Thursday, October 27, 2011

The New Fear of Public Speaking

There is a new fear spreading throughout the world. A fear that shuts us down, closes our minds, and can send us running from the room. The fear of Public Speaking. No, not the fear of DOING it - but the fear of HEARING it! The NEW fear of Public Speaking...

Last night, I was telling some folks at a get-together what I do for a living - or at least one aspect of it. In case you are wondering, when I'm not out speaking & delivering, I'm coaching other people to Speak & Deliver.

None of these folks are really in my target audience, though I firmly believe everyone can improve as a speaker. What came up in discussion was the concept of Fear. None of these people really feared speaking in public. They speak for work, they speak in church, and they were used to it.

While there is an oft-quoted study that says public speaking is the world's #1 fear, even over death, I would suggest that quote joins the many dead stories in the Speak & Deliver Graveyard. As Richard I. Garber writes about often in his blog, this study is misinterpreted at best, outdated and irrelevant at worst. While it gives us an opportunity to tell Jerry Seinfeld's joke about preferring to be in the casket than deliver the eulogy, it's usefulness as factual support for coaching is all but gone.

From what I've observed, people don't fear speaking in public much at all any more. We're a freer society, at least in Western cultures. We aren't told to shut up as much, and are encouraged to share our views. Talk shows and talk radio dominate the airwaves. People used to fear public speaking because they were afraid of the audiences reaction to them, but now many speak because they feel they have a right to express their thoughts.

People freely get up and talk about anything and everything: Sex, Politics, Sex IN Politics, Drugs, Religion, the Economy, and whatever Multi-Level Marketing, er....Network Marketing, er...Entrepreneurial Freedom Project they have going. They don't care, as they filibuster your life away, whether or not they stay on the point, or how long you have to listen, or really even if want to hear what they have to say. They bury their points in fluff, veer off message to chase rabbits, and often never even say anything with any more value than the title of their talk!

The pendulum has swung to the degree that the New Fear of Public Speaking is now not whether we can talk, but whether everyone else will ever be quiet!

Don't be the speaker people are afraid to listen to - you and your message deserve better, and your audience deserves better. Hire a coach before your next coach, whether that's through Toastmasters, Dale Carnegie, the National Speaker's Association, or by dropping me an email :)

Because now the question isn't whether or not you will speak in public as much as it is whether you will speak effectively. Whether you will Speak... and Deliver.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Getting Your Audience to Love You

I hate rap. Always have. I don't understand it, I can't dance to it, and I'm from Iowa, so that's three strikes against it from the get go. But I know a great performance when I see one, and Astro gave us one on the first live edition of X-Factor USA last night.

Three things stuck out to me as he 'Talked...with Style' in front of millions:

1. Enthusiasm! Do you love your message as much as Astro loved his?

2. Customization. He may have been covering a Kriss Kross song, something I only know because my much younger wife told me so, but he made it his own. In fact, he went beyond that, making it a performance he could only give on that night, in that venue, to that audience. 

3. Audience Participation. They were as into Astro as Astro was into them, and he used that power to change their state, emotionally and physically. His message was 'keep me' - and the audience made it impossible for LA Reid to do anything but.

I hate rap, but I love Astro. Your audience may think they're going to hate yet another speaker. What are your going to do to Speak...and Deliver? Astro knows.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Speaking is just Talking with Style

One of my favorite parts of Toy Story was when Buzz Lightyear, after insisting that he could fly, jumped off the bed, hit a rubber ball, a toy car, and then launched from a ramp to a plane hanging from a ceiling, zooming in circles above Woody and the other toys before landing, and announcing "Can!" Woody protested, saying "That wasn't flying, it was falling...with style!"

Didn't matter, Buzz had won over the other toys, and Buzz was the next big thing in the Toy Chest.

