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...

TWO FROGS IN CREAM
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.

Don't

- 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!"

Do

- 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.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

What Will Make YOU a 'Top Speaker'?


Conversations about who's 'The Greatest' - be it musician, actor, athlete, or even 'company to work for' seem to permeate the media these days. Heck, they probably have for generations - there's just so much more media now than ever before. This morning on Mike & Mike, a U.S. sports radio program, they were discussing each city's 'Mt. Rushmore' of athletes - for example, Bill Russell, Bobby Orr, Tom Brady, and Ted Williams for the Boston Area. For what it's worth, as a Denverite, I'd put Dan Issel, Joe Sakic, John Elway, and Todd Helton on the Mile High City's version...but I digress.

Recently, I read a blog listing the 'Top 60 Motivational Speakers in the World' - now that's a tall order. I recognized 33 of the names, I've met 2 of them, heard 4 of them in person, and listened to 26 of them, either intentionally or otherwise. Names you've probably heard of include Tony Robbins, Brian Tracy, Les Brown, and Deepak Chopra top the list. Some I'd never heard of include Farrah Gray, Kevin Abdulrahman, Delatorro McNeal II, and Dr. Roch Paraye.

There's no real criteria listed beyond 'motivational' - and even among those listed, 'motivational' is loosely applied. A lot of them would be considered 'leadership' or 'marketing' or 'inspirational' speakers, or even simply experts in certain fields that encourage their listeners to be better - such as Dave Ramsey.

So, how do YOU become a 'Top Speaker'?
Let us count the ways.....
1. Find a 'Top Message' - one only you can give that the audience wants to hear.

It doesn't have to be an original message. Most of the speakers on the list all give the same basic message - it's how they personalize and package it - combining their authentic selves with the unique needs of each audience to help them 'Awaken the Giant Within' or 'Crush It' or 'Insert Random Platitude Here'. Gary Vaynerchuck is very different from Brendan Burchard - but much of what they have to say overlaps. Bob Proctor and Joe Vitale are practically the same speaker, simply differentiated by age and experiences. I'd still listen to both on the same day, even if I'm NOT a huge Law of Attraction fan.

2. Become a 'Top Marketer' - if you can't market yourself and your message, you quality will sit unnoticed on the bottom shelf.

Of course, it certainly helps if you can buy a bunch of infomercials, or star in a hit movie like 'The Secret'. It also helps if you're a celebrity, and frankly, having no arms and legs is an advantage for Nick Vujicic, though I'm sure he'd trade his 'advantage' any day of the week - he just might never have become a 'Top Speaker'.

But most of what these folks, and others, have in common is WRITING. Canfield and Chicken Soup for the Soul. Gitomer and his business articles in newspapers that become bestselling books. Writing almost always precedes the radio shows and the TV appearances on Oprah, much less getting your own shows on FOX.

Marketing can be as simple as networking to start - get yourself out there, meet people, and tell them who you are and how you can help them. The snowball has to be made before it becomes a snowman.

Ask yourself - what is YOUR advantage? It doesn't have to be losing a limb, climbing Everest, or appearing in a movie. It can simply be your powerful and effective reaction to adversity, be it personal, financial, physical - something the world can connect with, that you can transfer to your audience.

Then start creating - writing, recording, speaking - building product. The more you speak, the more content you create, the more you'll have to market, the more traction you can make in the business, and the faster you'll be recognized as the goto speaker in your space.

3. Become a 'Top Deliverer' - You may think I'm talking about delivering results for the audience, and while that is crucial, it's not always that measurable. I'm talking about how becoming a 'Top Deliverer' from the platform.

Having tight, entertaining and educational content paired with an intentional delivery, from voice to staging to pauses to breaks to sales pitches to crowd interaction. Have it all planned to a 'T' - and become so prepared that when all heck breaks loose, you're flexible enough to be great even then.

This is last on the list because, well, many of today's 'Top Speakers' are there because of #1 and #2, and #3 just isn't as big a concern. It's true, you CAN become a well-paid, in-demand speaker without 'Top Delivery'. But why would you want to settle? Adding exceptional delivery to an exceptional message and exceptional message turns you into an elite speaker - able to demand fees second only to major celebrities such as sports figures, past presidents, and Donald Trump.

In terms of what truly makes a 'Top Speaker' of any kind - it's a two-sided argument. First, you have to become the best YOU can be. Then, you have to let the audience decide. To some of them, you will be 'The Top'. To others, you will be 'The Bottom'. To most, you'll simply be 'The Best One Today'. And that's how most make their living.



Remember, even the top folks face their critics. Anthony Robbins, tops on this list, probably has as many or more people that HATE him as love him. Brian Tracy? Too corporate. James Malinchak? Too 'car salesy'. Michael Beckwith? Too spiritual. I could find something wrong with everyone on the list, if I looked hard enough, or asked enough other people. (editor's note: I'm a big Robbins & Tracy fan, as disparate as they are, I've followed Malinchak for years and enjoy his content and energy. Beckwith? Well, again, I'm not an LOA fan.)

At the end of the day, it's a nice list. It's missing quite a few I expected to see, and there are some I would drop off. Just like I do when I hear people discuss the top five NBA players who ever lived (Russell, Magic, Bird, Jabbar, and Lebron, btw).

Where are you with your message? Your marketing? Your delivery? As always, if you need some guidance in any of these areas, find someone to model, and find someone to coach you - like, y'know, ME.

