Monday, February 4, 2013

How Paul Harvey Can Help You Find Your Speaking Niche

Guess who's cool again? Or, perhaps for much of today's generation, cool for the first time, at least for a day or so? Yes, none other than the venerable orator/preacher/radio personality Paul Harvey.

Growing up in Iowa, Paul Harvey was on the radio twice a day, once in the morning, once at night, always speaking in his authoritative yet soothing, reassuring bass tones, first about general news of the day, then launching into one inspiring or ironic anecdote or another. Twists were his trademark, as he would tease us in the beginning, then hawk a product or two before telling us "...the rest of the story".

Today he's in the news thanks to the Dodge Ram Truck commercial during the Super Bowl. It was certainly in the Top 3 of 'Best Commercials of the Day' - and was my personal favorite. Watch it below:

Was Paul Harvey a great speaker? Or did he simply speak extremely well? Does it matter? I think it does, both for speakers coming up in the business, and those who will hire them.

Yes, he was amazing, and I loved listening to him. But he was less a professional speaker than an entertainer, a newscaster, and, ultimately, a straight up raconteur. He told stories without making a hard, obvious point - using his style to infer what he was telling us, but leaving it up to us to decide what his instruction was. Whereas today's keynoters combine telling great stories with giving clear directives, the style of Mr. Harvey was to let his audience decide for themselves what he was really saying.

This is not to downplay Paul Harvey in any way. His style was his greatness, and likely a product of his generation and upbringing.

It is also a tremendous illustration of the wide variety of opportunity public speaking offers to those who pursue it, and clarify the difference for people looking to bring public speakers in to their event.

Do you want an entertainer? A comedian? An invocator for a short minute or two (as Paul Harvey did so well)? Do you want pure inspiration, without a call to action? Do you want a spokesperson? Do you want an actor doing a monologue, even an actor coming in as, say, a dead president? If you bring a celebrity, do you care what they say beyond them telling their own story? The pendulum can swing the other way as well - perhaps what you really want is a trainer or instructor.

As a speaker, knowing what you want to be will help you find your audience, and your success that much faster. As a meeting planner, understanding precisely what type of speaker you need will increase your chances of a successful event.

Paul Harvey was a speaking treasure, and a wonderful part of the fabric of American broadcasting for decades. And it's not like he couldn't give a decent keynote with a strong call to action. Take a look at this copy of his commencement address for Wheaton College in 1961. It's just not what he's famous for - not the niche he found for himself, and his speaking talents.

How will you choose to use your voice to Speak & Deliver? You don't have to be a keynoter. You don't have to give 4 day seminar trainings. Sometimes it's enough to simply be profound for 2-5 minutes - and your audience will find you. And treasure you forever.

Below is a full example of his 'Rest of the Story' style...

Friday, February 1, 2013

Save Yourself from Post-Seminar Depression Syndrome!

There's a million public speaking programs out there. Well, almost. They come in pretty clam shell sets of DVDs and MP3 downloads and Teleseminar/Webinar/YouTube trainings, from some of the top names, and sometimes the not-so-top names, in the business.

The same people that provide these products put on live seminars - 3-5 day programs in exotic locations that cost anywhere from $300 to $5,000 dollars (food, travel and lodging not included), promising you a weekend with the experts, a transformational event that will put you on your path to speaking, if you just put into action every step they outline for you.

This is all well and good - there's a market, and the information can be strong. These products, programs, and deluxe working vacations are usually put on by legitimate, top-notch speakers, who earnestly want to inspire you to do something you've never done, and they put their all into their programs. They are providing a service people want, and I consistently hear how wonderful attendees feel when they get back.

But then, you walk back in your front door, and...reality hits.

"I've sat through/listened/watched an 8 hour/3-day intense program/teleseminar series/workshop, and I still don't have a speech?!? I have a 175 page workbook that I actually have to follow? I have to get myself booked? I actually have to DO SOMETHING?

Hey wait, what about a message? They told me how to find a message, but how do I know I've found it, that it's good enough, and that I'm doing it right?"

Poof! The air comes out, uncertainty creeps back in, and the money and the time is gone. I call it Post-Seminar Depression Syndrome - which is very similar to Post New Year's Resolution Syndrome...

Now what? All that information you just paid for is useless if you just put it up on your shelf, waiting until 'you're sure'. Even the people who sold you and trained you for a weekend will tell you that. They also know that most of the people who come will leave excited, educated, and yet still do nothing. It's not what they want, but it's part of the business.

How do you make sure you don't come home and go Poof?

What you need is a Who - a coach - someone to help you find your message, craft it, practice it, and encourage and hold you accountable to deliver it. Speaking coaches abound these days, and all have different levels of experience, and a diverse set of skills and training styles. Some of the legitimate seminar leaders will offer personal coaching, if they have the time and you've got the money. But they can't coach EVERYONE, and it might be the right situation for YOU.

A while back, I did an in-depth post The 7 Questions You Should Ask When Hiring a Speaking Coach.
For review, those questions were:

1. What's at Stake
2. What's their Real-World Experience
3. What's their Speaking Experience
4. What's their Location
5. What do Others Say
6. What are You Willing to Spend
7. How do You Want to be Coached

On my side, I can be choosy with who I work with. Not everyone is an ideal fit with every coach, or client. I work closely with my clients to help them find and refine their messages, construct their presentations, and hone their delivery skills. Closely can mean in person, by Skype, by phone, or simply by email, and it also means repeatedly. I rarely allow for a 'here's your critique, what's your hurry' client. It doesn't serve either of us well.

As we go deeper in, we'll get into the nuts and bolts of marketing, scheduling, creating products, etc - but it all has to start with the right message, delivered the right way.

So go, spend your thousands of dollars, get excited, and come back armed with information and charged to change your life, your career, and your financial future. Then call me - and we'll sit down and work through it all together, and make sure you honor the promises you just made to yourself and your future audiences.

To Speak...and Deliver.

(Disclaimer: I reserve the right to someday offer large, expensive seminars, clam shell encased DVDs and YouTube trainings. A guy's gotta eat, right?)


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