Wednesday, November 19, 2014

11 Deadly Presentation Sins - Rob Biesenbach: Book 30 of 52 in 52

Back to reading a bit of material about what I do in life - speaking, and helping others speak...and deliver.

I've had this book for a LONG time - Rob actually sent it to me in hopes I'd review in time for his launch, which I was unable to do. Since I missed that date, I admittedly put it on the back burner. Since I only have it in .pdf form, it was going to take some focused time in front of my computer to get through, despite its brief 125 page format (apparently it's only 90 pages on Kindle). Finally, last night, as I sat outside the church while my daughter went to youth group, I dove in.

11 Deadly Presentation Sins was a lot of fun to read. Conversational, relatable, and occasionally irreverent. Reading the Introduction, 'Stuck in Power Point Hell', it's easy to believe this is a book solely about avoiding Death by Power Point - and slide decks do get their share of attention in the book. But ultimately it just seems to be a bit of a tool to link Hell and Sins and create a cohesive theme.

He also build his own credibility as an actor and a speechwriter, and boldly declares that 'every communication is a performance', which I very much disagree with, and yet totally understand his point, all at the same time.

I'm going to briefly review each chapter, so hang on tight.

Sin #1: Failure to Understand Your Audience - a fairly standard chapter about 'knowing your audience' culminating in an Apple example that he admits doesn't exactly fit (would this be comparing Apples to oranges).

Sin #2: A Flat Opening - includes a nice list of opening options, what to do and what NOT to do. My favorite is the 'Fish Out of Water', ie 'Stranger in a Strange Land' opening. He also gives some good advice on creating an introduction, though he doesn't mention my favorite device in an intro: HUMOR. Only other caveat: when he suggests opening with a startling statistic, his example is that 'studies show that people's number one fear is public speaking'. No, no it's not. Sigh...

Sin #3: Lack of Focus - while chapter one focuses on knowing the audience, this one centers around the audience knowing you. That is, connecting with what you say, how you say it, what you want them to do. He discusses shorter formats, finding a way to stand apart from others, and even provides a basic outline of a keynote, along with some examples of how it can be used.

Sin #4: Bad Storytelling - filled with suggestions for both telling stories and FINDING stories, as well as rationale behind why we should use them. The story he includes about Estela and the Candy Factory is worth buying the book all by itself.

Sin #5: No Emotional Pull - well, he certainly got my emotional attention in this chapter, using a Star Trek episode as a primary example throughout. 'Audiences will forgive a multitude of presentation sins for speaker who open themselves up and show their humanity' - a great line which gives the reader a reason to take everything in this chapter to heart. He even takes a bit of a risk and speaks to how emotional may be TOO emotional for women speakers. That takes bravery - hope you aren't wearing a red shirt, Rob.

Sin #6: Dull, Ugly Visuals - here we go - Death by Power Point, clearly a passion. If you don't have time to read Presentation Zen, this chapter hits the high point of that and most other books on the subjects, and includes some great resources for finding usable pictures for your presentations while still adhering to copyright law.

Sin #7: Low-Energy Delivery - oh so important - I was coaching a client on this just yesterday. His acting background shines through in this section, as he provides a few preparation suggestions, and discusses both the strategy and the rationale of 'being present' in your presentation.

Sin #8: No Audience Interaction - covers all types of audience interaction, including some I'm not always open to as an audience member. Still, his tips on Q&A are strong, especially his concept of 'prompting', and make a good quick reference.

Sin #9: Buying into Body Language Myths - ahhhhh, debunking Mehrabian Myth. Good stuff, but hey, where's the link to the interview with the man himself telling us how 93% of communication coming via body language is total malarkey?

Author Rob Biesenbach
Sin #10: Inadequate Rehearsal - 30 hours of rehearsal for a single hours speech? Holy cow. But yeah, if you want to be good, he's right. He offers some practice tips - nothing outlandish - but all sound ideas.

Sin #11: A Weak Finish - just as he offered valuable suggestions for opening your speech, he offers even MORE valuable ideas and architectures for your close. A technique he delves into that I personally use is 'finish an earlier story' - basically bookend the speech with a story you can come back to in your conclusion.

In his closing chapter, he quickly hits a few extra sins, I'm not sure if they're worse or 'not-so-bad' sins - after all, all sins are equal. Or so I'm told in church.

