Monday, December 30, 2013

Speak & Deliver Day of Reckoning, 2013

Last year, I tried a new method to list my goals here in Speak & Deliver. Here's a review of what I expected of myself, and my results.

I began with this: My All-Encompassing Goal, that all other goals must honor, the ultimate destination of my 'To Become' list: Strengthen my family's position, emotionally, physically, medically, and financially.

RESULT: Success, overall, though the level of success in each would not necessarily be to the level I desired. But progress is progress, and overall, 2013, in every way, was a dramatic improvement over any of the last 5 years.

I then categorized a few sub-goals:

Speaking Sub-Goals

Reach as many people with my Win Anyway message as possible
RESULT:  I gave this keynote roughly 15 times in my travels to Kansas City, Honolulu, and Toronto, as well as a time or two here in Denver.

Write MY book - the catalyst to my keynote
RESULT: No Progress. Disappointing, to say the least

Speak outside Toastmasters 25 times
RESULT: Outside of Toastmasters = 3x. Outside of my District = 25+

Coaching Sub-Goals

Coach and teach as many people as I'm able, both personally and by product proxy
RESULT: My biggest coaching and product sales year ever - many clients experiencing success, both in the contest world and the real world. Looking forward to an even bigger 2014.

Build Speak & Deliver's presence
RESULT: About the same as last year. My posting rate was similar, and I occasionally missed an entire month.

Write my speaking book
RESULT: No Progress. Disappointing, to say the least. I see so many others coming out with speaking books, it both inspires and discourages me simultaneously.

Physical Sub-Goals (these were personal, but do affect my speaking business, in terms of mobility and personal esteem on stage)

Get to 190 lbs.
RESULT: Not even close. More on this in my personal blog, will link when ready.

Play Basketball again
RESULT: I did shoot some hoops in the summer with my kids, but certainly did not reach the athletic heights I intended.

2013 was a good year for me, as I started this post saying. More clients and more travel than ever before. I created a new product - Secrets of Speak - interviewing my fellow co-stars in SPEAK: The Movie.

Success as an Area Governor, a fun High Performance Leadership project (which I will write about in January) and soon, I will get my DTM certification (goes in the mail tomorrow). 

I got back into competition, and took home trophies in Evaluation and Tall Tales at the highest level. My social media presence grew, and my personal network improved. I've built up some technology to help me video and audio record for 2014. I've absorbed a tremendous amount of information on speaking and marketing - I'll be posting my reading list from 2013 soon.

2014 can be better - in part because, for the first time in years, I feel I'm starting from a stronger place this year than last. Are you prepared to Speak & Deliver in 2014?

Sunday, December 29, 2013

How to Speak & Offend Part III of IV: How to Speak & Offend Your Fellow Toastmasters - and Soon the World

In Part I, I gave some tips to avoiding offending your audience inadvertantly. In Part II, I suggested that offending the audience is actually our job as a speaker. A few people mentioned that we should be able to speak about 'offensive' topics - and wondered where they might test their material.

Toastmasters - the worldwide non-profit dedicated to helping people develop public speaking and leadership skills - is the perfect place to be offensive. It's also a great place to learn NOT to be, and, believe it or not, an ideal place to deliberately BE offensive, in preparation to offend the world.

Now, before you go off and join a club with the intent of riling everyone up with your latest Duck Dynasty rant, take a look at the list below.

1. Know Your Club - much like my oft=repeated mantra - Know Your Audience. Every TM club around the world, despite following the same basic educational program at their core, is different. You will find a corporate club - say the one that meets at lunch on the sixth floor in your company tower - to be significantly different in makeup and manner than a local community club meeting at your library.

What those differences are isn't easily predicted - they may actually be MORE able to handle touchy topics than said community club. Some clubs meet at churches or other public venues that might hamper the discussion of certain topics. But the most important aspect isn't the location - it's the people IN the club. Are they open to topics that may push the envelope on taste and appropriateness? Even that statement is up for interpretation. Bringing up the word sex, or discussing liberal vs. conservative ideals in one club might be enough to shake them to their core, or be so passe that you better go further just to be heard above the noise.

