Tuesday, February 28, 2012

21 Ways to Make Money Speaking: A Review

For beginning speakers, the million dollar question is "How do I make money speaking?"

There are books and programs galore out there, and it's easy to get overwhelmed, wondering who has all the right answers in the best format that's guaranteed to work. Unfortunately, there is no easy formula, and not everything works for everybody.

Felicia Slattery proves she understands this in her book "21 Ways to Make Money Speaking" (non-affiliate link) - a quick guide through 21 different methods of creating income from your speaking. It's a short book, and at $5.97, an easy purchase decision.

The concepts she covers ranges from the obvious, "Sell Your Books", to the technological, "Virtual Workshop", to the obscure, "Teach at Your Park District", to the semi-self-promotional, "Signature Speech Solution". It's not the methods that make this book stand out, however, though all of her ideas are sound, and a couple downright innovative.

It's the process she describes, the enthusiasm tempered with experienced realism, and the diverse accounts of success within each section which make this book a terrific primer for the wanna-be professional, and a memory-jogger for the mid-level speaker needing to add streams of income to their business.

She explains the concepts, describes the tools, and outlines the methods for each idea, and offers anecdotes for many of them that will inspire you to try something new. After all, if Snooki can speak at Rutgers University, why not YOU?

"21 Ways to Make Money Speaking(non-affiliate link) will get you thinking, and, if you find the right "Way" for you, get you moving towards bringing in some cash for all that you offer the world. And what speaker doesn't deserve that? I'm sure, and Felicia's sure, that you deserve to compensated, well!, everytime you Speak...& Deliver.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Six Degrees of Your Great Ideas

I drive my wife nuts. 

I know none of you are surprised by this. Perhaps its better for me to say I drive my wife nuts in many, many ways! The one that matters today might just help you find your next great idea - so I'll see if I can focus on that for you.

A common question my wife asks is "What are thinking?" Dangerous, of course, to ask any man this question, but even moreso for me. Because we might be eating dinner, and she's expecting me to say "I'm thinking how wonderful your spaghetti is...", but what actually comes out of my mouth is "Dwight D. Eisenhower". 

The next question, of course, is WHY? Simple, actually. I start out thinking about the meal, then the noodles make me remember Patch Adams, when the doctor set up a pool of noodles for a terminal patient to wade in. Patch was played by Robin Williams, who used to be Mork, in Mork & Mindy. But first he was on Happy Days. Then I think about Fonzie, and how he used to wear a grey jacket, not a black leather jacket, and I remember the episode where they are campaigning for, drumroll please, Dwight D. Eisenhower.

This thought process takes all of 5-10 seconds, for me. It's just the way I think.

It's Six Degrees of Separation on steroids - free association for the terminal daydreamer. At the dinner table, it can have its downsides. But as a speechwriter, it can be a salvation.

The process can be harnessed to help you find incidents from your past to bring into your speeches, whether they are events in your life, or stories you've read or heard. It can help you create new ideas and draw new conclusions. You can trigger it just by staring at something and letting your mind wander a bit - linking one thing to another, and seeing where it brings you. Sure, you'll hit some dead ends, but at least it'll be a lot more fun getting there than staring at a blank page.

The ideas you reach may help you immediately, or they can be held for future consideration, just like those epiphanies you have as you fall to sleep or take a shower. Write them down, get them in a story file.

If you don't see yourself thinking this way, no problem. There was probably a time you didn't see yourself on stage, either. Give it a shot anyway. Pick an object by your computer. What does it remind you of? Where you got it? Who gave it to you? Where were you when you used it? What does it look like. Get to the next thought, and then link to another.

There's a 'Jack' bobblehead on my desk. Got it at a Jack in the Box grand opening. I used to drive my preacher, 20 years ago, to get Jack in the Box tacos, two for 99 cents. I remember when I used to work at Taco Bell, and sold tacos 3 for a buck. Boom Boom Boom - two, if not three anecdotes that might come in useful.

And heck, even if not, the process itself helped me write a blog post!

