Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Ultimate Leadership Activity Resource

The largest, searchable database out there!

Or if you prefer your fresh, new activities in book form, The Activator is for you!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Building Presentations with F.O.R.C.E.

Next time you are developing a presentation, build it with F.O.R.C.E...

Focused - Keep your presentation's deliverable simple and focused.  Do not try to cover too much ground on one topic or a few things about many topics.  A famous trial lawyer once said, "If I give the jury ten great reasons to vote for my client, I might as well have given them none.  One or two compelling reasons is the best approach."

Organized - I recently spoke at a high-powered leadership event in San Diego and the biggest gripe by the conference organizers of one of the other presenters was that they were all over the place.  There was no clear structure or order to their message or flow.  Having a clear and concise organized plan for your presentation helps the audience remember what just happened, understand what is happening and look forward to what is getting ready to happen.

Rememorable - If you don't want your words acted upon, then a presentation is not the best delivery method for your message.  Send an email, letter or fax instead.  If you do require or desire action to be taken after your presentation, then you must make it rememorable.  Use props, stories, acronyms, interaction, emotional anchors, discussion, note taking, etc.  Unless your message is overtly or inherently compelling, these tools and skills are a must in today's busy, noisy world.

Connected - So many components of effective "speaker to audience" moments are driven by this concept of connecting.  The audience must trust, respect, admire, believe, listen to, want to learn more, ask questions of and like the speaker for the exchange of ideas to happen.  All of these things come down to the speaker making a connection with the audience - emotionally, intellectually, socially and even physically.  They all make a difference.

Engaging - You can spend hours preparing what you are going to say based on learning objectives, program metrics, audience expectations, your expertise, meeting goals, etc., but if you aren't able to deliver this excellent material in an engaging way, you are missing the point.  And so will they.  Your body and verbal language needs to be passionate and energetic.  It is amazing how many presenters forget this and therefore all their hours of thinking about what to say are wasted because they didn't spend any time thinking about how to say.

(Download an awesome poster version)

Monday, August 16, 2010


Following is a list of ways to connect, learn and grow from us: - Huge database of leadership content I have gathered for you (and us) from the 150+ blogs I read daily. It contains over 1,000 articles, blog posts, videos, etc. They are all indexed by our curriculum's 10 leadership essentials ( - iPhone app that aggregates the RSS feed from this blog, my other blog, our PLI_Leadership twitter account (We also have other Twitter accounts you can follow - TeamTRI, RhettLaubach and yns1). - The PLI leadership blog. - The speaking skills blog. - My new leadership and presentation skills book. - A collection of my PowerPoints. - The slide show I use at the end of many of my keynotes to inspire. Our rich, beautiful, meaningful and interactive leadership curriculum.

We are also on Facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo and Twitter. Just search for our names (Rhett Laubach and Ryan Underwood).

I hope you enjoy these resources and find them enriching and valuable.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Training "Filler" Ideas

Today I walked a handful of Minnesota FCCLA advisors through tips and strategies on how to host an awesome regional leadership conference. One question that come up from the group was...

"What do you do if you are ahead of schedule or a speaker is running late and you need to fill some space in your agenda?"

Basically, they were looking for some new crowd involvement ideas their officers could lead. Something different than singing "camp songs" or doing the Cupid Shuffle. The reason for having something is to keep the crowd busy and possibly enhance the conference experience. An idle high school crowd is a rowdy high school crowd. Here are a few ideas I use in these moments:

1. Name That Tune. (5 minutes)
Get everyone standing in teams of 4-6 people. Tell them they are competing against the other teams in the room to see which team can get the most right. Then play either ten TV/movie theme songs or just ten CPP (Clean, Powerful, Positive) popular songs. Only play 10-15 seconds of each. After you are done find out how many the teams got right.

2. Switch Seats. (5 minutes)
Have everyone select a partner from their school that they will go on a mission with. Tell them when the music starts, they go with their partner to find a new seat in the room. The catch is when they sit down the people sitting to their left and right get to be from a different school. Once they are seated they learn three pieces of information from their new "friends" to their left and right. You can pick whatever you want these three things to be: name, school, favorite hobby, favorite band, favorite fast food restaurant, etc.

