Wednesday, December 31, 2014

9 Questions to Help You Define Your Speaking in 2015

Image by Rush and Hugh Syme

Ah, the last day of the year. Or the first for my many friends on the other side of the world. A time when our brains often hit the reset button. We look back, and we look forward. 

I'm not going to spend time here to look back and forward for myself - I've done that in my Win Anyway blog - where all that belongs. Instead, I want to help YOU look back and forward, as you think about what you want your speaking life to be about in the next 12 months.

You may be an experienced, currently working speaker, or a Toastmaster looking to break out into the 'real world', or even a complete 'newbie' who just stumbled upon this particular post. It might be the middle of June, for that matter. That's OK - just start where you are, and ask and answer the questions below - and share your answers in the comments. No matter where you are on the journey, sharing your goals and accomplishments will serve to inspire you, and all of us.

9 Questions to Help You Define Your Speaking in 2015

1) On a scale of 1 to 10, where would you rank your speaking skills now vs. a year ago? Where do they need to be for you to reach success a from now?

2) Are you a keynoter? A trainer? A coach? An information expert? How would you define yourself?

3) What do you want to speak about MOST?

4) How many times did you speak about was MOST interested you?

5) Do you know how what MOST interests you will most interest your AUDIENCE?

6) How many times did you speak last year? How many times outside of Toastmasters? How many times do you want to speak between now and Dec 31, 2015?

7) Did you get paid to speak or coach last year? How much do you want to make this year at either, or both?

8) How many products do you have to sell when you speak? If you could create ONE new product this year, what would it be?

9) Finally - what will you do again this year that worked in 2014, and what will you do different to ensure greater success in 2015?

Not sure how to answer? Or how to get the results IN your answers? Don't go it alone. Make the first different action you take going into next year be getting a coach on board with you - someone you trust, someone who's walked in the footsteps ahead of you.

Don't be sitting down a year from now frustrated that you're in the exact same place as you are right now if this isn't where you want to be.
Make 2015 the year you Speak....& Deliver!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

52 Books in 52 Weeks - 2014 Challenge Wrap-Up

Below is my list of 52 books (which turned into 61 as I added new books along the way) that I set a goal to read and review in 2014. I only made it through 39 books, with the final review posted earlier today - but I feel like it was a successful year of reading nonetheless.

If there's a link - it'll take you to the review. The others are 'deadheads', books I haven't finished or, mostly, haven't even started. Estimated stats are about 5000 actual book pages combined with 160 hours of audio.

I have 25 books left over to read - some of which might drop off - so I'm looking at suggestions for 2015. I will not be reviewing every book, but in my Win Anyway Blog I'll be keeping weekly updates of my goals next year, so if you check in there, you'll know what I'm reading, with a brief rating.

I WILL, however, continue to review speaking books and products here in Speak & Deliver - so if you want me to check something out, especially something you've written - let me know. 8 of the 39 books reviewed this year were from friends, who either sent me their physical or electronic version of their masterpiece.

Thank you for following me on this journey. I feel great about what I've been able to expose myself to this year. 2/3 of my reading covered speaking, marketing, leadership, and inspiration - all parts of our speaking industry. While I did get a fair amount of repeat info, each book invariably gave me something either new to think about, or a new way to think about something I already knew.

Finally - even though I didn't review them, I also got to get back to my first love - comic books - just a little bit over the last month or so. You may have heard me talk about 'The Flash' on my Win Anyway Podcast - I've gotten to read two graphic novels collecting various storylines - the first comics I've read in at least a decade.

Again - give me your recommendations - and stay tuned, I get everything read....eventually!