Many new speakers may see speaking well as impossible as flying - and that without an amazing Turbine Engine voice, a message with a large Wingspan, and a confidence powered by Jet Fuel, they'll forever be grounded. They see great speakers like Zig Ziglar, Mark Sanborn, and, over the last few years, newcomer Rory Vaden, and think they'll never fly as high as these Jets of the speaking industry.

But the best Speakers start by just Talking...with Style. Are you ready to take the jump?

A. Organize - Just as Buzz climbed to a high spot in the room to take off from, you want to set yourself up for success before you begin. Speaking doesn't have to be complicated - a simple opening, body, and close is sufficient. The more speaking you do, the more complex you can get with points, subpoints, transitions, etc. For now, just have a clear beginning and end with some support in the middle.

B. Grab Attention and Jump In - Buzz intoned "To Infinity and Beyond" before he jumped, and all eyes were on him (it?). Have a strong opening statement, and proceed to back it up with supporting ideas and examples.

C. Talk - Don't Speak. Buzz just let the flying take care of itself, and you can let your talking speak for you. Don't pontificate from the stage. You're not an actor or a preacher (unless you are). You're a speaker who needs to converse with the audience. You may need to be a little louder, and look at more people, but you're really just talking about your topic. Just let yourself go!

D. Enjoy the Flight - Once you're talking, you're speaking. You may not be ready to join the Blue Angels, but if you can glide from one point to another, you're getting the job done. Be enthusiastic and remember the importance of your message, and your concern about yourself will fade into the background.

E. Land on Both Feet - Can! Make sure you close by restating what it is you want your audience to think, feel, and/or do. Don't end on Q&A, and risk landing on the wrong runway. Don't rush to sit down without putting the landing gear down, and making sure your audience gets to the destination you wanted them to reach.

After a few practice flights, you'll find you've talked yourself into being a speaker. You'll improve as you go along, maybe build a jetpack for effect, even learn to do some loop to loops for the sake of making a point. Just don't ever forget this basic principle - to be an effective speaker, start by talking WITH your audience, not TO your audience. Don't be an actor, a reader, a politician, or an interpretive reader. Follow the Five Steps of Talking - with Style, and you'll be well on your way To Infinity, and Beyond!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Toastmasters Friday: First Contact

"Hey look! It's a visitor! Get 'em signed up quick - we have to get to our 20 members to be President's Distinguished!"

OK - so your club probably doesn't quite act like that. But it's human nature to go after the end result without taking all the right steps to get there - we see something, we grab it. "So glad you're here! Sign this and give me a check!"

You've all heard about he radio station WIIFM (what's in it for me) that we all listen to - but to get your visitor to transform into a member, you need to adjust your dial a bit, to WIIFT -What In It For Them. 

First, don't attack them before the meeting. Welcome them in, introduce them to the Toastmaster, the President of the club, or even someone assigned to working with visitors, like the VP of Membership. Then sit them down next to you, and let them know they'll be called on to introduce themselves, and ask if you can answer any questions before the meeting begins. Let them know you'll be available after the meeting as well.

Hopefully the club gives them the opportunity to speak during Topics, and another chance to give their comments on the meeting at the end - these two scenarios can provide you with some clues for your conversation at meetings end. Once they've been through a meeting, the next phase of your mission begins - Discovery Questions:

Do you have any (more) questions I can answer? If they didn't have questions at the start, they probably do now, or they have more. Instead of inundating them with information they may or may not care about, find out what's on their mind. They may very well lead you to the end of the conversation without you having to do a thing.

What would you like Toastmasters to do for you? Forget for a moment about your DCP goals, the manuals you want to tell them about, and that open officer role they can fill. Finding out what they came for will lead you to your next move, and increase your clubs chances of making a difference for this potential member.

What is your timetable? Some folks won't have one. Some may think a year is plenty of time to learn public speaking. Others may need to give a speech at work in the next month. Understanding their expectations will help you craft your answers, whether you are telling them the best way to get their Competent Communicator in the next twelve months or getting them on your speaking schedule in time to practice for work. They can do their Icebreaker after they've met their initial goal.