3. Meet New People. (5-10 minutes)
Ask everyone to stand. When the music starts your job is to meet as many new people (I.e. - not from your school) in the room a possible. Bonus points for meeting an advisor. Keep track of your points (1 per new person. 2 per advisor.) Give a prize to a few people that have the most points.

4. Dance Off. (5-10 minutes)
Have each school pick (or they can self-volunteer) 3-5 dancers that will come on stage and represent their school in a Dance Off. Pick a few advisors to be the judges. Then play 60-second snippets of Cupid Shuffle, Cha Cha Slide, YMCA, the Chicken Dance, the Macarena, Apache (Jump On It), etc. You can allow more dancers per school if you would like. The judges vote on both the dancing as well as the amount of support (claps, yelling, cheers, etc.) each school gives their dancers.

5. True of False. (5-10 minutes)
Get everyone standing in teams of 4-6 people. Tell them they are competing against all the other teams in the room. Then read off 10-15 true or false trivia questions. Make them interesting and "not-widely-known." Here are a few we use:

1. Our eyes are always the same size from birth, but our ears and nose never stop growing. T

2. In every episode of Seinfeld, Spiderman is always seen? F. It's Superman.

3. The words orange, month, silver and purple have something in common. T. They don't rhyme with anything.

4. Babies are born with kneecaps. F. They don’t appear until 2-6 years of age.

5. The name Wendy was made up for the book Peter Pan. T

6. Elephants are the only animal that can’t jump. T

7. A polar bear’s hair is white. F. It's clear. It's skin is white.

8. On average, right-handed people live 9 years longer than left-handed people. T

9. The Earth is the only planet that rotates clockwise? F. It's Venus.

10. Walt Disney was afraid of mice. T

- Posted from my iPhone on tour in Minnesota.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Unload and Throw

Speaking to a group is not a diplomatic process. It is largely a one-way pipeline of information and emotion. The most popular and impact-filled presenters follow the advice of my good friend (and phenomenal pastor/communicator) Justin Beadles' dad to his son regarding speaking...

"Justin, when you present in front of a group, unload both guns on 'em and then throw the gun!"

Be bold. Be grace-filled, but be bold. Leave it all on the table.

"Make an impact, not just an impression." Rick Rigsby

- Posted using my iPhone on tour in Minnesota.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

How to Maximize a Conference Experience

John Maxwell, the famous leadership author and teacher, tells us there are three things we must do to grow as leaders:

1. Surround yourself with the right people.
2. Consume the right media.
3. Attend the right conferences.

When you attend conferences, to make the most of them, follow these five guidelines.

1. Be child-like. This doesn't mean throw a tantrum if the room is too cold. It means ask questions. Lots of them. Don't let your pride or reputation or position keep you from raising that hand and getting clarity, more information or better information.

2. Take organized notes. If you aren't writing, you aren't learning. But don't just write to recall. Write with organization. Make notes of what needs to be delegated, acted upon immediately, filed for later, etc. This will help your post-conference actions take flight quicker and more efficiently.

3. Offer solutions, advice and suggestions in a CVS format. Concrete. Visual. Simple. It is important to not only add value where you can, but to be clear with your thoughts.

4. Maximize gap time. The official sessions and breakouts will be valuable learning environments, but the real magical sharing times happen early in the morning, at meals and during breaks. Make the most of them.

5. Seek out answers. If possible, go to conference with specific questions and challenges you are looking to resolve. Then hunt to find experts, speakers, exhibitors and attendees who might just have the answers you are looking for.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, June 21, 2010

Small Moves

One of my favorite movies is Contact. It is a movie about a message sent from outer space containing instructions for building a vehicle to visit the message sender's planet. In the opening scene, a young girl is searching for a response from extra-terrestrials by scanning radio frequencies and sending out messages of her own. She is getting frustrated from not hearing anything and her dad instructs her to stay after it. He says to her, "Small moves, Ellie." Later in the movie, the grown-up version of the girl is the discoverer of the actual ET message.

