Monday, February 28, 2011

Audience Interaction is Easier Than You Think - Part II Inter-Audience Interaction

In Part I of this series, I talked about how to get Group Response. Today I'll discuss Inter-Audience Interaction, and tomorrow Questions & Answers.

What is Inter-Audience Interaction? It runs on many levels. Perhaps you want your audience to find out more about the people around them. You may have an exercise that necessitates pairing with the person next to them for a minute or two. You may be giving an all-day training session, and expecting the audience to break into groups.

Regardless of the level of interaction, consider the following before attempting to put your audience through circus hoops.

1. Familiarity Breeds Resistance. Believe it or not, the less your audience knows each other, the more success you will find in getting them to work together well. Knowing that they will likely never see each other again lets them release their inhibitions and start to show off a bit.

When you have a corporate audience that feels they have reputations and egos at stake, they are more likely to resist, and resist together, feeling they have some semblance of unity to battle your requests. Its not that outright, usually, its more of an undercurrent of resistance you need to break through.

2. They Have to Like You (or Fear You). If you're the big boss, they'll likely do what you say regardless. Even then, you're better off getting them to like you rather than fear you. Build your connection and create a positive atmosphere before expecting them to effectively interact. Either get them laughing, or get them sharing a common vision. Both will put them in an appropriate mood to do what you ask, and get something out of it.

3. Start Small. Asking an audience to move a giant boulder in the first few minutes of your presentation will be met with resistance - but if you get them moving pebbles to begin with, their belief in you, in themselves, and the process will grow to meet your eventual goal. In other words, getting them to meet the person next to them should be a precursor to getting them to meet 10 strangers in the audience, or break into a group for an exercise.

4. Tell Them Why. You're screaming NO - I want them to come up with the WHY by themselves. That's fine - you don't always have to tell them the REAL why. But give them a reason to participate, a benefit or goal that gives them incentive to get off their tail-ends and get involved.

5. Respect Their Physical and Psychological Space. Too many of us have been subjected to stage commands insisting we encourage the person sitting next to us by telling them to "Go For It", or "You Matter", or *shudder* giving them backrubs or hugs. Audiences rarely get much out of this type of rah-rah, psuedo-psychological interaction other than an anxiousness for your presentation to end, or worse, a sense of creepiness about you and your presentation as a whole.. Superfluous and space-invading interaction requests need to be locked in the '80's, never to return. If your audience wants to hug each other, let it be their own idea idea, not yours!

6. Give Them Results. Whether you're getting them to work in pairs or small groups during the presentation, provide them a takeaway, a lesson that comes from their interaction. The result should be more tangible when you put them in groups. In addition to the exercise, get them to report back to the audience with their results, and encourage them to take notes. Creating this expectation will prevent groups from chatting their time away, and help them take away something of value from their time interacting with each other, instead of you.

As with any audience interaction, its success depends on you being effective from the stage. Your confidence will lead them to follow-through as you intend. When your audience successfully participates, they will create their own Ah-Ha moments that will stay with them long after you've flown home. That's when you know you've learned to Speak & Deliver

Friday, February 25, 2011

Toastmasters Friday: Are the Contests Fair?

For the next few weeks I'll be writing contest-oriented posts, as Toastmasters International's Spring Contest season begins, and with it, the International Speech Contest, which annually produces a World Champion of Public Speaking. Prior posts include: Why Contests are the Best and Worst Events in Your Speaking Career and Why Does International Become Inspirational?

Are Toastmasters Contests fair? Of course not! Silly question folks. First - just ask someone who has lost - you'll likely hear exactly why they should have won. Second - its judged by human beings using highly subjective material. Contests are no more fair than judging at skating and gymnastics events, or Dancing with the Stars.

Over the years I've competed in at least 100 Toastmasters Competitions. I've won some I shouldn't. I've lost some I could've (should've?) won. Overall, I'm pretty happy with how things have turned out. I've been a lot happier since I've learned to take my Aunt's age-old advice she imparted to me when I was 13 - Life's Not Fair - Deal With It.

