Sunday, December 18, 2011
Friday, September 30, 2011
Apple is known for its remarkable packaging. The shipping boxes are perfect (minimal, simple, etc.), but its product boxes are the best - stylish, eco-friendly, cool. I have kept many Apple product boxes and repurposed them because of their design and weight.
Yet, I don't buy Apple products because of the box. I buy them because they are awesome. However, when it comes to your work (speaking/training), the packaging does make a big difference. Case in point, I recently keynoted a massive student leadership conference. Thousands of students flooded into the convention arena. Before my keynote was a welcome and a greeting from state education officials. One of them stretched a 5-minute greeting into a 35-minute mini-keynote - leaving me 8-minutes for the actual keynote.
It wasn't a total train wreck. He did have a good message and a compelling story. Yet, this was the opening session and many students were already tweeting how boring the conference was. The rub was that he just stood behind the podium and talked. The problem was packaging. He stood and talked at them for 35-minutes. This package type does not encourage, inspire or enable audience engagement. It chases it away. Its a shame, too, because his content was important and powerful. But after 7-minutes all of it fell on deaf ears because of inappropriate packaging.
Packaging Options for Audience Engagement:
- Audience interacting with each other
- Audience interacting with speaker
- Emotional stories, quotes, thoughts (humorous, inspirational, dramatic, sad)
- Properly-designed Power Points
- Variety in pace, tone and volume
- Speaker physically moving around the stage/room
Great speakers and trainers understand that simply saying something doesn't equate to someone else hearing it, understanding it or acting upon it. You must package the delivery with an Apple-like caring eye for detail and design. Best of luck.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Our Delicious links database continues to grow! We are up to 1,493 bookmarks.
These bookmarks cover ten different leadership areas (communication, relationships, goals, etc.), specific ideas for fellow speakers/trainers (activities, books, videos, etc.) and, as of today, a new tag titled Speaking Tips. This category already has over 100 bookmarks covering everything from building a speech, engaging an audience, storytelling and much more. Check it out!
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Monday, July 18, 2011
Your audience needs you to be skilled at earning, managing and maximizing their attention. Whether they pay attention to you and/or retain your message or not is primarily your responsibility. The following six tools are invaluable resources for highly effective trainers, speakers and teachers needing to engage any audience of any demographic - students or adults. Especially in today's noisy world, just asking your audience to sit and listen is not enough. If you want them to hear, process, retain and take action on your material, you must be skilled at getting them actively involved in the experience of the moment, not just the content of the message.
6 Audience Engagement Tools
1. Turn to a partner and...
(Social and physical engagement)
The audience members interact with someone next to them. This interaction could involve talking about a content piece or doing a two-person activity. Remember to allow groups of three if necessary, give clear instructions on what they are supposed to do and be extra clear on how they know when their interaction is supposed to end.
2. Have you ever...
High-level interaction doesn't always mean getting up and moving around or doing an experiential activity with a partner or a team. Engagement can also be emotional. When you tell stories they can directly and emotionally relate with, you are painting them into the picture of your message instead of simply asking them to watch you paint it.
3. When I start the music...
(Social and physical engagement)
Obviously an effective method for getting them engaged in your presentation is to lead an activity. Always have music available to set the mood of the activity and to intensify the experience. Two of our favorite resources you can access to find great activities to lead are: The Activator book - includes our top 50 activities with instructions, material needed, debrief options and more. Thesource4ym - this site includes a search query that lets you quickly filter through their hundreds of activities and games.
(To access the music we play at our programs, just search "YourNextSpeaker" in the search box in the iTunes Music Store.)
4. Take a second and write down...
We don't learn at a high level by just hearing something or doing something - we learn by talking, reflecting, processing and/or writing. These are the elements that allow inputs to sink in and become part of who we are. If you can, have your audience members take notes or do reflective writing during your presentation. This also gives your message legs as they take their notes back home.
5. Raise your hand if...
(Physical and emotional engagement)
Similar to "Have you ever...", this technique involves the audience actually responding to you as you ask questions or run through a list. Getting the audience to physically demonstrate their connection to your message or a portion of it also serves to break down any barriers between you and the audience.
6. This is difficult to say, but...
When you are bold and transparent and share a personally moving story (tragedy, failure, etc.), you earn a load of attention points from the audience. Make certain it is the right time and place for it though. This is difficult to read, but there are certain venues or events where it isn't professional to share deeply. However, if you believe in your heart it is the best way to get your message across and it fits the venue, go for it. When you risk big, the audience can win big.
If you read this post thinking, "These techniques would never fly with my group because this is not how its always been done," it is probably because your group has historically been subjected to presenters who either simply talk at them or talk at them while also talking to a PowerPoint. These are safe, acceptable and, most of the time, horribly boring experiences. Be better than most, include some audience interaction, watch your presentations turn into turbo-charged learning machines and your way will become the new "this is how its always been done." Good luck!
