Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Public Speaking? What Do You Mean By That, Anyway?

Just what is Public Speaking, anyway?

Do visions of motivational speakers dance in your head? Preachers? CEO's addressing their stockholders? Politicians? We've mentioned Salespeople in the past. How about Teachers & Trainers? Emcees, Newscasters, and Radio Hosts? All would qualify. In fact, even the guy behind the drive-thru speaker qualifies. The parent talking with their child. The candidate at a job interview.

Public speaking is a broad enough concept to cover virtually any situation that puts one human being in front of another (whether physically, through broadcast, virtually, or even on permanent media such as CDs and DVDs) as they attempt to convey a message, however blatant or subtle the message may be.

Almost every method of speaking I'll talk about in Speak & Deliver will apply across the board, to one extent or another. For instance, I may discuss using notes as a speaker. You may not think that using notes for your kids is necessary, or that using notes in front of 10,000 people is appropriate, but some of you may end up doing both, and the way to approach each is similar. The execution may be different, but the theory will be the same. Hmm - maybe tomorrow I'll write about using notes...

Don't limit your view of public speaking, or how much power you can wield when you speak well, at any level of speaking.

Today's Exercise: make a list of every type of public speaking you do - then write down what better results you could get out of those instances if you spoke with more poise, passion, and power.

You are the Speaking Public, and are practicing Public Speaking every day. Remember - no matter which type of public speaker you are, you must Speak & Deliver!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Speaking With Humor: Catchy Cultural References

It's no longer enough to speak to audiences - now they expect us to make them laugh! Straight oration has been out for years. If you're not funny, the audiences end up laughing AT you, instead of WITH you, so the time to learn to be funny is now.

One of the easiest ways to build humor into your messages is by using Catchy Cultural References, as its described in "Go Ahead and Laugh".

Most of us have been brought up on a steady diet of television, movies, music, and have an emotional response whenever a specific reference is made. What do you think of when I mention Love Boat? Hulk Hogan? American Idol? Your mind instantly brings up emotions and opinions based on your experiences with each. Even if you never watched an episode of The Apprentice, you've likely heard of Donald Trump, and his catch phrase from the show "You're Fired" (and his accompanying snakebite hand motion).

Finding parts of your speech that can connect with Catchy Cultural References gives you an opportunity for humor, strengthens your connection with the audience, and keeps the rhythm of your speech from flattening out.

Example: In Dan Weedin's speech "Stop!", in which he describes the adventures of driving with his wife and newly driver-licensed daughter, he uses Star Trek as a Catchy Cultural Reference. With statements such as "Boldly going where many parents have gone before", "Make it so", and suggesting he was just "trying to save the Enterprise", he generates humor, adds an emotional link for the audience to a general reference beyond his experience, and creates self-deprecatory comedy in both his method and his choice of references. "Stop!", and a complete analysis of the humor used within, is one of 11 speeches included and dissected in "Go Ahead and Laugh".

References can be used to create continuity in a speech, where it becomes a dual theme of sorts, as it does in "Stop!", or they can be one-shot quick-hits. Speaker John Fox created a belly laugh at a conference in June when he talked about black people taking over the world: (to paraphrase) 'There's Oprah, Tiger, Obama; even Michael Jackson was on top of the world when he was actually black! (Background clarification - John is black, and the speech was before Michael Jackson's death.)

Keep your audience in mind when you develop these, of course. Dropping a Rat Pack reference to a group of high schoolers, or joking about Kanye West's recent VMA interruption to a senior center, may not be your most effective choices!

In using this approach, avoid stretching too far to achieve it, or using a reference you're not familiar with. Nothing hurts your credibility as much as attributing a catch phrase to the wrong movie, or taking something out of context that can throw your audience off. (Example: "I felt like Moses when he built the Ark!" - funny if intentional, confusing if unintentional)

When used correctly, the Catchy Cultural Reference adds a new dimension to your message, and builds memorability in for your audience. And it lets them know they can, wait for it.....Go Ahead and Laugh!

I'll be posting a humor method from "Go Ahead and Laugh" for the next five weeks - be on the look out to keep your audiences laughing!

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Moral of the Story

As I mentioned in my storytelling post last week, many people fear telling stories about their own life because they aren't interesting enough, or they can't see how they matter to the audience. Today, I'll walk you through a simple process of finding The Moral of the Story.

"Dead Man's Hill" recounts one of my many bicycle trips to a Plaid Pantry (7-11 type store) in Troutdale, Oregon, when I was 9 years old. I had gotten my allowance, and immediately headed out to pick up my baseball cards and Snickers bar. The shortest route to get there was heading down Dead Man's Hill, which, to be accurate, was more of a valley. A steep, narrow, downhill, two-lane road that then went up again once you reached the bottom in just as steep a fashion.