Once you've found out about them, and they know you actually care about THEIR goals, take it to the next level - Tell them, don't ask them, to join.

Assume the sale.
You've discovered their needs and addressed them. Tell them what they need to do next to fulfill those needs. Walk them through the process, welcome them on board, give them their first manual from your overflow box.

Follow up. The ultimate in customer service. Call them up before the next meeting. Ask them again if they have questions. Send a Welcome Aboard card from the club. At the very least, talk with them when they attend the next meeting, and get them going on the mentor process.

Don't overpromise. We can't guarantee that they'll become a great speaker in a month - send them to a coach if that's really their expectation. If they've been drawn in by the new Leadership marketing focus, let them know it's a process, and if they think they can be the District Governor next year, they need to rethink. Stay solution-oriented and positive, of course, but a new member with unrealistic expectations becomes an ex-member very quickly.

Follow through. Get them on the schedule. Set them up with a mentor. Help them create their own timetable to reach their goals, so it becomes real. The more the club invests in the member, the more the member, in most cases, will invest in the club.

Finding out more about your visitors helps both of you, and creates new members that are better prepared for success in the club.

What best practices do you have in your club? Do you have a system in place? Are all your members prepared to talk to and sign up a new member, or do they at least know who can?

First Contact is crucial, and none of us want it to also be our Last Contact. We're all pretty good at talking once we've been in TM awhile. But the key to signing up a new member lies first in listening, so when you do Speak, you Deliver the package they need.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Speak & Deliver's Story Graveyard

I admit I listen to more speakers than the average person. I'm a fan, a student, and a critic. Over the years, there are several stories that seem to be 'general domain' (for you computer geeks, think "Open Source"), and are used and occasionally altered depending on the occasion. Some are made out of whole cloth, others seem to be parables passed down from generation to generation, without attribution.

Ben & Jerry's has flavor graveyard for retired ice cream concoctions, so I'm starting Speak & Deliver's Story Graveyard, in hopes of putting these tired old yarns to rest, once and for all. Sound the funeral dirge for the following seven motivational tales:

1) The Harvard/Yale/Princeton Goal Setting Story. I blogged about this earlier this year. Great tale about graduates in the 50's writing down their goals. Only a few did, but those few went on to out-earn all the other class graduates combined. I know people who have lived their life quite successfully based on the principles taught in this tale, but it isn't true nonetheless, and deserves to be six feet under.

2) Stuck Semi Story. A giant semi gets stuck under an overpass, and while tow trucks, fire engines and police forces struggle to wedge it free, a six-year-old boy asks the Police Chief why they don't just let the air out of the trucks tires and back it out. D'OH! I admit to really liking this story. But I've heard it from way too many motivational speakers and preachers.

3) Put the Man and Boy Together and the World Comes Together Story. Last heard from Robin Sharma at the Toastmasters International Conference in August, this is a cute little tale about a boy whose father doesn't have time to spend with him. The dad tears a magazine ad up that has a map of the whole world on it, and tells him to put it back together. The boy comes back quickly, to the dad's amazement. Turns out there was a picture of a man and his son on the other side, and the boy put that together instead. Awwww. Puke.

4) Feed The Right Wolf Story. Often adapted from an old Cherokee legend - we each have two wolves - a good one and a bad one. Which one is strongest? The one we feed, of course. Nice metaphor, but far too common. Consider changing it to a python, at least.

5) Sheik Gives Golf Course Story. The nice golf pro gives golf lessons to an Arab Sheik, the Sheik offers to reward him. The pro says he collects golf clubs, and the Sheik can buy him one for his collection. The Sheik then proceeds to send him the deed to an entire Golf Club. A nice parable that never actually happened. Last heard from Joel Osteen, but he heard it from Zig Ziglar, I'm sure. 18 holes aren't enough to bury this sucker.

