Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Are You Wasting Your Audience's Time?

You've got such an amazing story. You survived a plane crash! You cut off your own arm to escape certain death trapped in the Utah mountains! Maybe you even started a computer company out of your garage and became a multi-zillionaire!


"But, but, I'm a celebrity! But, but, I did something really cool and unusual! But, but, people hire me because they want to hear me speak about it all!"


"But, but, I'm a great speaker, I use the stage, make eye contact, and get laughs!"

So. Freaking. What?

Yes, you can get hired with a good story. You might even get hired a lot. People may even love you, and talk about meeting you, and Facebook a picture of you standing next to them...or at least a cutout of you.

It isn't enough. 

If you don't tell your story in such a way as to change at least a portion of your audience in some way, you're wasting their time. Change what?

Their opinion.
Their mindset. 
Their actions.

You don't have to change them from one position to another, necessarily. Maybe you are reinforcing them in the concept, changing the intensity of their present belief. But they must Think, Feel, and Do differently, or at least have been given the opportunity to do so, when they leave your presentation.

How did you FEEL differently about life after your plane crash? How can I FEEL that way without getting into a plane crash myself? Why is it important I FEEL this way?

What changed your THINKing so you could cut off your own arm? I'm probably never going to deal with this, so how can this change of THINKing work for me? How does it affect my life?

You were lucky - lots of people start companies and fail miserably. What did you DO that set you apart, that I can also DO, even if I trim trees instead of build computers?

They may clap. They may smile and shake your hand and tell you how awesome and funny you were. But what's next? When you find it, you'll be spending your audience's time wisely, and yours, as you Speak & Deliver.

Need help finding your message? E-mail me at Rich@RichHopkins.com, and we'll find it together!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Make Your Speech the Soundtrack of Their Lives

John Williams

The Sound of Music
Star Wars
Superman the Movie
Jurassic Park
Harry Potter

Could you hear the music from any or all of those movies in your mind after reading the title? Can you now? Sorry if I've put Rodgers & Hammerstein or John Williams in your head for the rest of the day. Even as I write this, I'm listening to my 'Movie Soundtrack' station on Pandora.

Music has way of embedding itself in our memories, and connecting to our life experiences. The song that played when you met your spouse, that you may have again played at your wedding. The music you use while you work out, while you study, while you write. I even used music to memorize the Periodic Table.

Music stays with us because it repeats, because it often has a simple beat or lyric refrain, and because it connects with us emotionally.

What if your speech could do the same thing? If you could embed your stories and points in your audiences brain so that it became part of the Soundtrack of their Lives?

I'm not talking specifically about music, though some top speakers intro and outro their speaking engagement with theme music.

No, YOUR speech soundtrack is your speech anchor, or series of anchors. Phrases that embody your points and your speech purpose in just a few words. Phrases that resound in your audiences heads as they leave. Phrases that, when said in a setting years later, brings back echoes of the speaker, and the ideas they passionately shared from the stage.

They are often referred to as 'Foundational Phrases', or more popularly, 'the Phrase that Pays'.

For my Toastmaster readers, the 5-7 minute format of most speeches lends itself to a single phrase, supported by 1-3 stories or examples. Ryan Avery used this method to maximum effect in his 2012 World Championship Speech, "Trust is a Must"


In a longer speech, it's possible to use more than one phrase - as long as they all build to the overall speech tone. Movies will often shift styles of music and create variations on a theme, while still pushing the story to one ultimate conclusion. Your phrases must do the same thing. If you have a memorable phrase for each 5-7 minute segment of your 45 minute keynote, you create a framework under your ultimate theme.

The phrases can be as few as two or three words, or as long as 8-10. They should indicate action, invoke emotion, and/or reflect results. Often, the most memorable phrases become short-hand for longer phrases, and ultimately branding for the speakers themselves.

See You at the Top! - Zig Ziglar
Eat That Frog! - Brian Tracy
It's Possible! - Les Brown

All memorable phrases - all both stand on their own, and as a piece of a larger speech or program. I'm sure you can think of a dozen more from your favorite speakers.

Whether you're putting on a keynote filled with inspirational stories, a workshop with more practical exercises and applications of your concepts, or just speaking for a few minutes to promote a singular point, finding your Soundtrack, your Phrase (or Phrases), will help you be a better speaker, and give your audience longer-lasting results. All of which will, as the saying states - help you get paid.

Like a great, pulse-pounding soundtrack, your speech needs to build emotion, and you must anchor your ideas in the minds and hearts of your audience with repetition, rhythm, and resonance to ensure they remember what you've said long after they leave your presentation. You want them using your phrases in their daily life, advising their peers and employees with the wisdom you've shared.

The ultimate moment, when you know you've successfully managed to Speak & Deliver, is when the Soundtrack of your speech becomes part of the Soundtrack of their lives.

What are your favorite phrases that have stayed with you from speakers over the years?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Speaker's Remorse - The Strongest Editing Tool

Don't you love the feeling right after you finish a speech? 

The crowd claps, maybe even stands, you shake the hand of the emcee, walk off and smile and wave, both energized and relieved that you've done your best. What a rush! For about 30 seconds.