Let your mind wander so your mouth can Speak....and Deliver.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

14 Tips Before You Go (to China) - A Book Review, and More

Last week I received Mike Meier's book "A Focused Pursuit in China: 14 Business Tips to Know Before You Go", (non-affiliate link) which my fellow Toastmaster, Speaker & Author sent specifically for me to review. Frankly, I wasn't sure at the time, or even after reading it, that it was appropriate to do so - this is, after all, a speaking blog, not a travel guide.

At the same time, two thoughts popped into my head. First, speakers travel all the time, and China is a ginormous emerging market. Second, here's a speaker who's written a short, niched book that can provide a great example of how to add a product to their business. So here we go...

I've never been to China - though if anyone out there would like to bring me out to speak, I would love to spend time there! After reading Mike's book, I certainly feel more prepared than I did a month ago.

He offers up advice from his own experiences, sharing his victories and challenges in a conversational, sometimes humorous tone. At only 51 pages (plus the index), this Tips Guide doesn't pretend to give you all the answers, and even offers ideas for other resources to investigate. It does give ground rules however, designed to keep the common business person from embarrassing themselves, and driving their professional interests into the ground.

The 14 Tips include the concepts of 'Guangxi', an attitude of connection and personal relationships that govern professional dealings, 'Baijiu', which factors in the drinking habits of the land, and even offers sage advice about what not to say unless you want to end up being summarily jailed and (hopefully) returned home ahead of schedule. Those three tips alone are worth the price of admission.

Even if you're not going to China, it opens your mind to the fact that other places, whether they are across international or state borders, have their differences and idiosyncracies that we need to prepare for. At only $9.99 U.S., it's definitely worth a looksee.

On the product side:

Mike self-published his book, but went to experts to help him with everything from edits to layouts to printing. He's gotten it available on the major websites, and makes it directly available through him, as well. The finished product doesn't look self-published at all - in fact, the over-sized cover flaps on heavy stock give the book bulk despite its size. His creation of Maximizer World Publishing gives that extra touch to 'hide' the self-published factor.

While it would be great if we could all bet published by a New York publishing house, self-publishing is where most of us will start. It won't make us rich, but it will still add to our credibility, and our back-of-the-room bottom line. For all practical purposes, Mike is a publisher. He may not have the money behind him that a 'legitimate' publisher has, but does that really matter if he provides a valuable resource to his audience?

Mike's book is a great example of strong content in a beautiful package. Buy it for both reasons - and you may find yourself heading to China just by opening your mind to the possibility!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Speaking of Distractions

"Can I call you back Chief? I'm at a KAOS speaker's convention."

Over the last 10 years, the possible distractions for speakers have increased in ways we never imagined. It's one thing to hear a cel phone ringing, it's another to hear Lady Gaga belting her latest rock ballad to alert an audience member they just got another comment on their Facebook account.

Speaker distractions go beyond ringtones, of course. People walking in or out, dishes crashing in the background, sirens from passing fire engines - none of these are uncommon. I've also heard of fire drills or evacuations mid-speech, electrical outages, and sprinklers going off!

7 Ways to Deal with Distractions

A. Preempt. Have the emcee or introducer recommend the audience turn phones off, or at least to silent, before they bring you up. Have staff monitor the doors, and quietly let people in and out, and aid in finding them seats. Talk to the wait staff supervisor about when to serve dinner, drinks, etc. Make sure the temperature in the room isn't too hot or cold. Whatever you can take care of before it happens, take care of so your audience never has to worry about it.

B. Ignore. A singular, short distraction from an audience member usually takes care of itself. Peer pressure gets them to turn off the offending device, or the late-arriving listener eventually sits down. If you ignore it, most of your audience will too. The bigger the audience, the more effective this approach becomes.

C. Spatial Closure. In a smaller room, when you aren't on stage, you're able to walk toward a person who's holding their own conversation, and bring more attention to them (and the people they are talking too, who are often more concerned than the primary transgressor), and provoke them to pay more attention to you. If it's a training session, its a great time to toss them a question, unless they are the CEO of the company. Know your audience, as always, but let them know who's leading the discussion.

If you are on a stage - try eye contact instead. Move toward that person's direction and look right at them as you speak. They'll get the message - and if they don't, those around them likely will.