This year, Toastmasters has ramped up their Judges Training, even offering online certification. Emphasis on Judges Training has increased. Guidelines for who can and cannot be a judge have been more clearly defined, although they remain guidelines, not requirements, and for good reason. Small clubs, Areas and Divisions won't always have the attendance necessary to provide the experienced judges TM recommends. I've even been to District contests where folks are recruiting judges at the last minute. Judging will always be an inexact science, and results will never be concretely correct.

With criteria on everything from content to grammar to gestures to appearance, who's to say who is best? What if my green tie isn't looked upon as favorably as another contestants blue tie? As a male, at least I don't have to worry like my lady counterparts - is my skirt too long or too short? Should I wear a pantsuit instead? 

There is no empirical scale that says exactly how many and which gestures I should use in my speech about climbing a mountain vs. your speech about jumping out of an airplane. Out of 10 judges, 3 may think it's too much, 3 may think it's not enough, 3 may think it's just right, and the remaining judge won't may not even care because they're either too enthralled with my speech, or thinking I'm using too many contractions.

An objection I hear from the outside world on TM contests is that it's amateurs judging amateurs. They are absolutely correct. The quality of judging from club level to the World Championship is as widely varied as the quality of a Jim Carrey movie. Sometimes you get Ace Ventura, sometimes you get The Truman Show. (And I'm sure there's debate between which of those is better - but I'll leave that to Dumb and Dumber to debate.) Most Toastmasters ARE amateurs. That's the point of the organization - to take everyday people and help them improve their speaking skills. 

Club, Area, and Division Contests are the scariest levels to go through. Despite best practices, you never know who will be judging. Could be a brand new member. Could be a member from another club who may want to skew the results for their own clubs competitor. Could be the spouse of another contestant. Could be an amazingly experienced Toastmaster known for their fairness that just happens to dislike your speech choice or dramatic use of vocal variety. (And, to be fair, it could be experienced, conscientious, trained judges who are looking out for the best speaker with an earnest heart. TM is full of them as well. Even if they hate your earrings.)
The point is, as contestants, we can only control ourselves, not the judges or the results. I've said it before, I'll say it again - there's probably never been a unanimous choice for World Champion. In my two trips to the big stage, I've been told everything from 'You were the clear winner' to 'You finished exactly where I put you'. If you expect results to be fair, you need to pick a different competition. Try checkers or chess - two games where you can control your own destiny.

All that said, I still think Toastmasters usually gets it right. The winners of the World Championships are all great and deserving speakers in their own right. Some are better than others when it comes to speaking outside of Toastmasters, but all are highly skilled and have learned to Speak & Deliver for their audience. Sure, occasionally a worthy contestant will lose at the Area Level. Or a World Champion class contestant can find themselves in a club with another World Champion class contestant, and never make it beyond the first level of competition. And occasionally, a speaker will win District and be completely spent for the next level, resulting in some mediocre speeches at the semi-finals and even the finals. 

But hey - that's life. And life's not fair.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Audience Interaction is Easier Than You Think - Part I

A phrase often used by today's public speaking experts is 'You need to have a conversation with the audience'. One of the easiest ways to do this is through audience interaction.

I can hear you through my DSL connection "Easiest? What's easy about audience interaction?"

Interacting with audiences is often seen as a minefield, instead of field we should mine. I hear the worst-case scenarios from my clients all the time:

- what if the audience doesn't respond?
- what if the audience responds badly?
- what if a member of the audience starts to take over?

To which I respond - What if you take control and make sure that doesn't happen? That's what its really about. Speakers, don't forget that you have the reins when you're on stage. You can lead your audience to respond, or stop responding, when you are willing to grab the control that belongs to you on the stage.

There are three main types of interaction I'll cover in this series: Group Response, Inter-Audience Interaction, and Question & Answers.

Group Response

This is often used by speakers to keep there audiences involved and excited. We've all seen speakers cajole their audiences to respond with everything from "BooYa!" to "Yes We Can". It seems scary to do at first. After all, who are we to ask our audience to do anything? Some people believe that speakers who do that are annoying, others enjoy the opportunity to do more than sit and listen, but actually get involved.