Monday, May 23, 2011
Download the PDF here.
- If you are using them with a big group, have everyone pair up, stand up, roam around the room and go up to each poster and share whatever comes to mind.
- For a small group, pass out the cards, give each person a few minutes to write down their thoughts and then go around the room asking each person to share their thoughts.
- For a small group, hold up a poster and have everyone share a thought or question related to it.
- For a big or small group, go to reflection time. Post the posters on the walls and, with pen/paper in hand, have each person walk around and quietly journal an initial thought response to each quote.
- Get the group into teams of 4-6. Give each team a card. Have them design and present a skit/commercial/speech/etc. based on the card's quote.
Monday, May 9, 2011
Attention Points are credits you get or lose from the audience. There are many ways to earn them and many ways to lose them. When you speak, your audience is giving you two of their most important resources - time and attention. Take this fact seriously and learn to respect it, leverage it and make the most of both. You can't tell them, demand them, expect them or assume they will give you their attention. You must earn it. Following are the short lists of methods for earning and losing Attention Points...
- Your Professional Title
- Your Life Accomplishments
- Your Life Story
- Audience Interaction
- Telling Stories They Relate With
- Heart-filled Content
- Compelling Data
- Inherently Necessary Info (ex. How to exit a burning building)
- Shocking Content
- Hilarious Content
- Be Mean
- Be Boring
- Be Dry
- Be Lengthy
- Be Presumptuous
- Be Inappropriate
- Be Dishonest
- Be Predictable
- Be Overly Repetitive
- Use Someone Else's Material
- Use Outdated or Overused Quotes, Stories, Jokes or Data Points
If you are thinking "I am naturally dry" or "I have to give lengthy presentations", that's ok. You just need to implement more of the Earning Methods to get your Attention Points account into the black.
Good luck and email me if you need more detail or have a specific situation or presentation you need help with - rhett (at) yournextspeaker.com.
Monday, April 25, 2011
Monday, April 18, 2011
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
1. The complex lives in the handouts.
2. The simple lives in the slides.
3. The meaning lives in the stories.
- Less is more. More is distracting.
- Many things need to be communicated. Not all of it needs to be said. Learn which medium best fits your data. Handouts, slides, spoken, etc.
- PowerPoint is a visual tool designed to strengthen the stories behind the slides.
- Attention needs to be on what the data simply means, not on how much of it there is.
- Posted from the road on the iPad.
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
If you are in charge of coaching speakers, trainers or facilitators, you need to consider your approach. Are your strategies designed to get them ready for perfect or for performance?
Coaching to perfect means getting them to talk and look exactly how you want them to today.
Coaching to performance means getting them to master the most important elements to use tomorrow.
Coaching to perfect is judging readiness based on a rigid metric.
Coaching to performance is judging readiness based on moving targets.
Coaching to perfect is easier on the coach because the target is the same all the time.
Coaching to performance is more difficult for the coach because it involves making judgement calls based on each presenter and their target performance, audience, content, personality and experience level.
If the presenters are going to be delivering in unpredictable environments (which every presentation is except those where the speaker simply walks on stage, talks at the audience and sits down), then coaching to perfection is actually doing more harm than good. Primarily because time is wasted in practice working on things that aren't going to significantly make a difference in the actual presentation.
A prime example of this is some of the national and state student organizations I work with and their facilitation coaching strategy for elected student leaders or in-house presenters. There is too much time invested trying to get their presenters to eradicate every filler word (uh, um, etc.), saying a phrase an exact way, standing in a certain place, etc. These techniques are valuable to understand, but not critical to their end goal - the future audiences having a great experience and learning important information.
Let's use filler words for example - they are a natural part of human dialect. A presenter should certainly be aware of any they overuse, but time doesn't need to be spent coaching these entirely out of a speaker's cadence. There are two primary reasons:
1. Just because I say them less in a sterile, environment-controlled practice room doesn't mean I won't say them in the real world. It just means I'm not saying them today.
2. That time in the coaching room should be spent on items more important to good facilitation that will transfer better to the real world: content flow, great questioning, how to handle off-plan moments, debriefing, etc. Even 20-minutes spent on each of these would prove more valuable later than spending 60-minutes counting how many times someone says um.
Point two follows the thinking of a coach interested in coaching to performance. Ask yourself this question when preparing your development game plan, "Will this strategy, learning point, tip or technique significantly improve their ability to perform or is it just simple to coach?" To aid in shaping your thinking, here are a few key elements great presenters and facilitators consider paramount to a successful performance:
• Tight content flow. This includes the first few seconds, how points connect, how much time is spent on a point or activity, the length of time until the audience changes the way they input information, a tight connection between activity/story - point - personal application, the closing, etc.