D. Ad-lib Humor. A common response to a phone ringing in the audience is "Please, hold all my calls" or "Tell them to hold the anchovies!" There are plenty of other options when plates crash, music starts playing, or shouting in the hallways invades your time with the audience. If you're at a moment in your speech where some levity won't take your audience offtrack, and you are confident with quick-witted responses, go for it. One quick call-out is enough to shame most of your audience into switching their phones to vibrate.

E. Planned Humor. Tom Antion lists several responses you can commit to memory for specific events in this free chapter of his book 'Wake 'em Up Business Presentations'. He also includes a brief exercise to help you create some lines of your own. Again, know the audience before firing off a one-liner, planned or not.

F. Control. As the speaker, you are leading the meeting. If a fire alarm goes off, the lights go out, or someone falls ill, the audience will first look to YOU for what to do. Calm the audience down and pass the microphone to a conference or meeting official. If it's your event, either deal with it personally, or have enough staff on hand to attend to the problem, and refocus your audience. Whatever is happening, its up to you to cue the audience on their next emotional and physical move.

G. Nip-It. While you don't want to be quite as paranoid as Deputy Fife in the old Andy Griffith Show, there does come a time when you have to simply shut some people down. People who refuse to stop talking and distracting from the presentation. Those that try to interrupt with questions when you aren't in Q&A mode. Hecklers. Don't go for a full shut down right away, or the audience will begin sympathizing with their peer against you.

But when it becomes repetitive even after being addressed, the audience will switch allegiances. Ask the offending party directly to ask questions later, or take the conversations outside, or, in the case of a relentless heckler, to outright leave. Have staff on hand to make sure it happens if the pressure from the audience and you still isn't enough to quiet these people down. You are responsible for the audience getting their time & money's worth - don't let a persistent distraction remain if at all possible.

Distractions are a fact of life as a speaker. It's your job not to let them interfere with what you have to say, with your confidence on stage, and with your audience's overall experience. Be prepared, be on your toes, be calm - and you will Speak & Deliver. Even if you have to finish in the parking lot as the building burns in the background...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sometimes Persuasion Takes Awhile

Happy Valentine's Day, folks. Today, I share a couple of clips from Notting Hill, starring Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts. They have some great dialogue, with Julia trying to persuade him to love him, in the first clip. In the second, he deliberates, in the third, he takes action.

This is a favorite movie for my wife and I to watch this time of year - though I admit tonight we're looking at seeing Mission Impossible IV instead...

Below is the conversation he has with his friends, as her words begin to sink in....

Then, like many people will after you speak, though you may never know, he takes action. Click the link below to see how it all turns out!


In the meantime, enjoy your Valentine's Day. If you don't have someone to enjoy it with, well, write a speech about it :) It's just another chance to Speak & Deliver.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Stillness: A Speaker's Place of Power

Who's Your Favorite Karate Kid?

Last week I watched an excellent speech on the benefits of Karate. During the presentation, he gave a few demonstrations of martial arts movements, which added a wonderful physical element to the mostly historical and philosophical content of his speech.

Where I saw some irony was in his movements on stage when he wasn't gesturing. He did the shuffle pace - staying forward to the audience, but still going from one side to the other. This isn't as distracting as an all out pace, where a speaker breaks eye contact and briskly moves from side to side while simultaneously talking to the air or the floor, but it still creates a problematic dynamic with the audience.

First, it keeps us on guard. Since he was always moving, we weren't sure when he was going to punch or kick next - the reptilian brain in us stayed alert. Not to his words as much as to his movements, especially since the stage and audience were only separated by a few feet.

Second, since he was always moving, it took some power away from his gestures, whereas if he had stayed more centered on stage, the kick's would have kept their, well, kick!

And that is where the irony was for me, and the lesson for all of us. One of the benefits of Karate is learning focus - to center oneself both physically and psychologically. That means controlling emotions, breathing, and placement on the stage, when it comes to speaking. It doesn't mean staying in one spot for the entirety of a speech. It just means being where you are long enough to make a point, then purposefully moving to your next 'centered spot' for your next point.

