Thursday, July 28, 2011

Are We Over-Pausing?


The Pause.

The Pause that Refreshes.

The Pause that Emphasizes.

The Pause that....


that may now be overemphasized.

I'm a big fan of the pause - there are a lot of good uses for it, as I said in The Speaking Pause Parts I & II. But lately, it seems like the pause is becoming bigger than the content they're meant to draw attention to - at least in the circles I've been running in. Are today's speakers in danger of over-correcting?

Granted, we live in a fast-paced world, and it's tough to get anyone to slow down long enough to let their words sink in. But if you're reading this, you're already a speaker, and are likely already applying 'best practices' of public speaking. You're seeking out feedback left and right - and the use of pauses tends to be a 'pet' cause for many coaches and Toastmasters.

So, before you over-correct right into the wall, let the following give you pause....

2 Major Dangers of the Pause

1. Over-Pausing. Use anything too often and you'll end up abusing it. Too many pauses dilutes the impact of each, and can cost you energy and credibility. Pauses can add dramatic effect in some instances, but they can also be seen as manipulative when over-used. Eventually the audience will tune the pauses out, or worse, use them to tune you out tune in to something else - like telling people how much you pause on the Twitter back channel as they type into their smartphone!

2. Pausing Too Long. This is a tough one to gauge. Internally, pauses last a lot longer than they do out in the audience. It's common for people to recommend you elongate your pauses in certain spots. How long is too long? Video yourself and watch. Listen and watch the audience. Don't start talking out of nervousness, but don't keep pausing because you want a 6 second pause no matter what. Let the audience help guide your silence.

While there is a place for dramatics in professional speaking, keep in mind you're still there to speak, not to ACT. Acting may help you tell your story, but if the whole speech is acting, filled with dramatic pauses and mugging the audience, you're performing a skit with a point, vs. a speech with a story.

Pauses have their place, and are a powerful tool, but any power must be used wisely if it is to be used well.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Public Speaking Isn't Talking to Yourself

Yesterday I wrote about my recent visit to Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. As I looked around in this amazing setting, I realized something: I had no one to talk to. With Kristi back home and no one I knew in sight, I suddenly had all these words to share about what I was seeing and doing, and no one to share them with. It was beyond frustrating.

While there are those who are wired to be alone and don't require sharing their experiences, I think most of us do have a basic need to experience something with others. Sharing beauty, awe, humor, or even fear and danger goes back to the beginning of time. Public speaking really has its roots in those cavemen getting together to review the days hunt, who caught the biggest saber-tooth, and who was eaten by one.

When you are out on your own, even if your goal is to meditate and sojourn in solitary with the world, bring a notebook, an audio recorder, or even a FlipCam. Record your thoughts and how you might share them when you return home. You can risk taking mental notes - but depending on how long it takes you to start recording your ideas in your story file or on your blog - that risk can leave an idea floating in the wind.

Talking to yourself has its value. But when you're a speaker - keep your ears open and your keypad open. You never know when the words you say to yourself are the same words your next audience needs to experience as well.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Your Ordinary May Be Extraordinary

Last week, I went down to Colorado Springs to practice for the speech contest I'm in in August. In between the two meetings, I visited the Garden of the Gods - a Natural National Landmark with some of the most beautiful rock formations you'll ever see.

While locals may enjoy and appreciate it, they see it everyday as they drive by, and I bet it loses some of its impact. The old saying "You can't be a prophet in your own home town" can likely be said as "You can't be a spectacular sight in your own home town" as well.

The same can be said for our own experiences. We've experienced them, so they are NO BIG DEAL. Bike accidents. Dealing with genetic disorders. Switching careers. Fantastic relationships. When you are in the eye of your own storm, you miss the magnitude, the massive impact, it can have for others. Just because its YOUR ordinary, doesn't mean it's not extraordinary. 

The Garden of the Gods isn't Moab or Bryce Canyon, but it's a far sight more impressive than Broomfield, CO, where I spend much of my life. It gave me a wonderful interrupt in my day, and helped me regain some much needed perspective in the moment.

Whether your stories are a big deal to you or not is not what matters. Can they be a big deal to an audience? Just as I came in from out of town to appreciate what the people in Colorado Springs may take for granted, you need to bring in a third party to help you find the value of your experiences, and how they can help you Speak & Deliver.