11 Deadly Presentation Sins was a joy to finally read, and a great reminder of many of the best strategies I've learned over the years. It would make a great airplane read, and makes a good primer for the newbie, and refresher for the crusty old expert who doesn't want to read through 10 different books, but wants more of a 'sampler' approach.

4 stars out of 5 - give it a read, and keep it top of mind the next time you need a little speaking strategy reinforcement!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Toastmasters Friday: Taking a Break doesn't mean Breaking Up

Yes, I took a break. Even though I didn't want to.

It's actually a bit of a pattern - I win the International Contest in the Spring, then either lose at the Semi-Finals or the Finals, and come home exhausted, a bit dispirited, and ready to just sit home and lick my wounds. Usually lasts two months or so.

This year, I was determined for that not to happen, and I gave a speech at my club the very next week after returning from Malaysia. Then...Life Happened. Back surgery. Pain. Life in a walker, which, frankly, was less than a confidence building endeavor for me. Combine that with starting a new church which had youth group activities on Thursday nights, and I actually resigned from my club, with the intention of finding another.

What have I been doing in the interim? Lots of PT, for one. Blogging, podcasting, as usual. Thankfully, I have acquired a few clients during the break, which is great, but I haven't been up and speaking at all. And as much as I love (and I mean REALLY LOVE) coaching, I love speaking even that much more.

It only took a few weeks to find out that youth group wasn't going to be an issue anymore - the new church had listed their activities in a very confusing manner, and youth group is actually on Tuesday for Middle Schoolers, and Wednesday for High School, while they have just a regular 'Sunday Service' on Thursday. And this week, my physical therapist told me to put the walker aside and just start walking again, and we'd deal with any muscle pain that went along with that plan. I'll be honest and admit that returning to any club using my walker was not something I wanted to do.

So...with no more excuses, after a two and half month break, I returned to my club last night.

Going back last night to a club that had embraced its new leadership, created new systems, added many new members, was refreshing. And getting up to do a relatively impromptu Educational Minute and later Table Topics, was invigorating after being dormant for so long. I felt hopeful and positive about Toastmasters again, and was ready to embrace the changes in style and personality. And ready to help again - their VP of Ed dropped out last week, so I'm coming back into the role - and learning all the new ways they have of doing it.

While I didn't want to take a break this time around - it was forced upon me to some degree - I believe it was a good break to take. After months of going to 5-10 clubs a week practicing, after years of being an officer, and being the 'goto' guy as Club VP of Ed, Club President, and Area Governor, I was more tired than I thought. I had grown a bit negative, and was dangerously close to becoming a 'Crusty Old Toastmaster' - stuck in the old ways, unwilling to accept change, and sitting in the back corner of the room slowly shaking his head at the future.

Taking a break, however, doesn't mean breaking up. Heck, I'm still officially a member, thanks to the grace period.

I'm going to make sure this 'refreshing, open-minded feeling' extends beyond the club - to District activities, to adapting to the upcoming changes in the education program, to how I balance my Toastmaster life with my professional life. Toastmasters is just too valuable, and too important for me to ever stay away from it for long, but a 'sabbatical', planned or otherwise, can be perspective changing. Even if only to shake off the 'crustiness'!

If you've been in TM more than a couple of years, if you've immersed yourself in the program, and are starting to feel a bit overwhelmed, or even starting to feel the crustiness set in, consider taking a sabbatical on your own terms vs. the being forced into one via the 'I'm exhausted' or the 'Major Surgery' scenario. Plan your time away, and the date of your return (this is important - respectful for your club, and helps prevent you from permanently filling that time slot with something else).

When you return, you might just find yourself a better person and ready to become a better Toastmaster. Ready, as I like to say, to Speak...and Deliver!

If you've had similar experiences, please tell me about them by commenting below, or replying via whatever Social Media brought you here!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Another Visit to Speak & Deliver's Story Graveyard

In October, 2011, I wrote what has become one of the most popular posts on this site - Speak and Deliver's Story Graveyard - filled with stories that I felt needed to be buried, and removed from our use as speakers. These included the Harvard/Yale Goals Study, The Stuck Semi Story, The Starfish Story, and several others.

But there are SO MANY MORE. So today, on Halloween, let's take another stroll into the dismal, dusty land of over-told, possibly never true, cliche-filled motivational stories.