This phrase, small moves, Ellie, came to my mind again at a recent coaching session with 30 young leaders in Wyoming. I was charged with teaching them skills to lead, guide and direct peer students at a camp. As they were praticing many of the skills I had taught earlier in the day, they were doing a great job. They just needed to make a few tiny adjustments, just a few small moves to really be hitting the sweet spot.

Following are a few of those small moves:

- Be nice. Many young or rookie presenters fall into the trap of being bossy when they are called to present to their peers. This strategy might work in an emergency, but is counterproductive to creating a team environment with your audience. Ask them to move, don't tell them. Say please and thank you. Help them to like you, respect you and trust you - not fear you.

- Use inclusive language. It is too easy to see your role as a presenter as that of a dictator. This mindset leads you to using phrases like, "I want you to be quiet." This sets up a wall between you and them. A better strategy is to use inclusive language - we, us, together, you and I, etc.

- Positive wording. Small changes to how you phrase things can make all the difference. Example - say, "we get to have curfew at 11 pm tonight", instead of "you have to have lights out at 11." Especially in an environment where the audience is being told to do things all day long, these small moves add up over time and puts a positive spin on the experience.

- Get everyone ready to listen. If your learning environment is physically, emotionally, socially or intellectually active (hopefully it is at least two of those), your group will be distracted from time to time. When it is time to move on to the next thing, you need to (gracefully) get their full attention. You can do this by using triggers (I say Batman you say Robin, clap twice on the count of three, etc.) or you can get then physically re-organized. Put them in a square, a circle or have them all turn their chairs toward you (we call this High Receive). The point here is they need to have either an attention getting moment or they need to be physically moved to regain their attention.

- Give instructions for passive involvement. The students were proficient at telling the group what to do when they were active, but they forgot to give expectations to the "watchers." Therefore, they had to keep roping the passive students in because they were being distracting. It wasn't totally their fault though because no one instructed them on what to do. Make sure you always think through what each audience member will be experiencing during your sessions and give everyone behavior expectations.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, June 18, 2010

W5: A Great Presentation Building Strategy

There are a million different techniques to follow to build a presentation. There are a few strategies to build a great one - one that sticks in the mind, changes behavior and makes an impact on the audience. I would like to add to this short list with a strategy called W5.

W5 consists of five "W" questions your audience will be asking throughout your presentation. Great presenters know this and build their content and engagement strategies accordingly.

WHY is this information being presented to me?
Your audience is constantly searching for purpose, outcomes and personal benefits between their life and your content. Make this search easy for them. Present clear connections and use their words, stories and situations whenever possible.

WHEN will I need to use this information?
This question is about future application. Are you presenting material they will need today, tomorrow or at some future point? Clearly answering this question will help your audience place the proper level of urgency (and thus attention) on the connection between your material and their life.

WHAT do you want me to do now to engage in your presenation?
It is critical for you to get clear in your mind how and when you are going to get them emotionally, socially, physically and/or intellectually engaged in the experience of your program. Moving your audience is vital to ensuring content retention, learning and enjoyment, but if you don't provide clear directions, instructions and language, these movement strategies will hinder you more than help you.

WHERE have I experienced this?
This question is about connecting your content with their past. The moment they bridge what you are saying with their life is the moment they relate with, believe in and trust you more.

WHO is an example of what you are telling/teaching me?
Every great communicator leverages the power of stories, people and real life examples. Put a face to your message to make it more relatable, memorable and personal.

W5 is a complex, but simple presentation building strategy. As you can tell, it demands that you intimately know your audience - where they've been, where they're going and what they need today. And that is what makes it great.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Music Tip

When using music with your speech, training or workshop, a useful tip is to set pre-determined start times for each song. You want to set these based on when the lyrics start so the songs "hit the ground running." I use iTunes to manage all my music and this is easy to do by right-clicking on a song, choosing Get Info, clicking the Options tab and setting a specific Start Time there. This feature help you maintain the energy between when you stop speaking and when the music starts. Good luck!

