Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Presentation Matters: Q&A with Catherine Johns

Catherine Johns
No matter what line of work you are in, no matter what your ambitions are, being influential at work or in your community is important to your success on the job and in the rest of your life. Looking for a job? The first impression you make on your potential boss and colleagues might make the difference between get the job or not--and if you get the job, considering the nature of our economy, it could mean the difference between being laid off or not. Are you a parent? The impression you make on your kids their doctors, teachers and coaches can make a difference in their welfare and relationships.

Fine tuning your personal presentation -- from your handshake to your poise in front of a crowd -- can be useful even for the most experienced person.

For those whose work depending on strong relationships and building trust with potential clients, colleagues or community members, Chicago has communications coach Catherine Johns.

A former radio news anchor, talk show host and morning show side-chick, Catherine now coaches professionals on how to be a stronger communicator and convey the messages that will attract business.

I've known Catherine for a few years, but thought it time to hear more about what she does and share it.

LFS: You offer a workshop, Seven Steps to Your Magnetic Presence -- one is coming up on September 12 -- for professionals whose success depends on connecting effectively with people in person. What do participants do during this full-day workshop?
Catherine: We zero in on the things people see when they look at you and the things people hear when you speak – I call them the seven dimensions of presence. These are the non-verbal cues we all use to make quick decisions about the people we meet. You know, that experience when you meet someone new and you just know that you want to know them better –- or not?
This workshop is very practical and experiential. It’s definitely not for someone who wants to sit at the back of a room and pretend to listen while secretly checking her Blackberry.

Imagine being able to understand how people are perceiving you, and why.  And then making some changes because you’d like to be seen differently. The workshop is about making that happen.
LFS: Given that everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, how do you pinpoint what participants need to work on?
Catherine: Pre-work before the session gives me a head start. Then it’s a matter of observing and assessing once we begin. Knowing how a person believes she’s perceived in business and how she wants to be perceived, we focus on physical and vocal behaviors that will get her there.

It’s common for women to want to come across with more confidence, so common that I sometimes think this workshop should be called the Confidence Class.  So we adjust posture, movement, eye contact, voice … all in ways that convey self-assurance. On the other hand, I worked with someone recently who felt she needed to soften a bit. And she was right. As one of her colleagues put it, “I always felt she was talking down to me.”  She DID seem supercilious, and it had to do with the way she held her head.  Changing that habitual posture changed everything about how others saw her.

Private coaching can be valuable too; the advantage of the small group setting is being able to get instant feedback from others who can see and hear the changes a person is making. And with only a dozen people or less in the group, it’s intimate enough to be supportive rather than daunting.
LFS: What industries or professions do your workshop participants tend to come from?
Catherine: They’re women who grow their businesses through face-to-face interaction … and their businesses run the gamut from sales to physical fitness to financial services. Some are in direct marketing, some are franchisees.  A magnetic presence is an asset in just about any business you can think of.  In the corporate world I’ve worked extensively with advertising agencies, banks and professional services firms.
LFS: What do you say to people whose work depends on relationship building, who say they speak comfortably and confidently and make a good first impression, but are not happy with the amount or kinds of clients they've been attracting?

Catherine: Let’s say confidence is necessary, but not sufficient to attract clients.  I’ve worked with people who are quite confident and equally clueless about how people are really perceiving them.  Candid feedback can help in those cases – my job is to gently burst their bubble, give them an honest assessment of how they come across, and help them make some specific changes.
Focus on the Other is key. Presenters, networkers, sellers – we all need to get out of our own heads and tune into the people listening to us. As we connect with a particular audience, sometimes a subtle shift in our look or our language will make a difference in terms of who’s drawn to us and who’s not.
LFS: What other kinds of coaching do you offer?
Catherine: Some clients prefer private coaching to develop confidence and charisma, and sometimes that individual coaching is a follow-up to a workshop where they’ve laid the groundwork and now want to go deeper.
I do a program called “Getting Over Getting Fired” (because I have so very much experience in that area!) and growing out of that, I occasionally offer small-group coaching sessions for people in transition.  Possibly my all-time favorite feedback came from someone in one of those programs who said, “Catherine pushed us … but not over the ledge.”

With all the focus on non-verbal communication, it’s still true that your words count.  I help clients develop their introductions or elevator speeches using language that helps them connect with an audience and set the stage for a deeper relationship.