Scorpion and the Frog Story (suggested by Abel Goddard)
A scorpion comes to a river that is too wide and swift for him to cross. As he goes upriver, he comes across a frog, and asks if he can ride the frog's back to get to the other side. The frog is very concerned the scorpion will sting him, but the scorpion assures him that, no, that would kill them both. The frog agrees, and they begin their journey. Halfway across, the scorpion stings him. The frog asks why, as they are now both going to die. The scorpion answers - 'I'm sorry, it's just my nature.'

While we're on the subject of Frogs....

Boiling a Frog
Everyone knows if you toss a frog into a boiling pot, it'll immediately jump out. Put a frog in warm water, and he'll feel like he's getting a comfortable bath. Slowly raise the heat, and the frog never knows what happens to him. Moral: Don't get comfortable, you might end up in a situation you can't get out of..

....and for good measure...

by T.C. Hamlet

Two frogs fell into a can of cream,
Or so I’ve heard it told;
The sides of the can were shiny & steep,
The cream was deep & cold.
"O, what’s the use?" croaked Number One,
"’Tis fate; no help’s around.
Goodbye, my friends! Goodbye, sad world!"
And weeping still, he drowned.
But Number Two, of sterner stuff,
Dog-paddled in surprise.
The while he wiped his creamy face
And dried his creamy eyes.
"I’ll swim awhile, at least," he said-
Or so I’ve heard he said;
"It really wouldn’t help the world
If one more frog were dead."
An hour or two he kicked & swam,
Not once he stopped to mutter,
But kicked & kicked & swam & kicked,
then hopped out...
via butter!

If I hear these one more time, I just might croak.
(editor's note: PETA - no frogs were harmed in the telling of these stories...)

Donkey in a Well Story
A farmer discovers his donkey has fallen into a well, and can't figure out a way to rescue him. Deciding he's old and near the end of his usefulness anyway, he decides to bury him in the well, and starts shoveling dirt on him. The donkey shakes off each spadeful of soil, and eventually the dirt reaches a high enough level for him to jump out. Moral: Life is going to throw dirt your way and attempt to bury you. However, no one ever gets out of life’s wells by giving up! Shake the dirt off and take a step up!

Basketball Free Throws
A favorite for the 'visualization crowd' - this study tells of two groups of basketball players who need to improve their free-throw shooting. One group is told to shoot a certain number of free throws everyday. Another is told NOT to shoot at all, but to simply sit and VISUALIZE themselves shooting the same number of free throws, successfully. At the end of the study, depending on who's telling it, both groups shoot equally well, or the visualizers shoot better.

Much like the 'Harvard/Yale Goals Study', this is often attributed to a doctor at the University of Chicago - but there is no hard proof this has ever been done, or since replicated.

I don't care if it's true or not, it's so over-used, it was a layup when considering it's burial here today.

Ham/Roast Pan (suggested by Terry Canfield)
On Christmas Day, you watch your mom take a giant piece of meat, and cut off both ends of it before putting it into the roasting pan. Perplexed, you ask her why she does this, and she replies that her mom used to do it. Now curious herself, she calls Grandma, who laughs and says 'Oh dear, I did that because my pan was always too small, and I couldn't afford a bigger one!' Moral: Don't just do something because it's always been done that way...

Rocks in a Big Jar Story (suggested by Lisa Braithwaite)
I've seen this done many ways - the first time was in a Wayne Dyer video, then Stephen Covey, then, well, it was everywhere. Big jar, speaker fills it with rocks. Is it full? "Yes." answers the crowd. Speaker tosses pebbles in. Now is it full? "Yes." answers the crowd. Speaker pours in sand. Now is it full? "Yes?" answers the crowd, now a bit uncertain. Speaker then pours liquid in (my favorite is the one who puts in chocolate milk). "Now," he declares, "it is full". Moral: the jar is YOU. Rocks are the most important things in life, pebbles are important, but you can live without them, sand represents activities that take away from the bigger things in life. The liquid is, depending on who tells it, what holds it all together, or 'the lubrication of entertainment and leisure', or, my favorite, the fact that there's always room for chocolate!
If you're going to use this, please, please, please, fill the jar with something more interesting, or us a giant flower pot, or SOMETHING original. Better yet, leave it six feet under rocks, pebbles, sand, and occasionally, rain and snow...