Visit a club for a few weeks to get an idea of their personal club standards. Talk to the VP of Education. If you're new - give yourself a speech or two before going for the jugular with your assessment of your current world leader you've deemed to be the anti-Christ.

2. Turn Your Audience Into Actors. One interesting aspect of Toastmasters is that it is specifically designed to be a supportive group for you to improve your skills. One way of taking full advantage of that is by telling your audience who they need to be for your speech. In your introduction, or perhaps as an objective read by your evaluator BEFORE you give your speech, mention that your audience is a group of women looking to enforce their rights to breastfeed in public, or a meeting of the National Meatcutters Association, or a group of freshmen college students attending a meeting on Safe Sex.

This gives the audience a bit of notice, so that you don't totally jar them unnecessarily, and improves your chances for helpful feedback vs. an outraged response. They can listen to you with the ears of your desired target listener, and do a better job evaluating your delivery method without being so bothered by the nature of your content.

3. Expand & Advance - to an Advanced Club. Once you've determined the clubs parameters on subject matter you can decide, at your own risk, whether to try to push a bit in that club environment or go elsewhere. That doesn't mean going outside Toastmasters. Advanced clubs often have a higher tolerance for off-color, controversial, or more-spirited topics. Some actually specialize in it. Ask around, check the website, and make some visits. You'll usually need to stay in your regular club as a membership-requirement for an Advanced Club, but even two clubs a year is peanuts compared to most public speaking training available.

4. Organize a 'No-Holds-Barred' Meeting. Many clubs have a variety of special meetings throughout the year, from Backward Meetings to Holiday themes - why not create a meeting specifically geared to tough topics, publicize it (heck, wouldn't your local paper love to hear about a group of citizens talking about everything from gay marriage to legalized marijuana to suspending kindergartners who kiss their fellow classmates?), and give everyone a chance to be prepared, and, of course, to participate. Be sure to explain it fully at the beginning of the night, in case you have guests. And let people know if they would rather have that night off, it's completely understood.

5. Record & Judge Thyself. Are you really saying what you want to say? Is your stage demeanor what you expected? Are your word choices intentional? Separating yourself from the speech, getting outside of yourself and your passion will help you become more objective as you continue to build your message. Share it with a few trusted friends and/or a presentations coach.

6. Let Your Audience Change You. The previous four methods all focus on gauging and managing your Toastmasters audience, to help them help you help others. Keep in mind, however, that you will run into everyday people in your real-life audiences who will be offended as well, no matter your venue. Bring an eval form for everyone in the room and find out which notes you're hitting well and which are off-key, and ask them to sign their forms so you can evaluate for yourself whether their feedback will work for you. You might find the perfect way to soften a statement or tone, or you might even discover you aren't as controversial as you think you are.

If you've found other strategies, or know of an Advanced Club in your area that can offer an open audience for broader topics - please share in the comments below, or on Speak & Deliver's Facebook Page.

Offend with Intention. I mentioned this in Part I, but it bears repeating. As a Speak & Deliver reader, I'm confident you truly care about your message and what your audience gets out of it. This makes learning to be 'offensive' in the most optimal manner crucial. Being crass or inappropriate for crassness and inappropriateness' sake will not help you, your audience, or your cause. Even Tony Robbins, often the crassest of the crass, swears and offends with intention - his belief is that if you can't handle the language, you're in the wrong audience, and he's actually trying to get your to leave. For many people I know, he is considered to be a terrible example as a speaker - people often tell me how much they hate him. But, just as often, I hear from people who absolutely love him - and he's built quite a career offending with purpose, whether we agree with his purposes or not.

If your audience hasn't moved toward your message by the time you finish, you've failed. Sometimes it takes a little push, sometimes a big one. Knowing the difference is knowing how to Speak...& Deliver.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

How to Speak & Offend: Pt. II of IV - It's Our Job to Offend!

It looks like I succeeded in not really offending anyone in Part I - but I certainly got a fair amount of feedback, including many more ways people felt offended by speakers - which I will include in Part IV - How to Speak & Offend EVEN MORE.