With a gimpy left leg to go along with my undersized frame, my challenge was to ride as fast downhill as possible so I would get as far up the other side as possible before having to get off the bike and walk it the rest of the way.

On the trip to the store, I made it halfway up the hill, then walked. Coming back, I was more determined than ever to defeat my long-time nemesis. I wrapped the brown paper bag around my handlebar, made sure I had no traffic behind or ahead of me, and launched myself down the hill, peddling with speed and intensity of a Tasmanian Devil.

I hit the hill bottom at top speed, and hit a small rock in just the right part of my faux dirt-bike studded tires to send the bike and me skyward. The next thing I knew I was being dragged out of the raspberry bushes on to the side of the road, several adults hovering over me. My face was bloodied, and I was just barely regaining my senses. Naturally, they asked me if I was OK - my first thought, and my quick reply, was "Where's my candy?"

That's the story, told without spin, in its entirety. Would you believe I can use this story in at least 9 different ways?

1. Bike Safety Then vs. Now (In 1977, I had no clue what a bike helmet was)
2. Determination
3. Ups and Downs of Life
4. Focusing on What's Important (candy)
5. Focusing on What is Trivial (again, the candy, depending on perspective)
6. Getting Back in the Saddle
7. Good Samaritans
8. Healing from Scars
9. Taking Short Cuts

Can you come up with more?

A simple story that likely parallels stories in any speakers, and any audience members life, told enthusiastically and connected with a point, is amazingly effective.

Try this exercise right now. Think of a story from your life - just one. Then find as many morals the story can be used to illustrate. Which one is closest to what you want to speak about? Which ones could add new vision to what you've always thought? Each time you find something new in your stories, you find something new to teach to your listeners.

Find the moral of your stories, and you will do more than Speak - you'll Speak & Deliver!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Finding the Right Toastmasters Club

Photo credit: Andres Rodriguez and Picpics - mashed up by Robin Good

It's Toastmasters Friday on Speak & Deliver. Starting this series in logical order means going to the beginning: Finding a Club.

There are most likely several clubs in your area, with varying times, locations, and cultures. Head to and pop your zip code into the club finder window.

There may only be one that matches your time and location needs, if you have rock solid criteria. If there are more than one, or you are able to flexible, you get the privilege of being picky. Visit a few, and consider the parameters below to ensure you get plugged into the right club.

4 Things to Consider When Trying Out a Toastmasters Club

1. Comfort Level

Are you comfortable with the group? Not that they all need to be your best friends, but is their attitude and demeanor consistent with your own? Caveat: A group you are uncomfortable in, but represents where you would like your comfort level to be, may be a better option than joining a club that creates an instant comfort factor.

2. Size Matters

How big is the group? Bigger clubs are considered stronger, but smaller clubs offer more opportunities to speak. Bigger clubs may feature more role models, but smaller clubs can put you on a fast track to your goal. Beyond their size in number, consider the size of their enthusiasm. Are they a happy, positive group with clear goals each week, or are they an old boys (or girls) club, set in their ways and happy to sip coffee and walk through the meeting with zombie-like zen?

3. Diversity

Diversity of membership creates diversity of feedback. A club with wide age, social, financial, and even racial demographics can help you craft a delivery style that appeals to a wider audience. A corporate club, or a less diverse club, on the other hand, may help you speak to your target audience, if they match. If you will be speaking to people at management level only, a Toastmasters group that is brimming with management types could be more helpful to you.

4. Do They Care About YOU?

Do they let you talk, even as a guest? Ask you to join? Ask you what your goals are? Set you up with a mentor? While what you'll get out of Toastmasters will correlate to what you put in, at the beginning they need to be showing you they will find a way to give you what you're looking for.

Toastmasters offers a wonderful program that has been proven over time. Each club implements that program with their own seasoning, through their own perspectives and preferences. Be flexible, even in your pickiness. Most importantly, beyond anyone else's standards of measurement, be true to yourself, and your own needs.

Now go out and find your club! When you get there, remember to do more than Speak. Speak & Deliver!

Monday, September 21, 2009

What Moves an Audience?

You're passionate about the topic. You know what you want your audience to do. You've developed the perfect catchphrase. You have statistics and famous quotes to back you up. You even have an amazing PowerPoint presentation glowing in the background. You're gung ho and ready to go, but by time you're done, your audience is left unmoved, unchanged, and unimpressed. You brought a knife to a gunfight. No matter how bright, shiny or sharp, you forgot the heavy artillery: Storytelling.

