Monday, December 31, 2007

Authenticity Rule #1

Know Thyself

Effective communicators share a common goal of cutting straight to the hearts and minds of their audience. AR #1, therefore, is to Know Thyself. Self-intimacy cuts the deepest path to understanding others. It is also completely impossible to be authentic if you don't hold a firm understanding of who you are.

Achieving Authenticity...
  1. Reflect often on your beliefs and values
  2. Journal
  3. Attend conferences to exercise your self-awareness
  4. Think about why you do things
  5. Gather around you friends and family that let you be yourself and challenge you to be the best of yourself.
The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning to work on becoming yourself. -- Anna Quindlen

People travel to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars; and they pass by themselves without wondering. -- St. Augustine

Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.
-- Carl Jung

One of the secrets of life is to be honestly who you are. Who others want you to be, who you used to be, and who you may some day become ... these are fantasies. To be honestly who you are is to give up your illusions and face today with courage.
-- Bill Purdin

Friday, December 28, 2007

New Site = New Focus

Welcome to the new presentation coaching blog from YourNextSpeaker. I have moved all the previous posts from our old address at Those 50 posts are full of useful tips and tricks for the novice, as well as the advanced speaker and stretch from February to December 2007.

With this move to the Blogger platform (which is where I host my Personal Leadership Insight blog), the title has changed to Authenticity Rules. The purpose of this blog for 2008 is to help you write content, prepare to present, set-up the room environment, and deliver your material in the most authentic and natural way possible. As you get better at knowing how to bring you to the table every time, you presentations' impact will go up. But not just you, the very best of you. Authenticity Rules.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Presentation Zen Book!

I am a regular reader and huge fan of Garr Reynolds' blog, Presentation Zen. He has released a book of the same name that is an instant classic and is a perfect read to get your mind right and your presentations sharpened as you head into the 2008 season. Buy Garr's new book directly from the publisher here.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Light At The End of the Funnel

Other than authenticity, our chief purpose as communicators of ideas is to help our audiences see the light at the end of the funnel. Translated...

1. Create a funnel of ideas, images, concepts, logic and emotions

2. Either broaden it or tighten it depending on which end of the funnel you start

3. Create the opportunity for a light bulb to click for each person

Contained within this three step process is a playground (the funnel), action (the broadening or tightening of the funnel), and reward (the light). Sounds like fun, huh?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Mark Sanborn on Confidence

Great post from Mark Sanborn on confidence.


"Too little self-confidence results in timidity and too much in arrogance. The amounts aren’t absolute so one person’s healthy self-confidence might be interpreted by another as arrogance. It is good to remember what Lou Holtz and John Heisler said in The Fighting Spirit: “You’re never as good as everyone tells you when you win, and you’re never as bad as they say when you lose.” A little modesty is a good thing for even the most competent professional. What is confidence? I define it as competence coupled with certainty. It is foolish to think yourself competent if you’re not and of little value to be competent if you don’t believe you are."

Friday, December 7, 2007

Memorization Station at the PLI Blog

Click over to my Personal Leadership Insight blog for a post about how to memorize any written content...

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Who You Got In The Room?

It is obviously important to know in advance who you are going to have in your audience. Why are they there? What did they come to learn/do/see? Who are they? Here is a simple breakdown of how to understand an audience member's motivation walking in the room...

Passionate Paul - "I absolutely want to be in the room."

I am here to learn something specific that will help me either solve a problem or add to a solution I am currently experiencing.

How to Spot Me - I am sitting in the front rows. I am asking you questions beforehand. I am taking notes. I am challenging you for more, better, deeper, more specific information.

How to Connect With Me - Give me your best content up-front. Quickly let me know you have what I think you have. Win me over with substance.

Curious Chris - "I think I want to be in the room."

Your program title looks interesting, you look interesting, etc. I don't have an urgent need for your content, but I think I might like either you and/or your content.

How to Spot Me - I am cordial toward you. I am basically like Passionate Paul, only I'm not quite as eager or anxious.

How to Connect With Me - Make the experience great. Attack all my senses with music, interaction, reflection, information, etc. Win me over with interestingness.

Social Sally - "I have ulterior motives for being in the room."

I am here because my friends are, my co-workers are, or it is the better than being somewhere else. I am not really interested in you or what you have to say.

How to Spot Me - I will be checked into the room, just not checked into you or what you have going on. I will be chatting with my people in the room and/or texting/calling my people not in the room.

How to Connect With Me - To get to me, you are going to have to go through the side door. You can't hit me directly with information or even interaction. I will put up a wall. Ask non-responsive questions that I may have wrestled with recently. Tell a story that I can relate to. If you do interaction, let me stay with my friends. Win me over with indirection.

Hostage Harriet - "I absolutely don't want to be in the room."

I am here because I was forced to be here. I didn't have a choice. If I had a choice, I would certainly choose to be somewhere else.

How to Spot Me - Arms crossed. No eye contact. No response to questions. I might be abrasive or disruptive, but not necessarily.

How to Connect With Me - Don't force the issue. Just assume I'm not in the room. If I try to disrupt you, deal with me quickly and privately. Be real with me, though. I'm still a person with emotions. It just so happens my barriers are up higher than others. But you can't take them down. You have to give me a good reason to take them down on my own. Win me over with respect.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Have Some Fun With The Serious Stuff

I spoke to 250 middle school students this year and we covered the conference rules right off the bat. However, instead of just covering the rules and moving on (which would have been very boring), we had some fun with them. We actually had fun with the name "rules," not the rules themselves (which were very serious.) The students were in teams and I gave the teams a challenge to come up with the funniest, most creative new name for the word "rules."