There are some basic rules for stage movement:

1. Moving forward is a strong, potentially intimidating move, which indicates importance or weight in your statements. Moving too close to the audience can make them uncomfortable, and depending on the stage, put you at risk. Stay aware of the line between strength and scariness!

2. Moving backward shows weakness, and hurts the power of whatever you are saying as you go backwards, unless it is specifically tied in - "I found myself blown backwards by the winds the terror". Never retreat when making a comment you want the audience to buy into.

3. Right to Left is their Left to Right. It seems unnatural for you, but if you are creating a timeline of any sort with your movements, make sure you are creating it from their point of view, not yours.

4. Anchoring characters. Finding a place on stage to talk about a character in your speech can make those characters, and their scenes, more vivid for an audience. If you talk to your hated basketball coach and your loving wife while putting them in the same spot on stage, it creates a subconscious contradiction for the audience, and weakens both characters.

Even if you have many characters in your speech, you can create different sides of the stage for positive & negative people, or past and present individuals. In a longer speech, once you transition to a new section, you can put a new character where the old one was, as long as your last section wrapped up your interaction.

5. Angles work well in any direction. It softens the abruptness of your motions while adding variety to your stage locations. It also take a little longer which will add impact to your pause, and give you a chance to think, if you can manage to be disciplined enough not to talk through them movement. If the angled movement is planned for a specific line, it can also be a strong way to use your voice to climb up our down to an appropriately loud or stage whisper crescendo.

Keeping your body at an angle helps you use your physical presence more judiciously, as you lean forward on one foot, but keep the back foot back. It also allows you to pivot from one side of the audience to the other more gracefully than standing flush on the stage. Those angles can be very effective when switched mid point - with the setup statement directed towards one half of the audience and the payoff delivered to the other half. Even angling you backward movements, if you must make them, strengthens them somewhat, disguising them as side to side actions.

Your best movement? Stillness. It's difficult. It feels unnatural. Yet Stillness contrasts every planned movement on stage, helping them pop out as they come along. It adds power to your speech when you match your words with your confidence to stay anchored to your position.

And - it keeps YOU calmer, preventing your from using the stage as your own private workout mat, perhaps causing you to run out of breath, perspire, and even raise your blood pressure unnecessarily. Get out there on stage. Breathe. Keep your body still, while knowing where you'll be going next, and when. Then Speak....& Deliver, even if you're wearing a karategi!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Toastmasters Friday: To Click or Not To Click

Um...Where was I?


It's a sound that makes the average Toastmaster cringe, and the newest members practically stop in their tracks. Clickers, bells, buzzers, even a triangle - I've seen the Ah Counter use all sorts of methods to let the speaker know they've just uttered an Ah or Um, or in a stricter club, And, So, But, Y'know and others. I would imagine they use hand signals, colored cards, or other visual cues for hearing impaired speakers, but I admit I haven't seen that in action.

For those reading who have yet to go to a Toastmasters meeting, the Ah Counter (or Ah Master, or Wizard of Ahs), is a role designed to help each member stop using 'filler words' in their speaking. The audible sound of a clicker is quite effective in creating a Pavlovian effect, and I've seen speakers literally go from 'A, Buthh-ing' every 5 seconds to effectively pausing between sentences within the two minutes it takes to give a table topic.

As effective as the Ah-Counter is, there is some debate as to how to actually use the role within the meeting. Below are several I've seen, and my thoughts.

The Silent Counter

There are clubs who believe the audible sound of a clicker is too annoying, even disrespectful to the speaker. They may feel it intimidates guests, and interferes too much with the flow of the meeting. I understand this. I've seen the Ah-Master become so intrusive into a meeting it becomes more about mistakes than supportive & corrective clicking. These clubs just tally up the various filler words and give a report at the end of the meeting.

The Selective Counter

Other clubs limit the Ah Counter in various ways. Sometimes they click everyone but the speakers giving speeches. It may be limited to Table Topics. Most clubs don't want guests to be clicked, though I've seen it happen, both on purpose and by mistake.