1. Under The Dome - Stephen King - I've gotten about halfway through this, but put it down last year. Now that it's a hit TV show, I suppose I should finish it...
2. Moby Dick - Herman Melville - A classic I've never read, perhaps appropriate for contest season.
3. Book yourself Solid Michael Port - I've never made it through this, because I want to actually do the exercises in it, not just browse it. Now's the time.
4. Think and Grow Rich61 & 62. The Law of Success, The Lost Prosperity Secrets, The Magic Ladder to Success - Napoleon Hill - delving into his other works, versus re-reading TAGR.
5. Black Book of Networking - Jeffrey Gitomer - it's been a few years - may choose the audible just to hear Jeffrey's encouraging voice.
6. From History's Shadow. A Star Trek book - Dayton Ward. A guilty pleasure I haven't allowed in years. TBD.
7. Presentation Zen - Garr Reynolds - hard to believe I haven't read this, actually.
8. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams - a SF/Fantasy Classic I have inexplicably never read.
9. The Complete Sherlock Holmes - Sir Conan Doyle - A book I've had for 30 years, just waiting for me to actually read it all. I've read a few stories, but not in the last 15 years.
10. The Message of You Judy Carter - My top speaking book of 2013, a must re-read resource.
11. Million Dollar Speaking - Alan Weiss - I'm about halfway through this on Kindle, need to finish it.
12. World Class Speaking - Craig Valentine - As with the above, halfway through.
13. The Element - Ken Robinson - highly recommended from this TEDTalk icon.
14. The Bully Pulpit - Doris Kearns Goodwin - saw this in Barnes and Noble a couple weeks ago, and have since had several friends recommend it. At 928 pages, I may have to listen to it instead...
15. The Slight Edge - Jeff Olsen - another motivational classic that has slipped under my radar.
16. 80/20 Perry Marshall - need to order it - the recommendation was through the roof.
17. Flowers For Algernon Daniel Keyes - a literary classic I have avoided, but will give a try.
18. The Giver - Lois Lowry - never heard of it, but it has potential.
19. The Long Walk to Freedom - Nelson Mandela - perhaps the must-read auto-biography of the year for me.
20. Salt Mark Kurlansky - I'm a bit leery of this, but perhaps it will add some flavor to my reading habits.
21. The Book Thief - Markus Zusak - no, I won't cheat and just rent the movie. Just.
22. Ishmael Daniel Quinn - Have no idea what to expect here.
23. Improv for Storytellers - Keith Johnstone - Always good to brush up.
24. Go Giver - Bob Burg - a short business metaphor book, I assume.
25. Instant Influence - Michael Pantalon - easily persuaded to read this.
26. The Power of Habit - Charles Duhigg - expect it to take 7 weeks to read
27. Leaders Eat Last - Simon Sinek - I need more leadership reading, I believe.
28. Comedy Writing Secrets - Mel Helitzer - ...and always need humor brush-ups as well.
29. Dave's Way - Dave Thomas - why not? Can I read it while eating a Baconator?
30. The Alchemist - Paulo Cuelho - shocked I haven't read this yet, actually.
31. The Attitude Check - Heath Suddleson - I bet if he sent me a signed copy I'd read it faster and review it here on Speak & Deliver :)
32. Dirty Little Secrets - Sharon Drew Morgen - this one too...(she didn't send me a copy, but I read it anyway.
34. Ted:ology Akash Karia, Michelle Mazur - Akash is a prolific author, and it's time I spend some effort reading his work, and seeing what his ideas are, and how they can help my audience.
35. The Boy Behind the Gate - Larry Jacobson - another book I'd love to see come in the mail, wink wink.
36. Life of Pi Yann Martel - enjoyed the movie, but everyone says the book is better.
37. Unstoppable Nick Vujucic - been on my list a long time, actually.
38. The Barefoot Executive - Carrie Wilkerson - I've read the kindle, but want to listen to it and her dulcet, southern tones.
39. Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook - Gary Vaynerchuck - loved Crush It - and Gary is a great reader, and often adds more to his audio books than what's in the printed edition.
40. Living an Exceptional Life Jim Rohn - always worth a listen.
41. Talent is Never Enough Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn - John Maxwell - back before I got involved with speaking, I bought a Maxwell book in preparation to become a manager. Since then, I've read nothing else from him. That changes this year.
42. Little Green Book of Getting Your Way - Jeffrey Gitomer - on Audible, most likely.
43. Decisive Chip & Dan Heath - listening to this now, actually, at least earlier today, at the gym.
44. The Four Agreements - Don Miguel Ruiz - long on my list.
45. Drive Daniel Pink - next one cued up on Audible