We just so happened to have a huge beach ball on hand and some sharpies, so once a team decided on their contest submission, they sent a representative forward and we inscribed it in the beach ball.

The students had a blast, their creativity was sparked and we started the conference on a high note, not a down one. The winning team also had the honor of having their creation mentioned all conference long.

So, the next time you are called to cover the rules, cover the Conference Wooblycootins instead.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

If You Need Music For Your Programs

We use music all the time in our keynotes and workshops. If you would like to view the lists and purchase the songs we use in our programs, follow this...

1. Download and install iTunes (you don't need to have an iPod or a Mac)

2. Once inside iTunes, go to the iTunes Store.

3. In the Search field in the top right corner, type in yournextspeaker (no spaces).

4. Click the link in the left column titled Playlists. This will get you to both our Fast playlists and our Slow playlists.

Enjoy and remember to always keep your program music Clean, Powerful and Positive!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Start Small and Work Your Way Up

When you begin your presentation planning, start as basic as possible. Start with one phrase that sums up your core belief about your topic. Start with one question that could serve as the catalyst for your audience's thinking. Begin small and then grow from there - keeping only the important, timely, relevant and unique pieces of information.

This strategy will keep your information load low and drive most (if not all) of your content back to one central theme, point, lesson, etc. Both of these are necessary if you want your audience to retain and act upon your presentation.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Characteristics of an Effective Leadership Game or Exercise

Following are the characteristics we look for when creating and developing our leadership games and exercises:
  • Grouped in teams or partners
  • Audience paced, not presenter paced (turn it on and it runs)
  • No to low material/props
  • Includes a competitive element
  • Physical movement
  • Challenging, but inclusive
  • 20 - 40 minutes in length
  • Simple and clear instructions
  • Full use of already existing resources in training room/building/campus
  • Safe and friendly
  • Appropriate music prepared

Print this list. Cross-reference it with your existing material and use it as a checklist during your next workshop or training session planning time.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A Little Less Information And a Lot More Understanding

In a training environment, you have a choice to make between two significantly different modes of operation...

1. You are more interested in the audience receiving a ton of information. You believe the value of a training program is based on the amount of content given. Your trainings involve a ton of "sitting and getting." You speak and the audience listens (or tries to.) Not much interaction, not much audience participation and not much of anything other than you talking.

2. You are more interested in the audience receiving a ton of understanding. You believe the value of a training program is based on the connectiveness of the content given. Your trainings are interactive, discussion-based and both mentally and physically engaging.

Path one is very presenter-focused. Listen to me. Here is what I know.

Path two is very audience-focused. Let's work on this together. I want you to experience the learning, not just hear the learning points.

Pick your path. Choose wisely. Let's hope for your sake and your next audience's sake that you choose number two.

Monday, October 15, 2007

10 No-No's for PowerPoint Use

Following these 10 points won't make your Power Points remarkable, but they will keep them from being horrible...

  • No bullet points
  • No shadowed text
  • No clip art
  • No red backgrounds
  • No text larger than 64 font
  • No text smaller than 24 font
  • No slide transitions
  • No reading of the slide content
  • No more than 15 slides... ever

Monday, October 8, 2007

Buy Yourself 15 Minutes of Attention

If your group meets in the same place on a regular basis and/or if you are presenting at a day-long or longer conference, buy yourself at least 15 minutes of attention by moving the group to a new location. Facility fatigue can set in over time and make it more difficult than it needs to be to get and keep your audience's attention. Move to a new room and they will become new listeners!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Energy Gaps

After spending the week traveling Colorado and speaking to over 1,600 high school students, I am reminded of the power of one simple strategy you can use in your programs (either keynotes or workshops) to increase the learning, the interaction and the energy:

Remove the Energy Gaps!

What does this mean? This means you need to...

1. Get the audience members sitting as close to each other as possible.

2. Remove the space between you and the audience.

3. Get everyone's physical direction and mental direction turned towards you.

Do these three simple things and your programs will seem more powerful because they will be more powerful!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Introduction Formula

When you need to give an introduction of a speaker, sticking to these five elements will keep it short and sweet.

The 5 Elements of a Great Speaker Introduction

1. Say their name and say it RIGHT. Spell it out phonetically if you have to. (Example - Law-buck, instead of Laubach.)

2. Say their current organization and how the work it is doing relates to the audience members.

3. Say their expertise and how it relates to the presentation's focus. (This is more about the content.)

4. Say a little about why this particular speaker is credible. (This is more about the speaker.)

5. Say something unique (interesting, fun, etc.) about the presenter. This will require you doing some research either before the day or right before the speech.

Bonus tip: Do what you can to get the main points of these five in your head and easily accessible. Get them learned to the point where you don't have to read the introduction word for word, but don't memorize it word for word either. Good luck!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Quick Tips on Television

Click on the following link to view an interview I did about 5 Quick Speaking Tips with Oklahoma City's News Channel 5.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Five Misconceptions of Speaking

1. I have to get rid of my nervousness. "Your task is not to get rid of the butterflies, but get them to fly in formation," Zig Ziglar. Your goal is to control your nervousness, harness it and turn the negative energy into positive energy. To do this, you need to accept the fact you will be nervous, take deep breaths, confidently know your material and break down the barrier between you and the audience as quickly as possible.