On that note, I'm taking clients..... :)

Monday, July 25, 2011

It's Tough to Deliver When You're Not Speaking - or Writing...

Has it really been two weeks since my last post?

If you're following me on Facebook, you may have noticed we've had a lot going on here. My oldest daughter had to be brought back from camp early, and spent 4 1/2 days in the hospital with very low blood count levels. Very low meaning nearly non-existent, and she was almost put through a transfusion. She recovered, and is now off of her chemo long enough for her to head out to Salt Lake City, UT for another camp - and she is expected to have no problems during her time there.

If you're not following me on Facebook, well, I've been gone....Without A Trace....

I've also been hard at work on two separate projects. The World Championship of Public Speaking is an event that requires a tremendous amount of preparation. My own strategy involves speaking to as many local clubs as possible to get feedback, as well as improve my timing and delivery. It also comes with the wonderful side-effect of meeting many, many new people along the way.

I'm also working on Speakers: Find Your Roar, an interview series with four successful female speakers designed to give women AND men new insight into breaking into the speaking industry. They bring their past experiences and their cumulative wisdom to the inaugural edition of Speak & Deliver's Seminar Series, which will be released right here, in just 16 hours (give or take).

As each day has gone by, and I've realized I just haven't found the time to post, I've wondered what impact it would have on my blog, and my readers. Certainly haven't had any complaints - which, in some ways, is a bad thing. Visits to the blog have slowed, but not disappeared, which means people want new content, but plenty of others are discovering the older content as well.

It's certainly humbling. If, say, Chris Brogan stopped blogging for two weeks, he'd be on milk cartons around the world. He'd be a trending topic on Twitter. Might even make the front page of Me? The only people to notice my absence from anything are the kids who hand me breakfast at the McDonald's drive-thru.

Whether you are writing a blog or marketing your speaking services, don't forget that you have to Write, or Speak, to Deliver. Delivering is an active term. If you aren't out there every day, you're not delivering, you are simply keeping your shelves stocked. Valuable, but not interactive enough to keep folks coming to your door unless you're a grocery store.

I'm back - thanks for still being there!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Do What You Hate

(Following is a post from Spark New Thinking by Mark Henson. Check him out. I know all the girls in college did. He was a cool guy then and is a cool guy now - and his thoughts on Doing What You Hate are terrific.)

I'm about to contradict everything you've heard in the past decade about how to really get the results you want out of yourself, your team, your company, and your world.

You've been programmed over and over to "do what you love" and every day will be filled with rainbows and unicorns.

Marcus Buckingham taught us to work in our strengths and move away from our weaknesses in his mega successful book, Now, Discover Your Strengths. He's a good-looking guy with a cool accent, so we bought it hook, line, and sinker.

Tom Rath added to the strength mythology withStrengthsfinder 2.0. He's not quite as good looking as Marcus Buckingham and he doesn't have a cool accent, but that hasn't stopped anyone from buying into his philosophy, too.

Doing what you love & working in your strengths is a phenomenal idea. Utopia, right? I believe in the idea 100%. I'm trying to work more and more in my strengths every day. I believe in doing work you're good at and work that you love.

But, and this is a BIG BUT: Sometimes you've gotta do what you hate to get the results you want.

My flowerbeds taught me this. 

I hate weeding flowerbeds, so it becomes the last thing I do to the outside of my house each spring/summer. The problem is, I love spending time outside on my patio. And when the flowerbeds are full of weeds I can't enjoy my time outside because they really start to bug me. I can't even walk from the driveway to the front door without grunting "Ugghhhh!" (you know, that sound you make when you're disgusted with something but you don't have time to do anything about it at the moment).

I hate weeding flowerbeds, did I mention that?

I joke with my wife that weeding flowerbeds is "women's work", secretly hoping she'll believe me and start pulling those suckers up. Her response every year is as predictable as the weeds themselves. She lets me know who's boss with a single, emphatic, almost-maniacal, "HA!" And then jumps in her car and drives to Target.

Some people love to get on their hands and knees, pull weeds, plant flowers, prune bushes, and spread mulch. For some sick reason that's fun to them. Not me. But, dang it, those weeds will ruin my summer if I don't do something about it.