6) The Starfish Story. Boy throws starfish back into the ocean, Dad questions his logic, since he can't possibly throw all the starfish on the beach back to their natural environment - that what he's doing doesn't matter. Boy says it matters to that ONE. Yeesh. Anyone got a toothbrush? Among the most overtold EVER.

7) Lincoln, Edison, Churchill - Perseverance Stories. Lincoln didn't really fail all those times, at least not as they say, Edison's story is oft exaggerated, and Churchill, well, if I hear another speaker fake an English accent and boldly tell me to "Never Give Up", I just might.

What stories would YOU add to the Story Graveyard? I'm taking nominations in the comments below. If you're using one of the above stories, consider this your warning that you and your message may be DOA, and I'm writing you a Do Not Resuscitate order. Time to birth your own stories, and breathe new life into your speaking, if you truly want to Speak & Deliver.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Public Speaking Mistakes: Are You Caught in the Show-Off Trap?


Awww! You are sooooo cute! Your gestures, your voice, your vast vocabulary! Your Power Point was beautiful, your music inspiring, and you were dressed to the nines! And oh, your adorable little dimples!

Have you ever watched this speaker? Have you ever been this speaker (taffeta optional)?

It can be too easy to fall into the traps of ego and pride as a speaker. After all, the audience is there to see us! We're on stage and we're the star. We spend our day after week after month after year to be our best for the comparatively few minutes we spend on stage. When we're done, we want that audience to recognize how good we are - standing ovations, top scores on evaluation sheets, and plenty of handshakes and smiles afterwards.

Welcome to the Show-Off Trap. The trap is always just a few steps away from you. Many of us started as speakers from this trap in the first place, others fall into it after reaching more success than they expected. Still more of us fall in and out of it again and again, each time thinking we've finally moved past it.

The worst thing about the Show-Off Trap is its often wrapped in success, and we can miss the stranglehold it has on us until it has done irreparable harm to our careers.

Signs you are caught in the Show-Off Trap:

Speaking Gymnastics - Verbal & Physical

Verbal - all those hours on may be misleading you. When the audience gets lost in your words, in complicated sentence constructs, or in adjective-laden, abstract metaphors, you're showing off. Speaking is not about how smart you are, but how smart you can make your audience.

Physical - boy, do you know how to use the stage. Dancing, falling, running, pacing, tumbling, jumping on chairs, backflips, even landing on stage by parachute. If it means something to your audience, if it proves a point, its worth doing. If its just to show you CAN, its showing off.

Lack of Eye Contact - are you pacing the stage? Spending your time talking to the walls? Talking to yourself? It's one thing to be afraid of making eye contact. Its another to be so involved in your own words that you never have reason to look at them in the first place.

I-Focused Stories - yes, we want to tell OUR story, but it must be our story as it will relate to THEM. If the story stays focused on you and your life, your struggles and your triumphs, but never gets around to relating to your audience, you're showing off.

One Size Fits All - yes, its okay to give the same speech to more than one audience. Speakers do it all the time. But when the speech is the exact same from audience to audience, with ZERO customization, ZERO consideration for the individuality of the client, you're speaking for you, not for them.

One & Done - you got your standing ovation, and your great responses on your feedback sheets. But you didn't get invited back. By them, by their other offices, their other chapters, or by anyone in the audience. Rarely will someone tell you you were showing off to your face - but if you're One & Done, you might have been. (The alternative, of course, is that you were simply bad, but lets not go there today.)

You say you want to be great. To be memorable. To change lives. Be careful, you're just inches away from stepping into the Show-Off Trap. No matter how many people come up to you to say how great you are, what you really want is different. You want your message to help them see the greatness in themselves. A message that is memorable. A message that when acted upon by THEM, changes their lives. The difference is subtle, but will make the difference in your career, nonetheless.