And I coach clients preparing for a specific presentation, up-leveling their physical delivery skills, structure, and content.
LFS: What inspired you to become a business communication coach?
Catherine: I hid behind a microphone for years, terrified about being seen. I know what it’s like to have that knot in your stomach, the tightness in your chest, the flushed face, all the signs of anxiety about being in front of an audience. There’s such a freedom in being able to stand in front of actual live human beings sharing your message and your mission … and delighting in it. I’m thrilled to help other business people create that comfort, confidence and connection in the service of growing their business.
LFS: So many of your clients have been women...
Catherine: Many entrepreneurs are reluctant to invest in their professional development –- in my experience, this is especially true of women.

I work with all kinds of people, of course, but this Magnetic Presence Workshop was created for women. I think it’s easier for us to work on some very specific habits in an all-women environment. And yet, every time I speak about it, the first people to ask about attending are…men.  Isn’t that interesting? At some point, I’ll probably do a session that’s not gender-specific. But for this September 12 workshop, I am looking for women who are ready to do the work so they can show up in the world in a new way and attract more business.
LFS: I think you're finding a lot of joy in your work.
Catherine: The transformations in my clients THRILL me. It's fascinating to see and hear someone make the shift to confidently talking about herself and her business, standing in her own power and letting her light shine.  And of course it's always great to hear, later, about the results people are getting because of the changes they've made.

Note: Some feedback from Catherine's coaching can be found on her website.
Fellow Skokie Chamber member Sally Chapralis talked to Catherine too recently.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Volunteers needed for Food Pantry drive September 8

This in from Illinois Democratic Network's Niles Township DemNet...

Collected during the June collection at Jewel.
Hi Everyone,

We've planned ahead for the September food drive for the Niles Township Food Pantry, knowing that everyone's schedule gets filled quickly that month.

Our September drive is set for Saturday, September 8th, at the Jewel near Old Orchard, 9949 N. Skokie Boulevard in Skokie.

On Saturdays, the Jewel is busiest from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., so we will be covering those hours. We like to have four volunteers for each shift so we can cover both entrances.

Can you help? Please let me know your availability for one or more of the shifts and indicate your first, second, and third choice. I'll confirm your scheduled time after I receive responses.
The shifts are:
9:30 – 11:00
11:00 – 12:30
12:30 – 2:00
2:00 – 3:30

Cathy Struzynski can still use volunteers for the drive on Sunday, August 19th. Please let her know if you can help and what times you're available at

Thanks so much for all you do!

Leah Yarrow

To receive news about the Niles Township Food Pantry and other opportunities to volunteer, you can subscribe to Illinois Democratic Network's Niles Township DemNet, go to .

Monday, August 6, 2012

Get out your party hats: Rocky Horror Picture Show's coming back to Skokie

Screening to help fight against ALS

Pillars of the Skokie community invite the whole North Shore and Chicago area to this rare event: On Friday, August 24, after the Backlot Bash, the Skokie Theatre will show Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Proceeds from the screening will benefit the Les Turner ALS Foundation. Pat Hanley, corporation counsel for the Village of Skokie, was diagnosed with ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig's disease) in March. 

Helping Pat has inspired this encore showing. Some might remember the last Rocky Horror screening in Skokie was two years ago.

Downtown Skokie's Scott Holtz fills us in on the screening's details.

LFS:  Looking forward to seeing Rocky Horror Picture Show again. Last time I saw it was when you screened it during Skokie's Backlot Bash 2010. What inspires this encore?

Scott: I have been asked to make that night happen again at the Skokie Theatre over and over...I found a good cause, so now is the time. The uncertain future of the Skokie Theatre also slowed my efforts.
LFS: Will Pat Hanley be able to join us at the show?

Scott: My best sources tell me Pat will be attending.
LFS: Black tie optional?

Scott: No, of course not. Now, you can wear your best corset or tighty whities.

LFS: You're heading up organization of this event. Who else is supporting this benefit?

Scott: There is a lot of people really behind this, but Randy Miles and IMODS are the producers. North Shore Community Bank printed the posters. The list goes on and on. The offers of support have been great.
LFS: Tickets at the door?  Online?  How are tickets being sold?