2. I have to give a ton of information to look credible. Albert Einstein said, "Any fool can make things bigger and more complex. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction." Especially in today's busy and noisy world, audiences appreciate a presenter who makes things simple and who takes less time than they are given. Credibility is not accomplished by data volume, but by presenter authenticity.

3. I have to please everyone in the audience. There are at least four different personality types in your audience at any given time. The fun-loving people want interaction and humor. The fact-loving people want data and logic. The people-loving people want stories and emotions. The order-loving people want you to know what you are doing. You can't please everyone all the time, but you can please everyone at least more than once.

4. I have to run a meeting or presentation a certain way because "that is how it has always been done." This misconception is all about risk. It is shocking how many professionals hamstring their personal effectiveness and their presentation's impact simply because they don't understand risk always comes before value.

5. I have to assume people are not going to listen and are not going to get involved because they don't for anyone else. If the presenter doesn't take control of the room, the room will take control of the presentation. The speaker to audience ratio makes the old axiom, "expectations equal behavior" hold very true for presentations. Most audiences don't actively listen to presentations because they aren't worth listening to. Yours should be different.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

The Presentation Expert's Seven Skills

The following seven skills are at the core of what we teach to our professional, pageant and student presentation coaching clients...

1. Be Authentic. Authenticity is your number one goal. The best communicators know who they are, have a real-life bond with their content and strive to make a genuine connection with their audience. The biggest challenge on the road to speaking success is getting out of your own way and letting the best of the real you shine through.

2. Be Nervous.
Nervousness and excitement are chemically exactly the same.To the human body, there is no difference between being very nervous and very excited. Don't worry about getting rid of your nerves. Begin down the path of controlling your nerves by simply thinking about them differently. Accept that it is ok to be nervous and leverage your nerves to keep you on your toes.

3. Interaction is the Key.
Engage your audience quickly to control their attention. Almost as important as controlling your nerves is controlling the audience's focus. Get them involved in your presentation right from the start. Ask a question. Have them share with a partner. Get them physically moving. Make them laugh. Etc.

4. Concrete, Visual, Simple.
Send your message through the CVS test. In today's noisy world, the most effective messages cut to the core quickly. Make sure your messages are Concrete (don't make me search too hard for the meaning), Visual (help me see it) and Simple (I'm busy - your message shouldn't be.) The quickest way to achieve CVS is through good story-telling.

5. Index and Filter.
Great presenters are great at preparing their content. They index information based on a set range of categories, topics, types of content, etc. they deem necessary for their presentations. We refer to these as buckets. Then they fill these buckets as full as they can. The important step comes during preparation - filtering down the information based on authenticity and the CVS test.

6. Talk With Your Eyes.
Your body language sends thousands of messages while your words only send a few. The most important body language is eye contact. You should make it with specific people and make it often. Think of any presentation as a string of smaller conversations with a number of different people. Beyond that, think moderation and variety when it comes to hand movements, walking, pace, volume, and facial expressions.

7. You can do it.
You can and should develop your ability to communicate. Communicating effectively is one-part technical, one-part mental and one-part habitual. No matter your experience level, all three of these can be sharpened and improved. More importantly, because our relationships, influence level and in many cases, earning ability are dramatically impacted by our speaking skills, you should work to implement these skills this week. If you need more help, contact us. We would love to work with you.

Monday, August 20, 2007

How Giving Driving Directions Matters

When you give driving directions to other people, you belong in one of the three following camps:

The Left/Right Camp
The North/South/East/West Camp
The Combo Camp

Which camp you belong to indicates something about your communication effectiveness.

1. The Left/Right Camp
The Left/Right campers communicate primarily from a "self-experience" bias. Giving directions with the perception-based language of left and right is good if you are giving directions to yourself as you are driving, but bad if you are giving directions to others. You don't know from which direction they are approaching turns, thus each correct turn could be left or right.

To say it another way, consider two guys standing on either side of a street looking at each other and a car drives by. If these two gentlemen are Left/Right campers and you asked them which way the car was traveling, one would say left, one would say right. Even though they seemingly have totally opposing viewpoints, they actually agree on which way the car was traveling. They are simply communicating from a "self-experience" bias.

In the real world, this type of communicating can and does cause real problems. It is too self-focused. It doesn't take into account how the information will be perceived by other people with different experiences. If you find yourself wondering why people can't get on-board with your ideas, why others don't seem to see your point of view, or why people don't pay enough attention to what you have to say, you could very well be a Left/Right camper.

2. The North/South/East/West Camp
This camp is full of people who communicate in a more concrete, visual and simple manner. They use North/South/East/West when they give driving directions because of two reasons:
N/S/E/W is a universally accepted standard that everyone understands and has used all of their life. Understandably, some people have difficulty finding them from time to time, but they are findable.

N/S/E/W is unchanging. No matter which direction you are headed, North is always North, South is always South, etc. Therefore, the language is not "self-experience" based, but rather "everyone-experience" based.

To apply the North/South/East/West driving directions dynamic to your everyday life as a communicator, you must locate common-ground very quickly with people. You must form a frame-of-reference from which everyone can communicate. It is very similar to how members of the Armed Forces communicate. No matter where you go, the language and the corresponding action protocol is exactly the same from every Armed Forces soldier everywhere. This sameness allows them to work more efficiently and quickly and avoid the confusion and misdirection that ambiguity and "self-experience" language creates. You need to do the same.

3. The Combo Camp
The Combo Camp's positive inclusion of concrete N/S/E/W language is negatively offset by giving too much information. Direction givers in the Combo Camp think the quality of their directions goes up as the quantity goes up. This results in the problem of information overload.

