Thursday, July 25, 2013

Arrogance vs. Confidence - What Are You Showing From the Stage?

Thinking you can have that many letters, for starters...

There is often a fine line between arrogance and confidence, a line that can be easily crossed without intent, and even without knowledge. This is true in real life, and true, certainly, in speaking.
Speakers actually end up running closer to the line than the average person on a more regular basis. It takes a large amount of confidence just to get up in front of others and espouse our thoughts, ideas, and information to others, much less do it in a memorable, effective way. Confidence that can easily drift into, or be mistaken for, Arrogance.

Arrogance isn't a universal perception, either. I've seen speakers that I consider arrogant that the people next to me, or friends from the audience I've talked to afterwards, simply adored. 'That's just his schtick' was essentially the defense - which also means that speaker has created enough equity either in the past or during the actual presentation for what I perceived as arrogance to be seen as confidence, or style, by others. In fact, I had no real problem with the content of this speaker. It was quite valuable. But for me, the style was aggravating, self-serving, and grandstanding. My perception, colored by my experiences and preferences.

I asked some folks on facebook & twitter what they thought made a speaker Arrogant, and I received a myriad of answers. One of which involved the use of big words like 'myriad'...

36 Ways to Be Arrogant on Stage

1. The speaker is always the hero - Derick Dickens
2. A speaker who preaches: 'You should do this' - Jeffrey Brown, Attie Ringo
3. Berating your audience (something I thought the afore-mentioned speaker did) - VJ Sleight
4. When the personality is bigger than the story (ex: Donald Trump) - David Hollingsworth
5. Being 'holier than thou' - Renee Groom-Romano
6. Talking about what they 'did' instead of what they learned - Leslie Jacobsson Keating, Ann Ang
7. Overuse of first-person pronouns - Richard Daugherty
8. Being spammed with sales both during and after the event - Kevin Doyle
9. Not adapting a speech to the audience - Rich Hopkins (not me - another Rich Hopkins!)
10. Showing off physically while demeaning the audience as lazy - Bronwyn Roberts
11. Speakers who are their own gurus - Heather Adair Hawkins
12. Doesn't show they care for the audience - Colin Emerson
13. Making the audience stand and give a standing ovation, then saying 'now they (the speaker) have to earn it - Michelle Mazur
14. Making jokes at the expense of a group of other people - Natalie Chance Palmer
15. Condescension - 'You don't know this yet, but I will enlighten you' - Tony Cortes
16. Attacking people for technical problems during the speech - Daren Wride
17. Assuming the audience doesn't know the topic well - Peggy Carr
18. Unwilling to fully connect with the audience - Thomas Lindaman
19. Insincerity - Terry Canfield
20. Not respecting the audience's time - David A. Berkowitz
21. Believing their own press - Felicia Slattery
22. Believing their knowledge makes them superior - Lloyd Smith
23. Self-righteous tone of voice - Joyce Feustel
24. Taking themselves too seriously - Cybele Antonow
25. The 'Hard Sell' - Bob Jensen
26. Lack of eye contact - LaMont D. Snarr
27. Ending sentences with 'mmm-kay' or 'right?' to gain agreement - Syrena Glade
28. Physically pacing the stage without purpose - LaMont D. Snarr
29. Sweeping statements - 'Everyone does' or 'Everyone knows' - Dawna Bate
30. Finger pointing in a preaching/shaming manner - Chantal Heurtelou Coutard
31. Using foul language or sexual references - Maureen Zappala
32. Leaning against the lecturn on one elbow - Iain Wayfarer Gorry
33. Assumption of knowledge/not explaining jargon - Jennifer Haston
34. Spread out leg stance with arms crossed - Tracie TK O'Geary
35. Pretending that what worked for them will work for all - @icpchad (on Twitter)
36. And, my personal favorite show of arrogance - laughing at yourself, incessantly, onstage.

Bwah-ha-ha-ha! ROFL! - oh wait, I'm laughing at my own blog...