Be great - but be great in what you give, be great for THEM, not for YOU. Don't chase the wrong Tiara :)

Friday, October 14, 2011

4 Types of Audience Tension or A Review from an Evening with Ed Tate

Wednesday night, I attended a 90 minute training session by the 2000 Toastmasters World Champion of Public Speaking, and CSP, Ed Tate. He covered a myriad of topics very well, as was expected, and I enjoyed hearing him deliver in person what I have heard from him multiple times in audio format.

While I had heard most of his information before, he did bring up one gem I hadn't - the Four Types of Audience Tension. 

1. Audience v. Presenter. It could be a question of whether or not the presenter is any good, or, in my case last night, wondering if I'd hear anything new. Ed tackled this right away with most of the audience by giving a Toastmaster formatted speech to showcase his abilities in front of the primarily TM audience. He took care of my concern about 3/4 of the way through, with this information. Bear in mind, of course, I wasn't his target audience - I'm already a fan.

Other tension in this vein can come when the presenter is a superior in your company, an outsider coming into your environment, or even just someone you don't like.  What are you doing to overcome that initial tension with your audiences? Grabbing their attention is a good start.

2. Audience v. Audience. You may or may not be familiar with those around you, and each presents potential issues. Will you end up in too many side remarks and conversations with friends and co-workers? Are you so uncomfortable with new people you'll be focusing on what the people around you are thinking instead of focusing on the speaker?

Ed handled this well, getting us to work together a few minutes 2 or 3 times during the night, but also by holding our attention throughout his presentation. He used props, threw a toy into the audience to give someone permission to speak, gave us physical gestures to imitate to drive home a point, and changed up his topics quickly to keep us on the edge of our seats.

3. Audience v. Materials. Do you distract your audience with handouts? Rely on Power Point? Remember growing up, when you'd be juggling notetaking with reading the book with watching the board? Tough to do. Keep your materials short, simple, and supportive to your speech.

Ed used a flip chart to track ideas on, and had some Champions Edge cards passed out, but neither played a large part in the presentation. He kept our focus on HIM, and his message.

4. Audience v. Environment. Too hot? Too cold? Bad seating? Bad sight lines? The longer it takes for an audience member to settle in and be comfortable focusing on the speaker, the bigger the chance something important may be missed.

We met in the back area of a popular pizza joint, and it was LOUD. Just half walls between us and the rest of the diners. Ed had a sound system, so the diners likely had to/got to hear him as well, and he did manage to be loud enough for the 50 people in the group. Other distractions included the diners behind him, and, of course, the food. He chose to speak from the one spot people needed to go through to get to the buffet, which kept the audience a bit captive. Not sure if that was intentional. It created a couple of mini-rushes to the Pizza Bar during his 'discuss with your table' moments.

Before I left, I asked Ed if I could include this information in my blog today. He mentioned that he actually got it from someone else, though he wasn't sure who. A little research shows he may seen or heard it from Tony Jeary - who he did mention for other info in his presentation. This makes for an interesting lesson in and of itself.

No matter how much we may want to give credit where credit is due, eventually material just becomes part of what we deliver. We must still be cautious not to steal both concept and delivery, but just the concepts delivered from our own perspective. If we can credit someone, great. Still, if we had to annotate where we learned what, half of our speech would be in footnotes. Specialize in making conceptual material specific to you through your delivery.

For my part, I think there's two other Types of Audience Tension.

5. Audience v. Technology. It used to be pagers, then 'Crackberry's', then cel phones. Now it's Smart Phones, offering us a mini-computer to distract us even as it threatens to ring, buzz, or emit sounds from Angry Birds at any moment.

Ed mentioned that he's seen presenters make this work for them by using a stretch break to encourage folks to Twitter or Facebook about the event. Books have been written about using the Twitter Backchannel for a presentation. Personally, I'd prefer phones just get shut off, or left in the car. Society rules, however, so be ready for anything, and learn how to channel it for good!