So I do what I hate. I spend a few hours pulling. I do get a tiny bit of satisfaction pretending the weeds are screaming "Nooooooooo!" as I rip them out of the ground. But it really isn't even enough satisfaction to power a smile.

If you've ever weeded a messy flowerbed, you understand the difference is night and day. It's transformative, even before you plant the pretty flowers you'll inevitably kill because you don't water them. It looks so much better. And you feel better. And the birds swirl around you singing a happy song like in a Disney movie. And suddenly, because you did what you hated, summer is fun again.

As I was weeding my flowerbeds, this idea dawned on me that sometimes we gotta do what we hate to get the results we want. I started thinking about the "weeds" at work that I wait too long to pull.

At work, the weeds look like work we don't want to do and conversations we don't want to have. And because of Marcus, Tom, and other strengths gurus, we hide behind the idea that we're simply working in our strengths and it's ok if a few weeds grow in our weak areas.

The problem is that a weed's sole purpose in life is to take over. There's no such thing as a single weed. They grow, they spread, and they steal the water, nutrients, and sunshine from the plants you intended to grow.

Sometimes you gotta do what you hate.

Today that might mean:

-  you put aside the work you love for a few hours and tackle that pile of paperwork on your desk (finally!). 

- you have a tough conversation about poor performance with a member of your team.

- you bring up a difficult issue to your boss.

- you report a co-worker's unethical or damaging behavior to HR. 

- you take the time to plan out your day (if you're more of a doer than a planner).

- you skip the planning today and just start doing (if you're more of a planner than a doer).

- you make that call to ask your client to extend a deadline because you know that cramming to meet the deadline will result in sub-standard work.

- you make that call to the client you know you need to "fire" and finally pull the trigger. 

If none of these weeds are yours, just look around your life for about twenty seconds. You'll find some weeds. You know they are there.

To fully motivate yourself, spend a few minutes visualizing the results you really want and picture how those weeds are getting in the way of those results. If you're like me, this little exercise is usually enough to spark some action.

Even in a great job, you won't love everything, and there will always be things you have to do that you don't really want to do.

The most successful people really do work mostly in their strengths. But if you look closely, you'll find that they also accept (and act on) the idea that sometimes you gotta do what you hate to get the results you want.

What do you hate about Speaking? Practice? Writing it out? Marketing? Follow-up? If you did more of what you hated, how would it help you Speak....& Deliver?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

7 Rules of Taking Feedback

Do you have an audience to practice your next big speech, or are you relying on the feedback of your reflection, your dog, or your kids collection of stuffed animals?

While a lot of people say that they don't need practice, I say a lot of people just don't WANT to practice. Ask their audiences if they wish they'd practiced! Practice in front of inanimate object can only do so much - you want to get in front of real people. Real people provide two major benefits - a more realistic practice setting, and the opportunity for feedback.

There are more options to get feedback than you might think. For me, I tend to use Toastmasters - sometimes just the clubs I'm in, other times local clubs that are willing to hear a guest speaker. But there are other options as well. Gathering friends and family for pizza or a BBQ and asking them to listen can work. Ask people at your church to come over and hear you prepare. I bet you could even find a coach or two online willing to offer you some advice...

While feedback will vary person to person and audience to audience, your goal isn't to have your audience construct your speech for you, as much as point out major structural errors, ineffective humor, and potential new ideas you may be too close to the speech to see.

Learning to sort through the feedback will be valuable to you as you go along. Just because one audience doesn't laugh, doesn't mean your humor doesn't work. Just because one person suggests you should add or delete something doesn't mean you should. And just because one audience thinks you are God's gift to speaking, doesn't mean you ARE!

7 Rules of Taking Feedback 

Listen - whether you get formal verbal evaluations or just small talk after you practice, listen, don't argue. It's tough, and I don't always succeed at this, but let everyone say what they want to say, and deal with it later. They are honoring you by giving you the feedback - honor them by letting them have their moment to comment.

Gather - take notes on what is said, bring feedback forms for them to fill out, even film formal evaluations if you choose. If you bring forms, consider tailoring them to ask questions that may direct them to specific areas of your speech you want to improve.

Don't Wait - look at the info as quickly as possible, while the practice is fresh in your mind. This way you can more accurately apply the advice if you choose.