- Respect the Audience and the Occasion - not every event is suited to Group Response. This tactic should generally be reserved for inpirational/motivational speeches, and training events. Consider the makeup of your audience. Will they be embarrassed to respond aloud in front of their colleagues, based on their age or standing in the company? Will they be in the mood to respond? A speaker wants to elicit Group Response, not force it upon their listeners.

- Audience Size - if you're in a room of 10, getting audience response becomes much tougher than a room of 100 or 1000. The smaller the group, the more self-conscious the audience will be. The bigger the crowd, the more inhibitions will fall away. After all, who's going to go shirtless with warpaint on their chest at their board meeting. They'd rather do it among 50,000 other screaming fans.

- Start early in your speech - by giving your audience something to respond to early in your speech, they'll realize they have permission to respond, and be more willing to when you get further into your material, when their response becomes more important. You'll also have an early benchmark to decide how much you'll ask of the audience and how hard you'll need to work to get the response you want.

- Encourage response with Self-Deprecation or outright Cajoling - if you get weak response to start with, you can acknowledge it in a self-deprecating comment. The audience will be more likely to react next time when they realize they have permission to react, but didn't take advantage. This will also acknowledge those who did respond to you. If you are comfortable with outright Cajoling, that is outright telling them to respond, give it a go. Once. This is a last gasp tactic, and if its used a second time, your audience simply isn't into your speech, or you, enough to care.

- Make it essential - don't go for Group Response if its just to show you can get them to talk back to you. Effective Group Response is about them, not you. Drive home a point or build a necessary emotion. Your audience will love being an integral part of the presentation, but they'll hate being an unnecessary sound effect.

- Affirm their response - while you don't need to be to overt in your affirmation, at least react to their response. Pause and show an surprised or approving look on your face to let them know you're paying as much attention to them as you wish them to pay to you.

The ultimate key to creating strong Audience Interaction, of any type, is confidence - YOURS. You must be willing to be bold and even a bit brash. Be willing to take responsibility for your results. You are in control when you are on stage. The audience is looking to you for their cues of behavior. If you don't direct them with intention and authority, they'll either stop and stare, or run you over entirely.

Monday, I'll talk about Inter-Audience Interaction. Meanwhile, go out and Speak...and Deliver!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Lessons From the Podium

As you might expect, I read a lot of books about the subject of speaking. Most recently I reviewed 'Resonate' by Nancy Duarte. Just as with Nancy's book, I received an advance copy of Lessons from the Podium for review purposes.

Author Steven D. Cohen has chosen to identify his work 'Public Speaking as a Leadership Art', and he presents several strong arguments throughout. He opens by discussing 'The Leadership Mindset', stating that the very process of speaking is the speaker taking a leadership role.

He covers topics you would expect, from 'Overcoming Nervousness' to 'Using Natural Gestures', from 'Connecting with Your Audience' to 'Using Your Voice'. He discusses each topic from an analytical point of view, offering a dissection of why we take certain actions and offering substitute actions to replace our bad habits.

Cohen also covers strategies for more specialized speeches - impromptu, persuasive, and inspirational.

Overall, the book is a bit of a dry read. His concept of Speaking as Leadership has potential, but is all but abandoned in favor of Speaking using Musical Theory midway through the book. The book feels a bit disjointed at times, and lacks a personal feel that would build a connection with the reader.

At only 125 pages, with ample white space and generous quoting from other sources, from Malcolm Gladwell to Carmine Gallo, as well as speech excerpts from famous and not-so-famous speakers, "Lessons from the Podium" is a quick read.

Personally, I rarely find a speaking book that I don't get something out of, and this book was no exception. The 'Leadership Mindset' is an excellent concept, and one I wanted the author to delve into on a deeper, more personal level. Still, I find it difficult to recommend this book to anyone other than a truly new speaker, or a speaking book junkie looking to find one or two new thoughts. Ultimately, I finished the book wanting so much more.

Speaking and Actions - Are You Walking the Walk?