But Combo campers know it, so they say it. This is the same dynamic that happens in the real world. People typically give too much information when communicating ideas. A perfect example is PowerPoint slides. The typical PowerPoint presentation includes too many slides and too much content on each slide (the most effective PowerPoint presentations are visually-based, not text-based.) Great communicators filter out the unimportant and only give the absolutely vital.

Your task as a communicator is to be concrete, simple and visual like the North/South/East/West campers, to avoid the "self-experience" curse of the Left/Right campers and to avoid the information overload that plagues the Combo campers.

[Thanks to David Graham for the "two guys across the street" analogy.]

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Putting the Power Back Into PowerPoint Presentations

Chances are good you give PowerPoint presentations. Chances are even better you are doing it wrong. You are not to blame though. Your peers offer poor examples of how to leverage the power of PowerPoint. This article is about how to help you put the power back in PowerPoint.

As a Professional Speaker and Executive Presentation Coach, I have seen PowerPoint used for good and for bad. When used effectively, it is visually stimulating, communicates only the most important points, and makes complicated ideas more digestible. When used poorly, PowerPoint is a distracting crutch that actually diminishes the audience’s retention of your ideas and concepts. Poor PowerPoint is information heavy and wordy.

The changes you need to make will take the focus off the screen and place it on the connection between you and your audience. All presentations are emotional at some level. Therefore, your goal as a presenter is to transfer emotion. Even highly technical presentations aren’t about the numbers alone. They are about either how you feel about the numbers and/or what you are or aren’t going to do about the numbers.

Make your PowerPoint presentations more interesting, more informative (less is more), and more powerful by following these strategies…

PowerPoint should be used only when you need to add visual support (pictures, graphs, videos, etc.) to your presentation.

If you are going to give out copies of your PowerPoint slides to the audience, wait until the end of your presentation.

Go to and to purchase engaging images as cheap as $1 per image.

Fonts should be at least 30 point and never more than 20 words per slide.

No more than 15 slides. Ever!

Use dark backgrounds and light text (or vice-versa) and never use red or yellow text.

Never read what is on the slide (unless it is a very short phrase).

Type “Really Bad PowerPoint Seth Godin” into Google to access a free PDF with more tips on improving your PowerPoint use.

Continue to visit this blog to access more useful presentation strategies. Call us at YourNextSpeaker and let us put the power back into all your presentations. 405.216.5050.

Monday, July 30, 2007

How to Build a Compelling Story

From one of the 40 blogs I read on a daily basis, Angela Booth's Writing Blog...

I'm a fan of "one minute" fiction. These are short stories of around a thousand words or less.
These short fiction pieces make a great change of pace for your journal. If you're new to fiction, here's a fast way to structure a story. This works for short stories of course, but you can also use it in an extended form (keep adding complications) for a novel.

Here’s the Quick Story Structure:

• Introduction

• Complication

• Consequence

• Relevance

The Introduction is the setup, the "engine" that sets the story in motion. A static situation changes, as when a man wins the lottery, or when a wife discovers that her husband is having an affair, or when someone is fired, or whatever.

The Complication makes a bad situation worse. If the man wins the lottery, he can’t find the winning ticket. Cluster or free write 20 complications. Force yourself to think of 20, and don’t stop until you've reached that number.

The Consequence is what happens as a result of the conflict that's created from the Introduction and the Complication.

Your story must have Relevance. It's the theme, whether it's love conquers all, do as you would be done by, don't take anything for granted, etc. You should know what your story's theme is, but you don’t need to state it explicitly.

A prompt for your one minute fiction

I give my writing students short prompts to kick start their one minute fiction. Here's a prompt students enjoy:

You're on a crowded commuter flight. You're on your way to give a presentation to tender for a contract. If your company doesn’t get the contract, it will be forced into bankruptcy. The person next to you is a talker. You need to work. You...

Write around 500 words, telling us what happens next.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Your Role Determines Your Effectiveness

From my Personal Leadership Insight blog...

My business partner, Jonathan Smith - Professional Speaker, Author, and interview coach for hundreds of successful communicators (including the last two Miss Americas), has identified three primary roles people choose when they open their mouth to speak in front of a group.

1. The Speaker - Their focus is the performance. Over time this focus demands perfection. This need for consistency and perfection too often kills authenticity and blocks their credibility.

2. The Educator - Their focus is the information. The information is king. This need for quantity of information creates attention fatigue and disconnects the emotional side of the exchange.

3. The Communicator - Their focus is the transfer. The goal is simply to take what is in the communicator's heart and transfer it to each audience member's mind. Seth Godin says that all communication is a transfer of emotion. Whatever it is you need to accomplish, don't let your need for perfection or a bad case of information overload prevent you from being effective!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007 Masterful Communication Links

On my leadership blog ( I have links to my almost 300 links. They are organized by the ten Personal Leadership Insight Essentials (Vision, Integrity, Innovative, etc.) The group that is the largest is the Masterful Communication group. Go to this link to directly access these 65 links dealing with every aspect of how to communicate better...

Rhett's Masterful Communication Links

Friday, June 29, 2007

Keeping an Audience's Attention

Here are six tips on keeping an audience's attention in a workshop environment...

(The format is "Challenge" - "Solution")

1. Volume - Obviously having microphones will take care of this one. However, even without microphones, you can create "triggers" to focus their attention: "when I say Cheerio clap three times and look this way", "repeat after me", etc.