(You can also find the song lists we use in our programs by searching for iTunes in the search box of this blog.)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Secrets to Masterfully Answering Questions

I work with student leaders every year who are preparing for competitive events where they must answer questions from judges - pageant contestants, competitive speakers, etc.  The following strategies are the bedrock of everything we work on together to help them shine answering questions.

1.  Talk in a conversational tone.  The Q&A portion is essentially a formal conversation.  Without being too casual (using slang, filler words, etc.), be conversational with your answers.  Change the pace of your voice.  Look the judges directly in the eye.  Don't worry about saying the exact right thing.  If you say something that needs adjusted, do so.  Back up and say it again the right way.  If you need to, talk about the process.  IE - "that is a great question", "I have studied for many hours, but the answer to that question is escaping me at the moment."

2.  Answer in list form.  This strategy is especially important if the judges listen to multiple people in a row.  IE - they are in information overload mode.  This is also a valuable tactic if you tend to ramble during your answers, which can happen to even a seasoned pro.  List form is exactly what the name implies.  As the judges are asking their question, you quickly think of two or three answers.  When you begin your answer, you say something similar to, "There are three great ways to answer your question."  And then you take them through the three answers.  This is effective because it gives your answer structure (to keep you from rambling) and it helps the judges have a clear and concise method for following your answer.

3.  Use an anchor word.  If the answer doesn't demand length, try the anchor word strategy.  This is where you begin with one word that most accurately sums up your answer.  Then you give one or two support points about why you chose that word.  Most times simple and brief will be scored better than detailed and extravagant.

4.  Tell stories.  I have served as a judge at many competitive events and the most impressive tool I have seen students employ is telling stories in answers.  This is impressive because it demonstrates a depth of knowledge, an attention to detail and it gives your answers faces and places.  Remember to give your story meaning by briefly connecting the story to their question.

Good luck!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Students Preparing for Competitive Speaking

(This post is specifically written for students preparing for competitive speaking events.  However, professionals and non-competing students WILL get some utility from it.)


I work with student leadership organizations at over 150 events every year and have for almost 20 years.  These organizations include BPA, DECA, FBLA, FCCLA, FFA, HOSA, NHS, SkillsUSA, Student Council, TSA, and 4-H.  One of the most beneficial elements of these organizations is all the public speaking they require their students to do.  These can range from competitive events to community presentations to serving as an elected student leader and presenting in a myriad of ways. 

Today’s post is a top ten list for students involved in competitive speaking.  It is bent towards students involved in the FFA Prepared Public Speaking CDE for two reasons:  1)  Since FFA is my background and I was a state winner in it, that is what I know most.  2)  Of all the coaching I currently do for students and their speeches, 99% of it is in the FFA world.  However, if you are not an FFA member, still peruse the list to see if you can pick up any eggs you can crack the next time you are putting together your omelet of speaking excellence.


(Disclaimer – these coaching points do not guarantee success.  Winning a speech contest has many variables out of your control.  However, ignoring these points can guarantee you a large uphill battle.  Also, remember that how you place in a competition is mostly about how the judges thought you did that day in comparison to the other speakers in your division.  If you place first, don’t let it relax your work ethic for future competitions.  If you don’t win, let it fuel you to work harder.)

1.  Start preparing early.  As a student, giving this speech is not the only thing on your to do list and is probably not the most important.  However, if you want to set yourself up for success, start preparing early.  You should have your speech totally written no later than 3 weeks before your first competition.

2.  Pick a topic that are willing to study, study, study, and study.  When you walk into the competition room, you should represent an iceberg.  The speech you are delivering is just the ice showing on top of the water.  All the knowledge you have gained about your topic either through study or experience is the glacier underneath.  

3.  Have a Statement of Purpose in your speech between your one to two paragraph opening and your first point.  This is similar to a thesis statement.  It is the action-oriented sentence that describes what your speech is about.  The question you are answering.  The stance you are taking.  It is the billboard of your speech.