The Ship and the Lighthouse (suggested by Chris Witt)
A ship's captain, on a literally dark and stormy night, sees another ship's light through the fog, directly in their path. He radios them, demanding they change course. The reply comes back that they are unable to do so. The two go back and forth, with the captain becoming more demanding and arrogant, talking about his authority, while the man on the other line stays calm, eventually revealing that he cannot move, because he is not actually a ship, but a lighthouse. Moral: I'm not really sure. Perspective? Values? Stephen Covey claims it's a real story, and has some rather profound conclusions from it, in his article in the University of the Cumberlands publication 'Morning in America'. 

True or not, I've heard this so many times I'm now rooting for the ship to plow right into the lighthouse.

I'm sure these and those buried there 3 years ago are just the tip of the iceberg (there's a story there too, isn't there - about most of the ice being underneath, unseen!) - please, share more that you've heard far too many times, or that just plain aren't true, like "Public Speaking being the #1 Fear" or the Mehrabian Study, and we'll come back and have ceremonies for them as well.

In the meantime - don't let yourself get lazy and dig these old stories up. Find new, original examples from your own life. Use updated examples of successful people and companies. While the concepts we talk about are timeless, how we talk about them should not be - your audience deserves more from you than recycled corpses of motivational stories past.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Star Trek, Time Travel, & Speaking - Book 24 of 52

Like any good science fiction book, I'm going to stretch reality a bit to make this review work in this blog space...

When I started my year, I vowed to read and review 52 books in 52 weeks. I'm not exactly on pace, but I'm still Reading Anyway. One of my goals was to add some fiction to my reading after years of solely self-help and business oriented books. As a teen, I read a TON of Star Trek fiction, so I thought 'hey, let's pick up one of the new books and see if it's still as fun as it used to be'.

As I was time-traveling to my youth, I chose the time-travel heavy book 'From History's Shadow' by Dayton Ward, which featured the classic versions of Kirk, Spock, etc, (ie: not the current versions in the movie theatres), Roberta Lincoln, Gary Seven's assistant in the classic episode featuring a young Teri Garr, Mestral, a Vulcan discovered to have been exploring Earth in the '50's in a fairly good episode of 'Enterprise', and ... well ... just lots of people most of you have never heard of.

The book goes back and forth, chapter to chapter, to the future (or present day for our Star Trek crew) and the past, skipping around from 1947 to the 50's and 60's before eventually wrapping up in 1996, in typical time-travel paradoxical thriller set against Area 53, NASA, the Gemini Launches, and the Temporal Cold war - an interesting concept developed in the short-lived Enterprise series.

As I read through this 300 page plus piece of SF pulp, I kept thinking about speaking. Because, well, the book couldn't hold my interest well enough, and thinking about speaking is just what I do. Here are some free association speaking lessons I thought about as Kirk and the rest were busy saving the universe:

1. Time-Travel is Confusing. As speakers, we often take our audiences into the past in order to help them understand and change their future. We need to be careful to create clear scenes for our listeners, particularly if the time and setting are crucial to them understanding our point. Be careful which facts you include, however.

When developing my speech for Kuala Lumpur over the summer, I told a story about me playing catch as a child. In one practice, I used a year to be specific, and a comment I received afterwards took me by surprise - they wondered why I'd be 'catching fastballs' at two years old. Apparently they did the math based on how old they THOUGHT I was, vs. reality. I'm glad I looked younger than I am, but I certainly didn't want that confusion - so I went back to using my age - 10 - since it was more important than the actual year.

2. Narration is Boring. Dayton Ward used way too much narration in this book for my tastes. Granted, any book is going to have a lot more narration than the average speech, but even in literature, dialogue is what usually pushes the story, and the characters, forward.

Using too much narration from stage is an easy trap to fall into for beginning speakers. We often write speeches as we would write a book, which is influenced largely by books we've read, which are, as I said, narration heavy. Unfortunately, when we speak our narration, it typically comes across flat & passive, or worse, dramatic and heavy-handed. Use dialogue in your stories, and active language in your directives. Your speech is a conversation - not a book.

3. Say NO to Too Many Characters. Perhaps Ward was going for an 'epic tale' that crossed the centuries - but for me, there were too many characters (and settings, and time periods) to keep track of, even if a third of them I was already extremely familiar with.