Now go out there and quit worrying about your ranking and start worrying about your audience - go Speak....and Deliver! 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Winning Anyway in Kuala Lumpur - A Look Back


I've been back for about 8 days - and I've had a chance to more fully digest the 2014 Toastmasters Convention, and specifically, this year's World Championship of Public Speaking. Here's the rundown:

FIRST - the results - I didn't place in my semi. I came up fourth in the order, and two of the first three had similar themes to mine - enough so I actually mentioned it in my own speech. My humor fell flat - whether a cultural aspect, the late hour after a day of contests, poor timing on my part, sameness - I don't know for sure - I just know the strength of this speech simply WASN'T there on this night.

Who did win? Dennis Wright, out of Maryland, scooped up Third, Kuala Lumpur's own Palaniappa Subramamian took 2nd (he was 2nd to Ryan Avery in 2012's Finals), and Chris Woo, out of Brunei, took first, punching his ticket to the Finals. Did I agree with these results? Doesn't matter. I do agree that all three were deserving of being in the Top 3, and that my own speech, on this day, was not.

SECOND - I was prepared not to place - but yes, there was a glimmer when I didn't take 2nd or 3rd that I might have pulled it off. I also had strong hopes for my friend Douglas Winter to pull the upset. I had hoped, going into the results, that Douglas and I might at least place. I'm not depressed, as I have been in the past, over the results. My feeling are a bit mixed about competing going forward - but I'll address that further down.

THIRD - The Controversy - Chris Woo, the winner of our semi was the WCPS contestant who 'had no speech' in the Finals. I don't know if he had one he dumped, or just wasn't ready, or what. He apologized long enough to qualify, and received a lot of sympathy and support from the audience. He's only been in TM for six months, and may have just been overwhelmed.

We can all sit back and say 'he should have been ready', or 'he should have just given a speech of any kind that wasn't an apology', or even 'he should have let the 2nd place person in his semi compete' - but at the end of the day, the decision was his (a sentiment Palaniappa, echoed on his own Facebook stream), had no real 'right or wrong' aspect to it, and he will have to move forward with it.

FOURTH - The Finals - they could have been interesting had I won my semi. For one thing, one of my speeches featured the Flash and the Avengers Movie, whereas the first speaker opened with a story about wanting to be Green Lantern (who is Flash's best friend, fyi). Don't know how I would've handled that one.

I See Something in You - but I don't know what it is!

In addition, Kwong Yue Yang used his speech from 2011 - which won him the semi he and I competed in together, to win 2nd place in the WCPS (for the 2nd time, as he took 2nd to Jock Elliott in 2011). I don't know if I would have liked losing to that speech again, and wonder if I could have beaten that speech given a second try. What if, right?

FIFTH - the winnerDananjaya Hettiarachchi from Sri Lanka, which had a HUGE contingent at the conference supporting not just him but Balraj Arunasalam, who ran for 2nd Vice President of Toastmasters, and won, was a pretty clear cut winner by my own judgement, as well as the audience reaction. I believe Kwong had a puncher's chance, especially if he'd been later in the order, but I think the right speaker won on this particular day. 3rd place winner Kelly Sargeant gave a fun and timely speech that stood out, despite her theme being touched on by a speaker later in the order.

I've often said that if you run the contest the next day, or mix the order, or change the judges, the results will change as well - it's that close. This year, I don't think it was that close. Kwong might have won twice if the contest were run 10 times - but Dananjaya would have won all other 8 times. 3rd place may have varied wildly - the rest of the speeches were very close in quality of message and delivery, though Chris pretty much took himself out of the running with his choice not to give a 'contest speech'.

LESSONS for NEXT TIME - if there's a next time:

A. No recycled speeches - I've made it to the semi's three times ('09, '11, '14) without writing a new speech. Mostly because I've moved so much. Clearly, while it's been successful to a point, it's not enough. It's time for me to build some new material - which may take a year.  Or five.
B. No fund-raising - if I can't pay my way, I won't compete. I have no real qualms with fund-raising. It does take time and energy, however. I'd also like to be in a financially safe place the next time I compete.
C. No roommate - I was blessed to room with my District's Lt. Governor of Marketing, Darryle Brown, but I like my privacy.
D. Three speeches, not two, regardless of the contest requirements. What wins in your District won't necessarily win in the semi-finals. The audience is just too different. I don't know how many of this year's winners used their District Speech - I just know I probably won't do so again.

THINGS I'M GRATEFUL FOR:

A. My Wife's Unwavering Support :)
B. Meeting so many friends, and so many new friends.
C. Dinner with Douglas Kruger, Conference Speaker, Car Enthusiast, and owner of the most sonorous voice I've ever heard.
D. Coffee with Doug Winter and Caroline Lyngstaad, both fellow Semi-finalists from my heat, on Saturday. Nothing like getting three motivational speakers together to encourage each other after losing!
E. My District's support - with funds, feedback, and friendships.

I sense evil afoot! - No, Kingi, that's just my New Foot Smell!

F. Pictures with so many old and new friends, including Kingi Biddle :)
G. Safe travels to and from, and the opportunity to watch a BUNCH of movies I missed in the theatres, including The Chef, which was tremendous.
H. The knowledge that my appearance in SPEAK the Movie matters to so many, and that Win Anyway has a worldwide reputation.

Overall, while the end results weren't all I'd hoped, indeed, there have been, and will be, many other victories involved. I went out there, I Spoke, I Delivered - and didn't chase the wrong trophy.

#WinAnyway!

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