Deciding which words to click is also a club to club adventure. Most I've been a part of only click the actual Ahs & Ums, while others click the words So, But, And, etc. This can create some issues, since these words can be used correctly, leaving it a judgment call an Ah Master may not want to make, or the Speaker may want to argue.

Selective Counters could also be defined as Ah Masters that only click every now and again, particularly on speakers who Ah & Um incessently, just so the speech doesn't become bogged down in clicks from the audience. I've used this approach at times, usually based on the level the speaker is at at that particular juncture.

The Overkill Counter

I haven't seen many clubs actually sanction this approach, but I have seen Ah Counters individually turn the Toastmasters meeting into their own personal vendetta against filler words. These folks click everybody every time, with ferocious fervor. The more advanced the speaker, the less it matters, but I've seen some speakers get so intimidated, so distracted by the Ah Counter that they either lose track of their speech, or just bail altogether, particularly in Table Topics. At the end of the meeting, they give an amazingly detailed, and often derisive, rundown of the club's verbal hiccups.

As you may be able to tell, my preference is mostly the Selective Counter. Not using a clicker shortchanges the speaker from this especially helpful tool. They hear it, and mentally make a note that they don't want to make the same mistake again, and feel good when they actually ju, st pause, and hear nothing. Classic pain/pleasure conditioning as the Ah Counter was designed to be.

I don't believe in clicking a main speaker, but it has value. All other roles, in my opinion, can weather the clicking storm. Some Ah Counters ask when they introduce the role who wants to be clicked and who doesn't, which can add personal accountability while factoring the comfort level of each member.

I believe non-Toastmaster guests should NEVER be clicked, though I have often seen a guest give a table topic and motion to the Ah Master to click them when they use Ah or Um. Even hearing others get the clicker has value for many, it seems.

I also believe in discretion. The clicker is not meant to embarrass a speaker, but train them. When the clicks become the show instead of the speaker, it becomes a problem. Consider starting strong, then tapering down your clicker, clicking every other time, or stopping altogether if it is clearly not helping the speaker. Take in consideration the experience level and temperament of the speaker.

As for the final report? I support fully detailed counts of each speaker's filler words, as long as time allows, and the report is given respectfully. There is some humor to be found depending on the scenario, and most people have a thick enough skin to take hearing they had 68 Ums. But your delivery of the news will factor into how they take it, and how the club responds. Consider yourself an Ah Doctor - and do no harm. With guests, you might consider reporting that you have tallied them up, and will share the results with them after the meeting if they desire. Why risk embarrassing someone whose mentality you haven't had time to gauge?

Personal Pet Peeve - Ah Counters who give reports that go like this: "Oh, the speeches were so interesting, I just got lost in everything, and didn't hear much. Gee, you all did a great job." Yeesh. Ah Counter is a job that offers real benefits to your fellow members - don't shortchange them, whether you're clicking or not.

The Other Side of the Coin

In this case, you are the speaker getting clicked. Too many times I have watched speakers start a back and forth with the Ah Counter, often to the bemusement of the rest of the members. While this can ease the tension, it can also increase it, putting pressure on the Ah Counter, and raising your own frustration level. Don't let the clicker be anything other than a reminder, rubber band snap on the wrist. Keep your momentum going, and simply move through your speech.

As I always suggest, record your speeches, so you can see for yourself all the filler words you've used. You're likely to hear more than even the most diligent counter will notice. Don't be intimidated by the Ah Counter - they should be there to help you.

I like the Ah Counter - My first club clicked away and gave an award to the person who got the most clicks - it was a fun-loving group and it worked for us. The most common result I hear outside TM is that we all start hearing other people's Ahs & Ums that we never did before. That works for us as well, helping us remember how we might sound, and possibly identifying new members!

These are my thoughts - but your club is your club. Does your club have a consistent approach to the Ah Counter? When was the last time it was even talked about? Consistent reinforcement is much more effective than sporadic application of the clicker from meeting to meeting. Consider bringing this up at your next officers meeting, or even within the club business meeting. Create expectations for the Ah Counter that can be used each week, and even printing them up for the Ah Counter to use each week.