6. Audience v. Themselves. As an audience member, you are battling your own thoughts and emotions. You may have had a bad day. Your back might be hurting. You could be hungry. You mind can be on a million other things, even if you really WANT to hear the speaker.

Ed did a strong job of keeping our attention by switching up delivery style, as well as calling us back from breaks with clapping and, I believe, a train whistle. Getting your audience focused on a singular task for a few moments, like a puzzle or other visual game can be useful coming back from breaks as well. We must become masters at holding our audiences attention if we are to truly Speak & Deliver.

Overall, it was a fun evening that succeeded in its goals to support District 26 Toastmasters, welcome Ed Tate back to Colorado (if he ever actually finalizes his move...), and disseminate some great tips on public speaking. Oh, and the Beau Jo's Pizza was good too :)

Thanks to D26's Lt. Governor Tom Hobbs and speaking legend Joe Sabah for making this night with Ed Tate happen.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Whose Idea Should It Be?

Yesterday I took control of Facebook, and used a Googleable way to get myself invited to apply the new Timeline feature, which will soon be your default FB setting. Its a major departure from the layout we have grown used to, and a far more drastic change than anything they have done lately.

In general, I hate it when Facebook changes their look and functionality. Nothing irritates me more than waking up to unwanted change, whether its road construction, Ben & Jerry yanking my favorite flavor, or somebody messing with my friend stream! I'm guilty of whining with the rest of FB users who can't just go with the flow. Perhaps I just don't like change.

Except, I just voluntarily went out of my way to go through an early change - what's up with that? Obviously, the difference was a matter of control, of Whose Idea It Was! It was my idea, so the result would either be good, or at least, if it were bad, my own fault.

While some of us deal with change better than others, the closer change hits to our daily lives, the tougher it can be to accept. How does that affect us as speakers, especially when we are generally charged with affecting change in our audience?

Bad teachers and trainers tell us the way life is, filling us with facts about the world.
Bad preachers tell us the way our life should be, throwing out tenets that come from an ultimate authority.
Bad salespeople tell us the way our life could be, if we just buy what they tell us to buy!

Speakers? Unfortunately, we get a bad rap occasionally because so many bad speakers take cues from typical bad teachers, preachers and salespeople, instead of using their stage time to lead the audience to their own conclusion. Imagine your next audience all coming to your conclusion on their own! How much more effective would that make you as a speaker? How much longer would your speech impact your clients?

I used two methods of making my conclusion your idea in the paragraph above: 

1. Imagine If - Let the audience imagine their own outcome. It gives them both control and a more accurate picture than you could paint, since everyone has their own vision of success or failure.

2. Direct Questions - How much more? How would? What if? Similar to the Imagine If tactic, it is a bit more direct, more immediate. It also builds an underlying dialogue between the audience and you as a speaker.

You can also have more direct interaction with questions, getting them to answer you, and even writing their answers on the board, if your have an appropriate setting. Building to your conclusion through a positive form of Groupthink will anchor the ideas with your listeners.

Finally, a slightly more manipulative form of making it Their Idea is the Takeaway. This is seen in sales quite often, by creating a limited time offer, or by creating scarcity (only 10 spots available!). This is meant to turn around the buyers mindset, so they feel they have taken action themselves, instead of having action taken upon them.

A softer, more ethical use of this method can be effective for you as a speaker. We don't want to create scarcity or a time crunch, necessarily, but we can help the audience paint their own picture of pain or loss if they don't take action. In doing so, we don't pressure them, we simply tell them it's their choice. That's the truth. What will their lives be like if they continue moving forward the same way they've been walking all this time?

Whose Idea Should It Be? Theirs. But you already figured that out, didn't you? 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

How Quotable Are You?

How ready are you for the Spotlight?

Ali was far from a perfect speaker, or perfect human being, and today he is but a shell of himself. But when it came to being able to speak his mind, stay in the spotlight, and engage his audience, he may well have been "The Greatest".

