Monday, December 31, 2012

Speak & Deliver's Reckoning Day: Part III of III


Allrighty then.

I've reviewed last year's goals.
I've shared my own take on goals. 

Now its time to set some for 2013, in such a way as to create a foundation for greater success than I found in 2012.

To Begin - My All-Encompassing Goal, that all other goals must honor, the ultimate destination of my 'To Become' list:

Strengthen my family's position
emotionally, physically, medically, and financially.

Regardless of all else, this is my number one priority, and success is based on it, not the number of Sub-Goals attained. That said, each Sub-Goal is geared toward achieving the All Encompassing Goal.

Speaking Sub-Goals
Reach as many people with my Win Anyway message as possible
Write MY book - the catalyst to my keynote
Speak outside Toastmasters 25 times

Coaching Sub-Goals
Coach and teach as many people as I'm able, both personally and by product proxy
Build Speak & Deliver's presence
Write my speaking book

Physical Sub-Goals (these are person, but do affect my speaking business, in terms of mobility and personal esteem on stage)
Get to 190 lbs.
Play Basketball again

There are other Sub-Goals, but they are more personal in nature. The goals stated here are a bit more general than last year, but much of what I wanted to do last year, and other years, are wrapped into these.

A lot of amazing things are about to happen. For various reasons, I've been holding back for several years. 2013 is a year where all of those reasons now require me to let go, step forward, and make amazing things happen. Watch this space - my professional life is about to go on a wild ride, and you can watch it right here, in Speak & Deliver.

Happy New Year, Everyone - and please, share your giant and sub-goals here - together, we can get turn our 'To Do' lists into a tool for our 'To Become' goal!

Speak & Deliver's Reckoning Day: Part II


Goal-setting is perhaps the single biggest topic of discussion for speakers all over the world. What goals to make. Why we should make them. How we should make them. How we can attain them. Why we don't attain them.

For good reason, really. Life is nothing but a second by second collection of goal achievement, or lack thereof. Goals often result in giant To Do lists - resolutions, in particular, this time of year. If you aren't making goals, some speakers tell you, you probably aren't achieving anything.

My own take is that we're always achieving something, just not necessarily what we wish we were achieving.  Ultimately, we usually do achieve what we REALLY want to achieve, we just won't admit to ourselves we'd rather watch the complete Lost series on Netflix than actually build a website, and we'd rather eat another pint of Ben & Jerry's Half Baked than head to the gym.


It's also easy to lose hope when you don't realistically see yourself achieving your goals, particularly when you overwhelm yourself with long lists. Most goal-setting gurus will tell you to make smaller, more achievable goals, and that can help.

In other scenarios, our goals face obstacles out of our control, in both the short and long run, physically, medically, or financially.

But lets go back to the concept of 'achieving what we really want to achieve' - because I think much of the truth lay here. If you really wanted to make more money, wouldn't you have? Wouldn't you have traded off whatever you had to to make it happen. Or did you really value security in your job, or not having to face rejection, or not working too hard, or whatever it is you DID do more than you supposed goal of making more money?

This isn't always a bad thing. Sometimes, the way to make more money is to leave your family in the dust and start over. Well, if money is what's MOST important, you'll probably do it. But most of us probably value our families more, and so we'll stop short of doing ANYTHING necessary.

That doesn't mean your family is to blame, or that they are stopping you. It means you don't want what you think you want as much as you think you want it. Which means you need to stop beating yourself up about not getting it year after year.

Whether it's money or weight-loss or relationships or whatever - it applies. You either want what you have or you want to change it, which means giving up what you have now. Doesn't mean you can't have more than one thing in your life - I'm not trying to break up families here. More likely, it's not your family you'll have to sacrifice - it's your time in front of the TV, your time pursuing non-productive goals, even your time with your vaunted 'To Do' list.

For me this year, I still want goals. But I want each goal to lead to a destination - a giant goal. If I can create goals that I can have complete faith in - knowing that achieving each one brings me closer to the one place I want to reach in my life, to ensure that I hang onto what is most important and improve upon it as well, I believe I'll be better off, that I'll be able to more effectively set and do each one.

Essentially, instead of a 'To Do' list, I want a 'To Become' list - a series of activities I need to do to become who I want to be to a greater degree than I am now.


This isn't a new concept - it's fairly close to a 'Mission Statement' - though I prefer to think of it more as I've referred to it above - a Destination, which each goal being a course correction or paddle stroke that brings me closer. Covey-esque, perhaps, but he didn't invent it anymore than I am.

This post may be the closest I've come in a long time to just 'ranting' here in Speak & Deliver, or simply talking to myself. In my last post, I shared that I had not reached many of my goals, but still kept together what was most important to me: My Family. This year, I'm going to make sure my goals are more closely aligned with my family success, so I never associate negative results with any of them, but identify them simply as another goal closer to my destination, even as I bring my family along for the trip.

Have any thoughts on what I'm thinking, or how it might affect your journey upcoming? Let me know in the comments below.....

Speak & Deliver's Reckoning Day - Part I


I put out some public goals last year for 2012. Today, it's time to look back:

1. Write my definitive keynote - Yes & No. I certainly gave the keynote as a cohesive presentation to strong reviews, but its not quite where I want it to be, in large part to the fact that so many parts of my life are in constant flux. The concept of 'Win Anyway' is still the message of my heart. What 'Winning Anyway' looks like continues to evolve as the health of my oldest daughter continues to be attacked, not just by NF and her two tumors, but this year by a diagnosis of Degenerative Disk Disease (meaning she has the spine of a 75 year old) and, in just the last two weeks, severe Sleep Apnea. As my life changes, so does the keynote.

2.  Build S&D from a blog to a full website experience - No. I spent a great deal of time working to adapt this to a Word8Press blog, but was unwilling to risk the following I have to the blog in its current form. I'm still hopeful of accomplishing this in 2013, whether WP is a part of the puzzle or not.

3. Coach & Mentor MORE - Yes. I was able to coach clients from around the world this year, as well as help several people here locally - both for the International Speech Contest and 'Real World' speaking.

4. Use Video - Yes - but not as much as I'd of liked. I harvested plenty of video testimonials from the district conferences I keynoted this year, and used video from my own speeches for personal review. I created a couple of video blogs, and also filmed a promo for the District 10 conference in November. I could do more, of course - a lot more. At least I did something, though.



5. Attend Toastmasters, Join an Advanced Club, give speeches that lend themselves to my Professional Goals - Yes, Yes, and Mostly. This is a pretty easy goal to keep. I did give a few 'throwaway' speeches when I was asked to speak at the last minute (say, the day of the meeting), in part because I didn't want to subject my club to a repeat of material. Still, I was able to try some new approaches, and flesh out several new Keynote-worthy segments throughout the year.

6. Create Audio Products - No, at least not for me. I did, however, help my wife record and put her book Thriving with Neurofibromatosis on Audible.com.

7. Market & Network - No & Yes. My overt marketing efforts were non-existent, beyond a few pushes for my book sales. My networking was fairly strong, and the relationships I've built this year, as well as the expanded Facebook & Twitter followings, should hold me in good stead going into 2013.

These were all 'repeat goals' from previous years, and all of them will repeat again in 2013. I also listed three NEW goals for 2012:

1. Speak 50 time outside TM - No. In fact, I spoke less than 10 times outside TM. Hard to believe, looking back. I have just spent so much time dealing with home life that marketing has not occurred, therefore outside speaking has not occurred. This is the most disappointing non-result of 2012.