Wow. That's a lot of actions and attitudes to avoid. And many of them are perception-based - what one person views as arrogance another might view as fear (lack of eye contact) or 'part of the job' (the 'hardsell' and 'spammy follow-ups). Some may be culturally based (finger pointing, stance) or simply preferentially based (swearing, a preaching style). Others are character-based, such as how you react in a negative situation (tech failure).

Most seem to be steeped in one simple concept - caring more about yourself and your message than your audience. That's really the heart of arrogance, isn't it?

Arrogance is a danger we all face as speakers, and we won't be able to avoid members of our audience occasionally feeling that we are arrogant, even if we are extremely humble and authentic as a general rule. And those are, by the way, good general rules to follow.

The speaker I felt was arrogant may not be an arrogant human being, it may have been my perception. I have certainly been considered arrogant on occasion, and with due cause every now and again. Have you ever crossed the line, ever so slightly? Were you called on the carpet for it?

The lessons here seem clear - keep your heart with the audience at all times in every way. Even if you have a schtick, like a Larry Winget, who is often outright rude to his audiences, EARN the right by overtly caring first. While you can't control what each audience member thinks, or understand and tailor yourself to the experiences and, perhaps, their insecurities coloring the reception of your message and delivery, you CAN control your intention, your content, and your delivery style.

In the words of Theodore Roosevelt - "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care". And if you don't care, you shouldn't be on stage.
When have you experienced an arrogant speaker? Share your stories below!

And the go and be confident while you Speak...& Deliver!

Friday, July 19, 2013

How To Win the Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking: A Book Review

The first time I became aware of Jeremy Donovan's new book, How to Win the Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking (non-affiliate link), it was via email, from a fellow veteran of the 'Big Stage', as they asked me 'Have you seen this?' and 'Do you know this guy?' Both valid questions, both of which I answered 'no!'

The second time I became aware of the book wasn't exactly ideal, either. An email came to me through my Toastmasters leadership address, as the author let me know about his book and suggested I forward his request to give out a free copy to our district's International Speech Contestant. Generous, in one sense, but, in my mindset, and the mindset of many other district leaders around the world, it came across as 'SPAM', and a misuse of internal emails, made doubly egregious by the fact that he, in fact, was a Toastmaster himself.

You'd think things couldn't get worse from there. But they did. In my typical, type first, ask questions later manner, I facebooked about this situation, without naming the book or the author, giving the book three strikes. It was meant to be a throwaway comment, but it created a bit of a firestorm, especially when Mr. Donovan actually joined the thread to defend his actions, and his title, which I had criticized as offering a 'bloviated claim'. After all, the author hadn't stepped foot on the 'Big Stage' himself, certainly hadn't won it, and it's truly impossible to tell someone exactly how to win a contest of any sort, be it the the World Championship of Public Speaking (WCPS), the Super Bowl, or the World Series of Poker.

All that is said to put this review in it's proper perspective. Despite it all, I was intrigued, and went ahead and spent the $2.99 for the Kindle version, intent to put everything aside and see if this book had any merit at all. I wasn't hopeful.

but...I was pleasantly surprised.

Ed Hearn
2006 World Champion
The book features the text of all nine speakers in the 2012 Championship, something we haven't seen in a book before. Ed Hearn, Douglas Wilson and I put our nine speeches (from District, Region, and the Championship, back when you needed three speeches, instead of two, to win the contest) into our book 'Win, Place & Show', back in 2006, and I was able to get all the finalists to write a chapter each about their own experience in the contest in 2008, in our book 'The Finalists' (available for free on my website), but Mr. Donovan truly pulls a coup by getting all nine speeches into his book.