Scott: There are 140 seats and we sold out last time. We're selling tickets online and at the door the night of the show.

Tickets cost $25.

Two years ago, the Rocky Horror screening caught some nice attention from the Sun-Times.

Joel Lerner's take from that eventing for the Skokie Review is still online.

To see who's expecting to be at this year's screening, check out Facebook.

Standby for list of props Scott will allow into the theatre.

Rocky Horror Picture Show participants at the Skokie Theatre, August 2010.
I made this photo and hope to make another one of participants on August 24 this year.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Skokie's 4th of July Parade 2012

updated July 11, 2012

Here's Scott Holtz', Joel Lerner's and my take on from this year's Skokie 4th of July parade.
More of Scott's image can be found on Facebook via Downtown Skokie.
More of Joel's take can be seen online via Skokie Review.

Niles Township Assessor Scott Bagnall. 

Temple Judah Mizpah's Maddy Foler.

Dance Troupe Aenacer Boliviano dances down Oakton St. during Skokie's 4th of July Parade.

John Haber and Jeff Gould atop the Haben Funeral Home's antique hearse. 

Mike Reid.

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White holds a banner as one of the Jesse White Tumblers flips over it.

U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky.




Illinois Representative Lou Lang (in blue cap) poses with neighbors for a picture.

Joel Lerner takes a break from covering the parade for the Skokie Review. 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

A few of Skokie's July business and community events

This just in from the Skokie Chamber of Commerce…

Monday Night Classic Car Shows - through Labor Day
Classic car shows held every Monday night on the west lot of the Westfield Old Orchard Mall. The free shows feature music, food, raffles and special guests. The shows benefit a scholarship fund for high school auto shop students to continue their education in the automotive field.
For specifics:

Wednesdays on the Green - July 3-August 29
Music, dancing, movies, classic cars and family fun on the Village Green
For details:

Fourth of July Parade & 3-D Fireworks Festival
a Skokie Park District event

Featuring a parade, picnic, live bands and an incredible 3-D fireworks show!
Monday, July 4, noon to dusk
Downtown & Niles West High School (Oakton St. and Edens Expressway)

Pancake Breakfast in the Woods - July 8

a Skokie Park District event

Visit Emily Oaks Nature Center for a sunrise breakfast in the woods!
Sunday, July 8, 8:30 a.m. to noon
Emily Oaks Nature Center, 4650 Brummel St., Skokie
$5-7 admission

Sunday Night Concerts in the Park - July 8-August 12
a Skokie Park District event series

Free world-class musical entertainment sure to please the entire community!
Sundays, July 8 – August 12, at 7 p.m.
Devonshire Park, 4400 Greenwood St., Skokie

Lunch and Learn - July 11
We are having an iPad, iPhone and Android App Party!

Join us for this month’s Lunch and Learn for a roundtable facilitated by Karen Sanders from Sander’s IT Consulting. Find out what your friends are using, how to choose the “right App for you” and learn about how Apps can increase your business productivity from Karen and Toby Greenwalt, Skokie Public Library’s Virtual Services Coordinator.
Wednesday, July 11, 2012; Noon - 2:00 p.m.
Skokie Public Library, 5215 Oakton Street, Skokie
This event is $20; includes lunch 

Business After-Hours: Meet and Greet for the International Pageant, Inc. - July 19
with the Chicago Visitors Bureau

Thursday, July 19, 2012
5:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
North Shore DoubleTree Hotel
9599 Skokie Blvd, Skokie

North Shore LAW presents Skokie Chamber Breakfast Club - July 20
facilitated by Catherine Johns: "Carrot or Stick - What Works Best?”

How do you motivate yourself? How do you motivate your customers? Discover the power of motivation direction at July’s Breakfast Club … and learn to use the language that will trigger the action you want.
Friday, July 20, 2012; 7:30 a.m. - 9:00 a.m.
Oakton Community Park Center, 4701 Oakton St., Skokie
This event is $12; includes breakfast; $15 for walk-ins and non-members
Breakfast Club is sponsored by Abbey Fishman Romanek, Erica Crohn Minchella and Linda Crohn of North Shore LAW

Wednesday Family Festivals: Summer Performers in the Park - June 20-July 25
a Skokie Park District event series

These free family-oriented performances feature singers, storytellers, magicians and more. Arrive a half-hour early and participate in the pre-concert games and contests.
Wednesdays, June 20 to July 25 at 7 p.m.
Various parks
Call for information. 847-674-1500

Fifth Third Bank presents Women in Business - July 25
Catherine Johns
presents: “There’s A Whole Lot of Shakin’ Goin’ On!”