2. Write My Signature Book - No. This just never became a real enough priority for me this year.

3. Promote My Wife - Somewhat. The work with her book has been strong, but she even moreso than I, is so focused on medical appointments and home life that marketing her beyond her blog and book became a counter-productive situation.

Dang - that recap is depressing. But it's reality.

Still, 2012 has had some high points, speaking-wise. Keynoting Toastmaster Conferences in South Dakota, Iowa, and Ohio. Keynoting a Toastmasters Training in Northern Colorado. Speaking at a few local service organizations, and a local association. Keeping this blog alive, if only on life support the last few months. Coaching some amazing clients to reach a higher level of both competition and confidence. I organized, with the help of so many new friends here in District 26, a strong and entertaining Area Contest, in my role as Area Governor, in an Area that isn't always known for enthusiasm or participation.

On a personal level - I lost over 10 percent of my body weight - that's a great accomplishment for me - a failed goal from many a previous year. My relationships with my wife and kids have grown even stronger this year, if that's possible. Collectively, we shifted to a new church, in what was an emotional decision and a tough break, but ultimately a correct and beneficial one. We have survived another year of medical diagnosis and treatments. While some medical situations have worsened, that's on the universe, not us.

As a family, we're Winning Anyway. And regardless of whether or not I've gotten to go out and Speak & Deliver as much as I'd like, in the end, that is the bigger victory, isn't it? It is for me. My family has strengthened. Our faith has endured. Our love continues. No goal, attained or not, is bigger than that ultimate goal. If I achieve all my goals, and lose the big picture in the process, I've really achieved nothing.

Later today, I'll post some 2013 goals that are all aligned with that over-arching goal of putting my family in a better place next year than they are today. For now, I have a question for YOU:


How was your year? What goals did you achieve, and where did you fall short? What goals are you bringing into next year? Comment on Facebook, or below.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Losing Credibility in the Instant Information Age

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Did this picture of Morgan Freeman make you want to read this post? Or was it because you know ME, and want to read what I'm about to write?

By now, many of you may have read the following statements regarding the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, CT. If not, check out the Inquisitr article here.

Whether you agreed or disagreed with the statements is inconsequential. The fact that they were attributed to Morgan Freeman, however, is not, particular for those of us who speak.

First point of business for any of us on Social Media, of course, needs to be vetting our material. It's easy to share something with a click - but the few extra seconds it takes to google or Snopes something is worth it.

But let's shift gears a bit. As speakers, our credibility is a HUGE issue. We work to be experts in our topics. To build success within our messages. And often, perhaps too often, rely on borrowed credibility within our presentations by quoting famous people to support our claims. Some speakers borrow stories that are just 'handed down' from generation to generation - all in the name of lending credence to our points.

It can be effective, but it can also be lazy. It can be perfect, but it can also be too good to be true. We may be doing what we've always done, and always seen done, but we may now be doing it wrong.

Sourcing our non-original material and quotes has always been ethical and important, but in today's lightning fast information age, its essential. Misquoting someone, using incorrect attribution, or using stories that are just plain false will ruin our reputations before we're even off the stage as people tweet and facebook about our ineptitude.

Protect your credibility, and the credibility of our industry. Start by using more original material. Find examples within the company or group you're speaking to, by doing your pre-speech research. And, when you do quote Einstein, make sure it was he who said it, and not, say, Morgan Freeman.

What do YOU think? Do speakers borrow too much? Have you ever seen a speaker misquote or outright steal their material? Please, comment below, or on Facebook/Twitter/etc.

(another story on the origin of the quote: http://gawker.com/5969054/morgan-freemans-thoughts-on-the-sandy-hook-shooting-were-written-by-some-canadian-guy-named-mark?post=55329200)

Monday, November 26, 2012

7 Public Speaking Social Media Strategies


Is Facebook Public Speaking? How about Twitter, Linked In, and all the other Social Media platforms that exist today?

The logical answer would be 'NO' - it's not verbal, its written, right? What we read doesn't have the same effect on us as what we hear, does it? How many of us would stand in front of an audience and read our statuses (particularly some of the political and religious ones) to a live audience? And I mean ALL of them?

So clearly, it's NOT public speaking. 

Or is it?

When you read a post, don't you hear that person's voice (or what you think that person sounds like, at least)? They aren't, typically, posting fiction or prose. Statuses and updates are almost always written in Active Voice - for a short blurt of an idea to a long, well-considered (or not) commentary on life. Even the jokes and placards of wisdom we share are essentially us sharing our voice with our followers.

When we reply or comment, surely that is nothing less than public speaking, right?

These social media platforms are very public, and who sees what we 'say' is not always as tightly controlled as we think, unless we have kept our friends lists very small, and our privacy settings completely locked down.

We see stories all the time of athletes, politicians, the Donald - saying something that gets them bad press, suspended, fined, or fired at their job, or even arrested. While most of us aren't going to face issues quite this harsh, as speakers, we still need to consider that anything we 'say' will be used to define us by those listening - no matter how well they may or may not know us, or we them.

7 Public Speaking Social Media Strategies

1. Know Your Audience. Just as you would for a speaking engagement, consider who your friends and followers are - and how they will perceive what you say. It isn't just your poker buddies who hear your statements that you're a die-hard Tea Partier or a flaming Liberal, or that you spend your life playing fantasy football - it's potentially EVERYONE you've connected with - including potential employers and meeting planners. 

2. Control Your Audience. Investigate privacy settings. Create smaller broadcast groups within your larger friendship base. Open a second account for just you and your poker buddies. My wife has one facebook account for 'everyone', with an emphasis on people with Neurofibromatosis, which is the cause she promotes, and a smaller account for closer, more personal friends. Don't let 'friends of friends' see your comments, unless you truly don't care who reads what you may subconsciously believe is only being read by your best buddy. Consider blocking people who regularly cause problems in your conversation streams - we're often judged by who we let be our friends, as well as by what we ourselves say.

Be aware of who you're friending or adding to your follow lists. Don't friend just anyone. Maybe you have 50 mutual friends, but how do you know one or two of them didn't just friend this nutball without thinking, and the next 48 trusted the judgment of the first two? Why are you adding people? Plan the audience you're building - are you just collecting baseball cards of your favorite people? Are you trying to connect with a specific audience? Are you stalking your old boyfriends? Its easier to control your audience when you know and own up to your intentions.


3. Think Before You Status. Would you say what you just typed in front of a crowd made up of everyone of your friends? It's easy to blurt something out in the moment in today's day and age, to type a knee-jerk reaction to life that we would never say aloud in a crowded room. Your facebook wall, your twitter account - they're a crowded room. Stop before you Send - consider the ramifications. Are you adding value, to both your reader and yourself? Be authentic, but be careful.

4. Think Before You Comment. When you comment on Facebook, you are speaking not only to that person, but ALL of THEIR friends as well. Is what you have to say pertinent? Does it add value? Or is it just snarky, argumentative, or plain dumb? Oh, our blurts sound good in the moment, but will they stand up to the scrutiny of being permanently posted for all to see - particularly a potentially unknown audience? Consider sending the person a message instead, or just letting that urge to comment pass. Take a cold shower instead.

5. Ask Questions Instead of Making Statements. By asking your audience what they think about something that you have a strong opinion about, you start a discussion while taking the edge off what might be an incendiary situation, and also get a chance to feel out who may be paying attention. When people read a blunt statement, it can come across as judgment. You may be making a sweeping statement to the universe, but it is read by each 'friend' individually, and some folks take things more personally than others.