These great interview snippets won't embed, so go take a look at them on YouTube:

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Are You Storytelling Challenged?

Storytelling is the sinewy strength of your ability to Speak & Deliver.

Our lives are full of stories, from the ones we read, watch, and listen to to the stories we live everyday. Stories provide the muscle, skin, hair, and even the makeup on the skeleton of our speech structure. It's one thing to have a great point to share with your audience, but stories turn your points into messages, and messages drive your point into the heart of your audience.

Random Kid w/Recorder
Storytelling comes easier to some than others, just like most other talents, from math to music. But just like I eventually pumped up my mental muscles enough to balance an equation and play Mary had a Lamb on my recorder, people with Storytelling Challenges can learn the basics of creating a compelling yarn fairly quickly.

The most difficult part of overcoming a Storytelling Challenge is identifying its existence. Does your speech go from point to point with little or no practical examples to back them up? Are you regaling your audiences with concept after concept assuming they will understand their value without anecdotal evidence? If you're just telling your audience your thoughts, you are lecturing. When you anchor your thoughts in actual events you move to teaching. When those events become emotional and visceral, you graduate to persuasion - transforming you into an effective speaker who moves audiences.

Some with a Storytelling Challenge do work to rectify it, and toss in a sentence or two to back up their ideas. But knowing you have to bang the keys of the piano doesn't allow you to play Beethoven, or even Chopstics. Do the stories you do tell consist of Spartanesque pronouns, verbs and nouns, with nary an adjective or proper name to be found?

Don't ask yourself - you probably won't see it for yourself. Ask your spouse, your friends, your family - they'll tell you if you have a Storytelling Challenge. So will your evaluator at Toastmasters, or the coach you hire to help you with your next speech. Videoing your speech will help as well - hearing yourself as others hear you does wonders for self-understanding.

Storytelling, of course, is a skill that is worthy of a blog of its own. There are plenty of books and audio series available to help you improve your skills. But you don't have all day, so lets stick to basic principles.

Example A: "Persistence is the key to success." OK, good point.
Example B: "Persistence is the key to success. My daughter learned to ride her bike after several days of practicing her technique." Now you have a good point mixed with some anecdotal evidence. We're getting warmer.

Random Kid who fell off her bike.

Now try this: "Persistence is the key to success. The first time my 6 year old daughter Riley tried to ride her pink princess bike without training wheels, she took a hard fall. She ran back into the house never wanting to see that bike again! I wouldn't let her give up though. The next day, we went out together and tried again. It took a few days, but now Riley is an expert rider, and loves the feeling of the wind blowing through her blonde hair as she zooms down our street."

Same story as Example B. Same point, same outcome. Different feeling. The first story is clinical, the second visceral. You know more - who my daughter is, how old, her hair color, what type of bike she has, and have a mental picture of her joyfully riding her bike successfully. You feel the success of the statement through the story, versus being told to accept the validity of my point via an emotionless piece of evidence.

This story can be further strengthened by adding dialogue between me and my daughter, adding a third character to the mix (maybe mom, or a girl across the street who can already ride her bike), and providing more description of her pain and anguish after the first crash.

Improving your stories will improve your speaking without you even knowing it. When you tell emotion-filled tales, your voice naturally changes, and gestures begin to flow from you subconsciously. Allow yourself to get caught up in the moment enough to keep your audience in the moment.

No matter how sturdy the bones of your speech may be, they will not stick together very long without emotional muscles anchoring them in the minds of your audience. That emotion will only be found in your stories - which means your ability to Speak & Deliver is riding on whether or not you can spend enough time exercising your ability to Speak in emotional equations, and Deliver verbal music to your audience's ears.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Don't Wait for Your Perfect Audience: Speak Anyway!

Who is your perfect audience? 