Other readers suggested that we shouldn't avoid some of the things mentioned in the post, including Sex, Politics & Religion, but rather learn how to speak about them properly. I will address that to some degree today, and for my many Toastmasters readers, I will offer some specific tips to on how to handle these topics in your club in Part III - How to Speak & Offend Your Fellow Toastmasters, and Soon, The World. (No, really, that's the title.)

Today - let's look at this potentially offensive idea:

As Speakers, it's our JOB to offend!

If we look at 'offending' as putting people in a position where what they are currently doing in life is 'wrong', 'unsuccessful', or, more politically correctly 'open for improvement' - we are essentially putting them in position to be offended. It is simply a matter of degree.

Of course, most of us work to sugarcoat it, and give people 'tools for success' and 'sales secrets' and 'strategies to shift perspective'. We focus on how great they can become. Even Jim Collins hedged his bet with 'Good to Great'. Who wants to be featured in a book called 'Lousy to Great'?

Ultimately, it is our job to offend, or at least, potentially offend, our audiences enough to get them to think differently, change their actions, and reap greater results.

Of course, some speakers fully embrace their responsibility to offend, such as Larry Winget, the self-proclaimed "Irritational Speaker" with his 'Shut Up and Stop Whining' approach, Craig Harper, author of 'Pull Your Finger Out', and newcomer Christopher Rausch, who has his own 'Kick-Ass' brand going for him.

The secret for Larry, Craig, and Christopher, and others like them, is that they are INTENTIONAL and TRANSPARENT. A meeting planner brings them in knowing they are going to be potentially a bit controversial, and they deliver.

Sex, Politics & Religion fall under a similar umbrella. If the audience knows you will talk about these subjects, they'll be ready with open or closed minds as they choose. It's when you make the off-hand sexual joke, or out-of-the-blue political commentary, or assume everyone in the room is celebrating Christmas that you run into trouble.

I have a moment in one of my stories where I talk about a female character growing up in the 50's with the expectation of getting married and being a mom, as opposed to getting a REAL job. This, said without intention, can be incredibly offensive. Said with intention and awareness, and followed up with a smile, hands up and a backward step, and a quick self-deprecating remark that boosts my wife, quickly gets me out of hot water, while still painting the picture of the character appropriately.

Intention is the Key. Too often, speakers can offend by accident, and become useless to their audience. Be fully aware of what you're saying, how the meeting planner and their audience can be prepared to receive it, and how you can best deliver it to be true to yourself. That might mean cutting out some of your potential audiences, and it might also mean giving yourself access to audiences you wouldn't of had before.

As Scott McKain reminded me with Larry Winget's quote in his blog yesterday "You cannot create raving fans unless you are willing to create raving enemies as well".
Personally, I don't want to go as far as the "Pitbull of Public Speaking", or others of his ilk. It's just not my style. In my Win Anyway keynote, however, I wouldn't be surprised if I occasionally offend a few people in my audience, as I talk about winning and losing, about not letting the world define who they are, and challenge them to Live Anyway, Laugh Anyway, Love Anyway, even Dance Anyway - as part of winning anyway.

They might be offended at the mere thought that someone who hasn't 'won' could still 'Win Anyway'. They might get defensive about the fact that they haven't been living a 'Win Anyway' life, and shouldn't have to just because others do. Heck they might be offended just because I choose to have a, for the most part, positive attitude despite living with a multitude of challenges in my family. I've even had people offended that I've had six kids, even while knowing some could end up with Neurofibromatosis, the genetic disorder that runs in my wife's family, and affects her and three of our six kids.

And that's where it gets hairy. You WILL offend people in your audience, no matter what your topic, what you say, how you say it. Some people will be offended by your tie or your high heels. Some people will simply be offended that they have to be there, and there will even be those offended that YOU are on stage instead of THEM.

As a speaker, it's part of the job. Offend with Intention, and accept your consequences - and rewards.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

How to Speak & Offend: Part I

I get questions, every now and again. Today I'll tackle a recent favorite:

"How do I avoid offending my audience?"

Aside from the obvious answers, like showering, using deoderent, making sure your zipper is up or your blouse is buttoned to a level of decency, and not being, as a general rule, an insufferable jerk, I have some ideas.