6. Free Speech Isn't Free. It's your wall, your account, your life. Far be it from me to restrict free speech. But free speech comes at a cost - and it's up to you to decide if you're willing to pay the price of damaged friendships, misunderstandings, and potentially lost business. Angry at your local football team? Post about how stupid their owner is, and your chances of speaking to any part of that business plummets. Can't stand our President? You've just offended 51% of the voting public. Count the costs of your Free Speech.

7. Be True to Yourself - with Intention. In some cases, being opinionated and contrarian is part of who we are as speakers - Larry Winget and Alan Weiss are strong examples of people who make a living by not caring what people think about what they put out there. But they are also intentional about what they put out there. They keep it consistent with their desired audience values - and consciously trim those they offend out of their audience. If you only want to speak on Christian values, or the benefits of socialized healthcare, or the state of the economy, don't dilute your messaging, but be conscious of everything you say, to keep it on track with what you want to communicate.

Before the comments start rolling in - yes, I have violated many, if not all, of these rules over the years. Maybe even in the last week. How else do you think I've come up with them?


Social media is the most powerful communication tool created in the last decade, and potentially the most destructive. Your thoughts, your VOICE, is being broadcast to the largest audiences you'll ever reach. It doesn't discriminate as it spreads your messages to the masses - it's a megaphone in the mall, it's the megascreen in the Times Square of your social circles. Use it well. Do no harm. It IS public speaking - so be aware of what you Speak & Deliver.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Quick & Dirty Views on the Obama/Romney Debate: Round Three



Tonight's third debate between President Obama and Governor Romney had a different feel that the others, to my eyes and ears. Less contentious, overall - perhaps neither that that truly fighting was appropriate during a discussion on foreign policy. Nobody wants someone with an itchy trigger finger.

It had the feel of a job interview more than either of the previous rounds, with the President firmly in place, and Gov. Romney looking for every opening to usurp his position. Interestingly, on much of the foreign policy in place, the two seemed to agree on actions taken in general, which led to some interesting strategy.

Head to Head

Romney - Agree where it makes sense, even to the point of deflating the President's power point of taking out Bin Laden by conceding the point before it could come up.

Obama - Reiterate record, and point out opponents history of not wanting to move heaven and earth to capture Bin Laden. Related a touching story about a 15 year old reaching closure with her father's death, who she last spoke to when she was four, and he called from the World Trade Center.

Romney - Insist that he would be stronger even on current policies, and suggest that the President didn't act fast enough.

Obama - Suggest Romney was 'wrong and reckless' in his approach, implying the Governor didn't have the experience needed to have a finesse approach.

Romney - Painted America, and the president, as weak in the eyes of the world, in terms of foreign policy and strength of alliances, our military, and the economy.

Obama - Insisted we were stronger than ever in the eyes of the world, that Romney didn't understand our military position, and that Romney's economy would strengthen China more than the United States.

Romney - Repeated that 'the world is four years closer to a nuclear Iran' and that while he agreed with sanctions in place, insisted they were not strong enough. Mentioned '10,000 centrifuges spinning Uranium' that didn't exist before.

Obama - Described a weak and crippled Iran, a partnership of countries dedicated to keeping them weak until they backed away from nuclear. Didn't address centrifuges.

Romney - Mentioned the President's 'Apology Tour' quoting the president as saying the U.S. had been dismissive in the past, as well as his seeming indifference to Israel. Stated he would strengthen our relationship with Israel. When asked, confirmed he would stand with Israel were it attacked, but didn't want to address a hypothetical about Israel attacking Iran.

Obama - Called the 'Apology Tour' the biggest whopper of the campaign, and positioned it as a way of building relationships. Recalled his trip to Israel as a candidate as 'not a fundraising event', implying Romney's visit WAS, and that he used his time to tour the country and get in touch with what it's place in history and the present world was. Also stated he would stand with Israel in warfare directed towards them, but didn't address hypothetical.

We'll Talk About the Economy if We Want Too!

Governor Romney was the first to bring up the economy, claiming our weakened financial state showed weakness to the world, and used it as a segue to discuss his five point plan for economic success.

The President responded in kind, again insisting Romney's plans kept changing, weren't fully disclosed, and would create more debt. .

They again disagreed on Romney's stance that auto companies should be allowed to go into managed bankruptcies.

Overall, it was a repeat of the same economic rhetoric we heard in the first two debates. Perhaps it needed to be brought out simply to give them a wider opportunity to disagree, since they essentially agreed on most aspects of foreign policy.

Libya

The attack on our embassy in Libya came up first, but didn't seem to be nearly as fiery as the last debate. Both men said their peace, and it wasn't really brought up, that situation specifically, the rest of the evening.

Governor Romney, instead of going on the attack about what he has termed a failure in Libya, used the opportunity to bring up problems throughout the world, as he continued his attempt to weaken the President's image of a policy-maker. He also offered a multi-step plan to strengthen nations we're bringing democracy to, suggesting many areas are in 'tumult'

Pres. Obama, took a firm stance again as Commander-in-Chief, and reiterated that he would go after those who killed our countrymen. Then he segued into what he perceived as friend-building throughout the world, while saying his opponent was all over the map on his foreign policy, beginning his effort to bring Romney's foreign policy experience into doubt.

China

Both candidates felt China could be a strong partner, but Obama led with 'adversary that can become a partner', while Romney implied China was a potential partner first, and we had enough leverage to bring them in line. Both want China to play on a more even economic field, with Romney making a strong commitment to categorize them as a 'currency manipulator' and work to prevent them from stealing our technology and intellectual property, going into a story about a valve manufacturer discovering identical copies of their product, down to the serial number, sent to be repaired under warranty.

In a quick volley, the President said Romney sent jobs to China, and his economic plan to create tax breaks for companies sending jobs overseas would result in more jobs than ever going overseas, and cited Romney's record of opposing sanctions in a recent legal action against China flooding the U.S. with 'cheap tires'.

Big Hits?

The President had some quotable lines:

- Wrong and reckless
- He also brought up Romney's statement that Russia was our biggest threat, suggesting the 1980's wanted their foreign policy back. (Editor's addendum: In a sweeping attempt to indict his opponent, he stated "you seem to want to import the foreign policies of the 1980s just like the social policies of the 1950s and the economic policies of the 1920s")
- Replying to Romney's statement about our weak military, and smallest Navy since 1916: 'we also have fewer horses and bayonets' and suggesting the Navy is different than before, not a game of Battleship.
- While not directly referring to 'Romnesia', a popularized term in the last week, he did say that Romney was 'airbrushing his record'
- When Romney suggested people go to his website to get more insight into his economic plan, Obama rebutted 'We've been to your website, several times, and don't see much'

Romney was also sharp, but seemed determined not to create more soundbytes comparable to 'Big Bird' and 'Binders Full of Women'.

- He had clearly done his homework, bringing up situations around the globe in very specific terms, from Egypt to Libya to North Korea to Mali.
- Pounded into the audiences minds the notion of 'Four years closer to a nuclear Iran' and repeatedly used the term 'tumult' to describe world political situations.
- Highlighted his financial and budget-balancing successes in business, the Olympics and government, insisting he could do it as President.
- Took a strong stance against the president of Syria, insisting he must be ousted.
- Mentioned several times that the President 'attacking me isn't a strategy for the future' - an idea that echoes his VP's comments that a candidate in trouble resorts to attacking his adversary vs. touting his own ideas.

Closing Statements

President Obama had first draw, restating his stances on the economy, education, a strong military, and the theme of nation building at home that would benefit veterans. He again suggested we had two paths, back to failed policies, or 'Forward' to a more prosperous future. His final push was that we would bounce back as a country based on our character, sounding for all the world like someone saying 'trust me, we'll make it work'.

