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!