Audio Programs to Listen or Re-Listen to in 2014

46. Speaker Machine – Rick Butts/Felicia Slattery - with lifetime access, why not?
47. Wisdom Thesis - Rick Butts - see above.
48. Own the Stage - Darren LaCroix/Craig Valentine - worth a second look, always pumps me up.
49. How to Build a Keynote by Next Week - Darren LaCroix/Patricia Fripp - sharpen the saw. How to 
50. Outline, Design, and Deliver a Dynamic Sales Presentation Patricia Fripp - newly acquired, and looking forward to it.
51. Mastering Your Speech Lance Miller - probably need to watch this before seeing him at the training later this month.
52. Create Your Killer Keynote - Craig Valentine - more keynote info to just keep getting better.
53. Lady and the Champs 2013 - Various - about halfway through this.
54. Get More Laughs - Darren LaCroix - you can never laugh enough.

Extra Books & Programs Added on the Fly

55. The Media Training Bible - Brad Phillips - getting interviewed more in 2014 is a goal
56. Speaker Leader Champion - Ryan Avery & Jeremey Donovan - just cause I'm curious
57. Epic Content Marketing Joe Pulizzi - because I'm a marketing Junkie
58. Speak Up For Your Business - Michelle Mazur - cause, well, we're friends :)
59. Own Your Industry - Douglas Kruger - see above :)
60. amazon's Dirty Little Secrets - Greg Jameson - local author and friend
61. 11 Deadly Presentation Sins - Rob Biesenbach

2 Keynote Home Study Courses: Books 37 & 38 of 52 in 52

I had access to two keynote creation 'home study courses' this year, one by 1999 World Champion of Public Speaking Craig Valentine, another by 2001 WCPS Darren LaCroix and CSP, CPAE, and speaking legend Patricia Fripp. As a Keynote coach myself, I am always looking for additional ideas, techniques, and inspiration to guide me, and add to my own approaches to writing a keynote.

At the end of the day, there's only so many many models to write a keynote, and the more programs you go through, the more you'll hear much of the same information. But just as we get different things from the same types of books based on the author's point of view combined with our own place in life at the time of exposing ourselves to similar information, if we're intentional in our learning approach, we can get a great deal of benefits out of the right programs. The question now is -are these the right programs?

Let's start with Valentine's 'Create Your Killer Keynote Home Study Course' - which offers quite a bit of value for it's $247 price tag:
  1. More than 6 hours of step by step instruction on 5 audio CDs
  2. A sample audio CD with 2 of Craig's LIVE keynote speeches for reference
  3. The 9 Step Create Your Killer Keynote Graphic Model
  4. A 55-page Create Your Killer Keynote Handbook
  5. A 20-page Create Your Killer Keynote Compass to develop 30-60 minute speeches 
A quick caveat - I only had access to the Audio CDs, not the additional content - but I still got quite a bit out of this program.

Craig focuses primarily on techniques, structures, and keynote theory - he'll talk about a concept then back it up with bits and pieces from his own keynotes. The two keynotes provided on CD were very valuable to me, even though I'd heard most of it before, simply because I've seen him in person several times, and followed his free samples and Champion's Edge content. Getting it all together in front of an audience, and really being able to listen to his approach gave me great examples and more than a little inspiration to be out there more myself.

He also offers some interesting insights on creating an introduction that properly sets up your speech before you ever go on stage, provides an in-depth look at his
PARTS: Point, Anchor, Reflect, Technique, and Selling approach to creating points, and spends a fair amount of time on using activities to involve your audience, keeping them awake and connected. His instruction on creating a strong close was also quite strong, offering approaches designed to end on a higher note than many may be used to attempting.

I would have enjoyed hearing more guidance for the listener - well, ANY guidance, really - for developing their personal message - it felt more like a 'you know what you want to say, so here's how to say it' approach. I also would have enjoyed a little less selling on his part - he often suggests we buy his other programs to help us with other important speaking aspects. While this can be perceived as a value add, it came up too many times for my personal tastes.

Overall, however, this keynote course is a great value for the price, and for the speaker who believes they are zoned in on their message, the information, if followed, will certainly aid in creating a strong, valuable, and entertaining keynote speech.

Based on Audio-only, 4 Stars out of 5.

I had greater access to LaCroix & Fripp's 'Create Your Keynote by Next Week', fortunately. It includes a seven audio CD set, and a data disk with live speeches, transcriptions, tip-sheets, and a comprehensive workbook.