No matter what you decide, remember the Ah Counter, like any tool, can be both helpful and harmful. Next time you are the Ah Counter, be sure you know your clubs expectations, and remember - Do No Harm.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Speaking of Take the Stairs - A Book Review

A couple of weeks ago my friend Rory Vaden sent me a review copy of his latest book, Take the Stairs: 7 Steps to Achieving True Success (amazon affiliate link). I haven't read his prior offerings, but I've heard him onstage, in both Toastmasters and professional settings, and followed his career with interest. He's an amazing young man, though growing a bit long in the tooth by now - I think he's actually 30 - and has worked harder to get where he's gotten than most people I know. The only question I had left was about to be answered: could he translate his speaking, his philosophies, his life, into a book worth reading?

He keeps the book simple in structure - 7 Steps, 7 chapters: Sacrifice, Commitment, Focus, Integrity, Schedule, Faith, and Action. At just under 300 pages, it's still a fast read (I read it in about 5 semi-interrupted hours - but I knew some of the stories he tells, so your mileage may vary). The layout is easy to look at, with large quotes from the copy every other page or so embedded into the page itself (no wasted pages, but plenty of white space), and each chapter contains a real-life case study from a professional using the chapters concept in their life and business, concluding with links to online content, both a helpful and smart marketing strategy.

Rory's basic premise is that the world is more prone to take the escalator than the stairs. Who can argue? I hate the stairs, myself, though I have better reasons than many. His book delves into each of his concepts from a point of view of someone who believes success is an action, not just an attitude. He includes stories from his childhood (which isn't as rosy as his cover photo might indicate), his college years as a door to door children's books salesman, his journey to the World Championship of Public Speaking, and his eventual success as co-founder of Southwestern Consulting.

He never sounds too self-congratulatory, despite his long list of successes. He gives credit where credit is due, and uses the lessons he's learned to inspire and instruct the reader, as opposed to building himself up. He lets us in on both his emotions and his motions as he's experienced life - making his struggles feel real and his successes seem realistic and achievable by anyone willing to "do what we don't feel like doing".

In his Preface - "Waking up in a ProcrastiNation", Rory lays the groundwork for the rest of the book - helping us find our pain and frustration with life, and offering the promise of solutions in the forthcoming pages. His concepts are not new, but he acknowledges this from the start. If you've read Zig Ziglar (who Rory counts as a mentor), this book will feel familiar, but always through his own lens of living.

Rory updates time-honored concepts for the 21st century, showing us what can be done today, not 50 years ago when Zig was selling pots and pans. He walks us through success in today's world, overcoming a world that is entirely different from the days of Brian Tracy, Jim Rohn, and even Tony Robbins. 2000 World Champion of Public Speaking Ed Tate suggested Rory might be the next Zig Ziglar - and this book seems to aspire to such greatness.

It's not a perfect book. There's a bit of repetition in the stories told, and occasionally his youth shows through in his choice of examples - "Nocturnal Emissions" as a section header is certainly a risque, and risky, proposition, though it stays within the realm of today's standards. Other than the case studies, the book uses his life as an example almost exclusively, which is a shame because he has a wide network of people whose stories would serve well in the book.

Despite its imperfections, some of which might be considered a bit nit-picky on my part, I can recommend this book both to people looking for inspiration and life tools, as well as to speakers who want an example of how to write a mainstream self-help tome. It's not as hard as it looked back in the old days, and Rory makes it look easy compared to the classics such as Ziglar's "See You at the Top".

Some may look at Rory and say he's too young to have these opinions, to tell us how to live life, and will take his thoughts as condescending - but those people need to take a closer look at the man behind the shiny image. He's walked the walk - and taken more steps to success than most people are willing to admit it takes. There's no 'Easy Button' in his approach, just good old fashioned discipline.

To answer my own question - Yes, Rory has created a book worth reading. The next question? What's next for this rising star?

Disclaimer: Rory and I competed together at the 2006 World Championship of Public Speaking in Washington DC, and briefly worked together in 2007 at his company Southwestern Consulting. He did not ask me to review this book.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Speaking of Sarcasm

In my book, Go Ahead & Laugh, sarcasm is described as "revealing and edgy double-edged commentary" - a slightly redundant, but accurate description, in hindsight. It's also a dangerous device. It's like carrying around an unstable explosive - if you don't know what you're doing, if you haven't planned the path you're going to take - it's liable to explode in your face.