4.  Figure out all the key points you could possibly include to support your Statement of Purpose and then narrow that list down to three.  These are the three main points of your speech.  Your task as you do your research is to find the most interesting, freshest and story-based information you can to support each point

5.  As you do your research, the best information you can get is going to be from personal interviews.  Call or personally visit local, state, national and even global experts in your topic area and interview them.  You won’t be able to use all the data in your speech, but they might be useful during the Q&A.  I have judged many speech contests and one of the most impressive things you can do to earn points with the judges is to not only do a great job during the Q&A, but use stories in your answers that demonstrates how much you know about your topic.

6.  There is no great writing.  There is only great re-writing.  Another reason why you want to start early in your preparation is so you have time and space to write and re-write your speech.  Use stories, active voice, strong language (instead of saying “it rained extremely hard”, say “it was a monsoon”), have your English teacher check for grammar, use simple words (avoid using jargon or industry terms just to look smarter) and double and triple check for spelling, layout and grammar errors.

7.  Once the three-week mark happens, stop tweaking your speech and consider it CR – Contest Ready.  This is a critical step because you need three weeks to memorize it totally and prepare for your questions.  Visit this post for a no-fail memorization formula.  Regarding the questions, everything in your speech is fair game.  If you say the word corn, the judges could ask you the current market price of corn.  If you mention a person’s name, I can ask you more about them.  Read through your speech and make a list of questions.  Then have your Ag teacher do the same.  Then have someone in the industry do the same.  Then have someone who knows nothing about your topic do the same.  Combine these four lists and that is the list of questions you should study and develop great answers to.

8.  Practice to be natural.  I know it sounds counterintuitive, but the more you practice (if you do it right), the more natural you can be at the competition.  Robotic delivery isn’t a by-product of too much practice.  Robotic delivery is a by-product of delivering practiced material in a robotic way.  Don’t fall in the trap of thinking, “I don’t want to practice too much because I want to be myself.”  You do want to be yourself, but you want to be the best of yourself.  Therefore, you need to get in as much live practice as possible.  Present your speech in front of your class, in front of a different class, at home, at local service clubs (Lions, Kiwanis, Rotary, etc.), at jackpot speech competitions, etc.  After each practice, make notes on what questions the “judges” asked you and on improvements areas.

9.  Body language is 75% of the game.  The actual scoring sheet reflects this.  I can score you more on how you are speaking and how you look than on what you say.  However, most students spend all their time worrying about what’s in their speech instead of working on how they are delivering it.  Here are a few body language basics you should learn and practice.  The more you practice them before the contest, the more they will become second nature and you won’t have to think about them in the contest room.  You can spend your time thinking about how well you are connecting with the judges.

1. Eye Contact – Look the judges directly in the eye, hold it for a few seconds and then move on to another judge.  You want them to feel like you are speaking directly to them.  Your eyes, facial expressions and body movement should reflect passion and interest in your topic and in delivering it.  If I video taped you presenting your speech and then played it back without the audio, would you look like someone who was excited and passionate about your topic?

2. Voice Variety – You want it!  You need variety in the pace of your voice (fast/slow), tone of your voice (serious/humorous) and volume (loud/soft).  The most important times to adjust your voice is when you really want the judges’ attention.  Etc. - slow down to emphasize a key point. 

3. Hand Gestures – You want to have your hands in motion most of the time.  They should be in a front of you and moving naturally with the flow of your sentences.  You can periodically put them at your side or just one at your side, but don’t leave them there for very long.  Never put them behind your back, hold them in front of you or put them in your pocket.  The emotion and passion of your speech comes through your eyes first and your hand gestures second.

4. Walking – You should walk in between paragraphs.  A few steps are all you need.  When you do stop, imagine your shoes are filled with concrete and keep them planted.  Don’t be stiff, but also don’t go dancing with the stars.

10.  Being nervous is good.  Read this post to find out why and how to control your nerves.


Best of luck!  Let me know if I can help! or look me up on Facebook.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

SMART Presenters



The following post is chapter 43 in my new leadership and presentation skills book, Leaders in Gear.  Learn more about the book and grab your copy today at


Chapter 43 – SMART Presenters
Big MO - Broken time rules kill presentations.