• Great questioning. If your presentation includes any calls to action, you must include great questions to lead the audience where you want them to go. Great questions result in a challenge, context setting, creating a gap for the audience to fill with future behavior or information and personal application.
• Strong material. It is true that how you look and how you talk are important, but strong material is very compelling. Great content is fresh, creative, story-based, true (or truth glorified), personal, and joined at the hip with your key points.
• Content knowledge. Great presenters know their material top to bottom. The key understanding is that you have to practice to be natural. You can only hold one thought in your head at any given time. This one thought cannot be what to say next. This is also one of the key challenges with many coaching environments I have seen - trying to coach delivery when the speaker doesn't know the material top to bottom. You can't work on body language or even demonstrate your true speaking ability if you are preoccupied with remembering what to say.
• Positive and flexible frame of mind. This is the key value point between coaching to perfect and coaching to performance. The real world of presenting is unpredictable and messy. Your best laid plans are going to get dominated by an angry audience member, an AV glitch, having less time to present, etc. The best presenters cultivate a mindset that is naturally positive and upbeat and is spontaneously pliable. When things go off-course, they go with it. Literally!
Great presentation coaching is based on two premises:
1. Future success is the ultimate goal, not in-the-moment success
2. In-the-moment success does not directly coorelate to future success because of the unpredictable nature of the work.
All strategies and techniques should be built around this philosophy and prepare presenters to perform with excellence, not practice with perfection.
* Hat tip to Dr. Bill Moore and his concepts on coaching in the sports and music fields for inspiring this post.
Monday, April 4, 2011
I facilitated three 45-minute leadership workshops today to groups of 12 - 40 high school students. One of the tools I implemented is a key to great workshop facilitation. This means it is very effective at taking hands-on activities or exercises and helping students move quickly to answering the question, "how can this help me in my life?"
This technique is called Positive Life Application Questioning. This is how I used it today.
1. We began with the statement, "When your teams are good, life is good." This leadership nugget framed the upcoming high-level "how am I doing at teamwork in my life" lesson. I then guided the students through a challenging team building exercise in groups of 6-8.
2. After the activity, I asked the students to work with a partner and list out five answers (students respond to having targets to shoot for) to this question, "If you were completely successful at this task, what team skills would you and your team have to use?" I asked the students to write down everything to heighten the importance of their answers and the chances they remember them and refer to them later. Then I asked people to share and we added to everyone's list.
3. This step is where the Positive Life Application Questioning enters the picture. I asked everyone to look at their list and quietly ponder this question, "If I were great at all of these, how would my life and the lives of the people around me get better?" The silence and the focus were extreme. Their lists contained some simple, some complex, some easy, some difficult team skills - respect, listening, collaboration, synchronized thinking, coaching, etc. Definitely skills everyone struggles with from time to time.
The reason why PLAQ works is because it invokes:
1. Specific life application.
2. Hope for the future.
3. A challenge for modified future behavior.
These factors mixed together with the emotional experience of a leadership activity/exercise produce an invested student mind and heart. When you are able to combine a fun, interactive experience with a hopeful, specific and challenging application question, you are truly facilitating learning.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad
Monday, March 28, 2011
Students preparing campaign speeches for leadership positions this season should take heed the following advice:
1. Tell stories. Let us get to know you. Not just your plans for the office/organization, but who you are as a person.
2. Use cards for an outline, but don't read them word for word. If you memorize your speech, make sure you can recall it under pressure. Practice to perform, don't practice just to memorize.
3. Only use 90% of your time.
4. Look audience members in the eye. Maintain. Pick a new person. Repeat.
5. Have a clearly defined outline.
6. Be specific. Instead of saying "I have done many things", tell us specifically what you have done.
7. Show us your personality and your professionalism.
8. Say a version of the word "you" more than you say a version of the word "I". Talk about the audience's real needs that are being served by involvement in the organization and speak to how you will help further serve those needs.
9. Be specific with your ideas for the future, but don't give too much information.
10. Build on current successes. Don't knock down the way it is.
- Posted from the road using my iPhone.
Friday, March 25, 2011
How do you know if they learned anything?
Leadership skills fall under both the very concrete and very intangible categories. I can tell if you can stand up and clearly communicate a message. I can't necessarily tell if you have a deep empathy for those around you.
This is why we (the creators of the PLI leadership curriculum) developed the TRAX system. It is a simple, yet profound mechanism for measuring the seemingly immeasurable. Try this on the next time you are teaching/training/coaching leadership. You can use it at the first for you to determine how deep you plan on taking your group. It was built specifically for use at the end of a learning session to grade their leadership development.
The TRAX Grading System
T - Entry Level - The student demonstrates she has heard of the topic. Proof is a written description of the leadership skill using her own words.