For me, getting a chance to hear both of these experts added a great deal of weight to this program. The format is essentially Darren interviewing Patricia, and then adding his own perspective and experiences where appropriate. Audio clips and case studies from BOTH are used throughout, again, to directly support the techniques discussed.

Their approach to keynote structure and theory is similar to Valentine's (though let's face it, Fripp probably heavily influenced Valentine - even he states he's a student, client, and friend of Fripp) - perhaps a little more streamlined.

What stood out to me in this program was it's comprehensive approach. An entire CD is devoted to helping us define what we want to say, and how we can ensure we're saying something our audience wants/needs to hear, and another that covers getting an audience and constantly improving the keynote you'll develop after going through the course.

Since I included some of Craig's sales copy, I'll toss in a bit from CYKBNW's page as well:

  1. The proven 7-step process based on over 40 years of speaking and coaching
  2. Interactive PDF: Fripp Speech Model® (Priceless! You’ll use it again and again!)
  3. All of Patricia Fripp’s proven, “content-generating” discovery questions (mining your life for powerful content)
  4. Easy-to-model, real-life examples
  5. Time-saving secrets for each step
  6. The common mistakes and how to avoid them
  7. Two keynote speeches for you to model
  8. Bonus CD: Patricia’s 17 customizing secrets
Create Your Keynote by Next Week  has a corporate feel to it - with significant information on marketing, ample examples from a professional environment, and a significant teaching component, as they walk you through your message creation. The questions they run through on the first disk alone are invaluable as you move forward to define your approach to your speaking business - one of the most forgotten aspects of keynote speaking is that is IS, after all, a BUSINESS.

At $297, it's more than worth the cost - honestly, when I went to look it up, I was expecting a $497 pricetag. If you're looking for more guidance on message and marketing, this program is ideal for you. 5 Stars out of 5.

An almost final word - you can't really go wrong with either product, as long as you know what you're getting before you buy. Getting them BOTH isn't going to break the bank, and will give you some diversity in teaching styles and lesson focus. I'm glad I've gotten to hear them both.

The actual final word - as good a these programs are, they can only augment, not replace, working with an actual coach. Real-time feedback and back-and-forth brainstorming, editing, and encouragement will help you get the most out of these and any 'do-it-yourself' program.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Get More Laughs - Darren LaCroix: Book 34 of 52 in 52

Again - not a book, but let's not pick nits as we approach years end.

Even though I've written my own book on humor, which Darren was kind enough to contribute to in interview form, one should never stand pat on their current skill set. Darren has quite the reputation in Toastmasters and NSA alike as a humorist, has spent countless hours on stage as a stand-up comic, and, oh yeah, is the 2001 World Champion of Public Speaking, for those who might not know.

So I figured his program on humor, 'Get More Laughs', might be worth my time!

The program is a recording, DVD and audio, of a seminar given a few years back, and offers a lot of interaction between Darren and his audience, with members getting up and trying out his tips, and getting feedback along the way, giving it a 'coach-in-a-box' feel as you go along.

He offers solid content throughout. Formulas to create humor, exercises for us to go through, examples of his own failures and successes, and a wonderful appearance by his humor mentor, Vinnie Favorito. He's a bit raw, but certainly a good source if you're looking to take your humor to the Comedy Club circuit, where Darren focuses a bit more on humor in platform speaking, defining it for us as 'for a comedian, the humor is the message, for a humorist, humor is the medium for the message'.

I will refrain from sharing too much of Darren's material here, though I have some copious notes in my Evernote folder. Still, you'll want to focus in on his '10 to get 2' concept, his excellent live exercises on the 'power of three', his strategies in working with the audience, both as call back material and in dealing with hecklers, and his 'Triangle of Wow'.

There are moments in this set when he absolutely shines as a coach - being extremely positive with people who sometimes just don't understand what he's trying to get them to do, and encouraging even the most unfunny attempts at using his tactics - knowing it is all about trial and error, and, like all good coaches, being willing to meet his participants where they're at in the process.