With those points scored, he then focuses on nine aspects of giving a 'World Championship' speech, through both analysis of the speeches themselves, and an extended study of winning speeches going back to 1986. The author clearly loves research, data, and statistics, as the book is full of them, from how many laughs per minute to percentage of winners from different positions in the speaking order to what percentage of winners ran off the stage vs. shaking the hand of the contest chair vs. waving as they left. (My personal, if painful, favorite, was LaShunda Rundles 'flying' off the stage in our contest in 2008.)

He breaks down the elements of a winning speech as follows:

Taking the Stage - how do you begin, essentially
Topic Selection - always a subject of debate among students and participants of the contest
Storytelling - including story construction, selection, and pattern
Humor and Emotional Range - laughter, tears, and everything in-between
Language - big vs. small words, sentence structure, title selection
Verbal Delivery - volume, speed, pauses
Non-Verbal Delivery - use of the stage, gestures
Mindset - what do you focus on, how do you approach practicing - the most 'motivational' chapter
Leaving the Stage - pausing, how you plan your 'exit strategy'

He concludes with an interesting chapter about his own thoughts on who he thought would win, and why, and then has to admit he didn't actually pick the right winner. Honesty is good - who wins these contests is often a crapshoot.

Therein lies my only remaining complaint about the book. A 'How-To' book, in my mind, should give me a specific, reliable result if I follow the steps. Building a table, fixing a flat tire, building a marketing list, etc. No one, not even a champion, can give you all the steps, with certainty, that will allow you to win this contest. If nothing else, the contest is a zero-sum game, so if two contestants all do everything perfect and identically to the other, only one of them can actually win.

The contest relies on fallible human judges, who may or may not like your speech based not on the judging criteria, but by their own life experience, or even, subconsciously, if they like your tie or choice of dress vs. pantsuit.

LaShunda Rundles, 2008 World Champion

In addition, while he does cover mindset, a key missing component is 'Heart'. Most likely because it is an intangible, immeasurable component in speaking and competing, which one can't distill into a statistic. One cannot watch LaShunda Rundles speech without seeing her whole essence brought to the stage.

Most importantly of all, Lady Luck truly plays a part as well. Just as a football game is occasionally won or lost based on the odd bounce of the pigskin, a speech contest can be won or lost based on a microphone malfunction, the fact that two other people in your bracket spoke on the same subject, or a better speaker got lost getting to the contest that day.

The real promise in this book, the one it fulfills, is telling you how others have won the contest, how some have come close, how some have fallen short. It offers signposts to greater success and warnings against certain failure. It offers 'best practices' and is, at least for this serial contestant (seven time semifinalist, two time finalist), a fascinating read, whetting my appetite for the competition in 2014.

In the end, I enjoyed the book. If you're a Toastmaster, and particularly a contestant, spend the three bucks and give it read. The author has done a tremendous amount of work in compiling his data, interviewing the participants and many past champions. It is the most complete analysis of championship speeches I have seen to date. If you're not a Toastmaster, you might get lost in some of the idiosyncrasies of the contest, but can still glean some great tips about speaking in general.

They say never judge a book by it's cover. I judged it quickly by it's title, and by assuming the worst motives from it's author. That was a mistake on my part. Regardless of what I think of the title, or the email marketing approach, the content of the book, the creation of content from the author, earns it a high rating - 4 out 5 stars.

Pick it up. Jeremy writes...& delivers.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Foundational Phrases: Are They All They're Cracked Up To Be?

One of the basic tenets of speaking is the Aphorism - a uniquely worded, concise point made in a memorable way. These can also be termed as Maxims, or, in a worst case scenario, a Cliche.

"A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned"
"There is Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself"

"If if Doesn't Fit, You Must Acquit"

These three phrases are among the most well known in the last 200 years thanks to Benjamin Franklin, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and, more infamously, Johnny Cochran, O.J. Simpson's lawyer.