Sarcasm as defined by Dictionary.com is "harsh or bitter derision or irony" - YIKES! Does that sound like something you want in your speech? Is a laugh so important that you have to resort to harsh and bitter sarcasm? Even if you get the laugh, will it end up costing you credibility? Will your audience turn on your over just one phrase in your speech, even if the rest is perfectly acceptable? No, Yes, & Yes.

No - the laugh is not so important that you should risk using sarcasm in a hurtful way.
Yes - if you deride the wrong group, belief, situation, or person, you can lose credibility with your audience.
Yes - one misplaced or misused phrase is all it takes to get an audience focused on the negative, and away from your intent.

So why not get rid of sarcasm altogether? Because even explosives have a purpose, and, used correctly, can be very effective.

1. Plan it Carefully - Sarcasm backfires most often when it's 'Off the Cuff'. We think something is going to be funny in the moment, and its not. This can be fine with regular humor, but sarcasm that flops is like acid that drops - you're creating your own hole to fall into. Write your humor lines ahead of time. Test your sarcasm with your coach and/or some friends. Come back to it a day or two later and see if it still passes the test.

2. Don't Betray Yourself - Sarcasm is often a mask for our true feelings. We say something in a way that can be taken as humor, but in truth, it's how we really feel. We just don't have the guts to come out and say it straight out. This can happen easily in an 'Off the Cuff' remark, but also in a planned speech that hasn't been vetted properly.

3. Exaggerate - This is a technique unto itself, but when combined with sarcasm, it can soften the blow. Exaggeration makes it clearer to the audience you are joking around with your sarcastic remarks.

4. Self-Deprecate - another technique that works on it own, it mixes well with sarcasm. It takes the edge off by pointing the sarcasm back at yourself, so you aren't coming across as aggressive or arrogant to the audience. In one of my speeches, I get sarcastic about my daughter not being competitive enough - but it is softened because I have spent the last several minutes poking fun at myself for being TOO competitive. CAUTION: Don't cut yourself too deep, or your credibility will be cut along the way.

5. Know Your Audience - If you are speaking to a church, don't talk about how the boys in the youth group want to get the girls in the back seat (I actually heard this once!). It may be true, and you may be trying to get a laugh, but unless you quickly follow it up with something to cushion the truth, you'll come across as crass instead of brash.

On the other hand, if you are speaking to Wal-Mart employees, directing sarcasm towards their detractors or competition can build rapport. Just be careful if you're speaking to K-Mart the next weekend, social media may betray you.

If sarcasm is so dangerous, why include it in my book? Why teach it to my clients? Because, when it's used well, it can be very effective. It can build rapport. It can illustrate a point. It can lighten a heavy moment in the audience. It can be convicting and freeing all at once.

A great way to study the art of sarcasm is by watching Stand-Up Comedians. Most of what they do is steeped in sarcasm. Keep in mind, their audiences are more primed for them to be inappropriate - but even they can step over the line. Watch for moments of brilliance and moments of blunder. Take notes on technique and timing. Then apply it to your own speaking, and test, test, test.

Dynamite cleared the way for connecting East and West back in the days of the old railroad. Nuclear power can be an efficient energy choice. Just because something is dangerous doesn't make it useless. Just handle with care - or it'll blow up in your face.

Bonus Exercise:
 Below are some videos of three diverse comedians all employing sarcasm to different degrees. What works for them, for their audience? What could work for you?

A. Let's start with Don Rickles - otherwise known as Mr. Warmth. He's been leading the charge for sarcastic humor for over half a century. He knows his audience, and even more, his audience knows him. It's a badge of honor to be made fun of by this master.

B. Seinfeld brought sarcasm to a different level - still biting, but just veiled enough to soften the blow. He's typically clean, and is a great example of corporate-appropriate humor.