Sort - when looking through the feedback, physically or mentally sort through it. You don't have to be formal about it - just quickly find the best and worst of the advice, and treat it accordingly. By considering ALL feedback, you'll find yourself either bolstering your own ideas or realizing you need to course correct. In most cases, if you have 20 evaluations, and you get one great nugget of advice to add or delete something from your speech, consider yourself blessed.

Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing - remember to put all feedback up against your main point. Will the advice add to or take away from what you want to say? Just because it sounds cool to add a power point show to your speech so you can add a YouTube video to it, doesn't mean its going to help you communicate the Main Thing to your audience.

Test - keep practicing, and keep track of your results. Humor that doesn't work three times is either not funny or poorly delivered. If a new idea doesn't work as well as you thought it would, at least it flopped in a practice instead of in front of your paying audience.

Commit - at the end of the day, your big speech is just that - YOUR big speech. Commit to the final product, and run with it. Know that anything that works or doesn't will ultimately reflect on you, not anyone who critiqued you, whether its a random Toastmaster, a co-worker, or your spouse. The final product is YOUR responsibility.

It doesn't matter if your next speaking opportunity is a small business briefing, a sales presentation, a church class, or a major corporate keynote - practice and feedback will help you Speak, and Deliver!


I'm practicing for my next big event, the World Championship of Public Speaking, by visiting Toastmaster clubs throughout Colorado, and getting as much input as possible. I'm as excited about meeting new people as I am about the feedback I'll be getting. If you're in the area, I'm sure these clubs would love for you to be a guest - and I'd love to meet you. If you've got another venue I can practice at, let me know!

July 6 - Rocky Flats Toastmasters - 5:30 pm
July 7 - Cherry Creek Toastmasters - 7 am
July 11 - Noonshiners in Ft. Collins - Noon
July 20 - Pike's Peak Toastmasters in Colorado Springs - 6:44 am
July 23 - Excelsior Toastmasters - 9:15 am
July 27 - Orbiting Toastmasters - 11:45 am
July 27 - Evening Stars - 7 pm
July 28 - Front Range Toastmasters - 7 pm
Aug 1 - Titan Toastmasters - 6 pm
Aug 2 - Summit County Toastmasters in Frisco - 6:30 pm
Aug 4 - Ranch Raconteurs - 6:55 pm
Aug 6 - Liberty Toastmasters - 10 am
Aug 10 - ASC Speakeasy - 11:30 am

Monday, July 4, 2011

My Favorite Independence Day Speech...

Dramatic, cheesy, and just short of Captain Kirk-y. Enjoy your Independence Day fellow Americans - and for my International audience, well, I hope you all had an awesome day too! (Notice, too, how he double-checks the sound system...)

Friday, July 1, 2011

Toastmasters Friday: Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! This was an exhortation from Brian J. Olds, a fellow Toastmaster and Facebook friend last night. As with many volunteer organizations, TM runs its business year from July 1 to June 30. Today club officers are new, District officers are new, and all yearly goals are reset at zero.

So what will your New Year bring to you as a Toastmaster? What will you bring to your club in the new year? It goes both ways.

After taking a year off from leadership roles of any kind, I am now officially the president of my club, Arvada Speakeasy. I've been a club president before, so I don't have quite the learning curve many new officers have coming in.

Although I have a pretty busy life - don't we all? Serving in Toastmasters gives me a chance to give back, and to focus on something enjoyable for a few hours a week. I don't have massive goals for the club this year, but I would like to see some changes appear. More members. Better speeches. Stronger evaluations. More involvement with District activities.

 My club is already a pretty good club, but it is easy to get comfortable, and slide backwards ever so slowly.

What will you aim to do differently this year? You don't have to be an officer to create change. Join a committee. Make a suggestion at an officer meeting. Or just show up more often, more ready, and with more energy.

Be clear on your goals for the next year. Better yet, the next three months - why stretch it out? You could get a lot done in the next 13 weeks.

Enjoy the New Year. If you're an officer, congratulations! Good luck making this year better for your club, area, division, or District that last year, even if last year was amazing. If you're just a POT (Plain Old Toastmaster), congratulations! You're why the organization exists, grows and thrives, and why officers have something of value to do!

Whether you and those you led or followed last year were 'distinguished' or not, we're all back at the starting gate. Get ready, Get set, SPEAK....& Deliver!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...