If you're a student of speaking, you might recognize these particular nuggets:

"Your Attitude, Not Your Aptitude, Will Determine Your Altitude" ~ Zig Ziglar
"Formal Education Will Make You a Living, Self-Education Will Make You a Fortune" ~ Jim Rohn
"Don't Get Ready, Stay Ready" ~ Craig Valentine

As speakers, they are, essentially, the foundation upon which we build our speeches. It's Craig Valentine, 1999 World Champion of Public Speaking, who crystallized this concept for me over the last decade, referring to this concept as the 'Foundational Phrase' - a phrase on which your story and/or speech is built upon. For my Toastmaster friends waiting for it, there it is - credit where credit is due.

You can create a foundational phrase as an umbrella sound bite for your entire speech, or embed them with each point in the speech, or both.

Anatomy of a Foundational Phrase:

1. It's Short - 10 words or less, if possible. Rohn's quote above is the only one longer. Short phrases are easier to remember, and the precision of a few words will help you and your audience focus.

2. It Contrasts. Usually between 'then' and 'now' or 'bad' and 'good' or 'present' and 'future'. It can also contrast between two choices, as in 'get ready' vs. 'stay ready'. In my 2006 speech at the World Championship of Public Speaking, my phrase was 'What if we knew now, what we knew then?' - a question to get the audience thinking about an old concept in a new way.

3. It Simplifies. The phrase doesn't always have to take you from point A to point B - it can also simply be a repeated theme throughout your speech. 'Win Anyway' is my primary phrase, which allows for a fair amount of variation, such as 'Lead Anyway', 'Dream Anyway', or 'Love Anyway'. It can also be built upon, such as in the phrase 'Life is Tough, Win Anyway'.

4. It Rhymes - sometimes. A rhyme is naturally easier to remember. But forcing a rhyme can become a burden, and potentially weaken your phrase.

5. It Uses Alliteration - the sibling of Rhyme. Attitude, Aptitude, Altitude - all ending with the same sound, is a great example of alliteration. Words that feature a repeating sound will stick in the audiences mind. Comes with the same danger of being forced, so apply with caution.

6. It Guides - both the audience and the speaker. Coming up with the phrase before you write the speech offers you a chance to edit your speech as you go, making sure everything you put into it lends itself to your final point. Coming up with one AFTER the speech works too, if you're willing to go back and edit after the fact.

7. It Crystallizes - synthesizing the whole of your message into a simple sound byte. Johnny Cochran's 'If it doesn't fit, you must acquit' became THE phrase he hung his defense case upon - it all came down to that simple fact. John F. Kennedy's phrase 'Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country' was easily a tentpole concept for his short tenure as President. The right phrase will anchor your idea into the mind of your audience, so your greater message will be triggered by just a few carefully crafted words.

Foundational phrases can be wonderfully effective, or devastatingly destructive. 

On the plus side, they are memorable, they reinforce your message in the minds of the audience, and they help you keep the content of your speech on track, if you keep in mind that anything that doesn't support the phrase doesn't support your message.

On the negative side, if speaking in clever phrases just isn't your style, they can sound forced. Too many of them can make your speech sound corny. Poorly developed phrases can be overly silly, confusing, and off-putting to the audience. Using time-worn phrases, such as 'If You can Dream It, You Can Do It', as I did in the 2008 WCPS Finals, even for the sake of irony, are likely to come off badly, and cost you credibility.

Are Foundational phrases all they're cracked up to be? Yes, and No. They contain great power. Here are three to sum up today's column.

'Foundational Phrases aren't required, but often desired.' ~ Me
'When in Doubt, Leave it Out' ~ Darren LaCroix
'With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility' ~ Spider-Man's' Uncle Ben.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Real Magic by Nana Danso - A Book Review

As I've said before - every speaker should have a book.

Nana Danso is an up and coming speaker who has made a huge mark in Toastmasters as a four-time semi-finalist in the World Championship of Public Speaking, and, as seen in his TEDx presentation, has a bright future ahead of him.

'Real Magic' (non-affiliate link) is Nana's first book, expanding and crystallizing his approach for the reader as to how to create a successful life through M.A.G.I.C. - Motivation, Aspiration, Gifts, Innovation, and Confidence.