2. Round Tables - This configuration is great for having to do a ton of writing, but it absolutely kills a trainers ability to maintain order, attention and focus. That is why I use the technique of packing the audience up to the front of the room (or the back) with just their chairs and their books. It gets everyone close together. It gets every one's chair and thus their attention focused one direction. It removes the energy gaps between the people. It takes away everything on the tables that could distract the audience.

3. Listening Fatigue - I stick to the 7-minute rule. The audience needs to change the way they input information every 7-minutes or so. The different techniques you can use are: talk to them, have them talk to each other, have one of them talk to the group, have a group discussion, have them read something, have them think/reflect, have them listen to music/audio, have them watch/listen to a video, have them do demonstrations for each other, do an activity, or do a demonstration. By sticking close to this time rule, you create a pace to your workshop that doesn't allow for the audience to lose attention.

4. Information Overload - Especially in long-days or long-sessions format, this concept is critical. Information overload kills attention span. The best formula is to take the very top one, two or three concepts or ideas or questions or training points and go deeper into those few. This formula trumps the "cover 10-15 points" formula every time because after one of two hours the audience's information receiving pipeline is full and they start shutting down. They are getting way too much information to handle and ultimately they learn less even though more content is given.

5. Hearing the Same 'Ole Stuff - As soon as your audience starts to hear something being covered that they have heard before, their natural response is to shut down their listening. Our task as presenters is to say the same 'ole stuff, but to say it and debrief it and "activity" it in new ways using new unique language and new unique labels.

6. Lack of Rapport With Presenter - A few rapport-building techniques: humor, mingling with the audience, learning their names, having high expectations of them, laughing at yourself, making your content fun, putting a competitive drive into your content. The primary reason why I get high remarks from audiences is because I connect with them on an emotional level. It just so happens that the emotion I spark in them is primarily humor. Different styles call for different emotional connections. Every style has an emotional connection that can be brought to the table, it is just a matter of figuring out where that sweet spot is for you. Great presenting is about transferring emotion. And by tapping into that vein with people, they almost can't help but stay attentive and focused because they are drawn to you and the emotions you are stirring in them.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

5 Questions to Ask During Presentation Development

Click over to my Personal Leadership Insight Blog to get this post...

Monday, June 18, 2007

Congratulations Miss Oklahoma 2007!

Congratulations to Makenna Smith, Miss Oklahoma 2007. Makenna is one of our presentation and pageant coaching clients. My business partner Jonathan Smith ( is now shooting for Miss America number three (the current Miss America, Lauren Nelson, and last year's Miss America, Jennifer Berry, were both clients of Jonathan).

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Warm Them Up Before You Start

Icebreakers are a very yesterday tool. Facilitators who use icebreakers operate from a flawed theory of presenting. They think they need to use the first few minutes of their time building rapport and getting the folks in the room "warmed-up" to each other, the content and the presenter. This doesn't work.

A better theory is based on the fact that we have about 30-seconds to get buy-in from an audience member. This means that the "warming-up" needs to happen even before we officially begin - to maximize the power and effectiveness of those first, critical 30-seconds. In the classroom, this is called "bell work." This means you have something for the students to do from the moment they walk into the classroom, even before the bell rings and class officially starts. Here are a few techniques I use in my programs to get the audience members started even before I start...

Have music playing

Arrange the seating so they are forced to sit next to someone

Have an engaging question on a PowerPoint or easel pad

Have a set of engaging questions in a PowerPoint show (have the slides change every 5-10 seconds)

Get in the audience members' zone - roam the room, ask questions, listen

Give the audience an actual task to perform before the workshop starts - and make sure it is something that "laters" can do as they slowly stroll in

Most importantly, be in control of what the room feels like, looks like, and acts like even before you officially start!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Great E-Book for Professional Speakers

Scott Ginsberg is the Name Tag Guy. He has a number of valuable, relevant and straight-to-the-point E-Books and articles on his web site. His "234 Things I've Learned About Writing, Delivering and Marketing Speeches" is a great book for the professional speaker and a good one for any speaker.

Here is the link to the E-Book -

Here is the link to his website -


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Best Train-the-Trainer Book Out There!

If you facilitate groups on a regular basis (teachers, student leaders, workshop facilitators, corporate trainers, etc.) you need to invest in this book! I have read many of books like this throughout my 15 years of speaking and this one blows the rest out of the water! It is written specifically for teachers, but the learning principles are applicable across the board - particularly if your end goal is audience engagement, content retention and post-session behavior change!

Quantum Teaching: Orchestrating Student Success
Bobbi DePorter, Mark Reardon, Sarah Singer Nourie

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Don't Bury the Lead

In journalism there is a principle called "burying the lead." This is where rookie writers hide or don't even know the main interest story in the story. They bury it down the page and readers get lost early and lose interest. Great journalist know that they need to start with the lead, throw it out there early, spark your reader's interest and then spend the rest of the words on satisfying this interest.

As speakers we need to remember this principle. Start with your primary point. Spark their interest. Get them asking questions. Make it relate to them. Give your audience a reason to listen to you and they will!

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

How to Communicate Like a Master

Here are three traits of improvement to learn how to be a masterful communicator (Masterful Communication is one of the ten PLI Essentials...)




How do you get there?

Confidence as a communicator is achieved through specific experience (understand what type of communication you need to be great at and then practice that) and by keeping your focus on others (the less you think about yourself, the less you think about how you can't do something or don't know something, etc.)

Clarity is achieved by communicating in concrete terms and by keeping your message very simple. Every communicator and speaker should read, re-read, and then re-read again Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath.