Governor Romney looked more presidential than ever, continuing to imply the President was weak in the eyes of the world - the overall mission, it seemed, of his debate. He stated he would bring strong leadership and create a safe country. As Obama promised in 2008, he declared America could come back by going 'across the aisle', and suggested we were 'broken' but could still be the hope for the world, and carry the torch for a better future.

The Moderator

Bob Shieffer, from CBS News, proved the most able of the three moderators to date. He offered pointed questions, kept the candidates moving, and both candidates seemed to show him more respect than given to either Mr. Lehrer or Ms. Crowley. He stayed calm but firm, and masterfully bridged the candidates from question to question.

So Who Won?

Both shone brightly tonight as speakers. There were fewer instances of talking over one another, though the President tried several times to break in as the Governor seemed determined to make up the minutes he lost in the second debate. The Governor wouldn't let Obama in, and occasionally talked over Bob Shieffer. Pres. Obama also battled for time, and often started going overtime with the words 'let me say this because' and would continue for up to a minute or more.

It was filled with Obama saying 'You said/did this' and Romney saying 'No I didn't' or 'That just wrong'. Each candidate continued to insist their economic plan would work while the others would not - the President on the strength of Romney's lack of specifics and bad math, and Romney on the strength of his experience vs. the weakness of the President's record.

On the strength of foreign policy, I'd give the win to the President. The Governor simply didn't have enough new ideas to add to the discussion. On the strength of the closing, Gov. Romney appeared crisper and more confident than the President. If all America remembers are the final few minutes, the debate goes to Romney.

Whew!

It's certainly been interesting analyzing these debates. Both have improved since their first meeting, as speakers, and as candidates. Will these debates matter? Will the polls matter? It's tough to say. Go out and vote - whether you think it matters or not, you can only be certain it will not matter if you don't.

Click to check out my review of the First Debate, and/or the Second Debate.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Quick & Dirty Views on the Obama/Romney Debate Part Deux



Alrighty then. Tonight's debate was certainly spirited, wasn't it? 

What was different?

The setting was more intimate, with the two men surrounded by undecided voters, and no lectern to hide behind as they both came out to speak directly to their questioners, and, more than once, to each other.

President Obama, no surprise, took the offensive and attacked Governor Romney's policies to a deeper level than ever before.

He took Romney to task on switching positions, saying one thing after doing another, and proposing policies he feels infringes on the rights of women, families, and the middle class.

He was attentive while Romney was speaking, he identified himself repeatedly by his title, as if to remind us of just who he is, and not only rarely backed down to interruptions, but in fact tried to appear as an ally to moderator Candy Crowley, the timers, and the 'folks' with questions to ask.

He also cut his ahs and ums down by 90%, replacing them with pauses, occasional double words/stutters, and lane changes (starting an answer then changing the start).

Overall, a much smoother and confident presentation from our Commander in Chief (another title oft mentioned).

For Governor Romney? Not much was different. Part of that was he didn't need to change his approach much after his successful first debate. He did focus more on Obama's failing, particularly in addressing the question about why a particular voter should vote for 'four more years'. It was his strongest attack of the evening, and he continued to hammer those points home throughout the night.

He was less condescending in the background, but more willing to interrupt the President and the moderator (which, considering how often he interrupted Jim Lehrer, is saying something).

Going Toe to Toe

At 16:20 in the debate, Governor Romney challenged the President on his energy policies. Obama rose, and the two edged toward each other as Romney pushed for an answer. It appeared as if the two were challenging each other for dominance in an almost animal-like manner, both physically and intellectually.

Who came out the winner? I'd say the President, by a half-point, staying relatively cool in the face of a clear attack (Romney was physically facing him, while the President was faced out more to the audience and cameras), whether you agreed with his answer or not.

Timing

Again, there was little to no respect for the timing of the answers, by either candidate, though the President seemed to pay more attention most of the time. He called for Romney to end his answers in the first half, but by the end seemed to simply take longer for himself to even up the airtime.

Dealing With the Moderator

As mentioned above, the President tried to create an ally in Candy Crowley, but in the final third of the debate, he often interrupted and talked over her. Governor Romney wasted little time in interrupting Ms. Crowley, treating her with as much, or as little respect as he did Mr. Lehrer. His intent was, of course, to be able to fully able to voice his views.

His result may not be as strong as they were the first time around - and may be seen as more disrespectful to a female moderator than it would have to another male moderator. Squishy ground here, but middle America still has an affinity for showing respect to women, and with Obama painting him as less than a champion of women's issues, a bit more tact would have served him well.

Answering the Questions

Neither stayed on point for long, taking questions and turning them toward their own talking points. Their approach in doing so was different, with the President either answering quickly before expanding the topic, or taking a circuitous route to an answer with an anecdote, while the Governor often seemed more intent on finishing his thoughts on the last topic before addressing the new one.

Closing Statement

In fact, it was a closing question, and a nice set up at that: What perception of yourself would you like to debunk? (loosely paraphrased)

In his closing answer, Governor Romney accused the Obama campaign as characterizing him as a very different person than who he was,.painting a definitive picture of himself as a man of God, a family man, and a businessman, someone who cared about 100% of the American people. Finally, he attacked again, insisting America doesn't have to 'settle' for the status quo. He looked more authentic in his description than through some of his stories of family life in the past debate, and throughout the campaign.

President Obama had the last word, and worked to debunk the idea that he believes government creates jobs, instead saying he believe in the free enterprise system, self-reliance and risk-takers, but tempered his statements by insisting everyone needs a fair shot, and needs to pay their fair share. He yielded to Romney's statements about himself as a family man and man of faith, but paraded out Romney's 'behind closed doors' dismissal of 47% of Americans as victims who don't take responsibility for themselves. Those victims, he insisted, are students, people on Social Security, the military, and veterans. Quickly, he asked for our vote, and another four years.

So Who Won?

Both sides will claim their man won. Both made strong attacks on the other, both defended with strength, and both were able to be clear about their own beliefs of being a successful president.

I see it as a victory for the President, but not a victory over Romney as much as a victory over his own failed performance in the first debate. I believe he has reassured his support base, and repaired much, if not all, of the damage in the two men's first meeting.

It was also a victory for the Governor, in that he not only stood his ground, but continued to work to emotionally undermine his opponent based on his first four years in office.

Who Was the Best Communicator?

Romney is still the better speaker, despite Obama's improvements. But tonight I believe the President communicated with a passion and confidence that evoked memories of the man who ran in 2008. While Romney was emotionally undermining Obama's record, Obama was emotionally connecting with his constituency.

Conclusion

A. The debate was a push, so the victory really goes to the incumbent.
B. The best communicator, by virtue of emotional connection, is the President

I'm sure many of you will disagree. I'm OK with that. Please do so from at least an arm's length away...

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Quick & Dirty Views on the Obama/Romney Debate in Denver



Well, that was fun.

I'm not going to pick the debate apart for politics or policy, or about the fact that Romney's flag pin was slightly larger, but on speaking points alone:

- Romney is clearly the better debater, the better speaker of the two. For all the rhetoric four years ago about how great a speaker President Obama is, he was too tentative tonight, ahhing and uhhing all over the place, giving the impression he was making it up as he went along.

- Romney went on the offensive, and attacked at every juncture, using passive aggressive statements throughout, as well condescending body language and facial expressions while Obama spoke.

