why they’re my friends. We trust and care for each other and we cut each other some slack.

But what about all those other people? Yeah, those guys, the people that I do not have an easy connection with. How do I connect with them?  And why bother?

We humans are relational beings, and we need connection to be whole and to thrive. As unique and different as we are, we are also the same. Spiritual teachers tell us that we are one. Genetics tells us we are far more alike than we are different. Psychologists say that connection is the way to stability and growth. And personally, connection just feels right. It feels spacious, open, and really good.  When I don’t connect it can feel tight and small. I feel alone and sometimes anxious.

So, with all this going for it, why don’t we connect more often? My guess is that connection takes time. It slows us down and who has time for that? I have a “to do list” each day and I must get everything done on that list. When I’m rushing around it becomes easy to close shop, to not speak from the heart, and to throw trust out the window… and then close the window

The truth is connection only takes a moment. It happens when we pause and take a breath.  Mindfulness tells us that in that moment we are more present, our mind naturally slows down, our breathing regulates, and we can see who we are talking to…and that can be enough. We may even in that moment choose to smile, and that is a connection. Pause. Breathe. Smile. Try it. It only takes a moment – one gorgeous, beautiful present moment.

Oh that judge-in-my-head

It happens every single time without exception. Every time I work with a new group, I come out of the workshop knowing something more than I did when I went in. If I’m really present, if I’m really listening, the participants teach me.

So it was at NYU Tandon, with a group of PhD candidates in a variety of STEM fields including mechanical, chemical, and bio engineering.  All extremely smart (you’d have guessed that) and all wanting that magical key that leads to better, more specific communication. Carolyn and I were invited to teach two sessions for Matteo Rini’s class, a semester-long course in Science Communication with a strong focus on written communication. Matteo wanted Exact workshops to give them some pointers for verbal communication and presentation.

Early on, we decided to introduce an exercise called “Sixty Second Rambles”. Very simply, we ask each student to come up, randomly chosen to just talk. About anything. For a minute. We suggest that they don’t plan what they’re going to talk about but just let their mouths open and sound come out. As soon as we started, the “judge-in-my-head” started to yell at me. “There are 25 students in this class, and we only have 2 ½ hours. We’re going to spend a fifth of the workshop on this?”  I thought, I’ve made a tactical error but I’m in it now. I hope I haven’t wasted time here.

They all talked. Many of them surprised themselves. Some thought the minute seemed like an hour and some thought it was too short, but all of them spoke about things they cared about. Most of them spoke with a clarity and passion that was engaging or funny or moving. And here’s the surprise for me. This exercise made the group into a group. These 25 different people became a unified team that was ready to learn together – to help each other navigate a variety of more complex communication exercises. Their professor sent an email after the workshop:

The workshop by Exact Communication was fun and energizing and taught the students the most important skill needed to be a good communicator: empathy for your audience. Every student in STEM should take a workshop like this one!” – Matteo Rini, NYU

My own take-away.  Never listen to the judge in my head. Trust the work and listen to your audience.

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