That's a tough question for any speaker. On the one hand, we don't like to limit ourselves by honing in on an age group, occupation type, income range, management level, etc. On the other hand, we don't want to speak to 'just anybody', because it might be a total waste of time. Baloney. Speak Anyway!

I often hear the latter complaints from new clients when I suggest they get their feet wet at Toastmasters, Rotary, Lions, and other service organizations. "Oh, they aren't my audience", they say. "I'm not going to get any clients, referrals, or book/product sales there", they argue. And my favorite - "I need a group that understands my topic!"

On one level, these arguments make some sense. That level is the speaker who is already well-paid and fully-booked, with an emphasis on fully-booked. I hear plenty of speakers tell me they'll toss in a 'free' service club here or there to fill out their schedule.

For the rest of you, it's time to suck it up and give your local Kiwanis club a call - or at least the one in the town next to you. Your excuses don't hold up. Speak Anyway!

You will rarely, if ever, have the perfect audience. Even if you speak at a "Fill in Your Topic Here Conference", the audience will all be at different levels of understanding and ability to act on your message. Audiences that are off-center from your topic, or even in a completely different hemisphere still offer value, and you never know who might show up with some cash to burn on your '25 Ways to Barbecue Rhubarb Pie' eBook and tape series, or know someone who does.

What's important is to Speak Anyway! You have something of value to say to any audience, and any audience has something of value to give to you. Just going through the act of adapting your normal topic for an individual audience will make you a better speaker.

- Network, network, network!
- Discover new stories to help your material relate to new people.
- Simplify and homogenize your message.

- Ask if you can bring your material. Some will be fine with it, others not. Offer to share proceeds with them.
- Have your introducer mention your website or book after you sit down.
- Pass out a sign-up list for your newsletter or for a free article or book, or even the video of the presentation. Anything that will entice them to become repeat fans.

- If its truly a 'low-risk' audience, trot out some new humor or anecdote for a test-run (not too much, and be ready to go back to your tried and true messages if need be)
- Bring a friend, and camera or two, and get shots of the audience reaction as well as your speaking. Get a testimonial video.

When you Speak Anyway!, you offer yourself an opportunity to improve, receive new feedback, and increase the size of your social and sales circles. No group is so focused on what they do that they have no other interests, hobbies, or needs in their lives. Most of these groups are full of real, live, business people who have an interest in social service, and are exactly the types of people you want to meet, and you get to meet them on less formal ground. The very fact that they are willing to have you come in as a speaker should indicate you have some interest in your audience for you and your topic. 

Beginning speakers, in particular, should be all over this particular approach. In many ways, waiting for the perfect audience is just another method of Self-Sabotage. On one hand, we don't want to speak to the imperfect audience, on the other we'll fear the perfect audience because we aren't practiced enough.

Some coaches will tell you not to go speak at these types of events, and scare you into believing you'll create a reputation for being a free or low fee speaker. If your mindset going in is wrong, this is certainly possible. Easy solution - fix your mindset and Speak Anyway!

- Be clear to yourself that you are speaking for the opportunity, not because 'its all you can get'.
- When you call to volunteer to speak, don't tell them 'any week is fine', even if it is. List two dates that are 'available', and negotiate from there.
- If possible, refer to other, paid, audiences you've spoken to in the past. "When I spoke to the Association of Weed Pullers last month, I told them..."
- Give your product away. It gives you a chance to show it off even if you can't sell it there, and ups your credibility as a speaker. It also builds into an 'abundance' mindset vs. 'free speaker' mindset.
- When people ask what you charge, give them a reasonable answer. Even if you're a 'newbie', if you say anything less than $1500, you're doing yourself a disservice. Position yourself as they are positioning themselves - you are at the club as a service to the community.

Certainly, you don't want to fill your calendar up too far in advance with free chicken dinner speeches. But don't let too many weeks go by with nobody to go speak to if you can help it. Get out there and meet the world, share your story, and become a better speaker each time you choose to Speak Anyway!


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