A true storyteller, Nana takes us on a wonderful ride through his own life, from a great honeymoon story where the magic wasn't quite where you might expect it to be, to his upbringing, to his experiences with education and the workplace. It is in these stories this book truly sparkles, as we see into his life and mind, and have the opportunity to reflect on our own lives.

It also, for better or worse, offers a treasure trove of traditional motivational examples, right where you'd expect them to be - IF you are a motivational junkie like this reviewer. While I found myself skipping through the stories, other readers with real lives may not. Cliches become cliches because they are true, and time-worn motivational parables become time-worn because people like to hear them, and because not all people have.

Nana offers a refreshing view of 'self-help' - giving us a perspective of someone in the midst of living a successful life, without coming across as an arrogant 'look at me' motivational author, like so many others. He has a self-awareness about himself and what he's offering, and chooses to be authentic and self-deprecating while still firm in his approach and his results. When he's in his zone talking about his own life, the book reads more like a conversation over coffee than a traditional motivational sermon.

The book is highly organized, relying on each prong of M.A.G.I.C. for it's structure. He offers short summaries at the end of each chapter, complete with action items, plus a funny/poignant story, each which stands on it's own. The book ends with a recap of the book as a whole, creating an accessible read whether you have five minutes or 2 hours.

'Real Magic' is an ideal back of the room sell - listen to Nana, then bring him home. It's a strong example of what most emerging speakers need to add credibility and income to their speaking careers.

While I would have liked more of HIM and less of the time-worn stories, there is enough personal, original, and insightful magic here for me to give 'Real Magic' four stars out of five.

Now, before you head off to Amazon to buy the book - take a look at Nana in action - if for no other reason than to be able to hear his amazing voice in your head when you start reading!

(Disclaimer - I was sent a review copy of Real Magic by the author, but this review is unpaid, and all links are non-affiliate.)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The 4.5 Promises You Don't Want to Make

"Guaranteed 10 lbs GONE in just 10 days - WITHOUT Diet or Exercise!"
"Make $10,000 in Your First Month - While You Sleep!"
"Regain Your Full Head of Hair - With Just a Few Drops a Day!"

Promises, promises. Overstated promises are the staple of bad advertising, and, as speakers, can be our downfall.

The concept of 'Motivational Speaking' already comes with some bad press - whether it be promises to change your life and income level in a late-night infomercial, the idea of 'attracting success' by simply envisioning it happening to you, in movies such as The Secret, or the salespeople masquerading as speakers ready to take your $10,000 on the credit card they told you to raise your limit on for their latest get rich quick scheme.

The 4.5 Promise Don'ts (with apologies to Jeffrey Gitomer)

1. Don't Promise What You Can't Deliver. As a speaker, you can give advice, you can walk through processes you know to be effective, but if you aren't personally delivering the specific results you're offering, change your offering.

2. Don't Be Too Specific. Guaranteeing the number of pounds lost or amounts of money to be made is a recipe for disaster. Everyone is different, and even if they follow your instructions to the letter, their results will not necessarily mirror your results.

3. Don't Promise Something in the Control of Others. Whether it is success in a lawsuit, winning a judged competition like Olympic Figure Skating, or, as stated earlier, specific financial gains.

4. Don't Promise What You Haven't Done. I'm not a millionaire speaker, nor to I ever promise you that you will be. I'm an effective speaker, an entertaining speaker, an inspirational speaker - or so I'm told - so that's what I stick to in this blog. Selling results you haven't experienced is bad business. UNLESS....

4.5. ...UNLESS, You are Sharing Other Peoples Processes. If you haven't done it, but have interviewed many who have and want to build a platform based on THEIR success, go for it. None of us is an island, after all, and all of our successes are built in one way or another on the shoulders of those who have gone before. WARNING - building your speaking career solely on other people's ideas and experiences may make you obsolete. If it's all about them, who needs YOU?