In your stories, be careful how many characters you bring in - usually two will suffice, even if there were more than two in reality. Unless using three or more characters is essential to making your point, the audience isn't going to be able to keep track of more than three characters per story, as a general rule. We don't need to know that Uncle Bob was sitting on his easy chair smoking a cigar while your cousin Mike sat on the stairs by the piano as your dad played Jingle Bells on the old Kimball, much less HEAR from them, if the gist of the story is a discussion between you and your grandmother as you play Chinese Checkers. (See? It looks good here on the page, very Norman Rockwell, but said out loud, well, it just creates an unnecessary mess)

4. Neither Pad nor Stuff. Don't spread 225 pages into 328. Or, compress 500 into 328. This book could have been either shorter or longer and been made either much more intricate and layered, or much less padded while increasing the tempo and excitement. Stephen King may write really long books, but they are usually a pretty well-planned quilt of suspense, vs. him trying to reach a specific page count.

As speakers, we have time-frames to fill, and we need to balance between filling them with too much and too little content, while always keeping the audience involved and moving forward with us from our premise (the problem we're there to speak about), our victory promise (what life is like when the problem is solved) through our process (our solution to problem), to our conclusion (our call to action on the process to result in the victory).

Editing our content is crucial, and learning to enhance and add solid and pertinent material to a 30 minute speech so it fits into the client's 60 minute time-frame is essential. Hmm. looking at the length of this post so far, perhaps I should take my own editing advice...

'From History's Shadow' was an 'OK' read - not good enough to recommend to anyone but a hard-core Trek fan - but then again, what Star Trek book is written for anyone BUT a hard-core Trek fan?

Still, it served it's purpose - sending me into the way-back machine for some good nostalgic Trek fun, and reminding me that I am now much more picky about my reading, and my speaking.

2 1/2 stars out of 5.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

I Owe it All to Toastmasters

I owe it all to Toastmasters.

The first time I heard the word 'Toastmasters' was in debate class in the 10th grade.

The second time was 10 years later, from a woman I met at a church singles event - she invited me to her club (Titan Toastmasters, in Littleton, Colorado), which she was not only the President of, but the reigning Toastmaster of the Year. I joined - for three whole months. I gave a couple speeches, teamed her in a club debate (which we won), and then, life got in the way.

I didn't go back for 3 1/2 years - in another state, at a time when I was starting life over after a divorce (yes, from the woman who invited me to TM - at least I have one good result from that relationship), was 'on a break' from the woman I was dating, who I've now been married to for nearly 15 years, and I was looking for something to do. I didn't dance, didn't drink, and didn't play bingo. I had wanted to return to Toastmasters ever since I left it, and it seemed like a good place to go, both for adult interaction, and to get chances to express myself in a positive environment.

I didn't join TM to overcome my fear of public speaking. Or to become a leader - but they didn't really care about that in 1995, or 1999. I joined (Metro TM, Salt Lake City) to make friends, to improve my skills (I was in advertising sales at the time), and basically to feed my ego. I won the best speaker ribbon 9 out of my first 10 speeches on the way to becoming a Competent Toastmaster (CTM) - not that I was counting :)

It wasn't until I was a couple years into my career that I started to go beyond giving speeches, and go beyond myself. I was giving a speech out of the Humorous Manual, and afterward, my mentor, Past District 15 Governor Billie Jones, came up to me with words that would shape my future.

"Rich - you're a great speaker. I could see you on the World Championship Stage. If only you would learn to SAY SOMETHING."

Ouch, as that years World Champion would say (not that I had a clue who HE was at that time!). I did know what the WCPS was - if just on the surface. We had had a guest speaker come to our meeting to practice his Region Speech. To be honest, in the round robin I kind of let him have it - and the next year, when his coach became my coach, I found out said coach agreed with me wholeheartedly. Turns out, the guy went on to speak on the World Stage in 2001 - so he either Won Anyway, or he changed his speech a bit! (He didn't place in the Finals - but Top Ten in the world is still pretty good).

Billie had seen right through me. That I'd been writing speeches (or rather, outlining speeches) at the last minute, even out in my car right before the meeting. I was getting by on natural 'charm and humor', but doling out cotton candy to my audiences that dissolved as quickly as the words left my mouth and reached their ears.

I resolved to never again give a speech that didn't offer intended value - be it inspiration, educational, or even humorous (giving people laughter on purpose has value). I got involved in contests - my first District trophy coming in Fall of 2001 when I won the Evaluation contest.

That, too, would foreshadow my future. My first coaching job came directly from my club, in the Spring of 2004 - when a visitor came in asking for help with a toast for his daughter's wedding - which was just a month away. The folks he talked to walked him over to me, apparently because they figured I was the best evaluator in the club, or maybe they just thought I needed the money! I charged him $100 bucks to help him write and deliver his speech.