- Romney told more stories, shared more anecdotes during each segment. Obama didn't go to a story until about halfway through, and they seemed a bit forced, particularly the tale of his grandmother. Interestingly, many of my friends in Cleveland seemed to think his identification of the Cleveland Clinic as an example of strong healthcare to be laughable, on both sides of the aisle, so to speak.

- Obama was on the defensive all night, only building steam when he talked about Obamacare. He looked, to me, to be a tired, stressed out president who would prefer to be anywhere but there.

- Romney's weakest moments came when talking about cutting programs, including PBS and Big Bird. He cannot afford to speak dismissively of anything, even for the sake of a laugh.

- Two powerful moments for Romney - 1. characterizing Obama as a child, repeating the tax cut as one of his sons would repeat an untruth, hoping we'd hear it enough to believe it, and 2. zapping him with 'You are entitled to your own house and your own plane, but not your own facts' - a line he was no doubt waiting to unleash all evening long.

- Two powerful moments for Obama - 1. calling Romney out for a lack of a detailed plan to reach his objectives for the economy, federal regulations, and healthcare, and 2. comparing Obamacare with Romneycare.

Essentially the night was one of 'Will not! - Will too!' back and forth between our president and the Republican nominee, as they accused each other of fairly egregious practices and potential outcomes.

The final statements of each contrasted sharply, with Obama maintaining a defensive posture, sticking to his guns and saying it will work, and Romney painting a rosier outcome vs. more of the same. The opportunity to have the last word would have worked in either candidates favor, but certainly helped Romney's cause more than it would have for Obama.

Speaking strictly of Speaking - I'd call this one for Romney, easily. President Obama will need to come back in the next two debates with confidence, with strong factual evidence, and a presidential stature. Romney needs to continue with his approach, but find a way to look less condescending when he's not speaking.

A quick note on Jim Lehrer - I thought his work as a debate facilitator tonight was weak-kneed. He let both speakers go overtime repeatedly, allowed both of them to run over him throughout. There is a difference between showing respect for the debaters and respect for the purpose of the debate. Letting them go on and on and vie for speaking power doesn't help the audience.

The big question to me is this: will this debate actually sway you one way or another? Or is this simply a moot diversion of our time and resources?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Acting Techniques for Everyday Life: A Book Review


Yesterday I compared the two disciplines of Acting & Speaking - separating them in spots, joining them in others. I had a couple of comments suggesting that the two feed into each other - or as Michael Erwine succinctly put it "Acting and Speaking inform one another".

I completely agree, and today I'll review a book that isn't about speaking, per se, but, as the title reads: Acting Techniques for Everyday Life, by Jane Marla Robbins.

Logically separated into four parts: Prepare Like an Actor, Nuts and Bolts Techniques, More Tricks of the Trade, and Real-Life Challenges, Robbins covers a lot of ground, with something to readers of most any experience level in acting OR speaking.

She writes from inside her own mind, sharing her thought processes at each step, vs. taking a lecture approach. Her own experience as a professional actress is heavily drawn upon, as she reveals her failures and fears, as well as her successes. It isn't done so much to establish her credibility, rather she reveals it anecdotally where appropriate. She weaves in stories about her coachees as well, explaining their challenges and the work done to overcome them, and occasionally drops a name here or there, discussing the techniques of Dustin Hoffman and Marlon Brando, without ever slipping into 'big shot' mode. If anything, she shows remarkable humility throughout the book, despite her achievements.

Part One: Prepare Like an Actor describes techniques from how to stand - feet under your hips, hands at your sides, watch that sunken chest - to vocal exercises to relaxation techniques you may never have considered as 'speaking preparation'.

While you might think "Oh, of course, I knew THAT", the real question this book answered was WHY we should use certain techniques, and made me re-evaluate whether I actually DID what I knew to do.

Part Two: Nuts and Bolts Techniques includes role-playing, memorization techniques, playing with props and costumes, and even some improv exercises. As I mentioned in yesterday's post (though not necessarily this clearly), speakers should act WITHIN their presentation, just not AS their presentation.

Learning how to create characters on stage is a valuable skill when you create dialogue or tell a story about someone else's experience - this section will invariably help you in your growth process if you actually do the exercises she suggests.

My favorite part of this section is 'The Magic "As If"'. Her accounts of Henry and Pam changing their internal stories about what they were capable of were inspiring, and if you still can't quite overcome your fear to speak, to get a coach, or to go to your local Toastmasters club, this technique is a winner. More experienced speakers likely use "As If" thinking without necessarily knowing why. Robbins again does a great job exploring the why factor, for those who need more concrete reasoning behind their leaps of Faith.

Part Three: More Tricks of the Trade discusses gestures, breathing techniques, the power of music, and  her personal technique of using mental symbols to get into and stay in the right state on stage, called "The Inner Walnut". Again, ideas are presented in detail, with both the why and the how, without overdoing it.

Part Four: Real-Life Challenges is both the most valuable aspect of the book to me, as well as the most self-helpish and occasionally psychologically mystical.

It also specifically addresses public speaking - suggesting our fear often comes from suppressed childhood memories, fear of failure, even a subconscious fear of death for lack of performance. She discusses how to feel 'safe and love' while speaking, as well as keeping the passion for your message alive even if you've presented it a thousand times.

Jane Marla Robbins
Other aspect in Part Four include handling yourself at social gatherings, playing your ideal self, and feeling sexy - not something I'd really concerned myself with as a speaker or an actor. Interesting thoughts, nonetheless.

Acting Techniques for Everyday Life is well-written, easy-to-read, and often one of the most insightful books about speaking, without being about speaking, I have read. When the review copy arrived, I was a bit determined not to like it, but the more I read, the more I warmed up to both the author and the ideas she shared. Her case studies were evenly split between male and female, usually offering one of each for each major concept. She also had small sidebars titled 'If it works for actors, it can work for you' - helping us transfer each idea from the acting world to the real world, or, for our purposes, to the speaking world.

Worth your money, worth your reading time, and...worth exercising and applying Ms. Robbins techniques.

Authors Disclaimer: I received Acting Techniques for Everyday Life as a review copy, with no payment in exchange for a review. All link within the review are non-affiliate links.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Acting vs. Speaking

Have you ever watched a speaker and wondered if he knew you were even in the room?

It can be easy to go into acting mode as a speaker, especially if you've put a lot of work into your presentation. To start, you're on a stage, already separated from your audience. You know what you want to say, how you want to say it (whisper here, yell here), what gestures you want to use, and you don't want to miss a practiced beat.

I've watched many a terrifically constructed speech packed with wit, pathos, action, and a strong calls to action, fall completely flat. They were in full performance mode, but forgot we were in the room - putting up a virtual television screen that separated us from them. Had we watched the speech at home on our wide screen HD with stereo sound, we'd be closer to contentment. What we want from a speaker in person, however, is not just a message, but a connection, a conversation. When presenters go into acting mode, we leave empty, even if we laughed and cried.

Ultimately, this type of speaking is more about the speaker than the audience. 

It may be about the speaker's fear. Going in front of an audience can make you feel like the Emperor with no clothes. Acting can be an emotional robe, protecting you from the audience, while ultimately separating you. Speakers who aren't comfortable with their message, or fear pushback from their audience can put on an act in self-defense. Unfortunately, once you're on, you're on regardless. If you're going to go ahead and speak, commit to the moment, and let nothing stand between you and your audience. Still, I advise wearing a suit.

Acting can come from too much or too little experience. If you aren't familiar with your message, you'll be so wrapped up in getting it right, you won't connect. If you are TOO familiar, you risk going through the motions, perhaps unsure of which audience you're even in front of today. Speaking often is great, but not if you're already mentally out of town when you speak.