Discover why we shake hands and what your handshake says about you!
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Noon - 1:30 p.m.
Skokie Public Library, 5215 Oakton St., Skokie
This event is $12; includes lunch; $15 for walk-ins and non-members

North Shore Festival of Art - July 27 - 29

July 27 - July 29, 2012 • Friday, Saturday, and Sunday 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Westfield Old Orchard Mall
4999 Old Orchard Center, Skokie
For more information, contact Amdur Productions.

Save the Date: Friday-Sunday, August 24-26 for Skokie's Backlot Bash

If you have questions about Skokie Chamber events, call Chamber offices at 847-673-0240.
For more information about Skokie Park District events, call 847-674-1500.

Friday, June 22, 2012

BizPics applying for Mission: Small Business grant


Update: On June 29, we got the 250 votes we needed to be considered for the grant. Big thank-you to all who voted for us.

Like other Skokie-based business, Sweety Pies, Golly Gear, Urban Beat Dance, Illinois Nut & Candy among them, my company, Kring Lerner Group is going for it!

We've applied for a Chase and Living Social's Mission: Small Business grant for BizPics.

Scheduled approximately every other month, a BizPics shoot is a fun and affordable way to have a good business portrait made.

The grant money, $250,000, will support a new program for Chicago-area unemployed job seekers needing headshots for LinkedIn, Facebook and beyond, as well as help make BizPics a more sustainable operation.

We'll need 250 votes by June 30 to be eligible for the grant.
Grant recipients will be announced in September.

Please search on "BizPics" after logging in at and cast a vote for us.

Thanks. We appreciate our community's support.

For more about Mission: Small Business' judges and sponsors, check out their press release on BusinessWire. 

Portrayed here: Holly Rotman-Zaid (top), Scott Holtz and Dr. Sue Becker Doroshow.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Discuss Illinois' pension problems and solutions in Glenview Monday, April 30

It is no secret that the State of Illinois' pension system is a major player in our state's financial woes.

Illinois State Rep. Daniel Biss (9th Dist.) has proposed two bills intended on help reform the system and offer some relief.  One bill sets up a new plan for future public employees. The second is a benefits buyout program allowing current employees to take an immediate payout now in exchange for future benefits.

How much will these bills help? What other steps are needed? What is the likelihood of his bills passing? What are the political roadblocks needing to be navigated before Illinois can be on firmer fiscal footing?

Rep. Biss invites Illinois citizens, within and outside his district, to participate in a townhall discussion to learn more and offer feedback.

Monday, April 30,  7 p.m.

Glenview Police Station
2500 W. Lake Ave.
Glenview, IL 60026

More information can be found on Rep. Biss' website.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Judicial candidate Abbey Fishman Romanek wants our votes

Skokie native Abbey Fishman Romanek is running for Cook County judge from the 9th judicial subcircuit. Some might remember that she ran in 2010, but lost by just 48 votes. She did well in Skokie during that race, and she is looking for Skokie's support again.

Abbey is endorsed by Jan Schakowsky, Toni Preckwinkle, Daniel Biss and many officials, organizations and individuals.
The Chicago Bar Association recently noted: Ms. Romanek is experienced in both criminal and civil law and is well regarded by her peers for her legal knowledge and excellent demeanor. Ms. Romanek is also actively involved in community work.
Regarding her experience: Abbey has a rare breadth of legal experience that would make her an especially valuable asset on the bench.

Regarding her demeanor: As the youngest daughter of a Holocaust survivor and a rabbi, Abbey has long understood the importance of justice and treating everyone with dignity and respect.

Regarding her community work: Abbey is on the executive committee of the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center's board of directors. She's on the board of Connections for the Homeless and is a supervisor for Beth Emet's Soup Kitchen. She's also a member of the Skokie Chamber of Commerce and numerous other organizations.