I spent countless hours with him, getting to know his story with his daughter, learning to write in his voice, coaching him on delivery (he was amazingly nervous at the start) - basically, my first client taught me how to become a coach. By month's end, he'd handed me 3 bonus checks, and I ended up making $1000 - and he ended up giving what he said was a laugh and tear-inducing toast which impressed the entire wedding party, and, most importantly, his daughter. Oh, and the wedding? Apparently it was being held on top of a castle in Vienna - which at least partially explains his generosity!

From that point on, I declared myself a 'Presentation Coach' - I just said that's what I did, and it was so. It was four years later that I quit my day job to do this full time - at the worst possible time, as those who've seen me in the movie SPEAK can attest to.

I continued in Toastmasters, building my speaking and coaching skills, eventually reaching the World Championship Stage as Billie envisioned (if only she'd envisioned me WINNING), finishing 3rd in 2006, and also appearing in 2008.

I've traveled to far off places like Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Toronto, Canada; and Pierre, South Dakota here in the U.S. to speak for Toastmasters, both as a contestant and a District Conference Keynoter.

I've coached clients on 4 continents, both in person and via SKYPE, on everything from contest speeches (Tall Tales, Humorous, and Int'l), business presentations, and full-blown keynote speeches.

And still, I continued in Toastmasters, in Utah, Washington, and now in Colorado - serving as an officer, an Area Governor, a club sponsor, a club coach, a Conference activities organizer, a TLI speaker - and finally earned my DTM this year. I even learned some leadership skills along the way, despite myself.

15 years is just 1/6 of the organization's existence, but it's 1/3 of mine. Toastmasters provided me with a vision of who I could be, and helped give me an avenue to become that vision. I've made friends and met clients from all around the world. I've written two books, helped my wife write a book (and deliver a keynote of her own) an ebook, and this blog has now hit the five year mark.

It's been an up and down ride, but I love what I do - both as a speaker, and as a coach.

And I owe it all to Toastmasters.

I have a lot more I could say. Luckily I have future blog posts to say it, future speeches to share it, future books to fill. For now, let me wish Toastmasters International a very happy 90th birthday - as long as you're there, and I'm above ground, I'll be a member. Here's to another 90, as you help the world do what I've come to call Speak...and Deliver!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Own Your Industry - Book 23 of 52 in 52 - A Review of Douglas Kruger's latest book

The first time I became acquainted with Douglas Kruger was on DVD - he was speaking in the Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking. He was extremely young, extremely thin, and had an extremely, exquisitely deep voice that anyone short of James Earl Jones would envy.

That was in 2004. 10 years later, I finally had the chance to meet him, even share dinner with him - just a few weeks ago in Kuala Lumpur. He was older (obviously), no longer thin (instead, packed with muscles that had muscles), but still with that amazing voice. Instead of being a contestant, hey was a mainstage speaker at the Toastmasters Int'l Convention, simultaneously an advocate and graduate from the program, who is one of Top Speakers in South Africa.

He's had a few other products created, but the first I've gotten my hands on is his latest book, on which his speech that week was based: 'Own Your Industry: How to Position Yourself as an Expert.'

It's built around the premise that we can each stand out on our own in some way in our businesses, as an expert, even in today's expert-heavy world, as long as we find a way to position ourselves, essentially, as OURSELVES, in a meaningful way.

The long-term benefit? He describes it with his 'Pie Man' parable - do you want to be the person tapping individual shoulders to sell your pie, or be so well known for your pies that people come to you?

The book spends a little time upfront building us up, helping us see a vision for ourselves, before getting to the nitty-gritty - 50 different strategies, some that work on their own, others that should be used in concert with others, described in 50 two to three page chapters, each with it's own pithy example or anecdote, and it's own question to the reader.

Some of my favorites include:

- understand the science of talent
- dress the part (I'm SO bad at this)
- speak the language of results
- manage popularity by design
- frame issues and create urgency

Now, I'll be honest, I've been in marketing, advertising, and speaking for a LONG time - and I can't say I wasn't familiar with a lot of what's in this book. He did manage to surprise me in a couple of spots, and, more importantly, inspired me to start acting on what I do know - which is most of the battle anyway for us as speakers.