It may ALSO be ego. The speaker may be so into themselves that they care more about looking good on stage, more about being remembered as a great speaker than a great communicator. If you're one of those, you're probably not reading this. But it can be easy to slide this way when we first start getting good reviews and loud, perhaps standing, ovations.

My initial training is actually as a stage actor. Beyond a high school speech class and a horrifying oral book report in the 7th grade, I didn't do much public speaking. Ironically, I was taught that GOOD acting meant connecting with the audience. Not in the same way a speaker should, but a connection through an authentic performance. Which means that not only is a speaker who is acting without connection not speaking well, they technically aren't even acting well!

Typical Acting VS. Effective Speaking

- Memorized lines written by others VS. memorized ideas written by the speaker

- Blocking (move stage left) as written VS. movement (step towards the audience to strengthen statement) out of natural intent and authentic emotion

- Dialogue stays on stage VS. dialogue with the audience

- Suspension of disbelief (putting your audience into the moment for the entirety of the performance) VS. temporary transport (taking your audience in and out of a scene, always landing in reality)

- Little to no eye-contact VS. intentional, specific, and continual eye contact

- Appreciation for their performance VS. appreciation for our reception of message


These are generalities, of course. I can already hear my theatre friends shouting exceptions. Stage acting can certainly break the barriers between actor and audience, and some performances can transcend the art form. And yes, there are speakers who speak as George Washington or Winston Churchill - though I would submit that is really just acting, not being a speaker. What's important to understand is that the intent behind effective acting is almost always different than effective speaking. It doesn't lessen either discipline, but clearly separates the two.

I'm not even saying acting in a speech is altogether inappropriate or ineffective - as long as it's the temporary transport mentioned above. It's okay for us to get involved in your stories, as long as they lead us back to our reality.

As speakers, we are not on a three camera soundstage with an audience being told when to laugh. We are not bound to a chiseled-in-stone script. We are not under the thumb of a director. We are free with our message, and bound only by our responsibility to our audience.

It can be scary as our we nakedly share our ideas with actual human beings - with both sides aware of our vulnerability. The reward, however, when we break through the imagined glass screen, and know the audience is in tune with our message, in sync with us as speakers, goes beyond an appreciated performance. It becomes an attitude, a habit, an action - an idea that goes beyond the stage and take corporeal form within the lives of your listeners. 

Save your acting for the community theatre - the speaking stage wants you, not your character, to Speak & Deliver.


Monday, September 24, 2012

Yet Another Post on Originality

I was speaking to a group of professional speakers and aspiring professional speakers Friday night about finding their message. I've said before that finding your message is the first thing you need to do in this business - and its also one of the hardest.

One of the items that came out during the talk was originality - how do we keep from saying what everyone else is saying? Well, I hate to say this true believers, but you probably can't. (I even stole 'true believers' from  Stan Lee). 

Unless we're geniuses who can extrapolate new answers from old data, a la Einstein or Hawking, (whose 'new' ideas are often old ideas not widely circulated) we're likely stuck with repackaging old data. Think about it - how many times has your most recent original thought shown up on a placard on Facebook? Heck, as students of what we talk about, its tough to always separate our own original thoughts from what we've read or heard along the way.

We think what we've been taught to think by people who have been taught to think by generations before them who have been taught to think by others. We're wired to be derivative. And that's OK. The fact that it's been said before may be exactly why it needs to be said again.

We went through the room and brought up concepts that the more experienced speakers already got paid to talk about. The best ones were in niches, but all came down to the basic concept of CHOICE. You choose which action to take, which attitude to feel. The information would change based on the niche, but not the underlying idea.

What are Obama and Romney discussing? Choices. What are fitness gurus preaching? Choices. What are preachers offering? Choices.

If you're not offering choices, you're not speaking as much as teaching - and even then, choices can enter the picture (want to solve it this way, not this way, even if it reaches the same answer - and in higher math, I suppose answers can be fuzzy - but I never made it to higher math, by choice).

Stop worrying about being original - instead focus on being memorable. Add yourself. A cake is a cake is a cake, until you start to decorate it. Add flavor, add fun. Be shocking, be intelligent. Be YOU. If we have not choice but to be derivative, we can still choose to be creatively derivative.

We live in a world that relives the same experiences year after year, century after century, in different packages. Because new people are growing every year - and they all need the same basic messages.

I know what you're thinking readers...you've heard it all before. Now you have a choice to go Speak & Deliver....Anyway.

Excelsior!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Did Bill Clinton Speak & Deliver? Jonathan Sprinkles Thinks So



I spent the time to watch Clinton's speech yesterday morning, and was all set to write my analysis, when Speaker and Coach Jonathan Sprinkles posted his own on Facebook. He paralleled my thoughts in many ways, though he's not quite as bi-partisan in his approach. Still, I felt his analysis was worth sharing...
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President Bill Clinton
Grade: A+
 JONATHAN'S DISCLAIMER: This is long, but worth it for YOU. I put extra effort into explaining how YOU can use this in your business and life. Don't take the lazy way out. Not this time, okay?

Here’s why: Even if you’re a Republican, you probably hated the content of his speech, but you had to respect his smooth delivery and the eloquence in which h
e unfolded his argument for his party’s reelection. If you’re a Democrat, you’re saying “FINALLY…someone who makes sense, has experience, and speaks in detail.” If you’re an Independent, you’re saying, “Can we amend the laws to get this guy back in office?”


Bill Clinton was 50 Shades of Brilliant. Politics aside, he was a classic example of a speaker who understood his role, but even moreso understood his place in time existentially. This is key. Bill Clinton understands people. He made it clear why he is one of the most well-liked political figures alive today—even after nearly being impeached while in office. He knows how to move people.

Clinton’s paternal tone, his use of his left index figure to jab home certain points (this right was normally held together), and subtle phrases such as “Listen to me” were all exceptionally-well used tools to step in, own his position as the authority, and speak to the American people as a father would on the back porch sipping some lemonade. Bill Clinton, for one night, became anointed as The Great Explainer. He made it very easy to listen to him for 48 minutes, which by the way, was far greater than the time he was allotted. This is the hallmark of a great speech and to a greater extent, a great speaker.

Instead of providing future suggestions, I will use this space to highlight (or in some cases reveal) Clinton’s verbal tactics and how they added to his argument. These are some of the (rough) notes I took as I watched his speech.

CONTENT:
-SCORECARD OF JOBS CREATED
Used the “okay” sign with right hand and Obama’s record with his left hand to show contrast between millions on the left and ZERO on the right. NOTE: Not sure if this was intentional, but this is also reflective of the political “right wing” conservatives and “left wing” liberals.

-TALKED ABOUT REPUBLICAN ACCOMPLISHMENTS.
Clinton seemed to honestly value the efforts of Republicans. This made him sound objective; a true problem solver, not a partisan pundit. From a persuasion standpoint, it also drew the crowd in early and got them on his side. If they agree early on, they will be unlikely to question his forthcoming criticisms.

-OUTLINED OBAMA’S HIRING OF PEOPLE WHO RAN AGAINST HIM AND WERE FROM THE GOP.
Highlighted Obama as committed to compromise. Went against the claims that he was leading from the far left, but was still a centrist at heart, despite being vehemently opposed by the GOP.

-SUMMARIZED (AND REDEFINED) THE GOP ARGUMENT FOR ELECTION. HE THEN EXPLAINED THE FLAWS IN THE PHILOSOPHY.
Very, very smart. Take your opponent’s argument, over-simplify it, and tear it apart. Make people laugh while doing it so they aren’t thinking about the details of your argument.