1. Avoid SPR - Sex, Politics & Religion. If your topic isn't speaking about one of these directly, bringing it in as part of a story or a 'humorous' aside, can be risky. I recently spoke in Toronto. Easiest punchline all weekend was their crack-smoking mess of a mayor. For THEM. I went into my 12 day trip up there with the clear intention of not even mentioning it unless it was mentioned to me. When it did come up, I'd smile and nod. When asked a direct question, my stock answer was 'America's just happy there's a politician screwing up somewhere else'.

2. Don't Accuse - We are told as speakers to involve our audience, to watch our I/You ratio - but it can be easy to sound like we're accusing our audience of falling short, being unintelligent, and just plain not as good as us, the magnificent speaker. We don't mean this, of course. Well, hopefully. Asking people to think about what they would do, to imagine themselves in a situation, or if they've ever seen someone act a certain way, is a far better approach. Referring to 'Mr. X' from your own experience, or even making up a character to embody the negative behavior can also be effective. There will be a time to challenge the audience directly, but even then, you should be challenging them to do something positive to reach a result, vs. stopping behavior you don't even know if they are doing.

3. Beware Spontaneous Humor - This is a tricky one, because I am also in strong support of spontaneous humor. It can often create some great laugh lines, when you're on track with the audience. It can also put you in a tough spot with some if you aren't careful. I recently took part in a Q&A with World Champion of Public Speaking Randy Harvey up in Toronto, and, in talking about fluff speeches, mentioned they were 'like Chinese food - always leaving you hungry an hour later'. Innocuous enough, right? And an expression I commonly use. Unfortunately, we had just had Chinese food as the buffet meal that night, and the audience response was one of shock, which would have turned into offense quickly had I not immediately addressed the head of the meeting with my next comment, acknowledging the potential offense I had created. I stayed in a humorous tone, and the moment passed. But I'm sure some were still offended, and for all I know, I also offended a Chinese person or two in attendance. Beware might sound like a strong term - but it's really short for Be Aware - and that's important at all times.

4. Know Your Audience - do a little research by talking with the meeting planner and others in the company/group to find out what is off-limits to your audience. Maybe they've had layoffs recently. Perhaps they've had staff in an accident - for instance, a speaker friend of mine who often uses airplane humor talks about a client whose CEO had just died in a plane crash. Had he not done his homework, he would have put himself in a tough situation. What are your clients taboo topics, and taboo humor?

5. Dress the Part - I jokingly referred to zippers and blouses at the open, but not dressing to the right level of appropriateness can be a real turn-off to your audience. Unless part of your identity is flannel shirts and cowboy boots, and the people who hired you know it, I don't advise showing up in that combination in front of a corporate audience. Inspired by Steve Jobs years ago, I once wore slacks, a black turtleneck, and a nice suit-jacket to give a keynote. Afterwords I had several people take me aside and tell me they were offended I hadn't worn a suit that morning. Clearly I was not Steve Jobs. And I hadn't focused enough on #4 - Knowing My Audience so I'd know what was appropriate. In addition to types of clothes, watch the shoes you wear, the jewelry you choose, the makeup you wear, and any fragrance you may choose for an event.

6. Blue Language - for those of you younger than 40, 'Blue Language' refers to swearing. As socially acceptable as swearing has become, and as tempting as it is to use it for a quick laugh, it can be a connection and credibility killer. Just as with clothing, if it's part of your identity as a speaker, make sure your audience knows it ahead of time. Even then, know your audience, and to what level you can push. In the annals of Toastmasters, there's a story of Tony Robbins giving his Golden Gavel acceptance speech, and, as he is well- know for doing, used a fair amount of 'Blue Language'. It's part of his schtick - to break his audience out of their thought patterns. A good approach, perhaps, for people who have paid you thousands of dollars to attend your personal event, but a cataclysmic approach for many of the older, conservative Toastmasters in attendance.


These may all seem like common-sense tactics, but you'd be surprised how easy it is to lose track of your common sense in the heat of the moment. In other cases, 'You Don't Know What You Don't Know'. And, of course, there's always the thought - 'Well, it'll work for me'. It might. but it might not. Don't say you weren't worned.