Speaker's Remorse. You start thinking about EVERYTHING you did wrong. What you left out, from words to gestures to stage movements, to that humor twist at the end which would have left your audience feeling even better! Grumble, grumble, grumble.

Then you start thinking about how what you DID say wasn't perfect - this part fell flat, that transition could have been better, and, ugh, why did I wear this outfit?

It happens to the best of us. Unless we've memorized and practiced and given the presentation hundreds of times - well, it can happen EVEN THEN.

Last Fall, I gave a short keynote in Ft. Collins for the District 26 Toastmaster Leadership training. It was a well-received speech that focused on my Mom unexpectedly becoming the leader in our family. I sat down, and immediately thought about three different parts of the speech:

1. I had left a couple of items out (not that anyone in the audience would know) about my mom's journey
2. The humor bit involving 2001 Toastmaster World Champion of Public Speaking Darren LaCroix (there was a cutout of him on stage with me) could be enhanced even WITHOUT the cutout to this particular audience
3. I could've shifted the force of the keynote from Win Anyway to Lead Anyway, and be more in tune with the tone of the event

Again - it was still well-received, but I had immediate changes to consider if I were to deliver this again.

Photo by Bradley Beck

Last weekend, I had the chance to deliver essentially the same address to in Denver for their version of the training event, and I implemented those changes, to great success. More laughs, more emotional connection, and more intensity with the Lead Anyway approach.

Even then, I sat down realizing there was a line I left out at the end with a key humor line - just lost to the moment. C'est la vie, no one noticed but me.

The next time you speak, and are faced with those moments right after you speak? Take notes, immediately. Send an email to yourself. Some of your best ideas, and best editing can come right after you speak. Go back and listen/watch the video you no doubt took of yourself. Transcribe it, and see where your mind goes when you speak LIVE.

Then give it again. I hear that the best speeches aren't written, but rewritten. True. It's also true that the best speeches aren't just given, they're re-given, particularly as soon as possible.

We are our own worst critics, most of the time. Don't internalize it and make yourself miserable - document it and use it to improve. Share YOUR Speaker's Remorse stories below - then go out and Speak....and Deliver.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Creating Your Perfect Speechwriting Environment

photo by Reg Saddler

Ahhhhhh. Do you hear that? It's the sound of quiet. The quiet that comes after 18 days of Winter Break. 18 days filled with anywhere from 6 to 20 kids in the house, and the cacophony of screams, whines, cries, yelling, and thankfully, a lot of laughter that accompany them. At last it is over, the kids are in school, and I can write again.

Well, that is, if I can ignore Facebook and Twitter long enough to type something. If I can turn off Pandora so I don't start typing the lyrics to whatever song is on instead of the thoughts I'm formulating. If I can focus on actually writing instead of the dozens of projects I have to work on.

Internal noise can be a lot harder to block out than external noise.

I have attempted, over the years, to create a perfect writing environment. I like to surround myself with books, artwork and toys - as many creative-types do. My toys tend to either be super-hero related or Star Trek themed, though I also have a Jack-in-the-Box bobblehead. The toys bring me joy, and transports me, subconsciously, I suppose, back to more innocent times, when I had less to worry about.

The books make me feel secure, in an odd way. I grew up always wanting a den with a big library - both of grandfathers had offices lined with books. Captain Kirk was always fond of 'real books', and of course, every motivational speaker I've ever heard talks about the importance of a personal library. While I probably have 10x as many books on my computer as I have as hardcopies, my external hard drive doesn't bring me quite the same joy as seeing the spines of real books lined up in my shelves.

Of course, I always have to have something on the desk to drink (usually diet Pepsi), and I can't let myself get too hungry. If it's too cold or too warm, that's a problem. If I let my desk get too messy, to the point my paperwork needs to be identified by carbon dating, lets say, it's tough to work as well.

With all of my efforts, my pain-staking attention to detail to master my environment, I have successfully created the perfect setting within to write. About twice in ten years. 

Who knows how many books, speeches, cartoons, paintings, and civilization-changing blogposts have been lost to the dedication to 'the perfect setting, the right mood, and exactly the right moment' to create, by creatives throughout the centuries?

The best environment to create, particularly for writers, is often right between your ears, extending to your fingers, while focusing on your page, electronic or otherwise.

Some of my best writing has come inside Carl's Jr., the airport, the city bus, and even sitting with 100 other people waiting to fight a traffic ticket. When I, beyond all logic, manage to simply shut the world out, and not worry about whether everything is in its place around me, but am focused instead on what's inside of me, waiting to be expressed.

There's nothing wrong with creating a great workspace. I just ordered a new Batman the other day with an Amazon giftcard, and, looking around me, I probably need to clean up again. But the perfect workspace isn't perfect if its the only place you can create, and for only those short, perfect windows of time when its exactly what you want. It becomes both a crutch and an excuse more than a facilitator.

Where do you create? What is the most bizarre place you've written something that turned out awesome? What do you consider your perfect writing environment?

The world we live in is imperfect and messy - but its also where we are most needed to create, and ultimately, to Speak & Deliver!


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