Ah, another happy holiday that allows my six kids to stay home from school, this time in honor of our first President, George Washington. Of course, it's widely known as President's Day, and in many minds honors Abraham Lincoln as well. For full background on the origins of the day, head here.

One of the most important roles of our President's is speaking to the country as a whole. That has transformed over the years. President Washington wasn't able to broadcast an HD video of himself throughout the world, but he seemed to manage. Abraham Lincoln had, at least, the opportunity to take the train to various stumping opportunities, and had a strong press corps to spread his message. Still, I challenge you to find a recording of him delivering the Gettysburg Address.

Radio, Television, and the Internet have clearly changed the methods of communication for our leaders. It could be argued that the opportunity for effective communication is greater than at any other time in history. Yet, effective communication is, in my opinion, at an all time low.

Yes, we can hear what our presidents are saying, but are their words having a real impact on the direction of our nation?

Communication is only effective when matched by action.

Great speeches past have always partnered with strong action. Lincoln's presidency was credited with significant changes in our country's makeup and value system (though historian's will argue this point). President Franklin D. Roosevelt's speeches were also matched with sweeping changes, be it the New Deal or the United States' entry into World War II. President John F. Kennedy successfully ushered in the Space Age in his 1962 speech for the ages.

Even President Ronald Reagan's speech challenging Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to "Tear Down This Wall" was given relatively little attention until the wall came down 29 months later, after the end of his presidency. Once called a 'war-mongering' piece of rhetoric, it is now considered a classic bit of oratory.

Today it feels as if our leaders hands are tied by Congress, and their power neutered by the press and the easy access to and manipulation of public opinion.

President Barack Obama was widely considered to be one of the strongest speakers our country had seen in years in the political arena, until he was elected. While he has enacted legislation on health care as he promised, overall his ability to enact change has been limited. Even the health care bill was seen as conciliatory in its final version, and many feel it will not survive the next few years.

His speeches are viewed with increasing cynicism with each passing month. Despite having all the talent and tools at his disposal, his communication is simply not as effective 'in the moment' as it was during election season. Only history will tell us if any of his speeches will pass the test of time - if actions will follow to bring the power back to his rhetoric.

How does this affect us? As speakers, we must walk the walk. If you're teaching people how to be successful, you better be successful. Teaching people how to invest their money? How has your portfolio done lately? Does your weight prove your weight loss program?

Of course, none of can be perfect, and processes can transcend personal results. The gospel must still be preached by sinners. Conversely, you can't preach 'Do not kill' when you walk around with a bloody knife.

If you want to Speak & Deliver, compare what you are speaking about to your real-life results. Find the victories in your life. Maybe your personal life isn't great, but you can sell like no one else. Guess which one you should speak about? Maybe you're broke, but you can help other people look their best on any budget, and your proof is what you're wearing every day. Speak about what you know, and you likely won't stay broke for long. Then you can switch to speaking about "making a fortune speaking about what you love" and be credible.

We're all good at something, often many things. If you are determined to speak, find your strengths - those topics which are paired with effective actions in your life. And be grateful that for now you don't have to worry about the media, gallup polls, or the glare of history's judgment on every speech!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Toastmasters Friday: Why Contests are the Best and Worst Events in Your Speaking Career

For the next few weeks I'll be writing contest-oriented posts, as Toastmasters International's Spring Contest season begins, and with it, the beginning of the International Speech Contest, which annually produces a World Champion of Public Speaking. Posts include: Why Contests are the Best and Worst Events in Your Speaking CareerWhy Does International Become Inspirational?Are the Contests Fair?The Top 8 Ways to Guarantee Victory, I Lost My Contest: Now What? and I Won My Contest: Now What?

Competing in a Toastmasters contest can change the course of your life as a speaker. It can lead you to new heights of confidence and ability. It can also send you crashing and burning to an early demise before you even know what hit you. To help ensure the former vs. the latter, lets take a look at how you can control which road you travel, while handling all the bumps along the way.