Storytelling gets your audience involved and invested - both with you, and your topic. It's easy to convince yourself that stories are fluff, that your audience just wants the bottom line. It's even easier (and often, but not always, accurate) to think that no one wants to hear the same, recycled stories commonly associated with your topic. Certainly nothing in your own life is worth talking about. Why would they care about YOU?

Because you're the one talking, that's why. Because they want to be convinced in a whole new way. They to see the problem, and the solution, first through YOUR eyes so they can see it through THEIR eyes.

Five Cool Ways to Get Great Stories!

1. Blogs

How many blogs do you read every week? Every day, new stories are written and put out to the world, on everything from basketweaving to copywriting to potty training. I use Google Reader to organize my blogs, and check it daily. I have about 40 I subscribe to, and regularly trade out for different perspectives. Check out the blogroll to the right to see other speaking blogs and blogs of interest - I'll be adding more as the weeks go by.

2. Books

Remember them? Read them on a Kindle if your must, but find books on your subject and find out what stories are used there. If its a real story, the facts are free game, but credit your sources anyway. At least you'll look well-read.

3. Twitter

Start an account, and start following folks (like me) that are either in your target audience, or part of your field of expertise. See what's happening to them, and ask questions. You may find Tweet Rewards.

4. Facebook

A quick request for a story on Facebook can be very valuable if you have a wide enough network of friends and associates. Not on Facebook yet? Get an account and add me as your friend - I'll give you stories!

5. Get Personal

This can be the scariest approach, but it's also the best. Get over your fear of talking about your own experiences, and let the audience see through the windows of your life. Your stories build trust with your audience, and provide authenticity to your message. How does your topic touch on your own life? When did you learn the lesson you're talking about? When we see you as you really are, it is easier for us to feel as you feel. By bringing them into your world, you put yourself into theirs.

Start a Story File - either on notecards, on your computer, a file cabinet, cave drawings - whatever works for you. You can categorize and cross-reference as your personal preferences require. I like to send myself emails (to an online account, in case my Hard Drive blows up) and label them for easy rediscovery.

When the audience leaves, you certainly hope they remember the great tag line you came up with, whether its 'Eat That Frog', 'Shut Up, Stop Whining, and Get a Life', or 'New Foot Smell' - but if all they remember are your stories, they will still remember your point, they will remember YOU, and they will be moved.

Tell your stories, and you will do more than Speak - you'll Speak and Deliver!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Speaking Coach or Toastmasters?

"Should I hire a speaking coach, or join Toastmasters?"

I get this question all the time, and it's always the same answer: YES!

With 10 years of Toastmasters under my belt, I'm a strong believer in the program. Toastmasters gives you a weekly opportunity to speak in one way or another, a supportive audience always ready with feedback, and a wealth of educational information. And that's just on the speaking side. They also have a comprehensive leadership training program, and opportunities that could literally have you travelling the world before you're done.

That said, I'm also a speaking coach. While I advise all my clients to join Toastmasters, many of them have an event within a 1-4 weeks to prepare for, and Toastmasters simply doesn't have an intense enough program to for them to go from 0-60 in that short a time. Nor does Toastmasters have a program designed to teach preparing a long training session, a keynote speech, or sales presentation that is instantly available to new members. As a coach, I, and my peers, can provide that guidance immediately.

Not all speaking coaches are created equally, just as not all Toastmaster's Clubs are equally strong. Next week I'll discuss what to look for in a speaking coach (it won't be what you expect), and next Friday, I'll talk about finding the right Toastmaster club. Friday's will be designated Toastmaster-related posts, so tell your TM friends to be on the look out.

Most coaches provide one-on-one, project-oriented services as well as longer-term, goal oriented services. As I tell my clients, personal coaching is Toastmasters on Steroids. But I still expect them to go to the gym.

By all means, join Toastmasters. Then call me, or another coach in your area. You'll reach your goals faster than you felt possible.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Why We Must Sell.

The profession of sales gets a bad rap. Salespeople bother us when we're eating, jump on us at the car lot, interrupt our strolls through the mall, and we can't trust a word that comes out of their mouths, because they only care about one thing: The Sale!

I hate to break this to you, but...You are a Salesperson. Especially when you Speak & Deliver. Even if you aren't on stage or in front of a group. Have you ever sold the idea of "Clean your room" to a child? Ever said "Can I have a popsicle" to your parents, with saucer-size eyes and a coy smile? Or, perhaps you're guilty of uttering the dreaded "How YOU doin'?" (with much the same look you had asking for the popsicle...) upon meeting an attractive man or woman?