If you're not a self-marketing guru, this is definitely the book for you. For those who think you've got it all figured out, pick this one up anyway, if only to hear what you know from a fresh and humorous perspective. If you're already doing all 50 of his suggestions effectively, well, you're either not reading this blog, or the money you spend on 'Own Your Industry' is less than you leave in your couch cushions.

Five Stars out of Five - and I'm looking forward to his next one - 'Relentlessly Relevant'.

By the way, if you've got a spare 45 minutes - check out this keynote on 'How to become an Iconic Speaker' - he knocks it out of the park.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

What's Your Hook?

We hear the term 'Hook' bandied about a lot in marketing circles - usually it refers to your theme, your brand, your 'One Big Thing'. For me, it's Win Anyway! Don't worry, I won't go into that topic here today, I've got a whole different blog for that philosophy.

In your speech, your 'Hook' are the words that fill the first 30 seconds to 3 minutes of your speech. The first taste the audience gets of who you are. They decide in the first 30 seconds whether you are:

- credible
- interesting
- personable
- intelligent
- funny
- and - most importantly - worth listening to!

They can make the wrong choice, but that is usually our fault. You can change their mind as you go into the speech, but more people change their minds for the negative than the positive, simply because if they've already tuned you out, they usually have no reason to tune you back in.

Your 'Hook' has to do just that to the brains of your audience members - stab and grab their mentality, so their gaze doesn't wander to the ceiling, their neighbor, or their smart phone. Below are a few do's and don'ts for the beginning of your relationship with the folks waiting with baited breath for you to bring them what they ultimately sat down for - your solutions to their problems.


- Say thank you, how happy you are to be there, or wish them a good morning afternoon or day. You may think you're being conversational, but you're just making yourself more comfortable, while wasting valuable time, and giving the audience a great reason to ignore you immediately.

- Talk about A. your trip, your luggage, your hotel, B. the weather, C. how fantastic the buffet was that morning - unless it ties directly into your speech (say, A. customer service, B. dressing for success, or C. your name is Gordon Ramsay)

- Start with a joke. Seriously. I don't care how funny it is. Just don't do it.

- Try to get the audience to interact, with each other. Getting them to shake their neighbors hand or smile at them, or, shudder, give them neck messages is so 1992, and again, wastes their time.

- Try to get the audience to interact with YOU. "Repeat after me..." - umm - NO! I don't know you, like you, and I don't really feel like having you put words in my mouth unless it's "Time for Lunch!"


- Start in the middle of a story. You're freezing to death. You just got fired. You're about to start a race. The first time you used their product (though not quite the way Don Draper does). Then tell us how you got there and where you're going - quickly - and transition to your Premise. (Caveat Don't: Don't tell a story that doesn't either relate to the topic or build your credibility)

- Use humor. This is not the same as telling a joke. Using humor in your story, particularly self-deprecating humor, will help open the audience's mind to you as a person they might actually like enough to listen to for the next 45 minutes. (Caveat Don't: Don't make fun of the company, someone in the company, or really, anyone else but you.)

- Use a shocking statement. This used to be a 'startling statistic' - but frankly, that's way overused, and shocking statements are catching up as well. Make sure it is either extremely shocking or somewhat humorous, or BOTH, before going this route. (Caveat Don't: Don't be so shocking as to alienate the audience - so know your audience!)

- Build an image in their mind. By engaging their imagination you'll be engaging them, and creating questions in their mind about where you're going. The more creative the image, the more curious they'll be. (Caveat Don't: Don't make them close their eyes. You may risk them not opening again)

- Ask a question. This one is also a bit overused, but the right question to the right audience can create curiosity and arouse emotions that will bring them closer to you and your topic. A question that makes them question their own behavior or skill set, without being insulting, can be particularly effective. Asking "Did you see the game last night" usually is NOT. (Caveat Don'ts: Don't be surprised if someone answers you - particularly if you ask a trivia question or a question easily answered, and Don't ask for a show of hands - not this early in the speech)

- Parachute onto the stage. If you're good at it. And it relates to your speech....

Kevin Burkhart, one of two one-armed skydivers in the world.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, and yes, a lot of successful speakers do all the wrong things. This falls under my old English teacher's rule about why e.e. cummings didn't use capitals, and it was OK - because he knew the rules, and when, and WHY to break them.

For now, set yourself, and your audience up for success. Use those initial few minutes to "Hook" them, and spend the rest of your speech reeling them in. Ultimately, it's for their own good as well as yours.

Speak & Deliver - from the very first second.


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