Smile. This speaks to the fact that your interaction with the audience should be one of "how can I serve you?" View your audience as customers you aim to please, not people you need to control. 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 your audience will enjoy the process more when you are enjoying the process. Have fun and be in the moment.

Movement. People need to be engaged through movement; physically, mentally and emotionally. Engage them in all three ways by incorporating experiential activities in your presentations. These can range from games to demonstrations to role playing. Make sure you don’t fall in the trap of choosing an activity before you choose your points. Always figure out what it is you want to say or teach first. Also, remember that we don’t learn by doing things. We learn by talking about the things we do. This means your debrief is critical. Begin each activity’s debrief by asking a version of what my speaking peer Bill Cordes asks, “What was this activity designed to teach us?” This gets them thinking critically and connecting the dots on their own. You should also have a short list of other questions, some rhetorical in nature, that will help your audience begin making the connection between the activity and the lesson you are teaching. Reference the Keeping Attention chapter for more tips on making the most of these audience interaction moments. If you need some new leadership activities and exercises, check out my website. You can read more about those leadership teaching/training resources in the PLI Curriculum section of the Appendix.

Attention. 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 audience members to build off of each other's comments and encouraging them to take notes. Attention management can also be improved by setting room expectations. Make sure you post these in the room and help the group stick to them. The following list contains five expectations you should be setting with your audiences:

• Be Alert
• Be Social
• Be Involved
• Be Clean
• Be Nice

Rememorable. You want to help your audience have a rememorable time; something they will want to remember and memories or content they will want and need to revisit often. You can fuel this memory creation by encouraging them to risk boldly, engage fully in group activities, and stay in the meeting room as much as possible. You will also want to use as many visuals in the room as possible. If you have a smaller group (5 – 100), use flipcharts to capture thoughts, reinforce your points, etc. For larger groups, utilize slide shows. Refer to the Powerful Slide Shows chapter for more information on how to do these correctly.

Time. A successful event, meeting, or conference experience has many moving parts. The biggest moving part is time. Here are a few time rules you should follow.

3-Second Rule. People develop a first impression of you in the first three seconds. Many times this is before you even meet them. Be mindful of how you look the moment the audience sees you. Maximize this time by appearing calm, collected and in control. A pleasant demeanor (smiling, eye contact, saying hello, etc.) helps the audience begin to trust you.

30-Second Rule. Listeners either check-in or check-out in the first thirty seconds. Get them engaged quickly – physically, emotionally, socially or intellectually.

5-Minute Rule. People constantly look for meaning and purpose. They need to either find personal meaning in what they are hearing and/or be told something that they can use every five minutes or so. Give them 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 seven minutes. This could be listening to the speaker, reflective thought, table discussion, partner discussion, taking notes, seeing something happen, or engaged in an activity that combines many of these. Most boring presenters have low energy, no variety in their body language and totally disregard the seven-minute rule.

90-Minute Rule. When meeting in big groups, listeners need to unplug from the meeting every ninety minutes.

These time rules serve as benchmarks you can use as you are building your presentation’s flow. However, giving presentations can be a messy and unpredictable experience. Things are not always going to go as planned. You need to have a few back-pocket options you can employ if you are left with extra time at the end. These could include an activity, a self-running slide show, a group discussion, etc. Never end your presentation by asking for random questions. You want your ending to be powerful and tight. Nothing kills a great ending faster or more completely than asking for questions and hearing crickets. If you want to have a Q&A period, hand out index cards or note paper at the first of your presentation and ask everyone to write down questions they have as you are going through your talk. Start collecting these during your presentation (on break or while the group is active doing something) and this will help you gauge if there are any questions and how long it might take you to get through them at the end.