We are always in sales mode to some degree, even if we're just selling the idea of "I have to get up and get ready to go" to ourselves when the alarm goes off.

Don't worry. It's OK. You don't have to go buy a polyester suit and rent Glengarry Glen Ross. There's nothing to be ashamed of! You'll be much better off when you accept reality. Only then will you be able to harness your powers for the good of your audience. Of course, what's good for your audience will be good for you, your ego, and likely your pocketbook, as well. Not that there's anything wrong with that!

When giving an effective speech, you typically need to hit the following buttons:

A. What you want them to do. (In sales terms: The Offer)
B. Who else has done it, and what happened when they did it. (The Testimonial)
C. Why its good for them to do it. (The Benefit)
D. An acknowledgement about why they may not want to do it. (The Objections)
E. A story about how they will feel when they do it. (The Assumptive Sale)
F. Instruct them to do it. (The Close)

The rules of sales parallel those of the speaker. What annoys your customer will annoy your audience. Conversely, what inspires your audience will inspire your customers!

For some of you, this is a tough concept to handle. As a speaker, it's important that you come to terms with it, for the sake of your audience.

Your audience needs to hear what you have to say - if they don't, you shouldn't be saying it. Your audience needs believe that you believe what you're saying - if you don't, stop saying it. Your audience needs clear direction on how and when to do what you're saying - if you don't provide it, you've wasted your time and theirs.

The best salespeople eventually learn to work from the self-interest of their customers. As speakers, we must do the same. Believe it or not, we have a responsibility to sell to our audience for their own good. This starts with selling our idea. It may expand to selling books, tapes, or coaching. It may go so far as blatantly asking for money to support the cause we're speaking on behalf of.

In the end, whatever outcome we want must come from the benefit of the audience. They must see what's in it for them - the change, the avoidance of pain, the joy, the satisfaction, the success that awaits them upon taking action.

Fellow speakers, go out and sell. Its okay. Like it or not - it's what you DO.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Public Speaking Blog for the Speaking Public

Don't look now, (OK, look) but it's finally here - the first post of Speak & Deliver. Why 'Speak & Deliver'? Because as speakers, we must remember to do both. It is not enough that we say what we want to say. We must say it in the way our audience needs to hear it - so that they understand what we say the way we meant it to mean. (Say that 5 times fast!) If the audience leaves talking about what eloquent speakers we are, but not about our message, what have we accomplished? Some of the most effective speakers today aren't necessarily the best speakers, from a technical standpoint. They speak with emotion, the market well, they have found the right audience - even as they plod through with average oration.

Speak & Deliver will cover both sides of the issue, as we strive to marry the best of Method and Message in order to create the best possible speakers for today's audiences.

If you're reading this, you probably already familiar with who I am, and wondered why I didn't already have a Public Speaking blog.

Actually, I did! I had a couple, at various times over the past few years, but none that were properly focused.

One attempted to revolve around speaking, but quickly became more general in nature, discussing current events, entertainmnet, sports, and currently sits quietly un-updated since my post on Michael Jackson's death

Another focused too much on Toastmasters and competition - tracking my two trips to the World Championship of Public Speaking in 2006 and 2008, as well as my trips to the semi-finals in four other years. That blog is on hiatus until my return to competition, either in 2011 or 2014.

I have two other blogs going - but neither are about speaking. The Champion of Choice Challenge focuses on recapturing our power of choice to achieve our goals, while Stumpy & Bumpy Laugh Off The Pounds is a weight-loss blog with a fair amount of humor thrown in.

No speaker can be all things to all people and succeed - and the same applies to blogs. Speak & Deliver is designed to be all things Speaking.Speak & Deliver will be devoted to the Art and Business of Speaking. I will have guest bloggers, videos, audios, reviews, how-to's, observations and opinions on Public Speaking in today's world.

Speak & Deliver will also be devoted to providing access to outside resources, and compiling as much Public Speaking education as I can fit on the infinite landscape of the Internet.

Whether you are a high school student, Toastmaster, Trainer, Professional Speaker, or even a Master Thespian, you will find (eventually) something here just for you.

Have something you want me to talk about? Do you want to contribute a post, or have a resource for me to review? For this, or, of course, coaching services, e-mail me, or comment below.

Thank you for visiting our Grand Reveal! You can be alerted to each new post by following (use the link in the top right column). Check out my recommended blogs by other people in the industry. I'll have products available (Go Ahead and Laugh: A Serious Guide to Speaking with Humor is the first) from myself and others. Don't be a stranger - and let me know you were here by commenting below.

...And remember, Don't Just Speak - Speak & Deliver!


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