He also shows tremendous vulnerability in offering up a non-perfected humorous story of his own, and opening himself to critique by his audience - and he get ripped. It was pretty amazing to hear how critical folks were of his story, which I actually thought had a fair amount of potential. Two things stand out about that session - first, the great diversity of those in our audiences, who will hear what they want to hear, no matter how much we try to direct them, and second, Darren's tough skin, to be able to graciously handle the feedback.

Finally, a couple words of Darren's advice that will stand out to me going forward in speaking with humor:

"Your problem should be humorous, your solution serious"

"The effectiveness of a joke is inversely proportional to the words it takes to tell it"

For those who listen to everything Darren puts out, you will find some repetition as you go through the program. It is well-balanced, however, with new material, humor exercises, personal coaching from stage, and Vinnie's appearance in the program.

Overall, for this humor buff, I found my time well spent listening to the 15-CD set, even the 'Laffirmations' disc, which is a hypnotic-type of approach to teaching the lessons in the course.

4 and a half stars out of 5 - the only caveat being some rough production values on portions of the audio - but well worth your investment.

A quick disclaimer on this review: I only had access to the audio portion of this product, borrowed from a friend. I'm sure I missed some of it's effectiveness in missing the DVDs and the 'Giggle Guide'.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

12 Ways to Make the Most of the Seasonal Slowdown in your Business

When I used to be in a sales job, I'd always hear the same excuses this time of year:

'No one is going to answer my calls'
'No one wants to spend money during Christmas'
'It's the dead season, we should just shut down the office and go home'

I hear similar sentiments now from clients and friends in speaking:

'No one is hiring speakers for this time of year'
'No one will see my emails'

...and of course, the one we ALL use...
'I'm just so busy with the holidays - I'll just regroup and start again in January'

I admit, I'm guilty of saying and doing all of these things over the years. But I've also found success in going the other direction. Instead of shutting down your speaking, what if you ramped up? Particularly when so many others ARE ramping down?

12 Ways to Make the Most of the Seasonal Slowdown

1. Say Thank You - a holiday appreciation message to all those you spoke to, to those who referred you, to your coaching clients, to mentors, to anyone this year who has made a difference. It's a great way to stay top of mind to them, and to remind yourself you're not in this business alone.

2. Update Your Social Media Profiles - do you have the same Twitter/Facebook background as you did a year ago? Even six months ago? Do you have your LinkedIn profile updated with your latest accomplishments? Have you set up viewing lists on your YouTube? Take some time to freshen up your public persona, so you don't end up looking like last years present.

3. Create a New Ethical Bribe - have you been offering the same e-book on your webpage for years? The same list of tips? Come up with something new - maybe start a new list based on the new approach. Reward your current list by sending the new item, maybe an audio or video recording, as a holiday bonus.

4. Start Your Next Book - because you probably never got around to it, right? If you did, congratulations! What's next? Start with an outline, and try writing it in a different way than you did last time. Set a deadline, and get going!

5. Rewrite Your Speech - is your Keynote getting worn around the edges? Pull up a copy, or transcribe your last presentation, and start deconstructing it. What stories can you update? Replace? Are there parts of the speech you, or your audience, are getting tired of saying/hearing?

6. Make Your Phone Calls - as much as most of us hate cold calling, it's still an effective way to secure speaking opportunities and solicit clients. Maybe they aren't there, but you can still leave a message and give them a heads up about the email you're about to send them. You'll be surprised, though, by how many of them still go to work and pick up the phone during the holidays.\

7. Show Up at Events - particularly events you'd like to speak at, whether you're targeting service clubs, associations, Meet-Ups, chambers of commerce, even Toastmaster meetings. Meet the people who can book/hire you, and meet people who can introduce you to people who can book/hire you - and get to see your audience in a more casual, laid-back atmosphere than the rest of the year.

8a. Podcasters - Start Booking Your Guests - if that's your format. All those busy people you want to interview are slowing down a bit, and may be more open than before to something new. Build a list of 'dream' people, and go after them. If you don't interview, plan your programming - what will your topics be the first quarter of the year. Worst feeling ever is getting in front of microphone and drawing a blank!

8b. Bloggers - you can go on a writing binge - write 5, 10, 15 posts to start off the new year. Just as I suggest for the Podcasters - plan your programming. Maybe use the blog to write your book. Create a theme each month. Build a series your readers can look forward to each week. Go to and and get a redesign. Lots of options to get ready for 2015.