Commitment is achieved by deciding to deliver every time you have a communication experience that you know you need to hit out of the park and by deciding to improve your communication abilities every day.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Flexibility for the Audience

I had a client tonight say that the program I brought to their conference was the best ever (this was their seventh year) because they could tell I deviated from my "planned performance" to meet the needs of the audience. You can do this when you have...

1. An understanding of what an audience looks like when they need a change
2. An understanding of the timing it takes to make the shift successfully
3. Enough material to have a replacement pool to pull from

All three of these things come from just being out there speaking and from watching and learning from people who are great at it!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Meat-Loaf Expert

Where should you go to get advice when sharpening your speaking skills? Think meat-loaf!
When I first took my speaking business full-time, I waited tables at an upscale restaurant in Tulsa to help make ends meet, [The Polo Grill]. The owner and executive chef said he made the best meatloaf in the country. I asked him how he knew. How can you really tell whether your meatloaf is better than another, first of all, and above that, how do you know that it is actually "the best meatloaf in the country?" His answer was that he sought out the leading expert on meatloaf (talk about a weird choice of profession) and he said it was indeed the best.

When you seek out advice on developing your technical speaking skills, make absolutely certain you seek out a "meatloaf expert" - someone who knows what works and what doesn't work for a broad swath of audience members. Anyone can tell you whether they personally like or dislike what you are doing up front, but that is just one opinion. Seek out a professional and have them tell you what to add and what to take away.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Make Your Message Stick

If you give presentations regularly, go right out and get a copy of "Made to Stick" by Dan and Chip Heath. I am half-way through the book after reading it for four hours because I am A) making notes on almost every page and B) stopping to work on ideas for my presentations that the book has sparked.

Buy it on Amazon

The Made To Stick web site

If you aren't ready to buy the book, then at least download this free manifesto from ChangeThis. The manifesto, written by the brothers Heath, is focused on strategy, but it discusses many of the key learnings from the book.

Manifesto Link

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Holding Your Audience's Attention

A part of my business is training business professionals on the fine art of speaking and training within the context of their day to day work. The following tips are on how to hold the attention of a professional audience...

The average adult has a seven-minute attention span. Manage this by changing the way your group inputs information every 10-minutes or so. Options: listening to you, thinking about a situation, writing notes, discussing with a partner, group discussion, watching a video, etc.

Your employees have different preferred learning styles. Some are visual learners - they prefer to see information. Some are auditory learners – they prefer to hear or speak information. Some are kinesthetic learners – they prefer to feel information (either through physical or emotional movement). Your delivery methods should stimulate all three. Examples of how to stimulate each: visual – make notes on flip charts and hang them up around the room, auditory – allow the trainees to discuss with each other, kinesthetic – get them to move around the room every 30-minutes or so.

Attention fatigue can be heightened by the environment. To avoid this, try these strategies on: bright lights, cooler room, chairs that aren’t too comfortable, music playing, rotate meeting places, use your projector for videos/picture slide shows, sit your participants close to each other, put safe “play-toys” on the tables, etc.

Many trainees can be disconnected from the training because of unclear expectations or other misc. barriers to learning. Provide your group an opportunity to share their expectations for the day.

Keep your training or training-chunks short. Your trainings should not go longer than 90-minutes without a break.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Large Group Facilitation

1. Develop an eye for reading the current energy of participants and deal with that reality.
2. Always be in control, even in chaos.
3. Never sacrifice opportunity for process. Think nonlinearly.
4. Sew the group together. Allow them to connect with each other.
5. Make connections before, during and after.
6. Leverage numbers. Make a big impact with big activities.
7. It is absolutely vital to be seen and heard.
8. Utilize “ghost facilitators.” Create a communication chain.
9. Focus on the 90% that want to be there, not the 10% that have checked out.
10. Body language size needs to reflect the size of the audience.

Extemporaneous Speeches

In the work that I do with coaching student leaders, many of them are asked to give extemporaneous speeches for the purpose of training them to think and speak on their feet and in the moment; which is something all of us do everyday in some capacity. So, here are my thoughts on effectively preparing for and delivering an extemp. speech (and in the context of an environment where the person still does have at least a few minutes to prepare their thoughts...)

Remember, this is extemp. speaking, not impromptu. This means that you should have already put together mini-chunks of information that you think you will be able to utilize during your extemp. presentation. This is also how you should organize your thoughts as you are preparing right before delivery. Think in chunks and just piece enough chunks together to fill the time and that flow well together.

Extemp. presentations should be more conversational in delivery. You aren't expected to have every word down perfect or know where to really place emphasis. Therefore, more relaxed verbal and non-verbal methods are more acceptable.

Even though conversational, the extemp. speech should not be sloppy. Because you don't have the words memorized in order, if you naturally have any fillers or weak words that you normally use, they will show up to haunt you during an extemp. speech. Therefore, you must be even more diligent about getting rid of your fillers (um, uh, you know, like, definitely, etc.) and your weak words (maybe, sort of, a little bit, probably, etc.).

Utilize stories! They are great time fillers and your words will come more naturally.

Utilize facts/data/statistics, but keep them intriguing and off-the-wall to keep the creativity level high (which is sometimes dampered because of the short preparation time.)

Spend 40% of your time preparing the outline of your chunks and 60% of your prep time memorizing the flow of chunks (get this flow very, very, very clear in your mind - say it out loud, write it five times, read it over and over, etc.) and saying out loud what you have planned. But, don't worry about writing it out or saying it word for word.