-TOOK ON THE "ARE WE BETTER OFF" ARGUMENT.
Clinton said, "Here's what we've forgotten…" “Forgotten” is the key word. As The Great Explainer, he also had to remind us what was important (as he defined it) He said that improvements were happening but people just hadn't FELT it yet. Same as '95 and '96. "But the difference is in the circumstances." "No one could have fully repaired the damage in just four years." Clinton’s argument: It’s working; just be patient.

KEY PHRASES
"I believe it. Why do I believe it? I'm about to tell you why…"
-Brilliant framework. “I believe___ and here’s why.” Hones the audience’s focus to YOUR logic.

"What does this mean…"
-The Great Explainer helping the people sort through all the dogma, myths and half-truths.

"I never hated Republicans the way they seem to hate our president." (paraphrased)
-Exposed the GOP’s “Obama is a good person but has failed as a president” argument. Reminded us how much of the aspersions over Obama’s term were personal and vitriolic, not based on political philosophy

"If he (Romney) is elected, and he does what he promised, Medicare will go broke by 2016."
"This is serious…because it gets worse."
-Every persuasive argument should answer the question WHAT’S AT STAKE? Show how making the wrong decision, or even indecision could really hurt you. People are motivated by pain. Cause pain then create a solution.

"…a strong middle class with real opportunities for poor folks to work their way into it."
-Nobody had addressed the poor until then. “Work” their way into it speaks to the GOP argument of Dem’s entitlement programs.

"Why is this true…" (about cooperation).
-Phrasing your statements this way subconsciously causes your audience to make the assumption that his information is correct. They want to know "WHY is this true" versus "Is this true?"

"Business and government working together."
"’We're all in this together’ is a far better philosophy than 'you're on your own.’"
-Clinton created a moderate middle ground approach that explains the Dem’s platform in a way that seems un-American to reject.






Jonathan Sprinkles, "Your Connection Coach", is a TV personality,

multiple award-winning speaker and author of over a dozen books.

For more tips on connecting with your audience and owning the

room, visit 
http://www.GreatSpeakingTips.net/


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Thank you for sharing Jonathan - I don't think it's a stretch to add that you would believe truly did Speak...and Deliver.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Speaking of Focus


"Focus your eyes,
focus your ears,
focus your mind,
focus your body."

My seven year old son will say this on command, thanks to his karate training, and even better, will actually focus. Focus is important in the martial arts - you never want to be caught off-guard by a reverse tornado kick.

It's just as important to you as a speaker.

Focus Your Eyes - Don't let yourself be distracted by people walking in and out, by the lighting, by the waitstaff, by the giant screens on either side of you. Take inventory of your possible distractions before you walk on stage, address any you can control, then go out and keep your eyes on those you're conversing with - nothing breaks communication like wandering eyes.

Focus Your Ears - In addition to visual distractions, clanking dishes, conversations in the room, audience applause just on the other side of the partition, even blaring wedding reception music from down the hall can turn both the speaker's head and the heads of the audience. Some distractions need to be acknowledged, to refocus your audience. Others only you are keenly aware of, because your audience is focused on listening to YOU. You'll know which is which by focusing your ears, and eyes, on THEM.

Focus Your Mind - Not just on what you want to say, but on your mindset. Friend and fellow speaker Datta Groover believes "Whatever state of mind you are in when you present, people will tend to follow." If your mind is focused on how lousy breakfast was, or the fight you had last night with your spouse, it will be seen and heard in your performance. Sneakier mental machinations like fear of failure and lack of conviction are just as dangerous. Focus your mind on the moment and on the audience outcome - and leave everything else backstage.

Focus Your Body - I know what it's like to be betrayed by my body. I'm not the most balanced person in the world (yeah, I know what you're thinking - mentally OR physically, Rich), and occasionally find myself having to steady myself on stage. Focusing your body starts before you ever walk out to the microphone, however. Are you eating right? When are you eating? Are you physically energized or drained? Are you drinking enough water, and keeping water available to you when you speak? Have you scoped out the stage for weak spots, wires, and suddenly appearing orchestra pits? You need to focus your body both inside and out. Nothing's worse than needing a potty break in the middle of a keynote, except tripping over a power cord as you rush to the restroom.

Different speakers have different routines before presenting. Some eat the same meal or snack, some have a lucky blazer or tie, others listen to music, pray, or recite words reminding them of their purpose. Some of us do ALL of those things. Maybe Riker, my little green belt, has it simplified perfectly. Focus your eyes, focus your ears, focus your mind, focus your body. Then go kick butt...er - go Speak...& Deliver!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Clint Eastwood at the RNC: 9 Ways He Made Our Day



Last night, Clint Eastwood gave the world what it wanted. He gave the Republican National Committee a rousing speech that is being talked around the world. He gave people who are not Republicans a performance they could denounce and demean. He gave political pundits and comedians alike bullets of every type for their next offensive, both for and against Mitt Romney.

He also gave speaking coaches around the world a wonderful speech to pick apart on so many levels. I've seen blogs calling Mr. Eastwood out for being disrespectful to our President, for speaking too long, for rambling without a script, and for being 'drunk old Uncle Harry'. All valid commentaries, in certain perspectives.

My only, non-partisan, mind you, question is - did he Speak & Deliver?

1. Self-Deprecation and Focus. He immediately began by disarming the audience with a quick joke about the grand ovation he was given - 'Save a little for Mitt'. Short and sweet, he deflected his recognition back to the main star of the night.

The Lesson - the ovation was long and loud, but Mr. Eastwood knew why he was there. Do you know why you're speaking to your audience? Along the way, he refocused them on the reason THEY were there.

2. Voice of the Audience. He immediately connected with thee minds of the audience ("I know what you're thinking") and assured them that despite their doubt, yes, conservatives live in California. Then he tossed in a zinger for good measure "they just don't go around 'hotdogging' it". Great way to identify with his audience, and soften any concern they might have about this 'movie tradesman' speaking to them.

The Lesson - know your audience, and let them know you know them. Self-deprecation can go a long way, even combined with a sneak attack on the 'enemy'.

3. The Chair, Part I. Wow, has this one become a lightning rod. Was it immature? Disrespectful? Goofy? Maybe it was all those things. It will also be remembered, for better or worse. It is at this point we have to ask from what vantage point Mr. Eastwood is speaking. Is he meant to be a political expert? Or is he there as an entertainer?

His opening background was not a picture of him during his political days, but from The Outlaw Josie Wales, looking all rough and tumble with a beard and a cowboy hat. Not exactly a foreshadowing of a highly intellectual speech. Consider the other rumored speakers for his slot - a hologram of Ronald Reagan or Tim Tebow.

If the speaker had been Jon Stewart, would we look at the chair prop, the Harvey-style conversation, with the same eyes? Or would it have been automatically viewed as a mechanism for sarcasm? Would we care if Conan O'Brien were 'disrespecting' the president?

In what could be viewed as either 'being a good sport' or 'arrogance', the Obama Campaign came back with by retweeting this image. So - either good humor or inappropriateness is certainly a bi-partisan event.


The Lesson - be willing to go all the way, to risk pushback and ridicule, if you truly want to say what you want to say. Mr. Eastwood was nothing if not true to himself during this speech, and at this point in his life and career, knows he has little to lose.