If you've not met Abbey yet, there are many opportunities to do so between now and election day. Here are some notable ones:

Abbey leads discussion on HOT COFFEE, the documentary - February 22
at Evanston Public Library

Wine and Cheese with Abbey in Wilmette - February 24
hosted by Liz Challinor and Caryn Percifield

Coffee with Abbey in Skokie - February 29
hosted by Sheila Meyer

More of Abbey's public events are listed on her campaign's website at

Election for Cook County judges is March 20, during the Democratic primary.

Early voting starts February 27. 
Suburban residents voting early must vote in the suburbs.
Skokie locations include Village Hall on Oakton and the Skokie Courthouse on Old Orchard Rd.
Chicagoans voting early must vote in Chicago.

Additional information about Abbey and other judicial candidates is available here.

Karen here: My firm, Kring Lerner Group, is the sponsor of this blog. Advocates for Abbey Fishman Romanek for Judge is a client of Kring Lerner Group.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Focusing on Mental Health Challenges and Solutions at Skokie Public Library Feb 10

This in from Turning Point Behavioral Health Care Center...

Elected officials including State Sen. Jeff Schoenberg (D-9th Dist.), Reps. Daniel Biss and Robyn Gabel (D-17th, 18th Dists.) and staffers from the office of U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-9th Dist.) will join Turning Point staff, clients and the public Friday, February 10, to discuss mental health services in an era of financial constraints and opportunities at the 11th annual Turning Point Town Hall Meeting.

The discussion begins at 10 a.m. at the Skokie Public Library. Also expected to take part are Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin, Dan Wasmer of the Illinois Department of Human Services, and Nancy Carstedt of the Cook County North Suburban chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

The past year has challenged social service agencies such as Turning Point to find new solutions. Some facilities in the Chicago metro area and statewide have been threatened with closure or significant service reductions. While Turning Point itself remains on solid financial footing, many area clients and residents are justly concerned about accessing services. Other pertinent issues include the impact of the federal Affordable Care Act, the need for affordable housing and the stigma of mental illness.

Turning Point Behavioral Health Care Center is a non-profit community mental health center that has served the mental health needs of individuals and families in the north Chicago and suburban area for more than 40 years. The agency works with more than 1,300 residents of Skokie and nearby communities annually. Without our services, as many as two-thirds of these residents (871 people) would have no access to mental health care. In September 2011, Turning Point initiated the Living Room, an innovative psychiatric respite care program expected to save taxpayers an estimated $500,000 a year in fewer emergency room visits.

Friday’s Town Hall meeting is the first in a series of events co-sponsored by Turning Point and the Skokie Public Library. The series, “Building Common Ground: Discussions of Community, Civility and Compassion,” has been made possible through a grant from the American Library Association and the Fetzer Institute.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Skokie Voice's Community Forum on Economic Development Feb 22

This in from Skokie Voices...

Join Skokie Voice for its first community forum of 2012 as we explore
the prospects for economic development in Skokie.
• How will downtown Skokie be reinvented
• What impact will the new Skokie Swift station at Oakton Street have on that revitalization?
• How will new businesses on Dempster Street add to the mix?
• Who are the stakeholders guiding the process?

Join us and add your voice to the dialogue!

Wednesday, February 22, 7 - 9 p.m.

Oakton Community Center
4701 Oakton St.

Confirmed panelists are:

Tom Thompson,  Economic Development Director, Village of Skokie
Ann Tennes,  Marketing/Communications Director, Village of Skokie
Howard S. Meyer,  Executive Director, Skokie Chamber of Commerce
Randy Miles, Independent Merchants of Downtown Skokie (IMODS)
Shalom Klein, Dempster Street Merchants Association
Valerie Shuman, Skokie Downtown Alliance

An open-microphone Q&A session will follow the panel discussion.

Panel topics will be based on responses to the SV economic development survey.
The survey is up at

More about Skokie Voice at

Monday, January 9, 2012

Train to be a Voters Registrar January 10

This in from the League of Women Voters Evanston...

The Cook County Clerk's office will hold a training session for people who would like to be deputy registrars. The training should take about an hour.

Tuesday, January 10 at 7:00 p.m.
Skokie Public Library
5215 Oakton Street · Skokie 

Here's your opportunity to get involved in your community in an important way.

The clerk's office needs to have the names and addresses of people who are expected to attend ASAP. Please email your information to Mary Morris,