The more common time challenge is running out of it. If you start late, aren’t given as much time as you were told or are mid-presentation and can tell you won’t have enough time to finish all your material, make adjustments and do not go over time. Do not go over time. Do not go over time. Do not go over time. Do not go over time. Do not go over time. Did I mention that you should never go over time? When a speaker goes over time, someone is getting upset, annoyed or frustrated over it. Your final points are never as important as their frustration. Take something out. Prioritize your material beforehand and be clear on what absolutely needs to be said and what can be taken out. Going over time is not just about scheduling or sticking to an agenda. When a speaker goes over time, it is an act of selfishness that says, “My material and I are more important than whatever else you had planned.” Never find yourself in this situation.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Most Important Question?

Can they feel my voice?

Connect with your audience or your message and words are irrelevant. Paint with two brushes. One soaked with logic. One with emotion. Your presentation's portrait must have both to fully satisfy your audience's need. They sit with a singular need to be moved by your craft. You could feed only their head. You could feed only their heart. But why would you ever stand up just to settle for only? Be bare. Be complete. Paint with both and feed their spirit. In the moment they feel your voice... they think more clearly about their own.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Great Advice from Nick Morgan

“Good speakers do two things well: they let their own personality come through, and they have a wide range of emotional expressiveness. That's what charisma is--emotional expressiveness, the ability to show a range of genuine emotions. But I don't mean weeping or losing your temper. Rather, you need to let an audience know how you feel about what is important to you, when you are excited about something and when you are displeased with something.”

Quote from Nick Morgan from this interview...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

New Leadership and Presentation Skills Book

My new leadership book is now available for purchase. It is a powerful study guide to improving your personal leadership, team leadership and presentation abilities. Learn more about this great new resource and order your copy today -

"A must read with powerful tips on every page to shift your leadership gears into overdrive and genuinely impact who you are, who you will become, and non-stop, real-life “how to’s.” I'd recommend this book to managers, speakers, consultants, and organizational leaders; everyone who cares about becoming more effective--now. Rhett literally hands the reader an entire career of experiences devoted to building character, skill, and personal impact. With Leaders In Gear, you’ll find yourself in the driver’s seat.”
Steve Roesler, President and CEO
Roesler Consulting Group

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Make a Boring Topic Engaging

The question every professor, teacher, lecturer, speaker and corporate trainer should be asking is,

“How do I turn a boring topic into an engaging presentation?”

The reason for asking this question is simple: just because the data is inherently dull doesn’t mean the transfer of it from you to the audience has to be.  All one-on-one of one-on-many presentations need to be engaging or the audience is going to lose interest and thus the presentation is a waste of everyone’s time and energy. 


The goal here isn’t to turn every presentation into a rock concert or three-ring circus.  The goal is to be engaging as a presenter so you can earn the attention and trust of the audience.  Once you earn their attention and trust, the audience is in a better position to understand, remember and use your information to create their own new ideas, projects, goals and actions.

The next time you are called to deliver a presentation over a boring topic (parliamentary procedure, last quarter’s sales report, tax law, etc.), incorporate a few of these techniques:

  1. Share your personality with the audience.  Even if you have a dry or dull personality, you still need to get your unique stories, background and journey into the presentation.  Your task is to connect with them on a personal level because chances are good they won’t naturally connect with your boring information.  Of course, if your personality is vibrant and rich, be authentic.  Use your humorous or witty commentary to spice up the transfer of the data.  Finally, it doesn’t matter whether your personality resembles a monkey or a sloth, you still need to be passionate and enthusiastic about your content.  Relay this to them using passionate and enthusiastic body language.  Variety is the key:  variety in facial features, tone, pace of voice, pace of walk, volume and gestures. 
  2. Involve the audience.  Ask them a question and have them discuss it with a partner.  Have everyone stand up after you cover two or three points and do a quick mixer where they find a few people not sitting near them and briefly discuss what has been covered.  Do a demonstration involving all or a few of the audience members that reinforces a key piece of data.  The key here is to get creative with the transfer of information.  Just because you said it, put it on a slide or typed it in a handout does not mean the audience is going to understand, remember or use it.
  3. Take out the energy gaps.  Energy gaps are the empty chairs between people you see at almost every lecture or event in the world.  These steal the energy from the room.  Force people (in a nice way) to sit up front, in the middle and next to each other.  Rope off the back rows if you have to.
  4. Use visually-based slides.  It is amazing how poorly PowerPoint, Keynote and other slide show software is still used even with the existence and popularity of great books like Garr Reynolds’ Presentation Zen and Nancy Duarte’s Slide:ology.  The basic guideline most boring slide shows are breaking is that slides should be full of images that visually support the message instead of text that is simply re-telling the message.
  5. Make the presentation short.  If you know your content is inherently dull and you have control over the length of the presentation, make it as short as possible.  Chop it down to just the stuff you need to add context or further explanation to in person and email the rest to them.
  6. Don't give the presentation.  Most boring topic presentations don’t even need to be made.  The content is better served as a memo, email, article, blog post, annual report or book.  Just because the audience needs the information doesn’t mean they need the information in spoken form. 