What CAN You Promise?

You certainly have to promise something as a speaker - some reason they are going to listen to you. Talk about what you know, what you've done. There are veiled or overt promises in every type of speaking. A promise of new information, of entertainment, of inspiration. You can promise a new approach, a new perspective, a new method. Use concrete examples, from your own life, from the real world, showing how your ideas and techniques have worked for you and others.

You can even promise improvement, with the caveat that improvement only comes through implementation, and, as the commercials say, 'results may vary'.

As speakers, we have a responsibility to our audiences, each other, and ourselves to watch how we market our programs, books, classes and anything else we offer. Our most important promise is unwritten - that we are being honest, transparent, and accountable to our listeners.

Getting too caught up in our marketing, and making our promises too grand, not embedding the inherent conditions required for success (ie: personal responsibility from your audience to act), and providing the proper perspective will eventually backfire. Whether it's bad feelings or Federal lawsuits, you don't want to put yourself in the line of fire.

I can promise you that.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

What Came First, the Story or the Point?

"I have this great story - I just have to find a way to tell it!"

There are many phrases that make me internally cringe when I hear them from a speaking client - and this is in my Top 5 - it's right up there with 'I know you suggested I do this, but my MOM says..." Invariable, the story has nothing to do with the speech they are trying to build, but they are determined to shoehorn it in, because it's cute, funny, or personally important, but not pertinent in anyway to what they are already trying to say in their speaking life.

Make no mistake - I love stories. Stories are crucial for connecting with the audiences. Stories will be what people remember. Stories are, oh, forget it, I have no idea what metaphor to use this morning. Suffice it to say, stories are important, and I wouldn't want to listen to a speaker who didn't use them.

But no matter how great your story is, if it doesn't match the point you're trying to get across, it's nothing more than a diversion, and in the worst cases, can completely derail your speech.

Because most of us love to hear and tell stories, this is an easy trap to fall into. When we're just learning to speak, we're told - "Just get up there and tell a story".

Toastmasters, much as I love them, fall prey to this easily, as they are encouraged to come up with a different speech every month, which puts them into a position of starting their speech with a story, and then, if they're really good at what they do, finding the point within the story to provoke their audience.

When you're learning, this is a fine approach.

When you're ready to get out into the real world, it's a trap. You can't get in front of an audience and just string together a few stories and hope to get by and speaking skills and charm. They might say they loved it, and they might have actually enjoyed the presentation, but it doesn't mean anything you've said, or anything about YOU, will stick with them beyond the next 30 minutes.

Building a speech for the real world means having a real point to share. Granted, it may start with a story you want to tell - surviving abuse, climbing Everest, passing the 400th level of Candy Crush - but ultimately it must have a takeaway point - a spine on which the muscle of your stories can always attach.

Which means that the 'story you just have to find a way to tell' may not work. I don't care how funny it is. I don't care if it makes me cry. All your audience really cares about is 'does this matter' - otherwise known as, 'why is this important to me, or the reason I'm here?'

Be on the lookout, always, for stories. File them away. Look for points within them. Identify which audiences they might resonate with, and consider alternate speeches you might create for them. Just don't marry yourself to the idea of using them just because you love to tell them.

If you're building a keynote - start with your point. Then support the point with stories. Even if your next speech is 'Organize Your Speech' in the basic Toastmasters manual, consider starting with your point, and building the speech around it, finding supporting material from your life and the world around you - it'll be a tougher exercise than simply ranting about your day, but you, and your audience, will get more out of it when all is said and done.

And even if you are sitting there saying - 'But Rich, I have a great story to tell' - STOP. Tell me why you want to tell it, and more importantly why I need to hear it. Does it support the message you're already delivering? Does it have a point that is important enough to build a new speech around? Or is it simply an indulgence, hanging there, tempting you to take your audience on a detour from which they may never return?

Find your point, then your story, and you'll be well on your way as you Speak....and Deliver!


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