As I've alluded to with dress and language, sometimes offending your audience is part of your strategy - and I'll address that in Part II. In the meantime, what offends YOU from the stage? Please share your experiences below - you never know who you'll be helping - to Speak & Deliver!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Toastmasters Friday: Tall Tales 2013 'It's Gotta Be The Shoes'

For Toastmasters around the world, the contest seasons, Spring & Fall, normally consist of Table Topics (an impromptu speaking exercise requiring the speaker to talk on a topic the are unprepared for for 1:00 to 2:30 minutes), Evaluation (where they listen to a target speaker, then one by one offer a 1:30 to 3:30 minute evaluation), Humorous Speech (4:30 to 7:30 min), and the International Speech (also 4:30 to 7:30 min) - which can take the contestant all the way to the title of World Champion of Public Speaking.

However, there is a FIFTH contest that occasionally makes it into the mix - Tall Tales - a 2:30 to 5:30 minute story that offers an opportunity for speakers and judges alike to stretch themselves, since no one seems to agree on exactly what a Tall Tale IS!

For some, it's a lying contest - "I caught a fish THIS big!". For others, it's more of a sharing of a legendary story, ala Paul Bunyan, but since it must be wholly original (well, at least 75%), it isn't a story of legend until the speaker makes it so...

The rulebook describes it as such: 

1. The subject for the Tall Tales speech must be of a highly exaggerated, improbable nature and have a theme or plot.
2.  Humor and props may be used to support or illustrate the speech.

Clears it up well, right? Well, not so much.

For me, I like the storyteller approach - a true story around the campfire type Tall Tale. While I acted out a few actions and gestures, I used a narrative approach. My speech wasn't laugh-out-loud funny - only 1.5 laughs. The previous five speakers all used themselves as the protagonist, and gave 'fish stories' to a point - something crazy happened to them, or they were a wacky character. Accents, props, and costumes abounded. My speech was going to stick out like a sore thumb, for better or worse. As the last speaker of the night, it was either going to end well, or with a magnificent THUD.

What do you think? Please share any comments below.

As it turns out, I ended up taking home first place - but I wouldn't have been shocked to not place at all. Not that I didn't think that it wasn't good, or that I didn't do a decent job presenting it, but it would have been easy for the judges to throw it out when viewed against the other speeches and their approaches that evening.

I wrote 'It's Gotta Be The Shoes' ten years ago - competed with it in another district, up to the Division level. It went through some pretty big changes over the last few months, but the core story has remained the same. I would also trust that a decade later my delivery skills have improved a bit. The tale is one of my favorites - and while it will now be retired as a contest speech, hopefully I'll have plenty of opportunities to share it in the future.

You don't have to wait for your District to have a Tall Tales contest - hold one yourself. Get a few clubs together for a friendly competition or showcase event. Make it an open house. Our just have a Tall Tales night in your own club.

Pure storytelling is a wonderful skill to develop, and will help you in every other facet of your speaking life - whether you're a motivator, a trainer, a preacher, or simply a water-cooler raconteur. Have some fun, and remember to always Speak & Deliver.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

13 Speaking Lessons in 30 Days

The five weeks between Oct 21 and Nov 24 were the busiest speaking weeks I've had since working for the student travel company, Ambassador Programs, a few years back.

I've scaled back my speaking considerably since spending such a high percentage of my time away from my family in that particular job, and focused on coaching emerging speakers to discover, develop, & deliver their keynotes, as well as work with Toastmasters speech contestants. With six kids, three of whom are battling with significant medical challenges, this has been the 'Win Anyway' choice for me.

When several opportunities came up this Winter that I found I could justify taking time for, they reminded me, at least for a little while, what it feels like to be a working speaker again, not just a working coach.

A few lessons learned, re-learned, and/or reinforced:

A. Roll With The Punches. You can't control everything, and often not even what you thought you could control.

Even if you type introductions, even if you talk to your introducer before time. Even if you give specific time instructions. Whenever you put timing, introductions, room setup, microphone and projector tech, back-of-the-room sales, etc., in the hands of someone else, you never know what you're going to get. Sometimes the results are exactly what you want, other times, you just want to tear your hair out.