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Who Do You Remind Me Of?

How you dress and act (body language) before you begin to speak is sending thousands of messages to your audience. One of the most important thoughts your audience is thinking when they first see you that dramatically impacts the first moments of your presentation is:

Who do you remind me of?

They are making a connection between what you look like and anyone else in their life who looks the same. If you are speaking to high school students and you are dressed in a standard suit and tie, they are probably connecting you to their principal or teachers. If you are dressed in a fancy suit and tie, they might be connecting you with a famous person. If you are dressed in a nice shirt, jeans and cool shoes, they might be seeing the person sitting in their chair when they look at you.

The effectiveness of your presentation's first moments is directly influenced by who you remind them of before you start talking. The question you need to ask is, "Is what they are thinking a good thing or not?" Of course, the answer to this question is complicated and it all depends on which part of your personality and style you need to emphasize to best get your point across that day for that audience. Do you need to come across as serious, entirely credible, cool, common, extraordinary, etc.? Ultimately you want to be a little of all of these, but you are leaving a strong impression of only one or two.

If you don't know which direction to take, a good benchmark to shoot for is to dress one step above the norm of your audience's attire. If I am speaking to high school students, I am wearing jeans, nice shoes and either a sport coat or a nice polo. If I am speaking to a group of executives in business casual, I am wearing the nicest business casual I have. If I am speaking at a suit and tie event, I am shooting for being the nicest dressed suit and tie guy in the room.

Regarding my body language, my method is to mirror their body language, but add just a tough of energy to it. This "touch" could manifest itself by walking a little faster, talking a little faster, smiling a little stronger, meeting a few more people, etc.

The trick with both areas is not to go too far. Now, I do know certain speakers who have the way they dress as part of their act. They either dress way down or way up and that is their "signature" thing. Of course, if everyone started doing what they did, they would pick a new thing.

Remember, your presentation starts before you start speaking. Make those few precious moments as strategic as possible. You can never get them back.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Keeping an Auditorium Audience Engaged


  • Pack ‘em in!  Rope off the back rows if you need to, but do whatever it takes to get the audience seated in the middle/front.  The closer you have the audience to one another, the more you can do with them and the more attention you will have.  The best way to do this is to not give them options.  Make it a requirement to sit in certain sections and not sit in other sections
  • Move ‘em!  Movement is obviously limited, but not totally gone. Here are a few ways I use movement in auditorium settings to get everyone physically, socially and actively engaged in the program:
  1. Random mingling. They can still stand up and meet/greet/discuss with a handful of people that are seated to their left/right/front/back.
  2. Teams. You can still get them into teams. The best set-up here is teams of six. Three people from one row and three people in the row behind or in front.
  3. Switch 'em. For a quick jolt, ask them to switch seats with someone. They can move as far as they want. Those who are really ready to be social will really move. Those who don't will just move one seat over. Either way, you accomplish your task.
  4. Pair share. Have them discuss with a person to their left, their right or in a different row.
  5. Big group movement. Find activities where everyone does the same thing and where that thing involves movement. I.e. - Simon Says, a camp song, etc. You find a good number of options at