Photo Courtesy Joshua Pickering

Crash and Burn

A. Flawed Format - Contest speeches are 5-7 minutes. When was the last time you heard a speaker speak in such a limited time frame? It creates an artificial need to cram as much drama, emotion, and excitement as possible in order to impress in a mere 450 seconds. It is a rare contest speech that would translate effectively to a non-Toastmaster audience as-is. I've said it before - contest speaking is Ice Dancing. You learn to do some cool things, but you're going to get knocked down when you join the Hockey team.

Unreal environment - At a contest, the entire event is geared to the contestant. The audience knows exactly what's happening, and are completely teed up for a series of speeches. What this means is the contestant starts with a stronger audience connection than a regular speaker would have. They still need to build on the existing connection, but it's much easier than walking into a room that is relatively cold. Toastmasters in general must remember the real world is a harsher environment. This is a case where TM's strength - a supportive environment - can be a weakness outside the organization.

Wrong focus - Too often, contests become about competition. I've been more than wrapped up in winning over the years. Speeches are often designed to match every bit of the judging criteria, but often miss the mark when it comes to giving the audiences a valuable experience. As long as contestants focus on their performance and winning a trophy, they are focusing on the wrong goal of speaking. Remember, if not for your audience, you wouldn't be needed.

Inaccurate measure - Contests often make their participants believe they are better than they are. They also can make contestants believe they are worse than they are. Winning a few contests does not translate into you being a fantastic speaker. It means you were judged by human beings with various biases to be a better speaker than those you spoke with on a specific day. It may mean you stayed in time when someone else did not. It may mean the judges know you better than the other contestants. 

Conversely, losing a contest or two, or several, does not mean you aren't any good. Judging is subjective. Maybe you lost to an amazing speaker, and there were only a few points separating you on the ballot. Maybe your subject matter wasn't what the judges wanted to hear.
Don't let a contest loss, or win, define you as a speaker.

New Heights

A. Writing - Many Toastmasters speeches are improvisational triage. We scribble a few notes at work, and hope to get through the speech at our club with a minimum of damage. Contests give us a chance to sit and write a speech - to spend more time crafting our message, particularly if we have a chance to give it multiple times up the contest ladder. Write the speech, step away for a day, and take a look again. You'll be amazed at the new ideas and brilliant ideas you'll have between point A and point B.

B. Feedback - Use your contest experience to get feedback from others. Send your speech out to other speakers you respect before you give it. Solicit evaluations after the contest. If you win, keep gathering feedback along the way, and watch how your speech, and speaking style, transforms along the way.

C. New Audience/Environment - Once you get past the club level, you have an opportunity to speak in front of new people in your District, and usually in a completely different (often larger) environment. Sure, you're comfortable in front of Bob and Barbara, who've watched you through your first year in Toastmasters, but what about John and Josie? Nothing like new people and a completely different type of room to get you out of your comfort zone. Different is good - and you can't help but grow once you're out of your tiny if comfortable POT (plain old Toastmaster) club.

D. Exposure - With new audiences come new relationships, and new opportunities. You don't have to win for somebody to decide to invite you to their club to speak, or speak at a District Conference, or even speak for a local company or service group. You just have to give the audience something of value, and be open to building bridges offstage as well as on.

E. Focus - What I have found most valuable in competing is the opportunity to really focus on yourself as a speaker. Every aspect, from writing to eye contact to gestures to audience connection to vocal variety to overcoming nervousness in a new atmosphere. While it's not the same a speaking in the 'real world', its a major step up from speaking in your regular club, if you allow it to be.

I love contests, and of course I've competed for years. I've suffered through more than one Crash and Burn Experience and enjoyed New Heights as well. If you decide to enter a contest this year, make sure your mind is right, your message centered on the audience, and your attitude open to education. Trophy or not, you'll end up a stronger speaker, and more prepared than ever to get in front of the real world where you'll be expected to do more than score points with the judges. You need to Speak...& Deliver!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Power Speaking: From KABOOM to KaPlunk.

KABOOM! The speaker takes the microphone and proceeds to speak with high enthusiasm, passion and energy! They've got your attention, and you're getting excited and involved. This is the kind of speaker we love to hear. They are pumped up, their material is perfect for us, and we can't wait to hear what they have to say next.