9. Make a Video or Audio (or 12) - Videos can be as short at 1-2 minutes, and probably shouldn't be longer than 8-10. Set up a backdrop, get out the lights, and turn on the camera while everyone else is at the mall, or, if you really want to have some fun, let them come in and watch, or wander into the frame. Some of the most authentic moments come when you're interrupted by your 2 year old, your cat, or your pet python.  Even if videos seem out of reach, just talk into your computer, and make some audio content to sell or offer on your website. If a video turns out poorly on the visual side, save it as an mp3 and salvage the words - your message is valuable!

10. Launch an End-of-the-Year Special - the New Year often brings new rates - encourage your clients to book you NOW at current rates. Or...create a special holiday-oriented training program that is available for a short time. Have old product in stock? Bundle it, and sell it at a special price.

11a. Read a Book - you're so busy the rest of the year. You've probably bought a bunch of books that have just sat there. Pick one, and read it over the holiday break. If it's industry related, take some notes, and start applying what you learned. Or, if it's a leisure book, like my penchant my Science Fiction, just reward yourself and enjoy the mental break.

11b. Watch a Movie - perhaps in the theatre, perhaps one you missed, perhaps an old favorite. I took my oldest daughter to the third Hobbit today - and it was great Daddy/Daughter time. I'm hoping to hit the Theory of Everything on my own in the next two weeks as well. Movies can inspire as well as entertain, and if you feed your brain with the right inspiration, who knows what kind of ideas you'll come up with?

12. Let It Go - that feeling that the year is almost over and you didn't get enough done, and that you're not where you want to be yet. Instead, take inventory of your victories, however small you think they may be, and see them all together, adding up into what was probably a better year than you thought. Even though you can use some of this time productively, don't forget productivity can come in many forms - and spending this time with your family and friends, or even on vacation, can be extremely valuable.

I'm sure you can think of more things to do, that may be more specific to what you want to accomplish - I'd love it if you shared your ideas in the comments. Just don't let yourself get overwhelmed. You don't have to do all 12 - even if you just do ONE, you'll end up ahead of where you would have been otherwise.

Use the Seasonal Slowdown to breathe new LIFE into your business, and start 2015 with momentum and energy, so you'll be able to Speak & Deliver more than ever before!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Mastering Your Speech - Lance Miller - Book 32 of 52 in 52

OK - I admit, this isn't a book.

But, part of my original list DID include some audio/DVD programs on Public Speaking, and 'Mastering Your Speech' - a 4 DVD set by 2005 World Champion of Public Speaking Lance Miller was #51 on that list.

I was very interested in this particular product, in part because I haven't been as exposed to Lance's teachings as much as I have some of the other Champions, and because what I have heard, both on YouTube and in person when he appeared at our winter Toastmasters Leadership Institute, has been spot on, in my opinion.

I was excited to finally get some time over the last week to watch/listen to this series. It's professionally filmed in front of a live audience, offers some Q&A, but is primarily a four-hour long training by Lance.

You could tell it was specifically being put on to create this product as he was careful to end exactly on time every hour, interrupting himself and his Q&As and letting them know he was stopping, but would take more questions. I'm not sure if this was all filmed in one day, or over a couple, but I'd bet on the one-day approach, just for the sake of the cost of a multiple camera shoot. It would have been interesting if he'd added a fifth disc with some of the now off-camera Q&A.

The program is primarily focused on preparing a speech for the International Speech Contest, though the concepts and principles discussed are universal, so it works as a public speaking training as well. It's his insights into the contest process, though, that really piqued my interest, mostly because I am, as you probably know, a contest junkie.

Heck, I might've competed against Lance had I not gone overtime by 3 seconds at my Regional that year. But I digress...