Use note cards to stay on track while presenting if you can. But you really only need one card with your chunks outline on it.

This is not a complete list, but it gives you some things to work on...

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

The Introducer Starts the Show

This is important for all presentations, but even more important for banquets since they are built around ceremony and most everyone either knowing each other or knowing of each other: how the introduction goes makes a big difference. So, how do you capitalize on this fact?

1. Write the introduction yourself. Even if they don't use this word-for-word, offer it to the banquet committee as a foundation for whatever they do end up using. Whether it is your intro word-for-word or they are personalizing it, do whatever you can to keep it brief and to the point. As an audience member, I don't need to know everything about you. I just need to know an overview of what you are going to say and a quick explanation of why you are the one saying it.

2. If your name is difficult to pronounce, have your name written out phonetically somewhere on the introduction sheet. Here is mine: Rhett Laubach (Law-Buck)

3. Meet with the introducer yourself before the banquet begins. Ask them if they have any questions, review what they are planning on using, ask if they can pronounce your name (if this is an issue) and learn a few things about them; their name, their role within the organization, their expectations of your talk, etc. Also, find out what happens after you speak. Does that person come back up? Is someone else taking the program after you? Are they planning on giving you something (i.e. should you stay at the podium/up-front)?

4. Have an extra copy of your introduction with you printed in 14 font and double spaced. Have the paper three-hole punched just in case they are using a three-ring binder for their script.

Monday, March 5, 2007

30 Actions Speakers Must do Regularly to Grow Their Business

1. Call 3 potential clients and ask, “How can I serve your needs?”

2. Call 3 current clients and request…

I. A letter of recommendation
II. The name of a peer they can refer you to
III. The next opportunity where you can serve their needs

3. Call 3 peers and ask, “How are things?”

4. Review your next 3 programs and move your preparation for them incrementally forward.

5. Create 3 new methods of teaching/writing/saying your content.

6. Freshen 3 marketing pieces with…

I. Updated biographical information
II. Newer/better language
III. More user-friendly methods

7. Read 3 pieces of literature specific to your expertise.

8. Do 3 measurably significant actions to move that “big project” forward.

9. Delete 3 unproductive and unprofitable behaviors/habits/rituals from your routine today.

10. Identify 3 tangible methods of streamlining how information flows between you and your clients, your office and your personal files.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Get to the Core!

This is an excerpt from an online interview between Tom Peters and Dan Heath. Dan is the co-author of the new marketing and communication strategies book, Made To Stick. Read it within a context of how you can make your keynote message simpler so that it can stick with your audience...

TP: You use the word "elegant" frequently in the book. Can you talk about that word and what it means to you?

DH: Well, the first trait of stickiness is simplicity. Our gravest fear is that when people see "simplicity" in our book, they'll think of it as dumbing down. They'll think of it as stupid sound bytes or monosyllables. What we mean is something very different. What we mean is that simplicity is about whittling down your idea to its core. You could think about the metaphor of design elegance and how really great products aren't necessarily about maximizing the number of features. Often they're about stripping down the number of features to the most essential set, like the Palm Pilot or the iPod. That is the metaphor we want to apply to ideas. The really painful thing about simplicity is that it forces us to jettison some of the really important ideas that just aren't the most important.

Like a famous trial lawyer says, "If you tell the jury ten things, no matter how smart those things are, by the time they get back to the deliberation room, nothing will be left. Ten things are the same as no things."

Friday, March 2, 2007

Overcome These Barriers if You Want to do Assembly Speaking

Following are five barriers to entry that you must overcome if you want to do much school assembly speaking work.

The decision makers at schools are hidden. It is the Principal, the Counselor, the Student Activities Director, a student organization leader, a student, etc.?

The school assembly times/dates are moving targets. Most schools don't do the same assemblies at the same time every year and most schools work off of a different template than other schools.

The decision making process is a moving target. The time of year for this changes and is different from school to school.

The budgets are moving targets. Its not like the schools have a set "training budget" they pull funds from. Some schools use general funds, some use Perkins money, some use federal drug education money, some use federal grant money (like the new bully prevention grants), some use student organization appropriation or fundraising money, etc.

The decision makers at schools are experienced. Many of the decision makers at the schools are involved and active. This means that they have probably seen 5-10 speakers in the past year that they could possibly bring in to speak at their school. The VAST MAJORITY of my assembly work has been from word-of-mouth marketing

So, how can you overcome them? Well the list of answers is long. But, here are are three quickies...

I will say that the foundation is creating relationships within a small cluster of schools and going from there. The market may be huge, but you have to take a small approach.

Do student conference speaking. You can speak at one student conference and get exposure to hundreds of schools. Not necessarily the decision makers, though.

You also have to be extremely good to get work via mord of mouth!

Strip the Pride

Admit what you do not know. If you are worried about losing your authority or credibility, then you probably didn't have much to begin with. Admitting what you don't know doesn't weaken you as a presenter, it strengthens you.

It is code for...

"My job is to bring you what I do know, connect that with what you already know, and hopefully create an environment where we can discover some new things together."

That is true power!

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Psychic Tension

Kick over to Kevin's Blog for this post about the importance of leaving them wanting more...

Kevin also has reinstated his quotes site that includes a daily quote blog! Thanks, Kevin!

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Where a Professional Speaker Goes to Learn Speaking Skills

I read about great presentation skills primarily from two individuals: Tony Jeary and Lenny Laskowski. You should, too.