KABOOM! Minutes 2-4. Wow, that speaker is still pumped, still loud, still intent on driving that message home. OK - they're excited, they want to get me excited, and I'm sure I need to hear this.

KABOOM? Minutes 4-8. Whew. Still going. I'm tired already - everything is so crucial, I can't keep up. How much longer is this speaker going for?

KaPlunk. OK, this speaker simply doesn't have another gear. I don't even know what I'm supposed to remember anymore. I've got a headache. I think I'll check my twitter stream - they won't notice anyway...

Have you heard this speaker? Have you BEEN this speaker?

It's easy to do. We want to impress. We have tons of nervous energy, and we have been taught to channel it on the stage. And, frankly, we're excited about what we have to say. Its easy to think if we say it loud enough, people will realize they have to listen!

Sometimes its easy to think this is they way it works. When our parents wanted us to listen, they raised their voices. When movies reach moments of high emotion, typically the music goes up, and in some cases the walls shake with car crashes and explosions. We see snippets of other speakers giving their best stuff, and they are loud and energetic as they take their audience to a new level. Being loud must mean being effective, right?

Well, sort of.

It's true that the loud, energetic parts of life are often more memorable than the quieter, more mundane intervals between. But it's those calmer interludes that make the excitement exciting, by giving us enough contrast to identify what is exciting in the first place. They allow us to savor the good parts. Just as important, they let us rest and catch up, if only for a short time, and be ready for more.

Great television, movies, and writing all use varying rhythms as they go from beginning to end. In between dramatic events, they set the stage with setting the scene, character development, and reaction time after the big explosions.

Bonus Exercise

A. Think of your favorite movie, and write down your favorite parts
B. Watch the movie again, and plot the energy levels as the story moves along
C. What correlation do you see between what's memorable to you, and the corresponding energy level?
D. What may be most memorable to others?

Remember, we all process differently. Sometimes it's the quietest moments, not the loudest, that end up providing the most impact.

By all means, speak with energy and enthusiasm. But be aware of the reverse monotone effect - if everything is loud and important, nothing will stand out, and your audience will leave unaffected by your speech, other than a need to go someplace calm and quiet while they recover from the shock and awe you provided going from KABOOM to KaPlunk.

Don't know if you have too much KABOOM? Send me a video at, and I'll be happy to help you Speak & Deliver instead!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Are You Speaking Up With The Times?

You'll be missed Coach!
Jerry Sloan resigned yesterday, after spending 23 years coaching the Utah Jazz in the National Basketball Association. He was the longest-tenured coach in the four major professional sports, and nearly 40 current NBA  players weren't even born yet when he took over the team from Coach Frank Layden.

Let it be known I'm a huge Utah Jazz fan - before I moved to Utah and since, and I'm an even bigger Jerry Sloan fan. He's old-school. Believes in hard work, precise execution, discipline - all things that don't typically describe the typical NBA player today. All things that don't describe the typical student, businessperson, or even certain speakers today, either.

While there are many factors that play into Coach's resignation, his Messaging is central to all of them. While anyone who lasts as long as he has in a sport that has seen 240-plus coaching changes during his career at Utah must show some flexibility in Messaging, ultimately he was only willing to alter his ways so far.

In any industry, the young players of today tire of the messages from champions of yesteryear. Few coaches, CEO's, or leaders of any kind can last much longer than two generations, much less 3 or more. Even those that do will switch teams, companies, or expertises along the way.

As speakers we have a responsibility to our audiences and our own career viability to Speak Up With the Times - to make sure our message continues to ring true each time we give it. While those we speak to are likely more diverse than today's NBA athlete, they can still tire of the same messages from bosses, advisors, consultants and speakers.

Of course, just because a message is often given over and over through the years is no reason to toss it out the window. To the contrary, usually its the best messages that persevere throughout time. Coach Sloan's message works, year after year. He just got tired of having to adjust his messaging for each new group of hotshot young charges coming into his care.