C. I mentioned a church audience - and Christians (and other religions) have their humorists too. You can find appropriate sarcasm in anything, if you look for it. Brad Stine offers this half comedy routine, half sermon, and does a good job staying in his boundaries. (in my own, subjective, opinion, of course)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Silent Impact - The Speaker's Frustration

I know how you feel. You spoke in front of a large this morning, delivered a message you've labored over for weeks, months, in some cases, YEARS, and...nothing. Yes, they applauded. But, other than that, NOTHING.

No one came up and said you were brilliant. That you've changed their life. In fact, they all pretty much scattered, leaving you with, at most, a quick handshake and what seems like a courtesy smile. You've failed. Utterly and completely. Or have you? It's not always the primary content of your speech, sometimes it's what you didn't do, what they can't do, or a combination of both.

5.4 Reasons It May or May Not Be Your Fault:

1. You Didn't Ask. You didn't invite them to come talk to you after the speech for questions, or give them an option to for further contact, such as signing up for your newsletter (a page of emails is good feedback).

1.1 You asked someone else to ask, but the emcee didn't read your outro, inviting people to talk with you, go to your website, etc. No matter how many times you go over it, the heat of the moment can get to people who aren't used to speaking, or who are more concerned with getting the meeting over with than reading 30 seconds on your behalf.

2. You Didn't Make Yourself Accessible. You stayed up by your speaking area, making them have to come to you, instead of wading out to the audience. Don't expect them to rush you like you're Brian Tracy or Patricia Fripp.

2.1. Don't let the meeting planners keep you stuck backstage, or whisk you off for a non-essential dinner after your speech, either - you'll look like you're dissing the audience if you don't stick around.

3. You Spoke Too Long. People live on a schedule. If you're at a morning networking meeting, people have to get to work. Lunch meetings are notorious for no one sticking around. Go to late in the evening, and people can get annoyed, impatient, or just plain distracted with their favorite beverages.

3.1. The Schedule is Packed. There is simply no time for people to come talk to you before the next speaker, or the big awards ceremony, or for them to get home at a decent hour. You didn't Speak Too Long - but the planners failed to plan.

4. You Weren't On Their Side. You came in to speak for the management position, perhaps on a controversial topic like fraud, sexual harassment, or dealing with a change nobody really wants to make. They don't want to be seen talking with you by their peers, or they feel you're just a mouthpiece for their boss. In some cases, they're right. The managers don't want to talk to you either, because they have to deal with the fallout of what you just presented.

4.1. The planner failed to tell you the audience would be hostile coming into the room. That can still be your fault, if you don't ask the right questions ahead of time, but sometimes you get hired by folks who are more interested in their message than how the audience will receive it. Don't let yourself get set up to fail.

5. You Stank. OK - that can happen too. We all bomb, occasionally. Did you video it? Do you have a friend in the audience there to give you feedback later? At the very least, take a few minutes to dissect what worked and what didn't, before drowning your sorrows in your hotel room's mini-bar.

It's rare, of course, that you'll get NO feedback at all. But even when we only get one or two people saying we made a difference, it's easy to get discouraged. Most of us thrive on feedback, and, at least a little bit, need those 'attaboys' to feel good about what we just did.

When that happens, it's time to refocus. To remember we're there for them, not the other way around. Just because they didn't come up and tell you how you shifted their paradigm, saved their soul, and convinced them to change everything they do in life, doesn't mean you didn't have impact. It takes time to internalize good information. In fact, it can be easier to leave people in a 'Rah Rah' state that makes you feel great as a speaker, but wears off in an hour, than it is to leave people in a quiet, thoughtful state, internalizing your message.

Delayed reaction can take many forms. An email from an attendee. A recommendation from your client a month later. Somebody may stop you years from now and say "Hey, I was there when....and it changed my life". Or - you may get nothing. Instead, your audience may silently head back into their lives thinking about a new tool, a new perspective, a new hope that you provided - and you'll never know.

That's Silent Impact - and if you take care of your end of the deal, if you work to Speak & Deliver every time you're up there, you'll learn to appreciate it. If you can't, you're probably in the wrong business. Speaking is ultimately for the spoken to, not the speaker.


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