Tony's Book - Inspire Any Audience

Lenny's Book - 10 Days to More Confident Public Speaking

Be a SMART Presenter

Smile - This speaks to the fact that your interaction with students should be one of "how can I serve you?" View your students as customers you aim to please, not teenagers you need to control Now, of course, don't sacrifice authority and orderliness for this, but this should be your base camp to work from. This also speaks to the truth that students enjoy the process more when their leaders are enjoying the process. So, have fun and be in the moment. One of the biggest comments we get after our programs is, "Thanks for not treating us like children!"

Movement - Teenagers need to be engaged through movement; physically, mentally and emotionally. Engage them in all three ways. An effective engagement technique can be found by understanding the concept of the crest of the wave. In surfing, the crest of the wave is the point where the ride is the fastest and the tallest. However, after that point the energy starts going down. So, keep your eye on this during activities and discussions and move on when the wave starts to ride (or just before that).

- Much of group facilitation is attention management. You can encourage attention with your group by being on high-receive yourself, handling disruptions appropriately and in a courteous manner, encourage discussion through asking questions, prompting the students to build off of each other's comments and encouraging the students to take notes.

Rememorable - You want to help your students have a rememorable time - something they will want to remember and memories they will want to and need to revisit often. You can fuel this memory creation by encouraging the students to risk boldly, engage full-on in the activities, stay in the meeting room as much as possible and mingle with other students from other chapters. Their memories will be tied more to the people they meet than to the things you say. Encourage them to take pictures, as well.

- A successful conference experience has many moving parts. The biggest moving part is time. Here are a few time formulas we will adhere to...

3-Second Rule - People develop a first impression of you in the first 3-seconds; many times this is before you even meet them. So, mind your smile and your appearance.

30-Second Rule - Listeners either check-in or check-out in the first 30-Seconds. So, mind your first words and get them engaged quickly.

5-Minute Rule - Listeners look for meaning and purpose and they need to be able to either find personal meaning in what they are hearing and/or are told something that they can use (purpose) every 5-minutes or so. So, give your students tangible, real ways they can take action on what they are learning or experiencing.

7-Minute Rule - Listeners need a change in how they receive information every 7-minutes. This could be listening to the speaker, reflective thought, table discussion, partner discussion, writing in their booklet, seeing something happen, feeling an emotion (positive or negative) or engaged in an activity that combines many of these.

90-Minute Rule - When meeting in big groups, listeners need to unplug from the meeting every 90-minutes. Hopefully, your schedule is already set-up to accommodate this, but if it isn’t, remember this very important dynamic!

Monday, February 26, 2007

The Room Should Move With You!

A workshop is all about the experience of moving people from where they are to where you and your message can take them; intellectually, emotionally, socially, etc. You play a role in this experience, but the environment plays an even bigger role. The environment can include...

Seating arrangement
Learning Material
Writing Utensils
Distance from speaker
Distance from each other
Availability of tables
Outside interference
Quality of sound system
Ability to see any and all visuals

So, get the room right (and know what "right" means) and you are over half way there!

FYI - my speaking associate, Kelly Barnes, sums up how we set up our rooms with the following MOVE formula...

Move my feet... get music going!
Move my eyes... get visuals up!
Move my ears.... get me up to speed on what we are going to do!
Move my mouth... get me talking to others!
Move my brain... get me thinking!
Move me... get me physically moving on purpose!
Move on.... get to the point!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Great Wall of Stages

Inherently, the keynote environment has a built-in wall that must be recognized and dealt with. This wall is the one-way verbal information flow. Sure, there can be some two-way communication, but most of it is non-verbal cues from the audience. Normally, in a keynote environment the audience members do not have the opportunity, the desire, or the need to verbalize adjustments, suggestions, comments, questions, etc. to the speaker.

So, how can we capitalize on this dynamic? It involves a few pre-work items and mid-keynote items...

Learn the audience members' specific expectations for your keynote. What type of experience do they expect from your keynote, what do they expect to learn, etc.

Learn about the organization, association, company that the audience members represent.

Learn their language, their struggles, their successes, etc.

Start attacking the wall immediately from the start. Be yourself. Be authentic. Admit what you know and what you don't know. Connect with the audience through interaction, humor, entertainment, unique/interesting information, etc.

Keep the wall down by being clear with your purpose and bringing everything in your keynote back to that clear purpose. Keep things moving fast, but not faster than that particular audience can handle. Have a specific road map (points) you are following and let the audience where you've been, where you are, and where you are headed.

Seth Godin's PowerPoint Post

Go here to view Seth Godin's post on his blog about how to improve your PowerPoint Presentations...

The Recipe For Banquet Talks

Banquets are normally for entertainment purposes. This entertainment being socializing, awarding, recognizing, etc. The speaker should embrace this reality and not bore us with their "vitally important information." The recipe for great banquets talks is...

Speaker only uses 80% of their allotted time.

80% of the content is entertaining and engaging

20% of the content is informative or instructional

Follow it and they will love you.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Main Goal of All Presenters...

The main goal of all presenters is to be authentic.

Gift to Visitors

Welcome to my new blog about giving great presentations. I have been running the Personal Leadership Insight blog for about 50 posts now and the response has been enormous. As a gift to all visitors of my new blog, please accept my Top 40 Speaking Tips as a gift for saying thanks and come back often for more real tips from a real full-time speaker/presentations coach that will make a real difference in your ability to give great presentations!

Rhett's Top 40 Speaking Tips PDF (right click to download)

Rhett's Top 40 Speaking Tips MP3 (right click to download)

Monday, January 1, 2007

Activities List

Click here to download the PDF, Cucumber.