How are you staying current? Are you still telling the same stories you did last year? Five years ago? Ten? Let's take a look at ways you can stay current, and not let the company's new superstar point guard send you to an untimely retirement:

1. Record Your Speeches...and Listen to Them. The first part means nothing without the second part. What examples are you using? Which adjectives do you favor? Are you still using exclamations you heard from Marcia Brady or The Cosby Show? Are you still using Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods as your example of excellence? Time to read the news, watch a little bit of American Idol and Jersey Shore, and raise your game. OK, I'm kidding about Jersey Shore. Mostly.

2. Check Your Wardrobe. While there are certainly some classic styles, certainly for men, it never hurts to take a hard look at retiring that tie from 10 years ago, and altering the cut of your suit. Ladies, you're usually so much more fashion conscious than us poor XY folk - so take pity on a male speaker and help them find a new look even as you make sure you're not still wearing powersuits and using hairspray by the barrel.

3. Update Your Technology. Not that I recommend PowerPoint, far from it. But if you are using it, make sure you are using it well. Consider looking at Prezi and seeing what the future may bring for multimedia. How you handle tech in your audience needs an update as well. People will be texting and tweeting no matter where you are - it's the new notetaking. Find ways to use it to connect with your audience, such as creating a backchannel, instead of letting them disconnect from you.

4. Update You. It's easy to get caught up in a zone of what works. To go out and do what we do without keeping up with the world around us. Change is rampant in today's world, and we now have more ways to keep up than ever before. Don't let the next change of regime pass you by - because your audience is keeping up, whether you are or not. Probably in the middle of your speech.

We can all hope to have long and lush careers, whether our heroes are Jerry Sloan or Zig Ziglar. Timeless truth is just that. Today's audiences still need the wisdom of the ages. They just need the Messaging to be their age, not aging. Speak Up to the Times and you will Speak....& Deliver!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

What About Bob?

You know Bob. 

He's that one guy in every audience that needs to hear what you have say. He needs to be educated, inspired, and given the opportunity to know exactly what he needs to do when you're done speaking.

But too often, Bob leaves your audience sad, bored, even angry. Because you didn't talk to Bob. Now he's going to return to his desk and just do the same thing he's always done, the same way he's always done it, just as if you were never there to speak in the first place. Poor Bob.

How can you avoid being yet another speaker to beat Bob into boredom?

1. Speak to Bob. I know you're in a room of 200 people, but Bob really thinks you're talking to him when you use 'You' instead of 'We', 'Each of you', 'This organization', 'Company Name', 'Everyone', 'All of you', 'Ladies and Gentlemen', or 'Y'all'. No need to call Bob by name, necessarily, but give him a chance to feel your love.

2. Ask Bob Questions. Bob need not answer out loud, of course, and he probably won't. But Bob wants to be involved. He wants to think, and even feel smart if he knows your answer, or enlightened if he doesn't. Secretly, Bob either thinks he should be talking instead of you, is incredibly impressed that you are there speaking to him, or simply grateful to be doing something other than working. Give Bob something to think about - get him nodding instead of nodding off.

3. Make Bob Laugh. Bob really needs to loosen up, and shake off the stress of his day. Bob needs to see his life in a cheerier light. Bob will also remember what you say a lot more as he laughs to himself about your clever dig at the IRS while he stares at his spreadsheet once again.

4. Surprise Bob. Bob thinks he has heard it all. But he hasn't heard it from you. Give Bob something new to think about, or a new way to think about what he always thinks about. Give him information and ideas so unique he has to update his Facebook and Twitter accounts and share it with all eight of his friends and followers.

5. Let Bob Decide. Don't tell Bob what he should do. Tell Bob how much better his life will be if he does something. Tell Bob how well your ideas worked for other people, and even for you. But let Bob go out as the buyer, not the sold. Bob is capable of running with an idea once he's done with his cheesecake.

Your audience of 20, 200, or 2000 is nothing but a big group of Bobs and Bobbettes, regardless of whether they drove to work today in a Porsche or a Pinto. Each one of them is inside their own head, all alone. And they just wish you were there for them.

Are you?


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