R - Emerging Level - This level is reached when a student understands the content. He provides written positive and negative examples of the leadership trait in the real world. What would someone look/sound/feel like if she mastered this skill and if she were totally ineffective?
A - Engaged Level - This grade is given when a student demonstrates he actively lives the skill. He must provide written evidence of application.
X - Expert Level - Mastery level is shown when the student teaches the skill to someone else. The proof here is a written testimony from someone the student taught and/or actively led.
The beauty of the TRAX system is the journey it places in front of both the teacher and student of leadership: awareness leading to understanding leading to application leading to teaching.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
My mentor in the speaking business is Mr. Bill Cordes (www.billcordes.com). Bill is not only a great friend of mine (he asked me to be the Godfather of one of his sons), he is also a phenomenal speaker, trainer and teacher.
Here are 20 tools Bill has employed throughout his almost 30-year career:
Bill Cordes' Strategies for Effective Speaking
(I have seen him speak many times, but I compiled this list from just one program I watched him do.)
1. Brings energy to the room
2. Knows his stuff in and out
3. Lets the audience decipher the lessons
4. Makes direct "mid-activity" lessons
5. Uses a mobile headset and music so he can be active
6. Doesn't let them give too many simple, basic answers
7. Does some activities that are non-competitive at first and then competitive
8. Thanks them even for small contributions
9. After many activities he has them turn to a partner and have a short discussion about what this activity was designed to teach us
10. Has set chunks: 15 to 60 minutes in length
11. Uses real examples from his life
12. Uses the full range of vocal emotions: loud/forceful to soft/personal
13. Willing to share deep
14. Invests a good amount of time enrolling them in the experience
15. Allows his inner kid to emerge
16. Makes the most of teachable moments
17. Challenges them to step up and dig deeper for answers
18. Gets them moving right away
19. Encourages everyone to participate by celebrating those that did
20. Is continually challenging himself to get better because it matters
- Posted from the road on an iPad
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
A keynote is supposed to move people to get the "why" inside ideas, beliefs and concepts not the "how" of strategies, techniques or processes.
- Posted from the road using my iPhone.
Friday, February 18, 2011
(View in SlideShare to view full screen.)
Monday, February 7, 2011
I just spent a great week traveling the state of Oregon with Sara Nilles, Program Director of the Oregon Association of Student Councils. They have over 190 member schools in Oregon and do a great job teaching, guiding and motivating middle school and high school student leaders in the ways of leadership excellence. She invited me in to present three hours of leadership lessons each day at their Winter Regional Conferences.
It was a powerful week for many reasons. Engaged students, committed teachers/staff/advisers, the beautiful Oregon landscape, focused application of content, etc. The feedback from the advisers and students was overwhelmingly positive. One of the reasons was because of my training/speaking style. They loved that I employ a teaching technique that I encourage you to try on if you don't already. Its called BBW - the Best of Both Worlds.
BBW is when you take your audience to both extremes of engagement - intellectual and emotional. This means you stir up their emotions (laughter, sadness, excitement, etc.) in a big way and then lead, guide and direct their thoughts with application points.
If you engage the emotional side only, you aren't teaching - you are a cartoon. If you engage the intellectual side only, you aren't teaching - you are a thesis paper.Following is an example outline of one way I employed the BBW technique last week in Oregon:
- I led them through an activity called Name That Tune. As a team of 8-10, they have to guess what movie or TV show each theme song is associated with. It is competitive, fast-paced and filled with fun songs. My body language and verbal tones reflect excitement, engagement and humor.
- After the activity I ask them a simple question to discuss as a team, "Why were you able to remember these songs?" The key lesson is repetition.
- Then I pull everyone close together near me (close proximity to you and each other creates attention and focus) and elaborate on this statement, "The most effective leaders repeat the right habits on a daily basis." I give them a few specific, concrete, simple habits that will help them be a positive influence on their peers. My body language and verbal tones reflect sincerity and importance of message. Not preachy though. The connection between the audience and me isn't parent-child, but coach-player.
Only when you go to positive extremes with your techniques and words do you fully cut through the clutter and distractions in each audience member's life.
Monday, January 17, 2011
How do you combat being nervous?
- A call to action. What do you want them to do with the information you just gave them?
- A re-cap of your main points.
- The most important/critical point/data/fact supporting your presentation.
- A brief Q&A (ONLY if you facilitate a creation of questions from the audience during your presentation.)
- A multimedia tool (video, self-running slide show, etc.) that puts an exclamation point on your presentation.
- An intense passion for your content and for your audience doing something with it.
- A trust from the audience in your expertise, authenticity and likability.
- A message that is clear, specific, action-oriented, simple in nature and resolves a problem/challenge/question that is relevant and urgent to the audience.
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Mike Rowe, host of the TV hit Dirty Jobs