He covers a great deal in the four hours he filmed - below are a few highlights:
  • his initial belief upon joining Toastmasters that the contest required him to write 'a speech to change the world', and how he held onto that thought throughout
  • communication isn't what we say, it's what they hear
  • there's a difference between written and spoken - what Lance calls 'your life force'. Admittedly, that's a little new-agey for me, but he is in California, and it makes sense.
  • a good explanation of the difference between acting and speaking
  • an insistence that we take control of our audience's attention
  • a great story about two-time Olympian Mike Schlappi, who was paralyzed after being shot by his friend when they were goofing off as teenagers, and how listening to Mike's speech affected him. (pick up Mike's book, 'Shot Happens' (which I helped edit, btw) on amazon.).
  • some tremendous anecdote leading to his suggestions that we define our life philosophy as we hunt for speech topics, as well as looking for the extraordinary in the ordinary, looking for the lessons in our lives, and writing a speech based on what we're focusing on in the moment, even if it's 'Speaker's Block'
  • he's a big proponent of owning the audience, essentially going out with the attitude of 'this is my message, this is what I believe in, and you're going to listen to it.' 
Lance also offers us a basic speech outline - attention/orientation, open the file, familiar, make the change, drive it home, take it home, which he stresses are more guidelines than a set and fast structure. What is particularly useful is his illustration of the outline with a short speech. 

Of course, he also covers basics such as stage usage, gestures, and eye contact, and offers some strong strategies for drilling yourself on your speech, as well as the use of notes in a longer speech.

Lance & me at the Denver TLI
Where he really gets my attention, contest wise, is in his discussion of the importance of evaluation, and his live breakdown, both personally and via the audience's responses, of 4 iterations of his championship speech - videos of which we get to see along with them, with the exception of the ACTUAL Finals speech, which he didn't own the rights to, and he replaced, on the DVD at least, with an encore, word for word, performance on a regrettably gold curtained set...

I'd rank this at the top of all the different trainings I've seen regarding the contest, specifically. Chock full of great information, with a strong how-to aspect that any aspiring contestant can go by as they begin the competition season.

I strongly recommend all potential contest speakers go out and pick this up, then find themselves a coach to walk themselves through the process. There's no need to go through it all alone, much less face a learning curve so many others have already faced.

5 stars out of 5, whether you compete or not. Great information throughout for speakers looking at improving themselves, their messages, and their delivery.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

International Speech Contest Checklist - It Begins Now....

Unless it started yesterday, or last month, or if you're in Australia, several months ago! 

Legend has it that 5-time World Championship of Public Speaking Finalist John Howard would start writing his next International Speech on the plane ride home. That's not actually a legend - his wife, one of my early mentors, Shirley Howard, told me that herself.

If you haven't started, and you are serious about the contest, then you're already behind. I admit, this might sound a bit dramatic, but hey, it's been 3 1/2 months since Dananjaya Hettiarachchi won the latest crown - what have you been doing!?

OK - enough hyperbole - but now is as good a time as any to start looking at the contest. Below is a checklist you might want to keep handy as you make your way through the competition for the first, or fifteenth, time:

International Speech
Contestant Checklist

The Basics:

- Eligibility - Are you a paid member? Have you given your first six speeches? Has your CLUB paid THEIR dues? Check out both your club status and your own on the website. I've heard many horror stories of people thrown out of the contest for lack of making sure all their ducs were in a row - even a District Winner or two who were DQ'd for the Semi's

- Contest Schedule - When and Where are all the levels of the contest? Are you free to compete on all those days? You can compete regardless, but if you are serious about advancing, clear your calendar, and for the higher levels, start planning your finances to get there and give your best speech.

- Your Message(s) - what do you want to say? Often the hardest part of the process. 2001 World Champion Darren LaCroix talks about finding that one most important message you would share with your child (or in his case at the time, his nephew, I believe). Of course, you need at least TWO messages to win the title, unless you have two disparate speeches with the same point, which might be a bit of a risk. Often, we start our speech writing with stories we want to tell - I go into this a bit more in 'What Came First, The Story or The Point?' My best advice - figure out what you want to say, then focus on how you want to say it.

- Writing the Speech - yes, WRITE THE SPEECH. You might be able to win in your club with an off-the-cuff speech, but don't bet on moving on much further. Write it. Edit it. Edit it some more. Winning speeches are between 600 and 1000 words - my personal rule of thumb is 720 words or less, to account for pauses and laughter. Keep all versions of your speech - you might end up with 20 or more iterations. You never know when something from version 1.0 becomes fresh again two months later.