4. The Chair, Part II. Appropriateness aside, Mr. Eastwood's use of the chair was consistent, effective in creating an illusion for the audience, who no doubt had President Obama in their minds sitting right there, in whatever capacity they see him in, respectful or not, and provided well-timed humor moments via imagined interruption. Even Bob Newhart recognized the 'bit' as being borrowed from his own one-sided phone calls on his early albums, dryly threatening to sue Clint on his Twitter account.

The Lesson - creating a character onstage can be very effective, particularly for humor - but know the audience ahead of time.

5. Political Statements. Not much in the way of strong political statements. Straight-forward questioning on campaign promises, from Gitmo to the return of the troops, and a couple of barbs on student loans and the war in Afghanistan, but nothing with meat to it. Pandering, really, to an audience waiting to eagerly lap up anything negative about the POTUS.

The Lesson - don't go out of your depth. He took easy shots, and kept moving.

His strongest statement was delivered through the voice of Mitt Romney and his statement against declaring target dates and simply bringing the troops home. Again, Mr. Eastwood directed the attention to the real star of the night.

6. Profane Humor. Watch the video, and Mr. Eastwood is never all-out profane. He implies profanity from the president, but never quotes him. The combination of  'what do you want me to tell Romney? I can't tell him to do that - he can't do that to himself' with his callback of Invisible Obama telling HIM to do the same thing was dark slapstick at best, vulgar at worst, but was received with raucous laughter and approval from his audience.

The Lesson - if you're going to be risque, be prepared for people to love you and criticize you with equal power. I think Mr. Eastwood is more than ready for the consequences of his sarcastic approach.

7. Stray Rambling Comments. His speech was supposedly slotted for 5 minutes, and went twelve. Part of this was his halting style as he seemed to be speaking sans prompter or script. Part of it was also rambling, extraneous comments about not wanting lawyers in the white house because they argue too much and suggesting we needed a successful businessman running the country. Neither of these were particularly necessary statements, though they both supported Romney - sort of - Romney has a law degree. Wonder if Mr. Eastwood knew that?

The Lesson - no matter how legendary you are, go in with a plan that fits the plan of those who brought you in to speak. Taking too long is both a discourtesy and an opportunity for you to say more than you need to say.

8. Back to Business. At the 8:30 mark, after the aforementioned dark slapstick callback, Mr. Eastwood changes his tone, and indicates he wants to say something, in such a way as to separate his next comments from everything else. He knows he's been playing the comedian, the entertainer, and now he wants to be taken a bit more seriously.

This is when he regains his gravitas, his strength of character both real and perceived, and gives the audience a sense of pride and a mission to embark upon. "We own this country....politicians are employees of ours" He attacks politicians of every party with his comments about coming around every few years to beg for votes.

The Lesson - know when and how to refocus your audience. You've made them think, you've made them laugh, you've made them uncomfortable - but now, you need to make them act.

Then he goes for the jugular, literally - "When someone does not do the job, we've got to let 'em go" - repeated for emphasis, and accompanied by a slash across the throat gesture that would get him kicked out of an NFL game, and was, for my taste, his most over-the-top moment of the night. It came on the heels of his strongest moment, weakening both the statement and his credibility for many.

The Lesson - gangland gestures will reduce your credibility even more than implied crass comments from an Invisible President in the minds of some.


9. Make My Day - the audience has been waiting for it, calling it out from the cavernous convention floor, and finally he gives them what they want. A classic audience response moment where he tells them to finish it for him. The crowd emphatically closes his speech with a loud 'Make My Day", and he immediately thanks them and departs.

The Lesson - end on a crescendo, and know when to quit. Even if you should have quit five minutes ago, you still want to quit with strength.

From a speaking perspective, I don't believe Mr. Eastwood's speech was the train-wreck I've heard it described as throughout the day. He double-clutched and paused too often and occasionally seemed to be making it up as he went along, sure. But he was also vintage Eastwood. He was exactly who he is, and if the RNC was caught off guard, it's really their fault, not his.

Politics and political correctness aside, I think he provided a great show, and did exactly what they wanted him to do - give his audience reason to cheer, reason to feel good about themselves, and an iconic lead-in for a would-be president who is too often seen as quite the opposite.

Eastwood did indeed Speak....and Deliver!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Don't Let the Messenger They Shoot Be You!: A Book Review


Time to catch up a bit. I was sent a review copy of "Don't Let The Messenger They Shoot Be You", by C. Mike Jousan, early in the Spring. It's a quick read, but I haven't found it to be easy to review.

For starters, I hate to give negative reviews, but I have to admit, this book didn't do much for me. Originally published in 1992, this is the '20th Anniversary Edition'. It hasn't been updated much though - the illustrations (cartoons) are beyond retro - they're simply terrible. He references, without sourcing, the Mehrabian study finding that 93% of speaking is non-verbal, which should be more than thoroughly debunked by now, and even advocates the old standby military approach of speaking: Tell 'em what you're going to tell them, tell them, and tell 'em what you told 'em.

The book is filled with 122 one to two page chapters organized alphabetically - what one might today view as a series of blogposts compiled into a book, though blogging certainly didn't exist in 1992, if I recall. Maybe a series of newsgroup posts? There is sound, if well-traveled, advice throughout the book, but with such short chapters, we don't get a sense of the author and his journey, much less any real concrete examples to back up his advice.

This book is billed as "A Survival Guide for Public Speaking", and as an easy-to-read beginners book, may have its place in the high school libraries of the world, and I'm sure it flies off the back tables of Mr. Jousan's speaking engagements. But there are too many trite-but-no-longer-quite-true tidbits within, without anything new for more experienced speakers to benefit from for me to truly recommend it.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Speaking of the 2012 Toastmasters International Convention



Just a few words from my heart to those of you competing at the World Championship of Public Speaking this year....

Monday, June 11, 2012

Speaking of Your First Move...


"How do I get started?"

This is the question that invariably comes up from speakers I coach.

My answer is always the same:

"Well....what do you want to say?"

Reactions range from silence to confusion to quick lists of 3-10 topics to the scariest of all: "I can speak about anything!" As the old saying goes, if you can speak about anything, you really can speak about NOTHING with authority, creativity, and impact.

- If you don't know your message, you'll be hard-pressed to find an audience who wants to listen to you give it, regardless of how talented you are, much less get paid for speaking.

- If you don't know your message, it will never improve. You'll just keep saying whatever is at the forefront of your mind on the general topic.

- If you don't know your message, your audience will decide what it is for you, and it may not be the message you want. Or, more likely, they'll decide you don't have a message at all.

Even if you think you know your message, bouncing it off a coach can pay off. I've watched people's message transform in a matter of hours as they dig deeper than they thought they could, and honed their point into a stronger concept than they thought they had. There's a big difference between talking about web design, for example, and talking about WordPress for Stay-at-Home Moms.

Too Many Ideas?

Helping clients find and keep a message can be my biggest challenge as a coach. I've worked with clients who change their approach entirely between sessions, based on conversations with friends, spouses, web designers, other coaches, MLM opportunities, and even their accountants, and this can happen week to week to week.

Depending on the topic, your approach can vary considerably, which may drive you (and your coach) a little nuts. While it's challenging, it's also a necessary component to the process, as long as you understand you need a destination point. At some point, preferably before your first booked talk at your buddy's rotary club, you have to make a decision.

I'm not saying each speaker should only have one topic. But even if you're only giving the speech one time, knowing your message is crucial. But if you're starting out as a professional speaker, one topic is more than enough. Especially if you're learning all the other concepts - writing, editing, delivery, and marketing at the same time.

Finding your well-defined message is your first move as you prepare to Speak...and Deliver.


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