I had some fantastic results and some not-so-fantastic results over this time - and nothing so bad as to render the presentation a failure occurred. Just remember that everyone is typically looking to help you create your best result, for yourself and for them - so act in good humor and with great patience.

B. Always Dress Like You'll Be At The Head Table. Because the one time you don't, you'll walk into the evening dinner and there your name-tag will be.

C. Don't Forget Your Chargers. Seriously - such a simple mistake, but it cost me a weekend of reviewable videos of myself, and potential testimonials. If possible, have a USB backup. This goes for phones, laptops, cameras - anything that takes power, of course.

D.1 People Want to Hear You. You're there because the organizer wanted their audience to hear your message - your audience is there hoping you're going to give them something worth hearing.

D.2 Connect. You don't have to win over your audience - it's not an argument. Just connect with them. Make them laugh in the first 30 to 60 seconds. Better yet, in your introduction. Find common ground, so you're not perceived as thinking you're above them. Look your introducer in the eye if they shake your hand, and do the same with your audience before you start talking - let your emcee sit down as you do so.

E. Standing Ovations Mean Nothing and Everything. You'll know the difference if you know your audience and message. Some standing O's come out of tradition and respect, others come out of emotion and gratitude. Don't tie your success or failure to them - just appreciate the moment, and acknowledge it by not just walking off-stage immediately, or at least stopping midway on your way out to take a quick bow, nod or wave. They want to know you care that they care.

F. Don't Underestimate Their Willingness to Bring You Home With Them. At least your books, etc. I sold out of all my materials in Toronto, and could have easily brought more books, as well as my two audio products with me. I still have a few to send out this week to people who bought on a last-minute voucher system. Despite my years as a salesman, or maybe because of, I hesitate to look like I'm all about hawking my product. But the people who left my table with nothing because I didn't bring enough don't want to hear that.

G. Always Be Ready To Speak. Not just earlier in the program than you thought, but on occasions you might be spontaneously introduced to say a few words because you're at the head table. And not dressed for it...

H. Your Body Won't Always Cooperate. Travel, in general, is exhausting. For me, between my leg, my back, my Sciatica, and my bad eyes, it's a wonder I can even operate in the real world. I woke up several days in Toronto unable to walk in the morning more than a step or two. The show had to go on, though, and it did. For you, it might be an onset of the flu, or laryngitis, a fall on the ice - who knows. We're frail creatures. But unless you're bleeding out, you can typically find your way to the stage, and your message will find its way to its audience.

I.  Power Point is Overrated, but Still Tempting. Of all the presentations I gave, the least successful involved PowerPoint. Maybe it is my own comfort level, my own disdain for the program with my own presentations. (Some of my clients use Power Point, and we get tremendous results.) But for the more motivational style of what I do, it is just typically unnecessary. Then I hear someone talk about learning styles, and I start to wonder about it all over again.

J. I Still Get Nervous. I wrote a post about this in October - specifically with the contest process in Toastmasters - but I still get nervous in the 'real world' too. Not shaky or short of breath - but anxious about my content, my humor, and pretty much everything around the event. I doubt, however, many in my audience would know that. I would like to get my content down to the point that I'm not still reviewing even an outline during dessert...

K. The Most Important Result. For me it's still the one person out of 20, or 200, who comes up and says they needed to hear what I had to say that night. Who tells me I've changed their thinking, encouraged them, or given them a new tool. That one person who says something usually represents a much larger group of those who will never tell you - but even if they don't, and you've touched just that one single person, it's better than if you stayed home and watched Blacklist, right? Right.

Those are some of the best lessons I learned/relearned/reinforced that might help you going forward. There are also a couple of additional tidbits just for me - like the thought that I still really enjoy being on the road and speaking. With my kids getting a bit older, and a little more stability creeping in on the health front (knock on wood), I might need to get out there more.

I also re-learned that I have something of value to give to my audiences, whether I'm training them to Speak Anyway, or sharing a Tall Tale on the District Stage, giving a workshop on Evaluation Skills or how to take your Toastmasters experience to a higher level, or giving my Win Anyway & Lead Anyway Keynotes. When we sit on the sidelines long enough, doubt can creep in.

So don't sit. Get out there and Speak - & Deliver.


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