- Attire - Appearance is on the judging form. Is what you're wearing appropriate the speech, and to the event? Are you going casual because it's 'just' the Area Contest? I 'suit up' at every level past club, and depending on the club I'm competing in, I might wear a suit there too. Ladies, obviously you've got a lot more to worry about than us guys generally do - but a nice dress or pantsuit is going to work for you at most any level. For all genders, consider this: if you're equal to your competition on every other spot on the judging form, your outfit could put you over the top, or under the ground.

- Prepare to Lose, or to Win - essentially, be prepared to Win Anyway. I have won contests I should have lost, and lost contests I should have won, most likely. Of course, you want to go in confident, with the feeling that you're going to give your best speech, and that victory is possible, or even likely. But remember, you don't control all the variables, you only control yourself. Win with grace, lose with grace. As someone who is forever on celluloid seen mouthing a swear word when his name wasn't called, please just trust me on this one.

Beyond the Basics

- Video/Audio - record EVERYTHING. Video preferably, audio if necessary. It doesn't have to be high quality - it just needs to be enough for you to be able to review it - and you MUST review it. I hate watching my videos. It's painful. The rewards of knowing what you look and sound like, however, balance out the pain. (Besides, after you win it all, just think of the product you can make with those old recordings!)

- Practicing at Toastmasters Clubs - a very common practice these days, even by folks who've only won their club level. You want feedback, and that's great. Be careful how you take the feedback, and what you do with the feedback. At the end of the day, you're the one who has to give the speech. I've heard many who've done the 'club tour' say they wouldn't do it again, that it can be overwhelming, and even paralyzing. Personally, I don't practice outside my club during the first four levels - club to district. I want the speech to remain fresh in my mind, the judges mind, and the audiences mind. So consider the pros and cons in your approach, and choose your clubs, and your feedback, wisely.

- Who's the Competition? - I'm known for knowing my competition - attending the competitions so that I won't be surprised by any of the speeches I'll be facing. I try to keep a low profile, but I'll also step in as a timer or a vote-counter if they are struggling for volunteers. Of course, just because you see a speech at Area doesn't mean they'll give the same one at Division, so you can't ever try to write your speech 'against' someone else's, and the competition is usually so diverse that that approach would be like chasing rabbits. You don't need to know your competition, and most contestants I've met don't really 'scope out' the competition. Do what makes YOU comfortable.

- Know the Venue, and the Viewers - show up early! Even if you've competed in the exact room before, it may be set up differently. Know what to expect sound-wise. Walk the stage. Give your speech to an empty room if you're the first one there. When people come in, greet them. Don't tell them you're a contestant, just talk to them, take an interest in them. Be real, and connect. It's a lot easier competing in front of an audience of friends than an audience of strangers. (Another reason, by the way, to go to the other competition - to meet more people you don't know that you'll want to know later on.)

- Coaching - it wasn't that long ago I heard debates about whether coaching was even ethical in this competition. That has died down quite a bit over the last decade, and most, if not all, serious competitors have a coach, or even a coaching TEAM.

Finding a coach isn't that hard - there are plenty of people in your District, heck, maybe in your club, that can help you. Past Champions are often available to coach you (prices may vary). Even past competitors, like Dilip Abayasakera and Maureen Zappala coach contestants. Of course, I do as well.

If you choose to pursue a more formal coaching agreement, make sure expectations are set, that personalities mesh, and that the coach has something to offer that you might find yourself a bit concerned about on your own - be it humor, stage presence, or storytelling.

A Final Word

Just like Toastmasters itself, you'll usually get as much out of the contests as you put in, in terms of growth, energy, and joy. If you go in only for the gold (or acrylic) trophy, you'll likely come home with nothing but disappointment in the long run, and even risk becoming bitter and resentful towards an organization that works to uplift and support all involved. I've watched it happen - people blame the judges, the venue, the audience - anything but themselves in this contest. I've done it myself.

Compete for yourself - for growth, for experience, for FUN - and you'll get that regardless of how the judges rank you. Yes, you always want to strive for the best when you Speak & Deliver, but when all is said and done, prepare to Win, and Win Anyway!

Bonus Video - Dananjaya's speech, if you haven't seen it yet.....


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